Saturday, May 5, 2007

ONE COW OR ONE WIFE: Sure, the Royal Canadian Navy is no longer the worlds fourth largest blue-water fleet. But at least their coinage is second-to-none. No word if the Federated States of Micronesia are going to stand for this.

Friday, May 4, 2007

SOMETIMES, YOU'VE GOT TO MAKE A GOOD FOLD: Curtis Hanson has a lot of fans around here, and rightly so--the four previous films he's made in the past ten years have all been excellent, and span a wide range of material--the noir drama, the picaresque journey of a writer, the quest of a man from the wrong side of the tracks to find acceptance, and the bonds between family members. Although it's being dumped after much delay, and certainly has its weaknesses, Lucky You, Hanson's poker flick, is well worth seeing. Yes, the romantic subplot is annoying and not entirely credible. Yes, there are not one, but two, sequences of Drew Barrymore singing. Yes, Horatio Sanz is in this movie. And yes, there's something else out this weekend sucking all the air out of the room.

But somehow, in spite of all that, Hanson and co-writer Eric Roth manage to make a movie that's somewhere between Leaving Las Vegas and Ocean's 11 on the Vegas nihilism scandal, and that manages to say something about forgiveness and the bond between fathers and sons. Sure, it doesn't feature spectacular four-way rooftop battles (heck, even with the reshoots and delays, the film's entire budget is probably less than Spidey's final showdown cost), but it's got real emotion, and reminded me in a lot of ways of Jim McManus' Positively Fifth Street (which we can all agree is the definitive book about the WSOP and Vegas, right?), and it gets to you. (There's also a very funny, wholly unbilled cameo from a well-known actor.)
LOREM IPSUM: As the fine folks over at 30 Rock and The Office have learned, the combination of DVD's, HDTV, and TiVo means you can't so much get away with dummy text in things appearing on camera any more. However, Leave It To Beaver can't go back and fix its text.

Via Lindsayism.
SHOCKINGLY, NO CSI: TOLEDO THIS YEAR: Sure, TV upfronts aren't for another few weeks, but based on this report, you can get an idea of what we'll be watching next year, which will likely include new shows from Bryan Fuller (Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls) and David Shore (House), adaptations of The Terminator and Gossip Girl for TV (the latter being run by O.C. mastermind Josh Schwartz), and the return of Peter Krause, Joshua Malina, Michael Vartan, Dylan McDermott, Jimmy Smits, Amber Tamblyn, and Brooke Shields to your TV set.
THINGS I BELIEVE: As a Catholic, I am required to believe in a lot of things that are objectively absurd. As an American, I believe that the United States remains the principal political force for good in this world. As a human being, I believe that it is our destiny to occupy every habitable planet in this galaxy and beyond.

But even as a life-long East Bay resident I do not -- I cannot -- believe that that the Golden State Warriors just beat the Dallas Mavericks.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Popwatch | Blog | Movies | Music | TV: Entertainment Weekly

SHE'S STILL PAINTING HUGE SPOONS BOOKS: Show of hands -- binary choice for you to make in the comments -- I get Björk" or "I just don't get Björk". For what it's worth, I think "It's Oh So Quiet" makes up for a lot of weird stuff, though I have trouble reconciling myself to the fact that we're almost at twenty years since Life's Too Good, the debut Sugarcubes album.
HANGING BRAIN: Now that is my Office at its cringe-worthy best, as everyone learns a little bit more about what it's like to be a woman. Or a suspect. Or still not over Jim.

In other news from Dunder-Mifflin, how would you feel about the show airing at 9pm against Grey's and CSI next season? streching it to an hour every week?

The A.V. Club's Summer Movie Preview Fall DVD Preview 2007 | The A.V. Club

KNOCKED UP, AND EVERYTHING ELSE: The AV Club previews the summer's big movies. As for me, it's the Apatow flick, Potter V, and hope for good reviews of other films.

"I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry" looks particularly egregious to me. You?
HAVING MADE THE WORLD SAFE FOR FAST-TALKING WOMEN, IT'S TIME TO MOVE ON: Not entirely surprisingly, Gilmore Girls will not be back in the fall.

The CW statement, released this morning, promised to "give the series the sendoff it deserves." Given that the final episode will air on May 15 and presumably has been in the can for some time, I'm wondering what kind of appropriate sendoff can be engineered over the course of the next 12 days.

