Saturday, September 1, 2007

WE'RE, LIKE, THE SLAYERETTES: Let's continue "Blogging Buffy" with Episodes 3 and 4--"Witch" and "Teacher's Pet." They make sense to talk about together since they're both very much "monster of the week" episodes. Yes, "Teacher's Pet" adds a litle more setup for Angel, what with the discussion of "fork guy," but "Witch" features not just no vampires, but no slaying of any kind (yes, the villainess is ultimately incapacitated, but not killed). A few other thoughts:
  • They're also bookends in that "Witch" at least begins as very much a female fantasy episode--the outcast gets to become the head cheerleader--while "Teacher's Pet" at least begins as a male fantasy episode in the "Hot For Teacher" vein. Of course, both ultimately subvert those expectations.
  • "Witch" plays an interesting card in allowing the audience to know about the body switching well before our heroes do. Still, Buffy's "Amy?" to the body switched teenager really plays nicely.
  • Gellar gets to have some fun as Buffy under the vengance spell, with "You're my Xander-shaped friend!" being a particular high point, rather than her standard "I'm the slayer!" tone.
  • Xander's daydream in the cold open for "Teacher's Pet" is brilliant, with the increasing absurdity capped by him "kissing you like you've never been kissed before, and nailing the solo!"
  • "Teacher's Pet" is very much Xander's episode. Sure, Buffy ultimately saves the day, but this is about Xander learning a lesson about keeping his libido in control.
  • The final third of "Teacher's Pet" really suffers from the show's limited FX budget, in that they're careful to almost never show the she-mantis, and when they do, you're struck less by how frightening the creature is than by the fact that it looks like a paper-mache project from an elementary student.
  • In both instances, we have a somewhat silly "final shot twist" ending, which feels tacked on, almost as if there was a "be more like 'X-Files'" note given by the WB.
MICHAEL JACKSON IS DEAD: No. Not that one. The important one. I trust he was welcomed to the hereafter with a pint.

More here.
PEET BOG: Alfred Peet, founder of Peet's Coffee, a man at the heart of America's coffee revolution, and a man who apparently couldn't teach his one-time partners at Starbucks a goddamn thing about how to make coffee, has died at the age of 87.

Friday, August 31, 2007

CAN HE MAKE A SUGGESTION THAT DOESN'T INVOLVE VIOLENCE, OR IS THIS THE WRONG CROWD FOR THAT? Death at a Funeral is a nicely constructed, but utterly forgettable farce, with one exception--ALOTT5MA favorite Alan Tudyk, who plays a barrister engaged to the decedent's niece who desperately wants to impress his father-in-law-to-be. As the trailer reveals, Tudyk's character winds up accidentially taking a powerful hallucinogen on his way to the funeral, with predictable impact. What makes the performance is not merely the ludicrousness of it and how much Tudyk commands the screen when he's called upon to do so, but that Tudyk is constantly in character--even when just in the corner of the frame, moving from casual hallucinations that "everything is so green" to becoming convinced that the coffin is moving (a joke that has a payoff at the end) until, by the end of the film, he's on top of the roof, naked. It's a great, great comic performance, and I hope it leads to him getting more respect.
HAD HE HOSTED, I'M CONFIDENT LUPUS WOULD NOT HAVE WON: I'm sure I'm not the only one (especially around here) who'd far rather have seen Hugh Laurie host the Emmys than the Seacrest-fest we're going to be subjected to. And while they'd planned to have a (well-deserved) segment highlighting the original songs nominated this year, that's not going to happen, since one of the nominated songs is refusing to censor itself.
THINGS I DISCOVER WHEN I REALLY SHOULD BE WORKING: The fact that the United States Patent and Trademark Office has a "Kids' Page" is awesome enough, but awesomer still in their sub-section on sensory marks, which lets you listen to a number of audio trademarks which you will recognize when you hear them, such as:
MOST ILLINGEST B-BOY, THAT'S WHAT I'M FEELING, 'CAUSE I AM MOST ILL AND I'M RHYMING AND STEALING: Matt points out below the similarity, intentional or not, between "Putting on the Ritz" and "Istanbul (not Constantinople)" (the latter being a burr in the side of any non-a capella fan at certain a capella-heavy campuses in the Northeast). Adam drew our attention a day or two ago to a nearly seamless mash-up of Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams are Made of These" and the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army."

