Saturday, June 7, 2008

SPANNING THE GLOBE TO BRING YOU THE CONSTANT VARIETY OF SPORTS: Legendary sportscaster Jim McKay died today at the age of 86. He hosted Wide World of Sports for 40 years and covered 12 Olympic Games, traveling an estimated 4 1/2 million miles to cover 100 different sports in 40 different nations.

McKay was the opposite of the SportsCenter/Screamin' A. era, a soft-spoken gentleman averse to hype and drawn to storytelling, who always knew it was the athletes, not he, who was the star. And he was the right man for that awful time in Munich, 1972, when his "They're all gone" was all he could say, and all anyone could say. ESPN is describing him tonight as "the Walter Cronkite of sports," and that sounds right to me.
I COUGHED YOUR NAME/I SMOKED ALL DAY: There is a minor fire going on two doors down from my office right now -- some white smoke (but no dark smoke), one ladder car two ladder cars, a few firemen on the roof and many more just standing around. But man, do people love a fire. It looks like a rock concert out on the street -- people keep coming over from the touristy stuff nearby to gawk. If it really started burning you could probably sell tickets.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Ask The A.V. Club - June 6, 2008 | The A.V. Club

DO YOU HANKER FOR A HUNK OF CHEESE? The AV Club makes Time for Timer (3d item). Look, a wagon wheel! Now go eat your breakfast.
NOTHING MAKES YOU WANT TO VOTE IN 2008 LIKE MUSIC FROM 1993: A long, long time ago, this blog received its first name and web address from a Superchunk song, and though the Chapel Hill power pop quartet has largely remained dormant in recent years, I was delighted to learn that prior to the North Carolina primary they played a pair of free concerts with The Arcade Fire to encourage early voting on behalf of a candidate our no-politics rule suggests I dare not name. The two setlists, both heavy with On the Mouth and earlier works, are here, and I can point you to a wealth of YouTubage from the shows available including "Detroit Has A Skyline", "Driveway to Driveway", "Untied", and, yes, "Throwing Things".

Pitchfork reports, however: "The audience was respectfully enthusiastic, but when Superchunk broke out 'Precision Auto' and nobody went especially apeshit, I wondered if most of them were too young to care much about Superchunk." It is very much a song worthy of that reaction. Kids these days ...
BIG DAMN PAPERS: In case you think we're a little obssessive about pop culture and academia around here, it could always get moreso--I give you the program to this weekend's third annual "Slayage Conference on the Whedonverses." Program topics include:
  • "An impossible birth to make one possible:" Contrasting Pregnancies on Angel
  • From Academic to Addict: The Supernatural Substance Abuse of Willow Rosenberg
  • "We play parts:" Saffron, Gender Stereotypes, and the Image of Domesticity in Firefly
  • Gazing at Male Vampires: Angel's and Spike's Bodies as Spectacle
HARD TO BELIEVE DOOGAL DIDN'T MAKE THE LIST: If you are one of those self-congratulatory parents who boasts about how they never have let little Timmy sit in front of the TV for six straight Spongebob episodes, please skip this post, but if you are one the great unwashed masses who says TV raised me and I turned out sort of OK, you know that one of the great joys of parenthood is the release of a great kids movie that will stand up to repeated viewings in the multiplex, on DVD, and then on cable.

That's a long way of introducing this list of The 25 Best Animated Movies (it's click-through, but not as annoying as the Entertainment Weekly lists), which does a pretty good job of hitting the genres high notes. Still the list criminally underrates Toy Story 2, which is the animated version of Godfather 2. Also, I know its heresy, but I find Snow White somewhat unwatchable. And though Pixar is well-represented with Toy Story and Toy Story 2, plus Incredibles, Nemo, and Ratatouille, but I'd find a place for Monsters Inc. on the list, too. I'm glad Hayao Miyazaki gets his props, but My Neighbor Totoro needs to make the cut, too.

Any other favorites miss the cut?
THE TURK AT PLANET HOLLYWOOD: There are like 12,000 dancers in Las Vegas, and the judges are cutting about six dancers per round. That means that there are three usual staples of this show of which we'll see very little: soft-focus stories; Cat Deeley, and dancing. Instead, it's like a two-hour-solid block of judging, kind of like dinner with my grandma in the 1980s.

