Sunday, December 31, 2006

RING OUT THE OLD: Is there still time to lose 15 pounds and enter all of my time on a daily basis?

Happy New Year -- or, if you prefer, Happy New Year's -- everybody.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

AND SINCE I DON'T HAVE A BUTLER, I HAVE TO DO IT MYSELF: Past winners of the ALOTT5MA Award for Funniest Half-Hour of Television of the Year include 2004's The Daily Show -- "Night Two of the Democratic National Convention" ("son of a turd miner") and 2005's South Park -- "Best Friends Forever".

So, who's in the running this year? The list includes The Colbert Report's "Countdown to Guitarmageddon" and Colbert's "White House Correspondents Dinner" speech (our first C-SPAN nominee in this category); South Park's "Cartoon Wars Part II" and "The Return of Chef"; HIMYM's "Slap Bet"; and a long list of episodes of The Office -- including but not limited to "Booze Cruise", "Grief Counseling", "Conflict Resolution" and "Valentine's Day".

(**Notes: Glengarry Glen Claus fell just before the nomination period. And the Rules Committee doesn't know what to do with a super-sized Office episode like "Casino Night".)

The winner, however, is the episode of The Office which Steve Carell and Rainn Wilson submitted for their Emmy bids: "The Injury", written by Mindy Kaling (who plays Kelly). A Foreman Grill. A frantic drive for help. Country Crock. A squirt bottle. The rules of "shotgun". Something odd about Dwight. And an important lesson about respect for the disabled. It is not the best episode of The Office (that would be "Valentine's Day" or "Casino Night"), but I have no trouble calling it the funniest.

Friday, December 29, 2006

ALEXANDRIA'S LONG REAL ESTATE NIGHTMARE STILL NOT OVER: If you're in the market for a new home in the Virginia suburbs of D.C. in the million-dollar range, why not own one where a former president lived?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

AIMING FOR THE ALOTT5MA SWEET SPOT: So did anyone receive the new Trivial Pursuit: Totally 80s as a Chrismukkah gift? Mr. Cosmo and I (no slouches in the trivia realm and both decidedly children of the 80s) played our maiden game the other night and were quite impressed. Trivial Pursuit specialty games tend to fall into one of two categories: (a) annoyingly lowest-common-denominator (90s version) or (b) thoroughly arcane (all-star sports). But Totally 80s feels much more like a Genus version in terms of difficulty and is most tubularly focused on pop culture (three of the six categories are music, TV, and movies). Highly recommended and -- dare I say it -- awesome.

(Oh, and to answer the necessary followup: Me.)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A MEDIUM WOUNDED BY THE CD AND KILLED BY ITUNES: How well do you know your classic rock album covers? Me, let's just say that even after seeking wikihelp for a couple of titles that were eluding me, and after getting a little angry that I got bamboozled by the use of the bowdlerized cover for the Hendrix album and the inferior live Motorhead album, and after staring for too long at a couple that I just know I know but can't quite get, I'm still under 50%. And there's no answer key, so cheating will be difficult.

Feel free to post answers in the comments.
WHAT AM I THINKING? I was a big fan of Zoe Heller's novel What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal, so I am excited to see such solid reviews of the film adaptation with Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench and Bill Nighy -- though I'm intrigued, to say the least, to see how they handle what I'll call the "unreliable narrator" issue, which was central to the novel's thrills.
TO ME, THE PRESIDENCY AND THE VICE-PRESIDENCY WERE NOT PRIZES TO BE WON, BUT A DUTY TO BE DONE: Former President Gerald Ford, a man who never sought the highest offices in the land but served the nation when called upon to heal the wounds of Nixon and Vietnam, has passed away at the age of 93.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I KEEP TELLING MYSELF, HE DOESN'T KNOW WHAT MY PORCH LOOKS LIKE: Last week, at the mall, I found myself face to face with Robert Knepper, better known as the dapper T-Bag from Prison Break. Happy to report to the ladies that he looks exactly the same in person as he does on TV. I resisted the urge to call 911, run, warn all pubescent girls and fading beauties, or check his stump.
GOOD TIDINGS, AND RUDIMENTARY 80S-ERA BEATBOXING, WE BRING: Via the reliable, even when temp-staffed, Deadspin, something I believe the Re/Search people would call Incredibly Weird Holiday Music: Rasheed Wallace and teammates violently assaulting "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

Moments later a ref misinterpreted 'Sheed's jollity as sarcastic complaint and assessed him a technical.
SWIMMING UNOPPOSED: There can be little question as to the appropriate recipient for the 2006 ALLOT5MA-Y award for Most Compelling Cephalopod.

After posing for photographs in late 2005, the once Elusive Architeuthis recently took the bait and came aboard a Japanese research vessel for a detailed post mortem. For 2007, we'll definitely have to update its heretofore standard adjectival modifier. Effusive... collusive... obtrusive... hmm... As with most things tentacled, compelling coverage has been available throughout from Brokentype.

Watch out Bigfoot. We're coming for you next.

Monday, December 25, 2006

THE JON CARROLL XMAS QUIZ: Even better than the SF Chronicle's annual geography quiz is the Jon Carroll Xmas quiz, with such goodies as these:

10. In 1999, Atlanta's Chipper Jones won the National League MVP, becoming the most recent switch hitter to win the award. Who is the last switch hitter to win the American League MVP?

11. These are all quotes from Shakespeare. What plays are they from? (a) "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse," (b) "True hope is swift, and flies with swallow's wings." (c) "An honest tale speeds best being plainly told." (d) "I am not in the giving vein today." (e) "Conscience is but a word that cowards use."

12. Who is Tracy Marrow? Who is O'Shea Jackson? Who is Noel Paul Stokey? Who is John Veliotes? Who is Calvin Broadus?

This was cooler when Googling wasn't even an option and this stuff would stump you all day, but cool it remains (answers tomorrow).

Anyway, Merry Christmas, all.


Sunday, December 24, 2006

ON BEYOND "CHESTNUTS" AND ALL THAT: Today (the 24th) from 11 AM to 11 PM (EST), WXPN's sublime and soulful Robert Drake will be hosting the 13th annual "The Night Before" show, an awesome mix of seasonal music, from versions of classics you’ve never heard to songs simply celebrating the winter season. Believe me, you will enjoy this show.

Recent show have featured songs of the season by Citizen Cope, Ruth Brown, Ottmar Liebert, El Vez, Bare Naked Ladies, Madeleine Peyroux, Winton Marsalis, They Might Be Giants and more... See here for more information and for a stream of last year's show.

Here are ten holiday songs that I love.

1. This Christmas - Donny Hathaway. Pure exuberance from the immensely talented soul singer. “And this Christmas will be/ A very special Christmas, for me.”

2. Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow! - Joe Pass. From the excellent CD Six String Santa by the renowned jazz guitarist. Pass has a wonderful tone and technique, but what makes this version of the familiar tune really come alive is the sparkling way that he and his quartet play with the rhythm. The disc is on sale for the princely sum of $4.99 at, a small price to pay for a disc that will make you smile.

3. Linus and Lucy - Vince Guaraldi. This is the most up-tempo track from the transcendent A Charlie Brown Christmas, which is often regarded as the best Christmas CD of all time. My sons dance around the living room every time we play this. Listen to the clever changes in meter, the lively percussion, and the swooping piano lines.

4. May Christmas Bring You Happiness - Luther Vandross. “May the happiness that you’ve been looking for/ Finally find its way to your front door.”

5. Step Into Christmas - Elton John. Released in 1973 when Elton John was at the very peak of his amazing career, this song is a pure pop confection that never fails to bring a smile to my lips and a bounce to my hips.

6. Who Took the Merry Out of Christmas? - The Staples Singers. If you love the infectious groove of the Staples Singers big hit “I'll Take You There,” then you will almost certainly love this song. The lyrics begin with a list of things that have caused people to forget about the true meaning of Christmas (“too busy fighting wars,” “too busy buying toys”) and then turn things around with a powerful chorus urging everyone to put the “merry” back in Christmas. The words and music make you believe that this is a truly attainable goal, and, more profoundly, a meaningful chance for peace, racial harmony, and prosperity for all. Good stuff.

7. O Little Town of Bethlehem - Sister Rosetta Tharpe. As you can tell, I generally prefer secular songs, but this sacred song is simply stunning.

8. Some Day at Christmas - Stevie Wonder. Released during the Viet Nam War, this song, sadly, is pointedly relevant once more.

