Saturday, February 10, 2007

IF IT'S NOT SCOTTISH, IT'S CRAP: I finally saw "The Last King of Scotland" this afternoon. Forest Whitaker is everything you've heard, and more. Rarely is an actor that transparent to his role. But I believe we've covered this film and, if not, suffice it to say that you should this movie. But I've never been quite so uncomfortable watching a movie as I was during the scene in the Entebee Airport Duty Free Shop. But it turns out, what most folks see as a shining example of man's inhumanity to man, others will drop six hundred domars to have done to them.
ONLY TWO LITTLE CHILDREN, BUT I DO HAVE KIND OF A COLD THIS WEEKEND: Of late, the Cosmo family has been seriously in need of a little hey-remember-when-we-used-to-eat-at-restaurants-that-don't-serve-chicken-fingers time. So tonight we enjoyed Danny Meyer's riff on barbecue at Blue Smoke. (Interestingly, Blue Smoke is about as kid-friendly a restaurant as they come, but that is perhaps a topic for some other blog.) One of the great things about the restaurant, other than the seriously yummy pulled pork and Memphis ribs, is that they have really gotten the music right. Kinda bluesy, kinda jazzy, kinda R&B oldies standards -- and played at exactly the right volume. Towards the end of our meal, some version of Stagger Lee that wasn't the one you usually hear came on, and while Cosmo Girl was rocking out, Mr. Cosmo and I drove ourselves nuts trying to remember who sang the version you do usually hear.

When we got home, I checked iTunes, and discovered two things: (1) the standard version of Stagger Lee is sung by Lloyd Price, and (2) do you have any idea how many people have recorded this song?? Everyone from Wilson Pickett to Nick Cave to the Dead to Bobby Rydell to Neil Diamond to Bob Dylan to Ike and Tina Turner to Professor Longhair to Huey Lewis to Fats Domino -- it's insane. The only song I can think of off the top of my head that's been recorded as often is Amazing Grace, which is sort of cheating. Got any others?
A TOLSTOY MOMENT: Earlier this week, Isaac noted that Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton may be playing the only non-boring happy marriage on TV on Friday Night Lights. Let's broaden that a little to cover "romantic relationships" generally, but the point's pretty much right. I'll offer three others, though, to compete:
  • Richard and Emily Gilmore, Gilmore Girls--If there's only one thing the new writing staff on Gilmore has gotten right, it's Richard and Emily's characters. They can be detached, insane, and yes, even vicious, but you never doubt that they love each other, and are trying, in the best way they can, to love their daughter and granddaughter. A particular achievement, since Gilmore is mastering both happy and boring (Rory/Logan) and unhappy and boring (Lorelai/Christopher) this season.
  • Paris Geller and Doyle McMaster, Gilmore Girls--We haven't seen nearly enough of either of them this season, but not even that can take away from the awesomeness that was "Paris and Doyle do hip-hop." (Heck, even TWOP can't find the words to express it.)
  • Marshall Eriksen and Lily Aldren, How I Met Your Mother--OK, kind of cheating since they had a falling-out earlier this year, but their mind meld and willingness to tell each other EVERYTHING (yes, even Marshall's fear of Sasquatch) renders them endlessly fascinating.

Any I'm missing? There might be an argument for Dwight and Angela, though I'm not sure I'd describe them as "happy."

DO YOU THINK I GIVE A DAMN ABOUT A GRAMMY? As I note every year, the awards presented at the Grammys each year are forgettable, but the performances, for the past few years, are not. God bless YouTube for finding some of my favorites from recent years:
And a few blasts from the past, while you're with us this weekend: in 1985, Thomas Dolby, Howard Jones, Herbie Hancock and Stevie Wonder performed "a tribute to synthesizers". Big hair! Big keytars! Go watch. And from 1980, well, it's a triumph for My People, and for the Isro. Finally, I can't make this post and forget about the ODB accepting an award for which he wasn't nominated or the legendary "Soy Bomb". This year's performers include:
Earth, Wind & Fire, Mary J. Blige and Ludacris in a James Brown tribute; Smokey Robinson, Lionel Richie and Chris Brown in an "R&B" tribute; Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé, the Dixie Chicks, Gnarls Barkley, Wyclef Jean, John Legend, John Mayer, Corinne Bailey Rae, Rascal Flatts, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Shakira, Justin Timberlake, the Police, Carrie Underwood, James Blunt and T.I.
Also, make your predictions for who gets the loudest non-James Brown necrology applause (Ahmet Ertegun), and what time the annual "stop stealing our music, kids!" lecture is delivered. Or, I guess, express your predictions and hopes for the awards themselves. I'll probably liveblog tomorrow, though this is the kind of thing for which TiVo was invented.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Blinq: Forward, Into The Past

...AND YOU'LL MISS IT: Congratulations to the Inq's Dan Rubin, who is ascending to the role of local columnist now that John Grogan has left. (Speaking of which, Dan: given that history, keep an eye on Harley.)

