Saturday, September 18, 2004

SO DOES THIS MAKE THEO EPSTEIN LUKE SKYWALKER? Sadly, the New York Times doesn't put all the ads appearing in the paper on the Internet, and I don't have a scanner, or I'd link to it, so my recounting will have to suffice. On page 2 of today's Sports section, an ad for the Star Wars Trilogy DVD appeared. Of course, since I'm a big old geek, I'll be getting those soon. But it's the ad itself that's brilliant. The ad is a big picture of Darth Vader's head. Above it appears the phrase "Proud To Be On The Dark Side." Beneath it, it says "Go Yankees!" Below that appears a small plug for the DVD release. Brilliant ad, though maybe it would have worked better in the Boston Globe.

Friday, September 17, 2004

IF THEY'RE NOT GIVING IT TO WILLIAM SHATNER'S "THE TRANSFORMED MAN," SOMETHING IS SERIOUSLY WRONG: I was in the Lincoln Center Tower Records this evening after going to a Q&A/reading by a very funny author, and something kind of odd happened--they keep a series of CDs on "rotate," and a fitting tribute came up. First, we began with the immortal "Hey, Ho! Let's Go!" beginning of the Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop." As those two minutes of fury wrapped up, up came the immortal strains of Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" (as covered by Guns 'n' Roses). A fitting farewell to Johnny, indeed.

That leads me nicely into a discussion topic for the weekend--"Entertainment Weekly" has proclaimed that "London Calling" by the Clash is the best album ever. I've never listened to "London Calling," so I'm not really equipped to criticize, but I'm going to make a couple of suggestions that might be better:

The Who--"Tommy"--One of the greatest concept albums ever (if not the greatest), and a demonstration of amazing range by one of the greatest bands of that "Classic Rock" era.

U2--"The Joshua Tree"--It's hard to believe this album is nearly 15 years old--if you pop it in your CD player, it sounds like it might have been recorded yesterday. If the competition were strongest lead-off songs, I think this'd have to have it locked up--is there a better start than the swirling guitar and wailing of Bono in "Where The Streets Have No Name," into the anger and joy of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," and then Bono pleading in "With or Without You?"

Other suggestions are, as always, invited.
GIVING THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT: Since a frightening amount of our recent hits seem to be coming from people Googling "My Ox is broken!" I feel obliged to tell you that you can buy this, in button or magnet form, from the fine folks over at Glarkware. From this link, you can also tell Mirna to shut up, and note that "I got hit in the head with drywall...and now you're a racist." Buy today.
LAY OFF THE PORK CHOPS AND APPLESAUCE: Replaying all this week on a cable channel you probably don't even know if you receive or not: Discovery Health Channel's "Body Challenge: Hollywood," in which Peter and Cindy Brady square off against the likes of Ponch (no jokes, please), Charlene Tilton, Kym Whitley (me neither), and the chubby guy with the glasses from "Malcolm in the Middle" to see who can get themselves back in shape. No word on whether Peter was spurred to get back in shape in order to face down his and Cindy's former nemesis, Buddy Hinton.
THE MINOR FALL, THE MAJOR LIFT, THE 70TH BIRTHDAY: Leonard Cohen turns 70 on Tuesday, so, while you're enjoying you're tea and oranges this weekend, peruse this list, courtesy of the Guardian, of 70 Things You Might Not Know About the Godfather of Gloom. Here is but a sample:
5. Cohen's albums regularly go to no. 1 in Norway.
48. In 1986, he made a guest appearance in Miami Vice as a character named François Zolan, head of Interpol.
66. Cohen was much admired in 1960s France. The president, Georges Pompidou, was reputed to take his LPs on holiday, and it was said that if a Frenchwoman owned one record, it was likely to be by Cohen.
AND THEN THERE WAS ONE: By now, no doubt, most of you have seen the news that yet another Ramone, Johnny Ramone, passed away earlier this week. But unless you read all the way to the bottom of the article, you missed the surreal part of Johnny's death--the proverbial "friends and loved ones" he found himself in the company of as he slipped this mortal coil:
"Along with his wife, Linda Cummings, Johnny Ramone was surrounded at his death by friends, including Pearl Jam rocker Eddie Vedder, singer Rob Zombie and others. Other friends who gathered at his Los Angeles home included Lisa Marie Presley, Pete Yorn, Vincent Gallo and Talia Shire."

