Saturday, November 11, 2006

ARE YOU WATCHING CLOSELY? Yes, The Prestige is worth seeing, although your level of enjoyment may drop as you reach the end of the film, described accurately (I think) by Tony Scott as "an element of bunk that compromises the coherence of the film’s concept".

Which is not to say that it's not an interesting way to wrap things up, only that it makes the movie something which it wasn't been before. And I say this as someone who deduced the Christian Bale-related twist from early in the film but enjoyed the heck out of most of it anyway. Beyond that, it's all spoilers.
NOT READY TO MAKE NICE: Back on July 1, inspired by blogger Mark Daniels, we first asked the question of who should be Time Magazine's Man of the Year. Yesterday, Mark revisited his original post, dismissing most of the early nominees and coming up with a list of Nancy Pelosi, the "tyrannical tots" (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong Il), and "the emerging economic colossi, India and China."

Back in July, I first offered Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy and a trio of "fightin' Dems" as possibles, and given this week's results, the latter's feeling more plausible by the day. So how about a revised trio of Natalie Maines, Stephen Colbert and Markos Moulitsas ZĂșniga** for Persons of the Year, reflecting how rising anger at the President was reflected in popular and political culture to produce this week's landslide and Rumsfeld's ouster? And if you want an elected official, throw in Sen. Barack Obama as a fourth, given his best-selling book and cross-country stumping for Democratic candidates down the stretch.

What say you?

** Standard disclaimer: y'all know that I represented Markos before the Federal Election Commission in 2005-06.
SEND HIM LAWYERS, GUNS, AND MONEY: Sadly, it seems SpyDaddy is unemployed, as Fox is shutting down production on Justice and yanking it from the schedule, to be replaced by reruns of House until Jack Bauer and Idol return to help Fox's horrid start to the season. More inexplicably, the same article indicates that ABC will be giving a full season to What About Brian. Maybe they needed to make sure some sort of sucking up to J.J. continued after canning Six Degrees.
IN LIEU OF THE CASH, COULDN'T THEY JUST SEND US ALFONSO SORIANO? Unless local institutions can come up with a matching $68,000,000 by Christmas, Thomas Eakins' legendary painting The Gross Clinic will be sold by Philadelphia's Thomas Jefferson University to a partnership of the National Gallery of Art in Washington and a new museum planned by Wal-Mart heirs in Arkansas.

Friday, November 10, 2006

CLOSURE: Yesterday, famed R&B singer Gerald Levert passed away due to an apparent heart attack while sleeping. He was just 40 years old. Gerald was the son of Eddie Levert of the O'Jays and the brother of Sean Levert, who joined him in the group Levert.

His hits will live on. Counting both his solo work and his work with Levert, I believe he had 16 songs hit the top 20 on the R&B charts, including five songs that hit #1. His only big pop success was "Casanova," which went all the way to #4 on the pop charts. One of his last hits was called "Closure."
A PICASSO, OR A GARFUNKEL? asks some smart people the question -- If you had a million dollars to give away, who would get it?

I think I agree with Michael Kinsley and Warren Buffett -- no one's better at giving away money effectively that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and just letting them disburse the money might be the smartest way to go.
YEAH, BUT THEY'RE BETTER THAN ZWAN, RIGHT? Adjacent to our Keltner series, frequent commenter Benner passes along this evaluation of R.E.M., which he swears he received from "an unnamed Chicago-based rock critic":

1. Was R.E.M. ever regarded as the best band in rock music? Did anybody, while they were active, ever suggest that R.E.M. was the best band in rock music?

R.E.M. was the best band in rock music (and classical and jazz) from 1981 until 1987. I have suggested this many, many times, when panning their other albums.

2. Was R.E.M. ever the best band in rock music in its genre?

They were the undisputed kings of the underground college radio and of the tapedeck of my 1981 K-Car in which I followed them around the South.

3. Was any individual member of R.E.M. ever considered the best at his instrument/role?

Nobody anywhere held a band together better than the human metronome that is Bill Berry. He wrote "Perfect Circle," you know. R.E.M. even promised that they would quit if any one of their members quit. And here's 1-2-3 members of R.E.M. touring, with the dude from Screaming Trees playing the drums. (Screaming Trees!) I guess your true fans are just simple props to occupy your time. Aneurysm, shmaneurysm.

4. Did R.E.M. have an impact on a number of other bands?

Including Toad the Wet Sprocket, Nirvana, and the husk of a shell that is Warner Brothers Records-era R.E.M., yes.

5. Was R.E.M. good enough that the band could play regularly after passing its prime?

They're the first alternative nostalgia act.

6. Is R.E.M. the very best band in history that is not in the Hall of Fame?

Including Rockstar Supernova?

7. Are most bands who have a comparable recording history and impact in the Hall of Fame?

U2 made it in 2005, and R.E.M. was better until Stipe tried to turn R.E.M. into a preachier version with a lousy stadium show. The Stones coasted on fumes for decades, too, and they're in. (By the way, congrats to Stipe for recording "Chicago XIV" after specifically disavowing doing so.)