Matt and I will presumably duel for the right to say goodbye to Lorelei, Rory, and the other denizens of Stars Hollow in a more appropriate fashion, but for now, I guess I'll just take that coffee to go. And maybe a pop-tart. And some Mallomars. And, oh, I love the cheese fries, too. The cheese fries are really good.
AND YOU CAN'T EVEN EAT THE POPCORN IF YOU WIN IT: Sure, she may have 15 Oscar nominations, but Meryl Streep racked up her first MTV Movie Award nomination this morning as "Best Villain" for Devil Wears Prada. Among those more nominated than Streep just this year:
  • Columbus Short (aka the Charlie substitute on Studio 60) nominated for Breakthrough Performance and Best Kiss for his work in Stomp The Yard,
  • Streep's co-star Emily Blunt, nominated for Breakthrough Performance and Comedic Performance,
  • Sacha Baron Cohen, nominated for Best Comedic Performance, Best Fight, and Best Kiss
  • Gerard Butler, nominated for Best Performance and Best Fight.

Also, Dreamgirls gets nominations for Beyonce and Hudson in the performance category (alongisde Butler, Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, and Will Smith), but gets snubbed everywhere else, with the best movie nominees being 300, Blades of Glory, Borat, Little Miss Sunshine, and Pirates 2: Even More Pirate-y!

ONE MILLION, FIVE HUNDRED SEVENTY-SIX THOUSAND EIGHT HUNDRED MINUTES; HOW DO YOU MEASURE THREE YEARS IN A BLOG? Three years ago today, we did something smart. Isaac, Phil, Kingsley and I invited Matt and Alex to merge their sites into this one, creating an allegedly temporary and unwieldy blog title that has persisted ever since, though I do like the increased use of "ThingThrowers" to describe our readers.

Our mission remains the same: take the stuff we find fun, say something smart about it, share it with others and learn from whoever else has something interesting to contribute. Oh, and try not to take anything too seriously here. Hopefully, we're succeeding, and I hope you all enjoy coming here as much as we enjoy building this place and reading each other's work content every day, as well as everything our commenters contribute. (And if you're a lurker, become a commenter!)

So thanks to everyone who has made this site what it is, but especially today, thanks to Matt and Alex for signing up to do this thing with people they had never met (and, in Alex's case, still haven't met), and making all this such a joy. Rock on.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

I'M SPECIAL (SPECIAL), SO SPECIAL (SPECIAL): So, Isaac, can we finally declare your grand unified theory of Lost to be incorrect?

Tonight on Lost: Hell is other people, the failsafe was apparently quite powerful indeed, Kate has a big mouth, one should always wear shoes when getting up to pee in the middle of the night, Rousseau wanders in to replenish her supplies, and, as usual, no one ever bothers to ask the important questions in a timely fashion. (One thing at a time, Hurley.)

For the first time this season, I found myself at the end of this episode wondering what the writers have in mind for next year.
THESE FIVE WORDS I SWEAR TO YOU: We all saw it coming. Pretty much everyone here, at some point, could foresee an Idol night like this, so let's discuss the results in the Comments.

In other news, Ruben Studdard still should avoid horizontal stripes.
WE ARE SO EVEN RIGHT NOW: Team Cha Cha Cha talks to AfterElton about CBS's willingness to show "edgy" content, which TARStar they think is a "f**king a**hole," why they like Mirna and Charla, and whether they regret selling a Yield.
LIFE IS ALWAYS A CABARET OLD CHUM: Am I the only one who thinks the whole "this musical closed five minutes ago, guess it's time to revive it" has gotten a little out of hand? This season, we had revivals of Les Mis and A Chorus Line, both of which are apparently such complete clones of the original that they're ineligible for a number of Tonys (direction, design) as a result, and we recently had a revival of Into The Woods less than 15 years after the original production had closed. That Roundabout will be reviving its Cabaret revival next season strikes me as the worst of both worlds. Not only is it a veritable carbon copy of the last production, but that production closed just over 3 years ago. The best revival I think I've seen on Broadway was the Deaf West version of Big River, which took a show and reinvented it, adding texture to it that wasn't there (hell, it arguably made a mediocre show good)--why can't we have more of that (and John Doyle's experimental Sondheim) and less cookie cutter crud.
THE FOLLOWING VIDEO HAS BEEN APPROVED FOR 0.0083 HOURS OF CONTINUING LEGAL EDUCATION CREDIT: This is a video of the first deposition I ever defended. Please try to figure out why it didn't go so well.
EUSTACE TILLY WEEPS: As the New Yorker went 0-for-9 at the National Magazine Awards and was shut out for the first time this century; however, in a decision somewhere between highbrow and lowbrow, brilliant and despicable, New York Magazine picked up five of the seven awards for which it was nominated. Vanity Fair, having stolen William Langewiesche from The Atlantic, took awards for both his and Christopher Hitchens' work.

