Saturday, July 2, 2005

COULD THEY MAKE IT ANY MORE OBVIOUS? Sk8r Boi maestro Avril Lavigne is engaged to her longtime boyfriend, the frontman of pop-punk outfit Sum 41. No word on whether the ceremony will be simple or complicated, or whether wedding planning is making her all frustrated. That said, I wish the couple their own happy ending.
THE WORLD IS WATCHING: While I decided to evacuate Philadelphia this weekend, others didn't: Daniel Rubin, Philly Future, Chris Bowers and Matt Stoller are among those who liveblogging Live8 today from the scene. AOL, meanwhile, has all the concerts streaming live for free online with video and audio right here.

Just saw Green Day's Billie Joe shout "Deutschland!" in the middle of performing "American Idiot" in Berlin -- along with a healthy amount of seven-second delay usage.

It's going to be a fun day to watch, but make sure you visit The One Campaign, Make Poverty History and DATA to understand why debt relief and fair trade matter so much for the future of Africa.

Friday, July 1, 2005

MY OTHER BROTHER DARRYL: During the course of Lisa de Moraes' weekly WaPo chat today, a Top 100 TV Quotes Ever list is born.

One I'd add: "The sea was angry that day my friends, like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli."

It's a long weekend. Supplement as appropriate.
LIGHTEN UP? Just in case, God forbid, this website is a primary news source for you, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has announced her resignation from the Court.

Trivia buffs will note that the original source of the leak, about an hour ago, was an email to staff members from Heritage Foundation director of executive branch relations Virginia L. Thomas, who would have reason to know it was true.
YAR! If you found the recent New Yorker piece on transoceanic scrap rafter Poppa Neutrino of interest (see interview with author), you'll probably be interested in seeing the official Floating Neutrinos website.
YOUR KNIGHTS MIGHT BE NICE BOYS BUT SADLY WE'RE ALL GOYS: Rumors of its death strike me as a shade exaggerated, but some folks at Time Out New York (perhaps the third best weekly magazine about goings-on in the big city) have offered up some suggestions as to how to fix Broadway.

Some of them are spot on: More dancing. Less Sondheim. Forget about the canned music. Get ushers actively involved in the exit process (please oh please!). Keep an eye on summer theatre festivals to find the next Urinetown. Some are at least interesting: Create a National Theatre. Offer more opportunities for press contact with directors and designers to create a more educated public. Enough with the countless winks and nods that have become de rigueur for Broadway metatheatre. (Urinetown has a Les Miz number -- or ten. Spamalot needs more Jews to succeed on Broadway. And so forth. Broadway has been all about Broadway for an awfully long time, so this isn't exactly new news.) And some are head scratchers: Hire more dramaturgs. (I have never understood what the purpose of a dramaturg is, and I feel no more enlightened after reading TONY's plea for more of them.) Avoid songs like Wicked's sole showstopper, "Defying Gravity," at all costs.

Whatever you think of the merits of the authors' suggestions, it's nice to see Broadway being covered in a manner that is neither gushy nor too-high-falutin'-for-words.
I MEMORIZED EVERY LINE, EVERY CURVE. I CAME ACROSS TIME FOR YOU: I don't know what's stranger about this story, that a Christian group is calling for Jessica Simpson to film a less naughty (but presumably not all together unnaughty) version of her video for "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'" or that the group, styled "The Resistance," is lead by someone named John Connor.
WAR O' THE WISP: Imagine, if you will, making a film of the 82nd Airborne Division launching a sneak attack on the local animal shelter. The victims helpless, the survivors witless, the outcome inevitable. Now, imagine having a budget of $185M to do it. And since you have a $185M budget, you might as well change the 82nd airborne to aliens and the animal shelter to the Hudson Valley, without losing any of the original drama. There, my friends, you have Spielberg's War of the Worlds.

[Spoilers, such as they are, follow]

Now, I enjoyed the movie. The death rays that turn panicking New Yorkers into a 300-grain fetid powder, while leaving their clothes to drift in the wind were brilliant. The aliens, although inexplicably radially symmetric on their lower torso while bilaterally symmetric at the head, were cool. The howling mobs were, I must say, pretty disturbing.

But as drama -- let alone as science fiction -- it utterly fails. The tripods have force-shields which protect them from even the most foolhardy of attacks. The audience knows the 10th Mountain or the Vermont National Guard is going to get vaporized. Nothing so far in the movie has suggested that an M-1A Abrams is even going to bust through the alien's limited damage waiver. So the audience is left to root for nobility, not success. That's not an unhuman emotion, mind you. Tea Leoni's single greatest performance was in Deep Impact during her scene as a six-pixel-tall woman facing a 1,000 foot wave. I was touched by that. And I hope that if I'm ever faced with aliens, or terrorists, or tsunami and I can die -- or die nobly -- I chose nobility.

But plot is so much more interesting than atmosphere. And this movie has no plot. Tom Cruise does nothing in this movie. Certainly nothing which affects the outcome. He runs. He grabs his daughter. And then he runs again. And runs. And runs, until such time as the aliens die of the common cold. If I wanted a pointless story about people I hate waiting for someone to die of consumption, I'd have gone to the theater and took in A Long Day's Journey Into Night.