8. Is there any evidence to suggest that the band was significantly better or worse than is suggested by its records?

Well, when I saw them at the United Center, they were worse than Reckoning would tend to suggest. But much, much better than "Shiny Happy People."

9. Is it the best band in its genre who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?

R.E.M.'s impact is greater than anyone else from the post-new wave, pre-alterna, underground college rock scene. No other band has ever found the balance between songs that don't make sense and are pure poetry; between inept garage rock and true musicianship. Once R.E.M. learned how to use a mixing board and started printing lyrics in the liner notes, it was over.

10. How many #1 singles/gold records did R.E.M. have? Did R.E.M. ever win a Grammy award? If not, how many times was R.E.M. nominated?

You can't measure R.E.M. by their popular success. Only their true fans should matter, and only their true fans knew about them before they left I.R.S. Born too late? Go listen to Coldplay.

They had Number 1 albums with Out of Time and Automatic. "Leaving New York" also hit Number 5 in the U.K., but those Brits also like Cliff Richard.

11. How many Grammy-level songs/albums did R.E.M. have? For how long of a period did the band dominate the music scene? How many Rolling Stone covers did they appear on? Did most of the bands with this sort of impact go into the Hall of Fame?

"Losing My Religion" lost song of the year to a duet with a dead person. Consolation prize was getting inducted to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame earlier this year.

12. If this band was the best band at a concert, would it be likely that the concert would rock?

If we're in a venue holding under 1,000 people, ideally no bigger than to have one toilet, then yes. Otherwise, probably not.

13. What impact did the band have on rock history? Was it responsible for any stylistic changes? Did it introduce any new equipment? Did it change history in any way?

Without R.E.M., I would never have become a rock critic. Q.E.D.

Also, R.E.M. was resposible for a return to the jangling guitar and the song lyric that was meaningful without being sensical.

14. Did the band uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

Buck showed some evidence of rock-star behavior on a transatlantic flight (perhaps he "lost his religion," ba dum ching!), but how can you doubt the character of a band who would fire Lawyer Jeff for sexual harassment? Stipe's devoted enough energy to left-wing causes, and not just by recording "Stand." On the other hand, they lied to their fans about breaking up first when a member of the band quit, then in 2000, and about not signing to a major label (which Warner Brothers was at the time). The list goes on. When I asked Peter about it, he said something about pensions and employees. Talk about the passion, indeed.

Conclusion: We've been through faith breakdowns, self-help, plastics, collections. Of course they get in.

Alex's formal review of R.E.M. will appear in the next few days.
THE IMPORTANCE OF LAYERING: I just saw this on Althouse, and it made me giggle. A little light and fluffy enjoyment for a Friday afternoon.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

I WILL DARE...: To suggest that the Replacements belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The 'Mats, who are eligible for the first time this year, were not among the nine finalists (a list, I'll remind you that included The Dave Clark Five), a crime on the level of the Lufthansa Heist. Take a second to dig Tim out of that box of CDs (why haven't you uploaded it, yet?) and read along as I put The Replacements through our soon to be famous Keltner Test.

1. Were The Replacements ever regarded as the best band in rock music? Did anybody, while they were active, ever suggest The Replacements was the best band in rock music?

Perhaps they were never thought of as the best, considering they were at their peak at the same time REM and U2 were generally considered one-two on the top of the list, but for a few years in the mid-'80s they were in the team picture

2. Were The Replacements ever the best band in rock music in its genre?

It would depend on how narrow you want to define their genre. I think you have to lump them in with U2 and REM, who at the time were still considered “college music” and thus they lag behind again, but just barely. Let It Be and Tim stand up to anything U2 and REM put out in that era.

3. Was any individual member of The Replacements ever considered the best at his instrument/role?

No, not really, unless you consider Paul Westerberg's songwriting a role, and then the answer would be yes. Westerberg at the top of his game was on par with Elvis Costello when it came to some of the cleverest songwriting in that era (“Jesus rides beside me and never buys any smokes” is one of my favorite lines of all time and who doesn't love a couplet like “Did five push-ups this morning/That was half of my goal/Tonight I'll be doing pull-ups on the toilet bowl) and no one expressed angst and alienation in those years better (see “Machine, Answering and “Regular, Here Comes a”). One of the better descriptions I've ever seen of Westerberg was on Pitchfork, calling him an “Indie rock Springsteen.”

4. Did The Replacements have an impact on a number of other bands?

Oh my God, yes. Practically any band labeled alternative that followed----a big tent that would include everyone from Wilco to Green Day to the Goo Goo Dolls--owes a debt to The Replacements, most notably a little band from Seattle that hit it big in the early '90s, with a similar predication to swing between mindless noise and angst-ridden ballads (often times in the same song).

