Saturday, October 6, 2007

A WICKED CRAVING FOR A FRIBBLE: OMG, this is wicked awesome fun for the weekend -- via UBM, a 1997 audio recording of the "Wicked" skit from Chicago's Second City by Rachel Dratch and Tina Fey, which I was fortunate to see in person back in the day.

(As I've said before, I always thought Dratch would be a star, but have no memory of Fey being there at all. Scott Adsit, who now plays Pete on "30 Rock," and Will Ferrell accomplice Adam McKay were the others who seemed to be most on the rise.)
BECAUSE I CAN GET A QUICKER RESPONSE FROM YOU THAN FROM BILL SAFIRE: Are there commonly accepted terms to describe the three component parts of the chicken wing? There's the drummette, the thing in the middle, and that mostly-useless part on the end ... but there have got to be more official names than that, right?
AN EVENING ON THE COUCH WATCHING A MOVIE WITH A FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS SPONSOR, TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO GET MY ARM AROUND IT: Because Spacewoman wanted to hurry through the episode and go to bed, to stick to my first pledge, I had to go back and watch all of the commercials at the end. I never really thought about it, but 30 commercials is a lot. Anyway, I wanted to buy so much stuff from those wonderful advertisers that I couldn't narrow this inaugural sponsor-appreciation post to just one. I'll pick three:
  • Re/Max. All realtors are going to show you the same houses, and all competent ones are going to tell you to unclutter your place and bake some cookies before your open house. Since there's not much difference, you might as well go with the company whose name means, depending upon your dialect, "again/most" or "about/a guy's name."
  • Sleep Train Mattress Centers. Because nothing puts me out faster than powerful locomotives? I once rode the Sleep Train all the way out to the Squalling Baby Relaxation Spa, where I drank some hot Don't Freak Out My Period Is Late Chamomile Tea and got a Mama's Family massage. Heavenly. Anyway, all aboard.
  • Betty Crocker Warm Delights. Shouldn't all desserts sound like euphemisms for lady parts?
That's all for this week. Show the sponsors some love, and tell them Coach Taylor sent you.

Friday, October 5, 2007

NEXT, THEY'LL BE ADDING VANESSA HUDGENS AS THE NEW GIRL: We clearly need a spoiler thread for FNL, so here one is. A few non-spoiler thoughts (though the comments are a free-for-all zone).
  • Was it just me, or did the whole of the opening sequence ring a bit High School Musical 2? I half expected a big musical number led by Julie and Matt and musing on how all the Panthers came to work at the same pool.
  • The re-edited credits sequence was clearly a "can we be a little less bleak" network note (shots of football replacing abandoned businesses and deserted oil fields), but why not fix part of the problem for the show and let viewers link names to faces, epsecially of the younger cast members?
  • Permission to smack upside the head whoever had the idea for the JC Penney halftime recap? I assume it will be granted.
  • Can we make Brad Leland (Buddy) a regular? I think he's been in every single episode, and he's always great.
  • Why can you only buy a Tim Riggins jersey from NBC? I'm sure there's a market for Matt Saracen and Smash Williams jerseys.
  • Coach and Julie in the car? Awesome.
  • The Tyra/Landry plotline? Well, that's for the comments.
BRUCE 1O1: Your assignment this weekend is to read this Bruce Springsteen Primer from the Onion AV Club. Whether your a fervid fan, a newcomer, of god forbid, a naysayer, this is a great, great intro to the Boss, augmented by excellent audio and video clips (and its a great distraction for those of us who are facing elimination on Saturday or humiliation on national TV at the hands of our rivals on Sunday night).
I WAS LIVING IN A DEVIL TOWN: Hey, do you have plans tonight? OF COURSE YOU DO. Tonight you're going to have a few friends over, and their names are Coach Taylor, Mrs. Coach, Julie, Saracen, Smash, Tyra, Lyla, Landry, Tim, Jason, Grandma Saracen, Buddy, Gail Stanwyck, Cougar Neighbor, Annoying Neighbor Son, Lesbian Mayor, Murderball, and Racist Coach. Clear schedule, full Tivo, CAN'T LOSE.

Because this show teeters on the edge of cancellation, I'm going to make two pledges this season. First, I am going to watch all of the commercials. You hear that, advertisers? I'm yours, even if it's John Mellencamp for Tamax Lightdays. Second, every week that this show is on, I'm going to use the soapbox that this blog provides to promote one of the products advertised on the show. How can an advertiser resist the allure of the free use of the ALOTT5MA marketing juggernaut?

Oh, and I know that the episode has been out on iTunes for a while and that there is some catastrophic development. Please don't spoil in the comments here -- I'm sure there will be another thread after the episode airs.
THIS CONTINUING HARM: As I noted on Wednesday, the radio version of Amos 'n' Andy dominated the airwaves in the 1920s and 1930s, attracting tens of millions of listeners every night. Yet not all listeners liked what they heard. A leading black newspaper, the Pittsburgh Courier, editorialized against the show's stereotyped insults of African Americans and initiated a petition drive to get the program cancelled. The drive failed, but it cast a shadow over the show's runaway success.

Moreover, when Amos 'n' Andy's creators, Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, tried to expand their franchise to other media, they ran into more popular resistance. In 1930, RKO produced a full-length Amos and Andy film, Check and Double Check, in which Gosden and Correll played their creations, in blackface makeup and with their usual heavy dialact. Watching the movie today, one shudders at the actors' appearance, which is made even more ludicrous by the presence of several real African Americans, including Duke Ellington and his band. Apparently, fans and critics in 1930 felt a similar discomfort, for there would be no more Amos and Andy movies. In 1934, Gosden and Correll lent their voices to a pair of Amos and Andy cartoons, Rassling Match and The Lion Tamer, but these, too, sank into well-deserved obscurity (in fact, they're not even mentioned in Melvin Patrick Ely's history of the A 'n' A phenomenon).

Although Amos 'n' Andy still thrived on radio through the 1940s, as television began to catch on after World War II, Gosden and Correll decided to adapt their characters for the small screen -- but this time with African-American actors, recruited during a highly publicized two-year search. In this fascinating clip from 1951, Gosden and Correll introduce the new cast to a studio audience, commenting on how well the black actors embody the characters they'd created decades before. Some of those performers, however, did not appreciate getting acting lessons from Gosden and Correll; Alvin Childress (who played Amos) reportedly complained about the absurdity of "a white man teaching a Negro how to act like a white man acting like a Negro." Still, Amos 'n' Andy boasted the first all-black cast in TV history, providing unprecedented opportunities to African-American performers, and Gosden and Correll fully expected that black and white viewers alike would welcome this chance to follow their old friends into a new medium.

