Saturday, April 28, 2007

THE FROZEN CHOSEN: For sure, Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay has a lot of fans around here. His new book, The Yiddish Policemen's Union, hits stores Tuesday, and he sat down to discuss it with the NYT, including its historical basis in the (abandoned) plan of Interior Secretary Harold Ickes to allow Holocaust refugees to settle in Alaska.

P.S. Looks like the Kavalier movie is off again.
I WONDER WHETHER DOMINIC MONAGHAN LIKES IT: You know how some terrific songs get so overplayed that you cannot bear to listen to them any longer? For me, at least, the hiatus period with "Wonderwall" by Oasis lasted over a decade, but I heard it in the car last week and have been playing it a lot since then. I love the deceptively simple acoustic intro. I love the eloquence of the lyrics. I love the dramatic way the drums and strings kick in just before the word "backbeat" is sung about 45 seconds after the song begins. The piano near the end is haunting. And maybe, I believe that love saved me.

Friday, April 27, 2007

VIEWER MAIL: Reader AngieO writes:
I am hoping you can help. I seriously need book on tape/audiobook suggestions for a long solo road trip. I think your readers seem to like many of the things I like and maybe they would have some good suggestions?
I'M MISSING MY SHOW, THE SEATTLE GRACE SHOW: Since there seems to be demand for it and we haven't had one in a while, here's a post to talk about Grey's. I've found the mopey MerDer plotline a little boring, and, probably because we're about to get a whole lot of her next week, we haven't had nearly enough Addison the past few weeks (or nearly enough Bailey). I did love the moment of nobility we got from McSteamy with Addison (albeit not the weird proposition of Meredith), and the meta with Ava taking the place of the viewer, though. Of course, the Ava/Alex/Addison/McSteamy thread would be far more interesting were it not for the widely leaked spinoff plan, since we pretty much know how this one's turning out.
THERE'S A THING AT THE PLACE WITH THE THING: Two Sorkin-related notes for today:
  • You won't have to wait for DVD to watch the remaining episodes of Studio 60, which NBC will air at least one of, giving it ER's Thursday at 10 slot the day after May sweeps ends. Of course, that's arguably where it should have been in the first place.
  • Sorkin alum Melissa Fitzgerald (aka Carol, CJ's assistant) is apparently contemplating a run for Congress in Pennsylvania. No word on if Jed Bartlet plans to stump for her or if Josh Lyman or Will Bailey will manage her campaign.
NOBODY SAID IT BETTER: Deadlines from hell have kept me much mute the past week, but I couldn't resist sharing this list from the Onion AV Club of 15 Things Kurt Vonnegut Said Better Than Anyone Else Did or Ever Will.

And in honor of No. 1 on the list ("I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.' "), I suggest you download the new single from Feist, "1, 2, 3, 4," (careful, the song starts up as soon as the site loads), perhaps my favorite counting song this side of Tom Robinson's "2-4-6-8 Motorway."
MATLOCK! MAAATTTLLOCK! Who knew Abe Simpson's relative was running for President? Seriously, I half-expected the guy to start explaining how we all needed robot insurance.
MADAME MARIE HAS ALREADY SECURED LOCAL COUNSEL: The City of Philadelphia has decided to enforce an obscure Commonwealth law, 18 Pa. C.S. § 7104, which classified as a misdemeanor any person who "pretends for gain or lucre, to tell fortunes or predict future events, by cards, tokens, the inspection of the head or hands of any person, or by the age of anyone, or by consulting the movements of the heavenly bodies, or in any other manner," etc. (Full text in comments.)