Thursday, September 16, 2004

GRANTED, THEMS WAS SOME FIERY ISLANDS: I am left with two questions following the premiere of the new Survivor:

1. Who, exactly was the producer who was capable of negotiating with the locals to (a) explain to them what television was; (b) explain was 'reality tv' was; and (c) arrange for an Authentic Native Ritual that would not involve Whitey getting pummeled? Were they paid? Did they have any idea what they were consenting to? Did they get to eat the pig?

2. Is it even possible that this show's going to be interesting until they merge? I've sat through (most of) eight seasons already, and this picking-off-the-too-weak-or-too-strong nonsense is pretty tiresome already. Wake me when they get to ten or something.
LOBSTER ICE CREAM? Lessons from "Donald Trump's Portable MBA" this week? Homer Simpson is a better guide for choosing ice cream flavors than a gourmet chef (and you better believe I'm gonna try and track down some Vanilla Donut Gelato this weekend). Donuts are surprisingly easy to purchase in suburban New Jersey. Looking across the street is a valuable and underappreciated skill. As attorneys learned four years ago, do not call a judge by the wrong name. Caviar is quite pleasant when you're not eating 2 and a half pounds of it. Never, ever, ever, look a gift horse in the mouth. And while it was no "My ox is broken!," the Boardroom almost lived up to the description.
WELL, AT LEAST THEY DIDN'T MAKE HIM INTO A LOWRIDER: The current TWOP pixel challenge asks people with far more graphic artist talent than I to create sample images from the proposed new "Star Wars" TV series. Of course, there's Oprah shouting "everybody gets a podracer!" and Colin asking Vader for another chance because his ox is broken, but I think this one takes the cake.
The artist is the brilliant Gnosis.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

YES, AT LONG LAST, YOU CAN REFER TO "EMMY WINNING ACTOR WILLIAM SHATNER:" I wouldn't have noticed had it not been for an ad I zipped past during "Queer Eye" on my TiVo this evening, but Creative Arts Emmy Winners have been announced. Now, many of these categories (Best Choreography, Outstanding Hairstyling for A Series) are ones that you and I couldn't care about, and I only care about "Best Non-Prosthetic Makeup" because "Gilmore Girls" finally won an overdue first Emmy, but here are the high points.

Outstanding Main Title Design: "Carnivale"
Outstanding Main Title Theme Music: 'It's A Jungle Out There" from "Monk" (shame, since the original piano theme was so much better)

Outstanding Casting of a Drama Series: "24"
Outstanding Casting of a Comedy Series: "Arrested Development"
Outstanding Casting of a Mini-Series/Movie: "Angels In America"

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy: Laura Linney, "Frasier"
Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy: John Turturro, "Monk"
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama: Sharon Stone, "The Practice"
Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama: William Shatner, "The Practice"

Outstanding Reality Program: "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy"--Note that this is for "non-competitive" reality, in which "Queer Eye" beat out "Colonial House," "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," "Project Greenlight," and "Penn & Teller: [Obscenity Deleted]." The hotter category is "Reality Competition," which'll be handed out on Sunday, and pits "Amazing Race," "Apprentice," "Survivor," "American Idol," and "Last Comic Standing" against each other.

Outstanding Commercial: "Citibank--Identity Theft"--A much-deserved honor for a brilliant campaign.

Outstanding Voiceover Performance: Dan Castellanata, "The Simpsons" (his third Emmy)
I DON'T HAVE A LICENSE BUT I DRIVE VERY WELL, OFFICER: While ultimately opting for a "quirky assemblage" rather than a definitive list, this Philadelphia Weekly list of the 100 Best Philly Albums of All Time is still a worthy way to spend fifteen minutes of your time today.
LOOK FOR "MY OX IS BROKEN" TO MAKE THE LIST NEXT YEAR: Donald Trump's catchphrase "You're fired!" is the new top television buzzword according to the folks over at the Global Language Monitor. Perhaps the most curious inclusion on the buzzword list is No. 4 "God," which the group credits to "Joan of Arcadia" and "Angels in America." Isn't that a little like including a common phrase like "infectious disease" and crediting it to "CSI"?
MY OX IS BROKEN! Best episode of the Race this season. Wow. Whether you regard the ending as justice or luck depends on how much you value racing skills over social skills, but, man, this had everything.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