9. It Doesn’t Have to be That WayJim Croce. Loneliness during the holidays is a common theme among Christmas songs. Croce's tender tale gets all of the nuances just right. If you have ever been lonely at this time of year (and who hasn't), give this song a listen. I think you will find that it rings true.

10. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Shawn Colvin. Possibly my favorite version of this Christmas classic, Colvin’s song simply touches my heart.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

THE LAST POST (FROM ME) OF THE YEAR: On a lark, and in response to Charles Isherwood's rapturous review, I first checked out samples of, and then bought on iTunes, a copy of Striking 12: The New GrooveLily Musical. Sort of a "Ben Folds Five goes musical theatre" experience, Striking 12 is written and performed by GrooveLily, an electric violin/keyboard/drum trio with the help of Rachel Sheinkin (who wrote the book for Spelling Bee), and tells the parallel story of Hans Christian Andersen's "Little Match Girl" and a bitter, overworked, 30-something New Yorker on New Year's Eve and the woman selling "full spectrum holiday lights" who comes to his door. And it's a delight.

For Chrismukkah and New Year's, my gift to you is to check it out. Full versions of several of the songs (I suggest "Last Day of The Year" and "Give The Drummer Some") are available for free at GrooveLily's website and Striking 12 continues to perform live in NYC through New Year's Eve. I'm already on the road (and will likely have very limited access to the web till after the New Year), so have missed it for the year, but will try next year. For those of you who might still be in the fair city, check it out. Merry Chrismukkah and a Happy New Year to all!

Friday, December 22, 2006

ALLIWANTFORCHRISMUKKAHISASADSONYSOCKPUPPET.COM: The thing about the internets is, that you can't always see who it is in there at the other ends of the internet tubes. You don't really know who it is sending you the messages, you know, through the tubes. And some people -- bad people, well, they'll try to take advantage of that, on the internets. Trick you, you see. Trick you, with the internets. Some of them, sometimes, are very tricky indeed.

Other times they're totally obvious and an embarrassment to everyone involved.

Ho ho ho.

Cookies and milk have been left out for GameGirlAdvance.

**Edited to add the funniest comment I've found about the whole thing, by a poster over at SomethingAwful: "Someone crit failed their memetics roll."
WITH A COMPASS IN THE STOCK: When I was 9 years old, I wanted a Big Trak more than I had wanted anything in my entire life. It was then at the high end of reasonable of my parents Christmas budget (with five kids, the oldest then 17, it was certainly finite) and told Mom that it could be to the exclusion of any other present (including for my birthday, which follows six weeks later). But there were none to be had. Mom -- having prepared me for disappointment (but with the notion I could probably get one in February, if need be) -- apparently found one at Toys R Us on her last pass on December 23rd.

It was the greatest moment in my young life. And from this video, you can see why.

So, 27 years on. Thanks, Mom.

On this Christmas and tail-end of Hannukah weekend, readers are encouraged to relate their single greatest present --- and link to any YouTube goodness to go with it. And yes, I know you love your families and your kids and your good health. But that's fighting the hypothetical.
DO NOT PUT HIS CLOTHES IN THE LAUNDRY: Following up on Adam's earlier posting, it's time to present the ALOTT5MA Award for Reality TV Villain of The Year. Yes, you have villains of a scripted nature like the Iron Enforcer (anyone believe that bit wasn't previously set up?), but it's the ones who capture. You also have the family villains--The Fogal Family from Treasure Hunters makes a run, following in the footsteps of the Weavers from TAR: The Season That Shall Not Be Mentioned. and I'm sure there are folks who'd argue for Kevin Covais or Kellie Pickler from AI. But of course, our finalists both come from Project Runway. The runner-up is, naturally, Santino Rice, who loses some "evil points" for his dead-on Tim Gunn impression, but gains massive points for looking like General Zod. But the winner, without question? Vincent Libretti. And if you need to ask why, just watch these 45 seconds on YouTube.
GLOBAL WARMING'S ELWOOD BLUES: Pretty much every year, we like to kick off our "best in film" review by citing to the Village Voice Critics Poll (2002, 2003, 2005), but since the Voice isn't what the Voice was, we move over with the critics to the indieWIRE Critics Poll for 2006, which was dominated by a Romanian film, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, which I had never heard of before.

So, as always, let's just go to their comments for some fun:

The most important film of the year, by any standard, featured a sweet, kind of chunky dude in a bad suit giving a PowerPoint presentation. I think that says it all. --Andrew O'Hehir

Does it bug anybody that people are falling out of their chairs over a movie whose thesis is that QE2 and Tony Blair are just nice, harried, slightly neurotic people doing their jobs the best they can? --Matthew Wilder

I'm still awaiting the chance to see "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters From Iwo Jima" back to back. The great Japanese film critic Shigehiko Hasumi writes me that he likes both films but prefers the former. I prefer the latter, perhaps for the same reason -- it tells me a story I haven't already heard. --Jonathan Rosenbaum

From "Borat," a line of dialogue that just about sums up the year of Mark Foley and Ted Haggard: "Are you telling me that the man who tried to put a rubber fist up my anus is a homosexual?" --Noel Murray

Given how indispensable digital effects have become, it's pleasing to note the defiantly low-tech nature of some of the year's multiplex champs. While much of "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" was slick, noisy bombast, the real fun stuff--Jack Sparrow's fruit skewer, the duel on the mill wheel--testified to the old-fashioned pleasures of a well-choreographed stunt. The parkour-enhanced chase scene in "Casino Royale" was 2006's most thrilling action sequence for the same reasons. And of course, there was the epic battle between Borat and his producer Azamat, a scene so simple in its means, so relentless in its execution, and so potent in its impact, you could almost smell the testes. No piece of CGI could elicit the same awe. --Jason Anderson

What does it say about our world that you can lose "American Idol" and win an Academy Award for doing basically the same thing? -- Matt Singer

Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris's "Little Miss Sunshine" was far from 2006's worst film, but it was the most depressing. If "indie" has come to mean regurgitating '80s Hollywood comedies like "National Lampoon's Vacation" and cosmetic attempts at edge like having an old man snort heroin and read porn, it's better off dying. --Steve Erickson

Right now, I guess the best film I saw in 2006 was The Departed, though I wouldn't pretend it's anything more than a hell of a piece of entertainment, and not Meaningful.
YES, THE OTHER SASHA COHEN: One of my favorite ALOTT5MA Awards to consider each year is the one for Best Reality Competition Challenger, which went in 2004 to TAR5's Caviar Challenge and in 2005 to Survivor 10's Tom and Ian on the Buoys.

Nominees in 2006 include TAR9's "statute with extra pieces", "messenger or maiden" in Tokyo and the final task of getting the flags in order; American Idol 5's week where they had to sing something by Queen and not come off as complete douchebags; and ANTM6's "runway twirl"and ANTM7's "celebrity couple photoshoot", which was the coolest to watch, but not necessarily the hardest to compete in.

One early favorite, Tuesday Night Book Club's "read and discuss Good In Bed", was disqualified on the basis of the fact that we never saw any of the women reading the book. And almost anything from Treasure Hunters could be nominated, but it became really difficult to trust the producers to believe the contestants weren't occasionally getting other hints -- though seriously, yo, those were some ridiculously tough and cool challenges.

Two runners-up, both from Project Runway: season two's "design a figure skating outfit for Sasha Cohen" and season 3's "rip off the walls" opener. Either of them was worthy of winning this thing, but I like to be contrarian, though if you want to believe that Sasha Cohen finally wins a gold medal through this award, I won't complain.

Instead, this award goes, collectively, to the challenges from "Who Wants To Be A Superhero?", a show whose concept was too weird and stupid to actually work -- except that it did -- mostly by having hidden moral challenges in almost every task: change into your secret costume in public and run across a park (but don't miss the girl screaming for mommy!); sending the superheroes to a local cafe to grab lunch for the crew (but don't reveal your secret identity!); etc. Want to have fun? Watch episode three, where they think they're walking on a balance beam over a 20 foot drop betwen buildings to rescue a damsel-in-distress, when they're actually right on the ground.

Producers and writers are the hidden heroes of reality tv -- as we saw with The Scholar, a great concept can be ruined by lousy challenges, but a weird (even laughable) concept can be redeemed by well-designed ones. I had no interest in this show until Matt and TPE pushed me to watch, and quality like this is truly heroic.
MEASURE IN HIT SINGLES: We received an e-mail today that raised an interesting question--what was the last musical theatre song to become a successful radio hit? Our correspondent suggested "One Night In Bangkok" from 1984. That may well be right, though "Seasons of Love" became a big download when Rent: The Motion Picture arrived, and, even in the absence of a radio hit, the Wicked OCR has gone Platinum. Of course, this doesn't count the many shows (Mamma Mia!, Lion King, Jersey Boys, Tarzan) which have a score comprised mostly or entirely of pre-existing pop hits. Am I missing something?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

TAPPED FOR THE SUPREME COURT: Supreme Court: The Gathering Cards.