Although, heh, it goes on to include "or publishes by card, circular, sign, newspaper or other means that he can predict future events"? Arrest Brian Tierney.
THAT BASTARD JOHNSON, THAT BASTARD JOHNSON: Jack Valenti, one of LBJ's large pool of pissboys, is dead.
PRAYING FOR THIS MOMENT TO LAST: A brilliant appreciation of Saturday Night Fever, from National Review's John Derbyshire. No, really. Read this.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

THREAT LEVEL MIDNIGHT: It's not good when neither "The Office" nor "30 Rock" are on the top of their game, but especially now that this was the last trip inside Tina Fey's head until autumn. Did both have quotable lines and cute gags? Sure. But did either reach anywhere near the heights they exhibited even a week ago? Sadly, no. Still, go ahead and remind me of the good parts, starting with Jim-Dwight and Dr. Spaceman's new book...
THEY CAN TOUCH THE HEART OF SOMEONE NEW, AND, WHEN ALL HOPE IS GONE, YOU CAN TUNE IN AND TURN THEM ON: The AV Club catalogs the songs which make them cry, a list to which I'll add Melissa Etheridge's live version of "Piece of My Heart" from the 2005 Grammys, about which I've said plenty, and Warren Zevon's "Keep Me In Your Heart".

There are lots of great sad songs, and lots of emotional songs, but very few that can actually draw tears from me. Those are two.
NEXT SEASON, HOUSE AND BONES TEAM UP TO FIGHT CRIME: Fox's sweeps schedule is out, and it's All Idol and House all the time with a little bit of Bones tossed in. There are some substantial House spoilers there, so be wary.

Rosie O�Donnell - The View - TV - New York Times

COMFORTER, PHILOSOPHER AND LIFELONG . . . Now that she's leaving "The View", Rosie O'Donnell may be returning to Broadway as Madame Thenardier in the revival of Les Misérables. Any thoughts on this movie for O'Donnell, and who should replace her on ABC?
BACK TO CRAPHOLE ISLAND: Multilinguists may have rejoiced at last night's Lost, but for those seeking another episode in which the number of answers went up and questions went down, err, no. Does Roe, as modified by Casey, extend to the Island? How, exactly, does one find a good fisherman?

Okay, there's a reason why I'm not the usual recapper, but Kim's on assignment, Isaac hasn't watched it yet and we needed a thread. Go to it.

“A TIMELY PAUSE, A KIND OF A STRATEGIC SILENCE”: The term “caesura” denotes an audible pause that breaks up a line of verse or a musical sequence.

A scene in Eddie and the Cruisers illuminates the concept. During a rehearsal, Eddie (Michael Paré), the lead singer of the band, is having an argument with the bass player Sal (Matthew Laurance) because Sal is playing the song too fast for anyone to be able to understand the meaning of the lyrics. Eddie then seeks the opinion of Frank (Tom Berenger), the most cerebral member of the band (the movie suggests obliquely that Frank is a graduate of Haverford College). Frank agrees that the song needs a caesura, which he defines as “a timely pause, a kind of a strategic silence." Frank then quotes a line from a Rimbaud poem to show what he means: "One night I took beauty in my arms . . . and I thought her bitter. . . and I insulted her." The scene marks the moment when the group transforms itself from a nondescript bar band to a major national artistic success.

My favorite example of a caesura in pop music occurs in the song “Midnight Train to Georgia”. L.A.,” Gladys Knight sings as the song begins. She then pauses. “Proved too much for the man” she continues. In that short pause, you can sense that there is a lot going on under the surface – disappointment, weariness, disillusionment with the promise that California once held for her and her lover, a searing regret that she is trying to surmount. And somehow, at least for me, expressing those feelings through her silence is way more powerful than if she had said so explicitly. Later, during the key line of the song, Knight pauses once more and then draws a sharp breath as she sings “I’d rather live in his world . . . than live without him in mine.” That silence makes you feel how momentous that choice really is.

While overall I enjoyed the film “Little Children”, I thought that the heavy use of the voiceover narration detracted significantly from the film. Had the director Todd Fields simply chosen to let the events speak for themselves, the film might have been vastly more effective. I found this problem especially disappointing because Fields had used silence in such a profound manner in his film “In the Bedroom.”

Among actors, I think Gene Hackman has had an uncanny way of allowing silence (and a seemingly calm facial expression) to convey inner depth. His work in a supporting role in “Another Woman” is especially good in that regard.

