Saturday, September 9, 2006

I READ IT ABOUT IT IN OSQ--OBSCURE SPORTS QUARTERLY: Judging from my visit to the Times Square Toys R Us (for work, I swear!) last night, apparently Speed Stacking is about to get its push as the next big thing for children. So, what's your preferred obscure sport?

Friday, September 8, 2006

IT'S LIKE THE MEETING OF CHOCOLATE AND PEANUT BUTTER: You can now use TiVo to manage your Sportsline fantasy football teams, and the Dunder Mifflin Shredders of the Vai Sikahema Football League VIII will never be the same.

All that's needed now, as Isaac suggested to me earlier today, is for TiVo to compile player highlights for each team. Then, super-wow.
CROSSING THE LINE OF TASTEFUL SPOILERS: As New York gears up for Fashion Week, spoilers for one of the final three on Project Runway are leaking out. Apparently, one of the contestants was overheard touting plans for their line at the runway show--and it might not be who you'd expect...
THEY DIDN'T FORGET ABOUT IT: I have to admit that even as big a fan of lists as I am, I sometimes get tired of the same ol', same ol' (usually it involves some British music magazine poll in which Oasis holds down the top five spots). But then along comes a list of such inherent awesomeness that it reaffirms my list lovin' ways. This is such a list. It's EW's 50 Greatest High School Movies!

On first glance, it's hard to fault any of the choices (though the rankings outside the top 10 are a bit off--Sixteen Candles is only No. 49?) I haven't had time to note all the omissions, but that is why we have the comments. How about we try and come up with the next 50? I'll start with 51. Valley Girl; 52. Better Off Dead; 53. Some Kind of Wonderful; 54. Weird Science; 55. Pump Up the Volume...
TO BOLDLY SPLIT INFINITIVES THAT NO MAN HAS SPLIT BEFORE: In random websurfing, I discovered that today marks the 40th anniversary of the debut of Star Trek on NBC. Here's the question I pose--what's Star Trek's most important contribution to culture? Is it the creation and legitimization of hyper-fandom? Is it Shatner? Is it Patrick Stewart? Is it Star Trekkin'? Is it the legitimization of science fiction as a legitimate form of television drama? Beam up your answers in the comments.
IT'S OPENING RIGHT NEXT TO JACQUES PENNAY: In news unparalleled since Trader Joe's announced it was coming to NYC, Manhattan is at long last going to get a Target. Of course, it'll still be more convenient for me to truck out to Brooklyn, as the Target will be on the East River way uptown, but still, yay!
RUPERT'S CATCHING FISH, I'M HAPPY. HE CAN CONTINUE TO FEED ME 'TIL IT'S TIME FOR HIM TO GO, AND THAT TIME WILL BE DETERMINED BY ME: Entertainment Weekly counts down the 10 smartest ''Survivor'' players ever. I can't object to any of those named, or even the order, really.

In other Survivor news, Lisa de Moraes talks to Jeff Probst about the race thing, suggesting that perhaps Probst ought not say anything in the future beyond "You all want to know what you're playing for?", "Survivors, are you ready?" and ''Once the votes are read, the decision is final. That person will be asked to leave the Tribal Council area immediately. I'll go tally the votes." It's pretty uncomfortable, with Probst sounding like Michael Scott on Diversity Day more than anything else.

LdM also reports, by the way, that Ellen DeGeneres -- and not a returning Jon Stewart or Chris Rock -- will be your 2007 Oscar host.
LAND OF THE LOST: With less than a month to go until the autumn miniseries that is this season's first six episodes of Lost, it's time to start revving up the engines. Given what I suspect will be four days of media inundation regarding the fifth anniversary of September 11, 2001, it's only fitting to lead off with the Boston Globe's Joanna Weiss's analysis of Lost as a post-9/11 parable.