My question, and I've been beating this horse for half my life now, is who stole from whom? Bob Marley (1:30-1:45 for the relevant bridge) from the Banana Splits, or the Banana Splits from Bob Marley?
HAD HE BEEN AROUND, FABIO WOULD HAVE BEEN ON THE COVER: OK, kids, let’s fire up the flux capacitors and head back in time to begin our survey of American pop-culture history. Your assigned reading for today is Chapter 1, "In the Beginning," in the textbook Popular Culture in American History. Colonial America wasn’t exactly a hotbed of pop-culture activity, what with the business of clearing land, burning hanging witches, and cheating the Indians. But once printing presses arrived in the mid-17th century, publishers began producing a wide range of materials for the growing colonial audience, and America soon had its first best-sellers. The textbook includes an essay by historian Victor Neuberg on chapbooks -- small, inexpensive works of popular literature that ran the gamut from children's stories to temperance parables.

The runaway hit chapbook of the late 1600s and early 1700s was Mary Rowlandson’s narrative of her three-month captivity among the Wampanoag Indians, titled (significantly) The Sovereignty and Goodness of God. First published in 1682, it went through 31 editions and sold thousands of copies. As the title suggests, Rowlandson intended her narrative as a demonstration of God's power to rescue afflicted believers. At the same time, though, she offers rather gory descriptions of Indian attacks and keeps the reader wondering if she'll be able to resist her captors' advances. Did readers gobble up captivity narratives for their moral lessons, or for their exciting accounts of violence and sexual danger?

By the late 1700s, American middle-class readers were clamoring for novels, not just chapbooks, and publishers were happy to oblige. And despite the concerns raised in pamphlets like “Novel Reading, a Case of Female Depravity,” women were often the prime target audience, especially for sentimental novels of seduction and betrayal, modeled on the popular works of the English novelist Samuel Richardson. By far the biggest American success along these lines was Susanna Rowson’s Charlotte Temple: A Tale of Truth, published in 1794. Rowson's 15-year-old heroine ignores parental warnings about protecting her virtue and is seduced by a dastardly soldier; she winds up pregnant and penniless in New York, where she dies in childbirth, just as her grieving father finally locates her. As with Rowlandson, though, it's hard to figure out why Rowson's book became such a huge success (indeed, the most popular American novel until Uncle Tom's Cabin). Did readers focus on the novel's didactic messages of faith, chastity, and obedience? Or did they thrill instead to the titillating tale of a good girl gone bad?

This conflict between moralism and sensationalism recurs throughout pop-culture history, as does the difficulty of separating producers' and authors' intention from consumers' reception. I imagine you all could come up with other examples of pop-culture products that exhibit these same tensions.

Next week: Shakespeare, Stephen Foster, and minstrel shows. Enjoy the holiday weekend; school's out until Wednesday.
DRESSED UP LIKE A MILLION DOLLAR TROOPER: Jeffrey Wells has somehow managed to get his hands on a live MP3 of "Puttin' On The Ritz" from Young Frankenstein: The Musical that may be of interest here, though, obviously, we don't get the dance material.

Related: Did you know that "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" is, in fact, the same basic music as "Puttin' On The Ritz?"

Thursday, August 30, 2007

BELATED TIVO ALERT: Tonight at 1:15am, Turner Classic Movies is airing perhaps the most awesome film in the history of awesome, Buster Keaton's 1924 silent Sherlock Jr. The story of a projectionist who crosses into the big screen, it is forty-five minutes of the most technically amazing, surreal and hilarious filmmaking you will ever see. Think Purple Rose of Cairo, only better. The stunts are simply unbelievable.