But within weeks of the show's premiere, the NAACP was demanding its cancellation, arguing that the program "tends to strengthen the conclusion among uninformed and prejudiced people that Negroes are inferior, lazy, dumb, and dishonest." Critics especially detested the prominence of George "Kingfish" Stevens (played by stage and film comedian Tim Moore), a longtime supporting character who became far more central on TV, and whose defining traits were constant malapropisms, shameless greed, and an abiding eagerness to fleece the gullible Andy (as seen in the episode "Kingfish Sells a Lot," YouTubed here, here, and here). Although CBS kept the show on the air for two years, the protests eventually took their toll; by 1953, Amos 'n' Andy had been cancelled, and by the 1960s, with the civil rights movement in full swing, it had even been withdrawn from syndication.

Today, many fans, both black and white, insist that the TV version of Amos 'n' Andy was unfairly maligned, and DVDs of the programs are easily available, even on Amazon. Check out some of the YouTubed clips for yourself. Was Amos 'n' Andy funny or offensive (or both)? Was it any worse in its portrayal of African Americans than, say, Sanford and Son, The Jeffersons, or Good Times? Are there still elements of its characterizations and stereotypes in any TV shows today?

Next week: detectives and gangsters, jazz and swing, and Mickey and Bugs.
SNUGG(LY) LIFE: A month or two ago, I pointed you to video of Big Fred, an 8-foot tall Atlanta Falcons mascot, pecking the living hell out of peewee football players. Today I bring you video of Big Fred henchman Freddie Falcon over-enthusiastically smashing a cheerleader in the face with a birthday cake, allowing Big Fred to dry-hump the stunned cheerleader as a nightmarish bunny looks on (ETA: I didn't even notice Big Fred violently pecking the cheerleader's head at the end -- this only gets better and better). The Atlanta Falcons: Come for the Joey Harrington; stay for the Clockwork Orange halftime show!

Not to pick on Atlanta only, though. This violent gang of plushies has staked a claim to territory nationwide, and currently includes: Invaluable research tool: Deadspin

Michael Clayton - Movie - Review - New York Times

THE MASSEY PRENUP HAS NEVER BEEN PENETRATED: Is there a contemporary movie star who's using his stardom for more interesting things than George Clooney? With a recent run including Syriana, Good Night, and Good Luck, the Oceans films and repeated trips to Coen Brothers country, he consistently brings the provocative and the entertaining, often in the same film, as today's NYT rave on Michael Clayton indicates:
Dark in color, mood and outraged worldview, “Michael Clayton” is a film that speaks to the way we live now. Or at least, the way certain masters of the universe do, as they prowl the jungle in their sleek rides, armed with killer instincts and the will to power. It’s a story about ethics and their absence, a slow-to-boil requiem for American decency in which George Clooney, the ultimate in luxury brands and playboy of the Western world, raises the sword in the name of truth and justice and good. Well, someone’s got to do it.

And Mr. Clooney, who smartly moved away from star-making nonsense like “The Peacemaker” as soon as he could, has in recent years proved that it’s possible to play outwardly different, seemingly contradictory roles (glamorous, righteous) while hopscotching from Hollywood to Darfur and back. You have to be clever to pull this off, and you have to have clever friends like Steven Soderbergh, with whom Mr. Clooney created the production company Section Eight. Now defunct, Section Eight dropped bombs, uncorked bubbles, supported independent voices and mucked about in television (“K Street”). With “Syriana,” “Good Night, and Good Luck,” “The Good German” and now “Michael Clayton,” it also helped Mr. Clooney create a singularly contemporary screen identity as a man of unquiet conscience....

Recently, Mr. Clooney has served as a guide into a different country, one in which the media fails, capitalism kills and heroes stumble. His glamour and easy manner make these excursions feel less a matter of duty than of necessity; they provide the pleasure that softens the pain. He does some strong work here, especially when he’s nursing his character’s misery or gently squaring off against the young actor (Austin Williams), who plays his son. But he’s almost always good, and he’s a big enough star now that each new role feels as if he’s playing a version of himself. That’s O.K. We need George Clooney, just as we needed Warren Beatty — seducer of heavy hearts and troubled minds, the beautiful bearer of our very bad tidings.
Ebert, too, brings the four stars: "I don't know what vast significance 'Michael Clayton' has (it involves deadly pollution but isn't a message movie). But I know it is just about perfect as an exercise in the genre. I've seen it twice, and the second time, knowing everything that would happen, I found it just as fascinating because of how well it was all shown happening."

I KNOW IT'S ONLY ROCK 'N ROLL BUT I LIKE IT, LIKE IT, YES, I DO: Each year around this time we have had considerable discussion on this blog about the types of musical artists appropriate for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. One group, whom I will call the theorists, has suggested that only "rock" or "rock and roll" musicians should be admitted. Another group, whom I will call the empiricists, has noted that the Hall has in fact inducted quite a few musicians who are not archetypal "rock" artists. In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably note that I have been part of the empiricist group.

I believe that I have stumbled upon a fairly simple way to way to describe the scope of the Hall. First, let me set the stage. Jann Wenner, the co-founder and publisher of the pop music magazine Rolling Stone, is also the founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The process of nominating artists for the Hall is allegedly controlled by a few individuals, including Wenner and former Rolling Stone writer Dave Marsh. Similarly, last year Roger Friedman of FOX news published an article claiming that The Dave Clark Five should have been the fifth inductee that year because that group had more votes than inductee Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five. The article went on to say "[Jann Wenner] used a technicality about the day votes were due in. In reality, The Dave Clark Five got six more votes than Grandmaster Flash. But he felt we couldn't go another year without a rap act." In light of the foregoing, it seems likely that Wenner and others affiliated with Rolling Stone have a strong influence on the contours of the Hall.

At Christmas a few years ago, a mutual friend of Adam’s and mine gave me an excellent book, which I would urge all of you to buy. It’s called The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (3rd. ed. 2001). I read it all the time. Last night, for example, I read the excellent essays on Nanci Griffith, Green Day, and The Guess Who. Many of the individual entries are written by people who appear to have connections to Rolling Stone.

Note the similarity between the title of the book and the name of the Hall. I’d like to suggest that given the influence that Wenner and other Rolling Stone affiliated people have over the Hall, this book is a good way to judge how they view the definition of the term “rock and roll” and thus a good way to determine the range of artists apt to be considered for the Hall.