Thankfully, many of the winning pieces are collected online.
MAHVELOUS? The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has decided to award the 10th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor -- a sort of lifetime achievement award for comedy -- to Billy Crystal of all people.

Other past winners include Richard Pryor, Carl Reiner, Jonathan Winters, Whoopi Goldberg, Bob Newhart, Lily Tomlin, Lorne Michaels, Steve Martin and Neil Simon. Such a list, I'll note, does not yet include George Carlin, Bill Cosby, David Letterman, Norman Lear, Eddie Murphy, Woody Allen, or Carol Burnett.

But they all can wait until after Crystal's honors, apparently. I hate when that happens.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

YES, I KNOW, BUT I WROTE THE "NO POLITICS ON THIS BLOG" RULE, AND THIS IS AN EXCEPTION, SOMEHOW: Okay, gang, here's the early heads-up because I know some will be interested: I've been involved in putting together a big rally for Barack Obama that's going to take place on Tuesday, May 22 at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia. Tickets start a shockingly low $25 for students, $50 for the rest of us, and I'll point you to this post on Young Philly Politics for the rest of the details.

Token effort at a germane hook: preceding this event at the Factory? Elvis Costello. Three days later? Insane Clown Posse.

e.t.a. actual pop culture hook: Battle of the theme songs! "Open Letter to Obama", by Chinese-American rapper Jin, vs. the old-school Bud Billiken Day theme from 2004.
LIVIN' ON (NOTHING BUT) A PRAYER: I admit to having been skeptical when I heard that it was Bon Jovi night on AI. Who knew that with but a single painful exception -- and oh man was that exception painful -- it would end up being one of the best nights of the season? Loved JBJ as a mentor -- I'd forgotten how thoughtful, intelligent, and flat-out nice he seems to be.

Usually I am in solid agreement with Simon's comments, but tonight I have a bone to pick: you go ahead and find me the 50% of audience that you think hated Blake's "You Give Love a Bad Name." Seriously, go find them. I'm going to make a pronouncement here, and feel free to disagree: Blake may not be the most talented singer ever to appear on American Idol, but he is by far the most talented musician they've ever had. (And I totally dig the brown hair, too.)

I didn't watch last week's telethon closely enough to have a view as to how the votes from last week should shake out, although I suspect that the person who should go home for this week's abysmal outing will find a few lucky stars to thank that this is a combination week. Truthfully, though, there aren't two people who deserve to go home based on this week's performances.

Further note to judges: if you people do not make Melinda Doolittle sing "Proud Mary" on judges' choice night, you should all be fired.
ALSO, THE VOICE OF THE CAPITAL CITY GOOFBALL: Legendary "second banana" actor Tom Poston -- of The Steve Allen Show, Mork and Mindy and most memorably Newhart, among other shows -- has passed away from a brief illness. Poston, a decorated WWII veteran of hthe Army Air Corps, was 85.
I'LL BE YOUR BEST FRIEND. HOW 'BOUT I GIVE YOU FIVE BUCKS? WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? IT'S JUST A BUS. PLEASE? I'LL BET YOUR MOM WOULD LET ME : Kim did the reading-recommendations post a week or so ago, but my rant about book sizes seems to have sparked a kids'-book recommendation threadjacking. As the thread makes clear, the kids have kids that love Mo Willems, author of the delightful Pigeon series, the new Piggie and Elephant early-reader series, and great little one-offs like Knuffle Bunny, Edwina: The Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct, Leonardo the Terrible Monster, and Time to Pee, a primer for the newly continent. May I also suggest, in the picture book categories, Leslie Patricelli's vibrantly-colored Yummy, Yucky, Quiet/Loud, and Big/Little, and Rob Scotton's beautifully-oiled Russell the Sheep? Though, for my money, there still are no more clever children's books than the Winnie-the-Pooh series.

What's in your low-rise bookshelf?
ANDY MAKES HIS BED, PREPARES TO LIE IN IT: Ladies and gentlemen, your Bachelor semifinalists (highlight for the spoiler): Trashy Lying Kindergarten-Teacher Truant; Dead Boyfriend Lady (tm Sports Gal); Princess Doesn't Like Andy; and Limping Crybaby Divorce-Concealer.
PLEASED TO APPRECIATE ME: As this site's top Replacements booster, it is my sworn duty to point you to this list from Rolling Stone of the 25 Most Underappreciated Artists, where you will find The Mats prominently placing behind the criminally under appreciated Tom Waits (I guess we are talking mainstream appreciation, since at his show last summer I didn't see an empty seat and I could have scalped my seats easily for 3x face value).