OMG, it's also on Google Video. Do give it a shot, no matter what your preconceptions are about silent film.
I'VE GOT A WEIRD THING FOR GIRLS WHO SAY 'ABOOT': In going through my pop culture autobiography in my head, one of the definite markers is Kevin Smith's Chasing Amy, a movie that hit me at a particularly relevant point at my life. It's Smith's best film, and I think it really got into a lot of real and thorny emotional truths about the personae we construct and carry into each new relationship.

Still, I have two problems with the film, though I'm going to put the Joey Lauren Adams' Annoying Voice thing to the side and focus on the second: the movie's ending just doesn't work. I don't know that Smith wrote himself into a box from which he couldn't escape or what, but that big confrontation scene at the end just felt contrived and false. For a movie's ending to be satisfactory, it need not be happy, but it does have to feel like the natural conclusion of all that came before.

That very last scene is probably where this story was supposed to end; it just didn't get there the right way. I'm interested in whether anyone out there shares this sentiment, and whether anyone had any ideas on how to rewrite Smith's final act.
WE AVERTED THE APOCALYPSE, POINTS FOR THAT: Given the generally positive response to the idea, let's begin with our first installment of "Blogging Buffy," which is to deal with "Welcome To The Hellmouth/The Harvest," the show's two part pilot. A few thoughts:
  • Given how post-modern a lot of Whedon's stuff has been, it's a little bizarre how much monologuing we get from characters. Rather than having the vampires just attack Buffy when she barges in, Buffy is allowed to deliver a monologue about her Slayerdom. It's a sharp contrast to his later, more taciturn, heroes. (Mal Reynolds can talk, but he's more likely to shoot first, ask questions later.) Admittedly, this is subverted when Buffy, a few moments later, gets knocked down by the vampire while monologuing, but still.
  • Maybe it's because Whedon didn't direct the pilot, but contrast the somewhat clunky fight scenes here with the glorious fight choreography in Serenity, and you see how much Whedon's grown.
  • It's an interesting contrast between this and the Firefly pilot, where (at least in the original two-hour pilot), we're dealing with more than half the characters, including our leads, who already know one another and have a web of relationships that we come into blind. Here, while some of the characters have relationships with one another, there's not a pre-linkage bringing all of them together.
  • I don't know if the music on the DVD's is the original, but a lot of the music reads way too "WB" for the show's own good. Similarly, the concept of "The Bronze" seems to be a network way of working in musical performances and pop musical a la Dawson's Creek.
  • While the makeup effects on the vampire actors are really good, the "transformation" effects and the intercutting are sloppy, at least by today's standards.
  • Wow, Alyson Hannigan is given a series of rather hideous outfits throughout the pilot.
  • The Cordelia material here makes Cordelia a not particularly interesting (much less likable) character, and interestingly anticipates Regina George in Mean Girls.
  • The Angel plotline is obviously spoiled for me, but I can see how effective the eventual reveal must have been when the time came.

Thoughts? Comments? Stuff I should look forward to? That's what the comments are for.

AND THAT, STAT GEEKS, IS WHY YOU DON'T SEE A LOT OF TWO-INNING SAVES: I have been blessed to attend a lot of fun and exciting baseball games in my life -- playoff games the Phillies actually won, all-star games, two no-hitters . . . and, wow, does today's 11-10 win over the Mets belong near the top of that list. A team that blows a 5-0 lead and an 8-5 lead doesn't deserve to come back and win, but this has been a most improbable season.

Thank you Chase Utley; thank you, Clay Condrey and Tom Gordon; thank you, J-Ro and Aaron Rowand; and most of all, thank you Pat Burrell, who for whatever reason does to the Mets what Andrew Toney did to the Celtics. September is going to be fun.