Not surprisingly, the book (like the Hall) is very inclusive. The book profiles jazz artists. Country and bluegrass artists are included. The encyclopedia contains entries on heavy metal and progressive rock acts. There are quite a large number of rap and hip-hop artists listed. Disco, R&B, and soul artists are heavily represented. “Pop” artists are covered, including such “non-rock” pop stars as Debby Boone and the Carpenters.

Adopting the "Baseball Hall of Fame nomenclature" that we used in the comments on Adam's recent piece on Madonna, I would like to respectfully state that Madonna is neither a hockey player, nor even a relief pitcher. Madonna is a catcher.

THE TRUE MEANING OF "NOT CLASSY": This story describes a gesture that I think we could all agree is not classy. Although the events in question took place near New York City, I would like to suggest that the same thing could just as easily have happened in my two hometowns -- Boston and Philadelphia.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

OH, NO! DID A KOREAN PERSON DIE? We should have an Office/30 Rock thread. I've only seen the latter, so far. Everything Tracy Morgan said made me laugh.

I don't have a lot else to say right now. I suppose there's still hope, theoretically at least.
THE TRUE MEANING OF "CLASSY": This story describes a classy gesture.
WHILE WE ARE ON THE SUBJECT OF DAILY COMICS: Once upon a time, reading the comics was a daily joy (I used to save the Sunday section as the last thing I read before sleep Sunday nights), but now I find myself reading less strips with regularity and I don't know if this has to do with my changing tastes or the state of the art. In the Chicago Tribune, I regularly read the strangely compelling FBOW, Doonesbury, Zits, Brewster Rockit: Space Guy, Mister Boffo, and a couple of newcomers, Ink Pen and Lio. Others catch my eye from time to time, but even of those I read, FBOW and Doonesbury and maybe Zits are the only ones I care about. With FBOW going into its hybrid flashback phase, even it is becoming less essential.

So, ALOTT5MAers, are there any other comics out there I should be reading. And here's a list from Cracked of the Eight Funniest Web Comics, which I think I'll have to start checking out with more regularity (before posting, I went to Perry Bible Fellowship, and I am already hooked).
SUGAR AND SPICE; SNIPS AND SNAILS: A somewhat irritating YM Night at the CW. First -- spoiler alert -- despite the kind of moderately amusing ANTM that we expect from the early-season episodes, Tyra had to tie it up with the stuff that really bugs me about her. First, enough with the mugging during the judging panel. It's like she's auditioning for the Jenny McCarthy part in a Singled Out revival. Second, if I was asked to write a Tyra-parody speech before the season, it would include (but not be limited to) exactly what Tyra said in making the elimination: "It's not about me, it's really not about me, it's definitely not about me, but by the way, screw all these bitches, what I say goes." I suppose I was indifferent to the elimination -- either of the bottom two would have been fine, and I hope the other goes next week -- but the method was irritating. Speaking of irritating, while I appreciate Gossip Girl getting to the point and resolving last week's Dan-Serenavanderwoodson angst, I think the last 20 minutes of this travelingpantsy weeper -- which, frankly, neither of the actresses could pull off -- may have permanently damaged my testicles. And the hobbit-brother/Cindy Lou Who budding romance? Not buying it. At least the next-ons promise a return to the pillars of any good high-school drama: hedonism, debauchery, and fisticuffs.

Meanwhile, in the GameSpot Teen Male Fantasy competition (belated post), I just don't get why there was so much critical support for Reaper over Chuck. Reaper is plotted, paced, written, and shot like an average 90s-sitcom -- situations, beats, and gags ascendent; character development marginalized -- while Chuck at least feels current. Reaper's romantic angle (featuring a Missy Peregrym bleached of 99% of her saucy STICK IT-iveness and shape-shifting 'tude) is uncomplicated and pasted-on, while Chuck's (featuring Sarah Strzechowski, a kind of undervoweled, marginally less-anorexic Christine Taylor) is integral to the story. Zach Levi is good as a befuddled, put-upon anti-hero; Bret Harrison is unimpressive as a petulant wannabe-hero. Plus, Chuck gets a credit for employing pulchritudinous TNBC alum Sarah Lancaster, while Reaper gets a debit for its cheesy afterthought monster-of-the-week villains. You'd think a show in which the devil is a regular character wouldn't lack a consistent menacing presence, but it does -- a problem it shares with the first two Season 2 episodes of last year's fanboy darling, Heroes.
ALSO, I JUST LIKE TYPING THE WORDS "FUNKY WINKERBEAN:" For the second time in its 35 year run, Funky Winkerbean will make a dramatic jump forward in time after today's strip. I haven't read Funky Winkerbean regularly in years (in large part because my current paper of choice lacks any comics whatsoever), but I found today's strip immensely touching nonetheless. Looking at the Wikipedia entry linked above, I'm reminded that Funky Winkerbean really has confronted a lot of very real material over the years, and done so with sensitivity and grace.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

THE YEAR OF GLAD -- TOP CHEF III FINALE, PART TWO: And we're LIVE from a beige sound stage in Chicago, with an obedient studio audience and lots of the clappy clappy wooty wooty. I'm Padm(=>...) This week's season three finale began with an ominous indication of altitude sickness from one of the finalists (stay hydrated people! it's not hard!) and then ascended from the already way-up-there town of Aspen to the top of the Apsen Mountain Gondola to kick off the Finale Challenge. A comparison of geography-inspired literary quotations seems appropriate:
"We don't get to see this kind of sh*t in Chicago." -Dale, Aspen 2007

"It's too flat here to snow all f*cking winter." -Phil, Chicago 1997
Ah, my Big Gay Chef, if only we'd met years ago, before I was a confirmed heterosexual in a legally enforceable life-long partnership, who knows how opposites might have attracted? Seriously, I love this guy cursing an amiable blue streak through season three, finding his chef, and throwing down some seriously respectable cuisine (if the judges are to be believed) in the process. But then, we had love for all three finalists here at the Throckmorton Manse, and the irony of Hung getting criticized repeatedly during the finale for not adding enough acid only added to our appreciation.

