Saturday, October 1, 2005

INSANITY LATER: Since I figure there's some folks 'round these parts who might want to talk about it, figured I'd open up a thread to talk about Serenity. My (spoiler-free) thoughts:

The Good:
  • The action and the violence--real, bloody stuff that remains true to the idea of the Firefly-verse, rather than turning it into generic sci-fi laser pistol land. People die. People bleed. People hurt. It may have only cost 30M to make, but it looks like a 50+M budgeted movie.
  • The dialogue--much like Aaron Sorkin's, Whedon's dialogue has a vaguely theatrical flare to it, but unlike Sorkin, he's unafraid to tweak that. While with Sorkin, an extremely earnest speech will be followed by applause and embraces, Whedon follows it by undermining it.
  • The philosophical issues raised by it--There's a lot going on in the movie on a thematic level--Whedon has some things to say about family, love, and sin, and they're interesting, at a minimum.
  • The performances--This ought to be a breakout part for Nathan Fillion, who's got the swagger of Harrison Ford as Indy Jones down to a T. Summer Glau never had much to do on Firefly other than whimper and say cryptic things, but her physical performance here is just incredible. Chitwetel Ejiofor follows up his solid villainous portrayal in Four Brothers with another one, though this one gets a bit more psychological depth.

The bad?

  • While most of the characters are decently, if perfunctorily, introduced, I suspect folks who haven't seen Firefly won't understand at all who Book and Inara are, and their characters are given somewhat short shrift.
  • The final five minutes of the film are rushed, in particular, one character's reversal of his stance, which comes with little backing. (And where did all the parts and shit come from.)
  • The "big reveal" is something I figured out half of a good 15 minutes before it was made (the Reaver part).
  • Many questions aren't answered--Inara and Book's backstories, the Inara-Mal relationship, and the like.

It's still solid stuff, recommended, especially for sci-fi fans, though I'd be interested to hear how non-Firefly watchers take to it.

HOW TO DISMANTLE AN ATOMIC BOMB, PT II: Not only might it win Bono a Grammy, but it might earn Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize.

Betting is underway, and I'll put in right now for the joint Bono/Sir Bob Geldof award.
THE OVER-UNDER ON GREEN DAY NOMINATIONS IS 4: Under the official rules, yesterday marked the end of the Grammy eligibility year, so it should come as no huge surprise that one big album snuck in under the radar--under the current rules, if the album's available for download, it's eligible, even if you can't buy the album in stores--I'm actually surprised that "Extraordinary Machine" wasn't hustled out to make the deadline. Other late breakers seem likely to be Sheryl Crow's oddball "Wildflower" and the "Rent" movie score. So bearing that in mind, what are my "For Your Consideration" picks?
  • "Breakaway," Kelly Clarkson--Album of the Year--Spawned 3 inescapable top 10 singles with a 4th one going strong now. "Since U Been Gone" seems the likeliest to get Record and Song of the Year nods.
  • "Late Registration," Kanye West--Album of the Year--Duh. "Gold Digger" looks like a cinch for Record of the Year too.
  • "Mr. Brightside," The Killers--Record of the Year--80s throwback coupled with bizarre lyrics. Yeah!
  • "Breathe (2 AM)," Anna Nalick--Record and Song of the Year--The rest of her album is kinda meh, but this song is just incredible. Nalick would be a sensible contender for Best New Artist, too.

My prediction for "pedestrian album/artist that gets excessive recognition" this year? Mariah Carey, with nods all over the place for "We Belong Together" and "The Emancipation of Mimi." (Also, because the album is ineligible, Green Day's "likely nomination number" drops.) Other suggestions are invited.

AND ABOUT TIME, TOO: From CNN, via Slashdot, the Germans have invented The Roomba Of Beer. Only backwards. Now there's something to be proud of.

Friday, September 30, 2005

DECONTEXTUALIZATION AT ITS FINEST: Hey, check out the trailer for the heartwarming new Jack Nicholson movie! There's also something frightening afoot on the west side of town.

