Saturday, September 20, 2008

PARKER STEVENSON'S BIG ONE: The 2008 Emmy Awards do air Sunday night, so I guess it's worth asking whether you care which of the nominees ends up winning anything. Me? Hoping for a lot of 30 Rock success, and it's about damn time that Hugh Laurie picked up a Best Actor for Dr. Hizzy. Beyond that, I'm just hoping for an entertaining show, no-doubt topped -- as always -- by the nominee reel for the Outstanding Writing For A Variety, Music Or Comedy Program (2006, 2007).
THIS WEEK IN PETER KINGSANITY: An occasional feature in which I point out that Peter King is the worst football columnist in America. This is, what, my fourth post on this topic? So I might as well call it a regular feature.

Gregg Easterbrook, in his Tuesday Morning Quarterback column, has mocked at length and for a long time the practice of newspapers and sportswriters trying to predict exact scores of games, pointing out that after picking over 250 games a year, the pickers generally get no more than one right every two or three years. So I'm not going to plow that field again.

It's one thing to try to guess the exact result of a game, though; it's another to make exotically strange guesses. Guessing 17-14 or 24-21 is boring, but more likely to be right than, say, 18-4. King's exact-score picks are often so weird that I wonder if he even understands how the game of football is scored. This week, for instance, he apparently thinks that the Bears, Texans, Colts, Giants, Niners, Rams, Browns, Ravens, and Chargers -- nine teams -- will combine for 32 field goals (including four by Indianapolis and five each by San Diego and Houston). Now, granted, King might be focusing on last week, when eleven teams kicked three or more FGs. A paid football analyst should know, though, that that is extremely infrequent -- it has only happened one other time in the last year-plus. NFL teams kick, on average, 1.5 field goals per game; the kickingest team in football kicked just under 2.2 per game last year. Since the beginning of 2007, there have been only two weeks where nine or more teams kicked at least three field goals, only five in which three teams kicked at least four, and none in which two teams kicked at least five. In fact, out of the last 542 regular-season chances, only nine times has any team kicked five field goals -- but King thinks that both San Diego and Houston will both do it this week. So King thinks that not only does he know that this is going to be a historic week for kicking multiple field goals (essentially a random event), but he knows exactly who is going to do it.

It is possible, of course, that King is not predicting FGs but rather 2-point conversions and safeties. That, of course, would be batshit insane: there were only 30 2-point conversions and 18 safeties in 512 team-games in 2007, for example.

So this is a little like turning on the TV and hearing your weatherman tell you that he thinks that nine tuesdays from now he has a gut feeling that your city will experience a record low temperature. It might be helpful if based on actual analysis, but because it is not, it is just some dipshit flapping his lips. Conclusion: Peter King is a lip-flapping dipshit.

ETA: Spaceman Tremendously Precise Amateur Four-Team Tease Prediction, Guaranteed to be Exactly as Accurate as Peter King's Remunerative Predictions:

Kansas City 18, Atlanta 4
Buffalo 1,946, Oakland 1,943 (OT)
Tampa Bay π, Chicago ξ
New England 3 vowels, Miami 2 vowels
SINGING FOR THEIR SUPPER: OK, based on this interview with Kristin Chenoweth, can someone get on the task of either finding a revival or writing a new musical for her and Neil Patrick Harris to do together? It sure sounds like they'd be game.
TABLOID WORLD CATASTROPHE: Maybe I'm just extra-callous, but my initial reaction to the plane crash that critically injured Travis Barker and DJ AM -- both of whom are in a burn unit in Georgia -- and killed four others was not "oh, God, that's awful," but rather, "huh, that's random." Barker and AM (nee Adam Goldstein) are mainstays of the celebutard social scene in LA (with occasional forays into NY and Vegas) along with Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Mischa Barton, the Madden brothers, and La Lohan. Their clique operates like a prime-time soap that has overstayed its welcome, in that everybody in the group eventually dates everybody else of the opposite sex (or, in Lohan's case, no qualifier), nobody ever leaves except in a sweeps stunt (Joe Francis goes to jail; the aforementioned plane crash), and new characters are introduced only infrequently to boost ratings. I didn't watch Meet the Barkers and I don't read OK, US Touch People, but I still feel like I know too much about these guys (gastric bypass, catfights between a lazy-eyed celebutante and a booze-saturated ex-beauty queen) and therefore hope that they have a speedy but publicity-negating recovery.