Where we are: Sawyer, Jack, and Kate are going to be spending a lot of time together, Locke's faith has been vindicated while Mr. Eko perhaps should have kept the faith, Michael and Walt got themselves a boat which may or may not take them anywhere, Sun is pregnant with a baby that may or may not be Jin's, Claire has been unquestioningly shooting up her baby with an unidentified substance while hating on Charlie for potentially shooting up with an identified substance, Hurley has to tromp back to the main camp all alone (or maybe accompanied by the Hurleybird) to tell everyone to be very afraid, Desmond and Henry Gale have joined the party on a full-time basis, whoever warranted the erecting of a giant statue would seem to be missing a toe, the hatch is finito, something weird and more than a little apocalyptic in feel has happened to the island thanks to the turning of the fail-safe key, and, of course, there's an electromagnetic something-or-other that a couple of really cold guys have been watching for ever since Penny Pingleton Widmore told them to.

So . . . anything anyone wants to talk about?

Thursday, September 7, 2006

PRISON BREAK INTERREGNUM: Anyone who's in the process of catching up on Prison Break but hasn't yet watched last season's finale or the first few episodes of this season should stop reading. (Consider that a cautionary note to the Spaceman family.)

So it occurred to me tonight that a couple of plot twists have effectively done what I suspect will be an excellent bit of recasting. Veronica's demise (to use a rather technical term: woohoo!) combined with the Tancredi family schism looks likely to transform Sara into the official conspiracy hunter for this season. It doesn't totally explain how Sara and "Lance" will progress, but given that Sara at her worst is a much more bearable character than Veronica at her best, it's an idea with potential.

Death Pool, Jailbroken Edition: Of the Fox River 8, who's your pick for the first to bite the dust? For an easy kill having nothing to do with the major plot arcs, I'd go with Haywire, but if they're going for an emotional wallop, it should be the beloved and loving Fernando Sucre.
COMEDY'S VERY MUCH ALIVE, AS ARE HOMELESS PEOPLE: Jim owes Michael Scott an apology -- Comic Relief is back, with Robin, Billy and Whoopi uniting once more on HBO, now to fundraise for continuing Katrina relief.

To commemorate this occasion, let's take you back more than six years, to the last time Robin Williams was funny.
NO WORD ON IF THE REST OF THE "100% NATURAL GOOD TIME FAMILY BAND SOLUTION" WILL APPEAR: I'll see Zach Braff in The Last Kiss regardless of what this review says, but the tidbit of most interest is that Braff indicated that not only will David Cross appear on this season of Scrubs, but also that if business dealings work out, Cross will appear as Dr. Tobias Funke. Personally, I want to see how Dr. Cox deals with Dr. Funke.
C=(5(F-32))/9: In a new, and somewhat awesome, feature I learned of today, Google will do conversions for you automatically. Want to know how many pounds in 4.7 stones? How much that thing that costs 47 Euros costs in U.S. dollars? To convert U.S. dollars per gallon into Indian rupees per liter? How many calories it takes to move 160 pounds 4,000 feet? Just punch it into Google.
THE CAT COMES BACK: Yusaf Islam (nee Cat Stevens) is releasing his first pop album in 28 years this fall.
IT'S LIKE A LATER "TOM & JERRY" WHEN THE TWO OF THEM COULD TALK: It's bad cover version day here at ALOTT5MA. Take your pick of Meatloaf subtly channeling Celine Dion or Clay Aiken neutering Badfinger via Harry Nilsson.
YOU WOULD THINK THAT I WOULD DESERVE A FAIR PROMOTION: If it's the week after Labor Day, it's time again to reveal the new list of Kennedy Center Honorees . Being recognized for their lifetime of contributions to the arts and American culture are Andrew Lloyd Webber, Zubin Mehta, Dolly Parton, Smokey Robinson and Steven Spielberg. Said Robinson:
This is something I have always wanted to get. I am not an award person and whenever I got awards, it has always seemed so ironic to be honored for something that I love doing. ... This one is one that I have secretly wanted without telling anyone because it is so prestigious. It is so great to be honored at the White House.

You can review the list of past honorees here, which leads to my standard question -- who's out there who deserves it most?
AS IT TURNS OUT, THE RUSSIANS DID IN FACT LOVE THEIR CHILDREN, TOO: The Onion's AV Club has a brilliant list this week--Eight Musical Artifacts That Capture What Nuclear Paranoia Felt Like At The End Of The Cold War.