Via Blinq.
THE HEART OF DORKNESS: Watch this space, kids! If we're lucky, maybe Professor Richard Epstein will liveblog the annual Law School Trivia Contest.

Actually, I'm sure The Law School can do better than that. In preparation, perhaps some of Chicago's distinguished faculty would like to hone their blogging skills by guesting here at ALOTT5MA?

Maybe... But, maybe not.

In lieu of their direct participation, maybe some of those here familiar with the unique foibles of diction and delivery that attend these esteemed academicians would care to contribute imaginatively parodic pop-culture blog entries in the comments?

I WOULD HAVE CHOSEN THE NED BEATTY AND TOOTHLESS HILLBILLY TRYST IN DELIVERANCE, BUT THAT'S ME: The UK's Empire Magazine lists the Worst Sex Scenes Ever in its next issue and topping the list is Elizabeth Berkley thrashing about in the swimming pool with Kyle MacLachlan in Showgirls.

So, which scenes would you add to the list?

List via EW's Popwatch.
WEAR YOUR BEST . . . FOOTWEAR: For those readers in the Philadelphia area interested in catching In Her Shoes at a special event next Thursday night with Jen, food from the Jamaican Jerk Hut and live music from Sons of Ace (the restaurant and reggae band featured in the film), all to benefit the Free Library of Philadelphia, click here for the details.
DU BIST DAVID HASSELHOFF: Yes, the war's been over for sixty years, but I'm still not convinced it's a great idea to try to raise German morale through appeals to nationalism.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

ISABEL GARFLECK? Good things about tonight's premiere of Alias:

  • No having to wait half a season to resolve the cliffhanger.
  • Many amusing efforts to conceal Jennifer Garner's not-exactly-tiny tummy, including several that were worthy of an Austin Powers sketch.
  • Good use of Marshall. And interesting that there's apparently someone else who's just as good.
  • Reminding us that Syd and Dixon are a great team by referring back to seasons past.
  • "Clementine is cute." "For a fruit."

Bad things about tonight's premiere of Alias:

  • Are you really telling me that there's another 15th century prophet-genius besides Milo Rambaldi?
  • Do you really expect us to believe that Jack just let some guy take over control of APO without checking him out first?
  • Learning from prior history, JJ decides to keep Nadia in an "incurable coma" indefinitely so that, if he decides to bring back Mia Maestro out of the blue some months or years from now, he won't have to go to all of the trouble of figuring out some convoluted oops-she's-not-actually-dead story à la Irina Derevko.
  • That other thing that I will leave for the comments so that the people who watched Survivor or the O.C. and TiVoed Alias don't get miffed.

There may have been a shark on Lost last night, but perhaps there ought to have been one on Alias. Truth takes time.

PRINCE WANTS EVERYONE TO SEE HIM CRY: Given that it's not Horatio Sanz, not Chris Parnell, not Seth Meyers, not Darrell Hammond (now in his 17th season), not Finesse Mitchell, not Rob Riggle, not Kenan Thompson and certainly not Will Forte, maybe the Times is right that Fred Armisen is the next breakout male star from SNL.
SERENITY NOW? As a pop culture blogger, I believe I'm legally required to be excited about Joss Whedon's new sci-fi western movie. But I'm not. I am neither that much into the sci-fi generally nor the Whedon specifically, even if Manohla Dargis is going to call Serenity "Scene for scene . . .more engaging and certainly better written and acted than any of [George] Lucas's recent screen entertainments."

If I'm seeing anything this weekend, it's A History of Violence, about which I am quite excited to get me some Cronenberg. You?

(edited to add: they're also sneaking In Her Shoes again this weekend. Check your local listings.)
DO YOU KNOW HOW TO SET A PICK? God bless tonight's Survivor for just a perfectly ironic moment. Before last week's immunity challenge, Judd said he hoped he could be a hero -- and he was.