P.S. Want to enjoy some schadenfreude? Read through Mets fans' pitch-by-pitch ecstasy and agony on Game Chatter.
I THINK IT'S NOW SLAP O'CLOCK: Yes, there is an "official" CBS Slap Countdown. Allegedly, zero hour is approximately 8:23 PM on November 19.
HE WILL PAY THE SETTLEMENT ENTIRELY IN BOILED QUARTERS: Somewhere, James Frey is doing a happy dance, as, pursuant to a settlement, Augusten Burroughs has agreed to no longer refer to Running With Scissors as a "memoir," but instead a "book," and add materials to future editions making clear that the book is only loosely based on his life. Still no apology from Burroughs and the filmmakers behind the film version for attempting to pass off some cool imagery and a collection of K-TEL's greatest 70s hits as a movie.
HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU, I DON'T ROLL ON SHABBOS: I have to admire the writing sample I'm reviewing for a candidate now (or at least the school that assigned it to him), if just because it is a memorandum concerning whether a search of Walter Sobchak's apartment was constitutional.
TURNS OUT I HAVE GRANDKIDS. AND KIDS: In case you were wondering what the fine folks at Dunder Mifflin Scranton did with their summer vacation, you now have an answer. Meet "New Pam--now 30% more unpredictable!," and witness Phyllis discussing her wedding gift from Michael.
BRUUUUUCE: New single, also free on iTunes. New album October 2. Tour dates this fall with the E Street Band. And a kickass new interview with
"The band is the band, you know?" Springsteen says. "It's the only place where I really do the thing that I suppose that I'm most known for, which is... it's a peak experience."

... It's no surprise to hear Springsteen employ a car metaphor, with the E Street band as the hotrod, as he looks toward reconvening the band for tour rehearsals.

"First of all, we start playing just to feel the machine again," he says, describing what happens after they initially plug in. "You've gotta drive it a little bit before you push the envelope on it." While Springsteen recorded Magic with the E Street Band, the studio process had them laying down tracks individually; September rehearsals will bring them back together to work up the new material as a unit. "We may run through a few things we know, just to reacquaint ourselves with the sound and the power of the band. How it moves underneath you, and everything. That's sort of the first thing I do, I refit myself into that bucket seat. 'Oh yeah, okay, now I remember...' And that takes all of about 15 minutes."
GLORY TO THE CONQUERERS OF SPACE!: As a few of you may know, I have a modest collection of Soviet propaganda posters, almost all of them glorifying the Soviet space program. Here, however, is a Russian fellow with a new blog dedicated to discussing and highliting Soviet posters in general.

Check it out. Or, if you live in New York City, stop by Chisholm-Larsson Gallery. On 8th Avenue, if I recall. One of my favorite poster shops with an excellent selection of cool Soviet stuff.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

YouTube - Charlotte Church Show Feat The Brand New Heavies

AN OCCASIONAL ALOTT5MA LITMUS TEST: Smash it or trash it? Charlotte Church and The Brand New Heavies cover the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army".
IN EVERY GENERATION, THERE IS A SLAYER: Inspired by Alan's "Freaks And Geeks Rewind" project, I am reminded that I have Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 1, sitting on my DVD shelf, almost none of which I've seen, ever, and the part I've seen, I saw back 10 years ago. I'm contemplating blogging as I watch. To borrow from Bob Ryan, "is that something you might be interested in?"
RICHARD JEWELL (1962-2007): It's a bit afield from our normal turf, but I did want to note the passing today of Richard Jewell, a man mostly remembered for an awful rumor which was never true, and which tore his life apart.

Instead, let us remember him as the man Georgia's Governor honored in 2006, ten years after the Olympic bombing, a private security guard who spotted a suspicious backpack, moved people out of the way, and saved lives: "Mr. Jewell deserves to be remembered as a hero for the actions he performed during the Centennial Olympic Games. He is a model citizen, and the State of Georgia thanks him for his long-standing commitment to law enforcement, both as a security guard during the Olympics and as a sheriff’s deputy in Meriwether County today."

A decade later, when it's even easier for a private figure to become a household name through the rapid delivery and publication system which is the Internet, we should remember Richard Jewell's story and be humble, and be sure, before hitting that 'publish' button.
GET THAT DON BUDGE FELLOW IF HE'S AVAILABLE: Resuscitating an argument we had here four months ago, Joe Baltake argues for the superiority of John Huston's 1982 Annie film adaptation to the 1999 version done by Rob Marshall for ABC:
The veteran director, new to musicals, had fun with the genre, instructing Carol Burnett, as Miss Hannigan, to "play it soused" throughout(which she does quite wittily) and Albert Finney as Daddy Warbucks to affect Huston's own vocal delivery (which he also does quite wittily). And a deep bow to Huston for also showcasing two stage stalwarts -- Ann Reinking, excellent as Grace, Warbucks' executive secretary, and Bernadette Peters, as the vamp Lily St. Regis.... Too bad that Huston couldn't quite convince his almost-son-in-law at the time, Jack Nicholson, to play Rooster Hannigan. He would have been a hoot, although Tim Curry, who ultimately played the role, is perfectly fine - wildly theatrical and juicily evil.

