Saturday, July 14, 2007

IT TOOK THE UNITED STATES UNTIL 1988 TO BAN THE SALE OF LAWN DARTS: And, maybe, the javelin is next to go.
ON THE WHOLE, I'D RATHER BE IN PHILADELPHIA: This morning in my hotel room in Philly, I was surfing through channels and was struck by two things:
  • I happened on Dracula 2000, which wouldn't have caught my interest except for that when I turned to it, it was in the midst of a sequence where first Omar Epps and then Christopher Plummer are brutally beaten by Dracula (who apparently has developed bullet-time powers). This is followed by a ludicrous spectacle involving Jeri Ryan threatening another woman, but I was too distracted by Ryan's fake fangs.
  • ESPN Classic was airing a pair of episodes of American Gladiators, and I found myself rather inexplicably transfixed. Of course, the show makes no sense--are we supposed to be rooting for the "everyman" contenders, or "Your American Gladiators?" But the spectacle that is Atlasphere cannot be denied.

Also, I briefly wandered into a toy store, which rather inexplicably (and in poor taste) had a substantial selection of Chris Benoit action figures on display--it was clearly an act of obliviousness rather than active bad taste, but still, gave me the willies.

FOR US I SEE IMMORTALITY IN PHILADELPHIA CITY: Last night was great -- myself and Matt, Kim and Mr. Cosmopolitan [have we ever established his online name, because "Mr. Cosmopolitan" is kinda cool], Phil and Philomena Throckmorton, and commenters Jeff Martin and "Looking Italian" had a pretty great time with the sing-a-long 1776 musical and afterparty at Lucy's Hat Shop. Wherever we do something like this again, you should come -- it's good to put faces to names.

A few words on the sing-a-long 1776 itself -- they've got the bones of a great experience there, but it needs some work. For starters, parts of the film are just way too boring for the kids in the audience -- the Broadway-record twenty minutes of no-singing between "The Lees of Old Virginia" and "But Mr. Adams," plus the absolutely show-killing "Molasses To Rum" and John & Abigail Adams duets. But other aspects were great -- animal sounds, shouts of "Huzzah!" and all the new calendar dates, snoring loudly when Franklin slept, etc.

So what they ought to do is divide it into "family" and "grownup" performances. For the kids, edit out all the boring stuff from the DVD, use the narrator/host to explain what you're skipping, and add more (and less tacky) props for the kids -- something better than a plastic made-in-China 50-star flag, for example. And you can bring it down to and hour-and-a-half, easy.

And then the grownups can have their fun separately, and with this, we had some ideas:
  • Whenever Josiah Bartlett of New Hampshire does anything, shout "What's next?"
  • For Delaware's ailing Caesar Romney, "Hail Caesar!"
  • For William Daniels as John Adams, do you go with Mr. Feeney or K.I.T.T. references?
  • For each of Ken Howard's entrances as Thomas Jefferson, "Shadow!" would be appropriate. Either that or "Dump Sydelle!"
  • Also, with the kids gone, there's more you can do with Jefferson's "lust" issues.
  • That said, we're probably the only group that had people snapping to honor Edmund Burke's being quoted.
Anyway, we had a great time. What's next?

Friday, July 13, 2007

THE WSOP REMINDS PLAYERS TO DISABLE THEIR CELL PHONES, PDAS, AND SPIDER SENSE: It's that time of year again where I remember that I forgot about the start of the World Series of Poker. Day 4 is in progress, and as usual Pauly at Tao of Poker is there with the fringe-insiderish scoop. Kind of hard at this point to see who the chip leaders are, but a quick look at Poker News confirms that there are were at least a few celebrities in action today, including Tobey Maguire (television's Seabiscuit), heroin-aggrandizer Sully Erna (lead singer for Godsmack), and Simpsons producer Sam Simon, who got outflopped early in Day 4 action. Potential but unlikely celebrities include geologic-temperature-unknown Steve Austin and decent NFL linebacker Chad Brown.
HE, APPARENTLY, CAN HANDLE THE TRUTH: It appears that the pile of "upcoming Spielberg projects" has yet another member to go alongside the Liam Neeson-fronted adaptation of Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals, his first Tintin movie, and something that sounds a whole lot like Sliders. This one's of particular interest, since it's apparently an Aaron Sorkin-penned script about the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention. One of the oddities of Spielberg's career is that when he works back-to-back, he often generates two stronger films than when he takes time off (Jurassic Park/Schindler's List, Minority Report/Catch Me If You Can, War of the Worlds/Munich). So, who plays Abbie Hoffman?
SEE THIS SYSTEM HERE? THIS IS HI-FI, HIGH FIDELITY. WHAT THAT MEANS IS THAT IT'S THE HIGHEST QUALITY FIDELITY: In recognition of today's release of the exceedingly well-reviewed Petey Greene biopic Talk To Me (Carrie Rickey, Tony Scott, Roger Ebert), it's time to say something nice about its star, Don Cheadle, who assuredly is not as famous as he deserves to be.