Did they miss any? And what of the movies of the era that capture that same paranoia...Red Dawn...Rocky IV...The Day After...Hunt for Red October...Rambo...Red Heat...Spies Like Us...Top Gun...War Games? It's enough to make you miss the gold old days of the Communist Menace when every time a light bulb burnt out or the radio went silent because the DJ was taking a piss I thought it was electromagnetic pulse that precedes a nuclear detonation.
THE FRONT LOOKED LIKE THE BACK. THE FIT WASN'T THERE. WE'RE CONFUSED: Finally. I've been confused for weeks, but at long last the Project Runway judges have managed to match my perplexity. Good luck in your future endeavors, and remember to take each capsule with food or a glass of milk whenever possible.

Around here we would have given the win to Uli, and given Kayne a break. That didn't look like a prom dress to us, and we suspect that the judges just aren't giving him credit for much after last week's assumption that "jet-setters" share his enthusiasm for mens ice dancing. Though the only thing I didn't like about the winning design was the height of the slit in the skirtfront, it's appeal in the Throckmorton Manse was far from universal. More specifically, other than me, even the cats hated it.

You've got just two days to create your hand-detailed couture comments before the party this weekend, so, um, allez le faire marcher already. (Bonus points for perspicuous correction of my suspicious French grammar, or any you might have noticed during this week's show.)

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

HOW DOES IT FEEL...: To have the No. 1 selling album of the week? That is the question you can ask Bob Dylan tonight for the first time in 30 years. And whereas last time he hit the top of the album charts he had a falsely incarcerated boxer as a muse, this time he rose to the top while seeking inspiration from Alicia Keys.
TWISTED TRUTH AND HALF THE NEWS, CAN'T HIDE IT IN YOUR EYES: If you only bought A Million Pieces because (you swear!) you believed it was true, James Frey and Random House will refund your money, thus settling the outstanding lawsuits.
[CRY! CRY! CRY!] We're really down to the tough choices on RockStar: StormNova, and it's all a matter of taste, though there was no way Toby was going home this week. My taste happens to differ from the band's, but it's not my band, and I suspect song selection (another ballad?) played a role in the decision. Still, tonight's evicted novitiate is the first whose band I'd be interested in seeing on tour in the future.

Two questions:

1. If you're going to play "I Want You To Want Me" and even if you're going to punk it out a little, don't you have to get the audience to do all the Live at Budokan chants?

2. I meant to ask this last night: assume for the sake of this question that I've listened to few new bands in the past 3 1/2 years since our daughter was born. Can you explain to me where The Killers fit in the rock pantheon, and what I need to know about them?
AND IT HELPS HER ON HER WAY, GETS HER THROUGH HER BUSY DAY: I have to confess that I was relieved last night when House finally swiped a prescription blank from Wilson's desk. Not because I was rooting for House to get back to the business of downing Vicodin like Tic Tacs, but because the notion that he'd somehow kicked his addiction during the eight weeks since his shooting was so patently absurd that it was getting in the way of my enjoyment of the show.

Here's the problem. It isn't always easy to spot an addict. As Seth Mnookin (perhaps the best writer out there when it comes to issues of addiction) points out in an excellent critique of A Million Little Pieces, there are plenty of functioning addicts in the world. House need not be shown as a homeless junkie to represent the reality of addiction. But just because House falls into the functioning category rather than the stereotypical junkie category doesn't mean that his disease is somehow non-debilitating.

It's obviously not the job of the House writers to prove to the world that Addiction Is Undesirable -- we are, after all, talking about a drama, not a documentary. But it irks me nonetheless that the only episode in which we've seen the negative effects of House's addiction (at least, the only episode I'm aware of, although I haven't yet seen them all) was the one in which Cuddy made House stop taking his pills. Look, Ma, his withdrawal symptoms were worse than the addiction itself! Hey, he's an addict, but it doesn't get in the way of his ability to make the brilliant diagnosis week after week after week! And yes, he's a crotchety son-of-a-bitch, but that's just part of his prickly genius! And isn't it really kind of lovable, after a fashion?

I don't think I'm going out on a major limb when I say that generally speaking, drug addiction sucks. If you haven't personally witnessed the degree of suckiness, consider yourself fortunate. In my experience, for every functioning addict in the world, there's another shoe out there waiting to drop. Maybe we'll see the one earmarked for Gregory House, M.D., and maybe we won't. But make no mistake about it: the shoe is out there, no matter how brilliantly House functions while we wait to hear it fall to the ground.