We may have to bring in Judge Brandeis to settle this.
TALK AMONGST YOURSELVES. I'LL GIVE YOU A TOPIC. POPULAR CULTURE IS NEITHER POPULAR NOR CULTURE. DISCUSS: So now that you have your course books for Popular Culture in the United States, let's spend some time thinking very broadly about how we might study the history of American pop culture.

To overgeneralize egregriously, there are two main camps among pop-culture historians. On one side are those led by the late Lawrence Levine, who argued that popular culture is "the folklore of industrial society" -- it's of, by, and for the people. In this view, consumers exert substantial influence over the production, distribution, and reception of popular culture, making choices freely and enthusiastically, sometimes even subverting the interpretive intentions of the "culture industries" in New York and Hollywood. Levine's approach is best captured in his collection of essays, The Unpredictable Past.

To other scholars, however, this picture of popular culture is way too rosy. Historians like the wonderfully named T.J. Jackson Lears--yes, he's named for that T.J. Jackson--insist that consumers' "agency" is feeble at best, and that most of their supposed "choices" are actually made within parameters totally controlled by pop-culture producers. Lears lays out a much more nuanced version of this argument in his history of American advertising, Fables of Abundance.

Again, this is all way too overstated, and there are, of course, plenty of scholars who fall somewhere between Levine and Lears. But this debate highlights some key questions about the nature of popular culture. Does culture merely reflect society, or does it actually shape society? Is popular culture a "mirror" or a "maker"? And these questions in turn make us think more critically about our own pop-culture tastes. Why, exactly, do we like particular pop-culture products? Are our tastes truly independent, or are they influenced by other factors, from family to friends to advertisements?

My first writing assignment asks students to examine these questions by writing a "pop-culture autobiography" -- a 5-6 page paper that offers some critical reflections on their evolving pop-culture tastes, blending personal anecdotes and academic analysis. These papers are always fun to read, especially when a student has one dramatically pivotal pop-culture moment in his or her life: "But then I heard 'Smells Like Teen Spirit,' and my life changed forever...." I highly recommend writing your own pop-culture autobiography. It's an often humbling experience -- particularly if you have to cop to some embarrassing childhood favorites -- but it also helps you see how you've become the consumer you are today.
CHER HOROWITZ'S DADDY BEGS TO DISAGREE: How's this for a misleading lede:
As of Friday, William Lerach will be the former scariest plaintiffs lawyer in America.
What in it is true? Lerach -- probably the most prominent, and at times most influential and among the most innovative, plaintiffs' lawyer in America; a man who prompted a major congressional act intended to knock him down a few pegs, but that ended up only making him richer -- is retiring. What's not true? That he was all that scary. I can understand why he was the bogeyman for boardrooms across America -- a company knew that any drop in its stock price would at first certainly, and later likely, lead to an expensive lawsuit, and that was in large part Lerach's doing. At heart, though, Lerach and his lieutenants were businessmen, eager to exploit market opportunities but just as willing to make rational business deals to settle cases. There are a lot of plaintiffs' securities lawyers who, in an effort to substantiate the resume claim that "I'm better and more aggressive than Bill Lerach," prove themselves capable of rash decisions that drive up litigation costs without resulting in bigger settlements.

Anyway, Lerach is retiring, waiting to see if his firm implodes in his absence, and possibly going to jail. I imagine that somewhere in a high-rise in Chicago, Dan Fischel is preparing to uncork a very fine bottle of wine.