With 35 minutes to cogitate about an impressive array of seasonally appropriate ingredients laid out beneath an ice sculpture on the ridge of Aspen Mountain, our finalists came up with the following basic menus:
Hamachi "fish n chips"
Vietnamese Fusion Prawns

Foie and Fruit
Lobster Gnocchi
Colorado Lamb

Foie and something else
Prawns and something else
Crispy Pork Belly
Oh, Casey, you had me at "Crispy Pork Belly". And we're back, LIVE from Chicago with more of the clappy cla(=>...) After which, contestants drew knives to "determine" which "sous chef" they would be working with to prep the ingredients for their meal. Knife #1 = first "sous chef" to arrive on the gondola; knife #2 = second chef, etc.
Hung got Rocco DiSpirito.
Casey got Michelle Bernstein.
And Dale got Todd English.
As Dale noted, there was a serious "Dream Team" vibe about the pairings. As I noted, it was as if the producers lined the "sous chefs" up in the appropriate order for the gondola as soon as each finalist's choice of knife was radioed down the mountain. Cynicism on this point aside, it was fun to hear the Chef Chefs' comments on the aspiring Top Chefs' styles, choices and instincts. We dug the role reversal, as well as the professionalism on display as everyone assumed the roles assigned. Can you imagine Marcel or Ilan being given the honor? And handling it gracefully? Neither could we. Also, as a kid who was disappointed trying to make brownies on more than one occasion because he forgot to read the "high altitude cooking instructions", it was easy to love all the whining about how long water takes to boil up on the roof of the world.

We are back. Live from Chicago, I'm P(=>...)Hung's going to prove he has soul. Casey's got textures, and colors, and "perfect roasted summer peaches with crispy pork belly." I was so, totally, down with that... until I heard the words "Colorado lamb, poached in duck fat." Go, Big Gay Chef, GO! At which point the producers added a Fourth Course and a Former Contestant to the mix for each finalist. Given the good crop of personalities (plus Howie) recruited for this season, there wasn't a lot of drama here. Hung added chocolate cake a la Sara; Casey added sirloin a la Howie; Dale added scallops with citrus a la CJ.

Aaaaand, welcome back to Chi(=>...)I'd be cursing a blue streak of my own about the live in studio segments of this show if Philomena wasn't so quick with the remote. I just know it. Some serious compliments were bandied as the judges (your normal cast of characters, plus this episode's "sous chefs", plus Malarkey) considered what the finalists had to offer, from "pretty amazing" all the way up to "Michelin Three Star". Faults? Fish eggs for flavor, not color. Gnocchi at altitude? ...gnot so much. Hung played it safe with the cake.

Welcome back everyone. I'm Padma L(=>...) Oh, crap. We have to watch it now. It's the results. (<=...) And... oh, right. Shouldn't spoil the results. Get your comment on, soon as you're ready. Get your Bourdain on too.
TWEECAP: Yes, Pushing Daisies is really, really, really, twee, but I can deal with twee (heck, I'm seriously tempted by the theatre down the block, which has Rushmore running at midnight this weekend). The visual styling is undeniable, the dialogue is rapid fire and bizarre, and the cast is first rate throughout, with Chi McBride there to puncture the almost overpowering whimsy at times. And Kristin Chenoweth opening with a "mastication" joke? Quality. Certainly, there are concerns about sustainability, both from a premise standpoint and from avoiding doing the exact same thing each week (see, e.g., Reaper), but I'm in, even for a rewatching over the weekend.
THE ARROW STRIKES AGAIN: Remember how awesome Cupid was on ABC, with Jeremy Piven and Paula Marshall? And then it was cancelled because America wasn't ready for the Piven? They're remaking it (without Piven), with Rob Thomas ("Veronica Mars"), its creator, helming it again.
NO, APPARENTLY KUMAR DOES HAVE TO DO PORN: Kal Penn has moved from guest star to series regular on House, which gives us a good opportunity to discuss last night's fun little episode and all the new potential cottages. It wasn't brilliant in EverybodyLiesLand, but I just like the new energy.

e.t.a. Penn is, as far as I know, still slated to teach at the University of Pennsylvania this spring.
I'SE REGUSTED: It may seem perverse, even offensive, that I devote two whole class meetings to Amos 'n' Andy. Why give so much precious instruction time to a program whose name has become synonymous with pop-culture racism? Well, first of all, the show's racism is precisely why it deserves sustained analysis, as it represented the latest episode in the long, disturbing tradition of entertainment based on bigotry. Secondly, many scholars argue that the medium of radio would not have taken off as it did in the late 1920s without the popularity of Amos 'n' Andy. And finally, Melvin Patrick Ely's pioneering book, The Adventures of Amos 'n' Andy: A Social History of an American Phenomenon, offers a richly researched and carefully argued case study of this pivotal moment in American popular culture.

Amos 'n' Andy was the brainchild of two white actors, Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll. Both men worked their way up through the world of minstrel shows and vaudeville, often performing in blackface and dialect, and they originally envisioned the radio show simply as a way to promote their live performances. What they created, instead, was the most successful radio show of all time, a program that at its peak drew forty million listeners, six nights a week, and would run from 1926 until 1960. (One great indicator of its popularity: for the fifteen minutes that Amos 'n' Andy aired every night, many movie theaters would stop their screenings to pipe in the show.)

To 21st-century ears, Amos 'n' Andy sounds crudely racist. The show's scripts were written and performed in heavy "black" dialect. Moreover, the lead characters often acted uneducated, confused, and foolish -- stumbling over basic vocabulary, misreading simple arithmetic, and generally conforming to longstanding stereotypes of the ignorant African American. Favorite dialect catchphrases ("Sho, sho," "I'se regusted") quickly became part of the popular vernacular. And yet Gosden and Correll also placed Amos and Andy in familiar situations that any listener could identify with: romantic entanglements, business troubles, sickness and loss. Ely argues that while some listeners may have heard only mockery and jokes, others (including many African Americans) may have focused on the characters' humanity, the continuing stories that lured audiences back night after night, year after year.

Conveniently, the Internet Archive has collected dozens of recordings of old Amos 'n' Andy broadcasts. Try listening to a couple of those early programs. How do they make you feel? Did you laugh? cringe? shrug? Why do you think radio listeners of the 'twenties and 'thirties -- both white and black -- found the show so enjoyable?

On Friday, I'll talk about Amos and Andy's appearances on film, cartoons, and TV, and the ways in which those appearances, and audiences' reactions to them, reflected shifting attitudes about race and popular culture in mid-20th-century America.
JUSTIFY MY VOTE: You may have heard of Madonna. She's up for the Rock Hall this year, but is she worthy? Perhaps the Keltner test will help:

1. Was Madonna ever regarded as the best artist in rock music? Did anybody, while she was active, ever suggest that Madonna was the best artist in rock music?

Regarded as the best in all of rock? Perhaps not. Critical respect hasn’t always followed Madonna around, but admiration for her tenacity and endurance certainly has.