Sadly, that means the end of Blinq, his blog-about-the-local-blogs which has long listed this site high on its blogroll (God bless alphabetical order), mentioning us in his very first post and pretty frequently since. Dan always treated the blogosphere and this region generally with insight and heart, making the blog a daily read, and I'm looking forward to what's to come, a move from Blinq back to full-time ink.
BLAME CANADA: How do you like your Gordon Lightfoot? Original or cover? Although I'm generally a folk fan and loathe disco, I'm going to have to go with "cover." Guest Blogging: A Bourdain Throwdown

A VARIATION ON 'DUNK BOZO' OR 'SHOOT THE GEEK' AT THE CARNIVAL: You think Anthony Bourdain had problems with the Top Chefs? Wait until you see what he said about the stars of the Food Network. (Via Bill.)
THE MODERN COURTESAN? Is there something intelligent to be said about the life of Anna Nicole Smith? Take a look at this essay from WaPo culture critic Philip Kennicott:

"Courtesan," which in a different age is probably what she would have been labeled even though she was married), is a category we don't have much use for anymore. The woman who makes sexual alliances for money, who was less than a blushing bride but not so fallen as a prostitute, was once a vigorous cultural type, at least through the 19th century. Courtesans were the essential heroines of our greatest operas. They offered up their bodies, in various states of undress, to painters from Caravaggio to Toulouse-Lautrec -- and too many others to mention. It was a courtesan who set in motion many of our greatest novels, not least of them Proust's "Remembrance of Things Past" -- which begins with the love of a man named Swann for a "great courtesan." But the idea of the courtesan has all but disappeared, and with it much of the nuance about our analysis of sex and marriage....

For centuries, there have been men who have wondered why women really love them. That the real sexual allure of men may not be their good looks, their masculinity or their charm, but rather their power and position, can make men wonder whether they are loved for themselves or for something external and unrelated. When marriages don't look like they look in storybooks -- love matches between princes and princesses -- intimacy is shadowed with doubt.

And it's the same fear that made poor Anna Nicole Smith gibes an endlessly rich source of material for Leno and Letterman; they were laughing at her, of course, but also at men who were foolish enough to marry women like her. We laugh at what makes us uncomfortable, and Anna Nicole Smith made us very uncomfortable indeed.

Or you can help us work on the song.
AS THE WINSTON SMITH IN ALL OF US REACHES FOR HIS TINFOIL HAT: Some science beat sensationalists say neuroscience imaging researchers are edging ever closer to practical mind-reading applications.
We shouldn't go overboard about the power of these techniques at the moment, but what you can be absolutely sure of is that these will continue to roll out and we will have more and more ability to probe people's intentions, minds, background thoughts, hopes and emotions.
More interesting, from a less paranoid perspective, is how long it will be before some related gadget makes the keyboard obsolete. And the mouse, and the steering wheel, and the remote control, and the telephone keypad, and the ...

Slashdot? Of course.
THEY'RE BRINGING SEXY BOXES BACK: Unfortunately, the New York Times can't seem to master the three easy steps for giving your lady a special gift in a box. In their oddly schizophrenic review of Timberlake's concert at MSG, they quote "Number one, cut a hole in a box" as being a step.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

BOTULISM -- IT'S NOT JUST FOR EATERS OF UNCOOKED WHALE MEAT ANYMORE: Ladies and gentlemen, if I've told you this once, I've said it a thousand times: do not try to ferment your own tofu. (Tip via Charlie.)
I GUESS IT'S THE WRONG INTERN WHO CAN SWIM THREE LENGTHS OF HER PARENTS' POOL UNDERWATER: That was disturbing. I am disturbed. I initially got disturbed upon seeing the astonishing makeup work on Karev's pylon patient and continued to be disturbed for the rest of the hour. This was not an enjoyable episode of Grey's, but I don't particularly think it was intended to be.

Tonight I have more questions than comments:
  • I don't usually check the TWoP patter these days, but was surprised at the level of pissed-off-ed-ness over there at this episode. Is TWoP where the angry people hang out these days, or did everyone have major problems with this episode except me?
  • Those of you who traditionally like the George character: do you still like him? I found him annoying last year and I find him even more annoying now. But then again, Meredith doesn't annoy me and I know that many of you can't stand her. Which is why I ask the question.

And now, prediction dichotomies!