5. Were The Replacements good enough that the band could play regularly after passing its prime?

Oh, for a reunion show. Maybe the fact that Tommy Stimson played bass on a few of Westerberg's songs for the Open Season soundtrack hints at things to come.

6. Are The Replacements the very best band in history that is not in the Hall of Fame?

Probably, when it comes to rock proper. At the very least, they on par with some of the major oversights including Roxy Music, Tom Waits, and even ABBA. (I am ignoring REM, who are a mortal lock to make the class of 2007).

7. Are most bands who have a comparable recording history and impact in the Hall of Fame?

Indeed. The Replacements are more of the short and spectacular school, having lasted about a decade. But what they lack in longevity, they more than made up for in influence and quality of work. Considering some of the bands with similarly short careers and great influence, such as The Clash and The Sex Pistols, who have been inducted in recent years (not to mention older short-lived bands like Traffic, The Yardbirds, Cream, and Buffalo Springfield), The 'Mats belong.

8. Is there any evidence to suggest that the band was significantly better or worse than is suggested by its records?

The Replacements in many ways are one of rock's hard-luck stories. Derailed by substance abuse, immaturity, conflicting visions, daunting ciritical acclaim, in listening today to some of the band's best material, you can hear a group that had things broken the right way, should have been as big as its peers. Alas, while REM and U2 are played on classic rock stations and even Lite FM today, the Mats remain “Left of the Dial,” the Big Star of the 80s.

9. Is it the best band in its genre who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?

If you remove REM from the picture, than yes. (Sorry Husker Du, fans.)

10. How many No. 1 singles/gold records did The Replacements have? Did The Replacements ever win a Grammy award? If not, how many times were The Replacements nominated?

I couldn't find any evidence that any of The Replacements albums reached gold status, which isn't surprising considering their highest peaking album, Don't Tell a Soul, only reached No. 57 on the Billboard charts. As for the Grammys, who can forget the 1986 awards when “Hold My Life” beat out “That's What Friends Are For” in the song of the year category.

In all seriousness, The Replacements have received some belated acclaim from the Establishment. Tim was No. 136 and Let It Be was 236 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time.

11. How many Grammy-level songs/albums did DD have? For how long of a period did the band dominate the music scene? How many Rolling Stone covers did they appear on? Did most of the bands with this sort of impact go into the Hall of Fame?

Grammy-worthy doesn't really apply to a band like The Replacements. And while it's hard to say The Replacements dominated the scene, any rock snob worth his or her salt had them close to the top of the favorite bands from the period between 1983's Hootenanny and 1987's Pleased to Meet Me. The Replacements never equaled the accomplishment of Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, that being landing on the cover of the Rolling Stone. And indeed, most bands with this kind of influence on guitar-based pure rock music are in the Hall.

12. If this band was the best band at a concert, would it be likely that the concert would rock?

The concert would surely have the potential to rock. The problem with live Replacements is well documented—often times the band members showed up too drunk and/or high to put on a coherent show, choosing instead to play a random array of covers suggested by equally drunk and/or high audience members. A Replacements concert was always an adventure, but it was never boring. Fittingly, the band mythically imploded during a live appearance at Taste of Chicago in 1991, with the band members one by one ceding their instruments to roadies and never playing together as a group again.

13. What impact did the band have on rock history? Was it responsible for any stylistic changes? Did it introduce any new equipment? Did it change history in any way?

The course of college music or alternative music would be decidedly different without the Replacements. They made it safe to totally rock while at the same time singing about your insecurities, a formula numerous bands would ride to greater success in the '90s.

14. Did the band uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

Between the drunkenness—the band owes its name to being banned after showing up for their first live gig plowed—the angst and anxiety expressed in Westerberg's best songs, and the band's star-crossed and self-defeating quest to make it big, the Replacements in many ways embody rock and roll. And just the fact that their most famous video (remember this is the mid-80s when video was everything) features nothing but a pulsating speaker, makes them the very model of the kind of band the Hall should be honoring. If there is any further doubt as to The Replacements upholding the standards of rock sportsmanship, track down the book Rolling Stone's Alt-Rock-A-Rama and read drummer Chris Mars' chapter “Eight Really Dumb Things the Replacements Did.”

Conclusion: The fact that The Replacements are not even nominated this year, while a middling British Invansion act like the Dave Clark Five is criminal. The Hall needs to cast a bigger net and include bands like the Replacements, a band who for many of us of a certain age defined “college” rock in the 1980s.

Good Lord, yes, The Replacements, deserve to be enshrined in Cleveland.

APPARENTLY, HIS 'LIVING LIFE' CARD TOLD JAY MOORE THAT HE DIDN'T HAVE TO ATTEND: For a certain small percentage of this blog's readership, news of an Amherst alumni basketball game this weekend will be warmly received, with fond memories of the '91-'97 players who'll be attending, including six members of the 1994 team which toppled undefeated Franklin & Marshall on its way to the NCAA Elite Eight. For the rest of you, I can just note that Ken Howard '66 has apparently reattached his head, and the Shadow will be in attendance as well.