So this week, someone else pledges that she hopes she can be a hero at immunity . . . and it doesn't so much work out that way. This ends up greatly to the detriment of one of this blog's most loyal readers, for reasons we can't get to until the comments. But, man, they could run that challenge every week and it'd still be fun.
"SMOOTHER THAN PRESIDENT CLINTON AT A COCKTAIL PARTY": That's just one of the tortured lines Phillip Swann, the president and publisher of, uses in what I guess is an annual list of which stars look best and worst in HDTV. That smoot skin belongs to Marcia Cross, by the way, but don't make the mistake of calling it Clintonesque as the former president, as well as the current one, make the worst list alongside Clint Eastwood, Heather Locklear, and Teri Hatcher. And if you hear some screaming in Idaho tonight, it may have to with the fact that Ashton and Demi are on opposite lists.
JACK MCFARLAND LIVE! So, uh, it's Will and Grace premiere night over on the evening formerly known as Must-See-TV. Woohoo. Hey, it's LIVE! Yawn.

The last live TV event I watched was Fail Safe, which was fine and all, but so overly rehearsed as to feel fairly wooden. Does the notion of live TV actually excite anyone? Can't I just go see a play if I want to see something happening in real time?
BREAKIN' SEASON TWO, ELECTRIC BOOGALOO? I am pleased to report that Prison Break has gotten a full-season pickup. (So have The Office and American Dad, but, well, I don't watch those -- the former because I no longer watch anything on NBC and the latter because I refuse to watch animated shows on Fox under any circumstances.)

The show has gotten a little less Shawshanky lately, which is the slightest bit of a bummer, because I love the whole interpreting-Michael's-tattoo-into-a-scheme-to-escape aspect of things. But this is balanced out by the fun of watching all the supporting characters. T-Bag, in particular, gives me the willies, Westmoreland (the guy with the cat) is quietly intriguing, and Sucre seems to know everything there is to know about birthin' jailhouse riots.

I'm also intrigued by the as-yet-unseen woman pulling the strings behind the Secret Service's plot to make sure that the innocent Lincoln Burrows is executed in a prompt and timely fashion -- she's played by Alias/Thirtysomething/St. Elsewhere/City Slickers veteran Patricia Wettig, so I'm confident there's going to be a big reveal somewhere along the line.
THE SPORTS GUY AND CHUCK KLOSTERMAN ARE GAY COWBOYS BUT IT'S NOT CLEAR WHICH IS DONNIE DARKO: Having shamelessly baited you into pledging your allegiance to various kinds of music, I now offer you Chuck Klosterman's dead-on comment on arguments about music from his correspondence with Bill Simmons, which to me kind of contradicts the thesis of the last part of High Fidelity:
When someone argues about music, you can usually get a remarkably clear portrait of their personality -- you can get an idea of how they view authority, or if they have an adversarial relationship with mainstream culture, or if they are extremely worried about being cool. You can deduce which subcultures they experienced in high school, and you can figure out how much they are engaged with modernity.
It's fun to read the 60 comments from the cover songs thread with this in mind.
MUCH CLASSIER THAN MAXIM: The Lohanboobies are coming back, on the cover of Vanity Fair, no less. I predict sales of Vanity Fair among the 15-24 year-old male demographic will skyrocket.
YOU'RE LES MOONVES: OK--looks like pretty much no one is happy with their ratings Wednesdays at 8 (save maybe UPN, with Top Model), though I know a bunch of "regular schedule" has yet to debut (FOX, ABC, and WB will do their premieres next week and later). So, you're a network programmer--what do you propose? My suggestions:
  • For NBC--flip-flop West Wing and Apprentice: Martha, leaving West Wing in a prestige-free competition slot. Also, West Wing seems a more sensible lead-in to E-Ring than does Martha.
  • For ABC--Move Alias or Night Stalker out of their Thursday night death slots to the leadoff slot on Wednesday, where they'd be nice fits with Lost. Move the sitcoms to 9 on Thursdays, where they face no major sitcom competition.
  • For CBS--Consider moving the Race to the slot, where the competition isn't so murderous and the timeslot is more "family friendly," while putting the sitcoms in the Race slot, where they can appeal to a low-brow audience that seems underserved there.
  • For The WB--If Related is actually any good, flip it and One Tree Hill, which has a loyal audience unlikely to be eroded by Lost.
  • For UPN--They're probably happy, but might want to think about flipping Top Model and Veronica Mars, so Veronica doesn't have to compete with Lost for the quality/supernatural/mystery segment.