Spoiler alert: I'm telling you who's not making it through this round of SYTYCD:
  • Quitters
  • Moms
  • That pageant girl who thinks she's all that
  • The 45-year-old clinically-depressed '90s hip-hopper
  • The girl who just fired her agency, and also some of the other professionals
  • Everyone who was told "you were my favorite ... of the ..." in the audition rounds
  • One or more members of every pair that depends upon each other for daily moral support
  • The debilitatingly-injured (except Nigel) or possibly social-diseased
  • Lippy tappers
  • Selfish tappers
  • Soccer balls
So what we're left with: salt-and-pepper poppers with personality, a likeable female hip-hopper, a tank-like male hip-hopper hiding a shady past of formal training, a slew of mature male contemporary dancers with occasionally bewildering haircuts, an "edgy" (in the same way that Idol uses the term, not the way it's used in the actual world) female contemporary dancer, an alleged ballerina, several high school or college student female dancers that are so implausibly cute that they may actually be animated fabric-softener mascots, and a creepy overtanned high school teacher whose entire wardrobe consists of denim miniskirts and neon swimwear.

The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination — The Harvard University Gazette

POTTER'S CREATOR VISITS SLYTHERIN: J.K. Rowling delivered the commencement address at Harvard University yesterday, regarding "The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination".

Grand Master Pudge -

CONSIDER THE PANDA: This, I did not expect at all based on its predictable trailer -- NYT, WaPo and AV Club all rave about Kung Fu Panda, in theaters today.
A WRINKLE IN LIME: Mrs Earthling has many charming attributes. But among those charming attributes, one of her more useful is her delight -- when looking for a cocktail -- in quizzing the bartender about what he himself likes to make.

When we were in Vegas in 2002, waiting for our table at Red Square (any decor which includes Gustav Klutsis is okay by me) and too cheap to kill time on Mandalay's sawbuck blackjack, we wandered over to Rum Jungle.

Now, I am led to understand that this had been (or perhaps was and still is) a happening place, but we are wont to eat with the blue hairs, so at 5:30pm on a Thursday night, they were still pulling the chairs down from the tables. While I promptly ordered something uninspired (a Long Island, perhaps), Karen inquired. And was offered up a Dark and Stormy.

I am aware that this is the official beverage of the Bermuda and for you East Coasters, this might not seem so exotic. But for us, it was a revelation.

It's a simple beverage: dark rum, ginger beer, and lime. I know that Gosling's is the official rum of Bermuda, but I've not seen that around here. So we make do.

You'll need:

A pint glass, filled with ice;

One jigger of Meyer's Dark Rum;

Juice of half a lime, one slice of lime;

Stewart's Ginger Beer.

Add the rum, then the juice of the lime, then fill to the rim with ginger beer, cut the lime slice, rub the rim and enjoy.

Once I'm off the vicodin from tomorrow's oral surgery, I'll be looking forward to a summer of dark and stormies. Or is that darks and stormy?

Comments are of course welcome with suggestions for improving or perfecting the dark and stormy and any of your own anecdotes about same.

* * *

N.B.: This discussion of the dark and stormy kicks off our summer cocktail series and asks for input from you, my fellow bloggers, our routine commentors, and our many lurkers. On an occasional basis, we'll ask those interested to submit: a favorite drink recipe along with an anecdote (amusing, poignant, maudlin, or otherwise) about you and that drink. Fire it to the contact email, claim a drink, and we'll put up a schedule.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

LET'S MAKE A DEAL: If the Boston Celtics will agree to stop playing the Rocky theme to fire up the crowd, we Philadelphians will surrender all claims to "Shipping Up To Boston," "Sweet Caroline," and acting as though there's anything noble or literary in our sports teams' woes.
OFF/ICE: YouTube of the Day. (Via Sepinwall.)
STUART SCOTT, BARBARO, BISSINGER, AND BRADY QUINN ARE CHIPPING IN ON A GOING-AWAY PRESENT: One of the few things we lay folk know about professional journalism, and therefore, presumably one of the first things that they teach you when you become a respectable journalist, is not to bury the lede. (I, for example, am not a professional journalist, and so it will be over two sentences plus a headline before I get to the point.) New York Magazine's newest contributing editor would be wise to learn this himself, since you actually have to click past the jump -- the equivalent of following the "continued on page A17" notation on a front-page newspaper story -- to find out that OMG you guys Will Leitch is leaving Deadspin!

