Saturday, January 5, 2008

IT'S A CROWD FAVORITE. EVERYONE LOVES A GOOD JAZZ SQUARE: A brief field report to confirm that if you've got kids who want to see High School Musical: The Ice Tour, it doesn't suck.

More specifically: you've got about forty energetic skaters lip-synching all the songs, and kinda-sorta looking like the characters (Chad: spot on; Troy: looked more like David Schwimmer than Zac Efron), and they breeze through the plots and all the official songs of both films (sorry, no "Humuhumunukunukuapu'a") in about 45-50 minutes each. Yes, "Bet On Me" as a furious one-man lutzing solo. Yes, Sharpay's "You Are the Music in Me" with the Sharpettes. Yes, they did "Get Your Head in the Game" while dribbling basketballs on ice.

Okay, some things needed to be cut -- Troy, Gabriella and the Evans' parents; pretty much anything having to do with Taylor; the whole University of Albuquerque thing; Ryan's whole questioning thing; the G-O D-R-A-M-A C-L-U-B-exclamation point; the golfing ... but if you've got a hankering for more HSM in your life, or if you have a child in your house that does, well, as Jen said when Lu and I got home, Disney's smart enough to make sure to not diminish the brand through its spinoff products. And it was not diminished.
SOCIETY'S FAULT, I AIN'T GOTTA JOB. SOCIETY'S FAULT, I AM A SLOB: This fellow likes documentaries and has put together a rather comprehensive selection of his favorites, but has carefully limited his selection to ones you can actually find on VHS and/or DVD.

Alas, no Taking on the Kennedys.

Friday, January 4, 2008

BETCHA DIDN'T SEE THIS ONE COMING . . . THE LEGENDARY MISS BRITNEY SPEARS: Only four days into the new year, and already I can't keep track of what's going on with Britney. I don't think we're quite at the death watch stage, but Elton John might want to get cracking on some rousing "farewell Louisiana's kudzu" lyrics.

As a public service, allow me to make an effort to summarize where I think we stand at the moment (all facts and conclusions subject to further development at a moment's notice).
  • January 3, 9:30 am: Britney scheduled to show up for oft-postponed-due-to-attack-of-the-don't wannas deposition, pursuant to court order to get herself deposed during first week of January or else.
  • January 3, 11:32 am: Britney shows up, is deposed for 14 minutes prior to prenegotiated deposition termination time of 11:45 am. (Apparently she gave Federline's attorney a bonus minute, extending the terminus to 11:46 am.)
  • January 3, noon - 7:30 pm: Apparently distraught by each and every minute of the deposition, Britney spends her previously scheduled court-permitted visit with her kids at home. Unclear whether children participated in Britney's afternoon activities.
  • January 3, 7:30 pm: Britney is supposed to turn kids over to Federline's bodyguards.
  • January 3, 7:31 pm: Britney turns over exactly one kid (Sean Preston), barricades self in locked bedroom with other kid (Jayden James).
  • January 3, 7:32 pm: Bodyguards count children in their possession and realize that they are one short. Bodyguards bang on bedroom door to ask for other child.
  • January 3, 8:00 pm: Police are summoned to Spears' house to assist with convincing crazy lady to unlock the door and give her baby to ex-husband's bodyguards. Police report that Britney is incoherent.
  • January 3, sometime between 10 -11 pm: Britney persuaded to come out of bedroom -- apparently after ex-assistant Alli Sims broke through bathroom door with hammer and called ambulance. Britney and Jayden taken to hospital in ambulance.
  • January 4, 1 am: Britney admitted to Cedars-Sinai. Britney triaged and sent to psychiatric ward without passing go. All clothing and possessions taken away to prevent Britney from harming herself.
  • Late night/early morning, January 4: Jayden released to Federline. Britney not released.
  • January 4, 8:30 am: Court convenes for emergency custody hearing. Matter adjourned until 1:30 pm.
  • January 4, 1:30 pm: Court reconvenes for closed hearing. Britney represented by lawyer who several days ago asked to be relieved as counsel for "impossible" client.
  • January 4, 3:30ish pm: Court issues order awarding Federline sole legal and physical custody of both kids. Britney's visitation rights suspended pending further court order. Next hearing to take place January 14.
  • Now: Britney still at Cedars-Sinai, apparently sedated and resting. Possibly on 72-hour medical hold. Jamie Lynn Spears still pregnant.