2. Was Madonna ever the best artist in rock music in her genre?

Hells yeah. From 1983-1989 (Madonna, Live A Virgin, True Blue, Like A Prayer), you’re not going to find anyone who recorded that many memorable, great pop songs and had that level of impact on the culture.

Here’s just the singles from that period: Everybody, Burning Up, Holiday, Borderline, Lucky Star, Like A Virgin, Material Girl, Crazy for You, Angel, Into the Groove, Dress You Up, Live To Tell, Papa Don’t Preach, True Blue, Open Your Heart, La Isla Bonita, Who’s That Girl, Causing A Commotion, Like A Prayer, Express Yourself, and Cherish. If you can't sing pretty much all of them -- and if you don't like just about all of them -- then you're not of my generation.

Then there’s Vogue and Justify My Love, and then a brief dry period before Ray of Light re-established herself as an avatar of dance music. She picked the right producers at the right times, throughout her career, and has stayed current for a damn long time.

3. Was any member of Madonna ever considered the best at his instrument/role?

Does “most famous female celebrity in America” count?

4. Did Madonna have an impact on a number of other artists?

Every female artist since Madonna owes her a significant debt for opening up the space to be confident and sexual and provocative. This leads to both good results (Liz Phair, PJ Harvey) and bad ones (Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson).

She may have had an impact on the use of music video in promoting recording artists.

Madonna basically invented the concert-as-choreographed-Broadwayish-production which so many artists followed today.

Oh, and the Beastie Boys were the opening act on her first tour.

5. Was Madonna good enough that she could play regularly after passing her prime?

Sure. Whenever she wants. She’s become a better singer over time, and has had an unerring sense of the zeitgeist. She’s the third-oldest woman to have a number-one single (“Music”), behind Cher (“Believe”) and Tina Turner (“What’s Love Got To Do With It?”)

6. Is Madonna the very best artist in history that is not in the Hall of Fame?

Best? Depends on your respect for pop music and phenomenon-creating.

Biggest? Yes.

7. Are most artists who have a comparable recording history and impact in the Hall of Fame?

Artists with her level of impact are first-ballot inductees. Artists with her level of impact don’t really need Keltner analysis.

8. Is there any evidence to suggest that Madonna was significantly better or worse than is suggested by its statistical records?

I think we know how big Madonna is. As Fametracker would say, Madonna's current approximate level of fame is "Madonna," and back in the 1980s and 1990s, she may have been even more famous than Madonna, if that's possible. If anything, her level of fame may lead some to underestimate just how good she was as a recording artist as well.

9. Is Madonna the best artist in her genre which is eligible for the Hall of Fame?

She is the best pop performer, and best female artist, not in the Hall of Fame.

10. How many #1 singles/gold records did Madonna have? Did Madonna ever win a Grammy award? If not, how many times was Madonna nominated?

Six number one albums, four #2s and a #3. Twelve number-one hits and thirty-six top tens. Only Mariah Carey has more #1 singles; Madonna is tied with Diana Ross and the Supremes for second among female artists.

She has recorded forty-seven top 40 singles, a record for a female artist, and among all artists is only behind Elvis Presley's 104, Elton John’s 54 and The Beatles’ 51.

Seventeen platinum albums, twelve of them going multi-platinum, two diamond (10 million+ sold). Only Barbra Streisand has more top-ten albums among female artists.

Her seven #1s in the 1980s ties the most for a female artist with Whitney Houston.

Twenty-five Grammy nominations and six wins, her first not being until 1992 (a video award), followed by three for Ray of Light, one for “Beautiful Stranger” and one for Confessions on the Dance Floor.

11. How many Grammy-level songs/albums did Madonna have? For how long of a period did Madonna dominate the music scene? How many Rolling Stone covers did Madonna appear on? Did most of the artists with this sort of impact go into the Hall of Fame?

She has dominated the music scene whenever she wanted to – 1983-1991, especially. Madonna has appeared on more magazine covers than almost any other entertainer of her generation.

12. If Madonna was the best band at a concert, would it be likely that the concert would rock?

You would have a good time. I attended the Blonde Ambition tour, and it was hella fun.

13. What impact did Madonna have on rock history? Was Madonna responsible for any stylistic changes? Did Madonna introduce any new equipment? Did Madonna change history in any way?

Her impact on music history is unmistakeable -- the roles a female artist could inhabit, the importance of video and image, etc. Entire college courses can be constructed around the question. Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing is debatable, but she can’t be responsible for all of her cultural offspring. Among that downside? She helped popularize and (to a certain extent) legitimize the use of prerecorded vocals in "live" performance.

Madonna is a singular artist who, yes, changed music history, and it took a long time for the public to understand just how smart she was at cultivating and maintaining her image.

14. Did the band uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

Well, at Live Aid 1985, she did say “I ain’t takin’ shit off today” and kept to her word. Her spirit of calculated defiance and provocation embodies what the RRHOF celebrates.

I leave you with the words of Dan Bern, from “Tiger Woods”:
I got a friend whose goal in life
Was to one day go down on Madonna
That's all he wanted
That was all
To one day go down on Madonna
And when my friend was thirty-four
He got his wish in Rome one night
He got to go down on Madonna
In Rome one night in some hotel
And ever since he's been depressed
'Cause life is shit from here on in
And all our friends just shake their heads
And say, "Too soon, too soon, too soon,
He went down on Madonna too soon
Too young, too young, too soon, too soon"
I don’t know if there’s more to say. Oh, okay, this video,which always makes me smile.

Absolute first-ballot inner-sanctum inductee.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

A WII POST (NOT KEN BURNS): While I probably should have spent the day I was floored with the flu last week watching The War episodes piling up like dirty dishes on my Tivo, I instead installed the new Wii we got my eight-year-old for his birthday. We have Wii Sports, obvs, and Wii Play (Ping-Pong, Combat, Duck Hunting, etc.), but I want to know if any of you Wii veterans have any advice on what games to add to our library or if there are any we should avoid at all costs. And while were at it, is the Burns' doc as great as I hear it is?

Mandy (song) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

THINGS I AM EMBARASSED I DID NOT KNOW, FIRST IN A SERIES: I can't recall how I ended up on the Wikipedia entry for the Barry Manilow hit "Mandy," but not only was I not aware that it was a cover, but I had no idea the song was originally called "Brandy." The title was changed only after Looking Glass had a hit with "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)," which is, indisputably, the greatest song of all time.
MRS. MUIR IS GOING TO BE CRUSHED: Her beloved ghost failed to crack the list of the 30 Greatest Ghosts.
YOU WANTED THE BEST, YOU GOT...UM....THIS: There are few bands whose absence from the Rock Hall of Fame provokes as strong a response as KISS. I am no particular fan of KISS' work, but there is no question that they warrant Keltnerization, and I will take my best shot.