My favorite alumni sports story, however, was the classmate of mine who claimed he almost got into a fight with Albert Grimaldi '81 during a friendly "current team v. alums" soccer match, as His Serene Highness was apparently not so serene with the shin-kicking.
IS VERY GOOD YOU ALLOW RETARDS TO SUE: Apparently, a couple of the frat boys who appear in Borat are none too happy. They've sued, claiming they were fraudulently induced into signing the releases and that they were (perhaps not surprisingly) drunk at the time. Perhaps my favorite line in the complaint?

"The film has been described in many colorful ways. Some call it hilarious and some call it offensive. Where one falls on that line depends largely on one's tolerance for incest and penis jokes." I think they forgot about jokes rotating around silly accents.
NEXT WE'LL START LINKING TO AMIHOTORNOT.COM: Well, if we're going to be offensive, let's do it in a bilateral fashion, shall we?

Here's my opener: Brad Pitt is not hot. He's pretty, in a sort of facially sculpty Robert-Redford-minus-all-the-suave-plus-a-soupçon-of-chimpanzee sort of way. (But his Ocean's 11 buddy, George Clooney? Hot. Not quite as pretty, but way hot. In fact, the apex of hot in my book.)

A few other pretty people who elicit no sparks:
  • Tom Cruise: Even without the Katie and the Suri and the bouncing on the couch, Cruise just never had any sex appeal.
  • Rob Lowe: Just about the prettiest man ever born. But that's where it stops.
  • Scott Wolf: Cheek-squeezingly cute.
  • Orlando Bloom: But see Viggo Mortensen.

I'm open to suggestions on both ends of the question.

THE STANLEY TREE: Let's come back to the Scranton branch of Dunder-Mifflin, for as long as we can. Plotterific Office to discuss, with the second sighting of Buoyant Stanley of the season as the cherry on the sundae.
THE KRISTIN DAVIS ALL-STARS: Because I am in a foul mood right now, and because my internal appropriateness censor is currently set to "give a shit -- off," and because I already opened this can of worms with my Evangeline Lilly post, I'll give you my oft-promised, never-delivered Kristin Davis All-Stars. The criteria: unprintable. But the basic point is to identify a team of women whose beauty most acutely outstrips (pun intended) their sexiness. They look great in pictures, you just want to put them up on your shelf or take them home, yada yada yada, but given the choice between them and, say, Ellen Barkin in The Big Easy (the paradigmatic anti-Kristin Davis: thoroughly unpleasant-looking, but smoldering hot), Barkin is a no-brainer.

Why Kristin Davis? Bill Simmons once wrote a column about how so many women (read: his wife) think that Kristin Davis is some kind of beauty ideal -- the rosy cheeks, perky nose, and general state of put-togetherness -- and how quick women are to temper when men say "she's as sexy as the classified ads." Frankly, I don't know why women love Kristin Davis, but I don't think it's a coincidence that she lacks the female sexy gene and the people who think she has it lack the receptor for it. Anyway, here's my list:
  • Evangeline Lilly: Yes, Bob, from the neck down, and even sometimes from the neck up with the right lighting and makeup and when she's not smiling or trying to act, she is magnificent. She has the kind of body that can only be honed through years of etiquette lessons and formal dance training. Her posture is exquisite. Yawn. Also, every time I see her I want to take her to the back yard and toss the old ball around, non-euphemistically.
  • Cobie Smulders: A face like a china doll. Just perfect for the collector who doesn't want to get his fingerprints on her by taking her out of the packaging.
  • Anne Hathaway: I go back and forth on this one, since sometimes I think that she's actually really attractive. But 75% of the time she just makes me think "young Dana Delaney".
  • Carrie Underwood: I'm not sure she even qualifies -- do people think she's beautiful? All I know is that God gave us Skechers ads so that we could see slutty women in states of near-undress, not church girls cavorting with puppies and titillating us with their demurely exposed shins.
  • Jenna Fischer: I think she's hilarious, I would love to hang out with her except that she's way too cool for me, I'm sure she's really nice, she's talented, and she's a big part of my favorite television show. That still doesn't mean that I want to get her out of her pleated khakis and sweater set.
Okay, there are more, but I've forgotten them. Now, before anybody gets upset because (a) this is a totally sexist post; or (b) worse yet, I'm wrong, let me say (a) okay; and (b) I'm right.
THE PEPSI CHALLENGE: KCosmo says Evangeline Lilly is beautiful. I say she looks like a little boy. So my question is: Which of these two pictures of Evangeline Lilly is the beautiful one? The first one or the second one?
AND TODAY, WE RAISE QUESTIONS ABOUT POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY: The People's Choice Award nominations are guaranteed to make you say "what?" Among the ridiculous nominees:
  • Halle Berry and Sandra Bullock nominated as "Favorite Female Movie Star." Berry's sole film in the eligibility period was X-Men 3 and Bullock's was Infamous. Berry is also nominated as "Female Action Star."
  • Of 6 singing nominations, 5 are for country artists (the exception is Shakira), including the guy who sings "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk," which is making my list of worst songs of the year.
  • Tim McGraw's cover of the Corrs' "When The Stars Go Blue" is nominated as "Favorite Country Song."
  • Jennifer Love Hewitt nominated as "Favorite Female TV Star." No one from Grey's nominated in the category.