Other suggestions and thoughts?

edited by Adam, Friday night: NBC went in a different direction, flipping Martha with E-Ring on Wednesdays.

WATCHING PUNK'D, HOWEVER, STILL HAS NO PRACTICAL USE: I'm not sure if it's sad, funny, or moving--but the fact that I knew "West Coast Customs" is the company that does the "Pimping" on Pimp My Ride came in handy in making it easier to advise a client this morning.
MY VOTE'S FOR SPEARCHUCKER JONES: Why is it, a Kossack wonders, that both actors who have played Hawkeye Pierce are now running for President on tv?
THE YANKEES KNOW HOW TO USE A STRAW: Is it proper to say in polite company that a person or team "sucks"? USA Today investigates.

See, related, In the Matter of Infinity Broadcasting Corporation of Los Angeles (FCC Order 5/24/02), regarding a radio station's playing the Consolidated song "You Suck".

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

LET'S TALK ABOUT LOST, BABY: A very transitional feeling episode. Some raft, some hatch, some beach, some flashback -- but not a whole lot of plot advancement, even (especially!) in the flashbacks. Except for candy bars. Candy bars are yummy. Looks like Desmond made a serious Costco run before holing up in the hole.

See ya in the comments for a little après-Lost.
DECIDEDLY NOT LISTLESS: Time Out New York offers a bunch of lists in this week's 10th Anniversary issue, but the one I wanted to discuss was "10 Best TV Shows Set In NYC That Premiered in 1995 or Later." The list is:
  • Felicity
  • The Job
  • Law & Order: SVU
  • Ned & Stacey
  • NewsRadio
  • Now and Again
  • Rescue Me
  • Sex and the City
  • Spin City
  • Third Watch

Now, I can think of several things that are arguably missing from that list (Sports Night, Without A Trace, Everybody Loves Raymond, CSI: NY). Any others?

IN THE DUGOUT THE MEN COME AND GO, TALKING OF CARLOS ZAMBRANO: "The Love Song of J. Albert Pujols" is one of the best baseball poems I've ever read.

I am still working on "One Art", the Charlie Manuel version:
The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many Phillies games seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of poor baserunning, the middle reliever money badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
road trips, and sweeps, and where it was you meant
to double-switch. None of these will bring disaster. . .
I'LL TAKE "INEFFECTIVE PUBLICITY" FOR $600, ALEX: Yeah, I've heard all the good stuff about Veronica Mars. Yeah, I'll probably wind up renting or buying the first season DVD's because of all the lurve. But touting it as "The best show your not watching" doesn't seem likely to bring in that educated audience I suppose they're going for.
JOHN O'WHO? Tonight, four people who think they can dance will have at it in the almost-finale-but-not-quite of So You Think You Can Dance. I'm told that the final four may not be who everyone is expecting, so pay attention to those first ten minutes when we go from six to four. (Recall that the announcement is made on Thursdays and then kept under wraps for a week.)

As usual, I haven't seen any marketing for the show, so am not entirely sure what to expect from tonight's danceoff. One guess: there will be guy/guy and girl/girl partnering. Just a hunch, based on all of the comments that have been made about Jamile partnering Artem, and Nick dancing off against Blake. One other guess, without knowing a damn thing about tonight's festivities: Nick's got this competition in the bag.
NO STAIRWAY: The comments in a thread a few posts down made me realize that I would be doing this little community a great public service if I formally codified the unwritten rules of covering songs. These rules are presented in the format prescribed by my number-one source of prescriptive stylistic convention, Glamour magazine:

DON'T record an earnest and faithful cover of a song that is almost universally associated with a particular artist. As Finch can testify, Led Zeppelin's Battle of Evermore was not crying out to be done exactly the same way by two women who had exactly the same range and vocal inflection as Robert Plant. In fact, virtually every Led Zeppelin song was done to Zeppelinesque perfection by Led Zeppelin in the studio, so much so that when Led Zeppelin tried to do those songs live -- on The Song Remains the Same and at Live Aid 1.0 -- they stunk. Another example: did anybody ever think, "I really love Marvin Gaye's Sexual Healing, particularly all of the ad-libs and such, but what that song really needs is Dave Pirner's note-for-note screech to take the edge off of the honey-sweet perfection of Gaye's voice"? No. This rule also goes for everybody who has ever covered Yesterday or The Times, They Are A-Changin'.