1. Was KISS ever regarded as the best artist in rock music? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that KISS was the best artist in rock music?

Best? No. But according to Wikipedia, a 1977 Gallup poll named KISS the most popular band in America. KISS was never a critical fave, but the public loves them some fire and blood spitting demons who wag their tongues.

2. Was KISS ever the best artist in rock music in its genre?

Again, no. "Best" is different from popular, and KISS's music has never been a particular part of their allure.

3. Was any member of KISS ever considered the best at his instrument/role?

No, unless you consider "showmanship" to be a separate role, in which case Simmons has to qualify.

4. Did KISS have an impact on a number of other bands?

Hard to say. Certainly, few, if any, subsequent bands have gone done KISS's road in terms of performing style, but the 1994 tribute album Kiss My Ass indicated that artists as diverse as Garth Brooks, Lenny Kravitz, Stevie Wonder, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones felt obliged to pay their respects. KISS is part of American pop culture and has influenced in that way.

5. Was KISS good enough that it could play regularly after passing its prime?

Sure. KISS continues to play and sell tons of records, and had a highly successful reunion tour series in the late 90s, almost 20 years after passing their prime, and certainly still puts on a show.

6. Is KISS the very best artist in history that is not in the Hall of Fame?

I certainly hope not.

7. Are most bands who have a comparable recording history and impact in the Hall of Fame?

It's hard to think of comparables to KISS, as there aren't just a ton of fairly critically scorned artists who have had KISS's longevity and massive sales.

8. Is there any evidence to suggest that KISS was significantly better or worse than is suggested by its statistical records?

Well, on the "don't induct" side here, you have the consistent critical scorn heaped upon them. On the "induct" side, you have an unsual longevity, and a back catalog and live albums that even now continue to sell very very well. (In fact, I'm a bit surprised none of the albums are on the pop catalog chart.)

9. Is KISS the best artist in its genre which is eligible for the Hall of Fame?

God, I hope not.

10. How many #1 singles/gold records did KISS have? Did KISS ever win a Grammy award? If not, how many times was KISS nominated?

No #1 singles on the Hot 100 ("Beth" peaked at #7), 1 #1 Single ("Psycho Circus") on the mainstream rock charts. 16 Gold Albums (Kiss, Hotter Than Hell, Dressed To Kill, Unmasked, Creatures of the Night, Lick It Up, Animalize, Hot In The Shade, Revenge, Psycho Circus, Alive, Alive III, KISS Unplugged, KISS Symphony: Alive IV, You Wanted The Best, You Got The Best!, The Box Set) 9 Platinum Albums (Destroyer, Rock and Roll Over, Love Gun, Dynasty, Asylum, Crazy Nights, Alive II, Double Platinum, Smashes, Thrashes, and Hits), plus 4 platinum solo albums released under the KISS banner for the four original members. One Grammy nomination for "Psycho Circus." No wins.

11. How many Grammy-level songs/albums did KISS have? For how long of a period did KISS dominate the music scene? How many Rolling Stone covers did KISS appear on? Did most of the bands with this sort of impact go into the Hall of Fame?

KISS was unquestionably the biggest rock band in America for about two years (roughly 1976-1978). Not a hugely lengthy period of domination, but a substantial one. And, yes, while a lot of the stuff is pretty awful, you have to give credit to songs like "Strutter," "Beth," "Rock and Roll All Nite," and "I Was Made For Lovin' You" as being pretty decent. I'm sure plenty of Rolling Stone covers, though there's no good way to look this up. That period of domination is roughly equal to that of the Bee Gees (who are in), though the Bee Gees had higher sales, albeit a similar level of critical scorn.

12. If KISS was the best band at a concert, would it be likely that the concert would rock?

There is no question there would be injured eardrums, a need to hide women and children, and blood and fire.

13. What impact did KISS have on rock history? Was KISS responsible for any stylistic changes? Did KISS introduce any new equipment? Did KISS change history in any way?

KISS is the the parent of all shock rock since. There's no GWAR or Marilyn Manson without KISS. Whether that's a good or bad thing is entirely up to you.

14. Did the band uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

Your leader having a long term relationship with a soft porn star and insulting Terry Gross on the radio is either a big plus or a big minus depending on how you measure it.

KISS is the rock and roll equivalent of a two season fan favorite with a few spectacular clutch performances who then kept bouncing around the minors for a long time, and then came back to throw one last great game at the end of its career. I don't think that's enough to get into Cooperstown, and it shouldn't be enough to get into Cleveland. Do not induct.
GOD DIDN'T MAKE RAMBO, I MADE HIM!: Haven't the Burmese people suffered enough that we now receive news from Southeast Asia that Sylvester Stallone is making Rambo IV set in Burma?

At least Sly's done his research:

The "Rambo" script, written long before the present Myanmar uprising, features boatman John Rambo - the Vietnam War-era Green Beret who specializes in violent rescues and revenge - taking a group of mercenaries up the Salween River in search of missing Christian aid workers in Myanmar. The character "realizes man is just a few paces away from savagery when pushed."

"I called Soldier of Fortune magazine and they said Burma was the foremost area of human abuse on the planet," Stallone said.

Soldier of Fortune is a fantasy rag. And it's probably no more harmful to the human spirit that that body of work that lies just blue of Penthouse, and each is about as authoritative of its subject matter. But I'd sooner ask Bob Guicionne for relationship advice than rely on SoF for a catalog of human rights abuses.
SWING THE JUDGMENT HAMMER DOWN: Before I Keltnerize Metallica – that is, consider that band’s bid for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by applying Bob's adaptation of a framework for baseball enshrinement popularized by Bill James – I want to get something off my chest. I don’t think Stan Musial should be in Cooperstown. Ralph Kiner either, or for that matter Willie Stargell. See, I just don’t like left fielders. I like fleet-footed center fielders, strong-armed right fielders, power-hitting corner infielders, that kind of stuff. I understand that some people like left fielders, but I’m not one of them. Plus, I don’t get why left-fielder fans think Musial or Yaz should be in the Hall – I already admitted that Ted Williams belonged in there, and how many left fielders do they need? Anyway, bearing in mind that I have not bought a Metallica album since 1984, voila, Keltner:

Was Metallica ever regarded as the best artist in rock music? Did anybody, while Metallica was active, ever suggest that Metallica was the best artist in rock music? On the first question, as a matter of general consensus, no. But there have been a great many fans, perhaps a plurality of heavy metal fans, who would answer yes to the second question.

