Saturday, June 10, 2006

CLEANING OUT MY CLOSET: I'm not in Vegas, but I am going to London next weekend. Well, the bulk of my time will be spent in Bradford-on-Avon, just south of Bath, so, as always, suggestions are welcome.

In the meantime, I thought I'd clear out my "Lists" bookmark folder (and let me apologize in advance to those bloggers from whom I poached these lists over the last few weeks, but I made no note of where these came from):
  • While Venom, The Sandman, and The Green Goblin will all be tormenting the Web Slinger in Spider-Man 3, but you can bet The Walrus, Vermin, or The Painter or any of the other bad guys featured in this list of the Spider-Man's 21 Worst villains aren't sitting by their phones waiting for calls from their agents.
  • Bob Dylan heads up Paste Magazine's list of the 100 Greatest Living Songwriters. Tom Waits comes in at No. 4, one ahead of Bruce, and two in front of Leonard Cohen. And the person I will be seeing tomorrow night at Ravinia and who is randomly on my iTunes right now, Elvis Costello, sneaks in the top 10 at No. 9.
  • Another one of those British music polls to determine the greatest album of all time came out and this time it Oasis whose album beats out the Beatles.
  • Pajiba counts down the 10 Worst Blockbusters of All Time, which is not to say the location at Wrightwood and Clark, but big budget films like Armageddon, Patch Adams, and The Phantom Menace.
A CITY BUILT ON HOT SAND, BROKEN DREAMS AND FIVE DOLLAR LOBSTER: If things are a bit quiet around here for the weekend, it's because both Matt and I are in Las Vegas for the YearlyKos conference.

I feel badly that I missed the Mark Warner "Blogosphere at the Stratosphere" party, not only because I wanted to visit the months-long vacationers and check their lung capacity, but because it's been described by folks as being like the excessive Bar Mitzvah party thrown by a distant relative who you never really liked -- somewhere around $50-75K to woo bloggers, including an open bar, chocolate fountain and ice sculptures. No baby lamb chops, however.

Three other 2008 hopefuls are afoot -- Tom Vilsack, Wesley Clark and Bill Richardson -- and all of them, unlike Warner, participated in panels with bloggers rather than just deliver a slightly-tailored stump speech. But as we like to say around here, with the exception being the crucial fight for net neutrality that Phil's updating people on, this is not a political blog, so I'll stop there on that front.

As for my panel with Krist Novoselic et al, it was a lot of fun, and both Krist and his wife are exceptionally cool and humble. It was a really pleasure having Krist, Micah, John and Kyrsten on the panel, even at the ungodly hour of 8am, LasVegas time. I learned stuff.

What else is there to say? Ton of media here -- Maureen Dowd was everpresent with her farbissina punim the first two days (and a number of NYT reporters remain); Ana Marie Cox and I have crossed paths a few times; etc.

If and when we decide to host ALOTT5MAcon, I'm sure that we'll receive the same level of attention from the pop culture universe that politicians have shown here. Jeff Zucker will host a party; Mark Burnett will sit on a panel with us to discuss Reality TV and the Importance of the Meta-Narrative; we'll get someone from the Times Style section to discuss how wedding announcements get selected and laid out. And you bet your ass that I'll design and host a spelling bee competition. ("S-C-O-R-S-E-S-E".)

But first, as Julie Chen likes to say, this is an Open Thread.

Friday, June 9, 2006

WEEKEND ROUNDUP: I don't actually have anything to write about, but you've all been so very attentive these last couple days when it's just been me posting (um, guys, where are you?) that I feel obliged to offer up something new. Or at least a new comment thread for everyone to use to chat among themselves.

  • Both Entourage and Deadwood have their season premieres on Sunday. I've never watched either one, but may take a crack at the new seasons.
  • Michael Ausiello ran a great interview with Lauren Graham this week, in which she indicated that (1) she and Alexis Bledel are a package deal for an eighth season and (2) she agrees with all of us that Amy Sherman-Palladino's decision to render Lorelai a total doormat on the subject of Luke's daughter was bizarre and undesirable.
  • So You Think You Can Dance has chosen its top 20 dancers (although no one has yet seen fit to update the official website), and the real deal begins on Wednesday. The 20 include the requisite breakdancer-without-portfolio (although sadly not Hawk, whose student visa precludes him from progressing further, for reasons that I don't entirely understand -- was he in violation of his visa by having auditioned in the first place, or is there some distinction between early rounds and the finals?), the Mormon (I assume) son of the King of West Coast Swing, his seemingly not-Mormon-based-on-her-outfit cousin, and an array of lyrically inclined twisty bendy people.
  • Cars, the new Pixar flick about, well, cars, is garnering what seem to be surprisingly meh reviews.