Via Above the Law.
LOGROLLING: On the occasion of its fortieth anniversary, an appreciation of the Yule Log.

This, with TiVo and -- some day soon -- an big screen HDTV, I swear I'm going to start smoking pot.
DO YOU HAVE ANY SHIRAZ? It's been a pretty bad few years for the traditional sitcom, with new comedies finding it hardpressed to get ratings and audience traction. That's why TBS's My Boys is such an unexpected pleasure. Yes, it's a blatant SATC knockoff (only with sports metaphors for relationships rather than a "relationship column"), but how can you not love a show that features the group of friends engaging in their annual "decathlon of board games" with disastrous results and a running joke about the silliness of wine tasting? It's a surprisingly funny, pleasant, and insightful, and Jim Gaffigan again makes you wonder why he's never had a big hit sitcom. Episodes can be watched for free here.
I DON'T HAVE TIME TO SIT FOR AN INTERVIEW, DAMMIT! Jack Bauer took a moment to tell the fine folks at Esquire What He's Learned, and it's worth a minute or two of your realtime.
AND SNAPE IS GOOD, I JUST KNOW IT! Yes, Book 7 has a title, and it certainly indicates that we are going to go darker still than Half-Blood Prince.
AMERICA WON: Editor & Publisher, of all people, reports on the guest star-filled Stephen Colbert v. Decemberists "Rock & Awe" guitar shred-off battle last night. Contains spoilers.
PRAISING WITH A FAINT DAMN? Our ALOTT5MA Award for Best Award Given To ALOTT5MA goes to Dan Rubin of the Philadelphia Inquirer. When asked by Glen Macnow and Big Daddy Graham to list the Ten Best Philly Blogs for their Great Book of Philadelphia Sports Lists, Dan said the following in ranking us #5 among "the ones to read when I'm far away and longing for the sights, sounds, smells, and sweet and sourness of Philadelphia":
Some of the contributors are from other cities, but most are from here, a group of over-educated wiseasses devoted to such popular cultural confections as American Idol and Lost. A recent post: "Weezer's abstemious Rivers Cuomo is back at Harvard."
Also making the cut are Philadelphia Will Do, WXPN program director Bruce Warren's music blog, PhillyFuture's "PhillyWire" and at #1, the ultra-deserving Attytood, from the Daily News' unstoppable Will Bunch, and we are honored to be listed in their presence.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A BRIEF THOUGHT ABOUT A MOVIE I HAVEN'T SEEN YET: Based on the reviews, isn't it clear that what Sylvester Stallone is doing with Rocky Balboa is the exact same thing as what Kevin Smith did with Clerks II? After years of failure at doing anything else, just take your most popular characters, bring them back to where they started, and make a warm, nostalgic movie that both seeks to resurrect the thrills of the original while overtly questioning (and ultimately justifying) why these characters were worth rooting for one more time, given their age. (Only, in Stallone's case, presumably with fewer dick jokes.)
I'M STILL WAITING FOR CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS 2: I hadn't realized this until recently, but it is clear that the ALOTT5MAy for Movie That Has A Bunch Of People We Like That None Of Us Will Ever See must go to the movie that features Leo Bloom, G(a)linda the Good, The Penguin, Charlotte York MacDougal Goldenblatt (not all of us hate her as much as Isaac does), Maeby Funke, Ferecito, and Hugo "Hurley" Reyes--yes, I speak of Deck The Halls.
WHEN BING MET BOWIE: There have been lots of lists relating to Christmas songs this last week, but rather than highlighting those lists, I thought I'd share a few interesting stories regarding those songs of the season:
  • The Washington Post tells the story behind David Bowie and Bing Crosby's 1977 duet of "Little Drummer Boy," with lots of interesting details including the fact that Bowie so hated the original song, a team of composers and writers to scramble and quickly write Bowie's "Peace on Earth" counterpart.
  • You can find 135 (at last count) covers of Wham's "Last Christmas" at this site. MTV News gets the scoop, but turn down your volume before clicking on this link.
  • Maybe Judith Regan was right. There appears to be a Jewish conspiracy to write and compose some of the most awesome Christmas songs of all time.
  • Entertainment Weekly has an intriguing look behind "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," which I never realized was so melancholy, but in its original incarnation was about as cherry as "Love Will Tear Us Apart."
I DON'T WRESTLE -- I BEAT BITCHES UP: As some on this blog know, I love just about everything about pro football except for the cruel force of fantasy destructiveness called "L[D]T," who ruined my fantasy season last year by deciding to run straight into the line and fall down for two or three late-season games and who then ruined it this year by making the opposite decision (that's not exactly true -- I also hate Eli Manning, mostly because I think you would need to be a total moron, for both football and quality-of-life reasons, to be disappointed to have been drafted as San Diego's QB of the future). I also harbor a self-destructive love for professional baseball, specifically for a team that in the last five years has chosen an organizational philosophy best described as "antagonism to rational thought."

My third favorite professional sport, however, gets this year's ALOTT5MmyTM for Best Professional Sport Not Played in College, Whether at Intercollegiate or Club Level: the Real World/Road Rules Challenge. If you can run, jump, swim, lift, climb, pull, hang, and balance, you're a third of the way there. If you can do all of that in a swimsuit, in the mud, blindfolded, suspended 30 feet in the air, while carrying your body weight, and tied to someone you strongly dislike, only one third to go. If you can do all of that on three hours' sleep after drinking yourself silly, shaving a racing stripe down the middle of your head, hooking up with somebody half of your friends have slept with in the last six months, concealing your hernia, and avoiding gainful employment for years on end, my friend, you are a professional athlete. This is one of the most inscrutably entertaining shows on television, giving us the thrill of victory (Alton's challenge dominance; Coral's declaration that "I eat babies") and the agony of defeat (Tanya throwing Beth's clothes into the pool; Julie unsuccessfully trying to unhook Veronica's safety harness and send her plunging to her death) and the warm fuzzy feeling of utter confusion (sheltered Svetlana suddenly showing up with a full arm tattoo).

So congratulations, RW/RR Challenge. As for Ultimate Fighting Championship, Perfect 10 Model Boxing (now with breakout star, Parvati Shallow), and World's Strongest Man, it was an honor just to be nominated.
MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE: Because I was born in 1970, I played with Micronauts and Shogun Warriors, but my brother, who is five years younger than me, was an enthusiastic inductee into the cult of the Transformers. I imagine, then, that he's already seen this trailer.

Just who is the target audience for this? No Optimus Prime? I suspect you've lost this guy (greatest Halloween costume ever, as I'm sure he'd tell you). Then again, it's a Michael Bay movie, and is the car-go-boom-ooh-pretty crowd really going to be enthusiastic about a race (batch? sku?) of alien robots who differ from other alien robots only in the sense that they are capable of occasionally taking the form of race cars or tractor-trailers (i.e., robots in disguise)?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

IT STRIKES ME AS CLOSE TO PERFECT: The NYT's Tony Scott really, really likes Clint Eastwood's Letters From Iwo Jima:
It is, unapologetically and even humbly, true to the durable tenets of the war-movie tradition, but it is also utterly original, even radical in its methods and insights.

In December 2004, with “Million Dollar Baby,” Mr. Eastwood almost nonchalantly took a tried and true template — the boxing picture — and struck from it the best American movie of the year. To my amazement, though hardly to my surprise, he has done it again; “Letters From Iwo Jima” might just be the best Japanese movie of the year as well.
On Rocky Balboa, screening everywhere tomorrow, Stephen Holden seems embarrassed by how much he likes it, Salon likes it on the meta-level and the Trib's Michael Wilmington says it "comes close to a knockout."
THE ANSWER IS DENVER: One of the first posts ever on this blog, back when this was a solo proprietorship handing out five soft pretzels for a dollar, was an appreciation of Allen Iverson, and lord knows I've returned to that well a few times -- and that link doesn't include times where I just referred to him as "A.I.", which Google's just going to confuse with that pop singing show.

Anyway, it's over. As one of Bill Simmons' readers put it last week, "If he plays 42 minutes in a game, he complains about the six minutes on the bench. He simply loves the game of basketball more than any other player in the league."