Finally, I think one reason that Friday Night Lights has become such an extraordinary television show is that, unlike the vast majority of other shows, it uses caesuras to great effect. Think back to many of the scenes of dialog. Not uncommonly, the scene would give a character a moment or two of silence. Those moments conveyed way more than they might have had the characters filled the empty space. Similarly, the show’s frequent use of musical montage is an effective means of allowing the audience to dwell on the meaning of what has transpired. Although musical montage is obviously not silence, it does break up the dramatic action.

YOU SEE? PEOPLE REALLY ARE WATCHING "THE WIRE": According to the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, nail gun injuries are on the rise.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Baldwin request to quit sitcom rejected - Yahoo! News

WHAT IS YOUR CONTINGENCY PLAN FOR A CRAP STORM OF THIS MAGNITUDE? Alec Baldwin asked NBC's permission to leave "30 Rock" so as not to be a distraction to the cast, and to raise awareness of divorce-related issues. NBC has denied the request, and Baldwin is expected to remain with the show.
IDOL GIVES BACK: Gee, gosh, the "most shocking result" ever? Whatever could that be?

While you're watching (or after), liveblog here, and if you need an antidote to some of the sincerity and Sanjaya, Ricky Gervais' trip to Kenya for Red Nose Day should suffice.

e.t.a.: You know how Fametracker does those audits to determine who a star is as famous as, and who s/he should be as famous as? Shouldn't Annie Lennox be at closer to Celine Dion-level fame and fortune? Her voice tonight was, as always, a gift. Beyond that, I rather liked Carrie Underwood's "I'll Stand By You," Jack Black's performance and the return of Verdine "Sexual Chocolate!" White. All this, and a discussion of the results, in Comments.
MAYBE THEY JUST NEEDED TED MCGINLEY: Drive has been canned in favor of more House reruns. FYI--this adds to a few showkiller tallies:
  • Katie Finneran goes to 4 (Wonderfalls, The Inside, Bram & Alice, recurring on Drive)
  • Kristin Lehman goes to 4 (Century City, Tilt, Killer Instinct, Drive)
  • Taryn Manning goes to 2 (Get Real, Drive)
  • Nathan Fillion goes to 4 (Firefly, recurring on Miss Match and Pasadena, and Drive)
A FROLIC OF OUR OWN: When I first heard that MOMA was staging a Richard Serra retrospective, I thought it would suffer the same fate as Christo, Calder, and architecture exhibitions -- too many drawings, photographs, models, and video, and too little of the real McCoy resulting in a trivialization of the work itself, the representations poorly conveying the scale, heft, and space of the work itself.

Then I heard on the radio today that they're actually bringing Serra's sculptures in. Wow, what a pain in the ass. And in the end, I'm still skeptical that this exhibition can work. I think Serra is the most site-dependent of the sculptors whose work I know (admittedly not a huge pool). Where Calder's works aim to dominate a site and Moore's site-specific works tend to frame or complement it, Serra's pieces are designed to control the site, altering the space itself and the way that users experience it. Tilted Arc bifurcated Federal Plaza, to the dismay of the workers there and to the delight of the litigators. I think I would have liked Tilted Arc, though, just like I loved my first experience with Serra, his Stacks in the old Yale Art Gallery. Stacks in one sense is just two large almost-square welded steel bookends a good 50 or so feet apart in an 80-foot sculpture gallery, but the real focus of the work is the space in between the bookends, which takes on a physical presence -- sort of like a high-pressure ridge -- that dominates the room. It's a piece that can only work in a room exactly that size, with exactly that same orientation, maybe even in exactly that same place.

That's why I'm skeptical of the MOMA exhibit. I don't know how Serra's works can have the same meaning and the same effect transported to a different, neutral gallery that they weren't built to control. If any of the New Yorkers here are going to see this, I'd love to hear how it works.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

SORRY, HUGE EGO: We learned a few things from tonight's trip to Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. We learned that Dr. Wilson is the hardest-working man in, well, bed. We learned that internet porn doesn't download itself, hence the need for Dr. House. We learned that Jane Adams isn't getting enough film work and that Omar Epps hadn't put together his Emmy reel until now. And, of course, we learned that every once in a while, they can still break formula on the show, and it can work really well.