In happier news, Cameron Diaz was nominated (along with Kirsten Dunst and Scarlett Johannson) for "favorite leading lady," apparently for In Her Shoes, since she hasn't made another movie that's eligible for these awards.

THESE ARE THE GOOD TIMES? Our 2006 Keltner Rock Hall series continues with an analysis of two bands, Chic and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Both are on the list of 9 finalists.

Let me deal first with a basic question. The name of the Hall is clearly misleading. The “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” is by no means limited to “rock and roll” or even “rock” music. Members of the Hall include blues musicians, soul stars, and country artists. The Hall has even inducted jazz musicians! Frankly, the name of the Hall should probably be something like the “Popular Music Hall of Fame.” Although there are (arguably) no disco artists or hip hop and rap artists in the Hall, I cannot see a principled objection to excluding them. Accordingly, I will proceed on the basis that Chic, a “disco” group, and GF&TF5, a “rap” group, should not be denied on the basis that they did not perform “rock and roll” music.

One last point before jumping into the Keltner questions. It turns out that Grandmaster Flash the person (born Joseph Saddler) does not actually appear on the songs "The Message" or "White Lines". I never knew that.

1. Was Chic or Grandmaster Flash ever regarded as the best band in popular music?

No. One could make the case that GF&TF5 made the most interesting music in 1982 and 1983, but I don’t think many people would agree that it was the best band in pop music at the time.

2. Was Chic or GF&TF5 ever the best band in pop music in its genre?

Quite possibly.

From 1977 to 1979 Chic released four major disco hits – “Dance, Dance, Dance”, which hit #6 on the pop charts, “Le Freak”, which was #1 for a whopping 6 weeks, “I Want Your Love”, which went to #7, and “Good Times”, which hit #1 on the pop charts and the R&B charts. Although there are other contenders, notably Earth Wind & Fire, Donna Summer, and the various P-Funk bands, Chic was probably the top disco band during that period.

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five was clearly the most successful and influential rap group from 1982 to 1983.

3. Was any individual member of Chic or Grandmaster Flash ever considered the best at his instrument/role?


Bernard Edwards of Chic is considered one of the most important bass players of all time. His bass line from the song "Good Times" is one of the most frequently sampled pieces of music in history. It was used in the first major rap hit in history, Sugarhill Gang's "Rappers Delight". Edwards had a huge influence on other musicians.

Grandmaster Flash (the person) is one of the pioneers of hip-hop DJing, cutting (moving between tracks exactly on the beat), and back-spinning (manually turning records to repeat brief snippets of sound). I don’t feel confident about my ability to judge this accurately, but I think you would probably have to say that he was considered the best (or one of the best) at that role for at least the period from 1979 to 1983.

4. Did Chic or GF&TF5 have an impact on a number of other bands?


In the case of Chic, the impact is most obvious when you consider how often “Good Times” has been sampled. Wikipedia notes that the song has been “sampled innumerable times by artists of the most diverse genres, from Rap to Punk and Techno to Pop.” The groove from "Good Times" was the foundation of Queen's 1980 number one pop hit "Another One Bites the Dust."

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were among rap's greatest innovators, going far beyond the genre's party-oriented origins to explore somber issues such as drugs and life in the ghetto.

5. Were Chic and GF&TF5 good enough to play regularly after passing their prime?

No. Both bands had an amazing peak period, but limited long term “career” value. The members of Chic, especially Bernard Edwards and Nile Rogers, had a fair amount of success after the group disbanded. In 1996, Billboard Magazine honored Rodgers as the "Top Producer in the World".

6. Are Chic or GF&TF5 the very best bands in history that are not in the Hall of Fame?


7. Are most bands with a comparable recording history and impact in the Hall of Fame?

The Hall has not been kind to other disco artists or hip hop artists, although that may be because some of the key figures in each genre are not yet eligible.

As Adam noted earlier in his discussion of Depeche Mode, this is where we get into the messy Small Hall/Large Hall argument. On the one hand, Chic’s claim to fame is basically the four great songs listed above in #2 (plus a minor hit “Everybody Dance”). Those four hits were major chart successes and one song is incredibly influential. On the other hand, the band was not known for its albums and, well, five Top 40 hits for a band best known for its singles is a modest amount of hits to be considered for the Hall.

