Saturday, September 13, 2008

SOMEWHERE, BEN AFFLECK MOURNS: Sure, the real Emmys aren't till next Sunday, but the Creative Arts Emmys were this week, and a few of note:
  • Kathryn Joosten (Mrs. Landngham!) picks up her second Emmy for guest actress for Desperate Housewives.
  • Wade Robson gets an Emmy for his SYTYCD choreography, which I'm sure will trigger some Eeeee!
  • "I'm F*****g Matt Damon" is your outstanding song.
  • "Eternal Moonshine Of The Simpson Mind" upsets "Family Guy: Blue Harvest" for short animated program.
  • John Adams wins almost every award under the sun for technical achievement in movies/mini-series.
  • Showtime's This American Life picks up a direction award and a "Nonfiction Series" award (note that this is different from "reality series" and "reality competition series," both of which are their own category).
A TRUE TRIBUTE, TO BE SURE, WOULD BE HEAVILY FOOTNOTED: But for the moment I'm too stunned: the Associated Press is reporting that author David Foster Wallace (Amherst '85) has been found dead in his home. It is being reported as a suicide.

He was -- I can't believe I'm saying "was" -- a fiction writer with a journalist's attention to detail, a sprawling mind willing to explore the full potential of the page. Infinite Jest remains the heaviest piece of fiction I've ever finished, and I'm just gobsmacked right now. Go ahead, read his essay for Harper's about his seven-night cruise, his August 2004 piece for Gourmet on the morality of eating lobster (PDF), or this piece on the sport he played and loved, "Roger Federer As Religious Experience". What a shame.
THE DANGERS OF LONG-LEAD REPORTING: Two pertinent examples from an NYT Play Magazine piece in running quarterbacks:
It wasn’t until the third round that a truly mobile quarterback was picked, when the New England Patriots selected Kevin O’Connell of San Diego State; considering the durability of Tom Brady, the man he will be groomed to replace, O’Connell’s running is likely to be in place and on the sideline for the next few years....

Even if Troy Aikman — a virtual statue behind his line — suffered a similar number of concussions as Steve Young, and even if the Cincinnati Bengals' quarterback Carson Palmer blew out a knee in the pocket while Vince Young's only professional injury so far, a strained quadriceps muscle, was a non-contact injury, the league-wide consensus is that giving free rein to a quarterback is too risky.
The latter one, at least, merited an online excision and correction: "An earlier version of this article gave outdated information on Vince Young. After the article was published, Young injured his knee and will be out two to four weeks." Why not do something about the first one as well?

[Side warning for all FFL owners: BAL-HOU postponed until November. Realistically, and given recent news, was anyone starting anyone in that game other than Andre Johnson and the Ravens defense?]

[Speaking of injuries: the fever went from 103 to 99 in less than 24 hours, and I'm more-or-less fine now. God bless the three-day azithromycin prescription.]

Friday, September 12, 2008

CARRY ON: When Jennifer Lopez had to drop out of her guest judge job for the Project Runway finale, it was a make it work moment. And make it work the producers did--replacing J.Lo will be Tim Gunn, acting, for the first time, as a judge. (And apparently, all six remaining contestants did show.)
THE GOLDEN ROAD: So, for the first time in I can't even remember how long, I'm staying home from work today because of a variety of ailments, starting with a 102 fever and ending ... well, let's just stop there.

I used to love sick days as a kid growing up for one reason: The Price Is Right, one of the favorites of everyone here. (See, e.g., Isaac's "Price is Right game or deviant (apocryphal) sexual practice?" challenge.) So while I'm on the couch ailing, how about telling us a story from your sick days growing up?
GRANTED, SOME MIGHT ACCUSE ME OF BIAS IN FAVOR OF FILMS SCRIPTED BY SUSANNAH GRANT ADAPTING WORKS BY FORMER PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER REPORTERS: The first trailer for The Soloist, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx, is now online. Now-LA Times columnist Steve Lopez's stunning original columns about homeless violin prodigy Nathaniel Ayers are all here, and when I say "well worth your time," I truly mean it.
JACKIE CLUTCHES HER PILLBOX HAT CRYING "WHY?" "WHY?": In a slight departure from our normal pop cultural blogging, I want to note (via BoingBoing) that Tonya Harding shot JFK.

N.B.: Edited link to take you directly to the Tonya Harding article. Lots of other odd stuff on that site.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

WHY PAY $9.50 FOR THE LESSER EVIL?: I was unaware that there was a mid-budget Cthulhu movie coming out. My great problem with the casting of Tori Spelling is not her inability to act, but that she is not to portray Yog Sothoth.