I don't know that the man's ever given a bad performance, though if I had to pick a favorite it's either Maurice "Snoopy" Miller in Out of Sight, as Sammy Davis Jr. in HBO's Rat Pack biopic or as Mouse in Devil in a Blue Dress, i.e. "the one where everyone noticed him for the first time." (Okay, I haven't seen Hotel Rwanda yet, which makes me both a bad moviegoer and a bad citizen of the world, nor have I read his book on the genocide in Darfur, but his continuing activism on genocide in Africa deserves to be recognized as well.)

(Also, try to watch this duet with Adam Sandler without cracking up.)

I just like Don Cheadle, and I am happy to see him get more leading roles. You?
GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT: Two weeks into the great Oakland garbage strike -- in which the two sides appear to be advised by, respectively, a North-Going Zax and a South-Going Zax -- Waste Management still is running about the worst PR campaign I've ever seen. For two straight days, they've publicly announced that they're making all the scheduled pickups. Maybe if they say it one more time, I won't even see the can full of smelly diapers that's been sitting in front of my house through two straight garbage days now, surrounded by an expanding ring of loose bags, or as I like to call them, feral cat magnets. I might actually have been predisposed to favor WM in this dispute, but lying about having fixed my problem isn't exactly making it easy.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

THAT WOULD BE "DA BUTT:" Having come to the end of Round 1 of the 2007 World Series of Pop Culture, it's time for a thread. Who are your favorites (aside from the brilliance that is Pat Kiernan's deadpan)? Who do you loathe? I'll take Team Motherboy, and am generally annoyed by Twisted Mister, who seem like exactly the East Village NYU kids who are hyper-annoying, but the limited stuff we got from the fine Carlton Banks Dance Academy team made them seem like good folks as well. And of course, who ya got for the win?

YouTube - No Cookie

BUT WHAT IF I'M HUNGRY? One of the nice things about Office reruns is that one doesn't always remember which episodes contain which sequences -- for example, tonight's "Michael's Birthday" episode, which features Ryan's greatest reaction shot.
THIS IS A REVOLUTION, DAMN IT! WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO OFFEND SOMEBODY: One last reminder that tomorrow night -- Friday, July 13 -- y'all are invited to join us at the Independence Living History Center at 3rd and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia for the 7pm sing-a-long performance of the film 1776 and after-party. Tickets are available for pre-order via this link.

I'll be there, as will Matt, Kim, Phil and apparently a bunch of y'all. We'll figure out where we're going afterwards, afterwards. If you don't know what any of us look like, um, guess? (Or Google.) This'll be fun.
THE BADGER'S YOUR FRIEND. MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE BADGER: Because it's hard to resist any news story with Sci-Fi Channel Original Movie potential, today we bring you the BBC's reluctant reportage on the Man Eating Badgers of Basra:
UK military spokesman Major Mike Shearer said: "We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area."
Oh yeah. Denials just don't get much better than that.

And the working title? Badgermania? Lycanthrobadger? Lycanthrobadger II: Burrow of Blood?? For the love of Pete, somebody get Treat Williams' agent on the phone!
JUST SIT RIGHT BACK AND YOU'LL HEAR A TALE: Our good friend Alan Sepinwall has a column today which starts off being about TV theme songs. He notes that while he loathes Psych, he finds the theme song so irrestistibly catchy that he finds himself sitting through the whole episode off the residual goodwill. I actually kind of like Psych, in no small part because pretty much every character on the show finds Shawn almost as annoying as the audience does, but completely agree with him on the theme song which is ridiculously catchy and appropriate to the series concept ("I know/that you know/that I'm not telling the truth"). The only other ones that I can remember grabbing me as much in recent memory are short-lived WB series Related, with a catchy power-pop hook similar to Psych's, and Everwood, which is almost the model of an orchestral theme, though primarily driven by piano and violin. There any theme song that works like that for you?
A SILENT SCREAM THEY CAN HEAR IN TOKYO: Complete thoughts coming at some point, but for now, here's your open SYTYCD thread. Some things I love: Adam Shenkman. Wade Robson. Tyce Diorio in a hoodie. Judges being really careful NOT to slam Cedric. The Hairspray dancers gathering on Wednesday nights to watch and critique.