I've credited Leitch's blog, Deadspin, 14 times on this site (for seven-legged hermaphroditic deer, meta-blog commentary, and homicidal child-hating Atlanta Falcons mascots, among other things), and that doesn't count the number of times I linked to Deadspin (innumerable) or just failed to credit it (supernumerable). Leitch, for better or for worse, either transformed Internet sports coverage or was just the first guy to do on a mass scale what is now so common -- bring the barstool into the Interwebs, where people can consider and discuss sports the way they do in real life, i.e., with insults, alcohol, and sex jokes. He made a well-respected author go bonkers, exposed an entire subculture of people who thought that a thoroughbred horse was not just a real person but a saint, gave us wall-to-wall coverage of the Zapruderish dissection of the momentary exposure of a USC Song Girl's tush during a football game, and linked to us every year when we covered the Spelling Bee.

He also, perhaps most impressively (and Bissinger notwithstanding), largely kept himself free of the oily film that covers a lot of both sports bloggers and Gawker Media employees. Leitch's own posts were sometimes sophomoric, but he never adopted the jubilantly crude persona of some of his contributors (Daulerio and Big Daddy Drew, and I want to emphasize that I read and like both of them) or of the sites that spun off of the Deadspin comments (Kissing Suzy Kolber, With Leather; again, I read and like those). Nor did he seem to embrace either the self-promotional predilections of some Gawker editors (Gould) or the mercilessness of others (Lisanti, Cohen). Best of all, because Deadspin frequently celebrated, unironically, the feats of its subjects (and in particular the feats of Leitch's favorites, the St. Louis Cardinals and Arizona Buzzsaw), it never seemed as relentlessly negative as some of the other Gawker sites.

Deadspin is as much Leitch as Wonkette was Cox, and you can see what happened to Wonkette after she left. While I'm afraid for where it will go without him to pull it toward Midwestern amiability (notwithstanding its content), I certainly wish him well.
A LITTLE BIT COUNTRY: We're accused from time to time of ignoring the vast world of country music, a charge which I, without hesitation, admit to being guilty of, but sometimes, a country artist makes the crossover. I mean when you can write a song this good for a ninth grade talent show and have it become a #1 country hit and a top 20 hit, that makes even us stand up and take notice. (And the follow-up single isn't bad either.)
WHAT I'D GIVE FOR FOOTAGE OF THE FIRST REHEARSAL OF "REST YOUR HEAD AGAINST MY INSTEP WHILE I JUMP OVER YOU": I have choreographed a little dance I like to call "Every Successful Female Contemporary SYTYCD Audition," and I'm going to teach it to you. I use some highly technical dance terminology, so if the terms are not self-explanatory, there will be a glossary at the end. Here it is:
  1. The Twisty
  2. Silent Movie Panic*
  3. Single Lohan**
  4. Sexy Fart Walk***
  5. Argument with a Sock Puppet****
  6. Mary Decker Slaney*****
  7. Double Lohan******
  8. Nap Time
And thus ends both my routine and the audition round of SYTYCD, the part of the show that has way too much boring filler but also features my favorite part -- the poppers doing their popping, which doesn't happen a lot once they have to do, say, the Foxtrot. Plus, that soccer ball thing was pretty cool. Although the choreographer + non-contestant dance looked like something straight out of World War Z: The Musical.