Forget the Eagles SB run and other playoff attempts; forget '76-'78, '83, '93 and even 1980 for the Phillies. I never had as much sustained fun as a sports fan as the Sixers' playoff run in 2001, attending six of the home playoff games (including the Toronto and Milwaukee Game Sevens, and the unbelievable Reggie-AI battle in Indiana Game 2), and I've never seen an entire city as in love with a sports team, and its leader, as that one.

I may have told this story before: I actually missed most of game one of the Lakers series because I was traveling with Jen in Portland on her first-ever book tour. (We did catch the fourth quarter and overtime.) The next day, we flew to LA for her next event, and we happened to be staying at the same hotel as the victorious Sixers. I spent about an hour that afternoon just sitting in a small lobby of the RegBevWil, reading the paper, surrounded by about six of the players and their kids. I just wanted to absorb it all, and didn't want to ruin my ability to be there by declaring my fandom and interjecting myself in the scene. (And then, back in Philadelphia, I went to the game where we booed Destiny's Child.)

I keep circling around Iverson, so let me get to the point: the key to understanding Philadelphia fans is that what we appreciate, more than anything else, is stuff that looks like effort. It explains why Scott Rolen was never loved like Lenny Dykstra, and Brian Westbrook gets far more dap than Ricky Watters ever did. And no one gave more effort, and made it show here, than Allen Iverson. No one played hurt more, threw his body around more, willed his teams to win more. I lived in Chicago during the second Jordan run -- but, I'm telling you, Iverson was more gripping to watch.

I'm not sad today, because he's finally free of Billy King's nonsense and this team's mediocrity, and I hope he wins the ring he deserves in Denver. No matter what, we've got great memories -- here's one set of Top 10 Plays, a montage of crossover moves, and, sure, watch him talk about practice.

Thanks, A.I.
A MODERN-DAY TOM AND JERRY: I like to think that Joseph Barbera, who was a little anti-technology in defense of the old ways of animating (his objections always sounded to me a little like the pro-vinyl, anti-CD rants you used to hear), would have found a place in his heart for Tony and Paul, a couple of kids who married a low-tech sensibility with their mid-tech toys (namely a digital camera and Final Cut Pro). Actually, they're definitely more Harryhausen than Hanna-Barbera, but I couldn't think of an intro. Anyway, this video, courtesy of YouTube's featured list, shows an epic donnybrook between Tony and Paul that translates those flip-book animations you used to draw in your paperbacks into real space. This is just the kind of thing that makes me think that we, collectively, and excluding me personally, should be the person of the year.
I'M STILL A PC, BUT MAYBE I'LL CHANGE: All too often, it's hard to obtain quality customer service. That's why I have to give Apple its due credit. My iPod has been malfunctioning, even after following the suggested steps on the website for resetting and restoring the iPod. I made a Genius Bar appointment for 9 AM this morning at the SoHo store yesterday evening. I walked into the almost empty store, and within 15 minutes (and at a minimal fee), they diagnosed the iPod's problem (corrupt operating system/hard drive), and gave me a brand spankin' new replacement, ready for me to sync with my PC this evening when I return home. No line, no hassle, just a fast diagnosis and immediate replacement. That's good stuff, especially compared to the nightmare that was my ill-fated trip to Toys R Us on Sunday afternoon.
JAMAICA, OOOO I WANT TO TAKE YA: Do not click on this link for a promo of the next episode of The Office if you want to know who went to the "all-inclusive" with Michael Scott.

Slightly related, I wanted so bad to have this quote from Stanley on our family holiday cards this year, but ultimately went with something more generic:
"I wake up every morning in a bed that's too small, drive my daughter to a school that's too expensive, and then I go to work to a job for which I get paid too little, but on pretzel day? Well, I like pretzel day."

Monday, December 18, 2006

OVERFLOWING WITH AWESOME: While CBS isn't giving HIMYM the post-Super Bowl slot, you can't say they're not promoting it well. Not only is last week's Christmas-themed episode making a return engagement on Wednesday night, but Christmas evening, three episodes surround Two And A Half Men (all, somewhat inexplicably, from Season 1, rather than "Slap Bet" or "Swarley") in something that'll be legen....dary.
WHAT'S IN THE BOX? It depends who's answering the question -- Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake (see also NSFW version), or Stephen Colbert.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY STOPETTE: During WWTBAM-mania, NBC brought back a heavily retooled revival of 21, so, with Deal or No Deal and 1 vs. 100 both doing boffo ratings, I suppose bringing back What's My Line? was the next logical step. Sadly, instead of a witty panel, we get Penn Jillette and a series of morons on Identity. The problem, of course, is that the show is ridiculously padded. We have 12 "identities" to guess in an hour, and no interplay with any of the "identities," so we must resort to painful padding from Penn and really bad pun lines from the "identities" when they are chosen. The secret of WML was the interplay between the panel members and the panel and the guests (especially the "mystery guests"), and not the guessing game. Also, somehow "Is that your identity?" lacks the ring of "Final answer?" Will be interesting to see how it does.
PLUSHY! It gives me great pleasure to award the ALOTT5MA Award for Olympian Achievement In Guest Posting to one of our loyal commentators, Gretchen, who brought a keen eye and much wisdom to her extensive live coverage of the Olympic figure skating competition.

You can review her commentary as follows: men's short program, men's free skate, ice dancing - original, ice dancing - finals, ladies' short program, pre-finals thoughts on Sasha Cohen and the ladies' long program. Relive the drama of the Games -- and once again, thanks, Gretchen!
"I'M DOING MY BEST TO EXPOSE YOU TO THE REAL ME": The Boston Globe's Joanna Weiss, no stranger to these parts, speaks with Richard Hatch in prison, where he may remain until October 2009.
RUT ROH: Joseph Barbera, the second half of the ridiculously profilic Hanna-Barbera animation studio, has passed away at the age of 95. Bill Hanna died in 2001.

You want legacy? Yogi Bear. The Flintstones. The Jetsons. Scooby Doo. Josie and the Pussycats. Super Friends. The Smurfs. Quick Draw McGraw, Snagglepuss and Huckleberry Hound. And a lot of repetitive, derivative and/or endearing crap that we can get into as well.
NO, IT WASN'T A PEPPERCORN: You may think Grammy fave John Mayer is a tool (and that position would be less than entirely unjustified), but you have to give him credit for coming up with an innovative piece of consideration in exchange for the rights to "Your Body Is A Wonderland" being used on The Office.
A RECAP FROM SATURDAY NIGHT'S PREVIEW OF 'ROCKY BALBOA' AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN: I missed this while avoiding mass media yesterday, but apparently there was something of a donnybrook during the Knicks-Nuggets game at MSG on Saturday night. The refs ejected 10 players, and it's a funny list, including:
  • Carmelo Anthony. He's the league's leading scorer. Too bad; he seems like such a nice guy.
  • Nate Robinson. He's 5'7", and he went rolling into the stands with J.R. Smith, who stands 6'6". Don't feel sorry for Robinson, though -- he was a standout Washington Huskies cornerback before quitting the team, he's built like a bomb shelter, and from the video it looked like he did just fine.
  • Channing Frye. Really? From what I remember of him when he was at Arizona, saying that Frye was just ejected is like saying "Shawn Bradley just sucker-punched me" or "I was just mixing it up with Mr. Rogers."
Shockingly, I did not see Isiah Thomas in harm's way, even though NPR reported this morning that he was apparently responsible for the brawl because he instructed his team to foul the Nuggets hard.
DUE TO A CONTRACTUAL IMPASSE, IN THE RESULTS/REUNION SHOW THE PART OF OZZY WILL BE PLAYED BY A YOUNG JOEY LAWRENCE: What a weird Survivor finale, beginning with the greatest penultimate tribal council in Survivor history and ending with a reunion in which nobody looked at all like they looked on the island. Rebecca and Candice looked like they had aged 15 years; Johnathan went the other direction; Flicka found the middle ground between roller derby and business casual; Ozzy looked like a poorly-made rubber puppet of himself; and island siren Parvati's puffy face looked like she had just gone 10 rounds without headgear in one of her 3-round foxy boxing matches. And did a guy who listed his occupation as "fashion director" really wear a flannel shirt to the final tribal council?

And what stereotypes did Ozzy and Yul think they were disproving, anyway?

I don't think I'm giving anything away, by the way, when I say that it was both a thoroughly satisfying final four and final result, and it would have been even if the votes at the end were flipped.
TO REDEEM THE WORK OF FOOLS: Congratulations on winning Time's Person of the Year Award, but now you've got some work to do. I had already been planning on annointing a Thank Goodness for YouTube category in the ALOTT5MA Awards, and now, I'll just let y'all help sort out which video somehow best justifies or highlights what the technology now allows.