(Too many sources to link to directly, but hat tip to Page Six, TMZ, EOnline, The Sun, and the AP, among others.)

POTPOURRI FOR $200: Everybody in these here parts must be sleeping off the Opening Day (of political season) festivities, but I can't let a full day go by without original, or at least unoriginal, content. So here are some random thoughts, grouped into three categories for ease of reference:

Sports: Some time in the next few days we'll find out that Bert Blyleven has yet again been denied entrance to baseball's hall of fame. There are basically two reasons for this: (1) many voters think that Blyleven just doesn't have enough wins, and in particular 20-win seasons, to qualify; and (2) baseball has an institutional bias against Dutchmen named "Bert." While I agree with the latter, I decided to do some lazy-assed research today, and I found out that during Blyleven's pre-injury period (1970-1980, a period that included his peak), Minnesota, Texas, and Pittsburgh combined to lose an astonishing 50 games where Blyleven pitched at least six innings and gave up two or fewer earned runs (and an additional 36 games where he pitched at least seven innings and gave up three or fewer earned runs). With a better offense and less bad luck, he probably should have won 20 games five times (adding wins for either all of the 2-run 6-inning games or most of those games and some of the 3-run 7-inning games) -- every year from '71 through '75. And then even the idiots who value only W-L records and don't pay attention to run-prevention would put Blyleven where he belonged.

Music: Do you ever wonder what Elvis Costello's first album would have sounded like if he hadn't been stuck with Huey Lewis's awful, noodling, song-ruining backup band?

Apocalyptica: Holy crap, is it ever raining right now.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

AT LEAST SHE PROBABLY KNOWS A GOOD LAWYER: I was brainstorming the most ludicrous exploitation flick today. Let's start with a leggy blonde. Let's give her a ridiculous name, something that's a combination of wild-child and serious scholar. How about "Zephyr Cambridge." No, I've got it, "Kumari Fulbright." We'll make her a beauty queen, and then maybe a calendar girl. Wait, a calendar girl for Guns and Ammo, that's beautiful. But her day job is nuclear physicist. Oh, Christmas Jones is threatening to sue? Fine, law student. Let's set her up with a real respectable job, say an externship for a federal judge. Now, uh, let's have her use her feminine wiles to lure an ex-boyfriend -- make him a lecherous, dirtbaggy older man -- to her apartment. Cue disrobing, and then: kidnap and torture. There it is, perfectly fine gore-porn to fill the lull between Saw V: Carbide-Tipped and Hostel vs. Turistas. We'll make a mint, baby.

Oh, I forgot to mention: based on a true story.

By the way, that is an absolute hall-of-fame level mug shot. The camera loves Kumari.
SOMEBODY IS DEFINITELY GOING TO BE DISAPPOINTED IN THE RESULTS OF THIS VOTE: The caucuses are closed, the votes are counted, and the voters are idiots. That's how I read the all-star half of February's Fans vs. Favorites Survivor cast. There are some that will please Miss Alli (Jonathan Penner, Cirie Fields), some that will please the adolescent boys (Parvati Shallow, Eliza Orlins, Amanda Blurrybottom), some that will please Jeff Probst (Gravedigger James, Dolphin Ozzy). And at least one that will please nobody (Johnny Fairplay) -- allowing Dalton Ross to revive the oft-repeated misstatement that he faked his grandmother's death to get ahead in the game. If we're being accurate, he faked his grandmother's death to get attention, resulting in absolutely no strategic benefit. I refuse to believe that people actually voted to put this guy on network television again. Sigh.
I'M STILL WAITING FOR VAN DAMME TO WEIGH IN: Remember that Mike Huckabee/Chuck Norris ad? Well, on the eve of the Iowa caucuses, Mitt Romney has responded with a (web-only) ad claiming that Mike Huckabee is quite unlike Chuck Norris.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

MY GREATEST CASE SINCE MY SUIT AGAINST THE MAKERS OF THE NEVER-ENDING STORY: Does this look like a man who's had "all you can eat"?
IF 'NICE TO ME' WERE THE ONLY CRITERION, JOHN MABRY WOULD BE IN THE HALL: Not to intrude into Alex's territory here, but allow me to intrude into Alex's territory to refer you to this highly-amusing list of this year's worst Baseball Hall-of-Fame pro/con arguments from actual voters. I wonder sometimes whether 21st-century baseball is the phenomenon with the most credible scientific scrutiny that goes completely ignored by the highest percentage of people who could best use that scientific analysis. You can't tell me that I don't know of 100 rank amateurs who understand more about what separates winning baseball from losing baseball than Woody Paige, Bill Plashke, or Mike Hargrove.