And if you would stop to appreciate a little Tom Waits, you would realize that "Jersey Girl" is his and not Bruce Springsteen's song, a fact that you will find on this list of Songs You Didn't Know Were Covers. (I was surprised about "Bette Davis Eyes" and "Mickey.")

Links via Pop Candy.
THEN AGAIN, IN MY FANTASY WORLD DVORAK DEFEATS QWERTY: I spent a good part of the last few days putting books in boxes, so I have to ask the question that bugs me every few years: why in the world don't we have industry-wide standardized book sizes? I mean, you don't usually think of people in the publishing industry as the dumbest f---ing people in the whole world, but come on. I realize that there are six or ten normal paperback literature sizes and that there may occasionally be good reasons to have an unusually-shaped book, but what is the excuse for not otherwise rigorously defining and sticking to 14 standard sizes -- art book; textbook/dictionary; academic work; highbrow mass market ; lowbrow mass market; large children's book; small children's book, all in hard- and soft-cover sizes? Does the industry really get anything out of letting some book designer say "sure, an extra inch of width will totally screw up Spaceman's ability to pack this thing, but isn't that a small price to pay so that Spaceboy can feel like he's right there when the pigeon eats the hot dog?"

In sum, go f--- yourselves, book designers.
MOST UNREALISTIC POWER: MOHINDER'S NEWFOUND ABILITY TO GROW A PAIR: To me, Heroes has always been a guilty pleasure. Not as guilty as, say, South of Nowhere, but maybe halfway there. It basically was a fast-paced dumb little adventure featuring characters whose only complications were external -- superficial, emphasis on the super. It was not just a comic book; it was a particular kind of comic book, from the Golden Age of comic books, when you could tell the good guys from the bad guys by the attitude in their silly catch-phrases.

Well, our dumb little dreamy kid comic wants to grow up quick. You play a dangerous game when you stop dancing around your September 11 allusions and start openly appropriating the iconography of that day, unraveling your unambitious little shaggy-dog story and re-weaving it into a political ghost story. I suppose at some point under Hollywood darling Frank Miller's pen Daredevil's Kingpin stopped being a generic rackets-boss and started superintending the angel dust trade, and Batman aged from a barrel-chested deputy to a feral vigilante, so this isn't a suprise.

To do this right, Heroes can't just mature the action -- it has to give the characters some heft, some admixture of good and evil that reminds us that the consequences the characters suffer stem from choices rationally made, whether correctly or incorrectly. This episode, while maybe cheating, was a good start, showing us characters that have been good doing bad things for understandable reasons. I really hope this works, because the show could go from being okay to being really good, but it also could completely blow up. You know, like Peter.

Monday, April 30, 2007

REEFER MADNESS FOR A NEW GENERATION: From the same mindset which brought us Lifetime's Cyber Seduction: His Secret Life (which attempted to demonstrate the dangers of online pornography without actually showing any nudity, or hinting that its viewing might lead to Onan's transgression) comes the Ad Council's new anti-MySpace PSA, Everyone Knows Your Name.

As a friend pointed out to me, the ad basically tells teenage girls that whatever happens to them online is their own fault, placing no responsibility on all the boys and men around them to not be jerks. Instead of telling women "think before you post," why not have an ad campaign that tells guys not to be assholes? There must be better ways to heighten awareness of online privacy issues than this.

e.t.a.: Okay, Lindsay said it online herself, and better than I just did.
THAT FELT GREAT. THAT FELT SO GREAT. AND IT FELT SO . . . LOUD: Ten years ago tonight, ABC aired the historic "Puppy Episode" of Ellen in which Ellen DeGeneres' character came out of the closet (transcript here), and so this feels like a good moment to note how far the culture has come in terms of portrayals of gay characters on tv, even if we may still have a bit to go in terms of actors and actresses feeling free to say that yes, they are gay.

Television has come a long way since only having Sad Matt on Melrose Place as a representative of gay and lesbian Americans, and much of the credit IMHO goes to reality tv. Between Tim Gunn, Pedro Zamora, and Richard Hatch, from Oswald and Danny to Reichen and Chip to Team Guido to the Queer Eye guys, the gay male experience has been well-represented. Not so much for lesbians on reality tv -- except, of course, for Rosie O'Donnell and Ellen DeGeneres remaining among the most popular hosts on late-night daytime tv.

Scripted tv, not so much. For every stereotype like Lloyd on Entourage, Jack on Will & Grace or Stanford and Anthony on Sex and the City, there aren't enough Willow Rosenbergs and Omar Littles and Davids and Keiths from Six Feet Under to balance them off. Eventually, Dr. Kerry Weaver just got to be happy but, man, was she a walking (assisted) stereotype for a long damn time. Yes, there's The L Word and Queer As Folk, but I don't get the sense that many straight folk like me actually watch them.