(As a side note, when I looked back at the comments we submitted before the FEC in June 2005, there's no mention of regulatory issues surrounding YouTube because it didn't even go public until barely more than a year ago -- our first YouTube link here was on 1/6/06.)

No more than three nominees per commenter. Mine are Julie Chen's "But First", Brokeback to the Future and the SexyBack video for The Office, all of which demonstrate what editing software, free worldwide distribution and the human imagination can harness.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

THE IBEN HJEJLE AWARD: As a regular theatre-goer, I've seen my share of flops on Broadway (Sweet Smell of Success, Thou Shalt Not, Seussical: The Musical!), though I've missed more than a few (the recent undeadly trilogy of vampire musicals, which apparently both bit and sucked, Taboo, Urban Cowboy)--but I don't know if I've ever seen a show that's closing as prematurely as High Fidelity is. Yes, the show's not perfect--it grossly simplifies the book and movie ("Rob produces records" and "Rob meets each of his exes to resolve his issues" are gone), and the score's attempts to ape famous musical styles are a bit painful (particularly the Marvin Gaye-styled number at the end of the show and a Springsteen fantasy sequence)--but it's charming and entertaining, with a score that tries (for once) to meld musical theatre and pop music styles. It's also incredibly nice to see a musical that's resolutely set in the here and now (something Broadway hasn't had since Rent first opened) and that's not meta-theatrical (yes, it was funny in The Producers and Urinetown, but do we really need more?).

Apparently, the show's been massively retooled since the preview run in Boston, where it garnered negative buzz. Having seen it, had they waited six months, gotten a smaller house rather than the cavernous Imperial (the Jacobs, right across the street, is open), and carefully marketed (a show with a counterpoint song titled "I Slept With Someone Who Slept With Lyle Lovett"/"I Slept With Someone Who Handled Kurt Cobain's Intervention" is perhaps not going to appeal to your standard Wednesday matinee audience), this could have had a decent run. Sadly, we're not going to get that, as it closes tonight.
WHERE IN THE WORLD IS CARMEN SANDIEGO? Usually, geography tests are impossibly easy -- not so the San Francisco Chronicle's annual version.

e.g., 27. Nearly half the people in Asia get their water from four rivers that originate near a sacred and unclimbed mountain in Tibet. Name it.

This year features a Kazakh-bonus round.
THEY CAN REENACT THE CREATION OF THE UNIVERSE AND STILL NOT URINATE IN THE BAND ROOM: Nobel Laureate Dr. George Smoot (Physics, 2006) has the Cal Band recreate the Big Bang.

Unfortunately, no trees were harmed in the creation of this video.
HERE WE ARE IN THE ROOM FULL OF STRANGERS: It's hard to believe it, but Justin Timberlake has been on SNL enough to now have recurring characters -- Maurice Gibb and "Dancing Mascot Guy" are already back, and we're just a half-hour into the show.

We're half-way through the new season. Is it a comeback, or still plummeting? (For me, other than the Baldwin episode ("Bobby McFerrin raped my grandmother," it's been pretty crappy.)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

NOODLING AROUND: I recently had two "Hey, It's that Guy" moments. My best friend and his wife welcomed there first baby into this world, Nicolas Ray. So, of course, I dug up my favorite quote from "The Sure Thing":

Gib: Elliot? You're gonna name the kid Elliot? No, you can't name the kid Elliot. Elliot is a fat kid with glasses who eats paste. You're not gonna name the kid Elliot. You gotta give him a real name. Give him a name. Like Nick.

Allison: Nick?

Gib: Yeah, Nick. Nick's a real name. Nick's your buddy. Nick's the kind of guy you can trust, the kind of guy you can drink a beer with, the kind of guy who doesn't mind if you puke in his car, Nick.

And realized "The Sure Thing" herself was Nicollette Sheridan. I know the Desparate Housewives thing is about having sexy forty year olds, but there's one that sure didn't improve so much.

Secondly, did anyone realize that Mr. Noodle played Agent Barney Coopersmith's partner in My Blue Heaven? Took me months of catching bits of Elmo's World to finally place him.
THEY'LL GLADLY GIVE YOU THE 'QUIVALENT OF AN INTELLECTUAL REACHAROUND: According to Drudge (who, for all his flaws, is usually right on stuff like this) Time's Person of the Year is not Internet poll fave Stephen Colbert, or a domestic political figure like George W. Bush or Nancy Pelosi, or even international crazy people of the year like Kim Jong Il, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or Hugo Chavez. No, the Person of The Year is "You." The basis? According to Drudge, it's "the explosive growth and influence of user-generated Internet content such as 'blogs', video-file sharing site YouTube and social network MySpace." Allow us to be the first to congratulate You on such an esteemed accomplishment. Can I list this on my resume now?
A CATALYST FOR MY CLAUSOMETER: I’d been having some trouble getting into the Christmas spirit. It wasn’t anything in particular; it was simply a matter of having too many things to do in December. The Christmas Muse would not come near me; she’d just walk past my vacancy sign. For the first time in recent years my wife Amy wrote our family newsletter to include with our Christmas cards.

It was more of the same last night at our church’s annual Christmas children’s dinner. Santa gave the kids presents, but I went home with a headache. After the boys went to bed, I finally got a chance to read The Inquirer and noticed that the Bryn Mawr Film Institute was having a special kid’s matinee showing of Elf the next morning at 11:00. Amy and I agreed that I would take the boys if they did a good job practicing the piano in the morning.

The lads did their part practicing. We arrived at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute, a throwback theater, a real grande dame from the days when the cinema was king. Slowly the theater filled with kids, hundreds of kids. There is something so enthralling about watching a funny movie with an audience like that. During the scene where Buddy (the Will Ferrell character) exposes the fake Santa at Gimbels, the audience squealed with heartfelt glee.

And then came my favorite scene. Santa’s sleigh, which runs on Christmas spirit, has just crashed in Central Park since there wasn’t enough Christmas spirit to make it go. The sleigh’s “Clausometer” was at zero and things looked bleak for that night’s delivery of toys. Jovie (the Zooey Deschanel character) starts to sing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Gradually the crowd gathered outside Central Park joins in. Soon Santa’s sleigh is flying high, its Clausometer surging from zero to 100.

I felt my son Aidan’s slender fingers grab my arm, his face aglow. I could feel his elbow thumping against the armrest, keeping time with the music. His enchantment was all consuming.

At the end of the movie, all of the kids stood up and cheered. And, well, so did I. We exited the theater, my big boys and me, into the bright lights of Bryn Mawr. Arm in arm, we skipped down the sidewalk to a store where I bought them Pokemon cards. As the afternoon wore on, I found myself whistling the tune to “Sleigh Ride.”

So bring it on, Christmas, Hannukah, and New Year’s! I am ready for you now because a buddy named Buddy and my two big boys gave me a glimpse of what really matters.

DON'CHA WISH YOU COULD WEAR CROCS WHILE SIPPING CRYSTAL LIGHT ON THE GO ON YOUR WAY TO TRADER JOE'S? Ad Age magazine, in a 14-page spread, reviews 2006's fifty biggest successes in consumer marketing. On Burt's Bees, for example:
THE BUZZ around Burt’s Bees keeps growing. Sales reached $100 million in 2005 and have been rising at more than 20% annually. That places it in good company in the natural personal-care niche, thanks mainly to PR and novel distribution. Besides the usual natural-food and drug stores, Burt’s is also in book stores and other specialty outlets. College students in a Harris Interactive poll earlier this year ranked Burt’s behind only Ben & Jerry’s and Newman’s Own among top socially responsible brands. “People are getting much more concerned about what they put in and on their bodies, and how it affects the environment.” says Mike Indursky, 45, chief marketing and strategic officer."
Yes, there really is a Burt.
AND YOU (AND YOU) (AND YOU), YOU'RE GOING TO LOVE HER: PopWatch assembles a bevy of past and present Jennifer Hudson performances on YouTube, including two this week ("One Night Only", "I Am Changing") from the Today show.

edited to add: The WaPo's Robin Givhan profiles J-Hud.

Friday, December 15, 2006

WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, TRAMPOLINE BEAR? Time to present a pair of returning ALOTT5MA Awards, also presented in 2004 and 2005: Favorite and Least Favorite Recurring Jokes on 'Pardon the Interruption'.