*Stagger around the stage and then pretend you can't pay the rent, maybe with your hand to your brow or your chest thrust out with both hands off to the side and a little behind you
**Kick leg way up in the air while facing audience. If you're college-dancer good, your leg will come right back down. If you're crazy-good, your leg will get stuck up there and you'll have to vamp a while with one foot pointing at the rigging.
***Walk sexy, but wave your hands artistically behind your caboose.
****Let most of your body take a breather, but do some crazy hand motions like gymnasts or street drunks.
*****Fall hard with one knee forward. Audience may think you fell, but you were just, choreographically speaking, evoking the spirit of falling.
******Standing jump-split, facing the audience. The male equivalent of this move is called the Lee Roth and is performed in buttless leather chaps. In answer to the obvious question of why the female version is not performed in buttless leather chaps: (a) network television; (b) high school contestants; (c) Utah auditions.
LIKE CLIFF NOTES, ONLY MORE SUCCINCT: For those who are a little despondent at having to wait until January for Lost to resume, you can warm your hands a bit around the McSweeney's fire.
FROM THE ALOTT5MA UROPHILIA DESK: We're not providing daily updates of the R. Kelly trial -- the Sun-Times and Tribune are your comprehensive resources for that. (Also, child pornography is not funny, even if several aspects of this trial are. A Space Jam room in your house?) But it is worth noting that yesterday was the day that ALOTT5MA friend (and pop music critic for the Sun-Times) Jim DeRogatis was called to the stand, where he was ultimately granted the shield of the Fifth Amendment against testifying (though not reportorial privileges) regarding questions of what happened to The Tape after he received it in the mail.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

OCTOPUS: Okay, to prevent y'all from taking over every comments thread, our Detroit-area ice hockey fans and their Michigander sympathizers can rejoice and gloat here.
WHY, HELLO, WILBUR: Discuss the similarities and differences between tonight's final elimination on Top Chef and the final elimination in the first season of Project Runway, which I was instantly reminded of while watching. This has not exactly been the greatest season (save for the episode in which Bourdain subbed for Chef Tom as head judge), but we could be headed for a satisfying conclusion.
IT'LL DO FOR ANTITRUST LAWYERS WHAT RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK DID FOR ARCHEOLOGISTS AND MIDNIGHT RUN FOR SKIP TRACERS: Shooting has begun on Steven Soderbergh's The Informant, an adaptation of Kurt Eichenwald's masterful telling of the ADM lysine price-fixing scandal starring a mustachioed Matt Damon as the titular turncoat, with Scott Bakula and The Soup's Joel McHale as the FBI agents.

Here's the February 2004 This American Life on which you can hear some of Whitacre's recordings and more on this fascinating story. In Soderbergh's hands, this could be awesome.

Five horrible TV theme song lyrics - VIDEOS - TV Squad

I WANT CHARLES IN CHARGE OF THIS: TV Squad ranks five of the worst tv theme songs ever, but I have a feeling you'll expand the list easily.
WHICH IS NOT TO SAY THAT I'M NOT SYMPATHETIC TO ANYONE STRUGGLING WITH ADDICTION ISSUES, BUT, AS SETH MEYERS WOULD SAY, REALLY: Lamest Tatum O'Neal crack-seeking excuse -- saying "don't you know who I am?" when she really meant "don't you know who I was?"; "I was doing research" or "the dog ate my sobriety"?
SHE YEARNED FOR THE TIME WHEN DINNER WAS FOLLOWED BY DESSERT, NOT LUBRICANT: We were due for something on this topic, and our friend Russ ably volunteered:
* * * *

A woman works assiduously for ten years toward her goal, only to watch it seemingly crumble before her eyes – a prize that is hers by rights, apparently stolen away by the fates. Offered the chance to achieve quick resolution, she delays action, and huddles with her inner circle. Ultimately she falls into an inertial rut, seeming to cut off her nose to spite her proverbial face.

I speak, of course, about Sex and the City: The Movie. Taking advantage of the babysitting services of a home-from-college neighbor whom we have missed dearly this past year, Mrs. Russ and I stole away on Saturday night to wash the (for us) sour taste of Indiana Jones from our mouths and to relax with Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda. My own verdict (and, as a heterosexual married man, I realize I’m not the target demographic) is that the movie was flawed but fun. Compared to last week’s fare, this was a fresh and fruity Cosmopolitan. (If the show had originated in 2008 instead of 1998, would it be a mojito?)

