Saturday, October 18, 2008

BLINK: THE MOVIE, STARRING YAHOO SERIOUS AS MALCOLM GLADWELL: A "Moneyball" movie? With Brad Pitt? Interesting as it is what Billy Beane did with the A's, I don't see a dramatic arc that works here. Unlike the Indians in Major League, you can't end it with the trip to the post-season. Moneyball didn't produce anything but a series of first round exits for Oakland.

And what's the pre-credit, subtitled denouement? "Oakland would eventually saddle SF with Barry Zito, who stunk up the house for a year-and-a-half"?

Friday, October 17, 2008

AND THE ORDER OF THE SPHENICS: Spoiler alert: If you are about to read any 700+-page books of genre fiction, you might want to skip this post.

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Pre-teen boy, blessed or burdened with abilities beyond those of the ordinary humans among whom he lives, enrolls in an ancient institution that is part school, part cloister, and part fortress, where over almost a decade he learns traditions that are thousands of years old, studies the arcane lore of his chosen field, and develops the unusual faculties that set him apart from the people outside his school's walls. Though he is a less-talented student than many of his friends, he is somehow annointed, to the chagrin of some of his more capable peers, as a key figure in the fight against a shadowy enemy that threatens not just his school, but the entire world. With some misgivings, much luck, and no particularly spectacular insight, and with the help of his friends -- including a know-it-all fellow student, a band of trained fighters, a surrogate father later killed by the enemy, and a wizened mystic who sacrifices himself -- he manages to defeat the threat and find love along the way. It's a fun read, even if the author needs an editor who will trim unnecessary detours and lengthy digressions into esoterica that appeal only to the author's more obsessive fans.

That book, of course, is Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsAnathem, by Neal Stephenson. Like I said, a fun read, albeit a bit less freewheeling than The Baroque Cycle and a bit more creaky than either that trilogy or Cryptonomicon. I'll leave my second-greatest complaint -- behind the few hundred pages of socratic dialogue -- for the comments, where hopefully someone else has read this and can feel free to join in.
NOW SOMEBODY ELSE KNOWS SOMETHING ABOUT HOW IT FEELS TO LOSE SOMETHING ABOUT WHICH ONE CARES DEEPLY: I've had my disagreements in this space with the good people of Oklahoma, most of whom are not directly at fault for the fact that they've ended up with the NBA team that was stolen from Seattle. But one thing on which even the Oklahomans seemed to agree is that Aubrey McClendon, the vice-douchebag to Clay Bennett's douchebag-in-chief, is an impressive douchebag.

McClendon is in the news again this week. He leveraged himself heavily to buy hundreds of millions of dollars of shares in his own company, Chesapeake Energy, as it rode energy prices to a high of $74 a share in July. Then something something economy (sorry for the technical jargon there), and the next thing McClendon knows, Chesapeake is trading at $12 and his lenders make a margin call, forcing him to sell 95% of his holdings, awesomely right before a 31% bounce.

Now, the guy still has a $42 million stake in Chesapeake (and presumably has other holdings as well), so even apart from his douchebaggery you probably wouldn't feel sorry for him. But he does seem to have downgraded to "fabulously wealthy" from "NBA-owner wealthy" in a few short months, and that's something, right? So here's hoping McClendon is going to have to sell his share of the Team That Is Dead To Me so that he can keep paying his landscaper and manicurist and anti-gay rights interest groups, preferably to some out-of-town millionaire looking to pave the highway to a different NBA-less city.
OR HE'LL MAKE YOU HIS MARE: Applications for the Evil League of Evil have all been received by Bad Horse, and none may be better than that of Tur-Mohel. They all need evaluation, so let the games begin. (via sconstant)
UNBELIEVABLE!!!! Tonight's win by the Red Sox, down by seven runs with two outs in the bottom of the 7th, must surely rank among the most epic comebacks in ML history (other than those 4 games in 2004!). Mercy! J.D. Drew comes through with the winning hit!

Read all about it here.

Also not to be missed is Bill Simmons take on the game. I'm not the one to judge this, but it seems to me that Simmons' analysis is much more even-handed than usual.
COME ON DOWN: I've been watching more of Survivor: Gabon than I expected, mostly because equatorial Africa is brilliant in HD.