Favorite goes to two words that have been a staple on PTI since the beginning, but perhaps never used as well as this year: "your boy". It is now impossible for Tony or Mike to express a preference for anyone without its being used against them later on, whether it's Tony's fondness for Bill Parcells or Wilbon's for all things Chicago, including Rex Grossman. It's an elbow to the ribs from friend to friend, and it always works. Especially if it relates to Larry Brown.

Least favorite is The Hateful Dan Le Batard, because he actually is hateful on the show -- playing up the role of a preening asshole on tv when he's actually a really thoughtful columnist in print. Just read this piece of his on Cuba from January 2006 and try to square that with the doofus he portrays on the small screen. You can't. It's always a lesser show when one of the Bald Brothers is off, but it's never worse than when Le Batard shows up.
YOU ARE THE F---ING END, YOU KNOW: Sorry to say that Ahmet Ertegun died yesterday. Ertegun, a co-founder and, with Jerry Wexler, the principal creative and business force behind Atlantic Records, was part of a generation of major music executives (think Herb Alpert & Jerry Moss of A&M and Berry Gordy of Motown) who were, and had to be, both music lovers with impeccable taste and shrewd businessmen. Atlantic's forte from the earliest days was R&B, and until the early 70s, I would say, it was probably as closely associated with the best of that genre as was Motown or Stax. (Maybe somebody older than I am can confirm that.) It branched out into other pop territory in the late 1960s and 1970s, famously signing Led Zeppelin (and distributing Bad Company and Cream as well). I have fond memories of the green and red Atlantic label with the "A" and the swirly thing on my Led Zeppelin and Led Zeppelin II albums spinning around on my inherited turntable. It's hard for me to believe, by the way, that Ertegun didn't know that "Whole Lotta Love" ripped off Willie Dixon or that "Lemon Song" stole from Robert Johnson (to cite just two examples from Led Zeppelin II).

Atlantic released "Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs"; it didn't discover the Rolling Stones but it issued their seminal 1970s albums (under the Rolling Stones Records imprint). Ertegun was chiefly responsible for all of that. Ertegun also produced records for fun, under the pseudonym "A. Nugetre," a fact I learned about the time that I bought the Honeydrippers EP. He was a titan of the music industry.
DAKOTA FANNING CONQUERS THE WORLD: The Times' A.O. Scott raves about a movie arriving in theatres today, but it's not the one you might expect. While he's got much love for Jennifer Hudson, he kind of pans Dreamgirls (not that it matters, since all NYC showings are sold out until Monday). Both, however, are certainly better off than 20th Century Fox, whose attempt to make a new LOTR doesn't even merit more than a few measly column-inches well inside the Arts section.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


This was better.

And to count all the ways publicly would be to spoil it, you oughta know, so just take off your sandals and grab a double fudge brownie, as the party is parties are about to begin in the comments.
THE HOBOES GAVE THIS AWARD: While SNL reject Rob Riggle has drawn a lot praise from the local press here in NYC, it seems obvious to me that the ALOTT5MAy for Outstanding New Correspondent On The Daily Show must go to John Hodgman. Not only has he been wonderful as TDS's "resident expert," but his other work is all hysterical as well--from his performance as "PC Guy," to the 700 Hobo Names, and the book, featuring the lengthy discussion of how Hobo Joe Junkpan led the Great Hobo Revolt during the Great Depression. I mean, who the heck else could get away with this?
DO NOT DISRESPECT THE INDUSTRY: The season of the annual ALOTT5MA Awards begins, as it always does, with the award for Reality TV Host/Judge of the Year, which in previous years has gone to Reality TV Host/Judge of the Year. Past winners include Robert K. Oermann of Nashville Star (2003), Ralph Garman (as Derek Newcastle) for Joe Schmo 2 (2004), and Project Runway's Tim Gunn (2005).

Many worthy contenders this year, and let's start with the new folks:

We are left with two finalists. Could they both please step forward. I have two judges left in this post, but I will only conclude with one name, and that one name represents the person who is ALOTT5MA's best reality tv judge/host of 2006.

First, we have the man who may be the Albert Pujols of reality tv, Tim Gunn, for seasons two and three of Project Runway. When you think about all the fun stuff with Santino and Andrae in which he acknowledged his growing cult and his classy handling of the Keith and Jeffrey Sebelia situations in season three, this is a judge with enormous insight, as well as true caring about both the designers and the integrity of the competition.

And then we have Tyra Banks. I know what you're thinking: that silly model show? Who cares? But as with Tim Gunn and fashion, Tyra makes you care about modeling, forces the viewer (and the contestants) to see modeling as industry, and one which requires hard work and versatility. She is over-the-top and overly serious, for sure, but it makes for good television. Ritual is a good thing on these shows, as much in her set-ups at the end of each episode as Probst's "you all want to know what you're playing for, right?" (and five other set phrases) or Phil Keoghan's "I'm sorry to tell you you have been eliminated from the Race." What could have been a dumb show about looking at pretty girls instead forces you to really think about who is a successful model and why.

No actual top models have emerged from the show, but nor are any Runway finalists currently dominating their industry. You just have to consider the shows on their own, regardless of what comes after.

In the end, it comes down to one bit from each show -- Tim Gunn's What Happened to Andrae? versus Tyra's rousing gospel number, She Don't Want To Be Here, Send Her Home. So who will it be -- the one who everyone already adores, or the famous, hard-working Inglewood native who just turned 33 but who doesn't have the respect that perhaps she deserves . . .

It's Tyra.

YOUNG YOU-KNOW-WHO: Their spelling is atrocious, but Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary, a Death Eater and an Australian, respectively, have named their son after Voldemort.

Evil incarnate is so cute when it's sleeping.
SECONDHAND NEWS: Nerve debunks the 40 Best Celebrity Rumors, which run the gambit from Mikey exploding to Rod Stewart swallowing. An alarming number of the rumors have to do with posteriors, be it JLo insuring hers, Courtney Cox bleaching hers, or Richard Gere setting up a Habitrail in his.
BUT HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A MONKEY WITH FOUR ASSES? Please excuse me if I'm getting out too far ahead of the ALOTT5MA year-end awards (for the second time -- I already called the Foregone Conclusion), and sorry if someone else was going to cover this one, but congratulations to Deadspin -- you've just won the official Alott5myTM in the category of Best Internet Blog Post about a Beautiful Seven-Legged Hermaphroditic Roadkill Deer. You could not improve on this story if you wrote it with paste and sprinkled glitter all over it.
THIS IS OUR COUNTRY: Watched the filler clip-show from ANTM: British Invasion, the repurposing of Britain's Next Top Model, and I can recall few times when I have been so relieved to be an American. I would like to give the British the benefit of the doubt here and say that they may be too sophisticated to cotton to this kind of competitive reality show, but really, they came up with the hit I'm A Celebrity -- Get Me Out of Here and have fully embraced the seamier, nudier aspects of Big Brother, so no dice.

I have two principal gripes. First, everybody associated with the show is remarkably homely. Don't get me wrong -- I don't think of Britain as a land of unattractive people. You could put together a long list of really beautiful British women, starting with Kate Beckinsale and ending with Liz Hurley before the deadly combination of Pam Anderson and osmosis infected her with trampititis C. I just think that pop culture teaches us that the British ideal of beauty is a bigger tent, meaning that they can forgive a face that is, shall we say, unconventional, especially if it is wedged between large breasts and stringy blonde hair. This is a roundabout way of saying that I question the wisdom of casting a Top Model show with women who range from far less to not quite as attractive as Lucy Davis (and before you rip me a new one because you love Lucy Davis, yes, she was a great Dawn and I'm not saying she's ugly; please just ask yourself how quickly you would bounce her from ANTM). To compound the selection issues, all of the judges are equally unattractive, and they've even managed to import a weird-looking botoxed American "former supermodel" of whom I have never heard. In short, this show has just been designated Exhibit A in my defense of Pretty for British Syndrome.

Second, I recognize that not all successful fashion models are actually attractive. Google "belgian models" if you don't believe me. At least, though, they have three things that every working model actually needs: good skin, height, and unhealthy thinness. Not, as BNTM would have us believe, whiteheads, smallishness, and giant breasts. This is like casting Apprentice entirely with people you found in line for the bathroom at Six Flags (actually, it's like casting BNTM with people you found in line for the bathroom at Six Flags). It's enough to make a guy stop complaining about ANTM ridiculousness like Lluvy, Michelle the Wrestler, or Coryn. America the comparatively beautiful, indeed.