DO cover hidden gems from well-known artists or beloved songs from obscure artists. This is a good way to spread the message about music that people haven't heard before. Good examples: Son Volt's cover of Mystifies Me by Keith Richards; Iron Maiden's improbable cover of Mountain's Mississippi Queen; Nirvana's covers of the Vaselines songs on Incesticide. This rule begs the question of when somebody is going to have the good sense to cover James Taylor's Only Telling a Lie, featuring the immortal line: "There ain't no need to act like I shot your dog."

DO cover songs that people associate with particular artists if you believe (be honest with yourself) that you can add something completely unexpected or reinterpret them in a new way. Who didn't laugh the first time they heard Limp Bizkit doing George Michael's Faith? Who didn't love Cake's upfunked rock version of Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive? Sure, this can get a little overdone -- Tony Bennett and Johnny Cash versions of rock standards, a Pat Boone heavy metal album -- but if it gives us a gem like Cowboy Junkies' Sweet Jane, it's okay.

DON'T "reinterpret" a song by turning it into a bad reggae song. Maxi Priest, coverer of Cat Stevens's Wild World, you are under arrest.

DON'T try to parlay your inexplicable success with a cover of one obscure song by a relatively obscure band with a cover of a second obscure song by the same obscure band. This rule applies even if the royalty-starved original band is writing you scented letters begging you to break it. This is known as the Quiet Riot Rule.

DO break all of the "don't" rules (except the reggae rule) live. My theory is that people don't go to concerts just to hear the same old stuff (why not stay home with headphones?) or to hear reinterpretations of the stuff they know. They go to have a communal experience with other people who like the same stuff. A band that covers a song that the audience already loves -- even if they don't add anything new to it -- can become a participant in, and not just the focus of, the communal experience. Two memorable examples for me: Uncle Tupelo doing Neil Young's Everybody Knows this Is Nowhere and Pearl Jam doing Neil Young's Rocking in the Free World.

Anything I'm missing? Any cover songs that you think particularly prove or disprove these rules?
I'M NOT ACTUALLY BRILLIANT, I'M JUST WRITTEN THAT WAY: Looks like Baby Bristow's mama's covert ops skillz aren't as skillzful as they're supposed to be. Or maybe it's just Daddy's genes rubbing off.

[Edited to add a new link to the same story.]
NOT QUITE SO AMAZING: It was not a good night for the Race last night, ratings-wise. Among the things that beat it? Geena Davis, Dr. Hizzy, Earl, and DennyCrane, and it showed significant erosion from "NCIS." Two things had worse news, though--"The Office" lost nearly half of Earl's lead-in, and UPN's "Sex, Love, and Secrets" may just beat out "Head Cases" in terms of number of episodes aired before cancellation, with its 1 share.
"THE JEDIS REALLY REPRESENTED THIS YEAR:" As you might be aware, geek overlords Neil Gaiman and Joss Whedon both have movies coming out on Friday (Mirrormask and Serenity, respectively), so Time sat them down for a joint interview, which somehow manages to touch not merely on their projects, but Timecop, the novels of Kazuo Ishiguro, how Kitty Pryde influenced Buffy, and Catwoman.