  • Little girl: (a) misdiagnosed and not long for this world, or (b) unharmed symbol of Meredith's damaged inner self?
  • Truck guy: (a) squashed like a bug but surrounded by friends, or (b) soon to be rescued by Apparition du Denny Duquette in response to impassioned prayer by Izzie?
  • The new 'do: (a) handsome and youthful, or (b) desperately seeking highlights?
  • McDreamy's hair: (a) damply askew after he leaps into the water, or (b) histrionically raked by fingers as he watches someone else leap into the water?

Talk about whatever you like.

PHYLLOB: The thing we accept as a baseline premise of The Office is that Michael Scott is, at his core, a child who desperately seeks to be the center of attention and believes he's cool enough to deserve it, though he's oblivious to how others see him. The question presented by tonight's wedding episode is whether the writers can take it so far as to be completely unrealistic, distractingly so.

That said, Gratist Bouquet Toss Evir. Also, nice coincidence on your wedding entertainment, given today's blogging -- the best Police & Sting cover band in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre region. Just don't even think of crashing, however.
DON'T F*** WITH ME, SEAN. NOT YOU: Are you an Eagles fan still blaming yourself for the Super Bowl loss? It's not your fault. (I know.) It's not your fault. (I know.) No, listen to me, son. It's not your fault. (I know that.) It's not your fault.
I CAN THINK OF WORSE BETS: For example, he could have agreed to change his name to "Rex Grossman".

AIA150 -- 100 Years of the Gold Medal

THE EMPIRE STATE'S FIRST: The American Institute of Architects in celebration of its 150th anniversary has compiled a list of the 150 Favorite American Buildings based on a survey of 1,800 regular Joes and Janes. The Empire State Building ranks first, followed by The White House, Washington National Cathedral, Jefferson Memorial, and the Golden Gate Bridge. As with any list of this natures, there are some curious picks. For instance, the highest ranking building for Chicago, a city renown for its world famous architecture, is Wrigley Field at No. 31, while the iconic John Hancock Building is nowhere to be found.

Blair Kamin, the Chicago Tribune's Architecture critic has an interesting examination of the list's high (the Vietnam War Memorial at No. 10) and lowlights (The Bellagio at No. 22) and what it all means in the context of what the public likes and what they are supposed to like.
DIDN'T SEE THAT ONE COMING -- WAIT -- OH, YES I DID: Today we mourn the death of Vicki Lynn Hogan, a.k.a. Anna Nicole Smith -- stripper-turned-Playboy model-turned Georges Marciano muse, nonagenarian-schtupper, sufferer of pharmaceutically-induced speech impediments, diet-product pitchwoman, house overstayer, paternity-test evader, consumer of much red lipstick, and superlitigant -- who apparently collapsed and expired in a Florida hotel room. Note to self: dial back the dosage on that Trimspa.

While it lasts, a wag has modified Smith's Wikipedia page with the following entry:
On February 12, 2007, men across the country will wear their zippers at half-mast to honor Ms. Smith's memory.
So to half-mast on Monday, men.
DON'T STICK TO THE STATUS QUO: Shocking exactly no one, while High School Musical 2 will still air on Disney Channel later this year, Haunted High School Musical, the third installment in the High School Musical trilogy, will arrive in theatres in 2008 (I'm betting on October 2008).
IS THIS WORKING FOR YOU? We don't talk enough here about Friday Night Lights, so I'm here to say that even when it's doing things that aren't really working -- beating a racism-in-southern-football-team plot that I think I've seen eleventy jillion times; hoping that we won't notice that Tyra and Jason look about seven years older and twenty years more seasoned than their high school "classmates" -- it's also doing great stuff like making this week's big game the powderpuff game, with Tyra standing in for her hyperaggressive, impulsive ex, Riggs, and Julie playing the role of her own sometimes boyfriend, the self-doubting benchwarmer thrust into the role of uncertain, game-winning QB1. With an added bonus of Landry calling out Riggs and Coach Taylor. And, of course, Britton and Chandler act the hell out of what may be the only non-boring happy marriage on television.
ONE BLOG IS ENOUGH FOR ALL OF US: With the Police scheduled to reunite at Sunday's Grammy Awards for the first time in twenty-plus years, I invited regular commenter Russ, the biggest Police/Sting fan I know, to offer some thoughts on the whole thing:
* * *
Adam asked me if I’d like to write something about The Police in advance of their performance at the Grammys, so here’s what I decided to do: You know The Police – or at least you think you do. You know Sting, and if I get the mood here right, you most likely think he’s a self-righteous sell-out fuddy-duddy. As you know, I still like Sting, but that’s beside the point here. I want to take my 15 minutes of blog fame to present… my “Top 10 Reasons You Should Take Another Look at The Police, Even if You Hate What Sting Has Become,” aka “Top 10 Ways To Surprise Yourself About The Police.” My premise is that you know their big hits, but might be surprised by what else the band has to offer. So, without further ado, the songs and other nuggets I urge y’all to explore (song names followed by the relevant album and the writer)….