The good: With a couple of exceptions, the movie remained true to the characters and told a decent story. I felt like the arc that the characters had experienced in the four years since we last saw them was believable, and the world of the movie was the S&tC world we knew, not a thinned-out, denatured version of that world (see, e.g., X-Files: Fight the Future). I also was pleased to see that they were able to work in some of the minor characters – Harry, Stanford, Enid, Magda, and so on. And I think that both the beginning and (very) end of the movie worked extremely well. They also got in some great lines – Samantha’s extrapolation of the crayon metaphor jumps to mind, but there were others too.

The bad: Before we get to my main gripes, some nits. First, it’s too bad that some of the minor characters mentioned above (HARRY!) didn’t get more screen time. Second, the movie was too long, with almost all of the excess devoted to downbeat segments that may have had something to say, but were inconsistent with the overall tone of the show. Third, in a well-meaning effort to enhance diversity, the movie winds up falling into the “magical Negro” trap. And fourth, some of the characters were caricatured. In particular, Samantha was flattened a bit – “Have we mentioned that I’m the one who loves SEX?” But my biggest complaint (which I’m sure isn’t mine alone) was this: The two main conflicts that drive the plot seemed extremely forced to me. I don’t want to say too much in the body here, but I’d love to know what the women here think about both. My view as a guy – and I am not excusing the behavior of the two men involved – is that this is a movie in part about what differentiates adulthood from youth, and both Carrie and Miranda make foolish, childish, black-and-white decisions that are permitted to fester for far too long. In some ways, this is just a plot device – the decisions do drive the plot, and the idea is to show these two characters growing – but to the extent this is true I’m not sure the plot is any more plausible than an episode of "Three’s Company". It also doesn’t help that Samantha’s conflict doesn’t have much resonance (except on what I’ll call the feminism point, which seems tacked on rather than organic, but tell me if I’m wrong), and that Charlotte has no conflict to speak of (unless “(wo)man vs. sphincter” is to be added to the traditional categories).

The ugly: A week or two ago, commenter Will stated that “[it is] [h]ard to take anything seriously that seriously promotes the idea that SJP is attractive or desirable in any way.” But I’m not at all sure that either the show or the movie does this. Carrie is not made out to be particularly attractive, either physically or otherwise. She struggles with love, with her friends, and (sometimes) with work. She is portrayed as a sort of everywoman – a point made nicely by the closing montage. At some level, the message of the show and the movie is that we don’t have to be gorgeous and we don’t even necessarily need to be living out a great romance – we just need friends who will feed us oatmeal in bed when we’re at our lowest. I suspect this is why the movie has been sold out in major metropolitan areas, and why the show was and remains so popular.

So, those are my thoughts. But I couldn’t help but wonder… what did you all think?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Robert Smigel | The A.V. Club

THE LOW POINT WAS WHEN DINO WAS SHAT IN THE EYE BY A DUCK: Do read this AV Club interview with Robert Smigel, which touches on the Zohan, joking about Israelis, TV Funhouse on DVD and the prospects for an Ambiguously Gay Duo live-action movie.
CAUSE OF DEATH--FEVER FOR THE FLAVOR: Fredric Baur, the inventor of the Pringles can; not the chip itself, but the vessel by which all that reconstituted potatoey goodness is protected before you can shovel it into your gaping maw, has died. Honoring Baur's wishes, his ashes were buried in a Pringles can.
YOU CAN HEAR HIM CARING IN THERE: Playbill has a quite long and excellent interview with Robert Sean Leonard, talking about his television, film, and stage work, including shockingly frank assessments of his difficulty in understanding Tom Stoppard's Invention of Love (for which he won a Tony), how he bullied Kenneth Branagh into his role in Much Ado About Nothing, and his love for reading bad reviews.
DEAR MR. HUDSON, COLON: So I was initially a little dubious on this 9 to 5 as a Broadway-bound musical thing, until I saw that in addition to Allison Janney playing Violet Newstead (dayenu), we have the role of Franklin M. Hart Jr. filled by none other than Marc Kudisch!