What I wanted in War of the Worlds -- hell, what I want in any big budget alien invasion flick -- is pretty simple: (a) aliens arrive and prove hostile, much to humanity's disappointment; (b) aliens rout Earth's defenses for the rest of the first act; (c) during part (b) a few brave civilians or troops acting independently should do some damage to the aliens; (d) the information gleaned from the events of (c) should be used by a renegade group of civilians to bring that information to the authorites and finally, (e) the authorities should spread the war of the clever civilians to the rest of the world, thus (f) defeating the aliens.

Of course, in parts all parts (a) through (f), lots of cool shit should blow up.

This works in every movie from Earth v. the Flying Saucers to Attack of the Killer Tomatoes to Independence Day. The good guys acting against and -- by accident and design -- hurting the bad guys. Cruise does none of that. And the one place he does do some harm to the alien bad guys, it does nothing to advance the cause of humanity against the alien bad guys.

That said, this movie may represent the most realistic assesment of what first contact may be like. It's clear enough that if we ever do encounter aliens, they'll likely be so far ahead or behind us that we will scarcely notice one another, but if we do -- no matter how benevolent the intent -- the culture and societal shock will make the Trail of Tears look like a press junket with the Dalai Lama. Five hundred years after contact, humans will be resigned to busking street corner Wagner or Laurel & Hardy to make a few Galactic Domars to feed the wife and kids.

Maybe Tom Cruise knows a thing or two about aliens. Maybe he has this one close to the mark.
But he can tell you that we haven't been attacked by aliens for the last 75 million years. And waiting for the DVD won't hurt you.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

OH, SNAP: Brooke Shields responds to Tom Cruise in the NYT: "While Mr. Cruise says that Mr. Lauer and I do not 'understand the history of psychiatry,' I'm going to take a wild guess and say that Mr. Cruise has never suffered from postpartum depression."
IT'S THE BASTARD CHILD OF THE NEW REPUBLIC AND IN TOUCH: Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Us Quarterly, the magazine devoted to scholarly analysis of celebrity gossip. On a similar note, I've had an idea for a magazine now for a while--Pretentious Jackass Quarterly--containing nothing but stories for, by, and/or about the prententious jackass--more literary than Cigar Afficionado and with fewer breasts than Maxim. Contributors are likely to include Jonathan Safran Foer, Dave Eggers, David Foster Wallace, and Jonathan Franzen. (To be fair, I enjoyed large parts of Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and The Corrections, and Franzen's essays are usually provocative and well-written.) PJQ--If you have to ask how much it costs, it's not for you.
I'M RICK JAMES, WENCH: One of ALLOT5MAs favorite comics is apparently playing one of my favorite games. Of course he could have been kidding, but I like to think that Dave's actually on-line some nights dishing out computerized cartoon pwnage. Wench joke aside, I'm betting he doesn't hang out on the RP servers.
THE IMPORTANT THING HERE IS THAT LEONARD COHEN APPEARS AT NOS. 25 AND 69: I can't decide whether it's me or the list that's flawed, but of the top ten songs on the top 100 Canadian singles of all time, I appear to have heard of precisely three.

And for those keeping score at home: Gordon Lightfoot beats Bryan Adams three to one.
AT LEAST ELEVEN IS ONE LOUDER: Detroit no longer ranks among the United States' Ten Most Populous Cities, having dropped to No. 11, swapping places with San Jose in the latest population statistics. The Motor City had been in the top 10 for 95 years and for a good part of that span ranked as the fourth or fifth largest U.S. city. In 1950, 1.8 million people called Detroit home; today, roughly half that amount live on the wrong side of Eight Mile.
WHY, SYDNEY, WHY?: Mrs. Isaac Spaceman has alerted me to a tragic news event.

Just so long as they don't go casting Affleck as Milo Rambaldi to make Jennifer happy, I guess I can handle it. But I don't have to like it. Grumble.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

ONE WON BY THE GIPPER: Ronald Reagan is the Greatest American of All Time. Also noteworthy, Oprah (No. 9) finished higher than FDR (No. 10).

IF FITTY REFERS TO THE GLOBAL AGREEMENT ON TARIFFS AND TRADE, CHUG: Via Daniel Rubin, we have our first iteration of the Live 8 Drinking Game. A sample:
Take a sip if…
… Philadelphia Mayor John Street says something stupid.
… Jay-Z has more than 10 people on stage with him.
… you see someone selling water for more than $4.
… somebody strikes up an “E-A-G-L-E-S, EAGLES!” chant.

Take a gulp if…
… John Street gets lit on fire.
… somebody yells “Free Mumia!”
… Maroon 5 mentions Pennsbury High School.
… P. Diddy has more than 20 people on stage with him.

Finish your drink if…
… Michael Jackson shows up.
… The Pope shows up.
… the former members of Destiny’s Child return.
… Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan appear.
… people sing “We Are The World.”
… people sing “I’d Like To Buy The World A Coke.”
… Toby Keith burns the American flag.
… you figure out who Keith Urban is.