Was Metallica ever the best artist in rock music in its genre? Without question, Metallica was both the critical and commercial heavyweight in its genre.

Was Metallica ever considered the best at its instruments? I think not, although Cliff Burton did popularize the heavy metal bass solo.

Did Metallica have an impact on a number of other bands? Yes, an immeasurable impact. When Metallica was rising to popularity, heavy metal was dominated by campy play-acting – cartoon Satanism, cartoon sexual bravado, glam makeup, colorful spandex, pointy guitars, all filtered through a barre-chord-based sameness. Metallica didn’t give a shit about how they looked (James Hetfield is one of the ugliest men ever to pick up a guitar), and they played an entirely different kind of music – impulsively fast riff-based thrash music with coarsely-shouted monotone vocals and an edge that would be punk except that it just wasn’t. If Metallica didn’t totally change heavy metal by itself, it at least was among the first bands to accept and popularize that change.

Was Metallica good enough that it could play regularly after passing its prime? Still going strong, so yes.

Is Metallica the very best artist in history that is not in the Hall of Fame? I’m not sure I’d go that far, but I think that a lot of fans would say yes – quite possibly more than the fans of any other artist.

Are most bands who have a comparable recording history and impact in the Hall of Fame? This would require research, which I’m too lazy to do. A pure guess, though, would be that most artists with similar longevity and commercial success, not to mention influence, are or will be in the Hall.

Is there any evidence to suggest that Metallica was significantly better or worse than is suggested by its statistical records? If anything, the fact that Metallica rose to prominence without any radio, MTV, advertising, or major-label support early in its career suggests that it worked harder than most for its considerable popularity.

Is Metallica the best artist in its genre that is eligible for the Hall of Fame? Since Black Sabbath is already in, yes.

How many #1 singles/gold records did Metallica have? Did Metallica ever win a Grammy award? If not, how many times was Metallica nominated? Four #1 albums, a #2, and a #6, plus seven Grammies (or, if I’m reading the chart wrong, Grammy nominations).

How many Grammy-level songs/albums did Metallica have? For how long of a period did Metallica dominate the music scene? How many Rolling Stone covers did Metallica appear on? Did most of the bands with this sort of impact go into the Hall of Fame? I don’t know the answers to these, except I’m guessing many, many, and some. As for the last question, yes, without a doubt.

If Metallica were the best band at a concert, would it be likely that the concert would rock? Pregnant women and people with spinal injuries should stay away.

What impact did Metallica have on rock history? Was it responsible for any stylistic changes? Did it introduce any new equipment? Did it change history in any way? Yes, see above. Also, while Metallica was not the inventor of the heavy-metal fatal bus crash (see Randy Rhoads), it was an early adopter.

Did the band uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider? I don’t know, you decide: dead bass player (bus crash); three remaining members represent the three typical personalities of the heavy metal fan – petulant and antisocial, dorky, childishly pretentious; experimented with metrosexuality, but it didn’t take, except for with Kirk Hammett; sued fans (and were legally in the right, by the way, but what a PR disaster); got fed up with hyper-annoying Jason Newsted; employed a marriage counselor in a tremendously entertaining documentary.
Conclusion: Look, I take a lot of absolute positions around here. Sometimes it’s just that I’m excitable; sometimes I’m trolling a bit. In this case, though, I’m dead serious. It’s pretty obvious that if you accept that heavy metal is a genre recognized by the R&RHOF – that is, if left fielders deserve to be in the Hall, no matter how much you prefer third basemen – there is no cogent argument, commercial or critical, for Metallica’s exclusion.
MILE HIGH: Despite the fact that it looks like the "winning" run never touched home plate, the Colorado Rockies have won the NL Wild Card, and will be coming to Philadelphia for a series beginning Wednesday. Trevor Hoffman with the 13th inning blown save.

Monday, October 1, 2007

PAGING TODD SOLONDZ: The AV Club lists 24 Great Films Too Painful To Watch Twice.
OH, THE HUMANITY: For every thrilling, unimaginable victory, there is an equally wrenching, unimaginable defeat. Phillies fans, on September 12, 2000 2007, your team was worse than a 500-to-1 longshot to win the NL East. That means, of course, that on that same day, Mets fans, your team was a 99.8% certainty -- a 1-to-500 favorite -- to make the playoffs. How bad is that collapse? It would rank second of all time, ahead of the haunting collapses of the '51 Dodgers (12.5 games up on August 12) and the '93 Giants (9.5 games up on Jenn's Braves on August 7).

Mets partisans can take some solace in the fact that while their collapse ranks second, it is a distant, distant second. First place belongs to a certain team that, in the wild card era, failed to make the playoffs despite being, on August 20, 12 and 12.5 games against the two teams that passed it -- two teams that played one of the most memorable postseason series of all time, and gave me my favorite sports memory, as a result. The odds of this team making the playoffs at its peak were 99.988%, or, to put it the other way, 8332-to-1 against missing the playoffs. You know who I'm talking about, right?
WITH ASHLEY OLSEN AS JANET VAN DE GRAAF: Bob Saget, in addition to continuing to narrate HIMYM and rake in residuals from Full House reruns, will make his Broadway debut this fall as "Man In Chair," the narrator of The Drowsy Chaperone. Clearly stunt casting attempting to revive a show that's just about run its course, but pretty good stunt casting at that.
YOU HAD YOUR TIME, YOU HAD THE POWER, YOU'VE YET TO HAVE YOUR FINEST HOUR: Once again, we find ourselves welcoming a new medium to the history of popular culture: radio. And once again, we need to step outside of our 21st-century worldview and try to imagine the revolutionary impact this new medium had on listeners in the 1920s and 1930s. Unlike vaudeville, radio was consumed in the home. Unlike phonographs, it required just one initial purchase for years of entertainment. Unlike movies, it spoke intimately to the individual listener. And unlike any previous medium, radio transmitted the same program at the same time to a mass audience of millions.

After some early experiments with "wireless telephony," radio became a "broadcast" technology thanks largely to the engineering and promotional genius of David Sarnoff, who recognized in 1916 that radio could become "a 'household utility' in the same sense as the piano or the phonograph." By 1926, twenty percent of American households owned radios, on which they could listen to a wide range of broadcasts, from music and comedy to labor rallies and religious programs. At first, these shows were locally produced by small regional stations. Within a few years, though, corporate investors, realizing radio's national commercial potential, had created the first networks of affiliated stations and then turned to advertisers to pay for (and often develop) original programming. (See Chapter 7 in our textbook for Susan Smulyan's discussion of these trends.) This business model, so familiar to us today, transformed the form and content of radio: the key "product" being sold was now the audience, not the program, as networks tried to convince advertisers to sponsor shows that would reliably deliver a particular demographic.