That's it for now. Talk about whatever you like in the comments.

Thursday, June 8, 2006

YOU'RE OVER ME? WHEN WERE YOU . . . UNDER ME? The best part of this list of the 13 most unpopular TV characters is that it provides a springboard from which to mention the ├╝bersuckitudinousness of Ross Geller. Friends was long past its water cooler heyday when this blog got started, but if ALOTT5MA had been around in the mid-90s, you can be confident that I would have been writing about how I wanted to throttle Ross -- or David Schwimmer -- or both. (Until I watched Band of Brothers, I was inclined to blame the writing and give the actor a break. But after a few painful minutes of Captain Sobel, I just wasn't sure anymore.) Feel free to stick up for a Friend, but oh man, I'll take Brenda Walsh over Ross Geller any Thursday night of the week.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

YOU CAN’T JUST GO AROUND TRYING TO POISON EVERYONE WHO’S MEAN TO US! I thought “The Ceremony” was a lip-smackingly good finish to Big Love’s maiden season. Just the right mix of cliffhanger and resolution, of love and hate, of humor and seriousness, of lemonade and antifreeze. Rhonda and the Be-Dazzler on a Roman Holiday? Brilliant. (You think maybe the writers have been saving the “Roman Holiday” reference for just the right moment?) Barb’s reactions to being caught (1) making fun of Nicki’s wardrobe, (2) practicing her acceptance speech, and (3) by the Utah first lady’s staff? Pitch-perfect. The new side of Wanda? Beyond hilarious. Nicki's new ’do and sorrowful “oh boss lady”? Deeply moving, especially from a character whose sincerity has often been in question. All of the actors, both lead and supporting, hit their marks in this episode -- Lois, Sarah and Ben, Roman, Adeleen, and so forth. Good stuff.

I do wonder how the Polygamists Exposed concept will play out in future seasons -- it’s tough to imagine this show running for four or five seasons when the Henricksons have already been smoked out at the end of season one.
FIGHTING THE MAN, ONE HEMPWEAVE-GARBED BABY AT A TIME: Woody Harrelson and wife Laura Louie had their third baby girl over the weekend. Because some people just like to make a blogger's job easier, the Harrelsons released the following statement:

"In this crazy patriarchal world we live in, we are doing our part to balance the energy. We are proud to announce the completion of our goddess trilogy with the birth of our third daughter, Makani Ravello, born on June 3rd."
DON'T BE . . . OH, FORGET IT: Today's YouTube recommendation takes us back to a simpler time. A time when sitcoms involved a lot more smooching and a lot more dancing and a lot more Bronson Pinchot and Mark Linn-Baker.
ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL: Up there with astronaut and United States Magistrate Judge, Eastern District of California (Yosemite Valley), being 37 and CEO of Lego is pretty high up on the Walter Mitty Job Board.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

ONCE AGAIN EMBRACING THE COLLECTIVE WISDOM OF THE ALOTT5MA HIVE MIND: Mr. Cosmopolitan and I have just realized that we have ourselves a bit of a quandary.

The background is this: if all goes well, I'll be starting my maternity leave sometime in the next few weeks. Which means that we're going to be in need of a whole lot of TV to watch at odd hours of the day and night. (For those of you without offspring, believe me when I tell you that movies and books won't do the job.) And with it being summer and all, it's not like I have a bunch of regular season television available -- we're already struggling to find something to watch over dinner in the absence of our customary slate of shows. When Cosmo Girl was but a mere Cosmo Baby, we got lucky and discovered the first several seasons of The West Wing -- which we'd never watched -- airing nightly on Bravo. No such luck this time.