Also, they're selling "Everybody Lies" t-shirts to raise money for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, though the only pop culture hospital shirt I'm wearing these days is this one from St. Mungo's.
WALK ON, WALK ON, WITH HOPE IN YOUR HEART: Liverpudlians rejoice, Jordin Sparks was that good tonight. "Stuff Like That There" good. "Summertime" good. Ruben Studdard "Superstar" good. (Okay, closer to "Superstar"; I'll need to watch it a few more times before it goes to the uber-pantheon level of the first two.) It's going on the list, no question -- she underplayed it and slowed it down early on, even in the first fragile run of the chorus, and then knocked it out of the park towards the end.

In some order, LaKisha, Chris and Phil are the next three to go, then either Blake or Melinda gets to lose to Jordin in the finals. Calling it right now.

What else happened? LaKisha proved she's no Fantasia, just being unable to sell "I Believe" like the original; the three guys were all competent and sincere, with Beatbox Blake the best of the bunch on "Imagine", but no one really shone. (Not that anyone sucked, with such a broad theme.) And Melinda's just really good, but I'm bored by her.

Okay, folks, how good was Jordin Sparks?
IDOL GIVES BACK SPOILERS: Apparently, tonight's Idol was pre-taped, and you get can get spoilers here about who sings what and the judges' reactions, as well as tidbits about Wednesday's potential disaster in the making, which will feature a celebrity choir including Teri Hatcher, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Hugh Grant singing "Stayin' Alive." Discuss the strategry (or lack thereof) in song choices and the appalling fact that the Access Hollywood staffer had never heard Jordin's song choice (an American staple!) before, below.
FOOL-PROOF CONSPIRACIES AND CONSPIRACIES OF FOOLS: Some good goings-down in New York, Vegas, and Odessa on Heroes, and in Los Angeles and Lake Tahoe on The Bachelor: Turbo Style.

On Heroes, while I might quibble with some of the clunky plot devices (if you're going to spend a zillion dollars on a secure underground facility, perhaps you should kick in the extra couple hundred to make sure your ductile iron pipes aren't detatchable in 3-foot lengths? Or are you going with the orbiting space-station-trash-chute model?), there were a couple of things I found pretty cool. Namely, the fact that the worst bad guy in the whole world has that power -- which must frustrate him to no end; the whole idea of a Mama Petrelli-Claire Facts of Life Goes to Paris; and that Sylar more or less painted Nathan (or was it Sylar himself?) into Van Gogh's blue room, an appropriately schizophrenic response to Mendez's Oval Office painting. And while looking for that last image, I found the web site for Linderman's Corinthian Hotel and Casino. I can't quite find the Easter Eggs there -- maybe you have to win in the online games to get access to the secret stuff.

Meanwhile, equally dastardly doings are afoot in the slightly realer world, as The Bachelor's mail-order-bride applicants crank up the whispering campaigns, Andy admits to a visibly disappointed Tina that he is not rich enough to afford the Lamborghini or the yacht (but fails to mention that he is an animatronic puppet stitched together from shoe leather and goat wool and running on an AI program loaded onto an 1990 Amiga cpu), and Tessa confides that she is not the kind of girl to fall ass over teakettle in WE Network Love of a Lifetime in fewer days than it takes to order shoes online, unlike her braying cohorts. Will Doctor Officer Andytron 5000 reward or punish the negative campaigning? Can a normal gal from the People's Republic of San Francisco find love with a machine originally programmed by Rumsfeld Labs? Tune in, I guess.
JUST TO CLARIFY, YOU WANT US TO GO TO THE MALL...TODAY? In honor of last-night's reairing of "Slap Bet," I give you this YouTube video, which mixes Robin Sparkles with clips from the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake. (NSFW.)
HIS SUITCASE AND GUITAR IN HAND: The Library of Congress has decided to give an annual Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, for outstanding lifetime achievement in the field of excellence in songwriting. Its first recipient will be Paul Simon, who will be honored with a tribute concert in late May featuring Marc Anthony, the Dixie Hummingbirds, Art Garfunkel, Philip Glass, Alison Krauss, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Lyle Lovett, James Taylor and Buckwheat Zydeco. The event will be shown in June on PBS.