10. The Instrumentals: Reggatta De Blanc (Regatta; Sting/Andy/Stewart)/Behind My Camel (Zenyata; Andy). Pop bands are usually known for songs with words, and Sting of course enjoys showing off his eloquence (except where he can display his erudition in other ways, such as playing classical lute), but these two gems show off The Police’s instrumental chops. I especially like the latter, penned by Andy Summers. Sting apparently disagreed: He hated the song so much he refused to play it. Andy and Stewart recorded it, and Andy later overdubbed the bass part. The song subsequently won the Best Rock Instrumental Performance Grammy.

9. The Break-Up Songs: Can't Stand Losing You (Outlandos; Sting)/So Lonely (Outlandos; Sting)/The Bed's Too Big Without You (Regatta; Sting). These three songs show that The Police knew a thing or two about breaking up long before Sting went solo. In just minutes, “Can’t Stand Losing You” runs the gamut from the fazed stupor of realization (“I’ve called you so many times today/And I guess it's all true what your girlfriends say/That you don't ever want to see me again/And your brother’s gonna kill me and he's six feet ten”) to the bottomless pit of despair (“I guess this is our last goodbye/And you don't care so I won't cry/But you'll be sorry when I'm dead/And all this guilt will be on your head/I guess you'd call it suicide/But I'm too full to swallow my pride.”). For better or worse, the band focused on the latter; the single’s cover featured a picture of Stewart hanging himself, and BBC consequently banned the song.

8. Rehumanize Yourself (Ghost; Sting/Stewart). I like this song because it’s fast and fun. I like it because it takes aim at right-wing hooligan thugs. I like it because it effectively summarizes Das Kapital in a matter of minutes. But most of all, I like it because The Police get away with dropping the c-bomb while maintaining their intellectual cred.

7. Secret Journey (Ghost; Sting). I have nothing profound to say about this, and the “all you need is love” message is hardly new. But it’s a fun song, and an early manifestation of Sting’s ongoing fascination with the intersection between romantic love and spiritual grace – a fascination that culminates (for now, at least) in his most recent pop album, “Sacred Love.” Also, when I’m having trouble interpreting the world around me, I often find myself singing “You will see light in the darkness/you will make some sense of this.” Corny but true.

6. Walking in Your Footsteps (Synchronicity; Sting). Who else in 1983 was producing songs about the Darwinian implications of nuclear war? “Hey mighty brontosaurus/Don't you have a message for us/You thought your rule would always last/There were no lessons in your past/You were built three stories high/They say you would not hurt a fly/If we explode the atom bomb/Would they say that we were dumb?” A clear predecessor to the more direct “Russians.” Plus: Panflute!

5. Bring On The Night (Regatta; Sting). There are two versions of this song that I prefer over the Regatta version – the live solo version on Sting’s two-disc set of the same name, and Bim Sherman’s version on Police Reggae tribute album “Regatta Mondatta Vol. 2” – but this song may be the band’s most successful experiment with Reggae, and I just love the bass line. Also, I’m just one of those people for whom the day really begins at dusk.

4. Spirits in the Material World (Ghost; Sting). “Our so-called leaders speak/With words they try to jail ya/They subjugate the meek/But it’s the rhetoric of failure.” Nuff said. Except for this: If you can, get the Synchronicity concert version (from the two-disc “Live!” album). Sting’s derisive grunt after the first line quoted above is sublime.

3. Someone to Talk To (Message in a Box; Andy). I never heard this song until receiving the box set, but it’s now one of my very favorite tracks on the four discs. Another great, perceptive break-up song: “I love you, why didn't I say that before/I guess that it's safe now she's walked through the door…. I didn't see her I only felt me/And one day I'll learn just which part of me bleeds/Now that she's gone I know she was great/But I f***ed it up and now it's too late.” When was the last time you heard a man be so honest about the end of his relationship?

2. No Time This Time (Regatta; Sting). Probably my favorite “Police song that could never be confused with a song from Sting’s solo albums.” Relentlessly frenetic, an angrier precursor to “Synchronicity II,” and a brilliant merging of form and substance. Young Sting (intentionally, I assume) struggles to keep up with the tempo, singing/screaming what might be a modern professional’s anthem: “If I could/I'd slow the whole world down/I'd bring it to its knees/I'd stop it spinning round/But as it is/I'm climbing up an endless wall/No time at all/No time this time.” Google the lyrics; I dare any of the professional parents here not to relate.