Any chance that Doralee might have to take a speed test? Please? (Sorry, no Kudisch/Sutton version available on youtube.)
I TOOK THE ONE LESS TRAVELED BY AND DUDE I AM SOOOO WASTED: Perhaps because I am reading Brock Clarke's excellent 2007 novel An Arsonists' Guide to Writers' Homes in New England, I loved this story about how a group of rowdy teens who threw a wild party at one of Robert Frost's former homes are not being jailed or fined, but rather schooled in the redemptive power of Frost's poetry.
FRANKLIN AWAITS HIS COMEBACK: Network and studio efforts to comply with the Bluth Family Full Employment Act are much appreciated, with almost the entire Bluth family occupied:

This is not the time to link to random transcripts or Hulu scenes from the show. I can't stress this enough.

FOR PEOPLE WHO ONLY NEED A BEAT. In junior high, I had the opportunity to take an elective on the history of rock and roll. I figured the class would begin with an analysis of a group like Bill Haley and the Comets. Imagine my surprise when instead the first class focused upon a guy I had scarcely even heard of at the time – Bo Diddley. Why were we studying a guy who had had only one Top 40 hit in his entire life (1957’s “Say Man”, which hit #20)? It was then that I learned about his importance in music history. Bo Diddley died yesterday at the age of 79. His passing saddens me.

Diddley played a key role in the creation of rock and roll, particularly its transition from the blues. He pioneered the use of more insistent, powerful rhythms and a hard-edged guitar sound.

Perhaps most importantly, Bo Diddley crafted the beat that bore his name. In its simplest form, the Bo Diddley beat can be counted out as a two-bar phrase:

"One and two and three and four and one and two and three and four and..."

Many of his compositions, such as "Hey Bo Diddley" (CLICK ON THIS LINK!) and "Who Do You Love?" have no chord changes. As a result, the beat produces the thrill, rather than having the excitement arise from the melody or harmonic tension.

A blog on summarizes his considerable influence:

That oversized, swaggering beat quickly became widely imitated, with Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” and Ronnie Hawkins’ version of “Who Do You Love” being the first inkling of the tidal wave of Diddley-inspired rocking to follow. As the ’60s rolled on, band after band rode Bo’s train: the Rolling Stones’ recorded “Mona” and gave Muddy Waters’ “I Just Want To Make Love To You” a Bo Beat, the Pretty Things took their name from one of his singles, the Who’s “Magic Bus” was fueled by Diddley, the Yardbirds covered Bo’s “Here ‘Tis” and “I’m A Man” picking up on the wild modernity of his recordings, while Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band tapped into his flat-out weirdness in their cover of “Diddy Wah Diddy.” … the Clash had Bo open for them on an American tour, while two Georges – Michael and Thorogood – brought the Bo Diddley beat into ’80s with their hits “Faith” and “Bad to the Bone,” while the man himself was part of a Nike ad campaign in the early ’90s, around the time Paul McCartney revived “Crackin’ Up” ….

Let me add to that list the Strangeloves' 1965 hit "I Want Candy" (another link not to be missed!), a song that has been covered by many other artists including Bow Wow Wow.

Diddley was renowned for his creative guitar work. He created many special effects on the electric guitar and other innovations in tone and attack. Bo Diddley’s guitar work and music influenced the “chugging” and riffing that has since defined hard rock and metal.

In 1987, Bo Diddley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In the late 1980's he teamed with Bo Jackson in Nike’s infamous “Bo Knows” commercials featuring his pithy line "Bo, you don't know Diddley!"

You can read much more about Bo Diddley here, here, and here (parts of this piece are taken from those websites).

Possibly the best of his many compilations CDs is this one.

The Jesus & Mary Chain have a song called “Bo Diddley is Jesus.” That pretty much sums it up.

I AM SO MUCH BETTER THAN BEFOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORE: I guess it shouldn't really surprise me that after watching five minutes of Legally Blonde: The Search for the Next Elle Woods, I had already set up my season pass for the rest of the summer. (To be precise, they had me from the moment that the fifty started doing their combination on stage together with Jerry Mitchell calling out numbers every so often to winnow down the Elles.)