"MY OX IS BROKEN!" Lessons from tonight's leg of the Race? Sometimes it pays to play dirty. Bribing your cabdriver is not always particularly effective. Fears of heights can be overcome. Even though Chip and Kim proclaim they're "Business first, nice and friendly second," they remain the nicest and friendliest team around. It is possible to overcome a severe case of Killer Fatigue. God blesses some teams with incredible airport luck, and curses others with airport death. Add to this an ending that seems to divide people equally between "damn you" and "thank god" camps, and you have one of the finest hours of TV in quite a while. Next week's finale should be a hell of a lot of fun, especially if I make it in to TARCON rather than being stuck at the office.
ON A SCALE OF '1' TO 'JUST WIN THE SUPER BOWL': Just participated in an online survey of Philadelphia Eagles season ticket holders commissioned by the team. What, pray tell, did team management want to know? Some highlights:

Now please take a look at the following list of words or phrases people use when talking about professional sports teams. Please indicate how important to you it is that a professional sports team delivers on these words or phrases, using a 1-10 scale where 1 means it is not at all important that a pro team deliver it, and 10 means it is extremely important that a professional sports team deliver on that statement.

Is an organization that is committed to winning
Is a part of my life
Is a team that never gives up
Is a team that reflects and embodies
the values of the City of Philadelphia
Are a group of players and coaches I feel good about
Play as a team
Games that are exciting
Is a team that communicates with me

Next, please take a look at the following list of words or phrases that could be used to describe the personality of a professional sports team. Please indicate how important to you it is that a professional sports team demonstrates these words or phrases . . .

Demonstrate strength
Have heart
Are determined
Are tough
Down to earth
Are underdogs
Are hard-working

The following are some characteristics that could be used to describe the Eagles Cheerleaders. For each one, please indicate how strongly you agree or disagree that the characteristic describes the Eagles Cheerleaders . .

Are talented
Are hard-working
Athletic dancers
Are loyal
Appreciates their fans
Are determined
Down to earth
Kid friendly
Appeals to all fans
Are "Philadelphia"
Demonstrate strength
(This all reminds me of the scene in Total Recall where Quaid gets to decide what the woman in his simulation looks like. Demure.)

Other questions included the appropriateness of the Gregg Easterbrook's favorite merchandise, whether the team should construct an Eagles-themed hotel decorated with Eagles merchandise, memorabilia and other Eagles themed rooms and attractions (ugh) or market aerobics tapes by Eagles cheerleaders. So if you're invited to check out the Buddy Ryan Suite or the Bernard Williams Lounge in five years, you'll know why.
"IF I WERE WATCHING THAT GUY, I WOULD SURE HATE HIS GUTS:" Yes, none of the Racers have found their way over to TWOP yet, at least not publicly, but the posters there have noticed that Colin Guinn, half of your current Race leaders, is continuing to post in a BMW forum. In this post, he blames the editing for the general perception of him as a psychopath, and claims "I'm actually a pretty decent guy and I really do care about people." Your mileage may, as always, vary.

Sadly, CBS has spoiled part of the surprise of tonight's leg, but I won't do so other than to say that we're promised an "intense roadblock." No word on how well Captain Intensity copes with the "intense roadblock," though if last week's previews are indication, it seems as though it does not go well.

Hat tip to TWOPper NomiPomi, who tracked down the link.
WHAT ABOUT THE ARTICLES? I've got a letter up over at Romenesko, which I would summarize here if not for the fact that you should just click on the link and read it yourself.
NO LOVE FOR EDDIE OR OZZY: As Matt reported yesterday, the list of 15 finalists for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is out. Perhaps more interesting, though, is the list of acts that failed to make the cut from the list of semifinalists that was released in June. Those snubbed are: ABBA, Jeff Beck, Black Sabbath, Captain Beefheart, Chic, Jimmy Cliff, John Cougar [Mellencamp], Dave Clark 5, Peter Gabriel, Kraftwerk, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Laura Nyro, Graham Parker and the Rumor, Lou Reed, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Neil Sedaka, Ringo Starr, T. Rex, Van Halen, Tom Waits, and Barry White.