1. “Everyone Stares.” Not to be confused with the band’s song “Does Everyone Stare?” This is the Stewart Copeland documentary that occasioned the recent thaw in relations among The Police men and rumors of a reunion tour (apparently, Stewart was tickled that Sting attended a showing at Cannes or Sundance or somewhere, and things took off from there). In short, Copeland gets video camera, takes cool footage chronicling the band’s rise and fall, and sets it against innovative remixes of the band’s songs. There’s not a lot of analysis in here – just fun candid footage and the odd mix of excitement and horror as these guys go from playing small clubs in the UK to topping the charts internationally. Andy’s genuinely strange sense of humor in particular is a real treat. Also, one more (interestingly placed) c-bomb, which might give one pause about Stewart.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say a word about my hopes for the Grammys. Clearly, they need to perform a big hit. This is harder for The Police than for some bands, because if you think about it, their biggest hits mostly address topics like prostitution, pedophilia, stalking, Carl Jung, and the mind-numbing routines of workaday life in the middle class. (Fun!) My “big hit” choice for Sunday would be “Message in a Bottle,” a song that would let The Police be The Police (as opposed to being Sting with more notable back-ups than usual) while pleasing the crowd. If they get to do two songs, the second will probably be another hit (“Every Breath You Take” or “Roxanne” seem likely). But if I had my way, it would be something directed more squarely at the fans. The Synchronicity concert included great versions of “Can’t Stand Losing You” and “So Lonely”; I guess I’m hoping for one of those.

Well, I’ve surely overstayed my welcome. I’d love to chat more in the comments.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

WHAT I'D REALLY LIKE IT TO DO IS TAP ME ON THE SHOULDER INSISTENTLY: Any interest in an alarm clock that jumps off the nightstand and circles around your room until you finally wake up? It's now available.
WE'RE NOT EXACTLY IN PORTLAND: Judging from the comments below, it seems a Lost thread allowing spoilers is needed. Much as I miss our other Lostaways, Josh Holloway has enough charisma to make it work. If the folks at Fox are smart, they'll give him the part of Gambit in the next X-Men flick. (Visually, is there a better choice?)
PLUTO NASH VETERANS FOR TRUTH: While Jeffrey Wells has accelerated his vehement "No Oscar For Eddie!" campaign, one question remains--isn't Murphy doing a pretty good job of it on his own?
WILL YOU STAND UP? While the Edwards campaign dithers, we have no problem standing firmly in support of Marcotte. Yes, there have been some bizarre views expressed -- supporting the Class Action Fairness Act, opposing bills of attainder, advocating a strict construction of the constitutional text and arguing against prior restraints on speech . . . but I brought Matt into this blog knowing there could be some difficulties, and, despite all the haters, we stand behind him 100%.

Seriously, yo? The Hoeffel campaign had me blog on their behalf even after knowing that I had written about the eating of fermented whale meat seven times in 2003. If they could tolerate that, John Edwards can stand behind Amanda Marcotte (no relationship to Matt, mind you) and have her do the job for which she was hired, and is eminently qualified. [/inside baseball rant over]

edited to add: The Edwards bloggers are safe.
DO SOMETHING MANLY ... GULP DOWN SOME MO -- SOME MOTOR OIL, DEFINITELY ... SOMETHING YOU NEVER EXPECT TO GET ...: Hi, I'm Isaac, and I'll be moderating the third panel today in ALOTT5MA's Symposium on Sports and Homosexuality. As Alex mentioned, the "do something manly" Snickers Superbowl commercial will never air again, since the sum of [Americans who find "men kissing" side-splittingly and mouth-wateringly catastropic but are at the same time not repulsed by the depiction of homosexuality] + [Americans whose appetites are not adversely affected by homosexuality but who are commercially aroused by the notion that the horribleness of men kissing is comically awful] apparently = zero. I could have guessed.