Obvs, Rhymin' Simon is an eminently worthy selection, and y'all are free, of course, to highlight examples of such excellence in the Comments. My other question, though, is this: who else should win this award over the next decade?

Monday, April 23, 2007

WHITE MEAT. DARK MEAT. ALL WILL BE CARVED: Some of the best parts of Grindhouse are, apparently, the fake trailers, and YouTube delivers -- Eli Roth's "Thanksgiving", Robert Rodriguez's "Machete" and Edgar Wright's trailer is a don't-miss as well. NSFW.
THE RASTUS INVITATIONAL: In wake of the news that the maker of Uncle Ben's has now elevated its longtime spokesperson into the company's fictional CEO, the WaPo's David Segal has compiled a slideshow highlighting America's sad history of racially-stereotyped spokescharacters.

Folks interested in the topic ought to locate the late Marlon Riggs' 1987 documentary Ethnic Notions, a snippet of which is available on YouTube here.
LUCKY THEM: With its 151,000 hotel rooms already full at a 95% occupancy rate every weekend, there was only one thing for Las Vegas to do: keep building.
THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST: In sad news, David Halberstam, chronicler of everything from baseball to the turbulent era of the 1960s has died in an auto accident in California. His work will be missed.

Photo Coverage: The Producers Closing Night (

THE CAST IS GREAT, THE SCRIPT IS SWELL, BUT THIS WE'RE TELLIN' YOU, SIRS; IT'S JUST NO GO, YOU'VE GOT NO SHOW WITHOUT... The Producers, which closed on Broadway last night after six years, including 2,502 performances and a record twelve Tony Awards. Its touring companies will no doubt continue to run for years, and it may well prove to be Nathan Lane's The King and I, always available for him to sign up for a stint on the road when he needs the money, the work or the love.

Having proven he could make more money with a hit than with a flop, Mel Brooks' musical adaptation of Young Frankenstein will open at the same theater this fall. Currently booked are Megan Mullally in the Madeline Kahn role, Sutton Foster in Teri Garr's, and Shuler Hensley as The Monster. Under consideration: Eric McCormack (also of W&G) as Dr. Frankenstein, Roger Bart as Igor, and Andrea Martin as Frau Blücher.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

DEAR VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: The obvious question about this week's Sopranos episode is whether it should have aired at all and, if not, how to work around the obvious problem of an hour that (highlight blank space) deals with a mentally unstable, violently aggressive young Asian man this week, of all weeks. I don't know what you do there, because the plot line couldn't have been edited out, but, oh, dear. Wait a week, maybe?

It was an hour that made one as uncomfortable as the high rocking of the See Vous Play anchored somewhere off the South Florida coast -- another darkly comic take of an empire in its last days. but this week, a bit too uncomfortably dark. Just stick with your own entrée at dinner if you know what's good for you, take your meds, and don't call Hesh unless you really need some help.

(FYI, a reminder as to who Beansie Gaeta is.
KARMA: When is a non-elimination leg an elimination leg? When should you just give up on a cab driver? When will Mirna learn to drive stick? When is the utilization of the Yield savvy race strategy within something that's just a game, people, and when is it the most awful thing you can do to a person short of (as I learned on 60 Minutes tonight) calling him a "snitch"?

Our TARstars answer all, tonight. Yikes, that was a tense ending.
WEEKEND ETYMOLOGY CORNER: Okay, and maybe I'm just forgetting something obvious, but what, exactly, is the source of the phrase just saying, is all? Because at this point, I use it pretty frequently, and I have no idea from whence it came.
THIS COULD RECEIVE A LAMA: I like HIMYM a lot, too, but is it just me, or is the New York Observer going a little far in comparing it to Marcel Proust? (The comparison to sports is a bit less strained, but still a bit odd.) And, as noted, the article's author apparently does not know the difference between the Pogues and the Proclaimers. (The correct answer, of course, is, at minimum, several bottles of whisky.)

Via Lindsayism.