Setting aside all the little confessionals in which the fifteen competitors declared their affection for pink and their cosmic bonds with Reese Witherspoon, the first day on set was a doozy and a half. No coddling here -- just a whole lot of singing and dancing and bending and snapping and holding really long notes. And, for a nice change of pace, America's got nothing to do with the outcome -- no tweenies will be getting index finger sprain from dialing for Max Crumm.

Monday, June 2, 2008

STARRING CINDY CRAWFORD: After nearly 7 years since the last incarnation (and I'm not counting the Ahmad Rashad-hosted abominations), The Mole made its return to US airwaves. Much of the good's still there--a nicely eclectic cast, with a good mix of shapes, sizes, races, social class, and background, and nicely designed challenges in exotic locales. While Jon Kelley isn't Anderson Cooper, he's not Ahmad Rashad, either, and he'll do, at least for the moment. The biggest problem so far, though, is that casting apparently thought the show was desperately in need of "stock reality show villain #3" (the Omarosa model, which, alongside the Richard Hatch and Sanjaya models, remains a bestseller, while the "Wendy Pepper" has achieved limited sales outside of Bravo) in the form of "Dr. Whiner" Nicole, who already needs to shut up (and is so blatantly not The Mole, it's not even funny). Anyone else watching?

25-Year Championship Drought | Philadelphia Daily News

FROM KYLE ABBOTT TO DAINIUS ZUBRIS: As we've mentioned before, it was twenty-five years ago today that the Philadelphia 76ers became the last major Philadelphia professional sports team to win a league championship. The Philadelphia Daily News has a package of articles to remind you of the pain, including a list of the 25 best players of the post-title era, a roll call of all the rest, and an appropriately frustrating quiz.

[Note: I had no idea Isaac would be writing on a similar theme simultaneously. Still, in the interest of equal time and positivity, here's six minutes of Ron Hextall highlights, Randall Cunningham to Jimmie Giles on MNF and Fred Barnett for 95 yards, and Iverson over Lue.]
THANKFULLY, A BIKE COP AND TWO LANDSCAPERS ON A JOHN DEERE CAME TO HER AID: Since everybody seems to think we're a Philadelphia-themed blog, it is our duty to point out this lovely photo essay about just how relaxing a day at the ballpark with the Phillies can be. My favorite things about the post are (a) the one flip-flop; and (b) the fact that the title to this post is not smart-alecky hyperbole, but a completely accurate description of the last photo in the group.

Deadspin. Forgive me, Buzz Bissinger.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE SCARIEST THING IS? TO NOT KNOW YOUR PLACE IN THE WORLD, TO NOT KNOW WHY YOU'RE HERE: I suppose we should speak for a minute about Occasional ALOTT5MA Whipping Boy M. Night Shyamalan, whose new film is being released this week. The Times sat down with the difficult director, and it starts off like this:
M. Night Shyamalan says he knows exactly when his relationship with Hollywood started to sour.

In 2000, he was on a conference call with executives from Walt Disney Studios discussing “Unbreakable,” the follow-up to his phenomenally successful movie “The Sixth Sense.” He wanted to market “Unbreakable” as a comic-book movie — the tale of an unlikely superhero — but Disney executives insisted on portraying it as a spooky thriller, like “The Sixth Sense.”

“I remember the moment that it happened, exactly where I was sitting at the table, the speakerphone,” he recalled in an interview from his office in a converted farmhouse near Philadelphia. “That moment may have been the biggest mistake that I have to undo over 10 years so the little old lady doesn’t go, ‘Oh, he’s the guy who makes the scary movies with a twist."
I'm pretty firmly on the record that "Unbreakable" is a fantastic movie marred by a ten-minutes-premature ending, and "Signs" was a decent thriller ruined by a disappointing ending (which nevertheless made a ton of money.) As for "The Sixth Sense," it deserves its status as modern masterpiece. Its ending works because everything before it works, especially the air of sadness and dread, and the outstanding, restrained acting from Willis, Collette and Osment.

["The Village" and "Lady in the Water," however, yuck. And while the budgets are interesting, that's not my problem.]