That doesn't mean, though, that you should be deprived of the hilarity of the two superbowl teams awkwardly reacting to the commercial. Highlights include:
  • Rex Grossman theorizing that "some people who don't really like football watch the Superbowl for the commercials ... those type of people are really going to like this commercial";
  • Muhsin Muhammad's dead-eyed explanation that "when their lips touched, that's hilarious right there";
  • Marvin Harrison's "mm--mm--mm--mmm," which is so awesome because it sounded like the hungry noise Thelma made when she was trying to get her hooks into Reverend Reuben on "Amen," i.e., not how I think Harrison intended it to sound;
  • Cato June's traumatized recollection that "I thought they were going to stop, you know, at some point -- two men ... that's not right"; and especially
  • Harrison again, looking like he would chew off his own leg to get out of the interview, blurting out that he's a "car guy," stammering that "the end result definitely blew my mind," and then looking away for a split-second like he was choking back tears.
High comedy. By the way, as Spacewoman said, that was the most ill-conceived ad in every respect since the Apprentice contestants did Sex Cucumber. Is there a single person reading this blog who couldn't have come up with a better spot on which to spend $2.5 million?
GUSH OR BORE? Over at the Village Voice's iconic (though not as much as it once was) Pazz & Jop poll they're calling this year's results the equivalent of Florida in 2000 as Bob Dylan's "Modern Times" lost the popular vote to TV on the Radio's "Return to Cookie Mountain" but won the election due the fact that voters are allowed to assign a value to their votes (they pick 10 albums and have 100 points [30 max, 5 min] to assign to each album. I like both albums and can't really argue with the somewhat predictable result. Albums a little further down that I enjoyed more than either include The Decemberist's "The Crane Wife" (13) , Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twin's "Rabbit Fur Coat" (15), Springsteen's "We Shall Overcome" (19), and Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint's "The River in Reverse" (32).

As for the singles, Gnarls Barkley's still sublime "Crazy" rightfully took top honors in a Reaganesque landslide (each vote in the singles category counts as a single vote), topping TI's "What You Know" by 101 votes. Two of my favorite singles of the year did not fare as well: Gwen Stefani's oft-derided "Wind it Up" (113) and Regina Spektor's jaunty "Fidelity" (153).
BOW WOW WOW YIPPEE YO YIPPEE YAY: I don't know what's more disturbing--that there's an agency devoted to helping people train their pets to be actors, or that an advertsiement for said agency appeared beside one of my Gmail messages today.
AND A ROCK FEELS NO PAIN: It's now been a whole season and a half since Lost gave us a real "holy shit" moment -- Make Your Own Kind of Music with Desmond, leading to the careening steadicam shot through the tunnel and backward up the hatch -- but word is that our favorite dysfunctional band of rag-tag hotties comes back strong tonight (go to "Wednesday" in the TV schedule for the preview). Are you excited? Against my better judgment, I'm excited.
MEET YOUR NEW SNICKERS CELEBRITY PITCHMAN: Former NBA center John Amaechi is set to become the first pro basketball player to come out of the closet, making him just the fifth athlete from American male team sports to do so.

When I read about Amaechi's brave announcement tonight, I thought back to an article I ran on Amaechi, who was then playing for the Orlando Magic, back in 2001 when I was at the helm of the late, lamented Basketball Digest. The angle was that not only was Amaechi at the time emerging as one of the better centers in the East (Shaq was in LA, Ewing went to Seattle, Smits retired, and Zo came down with his kidney ailment), but, as the subhead read "Erudite Orlando center John Amaechi relishes his standing as the most unique player in the NBA." In respect to Amaechi's announcement, I found this passage from the 2001 article particularly fascinating:

His biggest pet peeve is stereotypes, which he calls "boxes." He fights the battle every day, trying to make people understand how he feels.

"If you're a ballplayer, you're supposed to have a big, fancy car, not be eloquent, spout cliches, and dress in a certain way," he says. "If you're a reporter, you do certain things, and you 'can't be trusted.' If you're a teacher, you're in a different box. Two people may look the same, but they are never the same."

Amaechi is anything but the stereotype. He listens to Mozart. He lives alone. He doesn't have an entourage. He reads child psychology textbooks. He speaks three languages. He walks through the Orlando locker room before a game looking for some milk to pour into his tea. He has a definitive plan for his life, and basketball is merely a minor part in it.

"I'm a box-buster," he says. "That confuses people. But that's good because it makes them think. I believe I'm special, unique, but it has nothing to do with basketball. Everyone out there is special, whatever they do."

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

IT'S A SHAME ABOUT RAY, AGAIN: I'm still trying to recover from the Bears loss, but didn't want to let this football-related nugget to pass. On Saturday, the 2007 Pro Football Hall of Fame class was announced and noticeably absent, once again, was Ray Guy. Yes, while every full-time position in every other sport is represented in the Halls of Fame, not a single punter is enshrined in Canton. Guy, who was first eligible in 1992, has been a finalist six times, meaning he's been passed over more than a Hebrew slave's door slathered in lamb's blood. Understandably he's growing frustrated. Here's an interesting look behind the scenes of the voting process, which should make everyone appreciate the way the Baseball Hall does its vetting.

Meanwhile, if the halftime show gave you a jones to beef up your Prince collection, this Pop Matters column offers a through rundown of the Purple One's long and winding career from 1978 to 1999 to 3121.