Post removed, then returned, as news came in about Barker and AM. Current prognosis: full recovery.

Friday, September 19, 2008

ALOTT5MA PHILOSOPHY COLLOQIUM:Please compare and contrast the Philosopher Jagger, the Philosopher Perry, the Philosopher Bell Bundy, and any other philosophers you think are appropriate. Your grade will be reduced for unnecessary references to the Philosopher Astley, however.
THE STADIUM WAS OLD -- OLDER THAN THE SCREAMS, OLDER THAN THE TEAMS: Paul Simon pens a farewell to Yankee Stadium, which closes up shop this weekend. It has hosted 37 World Series and 161 postseason games, college and professional football games, countless prize fights, four Popes, and two U2 concerts, though had you asked me growing up, I'd have insisted that all the former Yankees were buried in Monument Park as well.

I only attended two games there, so the memories aren't for me to share. Go ahead.
"I DON'T REMEMBER GETTING ANY MORE HITS SINCE THE LAST TIME THEY TURNED ME DOWN": Joe Torre, Dick Allen and Ron Santo top the Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee ballot for 2008, with Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva, Luis Tiant, Bill Dahlen, Sherry Magee and Carl "Yes, I Killed Ray Chapman With My Fastball" Mays among the others under consideration. I'd vote yes on the top three, and no on all the rest.
HAVE YOU EVER CONSIDERED PIRACY?: Just a reminder, today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Shiver Me Timbers!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

SOMEBODY DID IT BETTER: OK, there's no real question that Bond Theme Songs have had a bad couple of decades--though I kind of liked "You Know My Name," the Chris Cornell ditty from Casino Royale, and Madonna's "Die Another Day" did OK--you have to go back to Duran Duran's "A View To A Kill" to find one that's really well liked. Judging from the now-leaked audio, Alicia Keys and Jack White's "Another Way To Die" isn't going to change that direction. : Schedule

NOBODY ACTUALLY EXPECTS TO GET THE PONY: After a long hiatus, the last days of the Bartlet administration will play themselves out again tomorrow, as the Bravo network will re-air the final eight episodes of The West Wing from 8a-4p on Friday. When you think back to that last season, what do you remember?
DON'T NEED NOTHIN' BUT A GOOD TIME REDUX: I emphatically don't want to know your thoughts on same-sex marriage. This is not the forum for that. Apropos of Matt's post a couple of weeks ago, however, this is the forum for me to complain that headlines like "Opposition to Same-Sex Marriage Ban Grows," and articles that switch back and forth between discussing the percentage of people who support gay marriage and the percentage who oppose the gay marriage initiative, leave my head spinning. I practically need to diagram it on the white board to keep it straight (pun intended).

Just to be clear, when you're voting for the initiative, yes means no gay marriage; no means yes gay marriage. I conducted my own poll and found that a majority of likely voters are not going to not get this wrong when neglecting to fail to punch their ballots.
ON THE BRIGHT SIDE, LL COOL J IS THE GUEST JUDGE NEXT WEEK: And it looks like Kenley's in for it. Maybe they'll sic the panther on her. Or bomb her town. Don't call it a compensated promotional appearance. Yo. And if the banter at the judging table goes anything like this, there will be much rejoicing.

As for this week's episode of Project *yawn* Runway, I don't have a lot to offer. Here's the Bravo slideshow.

Jarrell's design was the only one with any "wow" to it, taking his client from shy and likeable to poised and effusive.

Kenley seemed dejected not to get the win, in that I'm-usually-cute-enough-to-be-the-center-of-attention-so-why-don't-you-LIKE-me-it's-all-so-unjust way that everyone's tired of seeing from her. Crap. I broke my hyphen key. See what you made me do, Kenley? With your prints and your belts and your pouting and your hair feathers and your American Graffiti silhouettes? Shape it up for next week or I'll let the em dash loose on you. If the panther doesn't get you first, that is. I'm not afraid. Neither is Heidi. Catty, incisive Heidi. Interrupted her once too often, methinks. Heh heh.

Korto's collar made her client look like she should be carrying a carbine with a fixed boyonet. Liked it otherwise. No, really.

As the judges remarked, Leanne's jacket gave her client a static prow like a bumper car or a paddle boat or something, despite a nice dress underneath. In motion, with the jacket buttoned especially, it got very boxy and odd.