Too early to really figure the dynamics as yet, but the fact that the Immunity Challenge was a giant wicker game of Plinko was okay in my book.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

YOU MAY NOT LIKE THE LOCAL CUISINE: I don't know whether I was feeling punchy or what, but I laughed more at this episode of Grey's Anatomy than I have over the course of the last five or six episodes put together. Dermatology! Bailey goes to Africa! Izzie gets to be the girl in the saloon because of her cheeseball million watt smile! George will give Duncan anything he wants for the rest of his life! Hand massages! This was why we all liked Grey's to begin with -- the right amount of funny and the right amount of soapy stuff and the right amount of serious. (Headlined by George reminding us that he actually is awesome.)
NA NA NA NA NA NA: You probably don't recognize the name of Neal Hefti, who died earlier this week. But I'm quite confident you recognize his most famous work, maybe even from its first few notes.
ASTIRD: And now, an Office with the sadness and a little sweet, but mostly the sadness. Michael Scott has made it clear he wants nothing more in life than to be a father -- remember Fundlebundle? "I want to be married and have a hundred kids so I could have a hundred friends and no one could say 'no' to being my friend." And so this episode was something of a heartbreaker, combined with Jim & Pam heading in a direction we've anticipated and dreaded ... but then ...

In other news, Michael picked out the exact same carseat and snap-and-go stroller for Jan's baby that we have for Phoebe, so that was cool.
MISUNDERESTIMATED: OK, I might actually consider paying full price for what's sure to be this winter's hot Broadway ticket--the limited run of You're Welcome America: A Final Night With George W. Bush--Will Ferrell's attempt at a solo show on the Great White Way, which will apparently feature Ferrell doing autobiographical material as well as a variety of impressions.
BUT AT LEAST SHE KEPT HER ARMS: Tonight, Dr. Abby Lockhart (Maura Tierney) checks out of the ER for the last time. Recaps EW:
Abby Lockhart was born from a one-ep guest spot as Carol Hathaway's OB nurse way back in 1999. She then entered med school, helped John Carter through his weird post-stabbing-of-Lucy addiction to pills, went back to nursing after her deadbeat ex stole her money, dealt with her bipolar brother and way more bipolar mom (Sally Field!), eventually got her medical degree, struggled with alcoholism, dated Luka Kovac, dated Carter, dated this sort of Paul Rudd-lookin' med student named Jake, fell in love with Luka, got pregnant, had his baby, nearly died in childbirth, struggled with alcoholism again, slept with Stanley Tucci, got back together with Luka for the most part, and recently survived an mob-related ambulance bombing. And that's leaving out the majority of the weekly attacks, storms, helicopter crashes, hijackings, kidnappings, run-ins with Forest Whitaker, and assorted other catastrophes she's endured over the past nine years. There really isn't room on the internets for all of it.
To put her tenure in perspective (as well as that of the show), she has appeared in more episodes than Anthony Edwards, and she's done this despite the fact that by the time she joined the cast, George Clooney and Gloria Reuben had already left the show.
LEAVE THIS POST ALONE: That Britney is back at #1 on the Hot 100 is interesting, but also surprising in the article is the notation that this only marks her second #1, after "Baby One More Time." "Sometimes" tapped out at #21, "(You Drive Me) Crazy" at #10, "Oops!...I Did It Again" at #9, "Lucky" at #23, "Slave 4 U" at #27, "Toxic" at #9, and "Piece of Me" at #18 (source).
ALL OUT OF RUNWAY: Noodles (petals)! Korto! Riverdale! Bitchy gay perspective! Obviously there was a lot to like about the noodles, but they seemed a little OCD at times. Korto was really strong. I didn't want to like Kenley, so I didn't. Discuss.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

RED OCTOBER: The Philadelphia Phillies are going to the World Series.

I repeat: The Philadelphia Phillies are going to the World Series.

I remember 1980, those bizarre extra inning games at the Astrodome, attending Game 2 of the World Series, jumping up and down on the couch on October 21, 1980 after the miracle Boone/Rose second out and the strikeout of Willie Wilson. I was seven.