And while everyone seems to agree that this year's Super Bowl ads were less than super, only one was so offensive that it most likely will never be shown again (or at least not until two gay head coaches face off in the big game). Also Cracked has the last word on the ads with hi-larious analysis of the game's five worst commercials.
NEVER GONNA GIVE, GONNA GIVE! Today, February 6, is the birthday of both Rick Astley (41) and Axl Rose (45). Which one's more likely to have a hit again?
I GUESS THE MAYOR OF HOUSTON LIKES THE AUDITION ROUNDS: In the name of all that is pure and beautiful and good, can we please be done with the AI audition rounds already? Yes, yes, so little Ruben with some extra IQ points thrown in was quite good, and the girl with the uncontrollable urge to contort her face is really rather cute when she's not singing, and the stylish girl from the town with many cows sounded kinda nifty, but we've seen all this before. Can we please, please just go to Hollywood already? Please?
SKI BA BOP BA DOP BOP: My nomination for most inexplicable one hit wonder of the 1990s? "Scatman." Top that, if you dare--provide a YouTube link if possible.
WE GOT BOTH KINDS: Last week I pointed you to IGN's Top 25 Punk Records, which one of the commenters wisely noted was actually "the most punk albums by the top 25 punk bands of all time." IGN is back this week with its Top 25 Country Albums, which again spotlights an album or two by 25 different country artists or artists who dabbled in country music. Still, there are some good jumping off points for those with gaps in their classic country collections or even some good entry points for those who are afraid to admit they like country music. There are some big omissions, though, including Uncle Tuepelo/Wilco/Son Volt, Lucinda Williams, Lee Hazlewood, Handsome Family, or Laura Cantrell.
BUT IT'S THE PELVIC THRUST THAT REALLY DRIVES YOU INSANE: Was it wrong that my immediate response to this article's headline was: "So, will this be followed by a step to the right, placing hands on hips, and then bringing the knees in tight?"
A WASTE OF THE TALENTS OF AMERICA'S MOST BELOVED GAY JAPANESE-AMERICAN SENIOR-CITIZEN 1960S SCI-FI ACTOR: Last night Mohinder, Parkman, DL, and (mostly) Boy Wonder and Nathan took the night off, leaving us with a very brisk hour of bonding, tutoring, and stalking, interlaced with a Very Special Episode of stereotypes-wrapped-around-girl-power pabulum ("you have brought shame to our family"/"I have a crazy idea -- my sister can be CEO"?). It left me with a few questions, though:
  • If Peter can now and forever turn invisible, regenerate, paint the future, and presumably fly just because he was in the vicinity of Invisible Guy, Claire, Isaac, and Nathan, can he also turn back time, teleport, read minds, move things telekinetically, and do all of the other things for which Sylar ate brains, just because he has been close to people who can do those things?
  • And while we're on that subject, say that Peter can do those things, and Sylar eats Hiro's brain and gets that power too. Shouldn't they just declare a truce? Every time one or the other got an advantage in a fight, the other would just take a mulligan and start the fight over. That episode will be lame.
  • Heroes are rare, and most people are not open about their powers. So why is it that we're now aware of at least three couplings between the superpowered (Nathan-Claire's mom; Nathan-Niki/Jessica; Niki-DL)? And why don't Ma Petrelli and George Takei have powers (of which we know, I guess)?
  • I thought peoples' powers really started coming out as part of a simultaneous genetic mutation -- like an awakening -- six or eight months ago. Based on the Claire-and-her-mom story, apparently not?
  • This is really a question from last week, but if Claire's mom is Lincoln Burrows's dead wife from Prison Break, then does that make Michael Scofield Claire's uncle? My guess is his superpower is "incredible dumb luck," though Spacewoman would probably vote for "penetrating steely gaze."
  • Speaking of Prison Break, it seems to me that Mrs. Bennet is of the Prison Break school of Housewives of a Certain Age, in that she shares their defining characteristic: a belief that greasy child-molestery-types are totally hottt.
Didn't mean for this to be a Prison Break post, but since it's going there, feel free to hijack the comments.
UNIDENTIFIED FLYING ODDBALL: Just last night, on the train home from work, I was wondering what the next big media-circus inducing criminal proceeding would be. All we really need is an attractive person in a high-profile job doing something untoward.

Looks like Lisa Nowak, NASA astronaut and attempted kidnapper, has solved that problem for us.
THIS ONE'S FOR MY SECOND GRADE TEACHER, MISS LEWIS: According to an article in today's WSJ (sub'n req'd?), you may have been tying your shoelaces wrong this whole time. Ian Fieggen has a better way.

Monday, February 5, 2007

CAN WE JUST AGREE THAT IF KARA SAUN HAD WON, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER FOR EVERYONE? An ungrateful Jay McCarroll disses Tim Gunn, and that's just not good for anyone. (NSFW, because Jay has a potty mouth.)