And I am sadder still that the soundtrack is not by the DayGlo Abortions.
SNAP INTO A SLIM JIM: Have you ever thought "I enjoy beef jerky, but really, I just can't justify the cost? I wish I could make it at home!" Well, now your dreams are answered, with the JerkyXpress, which I saw at a store tonight:

Amazon has more details, including that some models come with a "jerky gun."

HARPER'S INDEX MOMENT: Number of pieces of roadkill seen while driving to and from my client's offices in Michigan today: 3 (2 raccoons, and what appeared to be a hedgehog). Number of pillows on my bed at the hotel I'm staying at: 8 (covering a good 1/3 of the surface area of the bed).
AN ETERNAL AND UNENDING TASK: Seven years on, I still maintain that The Onion wrote the single most important article about the meaning of the September 11 attacks.

And, also, the funniest.
HOOCHIE: There are certain things that we look forward to every season on America's. Next. Top. Model. There's the visit from Benny Ninja. There's makeover week. (Next week!) There's the foreign language commercial challenge. And there's the revelation of each cycle's house bigot, and that it happens to be a prudish woman from Alaska this cycle is ... um, why would that be interesting?

Anyway: if you like inappropriately accessorized crotches, contortionists, collapsing lies about fake breasts and conspicuous hormone injections, I think this was your episode. I will say that Sheena makes for very good television, even if she has no shot of winning this. (Early favorite? Ilina.)
DEP'T OF OUT OF CONTEXT QUOTES:From the Australian state of New South Wales' premier, Nathan Rees--"I subsequently put it to former minister Brown late last night that there are too many reports of you in your underwear for me to ignore. He conceded he'd been in his underwear and that gave me no option but to demand his resignation." (The picture accompanying the article is also awesome.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I THINK ASTROLOGY IS NONSENSE, WHICH IS HOW YOU CAN TELL I’M AN ARES: An invitation to do something avant-garde is basically a dare. Show us your point of view. Take it too far and make us believe it anyway. That’s a fundamentally legitimate basis for a Project Runway episode, and a Rorschach vessel like an astrological sign is as good as anything as a touchstone for a challenge that invites the contestants to go go go go! So I’m not complaining. Still, neither the clothes nor the twists nor the interpersonal dynamics made much of an impression this week.

Faves around here were Jarrell, Leanne, and Terri, leaving us surprised by one of the eliminations. As for the other? Yes, I'll say it: Auf'licious.

N.F.L. 2008 - Football for Smarties - Dancing by the Stars and Pretty-Boy Quarterbacks -

BY THIS STANDARD, KYLE ORTON SHOULD BE MAKING MINIMUM WAGE: According to economist David Berri, "pretty" quarterbacks make more money than equally talented ones with less-symmetrical faces.
HEIGHTENING THE NATIONAL INTEREST IN ANTS AND CHIAVENNASCA: In preparation for the long overdue return of Dirty Sexy Money on October 1, SOAPnet (now there’s a network whose offerings we don’t talk about very often) will be running a marathon of all ten episodes of the show’s truncated first season on Saturday, September 27 starting at 9 am.

For those of you in Manhattan, that would be channel 119 on your Time Warner Digital Cable system. [Ed. note: 120 on Comcast Digital Cable-Phila.] I have no help for the rest of you, except to note that this is a seriously fun bit of TV fluff that you should be watching. I can’t say what impact the changes to cast and crew over the intervening months (Dirtier! Sexier! Monier!) will have on a show that was for me was one of the highlights of last year’s viewing, but you can bet that you’ll hear all about it here. Bring on the Darlings!
REALLY REALLY NARROWCASTING: Which prospective television project interests you more--a television adapatation of the NYT's "Modern Love" column, or a televised version of "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me." And, yes, Carl Kassell is signed for the televised version of "Wait, Wait."
"WHO KNOWS HOW TO MAKE LOVE STAY?": Check the comments for a sweet tale (not written by me) of a love that has endured. The tale is full of pop culture references that all of you will enjoy.
PERHAPS HE WILL CELEBRATE WITH AN ICY-COLD BOHEMIAN STYLE BEER: The 2008 Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime achievement in the creative and performing arts (our past coverage here) will be presented to Barbra Streisand, Morgan Freeman, Twyla Tharp, George Jones, and Pete Townshend/Roger Daltrey. The gala will be held on December 7, and, as always, will be broadcast later that month on CBS.