Similarly, GF&TF5’s claim to fame rests primarily upon three songs – “The Message”, “White Lines”, and “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” (the latter is a prime example of cutting). Three songs simply isn’t that solid a body of work.

8. Is there any evidence to suggest that the bands were significantly better or worse than is suggested by their records?

Probably not.

9. Are these the best band in their genres that are eligible for the Hall of Fame?

Hard to say. As noted above in #2, Chic is clearly one of the most deserving disco bands, possibly the best among those eligible. Other contenders would include Donna Summer and KC and the Sunshine Band, both of whom had far more hits than Chic did (but probably less influence on other artists). There are relatively few rap or hip-hop artists eligible, which makes it hard to answer this question for Flash and company. I would seriously consider Run-DMC and The Sugarhill Gang as deserving artists in Flash’s genre.

10. How many #1 singles/gold records did Chic or GF&TF5 have? Did Chic or GF&TF5 ever win a Grammy award? If not, how many times were they nominated?

Chic had two #1 singles, four gold singles, and two gold albums. Chic had no Grammy awards or nominations. Chic’s career came before the Grammy recognized separate categories for dance music.

Strangely enough, none of Grandmaster Flash’s hits made the pop charts. I believe that the band had three gold records. Like Chic, GF&TF5 had no Grammy awards or nominations. Flash’s career came before the Grammy recognized separate categories for hip hop music.

11. How many Grammy-level songs/albums did Chic or GF&TF5 have? For how long of a period did the bands dominate the music scene? Did most of the bands with this sort of impact go into the Hall of Fame?

See above.

12. If this band was the best band at a concert, would it be likely that the concert would rock?

Reports suggest that both bands were unusually good in concert.

13. What impact did the band have on rock history? Was it responsible for any stylistic changes? Did it introduce any new equipment? Did it change history in any way?

Arguably yes. See above.

14. Did the band uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

I have nothing to say here.

Conclusion: Like Adam, I am more of a Small Hall guy. These bands present a very difficult case for me. Each had only a few key songs, but those songs turned out to be quite influential. Ultimately, I am inclined to urge that Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five be inducted because I truly perceive that the band pioneered hip-hop, which has become the dominant musical genre of the past 20 or so years. I am inclined to pass on Chic’s induction, but I do wish the Hall would admit more disco artists.

FIRST, DO NO HARM: So we had a 6-episode Lost mini-season that featured only one episode of Hurley, one episode of Eko, and no meaningful Claire, Desmond, Rose, or Bernard? Geez, I think Boone got more lines than the latter four.

Also, I've always thought Kate was more likeably-homely than hot, but with that bouffant wig they gave her, she was downright frightful. No offense to the Evangeline-lovers out there.

I realize I've set a pretty low bar for commentary here, but frankly, I thought Tuesday night's Virginia race was a more interesting cliffhanger than this one.
YES, BUT WHAT SHOULD BRIAN BOITANO DO? Our figure skating expert Gretchen passes along word that Michelle Kwan will be named an official U.S. ambassador today to the youth of the world, and we're all hopeful she doesn't take this opportunity to screw up on a global stage . . . again.
WHO KIDNAPPED YOU AND MADE YOU BLOG THIS SHOW? No one kidnapped me. Really! I want to be here. Just because I'm phoning this one in does not mean I'm not serious about blogging this competition (to the extent that, you know, one can be serious about that sort of thing). Which is to say that I was not at all enthralled by Top Chef this week.

Was it a bad episode, or do I just have a bad attitude?

Vending machine amuse-bzzzzzZZZZzzzzZZZzzz... wha? Woah. Sorry. Dozed off there. Had this crazy dream about last season's Gas Station challenge. Says Colicchio, "it was interesting to see who used the vending machine rule as a springboard for creativity and who froze up under those circumstances." On that note, it's tempting to propose a "Brother Bluto" nickname for Michael, but I don't think he'll be around long enough to make much use of it. Lee Ann Wong comes closer to persuading me: "I have come home, relatively intoxicated, many a night to bizarre and somewhat random ingredients in my cupboards. The mark of a true chef is the 3:00 a.m. challenge."

And who knew kids would go for pizza? Or that you could degrease it and still keep it tasty? Talk about your shockers. Even the finger-pointing and "investigation" of the second day's rules infractions seemed to build to nothing at all.

If you're still hungry, there might be a smushed Snickers bar with a Cheeto on it for you in the comments. Or something.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

  • Studio 60 just got a "back 9" pickup, thus ensuring a full season will be made and will appear somewhere. (No word yet on the fate of Friday Night Lights.)
  • More suprisingly, Men In Trees got the same full season pickup and will get the Thursdays at 10 PM slot at the end of November. Six Degrees may return in January, but this seems unlikely. (The same article notes an additional script order for Veronica Mars.) I was watching Six Degrees (some nice performances, but not going much of anywhere), and am not that interested in Anne Heche, so may give Shark a try--my breakup with ER a couple of years back is inflexible.
VICTORY: It is difficult for me to explain how it feels today. I don't even know if I know how it really feels right now.