Link via Dan Radosh.
FOOTNOTE 47 IS DIRECTLY ON POINT FOR HOW TO HANDLE THE "BRITISH EYES ONLY" ALIEN DNA REPLICATING PHENOMENON: Although there's a whole lot of excellent TV between now and Friday, I spent some time thinking about Threshold this morning on my way to work. Three hours into the series, the pattern seems to be clear. Something weird happens indicating that the inexplicably replicating triple helix DNA sequence may have spread farther than anyone thought. Charles S. Dutton turns to Carla Gugino and rumbles "So, Molly, does your Threshold Plan have a method for dealing with this?" "Why yes, it does," says the fabulous Carla (who, I decided some time ago, is the prime candidate to portray Mrs. Isaac Spacewoman in Spacemen: The Movie), "the Threshold Plan indicates that we should do XYZ." And so everyone runs around doing XYZ for the next 40 minutes, realizing that the inexplicably replicating triple helix DNA sequence is weirder than they'd thought -- as evidenced by the fractal thingamabob all over the place -- and managing to avoid alien world domination for the time being.

As I've mentioned here before, the cast is fantastic and the story compelling, but I do kind of wonder whether the premise will wear a little thin somewhere around episode 12. "Molly, does that multi-volume treatise of a Threshold Plan have a method for dealing with aliens who have transformed themselves into purple giraffes and are now embedding themselves into grab-it claw games across the country?" "Why yes, Charles S. Dutton, it does."
IT'S CALLED DIGNITY, LUANNE: Eugene Levy was given the highest praise in his recent Fame Audit:
Because now we get to see him in Guest films and other films too, even films like Bringing Down the House, which blew, but he didn't blow in it. And if he had, we'd have forgiven him. And if The Man sucks, we won't care. New York Minute? Have at it, Eugene. Buy a house, build a deck, plate your bathroom in gold. Eugene Levy's got so much credit at our karmic comedy bank that he could buy the karmic comedy bank and fire us all, and we'd still shake his hand on the way out.

There's going to be a significant withdrawal from the bank, however: Levy was the only original cast member to sign up for American Pie IV, going straight-to-DVD later this year. Better be a lot of zeroes on that check.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

HI. WE'RE LOOKING FOR THE TOWN OF 'SOHO'? WE THINK IT'S STRAIGHT AHEAD: We're kinda lucky at this blog -- no one knows how to race the streets of NYC better than Ms. Cosmopolitan and her Mr., and I do have some familiarity with Philadelphia and Lancaster County. A running tally of thoughts on The Amazing Are We There Yet?
  • We like Team African-American. We are not so much fans of Team Bickering Italian American Stereotypes.
  • I believe a majority of teams believe they will be "underestimated". Mathematically, this cannot be true.
  • "Looks like people like to use spray paint in New York"
  • Amazingest Cameo Evir. I will not spoil it for the West Coasters.
  • "In Pennsylvania? I don't know if that means the state of Pennsylvania?"
  • Best route from the hot dog cart: GW Bridge to NJ Turnpike south to exit 9 or 10; then take Route 1 south to 95/295 south, get off right after you cross the Scudder Falls bridge. Any team travelling across that dinky bridge from the park in NJ wasted time.
  • The Vince!
  • "Pennsylvania may be a state. I don't know."
  • Washington Crossing to the Plateau (the place where everybody goes): I-95 south to 676 West across Center City, then Schuylkill west to Montgomery Drive, and you're, like, there. All those teams you saw driving in Center City or past houses? Lost.
  • How does a team get to complete a task (building a tent) for another? Since when!
  • Runaway Buggy!
  • Return of "the smoke that thunders" in a Race opener, thanks to that Linz boy.
  • Liked the detour options.

So here's my question, because I was not attentive enough: to what extent did the bunchings from the overnight carry over into the results? Other than the Paolos, who significantly over- or under-performed on day two?

ONLY IF JACK BRISTOW GETS TO HEAD THE CIA: Allegedly, the Virginia Democratic Party wants Ben Affleck to run for Senate in 2006. He's their second choice, after John Grisham turned them down.
THE B-SIDE IS THE MICRONAUTS SINGING ACE OF BASE'S ALL THAT SHE WANTS: If you are a little bit younger than me, you probably liked poorly-drawn gay icon He-Man. If you have a little bit worse taste than me, you probably liked 4 Non-Blondes, whose chief positive attribute was the descriptive accuracy of their name. That said, I am exactly the right age and have exactly the right taste to enjoy He-Man covering a 4 Non-Blondes song. Note that He Man is technically One Blonde, or at least One Blonde with Menagerie.