Finish all your drinks (and buy more) if…
… Michael Jackson invites children on stage with him.
… everyone takes their trash when they leave.
… the Phillies win their July 2 game.

Feel free to suggest more.
I'D WALK A MILLION MILES FOR ONE OF YOUR SMILES: Last I checked, we had ourselves a few fans of Alias, The O.C., Arrested Development, and Gilmore Girls. What do all of these shows have in common? Undoubtedly, they've got some of the best moms on TV. And not just the "dude, why can't you be my mom?" variations à la Lorelai Gilmore or Kirsten Cohen in the pre-raging alcoholic days. This article does a great job of touting the many virtues of Emily Gilmore, Julie Cooper-Nichol, Irina Derevko, and Lucille Bluth -- four not-so-nice mothers that make their respective shows worth TiVoing week after week. (It probably doesn't bode well for my offspring's future that all four of the shows mentioned are among my favorites. )

Emily v. Julie v. Irina v. Lucille: who ya got?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

CHESS, PATCH 1.01: I found this nothing short of brilliant:

Patch 1.07

The Queen is overly powerful, being able to move like a Bishop or a Rook. This is redundant - why would anyone use a Bishop instead of a Queen! Furthermore, we have observed that loss of a Queen usually leads to loss of the game, a level of importance which should only be granted to the King! From now on, the Queen may only move 4 squares in any direction, reducing her strength to an amount closer to that of a Rook.

Via Steve Jackson Games.
THE DREAM OF A MILLION GIRLS WHO ARE MORE THAN PRETTY CAN COME TRUE IN . . . NASHVILLE? Miss America apparently lives to fight another day. Viacom's CMT -- also known as Country Music Television in, I gather, much of the same way that The Game Show Network has become GSN -- has signed an agreement to air the Miss America Pageant through 2007, with options to extend through 2011.

Apparently the pageant will air in January rather than the customary September, which seems not to bode so well for the traditional Atlantic City pageant site. As the producers of any reality TV show are well aware, cold weather is not the appropriate setting for girls in bikinis.

What changes do you expect to see in this most venerable of American institutions? For one thing, I don't think we'll have to sit through a performance by O-Town.

Monday, June 27, 2005

NO CLASS: Okay, I'm in my hotel room preparing for tomorrow's hearings (background), but I just saw an ad on tv that I need to report on and register my offense.

Here's goes: the featured new revue at the King's Dominion amusement park this summer? The School of Rock: LIVE! Only, um, based on the ad (and the pictures on the website), there aren't any actual children involved in the production, just the fact that Paramount both produced the film and owns the park. So, in other words, this "school of rock" has as much to do with the film (let alone, the real school of rock) as a day at "King's Dominion" has to do with celebrating the sovereignty of the Lord. . . .
WE'RE IN THE CITY WHERE THE PROS SHAKE, RATTLE AND ROLL, AND I'M A GADDANG ROLLING STONE: The Live8 lineup continues to shape up, and Philadelphia's best band is being dissed in favor of "Kaiser Chiefs", whoever they are. Argh:
As for the Philadelphia hip-hop collective, Roots spokesman Shawn Gee said the band had sought a Live 8 slot and been told they weren't right for the show, then declined the role of backup band for Jay-Z.

NOT RIGHT FOR THE SHOW? C'mon, dog. And Fitty is? They found room for England's most famous nine-armed band, but they can't squeeze in ?uestlove. Bogus.
I WONDER IF BATTLEFIELD EARTH IS PART OF THE CURRICULUM: From the unending sea of press on the unraveling of Tom Cruise, two interesting articles on Cruise's latest dustup with Matt Lauer on Friday. And it shouldn't be surprising that the New York Times and Fox News are disagreeing with one another.

Alessandra Stanley of the Times writes that Cruise was "bracing and bold" and that he "outdebated" Lauer. Fox's Roger Friedman, on the other hand, praises Lauer for maintaining his cool as Cruise fell apart.

Friedman also mentioned -- and I haven't been able to find anything confirming this -- that Cruise and Nicole Kidman's adopted children are now apparently home-schooled (with an emphasis on the works of L. Ron Hubbard, naturally) by two of Cruise's sisters, who converted to Scientology at his insistence. (If this is accurate, I'm just wondering what Nicole Kidman thinks of all this.)
AN UNSWEET 16: I spent the afternoon under the shadow of Mount Davis at the Oakland Coliseum to see, really, the most lopsided game I've ever attended. Even worse than this hideousness.

I did, at least, have a pint of Longboard Lager from the Kona Brewing Company.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

BY LAW, THIS POST MUST REMIND YOU THAT HE WAS, INDEED, AN IVY LEAGUE GRADUATE: Beloved-if-less-than-exceptional former Phillies centerfielder and EverQuest junkie Doug Glanville, a/k/a Jayson Stark's favorite source, yesterday signed a one-day contract to retire as a Phillie. A front office job may be forthcoming.
PUT A TIGER IN YOUR CASKET: First Tony the Tiger and now Tigger. I hope Hobbes has his estate in order.