A list of previous honorees is here, suggesting that Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee (2004) were the most recent paired winners. Others include Kander & Ebb, Newman & Woodward, the Nicholas Brothers, Comden & Green, Cronyn & Tandy, and Lerner & Loewe.

Almost four years ago, I suggested that Woody Allen, Robert Altman and Richard Pryor were the most worthy artists yet to be so honored. Altman and Pryor have since passed away without receiving the recognition, and the suckiness of Vicki Cristina Barcelona notwithstanding (STFU, narrator!), he still remains overdue. I'll suggest Meryl Streep and James L. Brooks as two others whose time has surely come.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

UNLESS YOU NEED MILK. THEN YOU REALLY NEED A COW. So, Fringe. Half the fun was doing the "hey, there's that J.J. thing that he likes to do." The glissando before the commercial break? Check. The heroine with wounded eyes above square jaw? Check. Hopefully sympathetic female character trying to mask her Australian accent and sounding artificially pretentious as a result? Got it. Shaky "this isn't going to end well" overseas flight? Well, yes. Strange dream state in which symbolic images reveal secrets? Check. Um, events taking place on college campus? (I needed something for Felicity.) And there's Abbadon, too! But no Greg Grunberg -- are they saving him for sweeps?

I didn't find the pilot to be as compelling as most of Abrams' earlier work (it's tough to make the ex ante argument that a truth-is-out-there procedural could be as compelling as Lost). But it was certainly watchable and entertaining -- particularly the Pacey and Dad bits, and I'm a sucker for a cow -- and Abrams has earned the right to get the benefit of the doubt. I've never been an X-Files watcher, so I'll be curious to hear others' views as to how derivative (or not) this seems like it's going to be.

Just one eensy weensy teeny tiny request:

Dear J.J.,

Please, please, can you finally learn the lesson that you were supposed to learn from Alias but apparently didn't because you did it again on Lost? Namely: can you please have a plan for what the Pattern is ahead of time? So that maybe you don't find yourself in the customary situation of having 20 episodes under your belt and suddenly having to figure out how to tie together a statue with four toes, a big red ball of goop, a jar of smoothaise, six random numbers, and a fourteenth-century sketch of Jennifer Garner? Please? Thanks.

Love, KCosmo
LEAGUE NIGHT! Okay, so let me make my preferences clear about 90210 v2.0 -- I want less prolonged sadness and victimization, and more backstabbing, comedy-of-manners and references to Bev Niner Original Recipe. Which is to say that I'm all for the return of Jackie Taylor, only not like that. For what it's worth, I'm wondering whether the creators actually know who fathered Kelly's baby, or if they're just waiting to see whether Priestly, Perry or Ziering signs on the dotted line first.

All of which is to say that the show's now on notice, and once Dr. Hizzy returns next week this show will have to take steps to earn my continued attention. (One hint? It has the initials HZV.)
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY, WELCOME TO KITCHEN STADIUM: A Thai court has ordered Prime Minister Samak Sundravej to step down for appearing on his "Tasting and Complaining" cooking show while in office.
iLIKE: Steve Jobs (the real one) rolled out some new iPod, iTunes and iTouch innovations today -- smaller, smarter ("Genius" playlists constructed for you) and sleeker, adding neat new features like "shake your Nano, and it moves to the next song" and headphones with volume and song-skipping controls built into the cord.
THIS HOUSE PREFERS HOLIDAY HAM TO CELERY: Knowing the crowd around here as I do, I am guessing that given the choice between anorexistylist and impending victim of self-induced overexposure Rachel Zoe and curvaceous, honey-voiced portrayer of both Saffron and Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks) is almost so one-sided as to not even really be a choice.

This post by Monica Corcoran of the LA Times asked whether we had all been brainwashed by the size 0s of the entertainment world into believing that Hendricks (or, more specifically, Holloway) was too zaftig for television. Gauging from the vociferousness of the responses, I’m thinking that perhaps America is ready once again to give voluptuous a chance.

Monday, September 8, 2008

THOUGHTS FROM THE ROAD: Demonstrating I've spent entirely too much time in hotels over the past few weeks, two questions about hotels:

1. Why do hotels (particularly high-end hotels) insist on having an obscene number of pillows? The ones that particularly bug are the small but long pillows that normally rest on top of the other pillows. Way too small for my head--what am I supposed to do with these (other than the obvious answer of "throw them to the floor")?
2. Why are hotel rooms invariably so poorly lit? The entry hallway usually has an overhead light, but the rest of the room is almost invariably lit by a series of lamps, which should ideally have switches so cleverly disguised as to be impossible to locate. Why not have a second overhead lght so people can see where they're going.