Anyway, does anybody care to defend the Vince Coleman: Better than Tim Raines argument?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

THE RESOLUTE DESK: This lovely New Year's Day, offer up your pop cultural-related New Years' Resolutions in the comments. I'll offer a couple to start y'all off (both made easier by the writers strike):
  • Make my way through some of the pile of TV on DVD I own, but have not yet watched, including the remainder of the first season of Buffy, the first season of 24, and several others.
  • Attempt to watch the final season of The Wire.
THERE'S ANOTHER NATIONAL ANTHEM: Sara Jane Moore, would-be assassin of Gerald Ford, is out on parole. This isn't really a pop-culture moment, except that it has me listening to my Assassins recording.

Monday, December 31, 2007

AND NOW, SOME DEEP THOUGHTS AS WE WRAP UP 2007, BROUGHT TO YOU BY DEPENDS UNDERGARMENTS: I was watching the usual NYC cop on TV this morning talking about the process for keeping Times Square's festivities under control, and I found myself wondering the same thing I wonder every year. The cop was talking about how people should arrive by 10 or 11 am if they want to stake out a half-decent spot, and how once they enter "the pen" they aren't allowed to leave again, and so on. So they arrive at 10 am and leave approximately 14 hours later. I don't know about anyone else around here, but I might want to find a bathroom sometime during the 14 hour stretch of interminable anticipation. Anyone have any idea how this task gets accomplished?

Sunday, December 30, 2007

KARCH KIRALY AND A BUNCH OF OTHER FOLKS: The folks at ESPN's Page Two pay tribute to the athletes who retired during 2007.

Add to that list Vincent Frank Testaverde, 44, who retired from the NFL today twenty-one years after his Heisman Trophy.
PROPANIACS: Memo to future Racers -- if you find yourself in this "how do I use the Yield/U-Turn?" situation in the future, with only this information:
  1. You know that you're probably near the back of the pack.
  2. You know that another team barely completed the last task ahead of you.
  3. You know that the other team did not Yield/U-Turn you.
  4. You know that the other team consists of a pair of jerks who probably would Yield/U-Turn you, given the chance.
Then there's only one thing you can do in those circumstances, because it's a Race, and that's to assume that you somehow passed that team, and Yield/U-Turn them instead.

The consequences of that decision are what this second straight outstanding leg turned upon, because nothing says TAR Classic like a small group of stressed-out teams having to navigate back and forth across a metropolis in India. (And read the newspaper.) Killer fatigue, killer tasks, one unfortunate bunch but, seriously, if you haven't enjoyed the past two episodes then you shouldn't be watching the Race.
PRESENTED BY LAST YEAR'S WINNER, MATTHEW PERRY: I'm honored to present the ALOTT5MA Award for Outstanding Performance On A Not-Very Good Show. This year, the winner is pretty darn clear, and it's Holly Hunter for Saving Grace. The oddball combination of edgy HBO police procedural (with plenty of language, sex, and nudity) and Joan of Arcadia has incredibly muddy theology and is almost invariably incredibly predictable, especially in its cop stories (Grace's self-destructive nature renders her a difficult witness, the "big reveal" of Grace's dark secret). But Hunter's performance, as, as the (great) theme song puts it, "a heart full of gold on a lonely road" who "don't even think that God can save [her]" is worth watching the show for. Bonus points for employing Graham Chase as Grace's brother, a Catholic priest (Also nominated in this category? Glenn Close for Damages, who loses because the show is just good enough to get out of this category and because Ted Danson also made that show worth watching.)
ALOTT5MA CLASSIC: Can we impose a waiting period before we determine that a sports tournament constitutes a "classic"?