So here's the part where I reach out to all of you: which TV show DVDs should I be buying or preparing to Netflix? As I think I mentioned in an earlier post, I've got Firefly and the first season of Veronica Mars ready to go (although we're already about halfway through Firefly due to lack of willpower), and I'm thinking that the first season of Project Runway would make good fodder for the 3 am feeding slot. What else?
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: The New York Times reports Wednesday what we already knew at the Philadelphia Committee to END Homelessness -- "housing first" programs work. It is cheaper, and more effective, "to put the chronically homeless right into apartments, and provide medical and addiction treatments there, than to watch them cycle endlessly through shelters, soup kitchens, emergency rooms, detoxification centers and jails."

Learn about what we're doing in Philadelphia via this link, and click here if you'd like to help us in our mission. Thanks.
I'M THINKING THAT ZERO CHILDREN WERE NAMED DAMIAN TODAY: Choosy mothers choose not to give birth on 6/6/06. The part that amuses me is how willing their doctors were to help out.
YET ANOTHER MOMENT TO MAKE YOU FEEL OLD: OK, so who's older? Paul Giamatti or the guy who played Vinnie Delpino on Doogie Howser? Happy birthday to both of them today, as well as Sandra Bernhard, Harvey Fierstein, and Jason Isaacs.
IT MAY NOT SEEM SO AT FIRST GLANCE, BUT A LOT CHANGES IN SMALL TOWNS: Not to harp on the subject, but for those who never watched due to the WB stigma, the timeslot, or the fact that it was incessantly promoted in tandem with Seventh Heaven, the first season of Everwood is a mere $17.99 on DVD from Amazon today. Experience the love that is Irv Voiceover, the great Colin arc, and Episode 20, one of the best episodes of television on the question of abortion ever. It's worth every penny--I mean, you're getting 23 episodes for the price of buying a single movie!
GET BACK, JOJO: I interrupt my hermitage to report the sad news that Billy Preston has died. A respected solo musician and songwriter in his own right, Preston is perhaps most famous for, in shorthand, being the only guy to be a supporting member of both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. He didn't just do it as a bit player on throwaway junk, either -- he was in the studio and on the rooftop for the Let It Be sessions (contributing, most memorably, the electric piano on "Get Back" and the b-side "Don't Let Me Down") and he was essentially part of the Stones for their two best albums, "Exile on Main Street" and "Sticky Fingers," meaning that he drove the groove on "Can't You Hear Me Knocking," for example. If anybody asked me to name the first electric piano player that came to mind, I would say Preston, and if anybody asked me to name the second one, I would say "give me a minute."
APPARENTLY, "FILING SUIT IN FEDERAL COURT" IS NOT "THAT:" Meat Loaf (nee Marvin Lee Aday) has filed suit against Jim Steinman, demanding that he be allowed to release "Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose" without Steinman's involvement this October. Also, Meat Loaf's Wikipedia page contains perhaps my favorite disambiguation statement ever: "This article is about the singer. For the meat dish, see meatloaf."

Monday, June 5, 2006

MEKKA LEKKA HI, MEKKA HINEY HO! This July, the Cartoon Network will begin rerunning Pee Wee's Playhouse nightly at 11pm.
ERIC GREGG (1951-2006): Former National League umpire Eric Gregg, whose battles with his weight were a constant struggle during the past two decades, died this evening following a massive stroke. He was 55.

Of all the Gregg stories I'm reading today, this one's my favorite:**
Larry Bowa, a coach for the Phillies in the 1990s, remembered a steamy day in Florida when Lenny Dykstra argued balls and strikes with Gregg, hoping an ejection would give him an extra day off.

"Eric said, 'Lenny, I know exactly what you want me to do. You want me to run you out of this game.' And he says, 'If I got to stay in this heat, you got to stay in this heat, so it doesn't matter what you call me, how many times you call me, I'm not running you out of this game,'" Bowa said.

(**Veracity of anecdote challenged, corrected in Comments.)

The Philadelphians around here all love and remember him for the joy he gave to the game he never truly left; our Atlanta readers, no doubt, will only remember the generous strike zone he afforded Livan Hernandez in Game 7 of the 1997 LCS. You can get to know him better in this 1999 profile by the City Paper's Howard Altman.
DAMN YOU, DAWN OSTROFF! That's all I have to say about the series finale of Everwood (even though I missed the first half hour due to TiVo issues). It's a sin that this show isn't making it to another season, though I'm thankful that we got closure on just about every relationship we cared about. And Andy in the cemetary is unquestionably one of the best written and performed monologues of the year. To add insult to injury, there was a constant stream of CW promos, remininding us of the high quality programming (such as Supernatural, Smallville, and Smackdown!) that will still be around next year.