Tonight's results are going to come down to the solos in a pretty serious way -- there's no girl who really deserves to be sent home based on last night's performances. And if Cedric doesn't make the bottom three, I think Kameron is toast unless Lacey keeps him safe.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

IT'S LIKE DANTE'S PEAK VS. VOLCANO ALL OVER AGAIN: OK, we've all had a chance to watch NBC's Singing Bee and Fox's Don't Forget the Lyrics. Which do you like better? And really, can you get enough of ordinary people singing "Joy to the World"?
IRON CHEF -- BATTLE CLAM: Jen, Lucy and a family crew dug out and delivered to me cooler's worth of Eastham steamers and quahogs on Saturday afternoon, finally giving me the opportunity I've sought since January to prepare Ilan's Fideos with Clams and Saffron from season two, which I prepared along with a forgettable chowder (used too much clam broth, so it remained watery) and an admittedly kickass Potato, Bacon and Clam Flatbread (with Boboli as the shortcut crust.)

But those Fideos. It eventually came out really well, but do not follow that recipe. The problem is step five -- it's impossible to fit a pound of dry (and toasted) pasta in a medium skillet along with a pound of clams and have both the pasta cook and the clams steam and open -- littlenecks maybe, but not these larger clams. It's a mess, and it really impaired my ability to get those clams steamed sufficiently. Next time, I'll just (par?)boil the capellini separately while preparing the clams, then combine them with the saffron-cream sauce in a casserole dish and complete it in the oven. Let me know if you try it.
WELCOME TO THE DESSERT OF THE REAL: Most Top Chef III contestants appeared vaguely exasperated by the Sapphire Spokesologist during this week's Quickfire Challenge. Could arbitrary criticism, product flogging, have interfered with their appreciation of the subtle botanicals? In any case, he’s not the most irritating guy currently pushing gin on people. (Can you believe that has lasted two years?!)

Then, four teams of three, three dishes in each course, and a panel of elite diners in wacky semi-masonic scarves. Sadly, there was no pre- or post-prandial sing along, and the big question remained unanswered: what do they give each other the little medals for? (The scarves are here, actually, and the merit badges are on this page.) Anyway, tonight, Shrimp > Beef > Fish > Fruit.

Lessons from this week? Do what you do well, even if it’s not dessert. Taste your teammates’ food before it leaves the kitchen. And the big take away quote: “If you don’t know the basics, you can’t improvise.”

Also, what kind of edit is Casey getting here? I feel like I was just invited to hate her.
SOMEWHERE, DONALD KAUFMAN IS CELEBRATING: A ghost orchid has been located in the Florida swamp (and not by John Laroche).
YES, BUT WILL I WEAR A PIG ON MY HEAD? I just found out (and tickets went on sale weeks ago, d'oh!) -- the seldom-touring Laurie Berkner will be performing at Philadelphia's Kimmel Center, Saturday, September 8 at 11am. We snatched three seats on the second tier; lower seats may be available for groups of other sizes. Only other upcoming concert is in Bushkill, PA in August.

A certain porton of this site's readers have already clicked away to grab tickets.
NO MACKIN' ON CUPCAKES: In a blow to Sex And The City and Lazy Sunday fans everywhere, the NYC Department of Health has shut down the Magnolia Bakery, apparently because of a lack of functioning sinks.
OZZIE SMITH WAS A DISTANT SIXTH: In a poll of 3,000 Brits, Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings trilogy easily beat out the Harry Potter series' Dumbledore as the all-time favorite movie wizard. Harry Potter himself finished third, followed by Merlin, and the charlatan from Oz. (Note Ozzie Smith appeared as himself in the 1994 Albert Brooks "comedy" The Scout.)
IF THERE'S A HITG HEAVEN...: Prolific is hardly the word to describe character actor Charles Lane's career. Lane, who had more than 250 film and TV credits to his name, died Monday at the age of 102. His face will be familiar to anyone who's watched a rerun of a '60s sitcom, but I prefer to remember him for his brief appearance in It's a Wonderful Life as Mr. Potter's rent collector ("Like I said, it's no skin off my nose"). One more interesting tidbit, Lane was a survivor of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
THE TOWN WHERE NO ONE LOVES A GOOD JAZZ SQUARE: As part of the ongoing quest to extract every ounce of mileage from the phenomenon that is High School Musical, HSM auteur Kenny Ortega will be directing a musical-remake-of-sorts of the classic 1984 film Footloose (which, incidentally, provided pretty much the whole soundtrack for my bat mitzvah), starring HSM tweenie heartthrob Zac Efron as the city boy who taught an entire small town to dance.