Not surprisingly, then, radio shows ran the gamut of popular genres: situation comedies, soap operas, Westerns, suspense and mystery, even (improbably) ventriloquism, just to name a few. But what really distinguished radio during the 'twenties and 'thirties was the intensity of audience interest. Listeners felt actively engaged in their favorite radio shows: they stopped everything to listen, wrote millions of fan letters to beloved characters, and dutifully followed sponsors' injunctions to "tune in tomorrow." This deep, almost unquestioning faith in radio's power was both demonstrated and tested in October 1938, when Orson Welles' infamous broadcast of War of the Worlds led to widespread panic, as frightened listeners believed that Welles' fake news reports of a Martian invasion simply had to be true. After all, millions of other Americans were hearing the same thing at the same time.

By 1940, radio's own invasion of everyday life was nearly complete, as it reached into 86% of American homes -- that's more homes than had telephones, plumbing, or even electricity at the time. Yet over the following decades, radio would struggle to compete with both newer media (TV, Internet) and old rivals (movies, recordings). So, ThingThrowers, how do you use the radio today? Are there any programs or stations that you actively listen to? Or has radio simply become background noise for commuting to work or puttering around the house? Radio, does someone still love you?
LIKE EUGENE, YOU GOT ME STRAIGHT TRIPPIN', BOO: We all know about the girl who's got a crush on Obama, but Andy Samberg channelling a mix of LFO, Vanessa Carlton (piano on back of truck), and Adam Levine to proclaim his love for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may not reach the heights of "D**k in a Box," but is still pretty good. (And a pretty decent episode of SNL overall, what with Kanye crashing the Nobels, the Solid Gold Dancers, and the High School Musical spoof, even without Amy Poehler preening as Sharpay.)

Top 50 Dystopian Movies of All Time

TIMBUK 3 WAS WRONG: Here's a list of film's with visions of the future as bleak as that of the Arizona Diamondbacks, the top 50 Dystopian Movies of All-Time (and I still say Children of Men was the best film of 2006).
THE TURD-BROWN, SWINGING FRIARS OR THE BLAKE STREET BOMBERS? Is it unconscionable for Phillies fans to have a rooting interest in tonight's wild card tiebreaker game? If not, I am seriously pulling for the Padres, who'd be heading into the playoffs without Milton Bradley, without Mike Cameron, and with Jake Peavy available for only one game of the series. I am not afraid of Colorado ... I'd just rather not face them, is all.
HIS GREATEST ALBUM SINCE 'THE RIVER' AND 'NEBRASKA': Or, so the thinkpieces are saying of Bruce Springsteen's Magic. Via the Times of London:
“The pop world is a symbolic world,” [Springsteen] says, “and there’s only one problem with that: I’m not a symbol, I’m real. So you sort of break through and confine yourself simultaneously. The trick for the musician is to be an escape artist. And you have to protect your talent, what is of value to you, because those are your life rafts. Whatever the vicissitudes of the music business, of fans blowing hot, cold, indifferent, it all comes down to that same thing.”

He feels, he says, freer than he ever has before, liberated from labels, from the constraints of packaging and image. “My take on the whole thing is, by the time you’re my age, the race is over; these are the victory laps. I make any kind of music I want to make, you know? There are no rules – they’re not waiting for my record at Top 40 radio next week. I’m not worried about whether I’m going to be competing with 50 Cent. All that pressure is off. So I don’t really feel hemmed in by any previous image people might have of me, or any current one. You have such a list of ‘selves’ behind you, and everybody has their favourite or unfavourite. That’s what they were there for. They were built for a certain moment in time: somebody likes that one, doesn’t like the other one.” He cackles again. “Then you build another one – you paint yourself out of that corner and you move on to the next corner.”

Lurking unspoken is the obvious parallel – with politics and its dark, demotic arts of spin, polish and seduction. Yet Springsteen’s admission that, on Magic, he consciously used the language of classic pop implies an acceptance of this. He isn’t, he argues, communicating if nobody’s listening. But it took a long time for Springsteen, and, again, his fans, to once more feel comfortable with this power.

Or the NYT's Tony Scott: "You can always trust what you hear on a Bruce Springsteen record (irony, he notes, is not something he’s known for), but in this case it pays to listen closely, to make note of the darkness, so to speak, that hovers at the edge of the shiny hooks and harmonies. 'I took these forms and this classic pop language and I threaded it through with uneasiness,' Mr. Springsteen said."

Sunday, September 30, 2007

ENOUGH CHUNG-CHUNGING ALREADY! MOMMY, MAKE IT STOP! There's comedy, high comedy, and then Sesame Street's Law and Order: Special Letters Unit.
WE BELIEVE IN A PLACE CALLED HOPE: Hope lives at the corner of Broad and Pattison. Hope lives tonight wherever there's a kid -- or a grownup -- who wears the red and white. Hopes lives in those of us who recognize that the only way we're seeing Adam Eaton again this season is in long relief.

Every single win got us here tonight; not one was wasted. So tonight, I'm thanking Russ Branyan, Phillie-for-a-minute, whose two-run pinch hit home run in Washington on August 14 got us one of those precious 89 wins. I'm thanking Tadahito Iguchi, who could not have been more studly this August in relief of Chase Utley. And I'm thanking J.C. Romero, whose September relief line reads 13.2 IP, 3 H, 6 BB, 8 K, and a 0.00 ERA in the nineteen games in which he appeared.

We're playing in October. There's hope.

edited 11:05pm: I want to add one more name to this list, and that's the longest-tenured member of this squad, Pat Burrell, who after a dreadful start went .298/.421/.595 with 19 home runs after the all-star break. He's had a love-hate relationship with the fans for his eight seasons here -- including me -- but right now, it's all love.
PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT NEARLY AS FUNNY AS THEY THINK THEY ARE: Dan In Real Life raises an interesting question--can Dane Cook ruin a movie that also features Steve Carell, Norbert Leo Butz, John Mahoney, Alison Pill, Diane Wiest, and Emily Blunt? I hope the answer is "no," but fear the answer is "yes." (And a follow-up question--Will I actually see a movie that prominently features Dane Cook? Answer likely "yes.")