Side note: why are there any musicians anywhere who think it's a good idea to cover Led Zeppelin songs with a straight face? 4 Non-Blondes' Misty Mountain Hop is terrible, though not quite as bad as spastic Puffy shouting gibberish over a full orchestra playing Kashmir.
SMALL AND WHITE, CLEAN AND BRIGHT: A son has been born to AI4 runner-up Bo Bice and the woman he knocked up and subsequently wed.

But really, shouldn't a musician know better than to name a kid Aiden Bice?

Aiden Bice, Aiden Bice, you look happy to meet me . . .
STAR WARS, NOTHING BUT STAR WARS, GIMMEE THAT STAR WARS...: John Williams familiar score to the 1977 Revenge of the Sith sequel has topped the AFI's List of 25 Greatest Film Scores of All Time. Williams was the only composer on the list three times, scoring with Jaws and ET, also. Others on the list twice include Bernard Herrmann (Psycho and Vertigo), Max Steiner (GWTW and King Kong), Elmer Bernstein (Magnificent Seven and To Kill a Mockingbird) and Jerry Goldsmith (Planet of the Apes and Chinatown).
HAIL TO THE VICTORS: Excuse the brief boosterism, but I wanted to mention that the beloved Wolverines, who right now are fighting for a spot at the Holiday Bowl after a 2-2 start, have been picked as the No. 6 all-time college football program according to a new list from Street & Smith's of the Top 50 Programs of All-Time. The top 10 are: Notre Dame, USC, Oklahoma, Alabama, Nebraska, Michigan, Yale, Ohio State, Texas and Princeton.

And speaking of the hated Buckeyes, I am flying into Columbus tomorrow for a day (I'm driving up to Ada, Ohio, to tour the Wilson football factory for a story I am working on) and I may have a few free hours in the late afternoon. Any good (non-chain) places to grab a quick bite near the airport?
NO. 51, HOMEBOYS IN OUTER SPACE: The Boston Globe lists the Top 50 Sci-Fi TV Shows of All-Time. (Star Trek classic is the top pick).

Link via Filmoculous.
A DETOUR IS A CHOICE BETWEEN TWO TASKS -- 'CARS ONLY', OR 'CARS, TRUCKS AND BUSES': The Amazing Race: Are We There Yet? edition, debuts tonight.

I am not hugely optimistic about this season -- the family thing, I fear, is going to put even more emphasis on the relationship side and downplay the competitive aspects and the strategery. That, plus the rumored lack of transoceanic travel, means the show might be leaning more towards the "inspirational" than ever before, and if I wanted to watch that, I'd watch the new Amy Grant show.

Still, it's the Race. And Geena Davis, Earl and Dr. Hizzy are just going to have to step aside.
Billboards all over town say, "This fall, a woman will be president."

Yeah, on a stupid TV show.

Commander in Chief, premiering at 9 tonight on ABC, is a soap opera that pushes all the buttons, and cues in the Mount Rushmore music at just the right moments. A lot of people, especially wishful-thinking women, will be hooked and declare it the best new show of the season.

But the simplistic and shamelessly manipulative series, starring Geena Davis as not only the first female prez, but also the first one with no party affiliation, is corrupt at its core. . . .

Shales, however, is more admiring.

Monday, September 26, 2005

SO IS THERE GOING TO BE ANOTHER GREAT HBO MOVIE ABOUT THIS ONE? New York Magazine has a fascinating (if a bit overlong) profile of Late Night maestro Conan O'Brien in this week's issue. What's interesting is that the profile at least strongly implies that there's a substantial degree of animosity (at least from Conan's side) between Conan and Jon Stewart. This begs a question--when 2010 rolls around, what do you think you're going to be watching--Conan's Tonight, Stewart's Late Show, or something else that may come--be it the next Arsenio or the next Magic Hour?
OUT OF THE FARMLANDS, INTO THE GRID: When our good friend Scott Claffee retired the L-Cubed blog earlier this month, we didn't make mention of it here because we were hoping he'd change his mind. But he meant it, and we miss his contributions to the blogosphere as he moves onto a new phase in his life.