If not for the inclusion of U2 on the actual list, I would think that the Hall mistakenly released the wrong list. How in the hell can you not even consider Black Sabbath and Van Halen this year? In both influence and body of work, both bands pass the test. Also, how do you induct Jackson Browne last year over Johnny Cougar? I'll take "Jack and Diane" over "Somebody's Baby" any day.

No Tom Waits or Peter Gabriel? No ABBA? No question they belong. Kraftwerk and Jimmy Cliff deserve spots, too.

It's no secret that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a ridiculous entity, but outside of Bono and the boys, and perhaps the Pretenders and Stooges, it's an absolute travesty that anyone else would be inducted before the aforementioned acts. But I guess in a world where Ryne Sandberg, Artis Gilmore, and Ray Guy can't get into their respective Halls, such injustices are to be expected.

Monday, September 13, 2004

LEAST ESSENTIAL DVD OF THE WEEK: SNL presents The Best of Chris Kattan? It's got to be, what, about twelve minutes long?
DON'T CALL MY GAME 'STUPID': That's what Mark Cuban said in evicting the first contestant from The Benefactor, but when you start off by gazing at a bank of monitors hooked into hidden cameras to spy on the contestants like you're Billy Baldwin in Sliver and you actually air a contestant saying "When the tower collapsed, I tried to look sorry" just a few days after the 9/11 anniversary, then, well, your game's stupid.

(Yes, the contestant had just finished a game of Jenga, but still . . . )

Cuban doesn't give us any reason to care about him, so his eviction decisions aren't interesting, just arbitrary. I mean, why kick out the loser of a game of Jenga rather than the guy who's acting like the biggest asshole ever while playing against her? At least when Trump axes someone, it's because of some sense of who's got the best business potential. Here, it's just weird.

Roger Ebert has often quoted Gene Siskel as saying that you know a movie's bad when you'd rather watch a documentary of the actors hanging out than of the movie they made. Here, I'd rather watch two random people play Jenga for an hour than the whole show built around it.

Indeed, one step better: why not move past Celebrity Poker Showdown to Celebrity Board Games? Basically, bring back Win, Lose or Draw and expand it to Celebrity Connect Four, to Celebrity Monopoly, Celebrity Scrabble and, hey, why not Jeremy Piven, Laura Innes, Wanda Sykes and Norm McDonald in Celebrity Sorry?

edited to fix Siskel attribution.
CHARLA'S ALREADY GETTING READY TO PROTEST: Nominees for this year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class are out. Interesting group, with one mortal lock (U2), a few pleasant surprises (the O'Jays, Percy Sledge), the likely first "rap" artist to get in (Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five), the utterly inexplicable (Conway Twitty?), and "Short People Got No Reason To Live" poet Randy Newman. Truly shocking? The revelation that the Sex Pistols and Lynyrd Skynyrd didn't get in last year. I'm not a huge fan of the Pistols, but their influence is undeniable, and Skynyrd should probably get in just off the strength of "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Free Bird."
AND THEY DIDN'T EVEN HAVE TO GUESS THE ACTUAL RETAIL PRICE: Yes, Oprah gave away new cars to every one of the 276 people in her audience on today's show. According to the AP:

"Everybody gets a car! Everybody gets a car! Everybody gets a car!" Winfrey yelled as she jumped up and down on the stage.

Now, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with Oprah giving away cars, but it seems like it's only a matter of time till Oprah's generosity devolves into this.

And in other book news, the fall's second-most eagerly awaited novel has to be Philip Roth's The Plot Against America, a literary "what if" in which Charles Lindbergh defeats FDR in 1940, cozies up to Hitler, and starts relocating America's Jews. The Guardian (again) has an excellent profile of the author.
WE'RE LISTENING UP: From Jason Alexander trying to be Tony Kornheiser to Richard Branson and Mark Cuban trying to be Donald Trump, the new fall tv season promises to be one in which 85% of the stuff is crap, and of the 15% that's halfway decent, most people will only watch 42% of it, leaving 6.3% of new shows to last on the air long enough for you to see them.

So, what are you excited about? What do you dread? What do you regard as essential?