GOT PC MAG'S TOP 99 UNDISCOVERED WEB SITES: But this blog ain't one.
RUBEN STUDDARD IS STILL WAITING FOR HIS CALL: I'm quite certain there is a defintive punchline associated with yesterday's announcement that President Bush has appointed Clay Aiken ("Clayton Aiken, of North Carolina") to the President's Committee for People With Intellectual Disabilities, but the quantity of punch lines is far outnumbering the quality for me thus far. I'm sure you, faithful readers, can find the correct answer.
IN CASE OF A SUDDEN DROP IN CABIN PRESSURE, TURNAROUND: Bonnie Tyler treated passengers on an Air France flight this weekend to an impromptu version of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" (aka the most awesome song ever), but rather than delighting all on board, the 1983 hit left some on the plane feeling "a little bit angry" and "a little bit terrified."

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

YOU THINK YOU'RE THE ONLY ONE WHO EVER MADE A MISTAKE? Was I the only one who stayed tuned after House to check out Standoff? While the opening sequence was good, I felt like the show worked when it was playing romantic comedy and was formulaic and bland when we moved into "tense hostage negotiation" mode. That said, Ron Livingston's delivery of "what?" right before we cut to credits makes me wonder why he can't get a better show, and he and Rosemarie DeWitt (granddaughter of Jim Braddock!) have solid chemistry. Also, credit for not showing us the paintball match, and trusting the audience enough to get the joke when we see Livingston wander in to the next scene with three splotches on his shirt. Major boo points are awarded, though, for wasting of Gina Torres, who should be kicking people's asses, not stuck behind a desk.
DILANA KNOWS WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE HATED, TO BE FATED: I think Sepinwall and I are pretty much in agreement about the remaining SuperNovitiates -- they are who they are, and we've seen what they can do, pretty much.

Dilana continues to slip, Toby continues his grip on the most likely to succeed slot with just great crowd command, and I just don't like Lukas and his non-enunciating suave troll voice. Storm's the one who I'm most interested in seeing actually front the band, and she may well have bought a ticket for the final three tonight. As for Magni, he's just solid -- but solid isn't enough, IMHO.
I WONDER HOW MANY TIMES I'LL MAKE FUN OF THE SHOW'S TITLE BEFORE I GET BORED: This week's Prison Break felt a little bit more like the Prison Break that was actually set in a prison -- hey! what's that part of Michael's tattoo mean? hey! there's Bellick! hey! there's Dr. Tancredi! hey! there's that sneaky government guy! -- even though the sight of Wentworth Miller in street clothes remains jarring (though not unpleasant, as there ain't nothing wrong with a Princeton man in a nice suit).

But here's what's bugging me. Last week, I commented that having both the fakeout and the real event take place in Oswego created an unnecessary nailbiter. Why couldn't Michael stage the fake supply stop in Oswego and the real dig-and-grab in, say, not Oswego? And this week, letting the feds get within two minutes of Linc and Michael through the staged tracing of a cell phone -- really, like five or ten extra minutes would've killed ya?

That being said, I like the notion that each episode will focus on Linc/Michael plus one or two other members of the Fox River 8. Sucre's plot is thus far deeply predictable, but C-Note's story last night was well done.