I should mention that this post is Spacewoman-approved.
LIVEBLOGGING THE GLOBE NOMINATIONS BECAUSE I FEEL LIKE IT: The Globe nominations seemed like as good a reason as any to buy a 99 cent CNN pipeline daypass. Some highlights from the pre-morning show batch of nominees:

Warren Beatty is getting the lifetime award. Hm. Rosario Dawson is the first presenter. Nominees for best actress in a supporting role on TV include both the yay! (Katherine Heigl) and the huh? (Sarah Paulson). This would seem to be the year of Helen Mirren, who is nominated twice for best actress in a made-for-tv movie or miniseries. Jessica Biel informs us that among the nominees for best actor in a supporting role on tv are both Jeremy Piven and MASI OKA! Matthew Perry (presenter #3) is nominated as best actor in a miniseries or made-for-tv movie. Best supporting actor in a movie nominees include Murphy for Dreamgirls, Pitt for Babel, both Nicholson and Wahlberg for Departed, and, um, Ben Affleck. Nominee Matthew Perry takes the mike and greets everyone with a very deadpan "Good morning, I love you all." The only news of note from Perry is that Apocalypto is up for best foreign language film (not to be confused with an actual foreign film) and Jennifer Hudson is up for Dreamgirls (see Adam's prior post on the subject).

I am now having fun watching the behind-the-scenes chatter as everyone awaits the 8:38 am arrival of the morning shows' live feed. More shortly.

Six minutes later, I'm back! Ok. Much more to type after the big categories.

Best actor, TV drama: McDreamy, Amy Spanger's husband for Dexter, Hugh Laurie, Bill Paxton for Big Love! And, of course, the Globes' favorite boy, Kiefer. We are missing Matthew Perry here. Bummer. Best actress, TV drama is a little weirder: Evangeline Lilly is apparently not only beautiful, but can also act. Who knew? Ellen Pompeo but not Sandra Oh? The Arquette in Medium, Edie Falco, and Kyra Sedgwick finish off the list. Best actress in a TV comedy bores me. Blah blah Housewives (so very 2004), Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mary-Louise Parker, and hey, there's America Ferrara!

The movie nominations are kind of wasted on me, as I've seen all of one or maybe two new movies this year. Cruz, Dench, Gyllenhaal, Mirren, Winslet, Bening, Collette, Beyonce, Streep, and Zellweger. Other than Beyonce, it feels kind of usual suspects to me, but others will have actual thoughts on the subject.

Now back to something I know -- best TV series, drama! Love this list: 24, Big Love, Grey's, Heroes, Lost. I am a fan of each and every one of these shows. Glad to see Big Love getting a little respect! And the Sorkin backlash is here in full force. (Sarah Paulson is really the only nominee? Seriously? Sarah Paulson?)

Jessica Biel gets a big laugh as she announces the full title of the movie for which Sacha Baron Cohen is nominated for best comedic or musical actor. Other comedy nominees are the Dread Pirate Depp, Aaron Eckhart for that movie produced by David O. Sacks, some guy I can neither spell nor pronounce for a movie I've never heard of called Kinky Boots, and Will Ferrell for a non-Elf movie. Best TV comedies are Desperate Housewives, Entourage, The Office, Ugly Betty, and Weeds. (I'm okay here - I wouldn't expect the Hollywood Foreign Press to dig Swarlos.) Laugh #2 for the Borat title, as it joins Prada, Dreamgirls, Little Miss Sunshine, and that David O. Sacks movie for best comedy or musical.

Matthew Perry doesn't announce any love for anyone this time. The funny tv actors are Alec Baldwin, Zach Braff, Steve Carell, Jason Lee, and Tony Shalhoub. Clint Eastwood directed two WWII movies this year and is nominated for both of them. Ditto Frears, the Babel director, and Scorscese. A big year for double nominees: Leo's got two of 'em for Blood Diamond and Departed, joined by Peter O'Toole, Will Smith the Serious Actor, and Forrest Whitaker. (Aren't we missing some people from The Departed here?) And Your Dramatic Films are Babel, Bobby, The Departed, Little Children, and The Queen.
ONE NIGHT ONLY: Jen and I saw Dreamgirls last night at a sneak preview screening.

Yes, it is All That.

Yes, Jennifer Hudson is that good.

Yes, she nails The Song, and The Glory Note Of All Glory Notes, and you will applaud with the rest of your audience when you see it.

No, it's not a "supporting" performance by any stretch.

No, we have no idea where she goes from here, career-wise. Is Jaye Davidson, of all things, the best analogy? Brilliant performance in a role that requires skills that Hollywood isn't often looking for?

Yes, Eddie Murphy deserves a nomination too, even if early on, I kept thinking about SNL-era Eddie and not James "Thunder" Early. Beyonce Knowles and Jamie Foxx are also pretty darn good, especially in the second act. And readers of this blog will enjoy a brief cameo by John Lithgow and The Office's John Krasinski, plus an early one by a former child star that I won't spoil, but led to a significant portion of our audience shouting his name when he appeared.

Much credit, as well, to writer-director Bill Condon. It is not easy to take something designed for the stage and translate it to the screen without the people-bursting-into-song thing feeling artificial, but he pulls it off well. The costumes and art direction are fabulously appropriate.

is how you adapt a musical into a great piece of film entertainment. Go see it.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

BEFORE YOU FALL ON YOUR SWORD, SHOULDN'T YOU BE GOOD AND SURE WHO YOU'RE DOING IT FOR? I'm having a little trouble with this week's sepukku elimination on Top Chef, but only because the self-selected eliminee did not actually wait for the judges to pronounce the name of the party who's place was presumptively being taken on the chopping block. Around here we thought it was even odds that Brother Bluto would get the ax for an episode in which he once again managed to be remarkably unremarkable, albeit without being affirmatively bad.

Did any one else think Cliff "Sangria Man" Crooks was reprising his role as the immunity saboteur this week? Four dishes? Nothing coming out of the kitchen? The "team leader" appointed after Cliff had already made, swayed or modified a significant number of the major menu decisions? How much worse if the team members shopping at the other store had followed his instructions and failed to purchase the steak and lobster? Am I being too hard on him?

Also, a cocktail that incorporates cream and lime juice?? A mistake like that calls out for some kind of sanction, even in the Quickfire. It's not exactly a Snickers Bar with a Chee-to on it, and yet, as a taste experience, I'd rather have a Snickers Bar with a Chee-to on it. ...or just cut to the chase and make something nice with cottage cheese, if you're determined to incorporate curdled milk. Sheesh.
WHAT'S NEXT? MORE COWBELL BRAND ACETAMINOPHEN? Just in time for the holidays, Darren Rovell reports in his CNBC Sports Biz blog (scroll down) that there's a new brand of golf ball making its debut on the link that nobody will be able to resist.

Link via Deadspin.
CARELL CAN GET ONE OF THESE TO GO ALONGSIDE HIS DUNDIE: The WGA TV Awards nominations seem generally on-key. Sure, I'd substitute How I Met Your Mother for Curb Your Enthusiasm in the"Comedy Series" category, substitute "Slap Bet" for one of the Desperate Housewives nominations for particular episodes, and swap "It's The End Of The World As We Know It" (the Grey's Super Bowl episode) for the Stephen King nominee, but they got things right like nominating "Casino Night," "Two For The Road" (the one where Ana Lucia dies), and 30 Rock. However, is The Colbert Report reading as too "natural" and not scripted enough for the WGA? Nominating SNL and Real Time With Bill Maher over Colbert is just wrong.
IT'S NOT OVER TILL YOU PIN ME! As we enter into the ALOTT5MA Awards Season, let's take a moment to do something our good friend Alan Sepinwall did today and celebrate Festivus with the airing of grievances about pop cultural icons. Among those who have some 'splainin to do are Lindsay Lohan, Fergie, and James Blunt. Who are you disappointed with?
HOLY CRAP: Peter Boyle is dead.
I MAY START A WRITE-IN CAMPAIGN FOR MOLLY PITCHER. ALSO, BRUCE WILLIS: The list of nominees for the inaugural class of The New Jersey Hall of Fame is now available, including such notables among the initial twenty-five as Cape May's Harriet Tubman, Camden's Walt Whitman and the respective wizards of Menlo and Asbury Park.

If you're interested, you can vote, and anyone who votes is eligible to win the "Ultimate New Jersey Fantasy Package". Of course, only in New Jersey would first place be "Meet Joe Torre prior to a Yankee game, including a tour of the stadium, close-up seating during batting practice, & tickets to the game for 4 people" -- i.e., an event that takes place entire outside of New Jersey!