I first met Patrick Murphy back in March 2005, when he joined my firm as an associate. Someone thought it would be a good idea for the two of us to meet for lunch ("You're both interested in Democratic politics, I think"), and so we did. At the Marathon Grill over on Commerce Square, he and I sat down and talked about running for this congressional seat, reviewing what we both thought went wrong with Ginny Schrader's bid in 2004, and what it would take to win in 2006.

You could tell he was serious about the race, and that he the resume, the beliefs and the people skills to make a real run at it. And we kept meeting -- lunches, my office, his office, and hten he declared his candidacy, and we watched as various candidates entered and exited the primary, and then fall turned to winter and winter turned to spring, and there was the primary contest, and it kept going, with our relationship becoming more cell-based than in person, and then there were the negative ads against him, and the polls, and all I kept thinking about was the fight itself: how can we win this? What does it take to get to where we want to be at the end of November 7?

Until this morning, though, I had no idea what it would feel like to wake up on November 8 and actually have my friend win a seat in Congress, to know that he's going to be down there as part of our new majority, with all the mighty powers and responsibilities granted to him under Article I. Yeah, it's pretty cool.
LOWER BROADWAY ALREADY HAS THE LIGHTS UP: Most years, I wind up buying a new Christmas/Holiday album. Last year, it was Barenaked Ladies' Barenaked For The Holidays. This year, it'll probably be Sarah McLachlan's Wintersong (though the Sufjan Stevens and Aimee Mann albums are intriguing). But what always puzzles me is some of the other Christmas albums out there. Did we really need A Very Larry Christmas or a Christmas album from Bill Engvall? How about Twisted Christmas from Twisted Sister? Anyone else got a horrific holiday album they'd like to share?
CAN'T YOU SEE, THE MUSIC IS JUST STARTING: In addition to being more Democratic, it's worth noting that Congress will be just a little more soft rock come January. And yes, there's a best of available.
THIS'LL SCARE YOU MORE THAN ANY GHOUL WOULD EVER DARE TRY: Michael Jackson will perform Thriller at the upcoming World Music Awards hosted by Lindsay Lohan. We can only hope it's as awesome as R. Kelly's Trapped In The Closet at the 2005 VMA's.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

OVER/UNDER ON TIME OF NY-SEN AND NY-GOV CALLING IS 9:02 PM: I believe Adam's off at an election night party for a candidate, but for the rest of us, a thread to discuss the reckless surrealism of election night seems to be in order. No word on if Rick Santorum's concession speech will invoke Mordor, or what other insanity we may experience, but bring it to our attention as things develop.
ALIMONY WON'T BUY CLASS: Bookies will no longer take bets this year on what I believe is the Triennial ALOTT5MA "Least Surprising News" Award, because the presumptive runaway winner has been announced: Britney has filed for divorce from her husband/malignancy/punch line. Very well-timed, too -- you can't run a TV in a polling place.
RYDELL HIGH! BEAT THE CAVALIERS! Check this out. Ok, so ignore the part about Billy Bush. But otherwise, I'm setting my DVR right now. Any girl born in the '70s who claims otherwise is lying.
EVERYBODY GETS A HOUSE! Well, not everybody, but TAR's Team Kentucky is getting one(along with a new car, trips to San Diego, Disneyland, and the Grand Canyon, and fare for the whole family on a Rosie O'Donnell Family Cruise), all courtesy of the fine folks at The View. The linked interview explains why Team Kentucky might just be worthy of a place on TAR All-Stars.
SWARLES IN CHARGE OF OUR DAYS AND OUR NIGHTS: Is there anyone out there who doesn't love HIMYM? It's just so much fun. In fact, we were having so much fun that the sum total of our Chloe conversation went like this:

Me: Hey, doesn't the actress playing Chloe look kind of like Ashley Judd?
Mr. Cosmo: Yes. She looks like someone else, too, but I can't figure out who.
Me: You're right. Hm.

Conversation forgotten due to excessive giggling at all the Swarley jokes for the rest of the half hour. Conversation is never resumed, as we proceed immediately to Heroes upon completion of HIMYM.

Shame on us! (But shame on her as well for getting unnecessarily skinny.)
FAITH HILL ALSO THINKS THAT HAROLD FORD JR. DOESN'T CARE ABOUT BLACK PEOPLE: Faith Hill pitched a fit when she lost the singer of the year award at the CMAs to Carrie Underwood. Or maybe she was just channeling Kanye West.

Crowd: [thinking: Aaaa! He has a gun!]

Officer First Officer Agent Weiss: [blinking] It's okay!

Crowd: [thinking: Aaaa! We panic!]

OFOAW: I am an off-duty officer! [blinking like crazy person] I just picked this gun up from the sunscreen shelf!