What I'd like to see is simple: Shyamalan directing someone else's script. He is a great visual stylist -- and (with a significant assist from composer James Newton Howard) a fantastic creator and sustainer of mood -- who is fallen by his own dumbass script decisions. (Really: "Those We Don't Speak Of"?) If someone were to take away some of that decisionmaking from him and allow Shyamalan to focus on what he does well, I think some fantastic films could result.

Implicit in all this is my assumption that "The Happening," not yet screened for critics, will suck. Anyone predicting otherwise?
EXIT LIGHT, ENTER NIGHT: Does Guitar Hero: Metallica honestly sell anyone who hasn't already been sold by the prior incarnations? Also, with Aerosmith-based and silly-looking DS incarnations of the game heading soon, is Activision diluting its own brand too much? Personally, the silly "boss battles" in GHIII, coupled with the higher flexibility and awesome downloadable content for Rock Band (not to mention the superior and larger Fender controller for Rock Band) has led me to far prefer Rock Band in that war.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

6:30 PM, I-95 SOUTH NEARING THE EXIT FOR THE BETSY ROSS BRIDGE: I think I'll let H.O.V.A. narrate:

The year is '08 and the pool party was great
In my rear view mirror is the stateys I hate
I got two choices y'all, pull over the minivan or
bounce on the double put the pedal to the floor
Now I ain't trying to see no highway chase with Jake
Plus I got a few dollars I can fight the case
So I... pull over to the side of the road
And I heard "Son do you know why I'm stopping you for?"
"Cause I'm young and I'm Tribe and I spell 'tremolo'?
Do I look like a mind reader sir, I don't know?
Am I under arrest or should I guess some mo?"
"Well you was doing seventy in a fifty fo'
License and registration and step out of the car
Are you carrying a Bar membership on you? I know a lot of you are."
I ain't stepping out of sh*t all my papers legit ...
Okay. No search was sought or allowed, and I don't quite have 99 problems, but seriously? The officer believed we were doing 75 in the speed machine known as the 2005 Honda Odyssey minivan, along with the pace of traffic, when I saw the state highway patrolman behind me. So I moved from the left to the center lane and slowed down. Still, he followed me into the lane, and I guess I didn't pay him his propers, because a minute later, the berries were flashing and that was it. A speeding ticket. For the offense against the laws of the Commonwealth of allegedly doing 70 mph on I-95 in a 55 mph zone. The penalty sought is $168.00.
WHERE'S BETTY WHITE? While NPH's performance on Million Dollar Password's first round was disappointing (and he seemed to have trouble hearing his civilian player), he improved greatly in subsequent rounds and the unscripted moments from him are worthwhile, though I'm not sold on the revised speed format in the first round, which reminds me far more of Pyramid than Password, the million dollar game is way too complicated for its own good (a good game show has as few rules as possible, which was a key part of Millionaire's brilliance), and Regis Philbin's no Allen Ludden with his endearing geekiness. Still, serviceable summer game show fare.
JEAN-LUC'S ETOILE-STUDDED HONKY-TONK: The French don't care for the fad that is country line-dancing. So, of course, they're going to regulate it. A fine approach to a coming onslaught, and what I think they used at Sedan.
ARREST THE PRESIDENT! ARREST THE PRESIDENT! ARREST THE MOTHERFRAKKING PRESIDENT: Just the last few days, I'd started working my way through some of the earliest BSG episodes to see how my perspective has changed about Cylon behavior back then based on what I know now. The skinjobs show up in more places than I remember in the miniseries (I remember the fellow on the weapons depot; I'd forgotten about the fellow in the press corps on Colonial One).

In all events, here we are with the wrong guy running the political wing of the fleet, the wrong guy running Galactica, and the wrong guy looking for the missing base ship. A couple of notes for your consideration:

* Is that what Tigh was doing when the lights were off? Really?

* If so, couldn't have Adama put someone less crazy in charge like, say, Captain Thrace?

* And if the council was going to put something else in charge, couldn't they have picked someone less crazy like, say, Colonel Tigh?

* By the way, that four-barreled derringer is actual firearm, chambered in the delightful .357 magnum, not a stage prop. Good thing Lee was never actually in danger (or was he?)