(That said, after watching the Veronica Mars pilot on DVD, I give Ostroff credit for sticking with a pretty damn brilliant and difficult show.)
TODAY I AM HERE REPRESENTING 65 MILLION PEOPLE: For the second straight year, tiny Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, may have landed the best commencement speech in the nation. Last year, it was Senator Barack Obama. This year, in a completely different direction, it's Stephen Colbert. He began:

Thank you. Thank you very much. First of all, I'm facing a little bit of a conundrum here. My name is Stephen Colbert, but I actually play someone on television named Stephen Colbert, who looks like me, and who talks like me, but who says things with a straight face he doesn't mean. And I'm not sure which one of us you invited to speak here today. So, with your indulgence, I'm just going to talk and I'm going to let you figure it out. . . .

You are the most cuddled generation in history. I belong to the last generation that did not have to be in a car seat. You had to be in car seats. I did not have to wear a helmet when I rode my bike. You do. You have to wear helmets when you go swimming, right? In case you bump your head against the side of the pool. Oh, by the way, I should have said, my speech today may contain some peanut products.

My mother had 11 children: Jimmy, Eddie, Mary, Billy, Morgan, Tommy, Jay, Lou, Paul, Peter, Stephen. You may applaud my mother’s womb. Thank you, I’ll let her know. She could never protect us the way you all have been protected. She couldn’t fit 11 car seats. She would just open the back of her Town & Country — stack us like cord wood: four this way, four that way. And she put crushed glass in the empty spaces to keep it steady. Then she would roll up all the windows in the winter time and light up a cigarette. When I die I will not need to be embalmed, because as a child my mother hickory-smoked me.

I mean even these ceremonies are too safe. I mean this mortarboard . . . look, it’s padded. It’s padded everywhere. When I graduated from college, we had the edges sharpened. When we threw ours up in the air, we knew some of us weren’t coming home.

But you have one thing that may save you, and that is your youth. This is your great strength. It is also why I hate and fear you. Hear me out. It has been said that children are our future. But does that not also mean that we are their past? You are here to replace us. I don’t understand why we’re here helping and honoring them. You do not see union workers holding benefits for robots.

"I have two last pieces of advice," he concluded. "First, being pre-approved for a credit card does not mean you have to apply for it. And lastly, the best career advice I can give you is to get your own TV show. It pays well, the hours are good, and you are famous. And eventually some very nice people will give you a doctorate in fine arts for doing jack squat."
BLINDED BY THE LIGHT IN AUGUST: I spent way too much time on vacation last week thinking up entries for this contest from Cloudal Partners, which asked you to mash the name of a band and a name of the book. While two of my entries ("The Invisible Manfred Mann" and "Everything Is Illuminated Nugent") made the honor roll, I had plenty more that did not...
  • The Soundgarden and the Fury
  • Their Naked Eyes Were Watching God
  • Death Cab for Cutie in the Afternoon
  • All Quiet Riot on the Western Front
  • War and Our Lady Peace
  • The Cider Crowded House Rules
  • The Vanilla Ice Storm
  • Bruce The Silent Springsteen
  • Tender Is the Night Ranger
  • A Tale of Two Live Crew Cities
  • The Master P and Margarita
  • Screaming Trees Grow in Brooklyn
  • The Everly Brothers Karamazov
  • A Raisin in the Sunny Day Real Estate
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genesis
  • The Road Les Paul Traveled
  • House of Sand and Foghat
  • Joy Division Street: America
  • April Winesburg, Ohio
  • Autobiography of Malcolm XTC
  • Tears for Fears and Loathing in Las Vegas
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay Aiken
  • A Confederacy of Brooks and Dunces
  • Girl with a Pearl Golden Earring
  • Mystic Little River Band
  • The Curious Incident of the Three Dog Night-Time
  • A Million Little Richard Pieces
  • Life of Humble Pi
YOU CAN'T STOP THE MOTION OF THE OCEAN: While I'm none too enamoured of the idea of John Travolta playing Edna Turnblad in Hairspray: The Movie Musical of the Musical of the Movie, Amanda Bynes playing Penny Pingleton seems like an eminently sensible call. A few major roles still remain to be cast (Tracy, Link, Corny, Seaweed)--any suggestions?
SURVIVOR WINNER OR LIVE COVER BAND SINGER? Am I the only one who gets confused when reading news stories about Chris Daughtry vs. news stories about Chris Daugherty? (No, not pictures, but just the names.)
JOINING THE FINE RANKS OF HOOTERS: I think my favorite statement in this article about plans for the "Maxim Hotel and Casino" in Las Vegas is that "[a] Las Vegas connection would seem to avoid cheapening the Maxim brand." Can the Maxim brand really be cheapened beyond where it is now?
ALOTT5MA TEMPERATURE CHECK: Just gauging -- what is people's level of interest in the World Cup? Is it something we ought to be blogging about here?
SHE DID NOT, HOWEVER, START HER LIFE IN AN OLD, COLD, RUN-DOWN TENEMENT SLUM: I didn't want to interrupt our Bee coverage with this, but ALOTT5MA would not be complete in following through with its regular obsessions if we failed to note that ALOTT5MA FAR ("Frequently Acknowledged Royalty") His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco has acknowledged a second child in a way that basically fits the plot of The Princess Diaries, except for the possibility of actually becoming a princess. Which, by the way, is a cute movie. So is What A Girl Wants, if you're a fan of the genre.