Joe was ... gods. Wrong. Just wrong in so many ways. Goodbye Joe. Keep thanking your lucking stars that you didn't get that poor child compared to Monica Lewinski on national television right as she headed out into the world to find her first internship.

And Suede's design inspired confusion and disgust, although (ignoramus that I am) I couldn't see why. Suede, sure. The design? Not sure. Wiser more discriminating viewers tried to explain to me that it was too 1992, leaving me to wonder why it's okay to be 1952 and awesome to be 1972 and positively inspired to be 1982 but wrong wrong wrong to be 1992. His client looked like one happy kid in that outfit, but Nina clearly threw up a little bit in her mouth. If only it could have been another double elimination.

So, as we've known since Terri got the doesn't-work-and-play-well-with-others auf, Jarrell, Leanne, and Korto are the obvious favorites on talent, range, and personality. Here's an easy link to the final collections, for those curious and unconcerned about spoiling the final few Wednesdays. Let 'er rip in the comments. Mixed bag, to be sure. I'll confess that, after what seemed like a promising start, I'm more or less waiting for the competition to wind down.

The big lesson I've learned about fashion (or at least about fashion on basic cable television) from this cycle of Project Runway is that it's usually a lot more fun from a bitchy gay perspective. I have our commenters to thank for that, so, thanks for that.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

YES, BUT DO THEY ALSO LEARN HOW TO SPELL? According to a new Kaiser Family Foundation study, people who watch Grey's Anatomy learn and remember the medical facts taught on the show.
IT'S JUST THERE ARE CERTAIN THINGS YOU'RE SURE OF, LIKE LONGITUDE AND LATITUDE: Two related items worth noting on the topic of Aaron Sorkin, Seer --

  • As the AV Club's Amelie Gillette notes, this week's SNL debut contained a skit that's a complete ripoff of one from Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip; and

  • More seriously, I've talked before here of my huge admiration for the "Somebody's Going to Emergency, Somebody's Going To Jail" episode of The West Wing -- the second Big Block of Cheese Day, the visit from the Organization of Cartographers for Social Equality and the main plot, of Sam Seaborn wrestling with his knowledge that a pardon-seeker's grandfather really was a spy.

    It's hard to read yesterday's article about Robert and Michael Meeropol accepting that their father, Julius Rosenberg, was a spy without thinking back to Sorkin. Growing up Jewish and looking at pictures of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, it was always easier to imagine that this meek little couple was the victim of Cold War hysteria (and Roy Cohn) than to believe they had betrayed atomic secrets. Easier to accept a McCarthyite conspiracy than to acknowledge that some Jews on the left were not loyal citizens.

    But a new confession from their father's co-conspirator and recently declassified grand jury testimony tell the latter tale, one which the Rosenbergs' sons now accept: Dad was a spy. He really did turn over confidential information to the Soviets, and even though as TPE reminds me other spies have done worse and not so suffered (Ames, Hanssen), he did commit a crime against the state, and if you're going to have a death penalty at all, it's for stuff like this.

    Now Ethel, on the other hand? I'm reminded (as I often am) of the line from Crimes and Misdemeanors, "I love him like a brother -- David Greenglass," because it's clear that Greenglass lied under oath to implicate his sister-in-law, whom the evidence suggests was not culpable in all this -- certainly not culpable to the extent that Mom merited a death sentence, and possibly not criminally at all. It was all about pressuring her to flip on suspected colleagues -- a bluff she called -- and the consequences were fatal.

    Treason is the only crime specifically defined in the Constitution (Art. III, sec 3), and there is perhaps no more obscure phrase in the Constitution than the one that instructs "no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood." This ended the British practice through which the descendants of an convict could be barred from inheriting either from the convict or from other relatives through him. Even for the worst criminals, our Constitution refuses to visit the sins of the father on the sons; each generation is free to chart its own destiny. Worth remembering on this 221st Constitution Day.
AS ADAM SAYS, 'THE BAR-BRI NATION MOURNS': If you're going to be stuck in a room all summer listening to lowest-common-denominator lectures to prepare for a mostly multiple-choice licensure test that has not very much to do with your abilities in the trade for which you're being licensed, the difference between "excruciating" and "tolerable" is the quality of the lecturer.