How are you liking PB: Already Broken thus far?
HOW 'BOUT "YOU STAY CLASSY, AMERICA?" I'm sure media critics more savvy than I will have more to say about the CBS Evening News With Katie Couric, and what Couric's wardrobe choice (a white jacket over a black blouse), and pop cultural references ("In Your Eyes" and Ron Burgundy? Seriously?) have to say about America. But can we all agree that Suri Cruise's hair is seriously freaky?
MANY UNHAPPY RETURNS: The "mystery book" that was promised to be the "publishing event of the fall?" A second volume of a tell-all about Princess Diana. I suspect I'm not the only one who's rather nonplussed about the announcement, and I'm willing to bet a lot of booksellers in the U.S. (who were required to place orders for the book not knowing what it was, who it was by, or what it was about) are going to have some heavy remainder tables.
SHE'S STILL GONE: Having now seen three episodes of Vanished, I still have not made up my mind about the show. I find it diverting but not gripping. The basic problem -- it's not (nearly) as good as 24 and Lost.
ALMOST AS MUCH AS GERMANS LOVE DAVID HASSELHOFF: The Chinese apparently adore Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties, which broke all records for animated films in China. No word on if the success is due to Breckin Meyer, Jennifer Love Hewitt, or the voice of Bill Murray.
A TASTE OF SUMMER: I made this recipe for lobster, corn and tomato salad for my family as part of our annual Labor Day feast. It's a simple recipe that relies heavily on the quality of the ingredients, but at this time of year it's easy to find good corn and sublime tomatoes. The result was delicious! Do read the related article here. Both links are free until midnight on Tuesday.
IT'S INSPIRING, UPLIFTING, ABSURD, TACKY AND VERY AMERICAN: The WaPo's Peter Carlson watched and diaried all twenty hours of the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon:
2:40 a.m. Forever Plaid, a bunch of guys in loud plaid tuxedo jackets, announce they will pay tribute to Ed Sullivan by performing an entire Ed Sullivan show in 3 minutes 18 seconds.

Impossible? Not for these guys! They go to it, singing "Lady of Spain" while juggling balls and plates, throwing dog puppets through hula hoops and doing imitations of the Singing Nun and Alvin and the Chipmunks. It's a virtuoso performance and it makes you wonder: Can they do this 20-hour telethon in, say, 18 minutes 27 seconds? . . .

4 a.m. The tote board total is $13,225,103. But where is Jerry? He hasn't been seen for over an hour. Is he napping? Is he okay?

4:10 a.m. A guy appears onstage dressed in a bright orange jump suit that holds 18 bicycle horns. Squeezing the horns with his hands, his knees, his elbows and his head, Orange Man plays "Frere Jacques," "Old McDonald Had a Farm," "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and Vivaldi's "Four Seasons." Now, that's entertainment!

If after reading the piece you feel guilty for laughing, you can support the work of the Muscular Dystrophy Association via this link.
TELL CUDDY . . . I WANT KETAMINE: After one heck of a season finale, an apparently pain-free Dr. Hizzy returns to tv tonight. Excited?
AND NOW, A WORD FROM OUR SPONSORS: FYI, my wife's new short story collection, The Guy Not Taken, hits stores today. According to the Boston Herald, "With her latest collection, however, [Jennifer] Weiner is proving that the masters of the oft-maligned chick lit genre are voices to be reckoned with. An accessible anthology that takes readers on a ride through divorce, heartbreak, insecurity and what might have been, 'The Guy Not Taken' is a tender, thought-provoking read that puts Weiner on the map as one of her generation’s best literary voices." Yay!

You can preview the book by watching Jen read from "Swim", one of the short stories in the collection, via this link, and can check out the soon-to-hit-tv ad for the book right here. You can also catch up with Jen via the home page, blog and new MySpace page, including news about upcoming events in Philadelphia and NYC.

Buy it. Read it. Enjoy it. Thanks.
THIS JUST IN: Remember that exceptional story from last year about Prof. Larry Lessig's fight for victims of sexual abuse at the American Boychoir School in New Jersey? He won, and the NJ Supreme Court's opinion is here.

Monday, September 4, 2006

WHAT'S THE FREQUENCY, KATIE? Tomorrow night marks the debut of the The CBS Evening News With Katie Couric, as the front of every NYC Transit bus is hell-bent on reminding me. I haven't regularly watched network evening news in ages, and I think the last time I TiVo'ed the evening news was for Brokaw and Rather's respective farewells. Several questions for discussion--in a world of the Internet and 24-hour cable news, is a network evening news broadcast still relevant? Will you watch Couric? Is Couric relevant? Does Couric as a solo anchor have any larger meaning (e.g., the ultimate triumph of feminism, or, in contrast, the triumph of fluff over substance)?
CRIKEY! Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, is dead. News just coming in, but apparently died of some sort of stingray while diving off Cairns, Queensland.

Other than that stunt with his then-infant daughter and the crocodile, the best wildlife host since those guys on Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom.

Sunday, September 3, 2006

MASTER OF THE TOY HOUSE: Why would you pay $110 for orchestra seats for the forthcoming Broadway revival of Les Miserables, when you can watch "One Day More" performed by an ensemble of Legos?