Edited to add: What do you think about Recorder's omission of an apostrophe in the phrase "plaintiffs lawyer"? I think it needs the apostrophe, but the quote that haunted Lerach for years -- something to the effect that "I have the greatest job in the world. I don't have clients," though I couldn't find it in a google search -- suggests otherwise.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A FISH, A BARREL, AND A SMOKING GUN: I mentioned this as a possible topic a week or so ago, so let's do it -- websites you miss. I'll start off the list with, TMFTML, and, whether officially dead or just resting, Fametracker and its even longer-gone message boards. All three sites, I realize, share the fact that principal writers have moved up in the world to more prominent haunts.

The House Next Door: A sunbeam in the abyss

ZEN CLOWN: I haven't been able to come up with anything to say about the Owen Wilson news which wasn't trite, cliched or in really poor taste. But Matt Zoller Seitz has been an off-and-on acquaintance of Wilson's over the years, and he has much to say about the actor/writer who he describes as a "good-time shaman; when he appears, you smile, because know you're about to have fun. He makes good films better and bad films tolerable. Onscreen, he's a human sunbeam," and hopefully he will return from the abyss in which he finds himself, "a fog comprised of biography, present-tense experience and body chemistry" as Matt puts it, and make a full recovery.
HOW YOU EVER GOT TO TEACH A COURSE IN ANYTHING IS TOTALLY AMAZING: Greetings, Fellow ThingThrowers. I’m Professor Jeff, a/k/a occasional commenter Hawkhill, and I teach American history at a Philadelphia-area university. This semester, I’m offering a course on Popular Culture in the United States, and I thought it might be fun to offer a sort of online version of the course, to give you all a sense of how one college professor looks at the history of pop culture. Adam & Co. have generously given their blessings to this proposal (once I promised to eschew footnotes and colons), and I’m pleased to announce that I’ve been named ALOTT5MA's Distinguished Visiting Lecturer for the Fall 2007 term.

I’ll be posting every couple of days for the next fifteen weeks, giving a brief rundown of the topic for that day’s class, pointing you toward relevant readings and websites, and tossing out some ideas for discussion. There will be no formal grades, but neatness counts. And please remember to turn off your cell phones during class.

For starters, here are the books I’ve assigned this semester.
Well, that’s enough information for the first day of class. I’ll be back tomorrow with some more thematic introductory comments -- and your first writing assignment.
PROOF POSITIVE THAT MICHAEL VICK IS STILL THE SPIRITUAL LEADER OF THE ATLANTA FALCONS: What the hell is going on in this clip of the Atlanta Falcons' mascot violently pecking small children (after the whistle, I might add)? Jenn?

Like so many other things, via Deadspin.

Monday, August 27, 2007


The Next Great American Band: Meet the judges | The A.V. Club

SHE'S GOT BIG THOUGHTS, BIG DREAMS AND A BIG BROWN MERCEDES SEDAN: Noted percussionist Sheila E. will be playing the "Paula" role on FOX's upcoming "The Next Great American Band" competition, while the Goo Goo Dolls' Johnny Rzeznik does want the world to see him (and he does think that we'll understand) in the "Randy" slot, and some Australian guy nicknamed "Dicko" who used to do PR for My Bloody Valentine and Jesus & Mary Chain gets to be "Simon".
WILDCATS, WE ARE THE BEST: Even though I'm behind on this one, I finally got around to DVRing and then watching High School Musical. A few thoughts:
  • Man, Vanessa Anne Hudgens (though pretty in that non-threatening Disney manner) is almost a black hole of lack of charisma.
  • Zac Efron is clearly the new coverboy for Lisa Simpson's favorite magazine. At least as Link he had the winking irony, here, it's almost annoyingly sincere.
  • Sharpay and Ryan are far more fun to watch than Gabriella and Troy, even if having Sharpay eagerly join in "We're All In This Together" is more than a little bit of a rejection of her character. It's fairly clear early on that Tisdale is probably the most talented performer on screen, which throws things off balance, and she gets almost all of the adult-targeted jokes (I doubt a whole lot of 12 year olds got the Tony Award/Tony Hawk joke).
  • If most material on Broadway were as well choreographed as "Stick To The Status Quo," "Get Cha Head In The Game," and "We're All In This Together," I'd be a happy man.
  • Of course, "Stick To The Status Quo" makes little sense from an internal consistency standpoint--people singing a song about why you shouldn't be singing songs! (Related--what high school has a show which is apparently written by the students--book, lyric, and score?)
  • While the upbeat songs are incredibly catchy and toe-tapping, the ballads are WAY too generic, with the possible exception of "Start Of Something New," which is helped by the upbeat chorus. The Ryan/Sharpay "bad" version of "What I've Been Looking For" is far better than the "right" version.