Also, hotels that charge for Wi-Fi or network services deserve at least a stern talking-to. If I (or rather, my client) is paying a solid room rate, there's no reason not to have this free.
NEXT STOP PORTLAND: I'm not sure the statistic is all that meaningful, but I will call to your attention that tonight the Red Sox broke the MLB record for consecutive sellouts by filling Fenway Park for the 456th straight time, breaking the record previously held by the Cleveland Indians.

The record for consecutive sellouts among all of the major professional franchises is 744 games, set by the Portland Trailblazers from 1977-95.

I think it's a long shot, but the Sox might conceivably challenge that mark about 4 years from now.

LESSIG WEPT: So, the fine Southern District of New York issued an order blocking publication of The Harry Potter Lexicon earlier today. This isn't a place for legal analysis, but since I practice in the area, and because of the pop cultural hook, I'll say the court seemed to get it right. I'm a big fan of a robust concept of fair use and transformative use (heck, lord knows what this blog would be were it not for fair use), but this seemed to me to cross the line--the opinion lays out an abundance of entries in the proposed Lexicon that are almost word for word from the books. I'm not sold on the analysis of it bring a direct infringement and the cursory rejection of it as a "derivative work" (my view is that it's probably an infringing derivative work), but this seems to me a fair and right opinion.
THEN AGAIN, HE WILL HAVE MORE TIME TO SPEND WITH HIS SON: We can talk about the impact of Tom Brady's season-ending injury on the Patriots' title hopes, but CNBC's Darren Rovell focuses his attention on where it really belongs: an alleged $150M shift in future fantasy football winnings from Brady owners to others.

It's premised on a statistic I'd love to verify and regard as deeply dubious: did 50% of teams with Brady win their leagues last year? That seems awfully high, especially since his week 15 was 140y/0td/1int, followed with 215y/3td/2int and a fumble lost in week 16. In other words, most Brady owners didn't even make the finals in the first place.
THEME SONGS FOR EACH MLB TEAM: Here is a list of theme songs for the seasons that each major league baseball team is having this year. I particularly enjoyed the selection for the Kansas City Royals.
IT'S BACK...INDUCTION JUNCTION: The secret cabal that decides who gets on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ballot is meeting today to determine this year's potential inductees. It's one of those Goose Gossage type years for the Rock Hall, too, with Bon Jovi heading up the list of newly eligible groups (in terms of popularity as opposed to artistry, influence, etc.). Other notables new to the field include The Smiths, Cyndi Lauper, Billy Bragg, and Run DMC. The fine folks over at Future Rock Hall have their predictions up, with Metallica and the Beastie Boys leading the pack.
SOMEWHERE, SID MEIER IS VERY UNHAPPY: There are times when I think that we are running out of "________ Tycoon" names for computer games. Today's announcement of DQ Tycoon, the game that "will offer players the ability to manage a series of Dairy Queen® stores in a community with daily challenges including the creation of Blizzard® flavor treats for a rush of customers," certainly makes today one of those times.
THE COLBERT UNIVERSE:Perhaps it's just because I played a little too much Spore last night, but shooting Stephen Colbert's DNA into space so aliens can make use of it strikes me as something that could have substantial unitended consequences. Do we want an army of Colberts marching on us from outer space? I think not.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

GENTLEMEN, IT'S TIME TO FACE THE HOLE:  My only comment on Fox's "Human Tetris" is that I really fail to see the need for the lifeguards.  
A BRAIN TEASER FOR MATHLETES: If Team A has a better home winning percentage than Team B and Team A has a better road winning percentage than Team B, how is it possible for Team B to be ahead of Team A in the standings?

Bonus points for whomever correctly identifies my reason for raising this question at this particular moment in time.
DON'T BE EVIL: Ten years ago today, two Stanford grad students incorporated a company they called "Google". (It now has almost 20,000 employees.) "Their goal was to create a better search engine than AltaVista, which dominated the industry at the time, but often failed to return relevant results." (Wow. I used to use AltaVista all the time, but haven't even thought about it in years.)

Go ahead: try to count how many times you use a Google-related site or tool today. Because a Colbert Report writer tried to abstain for 24 hours, and (no spoilers!) it is not easy. Is there anything they need to improve upon?  Are you already singing mama don't take my Google Chrome away?