It's not clear whether the music will come from the Broadway version of Footloose, or whether Zac will be doing his best Kenny Loggins impersonation, or -- most likely? -- whether the HSM scribes will churn out some new toe-tappy tunes specially for the occasion. (Although they could probably drop "Stick to the Status Quo" right into the middle of Footloose, at a nice non-denominational revival meeting somewhere.)

I'm reserving judgement on Efron as Ren until I see Hairspray, although my initial impulse is that he's missing a little bit of appropriate edginess for the role. But here's the more pressing question: how quickly do we expect Ashley Tinsdale to sign on for the Lori Singer role? The over/under is currently set at 3 days.
IF THAT JOE MORGAN/DUSTY BAKER/CHRIS BERMAN HOME RUN DERBY NEWS WASN'T WORLD-DESTROYING ENOUGH: While he did decline an audition to host The Price Is Right, Dan Patrick is indeed leaving ESPN. So, other than the bald brotherhood at 5:30pm, who's left there that you like?
THE DISCOVERY AND DEFENSE OF THE NEW: Three more Ratatouille links of interest: the NYT's Frank Bruni on the role of the restaurant critic; Reverse Shot's Robbie Freeling on the throwback nature of the film, and our friend Carrie Rickey is just absolutely right on this:
And am I crazy to read the subtext of Ratatouille as Pixar -- the rats in the house that Mickey Mouse built -- reaffirming the true mission of Walt Disney as Remy the rat reaffirms the values of chef Gusteau?
Indeed, the real-world equivalent of Chef Gusteau's frozen burritos -- Disney's profitable-but-crappy direct-to-DVD sequel program -- has been scrapped under the new Pixar regime. The rats have won.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

NOT ALL THE STARS: Seriously, would it be that hard to add a "Commissioner's Selection" to the American and National League rosters to honor stars at the end of their careers? Craig Biggio should have been out there tonight, and either Frank Thomas or Sammy Sosa for the Junior Circuit as well. They've earned it, and deserve it.

If anything interesting happens tonight, this thread is open.

Inventory: 12 Famous Living Recluses | The A.V. Club

GOT MORE STORIES THAN J.D.'S GOT SALINGERS: The AV Club lists 12 famous living recluses.
LET'S GO PANTHERS! It's worth noting that not only does Friday Night Lights: Season 1 have a street date of August 28, but it's also available on Amazon for pre-order at $19.99 (half the price you'll pay for most seasons of network TV), and worth every penny of that. No word on special features, commentaries, or similar, but I'd pay that for even a barebones set. Smart decision by NBC to go with the relatively cheap pricing, as (hopefully), it'll allow folks who missed the first season to catch up. Take the time to do so if you haven't.
KANSAS CITY SHUFFLE: Honestly, the legal holdings in Central Mfg. Corp. v. Brett Bros. are completely bland, wholly expected, and well-deserved (plaintiff is a well-known vexatious litigant), but the opening few pages, which include a summary of George Brett's career, the "pine tar" incident, and a contrast between metal and wooden bats, is reminiscent of Flood v. Kuhn and worth a few moments of your time.

Monday, July 9, 2007

NICEST KIDS IN TOWN: So I went with Carrie to see a preview of Hairspray tonight, and I am pleased to report that director/choreographer Adam Shankman has pulled off a fairly faithful and completely enjoyable film adaptation of Marc Shaiman's musical adaptation of John Waters' 1988 film. Nikki Blonsky is absolutely adorable and pitch-perfect in the demanding lead role as Tracy Turnblad, Amanda Bynes is a charming Penny Pingleton, Queen Latifah is as good as Motormouth Maybelle as you'd expect, Christopher Walken is a dapper Wilbur Turnblad, and John Travolta . . . . doesn't completely suck as Edna, and is occasionally endearing, but it's no match for Harvey Fierstein's original. And his attempt at a Baltimore accent just grates, hon.