There is something we can do for Scott, however. "I'll be in Chicago from Tuesday night through Sunday," he writes. "What must I absolutely not miss before I leave? Include sights, bars, food, and anything else you wish to tell."

Without question, my list starts with the Architecture Foundation river cruise and Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind, but I have no idea what the top restaurants are anymore (that you can get into without having reservations months in advance.)

I believe we can provide some further advice on the city by the lake where the embers never fade.
MISSED [HAVING A HEARTBEAT] BY THAT MUCH: Don Adams, originator of detective Maxwell Smart, voice of Inspector Gadget, has passed away.
IF ONLY THERE WAS A POP SONG IN WHICH BOTH THE WORD "KISS" AND "LIST" WERE FEATURED PROMINENTLY: Ross and Rachel's first smooch has been named the Top TV Kiss in a new list from TV Guide. The list was determined by a poll and guessing by the fact that only two kisses on the list pre-date the Clinton administration, I can't be too cheesed off about omissions like Archie Bunker and Sammy Davis Jr. or Davy Jones and Marcia Brady (not to mention Bobby Brady and Millicent).
LOOK OUT! HERE COMES THE SPIDER-MAN: OK, the Spider-Man 3 villains, that is. In an apparent slip of the tongue, Kirsten Dunst disclosed that Thomas Haden Church will play the Sandman and Topher Grace will play fan favorite Venom. I've always thought the original Venom storyline was kinda campy and cheesy, and it's hard to think of a less menacing actor than Topher Grace, so it'll be interesting to see how they handle it.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

WILL EVERYBODY GET A CAR? Apparently not content with her utter domination of television, books, and magazines, Oprah is branching out into theatre. She's going to be the lead investor in the upcoming musical "The Color Purple," now retitled "Oprah Winfrey Presents 'The Color Purple.'" No word on what Oprah's next theatrical project will be. (Also, anyone else think "The Apprentice: Oprah" would be far more interesting than "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart?")
ALSO, JENNIFER GARNER ONCE UNDERSTUDIED KATHRYN ERBE: Did you know that Chandra Wilson, better known to us as Dr. Miranda "The Nazi" Bailey on Grey's Anatomy, previously understudied Gary Coleman in "Avenue Q?" This is an open thread for discussion of various Sunday TV, including, but not limited to, West Wing (Where's Zoey?), Desperate Housewives (Who's in the basement?), and Grey's Anatomy (As a mild Izzie/George 'shipper, I'm a bit dismayed).

..And each camper, armed with only a thermos of coffee and two thousand dollars cash, tries to visit as many countries as he can: Enter the strange, marriage-destroying world of competitive travel. Charles Veley, a dot com millionaire claims to have visited no fewer than 518 countries, autonomous regions, islands, trust territories, protectorates, and other 'places.' Indeed, he claims to be the world's most traveled man. Others disagree, and because there is no governing body to determine just what constitues a 'place' or, for that matter, a 'visit', there's no neutral arbiter who can settle the debate.

Now, serious travel is a fine endeavour and -- if money and time were no object -- I, too, would want to visit the State of Yap (home, as many of you with 1970s-era Guiness Books of World records will recall, to the world's largest currency). But if your budget (like mine) is limited, and if your untreated dromomania doesn't require you to visit, say, South Sandwich, membership in the Travelers Century Club might be a more suitable goal.

Readers are, of course, invited to stake a claim as the most traveled ALOTT5MA reader.

UPDATE: I would note that a useful 'place' list can be found in the .pdf application for the Travelers Century Club. It makes a useful distinction that places which are of the same country, but geographically or ethnographically separate, can count as separate places. So Alaska counts as its own place, as does Tahiti, despite being part of metropolitan France. By these standards, I've been to 23.