How would you grade tv's efforts over the past decade?

Popwatch | Blog | Movies | Music | TV: Entertainment Weekly

THE NINA! THE PINTA! THE SANTA MARIA! Okay, so I may not be as excited about this past week's Rage Against The Machine reunion as EW's Whitney Pastorek was...
And then we waited, and waited, and waited... and then the lights went out, and I screamed, and Tom Morello’s magical mystery guitar kicked into the first strafing, chilling notes of “Testify.” And from that point on, I saw very little outside of my tunnel vision to the far-off stage where, for about an hour and a half, Rage Against the Machine was finally playing a concert, one I was at. Yes, it’s true, PopWatchers: I’d never seen Rage before tonight. It’s a long story, involving symphony musician parents, abject poverty, bad timing, crabby siblings, and Mike D from the Beastie Boys falling off his bike, and I’ll spare you the details (for once). Suffice it to say that this was a very, very special experience for me, one which I enjoyed thoroughly, much to the amusement of those around me. (One of the guys we were sharing a picnic table with turned to me mid-show and said, “You seemed so mild-mannered before.” Yeah, not so much.)

... Then a short break, and a two-song encore of “Freedom” and, inevitably, “Killing in the Name,” an event whose power I cannot put into words. It was perfect. Except for the fact that, in general, everything was about 200 times quieter than I thought it needed to be. If my ears aren’t bleeding, it’s not loud enough. So who turned the speakers down? Respect for the neighbors ... or government conspiracy? Don’t be fooled into thinking the latter isn’t possible. WAKE UUUUUP! WAKE UUUUUP!! Oh, wait. There I go again. Sorry ...

...but that's not to say I'm indifferent.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

ALL THAT ENTRAILS: If last week's Sopranos episode came too close to the Virginia Tech tragedy (for me, but not most), this week's hour instead more closely tracked Leslie Bennetts' much-buzzed new book The Feminine Mistake, about the need for married women to keep working and maintain their own financial security apart from the husbands' income. From Carmella to Marie to Blanca to Dr. Melfi, the women this week all had to deal with the question of whether and how to chart their own lives apart from the Soprano family.

Meanwhile, I have an obvious soft spot for actor Jerry Adler, who plays Hesh Rabkin, but man did he bring it this week. Tony's going downhill, which is bad, but the Muslims are back, which is good (I think) (for the show). And the Ojibwe are back, which is awesome.

e.t.a.: Alan has more, including an explanation of that Twilight Zone allusion, as he observes: "All I knows is that it feels like the giant piano Carmela talked about isn't just hanging over Tony's head, but everyone's."
THE TELETUBBIES GO TO WAR: From a production and construction standpoint, the penultimate leg of TARstars in Guam was everything you'd want it to be -- a unique and well-designed roadblock and detour each relying on mental acuity and attention to detail rather than physical speed or strength, a decent but not overwhelming amount of driving/navigation issues, and almost a complete absence of racers complaining about each other's morality.
Pure, fun racing with four teams that stayed fairly likable across the episode, and there's not much more for which you could ask. Except . . .
BECAUSE ONE OF THE DAD-BLOGGERS HERE HAS THE MATURITY OF A TWELVE-YEAR OLD: I'm posting this on behalf of one of us here, so that we each have plausible deniability, but as the story was related to me one of our bloggers was at a little league/tee-ball practice this weekend, where the blogger's child wound up throwing the ball near one of the mothers attending the game. Upon reaching the woman to retrieve the errant ball, she remarked to Our Anonymous Blogger, "I just seem to be a magnet for balls."

Is there, he asks, any appropriate response to this line?
ALSO, WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH AIRLINE FOOD? Something I always notice when travelling then promptly forget--why don't more hotels have overhead lighting on a switch in the main part of their rooms? Frequently, there'll be a small overhead light near the entry door, and you then have to wend your way to a lamp on the other side of the room to light the main area. This was particularly annoying last night at my hotel here in Chicago, as the lamps would not turn on, because they were (without explanation or indication) linked to a second switch in the foyer. Now, if that switch had been marked and the lamps set to turn on when the switch was flipped? I'd be a happy man. But in a hotel that advertises itself as one of the world's 700 greatest, shouldn't it be easier to get to the desk without stubbing your toe?

(Also, is there a city with a worse convention center setup than Chicago? Sure, the space is gorgeous, but there's absolutely no good way to get there from most hotels or the downtown area.)