A few songs are cut that I miss from the original, but I'm not going to harp on it right now, though my favorite fourth-wall-breaking line does disappear from "Without Love" (which, if you know the musical, you know what I mean.) And that's because the overall movie is so positive, fun and catchy. You will smile. The dancing is energetic, and it's all done with a wink -- especially from Zac Efron's Link.

We can talk in more detail once it's released on July 20, but for now, just know that if you were looking forward to seeing the film, you'll be satisfied; and if you weren't, you should. And be sure to pay attention to a few nice cameos -- from the talent agents in the final scene, and a certain flasher who lives next door...
RED LIGHT CHALLENGE: Having finally gotten around to watching it, I've decided to join my sister in her goal of going on Cash Cab, though since most of my cab rides are fairly short, I'm not sure how much money I could rack up, unless, of course, I was going to Kennedy or LaGuardia. Seriously, brilliant gameshow, which manages to combine the "playalong" factor, simple rules, and a clever concept.
ALTERNATE HISTORIES OF POP-CULTURE: Ken Levine ruminates on the widening pipeline into game show hosting from stand-up comedy and wonders if, in some parallel universe or other, Sam Kinison might not be in talks for Bob Barker's old job. Though it's certainly NSFW, I would certainly like to think so.
A CERTAIN KILLER PIMP IS GOING TO BE PISSED: Apparently making love on an L train is not among Chicago Sun-Times columnist Tom McNamee fantasies, as he lists his top 10 Chicago Movies, and omits Risky Business, as well as The Untouchables, and the oft-forgotten My Bodyguard.
I WANNA ROCK: Things that are unquestionably "metal"--the "rockin' devil" horns, the electric guitar, umlauts. Things that are unquestionably not "metal"--fabric softener. Also, genres of metal you didn't know existed? Viking Metal (and related sub-genre Troll Metal), Folk Metal (which seems like a contradiction in terms), and Neo-Classical Metal.
MAGIC TO DO: This review of Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix reveals that a significant plot point involving Neville Longbottom has been cut from the film version. Given that Rowling objected to another cut (warning, potential spoiler for Deathly Hallows) in order to preserve a thread for Book 7, that certainly indicates that one potential ending is likely closed off.

Related--yesterday's Times Op-Ed page featured 4 writers, including Meg Cabot, Lost EP Damon Lindelof, and former Simpsons writer Larry Clark, providing their own endings to the series. Interestingly, the most common plot point for them? That Voldemort is somehow an ancestor of Harry.
SPIRIT OF 1776: Our first Philadelphia ALOTT5MAcon, the sing-a-long "1776" viewing and what-not, takes place this Friday night at 7pm. Details here. In terms of bloggers, I know the Cosmopolitans and Throckmortons will be there, as will Matt and I. The event may sell out, so reserve your tickets via this link, and let us know if you're coming.

In addition, if you have any thoughts on where we should go afterwards (the event's at 3d and Chestnut), let us know. Since Jake & Oliver's closed, I have no idea where to go in Olde City.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

HIGH CUISINE IS AN ANTIQUATED HIERARCHY BUILT UPON RULES BY STUPID, OLD MEN: Yes, Ratatouille kicks ass, but I have a question, which I'll phrase as ambiguously as I can to avoid spoiling this wonderful movie -- isn't there a "Colette's vindication" scene that's missing? Given the way she's treated earlier in the film, I had expectations for how the final scenes would play out that weren't quite fulfilled. Still, it's must-see, for grown-ups and kids as well, though I haven't asked my food critic friend what he thinks...
BATTLE OF THE SCARY BRUNETTE TATTOOED BRITS: While Fametracker is on indefinite hiatus, we must borrow the question of "2 Stars, One Slot"--today we pit Amy Winehouse against Lily Allen. For what it's worth, as of today, Winehouse has three songs in the iTunes Top 100 ("Rehab," "You Know I'm No Good," and "Rehab (Remix f/ Jay-Z)") to Allen's zero. Winehouse is also at #5 on the albums chart there, with Allen not in the Top 100. Personally, though, I'll take "Smile" over any of the Winehouse singles. Who ya got?

That Dropped Doughnut: How Soon, and How Often, Will It Come Back Up? -

YES, BUT DID WHOEVER SMELT IT DEAL IT? Researchers at Clemson University believe that the Five-Second Rule does not, in fact, keep food safe from bacteria.