It's far from being either great filmmaking or a great musical, but it hits what it aims for almost perfectly, and that's, I think, why it's become a bona fide phenomonon.

LET US REST FOR A MOMENT WHILE THE JOKE WRITES ITSELF: South Carolina, in an effort to draw attention to its literacy problems, decided to dramatize its plight with this answer to the question "why are we so dumb?" during the Miss Teen U.S.A. pageant. Miss Teen U.S.A., you may recall, is a "scholarship pageant," in which contestants compete for a "scholarship," presumably to a "college" (though that's only the ninth prize listed on the official pageant web site, right after the year's worth of hair care products and right before the RITMO MUNDO jumbo jet mystery time piece, which may be either a watch, a secret airplane, or a Saturday-morning Univision variety show).

Thing Throwers, I ask you to join me in bridging the gap in U.S. America between the map-haves and the map-have-nots, and maybe also South Africa and the Iraq.

Double bonuses: (1) It takes a special person to be so flounderingly inarticulate that TNBC charter member Mario Lopez, a man not known for his algebra skills, has to bite his lip to keep from laughing; (2) Your brutal interrogator: ALOTT5MA fave Aimee Teegaardeen.

Hat tip: Everywhere on the Internet.
FROM THE TURKISH "KÖŞK" OR THE PERSIAN "KUSHK", MEANING "OPEN-AIR VILLA" OR PAVILION: I want movie ticket kiosks, while the NYT's David Pogue [hearts] the new hotel check-in kiosks he's been seeing.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

THE PINK LADIES' PLEDGE IS TO ACT COOL, TO LOOK COOL, AND TO BE COOL: Having just returned from a pleasantly internet-free vacation, I only have one thing to report: Grease 2 is starting right now on HBO-Family. Enjoy.

Till death do us part, think pink!
I WANT YOU TO REMEMBER THAT WHEN I STARTED LIKING YOU, I DIDN'T STOP LIKING TENNIS: The 2007 US Open begins Monday morning in Flushing Meadows, and as little attention as I may pay to the sport during the rest of the year, there's always something cool about being able to turn on the tv at night at the end of summer and seeing some of the best-conditioned athletes in the world gut it out in one-on-one combat, and then have SI's Jon Wertheim explain to me what I just saw.

My Open love was probably cemented by Sampras-Corretja 1996, and then by attending for sessions in 1999 and 2001, and I'm hoping for an exciting draw this year. On the women's side, anyway -- the men's circuit is just so Federer-dominated, and there's only so much ridiculous perfection one can stomach. You?
PERHAPS THE ENTIRE MOVIE SHOULD HAVE BEEN SHOT WITH NANNYCAM: The central problem with The Nanny Diaries is not that Scarlett Johannson cannot act (as Jeffrey Wells implies), it's that she's miscast. The part calls for someone warm (to contrast with Mrs. X's imperious and haughty nature), and Johansson's talent stems from her playing characters who are just a little removed from the world and who are distant from everyone else, desperately seeking connection (e.g., Lost In Translation, In Good Company) or femme fatale types (Match Point, The Prestige). The adaptation tries to deal with this with a (fairly clever) framing device, turning Nanny into an anthropological observer to give her an air of detachment, but the part still calls for someone who could bring some warmth to the situation. It's interesting to see the people behind American Splendor try and make a mainstream movie while still retaining their distinct voice (and manage to mostly do so), and it's always good to see Paul Giamatti on screen, but miscasting kills the film.