Crowd: Second time this week. Collectively, we have got to start frequenting a different 7-11. [thinking: Crap, I have pot in my glove box.]

OFOAW: Incidentally, step 2 in my current plan is to fall down. [Falls down.]

Crowd: Hey, officer, are you okay? [thinking: LAPD is AWESOME.]

OFOAW: I heard that.

Crowd: Unless you object, we will go about our convenience purchasing now.

OFOAW: No, I'm good. I thought for a minute there that my inability to process your simultaneous thinking was going to cause a major plot dilemma, but as it turns out it's just a badgeless post-coital out-of-uniform cop holding a loaded unregistered gun passing out in the center aisle of a crowded convenience store without repercussion. No biggie. I should be promoted to Detective First Officer Agent Weiss, like, this episode. Which way is the rocky road ice cream?
THE LONELINESS OF THE REIGNING LORELAI: Virginia Heffernan's column today on Gilmore Girls is worth reading, for her pointing out changes I hadn't immediately noticed (strummy-strummy-la-la is gone), actual attempts to psychoanalyze Lorelai beyond "she's got Mommy issues!," the observation that Lorelai "prov[es] that a [person's] sensibility can comprise The New Yorker and Us Weekly," and the comment that Alexis Bledel's performances "sometimes showed a Mamet-style anxiety, as if it were all [she] could do just to recite [her] lines." It's almost enough to make up for the bizarre metaphors (Lorelai is like Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen? Graham is "the show’s power forward, playing as hard as she can?")
Exercise your right to vote!
Choose the one you like the most!
It's an individual right
So choose the one you want to fight
For you!
This thread is open for all Election Day-related conversation, reporting and whimsy. See you at the polls.

Monday, November 6, 2006

POP QUIZ, HOTSHOT: If you want to work at Interview Magazine, you apparently have to pass this pop cultural quiz. Even assuming some of their things are typos ("Steven Hawkin," I assume, is Stephen Hawking, and "Sophia Coppolla" should be "Sofia," right?), I have trouble getting more than 11 or 12 right. Gawker has some suggested answers (their identification of Joel Schumacher is priceless).
A SHELVED COLLECTION OF HARD MEDIA? HOW DELICIOUSLY 20th CENTURY! The University of Chicago's own Saul Levmore reports on the new Sony E-Book:
"I won't be investing in companies that produce paper."
AS LONG BOTH BEAR THE SUBTITLE "ELECTRIC BOOGALOO," I'M OK WITH IT: Today's question--which sequel to well-made genre film by auteur director is a worse idea--is it Inside Man 2 or The Departed 2, both of which are apparently in early stages of development?

Sunday, November 5, 2006

THE SLOW FORWARD: Well, that hasn't happened since the first season of The Race of Amazement, as far as I can recall.** Still, once the structure of the episode was clear, so was the outcome. Not a great episode, but not a bad one . . . I'm just not feeling terribly invested in the remaining teams, pro- or con. You?

** Okay, it has happened before. Dennis and Andrew in season three (i.e., Team I'm Trying To Come To Grips With My Gay Son) used the Fast Forward yet still were eliminated, but in that case, the length of the FF task wasn't the issue.
WATCH HIS EYES--HE'LL BE BLINKING MORSE CODE: Many have wondered when Victor Garber will return to Broadway, and we now, sort of, have an answer--Garber will be Martin Short/Jiminy Glick's guest in Fame Becomes Me on December 23. This week could be interesting, with Joe Scarborough and Chris Matthews both scheduled, though the best might have been Colbert, who guested on October 18.
PERHAPS HE SHOULD HAVE KEPT HIS OPINIONS ON THE Q.T.: James Ellroy has written a bunch of well-regarded crime novels. However, judging from this interview in today's Times Magazine, humility is not one of his virtues. In particular, the following exchange is a bit scary:

Do you think of yourself as a novelist or as a crime writer?

I am a master of fiction. I am also the greatest crime writer who ever lived. I am to the crime novel in specific what Tolstoy is to the Russian novel and what Beethoven is to music.

How do you know since you say you don’t read other books?

I just know. There is a line from a wonderful Thomas Lux poem: “You’re alone and you know a few things.” I just know that I am that good.

And that doesn't even discuss his love for imaginary women (seriously).

DEAR LORD JESUS, I DO NOT OFTEN SPEAK WITH YOU AND ASK FOR THINGS, BUT NOW, I REALLY MUST INSIST THAT YOU HELP ME WIN THE ELECTION TOMORROW BECAUSE I DESERVE IT AND PAUL METZLER DOESN'T, AS YOU WELL KNOW: From Joseph Harrison Paine (Mr. Smith Goes To Washington) and Johnny Iselin (The Manchurian Candidate) to Tracy Flick (Election), the WaPo's Stephen Hunter profiles five of the more loathsome or annoying politicians ever to grace the silver screen. I believe I might add Bob Alexander (Dave) and Bob Roberts, but that's a nice, tight list.