Go ahead and name a truer "New Jersey Fantasy Package".

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

TOP FIVE SHORTEST LIVED MUSICALS: High Fidelity will close on Broadway this coming Sunday, playing fewer regular performances (14) than it did previews (18). Sure, the show's gotten overshadowed this year by a pair of commercial juggernauts (Mary Poppins and Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which broke Wicked's 100 week stretch with the title "highest grossing show on Broadway") and a pair of critical darlings (Spring Awakening and Grey Gardens), but I was hopeful it would survive. I'll probably try and see it before closing, most likely either Friday or Sunday matinee, though.
'TIS THE SEASON: I've written a few times about the Philadelphia Committee to End Homelessness, and I'm thrilled to report that we've now placed more than forty families in permanent housing. If you're interested in learning more, click on the house in the upper-left hand corner.

All of us here have organizations we're supporting this season, and we hope you'll consider donating what you can to each. Here's the first few:
  • Bob: "For those of you who have had a loved one suffer from cancer, please consider giving to the Pan Mass Challenge, which supports the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. I have supported this organization myself, both by giving and by riding my bike nearly 100 miles on a hot day in August. Thanks very much in advance for considering this worthy charity."
  • Kim: "Every so often, Mr. Cosmopolitan and I look around our apartment and remember what it used to look like before we decided to procreate. Those memories are getting hazier, as the sea of child-related paraphernalia grows deeper and more permanent. While said sea of stuff causes a lot of frustration (and is the main reason why we are not hosting the New York ALOTT5MA Chrismukkah gathering), we are deeply grateful that Cosmo Girl and Cosmo Baby are fortunate enough to have everything they could possibly ever need -- and then some. But not every new baby is as lucky. This year, we are donating to Newborns in Need, a charity that provides the essentials to newborn babies whose families are not in a position to do so themselves. Donations go to hospitals and shelters all over the country and include such items as snuggly clothing, shampoo, pacifiers, formula and bottles, sheets and blankets, and so forth. See here for information on how to donate (including Paypal). Newborns in Need strives to ensure that no baby will lack for basic essentials -- I hope that you'll join us in helping them out."
  • Phil: "Around the Throckmorton Manse our current favorite charity is the ground-up agglomeration of educational contribution opportunities at Donors Choose. Teachers upload descriptions of projects of all shapes and sizes for which they're seeking funding -- literally from a classroom bookshelf for the paperback lending libarary to a junior prom for a class of 100 -- and browsing donors pick worthy efforts to fund in whole or in part. In our limited experience your contribution will inevitably net you an educator's heartfelt gratitude, a large number of gracious but conspicuously punctuated thank-you notes in the looping hand characteristic of the north american middle school female, and a corresponding number of polaroids of north american middle school males making a characteristic effort to appear above-it-all. Good people. Great projects. On a micro-grassroots-pick-your-flavor platform."
  • Kingsley: "Want to save as many lives as possible? Give to Oxfam. They've got some unique giving opportunities this year, and few groups do more to fight global poverty."

More to come from our other bloggers, as soon as they email 'em to me. In addition, commenter LB is raising funds for the March of Dimes, in memory of her son, and we hope you'll give generously to all these worthy organizations.

Feel free to suggest more in the comments.

I'VE HAD IT WITH THESE M*****F*****G TROPHIES ON THIS M*****F*****G PLANE! In addition to liquids or gels beyond those in 3 ounce or smaller bottles which fit into a quart-sized ziploc bag, apparently, the TSA is sensitive to the grave security threat posed by the Heisman Trophy. Well, it certainly could be used as a weapon.
TED EVELYN MOSBY! If we had only gotten to see Ted's fabulous Jewfro -- dayenu. If Barney had only employed mind over body to help himself stop overflowing with awesome to quite that degree -- dayenu. If Marshall had only failed to find his way outside -- dayenu. If the big guy upstairs had only been the big guy upstairs -- dayenu. If Marshall had only enjoyed his Christmas gift to himself -- dayenu. But most of all, if Marshall and Barney had only sung Silent Night -- dayenu. (Tell me you didn't laugh out loud when Barney kicked in with the harmony!)

Why, CBS, for the love of God, WHY?
GOING ONCE, GOING TWICE: Bob Ryan of the Globe expresses admiration for AI, but also explains why few GMs really want him.
TiVo Bleg: Mrs Earthling and I find that our TiVo uses the telephone whenever it sees fit. We'd prefer that it only call between, say 1 am and 5 am. But it is not obvious from the menu where we can restrict its phone privileges. Has anyone out there in ALOTT5MA-land felt the need to address this problem and/or found a useful resolution to this problem?

Monday, December 11, 2006

BEST CDS OF 2006: The staff members of WXPN and The Philadelphia Inquirer recently listed their picks for the top CDs of 2006.

I have not yet thought this through systematically, but I have certainly enjoyed a great deal the 2006 releases by Gnarls Barkely, Corrine Bailey Rae, Slo Mo, Neko Case, Madeleine Peyroux, and Rodrigo y Gabriela.
YOU'RE BACK WITH US, LEATHER: The NBA is bringing back the cowhide.
DEARLY BELOVED, WE ARE GATHERED HERE TODAY 2 GET THROUGH THIS THING CALLED "HALFTIME". ELECTRIC WORD "HALFTIME" -- IT SEEMS FOREVER, AND THAT'S A MIGHTY LONG TIME -- BUT I'M HERE 2 TELL U, THERE'S SOMETHING ELSE -- THE POST-GAME SHOW: Prince is your Super Bowl halftime performer, and while it's too early to officially open our annual predictions contest (which Benner won last year), I imagine that won't stop anyone from jumping in early with a setlist call.
THE BLOODIEST DATE IN CAMBRIDGE-NEW HAVEN HISTORY SINCE NOVEMBER 23, 1968 (ALTERNATE TITLE: 'I'LL CUT YA THROAT IF YA EVER STEP FOOT IN CONNECTICUT'): Only weeks after the New Yorker's decision to take sides in the Harvard-Yale rivalry by publishing a decidedly pro-Yale cartoon, the feud is escalating to dangerous levels. There is now a violent, degrading, disgusting, and thoroughly accurate Yale-penned rap song about Harvard that can only be described* as "gangster."

It is, of course, only the second-nastiest song in the Yale-Harvard rivalry, since Yale partisan Cole Porter ('13) earlier wrote: "bingo/that's the lingo/Harvard's team cannot prevail." Ooo, burn.

*It can only be described that way because Yale-approved spell-checkers don't recognize "gangsta."

Edited to add: It's worth going to the band's web page and checking the biographies just to get a glimpse of bandmember Mateus's picture in bed with a stuffed panda. As I said, "gangster."
THE WIRE -- SEASON 4 FINALE: Alan Sepinwall does a terrific job of recapping the season finale for The Wire here. I'll just add that I found the entire season to be truly amazing television.
ALL INFERENCES DRAWN IN FAVOR OF THE NON-MIXING PARTY: Enjoy some legally themed cocktails at your upcoming firm or office holiday party. If you're so inspired, present your own cocktails here. "FRCP 1" is, of course, straight shots of vodka, which shall be construed and administered to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive point of intoxication. (Via Above The Law.)
THROW THE ACADEMY DOWN THE WELL: Could Borat be next year's version of the Three 6 Mafia? The Wacky Kazakhstaki's version of his homeland's national anthem, "O Kazakhstan" is among the 56 songs eligible for the Academy Award's Best Song statue. And with no Randy Newman songs in the mix, its a pretty open field, though you have to guess an original from Dreamgirls will end up winning.

In other Boart news, Borat made the esteemed AFI list of the top 10 films of 2006, which also includes two other films I actually saw in the theater (Happy Feet and Inside Man). Clint Eastwood's Iwo Jima redux, Letters from Iwo Jima, also makes the list and it also topped the LA film critics' list, giving it serious Oscar mojo. And of note on the AFI's TV list is the inclusion of both Heroes and The Office, two shows that I know have big followings round these parts.

And while we are on the subject of lists and such, I wanted to point out that my good friend Peter Orner's stunning debut novel, The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo, got mentioned twice in this Salon roundup of notable authors choosing their favorite reads of 2006. Steve Almond said if it was up to him, Orner "would have won both the Pulitzer and the National Book Award. The novel is that astonishing," while Stephen Elliot was no less effusive, saying, "It's not just the best book I read this year, it's one of my five favorite novels of all time." Even if your name is not Steve or Stephen, you'll find it a rich and compelling read.