Sunday, June 4, 2006

THE WISDOM OF CROWDS: As previously mentioned, I'm going to be in Las Vegas for a conference for a few days at the end of this week. I haven't been there since December 2002, so, what's new? In particular, restaurant recommendations are greatly appreciated. Thanks.
MISTAKES WERE MADE: The first half of tonight's Sopranos mid-finale saw a whole lot of poor decisions being made by members of the Family, especially Christopher, leading to an overwhelming sense of dread. Actions have consequences in this universe, after all.

Perhaps. After the breadth of this season, we returned tonight to the core cast, and see where they've been since Tony's hospitalization, and whether they've learned anything at all, or whether old habits are hard to break. (Beyond that, it's all spoilers, really. To the comments!)

edited to add, one more time: Sepinwall:

I've heard all the complaints about this season, but this was the first time all year where I felt genuinely unsatisfied. I know I've been writing for weeks that we were heading towards an implosion, and that I didn't think much would be resolved before January. But it's one thing to predict it and another thing to experience it.

Chase has always had a fondness for zagging when the audience expects him to zig, and sometimes it feels like he goes zagging off just because he can. He wants to wean viewers off of all the TV narrative traditions they've been suckling since birth, but some of those traditions are there for a reason, and have been since long before TV existed. Steven Bochco didn't say that if you show a gun in the first act, you have to fire it by the third; Anton Chekhov did.

I'm not insisting we needed all-out war between Phil and Tony, or Carmela to visit the FBI offices in search of Adriana, or Paulie to die of cancer. But we needed something interesting to happen in one of the arcs, rather than the crude jokes Chase and company tried to disguise as resolutions . . .

THE GERMANS HAVE BEATEN US AT OUR NATIONAL GAME. BUT LET US RECALL THAT TWICE THIS CENTURY WE HAVE BEATEN THEM AT THEIRS. The Germans are none-too-happy with the inflatable Spitfires on their way to the World Cup Finals.
SOMEWHERE, BARNEY STINSON IS CRYING: The only place to play Laser Tag in Manhattan has closed.
PERHAPS THEY SHOULD ALSO HAVE AN ADVISORY THAT "POSIDEON SUCKS. I MEAN, REALLY, REALLY, BLOWS:" Something interesting I observed at the theatre box office last night at the big Loews Lincoln Square--next to each cashier was a small sign warning that "A trailer for the upcoming film World Trade Center appears before The Da Vinci Code and An Inconvenient Truth." Interestingly, I've not seen this sort of signage at any other theatre playing either of these movies, and I'm wondering about your thoughts. Personally, I was more troubled by the fact that the dialogue-free trailer for Marie Antoinette played twice in a row before the latter film, which, while more interesting than "Documentary based on PowerPoint presentation given by Al Gore" would make it sound, is far from revolutionary or shocking.