On the bright side, Tim said today he will be back for season four, and he has news (and advice) regarding Malan Breton, Michael Knight and Jeffrey Sebelia.
THE LATE GREAT JOHN DUCEY '91: The best part of tonight's HIMYM for me wasn't the Sensory Deprivator 5000. It wasn't the five-year-old mafioso. It wasn't the wonderfully unpromoted guest star's appearance. It wasn't the solemn low five. And it wasn't even the prayer to the TiVo gods. The best part was the unexpected appearance of John Ducey in the role of Robin's co-anchor.

Who, you may ask, is John Ducey? Actually, that's not quite right. Who, you will ask, is John Ducey? John Ducey was a couple years ahead of me in college. He was active in theatre stuff in that "I Am Active in Theatre Stuff" kind of way, and following graduation, he headed off to LA to seek his fortune as an actor. And sixteen years later, he continues to seek his fortune as an actor in LA. I know this not because I was friends with the guy, but because about eight years ago, someone referred me to his website, which is just about the greatest chronicle I've ever seen of one man's efforts to make it big. (It's also an amazing display of what a little OCD and an internet connection can accomplish.)

Make sure you check out the timeline. And after you do, you too will be able to shout "Oh My God, that's John Ducey!" the next time he shows up on HIMYM (or Sabrina the Teen Witch or Party of Five or Wheel of Fortune).
MINE EYES! THE GOGGLES DO NUSSING! They've got the #1 single on iTunes, but can anyone explain to me what the big deal with Fall Out Boy? My limited listening suggests they're a cut rate Green Day clone with less politics and more emo, which isn't exactly something that excites me.
IN A RELATED STORY, GREG "SHOCK G" JACOBS IS NOW CLAIMING A LICENSING FEE FOR ALL PUBLIC INCIDENTS OF HUMPTINESS: CNET is reporting that one Richard Silver has taken to sending notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act demanding that allegedly infringing instances of The Electric Slide be removed from YouTube and The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Where credit is due: Slashdot.
PLEASE TURN DISK TO SIDE 2: For those nostalgic to journey the Oregon Trail one more time (old school style!), who want to spend a few moments with Karateka or just want the nostalgia of the good old 5.25" disk, there are few better ways to burn some time than with Virtual Apple.
THE FIRST CUT AND COLOR IS THE DEEPEST: So Budweiser wins the USA Today AdMeter with the crab commercial and that odd Sheryl Crow ad for Revlon takes next-to-last place, making this your thread for any lingering thoughts on XLI. Like: was there a lot of violence in the ads, and why? Could Prince have been more awesome? Is he in trouble for the silhouette thing? And wasn't all the talk about coaches Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith being "classy", which I heard so much late in the game, just as insidious as the Obama/"articulate" thing? How else would you expect them to be?

Or, I guess, we can talk about the game itself.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

#9 BEING "TOO CLOSE" BY NEXT: The AV Club reviews the top 8 songs about sexual mishaps. Number 10 is, of course, the oft-misheard Erasure Depeche Mode hit, "Just Can't Get It Up".
THE SEASON-ENDING BIG THREAD FROM MIAMI: You're watching. If something of note happens, during or between the game action, let people know.
ANOTHER WEEKLY INSTALLMENT: Insofar as I occasionally need to truth-squad the Sunday Styles section, The Wife asked me to look into this graf in today's Vows column:
As their dating progressed, Ms. Wu researched Mr. Nobay online and learned that in 1998 he sued Princeton, unsuccessfully, for defamation after the university notified medical schools he had applied to that his applications contained misrepresentations and altered his academic record. (In court, he admitted misstatements but says he still believes some of what Princeton presented was inaccurate.)
So, she asked, what did he lie about, exactly? According to the AP in 1998:
The graduate, Rommel Nobay, had admitted he told numerous lies and half-truths in applying to Princeton and later to medical school. He claimed that he was part black and a National Merit Scholar and that a family of lepers had donated half their beggings to support his dream. ... Nobay, 30, a computer science teacher from New Haven, admitted that he was not, in fact, a Merit Scholar and that a family of lepers had not helped send him to school. He also acknowledged that he doesn't know whether he has any black blood.
Heh. The Wife reminds me to disclose my conflict of interest here, insofar as I -- lacking sufficient ties to Northeast Philadelphia's leper community -- failed to gain admission to Princeton, and that her favorite lawsuit against Princeton remains the student who got drunk, climbed atop a NJ Transit train, was electrocuted and severely disabled as a result, who then successfully sued both Princeton and the eating clubs for being negligent in not stopping him from getting drunk or telling him it might be a bad idea to climb on top of an electric train.