Charles Whitebread, the George Pflieger Professor of Law at USC's Gould School of Law was the best that Bar-Bri had to offer, which really is praise far too faint. Whitebread died yesterday. Many of us sat through those lectures (either in person or on tape), and while Chemerinski's "consti-TOOOOO-tion" and Epstein's "Sharon Stone is not in my shower" may have been more memorable, Whitebread's clear and funny criminal law lecture, delivered with the crisp rasp of a drill sergeant gone soft and capped with some appreciated practical test-taking advice, was the most helpful and least painful.

It would be wrong to reduce a distinguished career to "delivered Bar-Bri lectures," so I'll also mention that while Whitebread taught at Virginia and USC, he also taught FBI agents for 20 years on the faculty at Quantico, where he published the greatest piece ever to be adapted for MCLE drug credit -- a history of the regulation of nonmedical uses of drugs (fun fact: most early marijuana regulation, other than in Utah, was motivated not by drug concerns but rather by prejudice against Mexican immigrants).

Whitebread, per ATL, "is survived by his life partner, John Golden, and his devoted friend Michael Kelly." I don't know exactly how to read that sentence, but I guess I hope it means he was twice as lucky as most of us.
AS HIGH AN HONOR AS ONE CAN RECEIVE IN THE GARDEN STATE, OTHER THAN HAVING A HIGHWAY REST STOP NAMED FOR YOU: Jack Nicholson (Manasquan), Milton Friedman (Rahway), Paul Robeson (Princeton), Carl Lewis (Willingboro) and The Farnsworth Invention antagonist David Sarnoff are among the thirty nominees for the second class of inductees into the "New Jersey Hall of Fame". And per your complaints last time around, Molly Pitcher and Philip Roth are now eligible. Youse can vote now.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

XOXO: It's not just the awesomeness of the title OMFGG (for "Original Music Featured on Gossip Girl") that's making me consider buying it on iTunes, but the fact that it includes not only Lincoln Hawk (Rufus' band!) performing, but also the Constance Billard A Cappella Choir performing Fergie's "Glamorous."
"EVERYTHING YOU WILL READ ON THE NEXT 11 PAGES REVOLVES AROUND ONE PHOTOGRAPH": So begins Beyond the Game, the first collection of articles by SI's remarkable feature writer Gary Smith, a searing and heartbreaking collection of profiles of folks like doomed 1950s Yankees prospect John Malangone, whose piece begins with this blog's title, "Ali and His Entourage" and 1991's "Shadow of a Nation" -- a piece I can't think about without being sad -- about Jonathan Takes Enemy and his Crow high school basketball team in Montana, which begins:
I have not told you half that happened when I was young. I can think back and tell you much more of war and horse stealing. But when the buffalo went away the hearts of my people fell to the ground, and they could not lift them up again. After this nothing happened. There was little singing anywhere. —PLENTY COUPS, Chief of the Crows, 1930

Singing. did you hear it? There was singing in the land I once more that day. How could you not call the Crows a still-mighty tribe if you saw them on the move that afternoon? How could your heart not leave the ground if you were one of those Indian boys leading them across the Valley of the Big Horn?

It was March 24, 1983, a day of thin clouds and pale sun in southern Montana . A bus slowed as it reached the crest of a hill, and from there, for the first time, the boys inside it could see everything. Fender to fender stretched the caravan of cars behind them, seven miles, eight -- they had made the asphalt go away! Through the sage and the buffalo grass they swept, over buttes and boulder-filled gullies, as in the long-ago days when their scouts had spotted buffalo and their village had packed up its lodge poles and tepee skins, lashed them to the dogs and migrated in pursuit of the herd.

But what they pursued now was a high school basketball team, 12 teenagers on their way to Billings to play in a state tournament. The boys stared through their windows at the caravan. There was bone quiet in the bus. It was as if, all at once, the boys had sensed the size of this moment ... and what awaited each of them once this moment was done.
Anyway, SI has just released a new compilation of his work, Going Deep, and the rarely-profiled Smith has sat down with the New York Times. “The more they let you in, the more glimpses you get about why they are the way they are, the harder it is to see them all one way,” he says, opening up at last. “Each person’s life is a problem to be solved, and I try to get a grasp of what problem they’re solving. You’re doing stories about people who do extraordinary things, and that usually comes out of extraordinary pressures and frictions. That’s what I try to understand.”

And then when you're done reading about Smith himself, read his 9/11/2006 piece on a true American hero, Pat Tillman, and ramp up your admiration even further.
BAD HORSE IS PLEASED: Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog has set yet another record, being the first non-Disney musical cast album in I don't know how long to hit the Top 40 of the Billboard Album Chart. (It's also an impressive showing for an iTunes exclusive.)
EXCUSE ME, ARE YOU HOOTIE? When Cameron Crowe wrote Jerry Maguire, it was with the intention that Tom Hanks star. Better movie?

For that matter, the other casting issue -- Crowe offered Janeane Garofalo the Dorothy Boyd role if she'd lose some weight. She lost the weight; he still gave the part to Renée Zellweger.

e.t.a. Okay, here's your challenge: name a Cruise role Hanks would have done better (or, at least, you'd have been interested in seeing), and vice versa. Hanks in Eyes Wide Shut and Cruise in Cast Away?

Monday, September 15, 2008

THEY'RE MARCHING THROUGH GEORGIA (G-G-G-G-G-GEORGIA): You already know who I've been rooting for, and against, in The Offseason NFL Controversy That Probably Should Not Be Named, but if you needed anything to push you off the fence, let me point out that Aaron Rodgers, for absolutely no reason at all, wore a Civil War uniform (Union infantry) on the team plane to Denver for a preseason game.

In related news, I miss Coach Janky Spanky.
WON'T YOU RUN, LIVE TO FLY, FLY TO LIVE, ACES HIGH! Who knew? Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickenson moonlights as an airline pilot, and he just flew a special 757 trip to pick up some British tourists stuck in Egypt. This is a new level of cool.
TOM LEHRER'S "THE ELEMENTS" IS NOT ELIGIBLE: We've previously discussed songs with odd lyrics here, but having heard Live's "Lightning Crashes" on the radio while driving around last week, I wanted to talk about a related topic--songs that have words you wouldn't expect to hear in a song. For instance, it's not every day you hear the word "placenta" in a song, as you do there ("Lightning crashes/a new mother cries/her placenta falls to the floor"). Please offer us other examples of songs with strange words in the lyrics.
AH, BEER, THE CAUSE OF AND SOLUTION TO ALL PROBLEMS: While much of Houston is not in the best of shape today, the Beer Can House survived with only minor damage. Houston legend Brennan's was less lucky, having burned to the ground during the storm.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I AM GLAD I AM NOT A CHARGERS FAN TONIGHT: Oh, my goodness. But let's be clear -- just because Denver coach Mike Shanahan's gutsy ballsy reckless? inspired 2-pt conversion call worked does not mean that ex ante it was the correct decision to make. I'll be interested in seeing what our Outsider friends have to say on the topic, but clearly we have a Game of the Year candidate already.

[A smart friend asked: how many other NFL coaches have the moxie + job security to make such a call? Belichick, Holmgren, Coughlin, maybe Reid (but he wouldn't), maybe McCarthy or Fox?]

In other news: Brandon Marshall is the new Randy Moss, Calvin Johnson is also the new Randy Moss, Aaron Rodgers is the new [Not Going There], Dante Rosario and Anthony Fasano are the new Frisman Jackson and Fred Beasley, and I need 33 from Donovan F. McNabb if I'm going to beat Mr. Cosmo this week in VSFL X. Your real and fantasy football thoughts are welcome.
BECAUSE EVEN WE HAVE A FINITE SCALE FOR MEDIA CONSUMPTION: We're now two full weeks into the fall season, and it's already time to ask what's getting TiVoed, and what's getting TiNoed among the new series. For me:
  • TiVoed--Fringe, 90212.0 (since I have a dual tuner--if I didn't, Dr. Hizzy would win out), and the surprise Privileged (which is basically "What if Rory Gilmore couldn't find a job after graduating Yale, and wound up tutoring Blair Waldorf's cousins in Florida?," with the benefit of a lead who's much more adept at the comedy than Alexis Bledel was).
  • TiNoed--Raising The Bar (I don't have room for another generic lawyer/cop show unless it's anchored by a strong performance--e.g., Holly Hunter in Saving Grace--and Mark Paul Gosselaar's hair doesn't count), True Blood (aside from the cool audio effects when Sookie is having a vision, a strange mixture of boring and self-important).
Anyone have other thoughts.
YES, BUT WILL KARA THRACE ENDORSE ADAMA VIGOROUSLY ENOUGH? OK, given what we know thus far, I'm assuming that the Adama for President campaign would be more likely than Tigh/Roslin to get your votes. I mean, do we want a frakkin' skinjob in command?