I remember 1983. We attended all the playoff games in Section 214 of the Vet, surrounded by the players' wives and families, so I got to hang out with a nine-year-old Gary Matthews Jr, Joe Morgan's kids and others. I was 11, and after five LCS appearances in an eight-year span, I figured they'd be back again soon.

I actually missed going to the 1993 playoffs. It was my senior year of college, and I was knee-deep in thesis and unable to make it back home. I had to watch that 15-14 disaster, the Schilling masterpiece and Joe Carter's bomb from the tv room in the Hitchcock House lounge.

This has been a long fifteen years.

In between, I've seen the Sixers give me remarkable joy in 2000-01 only to fall short at the end, and the Eagles break my heart in three straight conference championship games (two in person) followed by 4th-and-26, a trip to the Super Bowl and, yeah, more disappointment.

It's time to hope again. Philadelphia, push your chips in the middle of the table. Starting next Wednesday, we've got four more wins to go. It's time for this city's twenty-five year drought to finally end.
DOUG BENSON, POP CULTURE BACHELOR, IS NOT GIVING THIS DECISION A ROSE: I'm sure we have many fans of Best Week Ever (AKA I Love Last Week) in these parts, so I'm sure the announcement that BWE is dumping its "talking head" format for a single host/commentator (Paul F. Tompkins, Celebrity Defender!) would provoke some discussion. Personally, I've always preferred BWE to E!'s clone of it, The Soup, because of the multiple voices. As y'all demonstrate, having multiple people snark on something generates more diverse (and funnier) content than does a single voice
HIZZY IN BLUEGRASS: I haven't written about House, M.D. for a while because there hasn't been much to say. Until now. I was worried that last night was devolving into one of those crappy ER episodes were Greene, Ross and/or Benton go outside the hospital to Learn Important Things About Themselves (when Doug's dad died, or Peter's trip to the South) ... and it was like one of those episodes, only it was good. The House-Wilson stuff had real insight and moved the ball forward, I enjoyed the solution to this week's medical mystery, and House's ringtone was stellar.

Okay, I have no idea what Cameron and Chase are still doing on the show (and hey, where'd that private eye go?), but beside that, it's still a show to enjoy. (Next week: Thirteen!)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

TOMMY WESTPHALL'S REVENGE:OK, Eli Stone makes my head hurt by noting that Jordan Weathersby was visiting Credit Dauphine to try and win them back as a client. Of course, Credit Duphine is a front for SD-6. Does that mean that Jordan Weathersby is going to meet his doppleganger, SpyDaddy? Also, since apparently, Credit Dauphine was responsible for massive predatory lending, does this mean SD-6 has engaged in an insidious plan of financial terrorism, holding the market hostage? (Also, pretty damn impressive effects budget for a show with middling ratings.)

YouTube - High School Musical 3 - Now Or Never (HQ Teaser Trailer 2)

SAWED-OFF SONDHEIM: More singing! More dancing! Less of Sharpay's nose! With nine days until its release, we should finally talk about the HSM3 trailer, our hopes/dreams/expectations and whatnot for the East High Wildcats.

A List Of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago

HOOPS MCCANN: Per our earlier discussion, I have created a fantasy basketball league for those interested. Limit of 10 teams, rotisserie format, 12-man rosters and eight scoring categories. If interested, email me at throwingthingsblog (at) hotmail dot com and I'll send you the info. Prior experience is unnecessary and unwarranted.

Tentatively, I'd like to draft next Tuesday night at 9pm EDT if that works for everyone -- minimizes the tv conflicts.
GREED IS RIGHT, GREED WORKS: Apparently, the time is now right for a Wall Street sequel with Gordon Gekko returning in a world of hedge funds, credit swaps, and derivatives. Let's take a moment to hear from Gekko himself.
FRIED PEANUT BUTTER AND BANANA SANDWICHES WILL HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL THE GIRLS TURN TWO: Elvis is once again a granddaddy, courtesy of Lisa Marie Presley's twin girls. Harper and Finley Lockwood were born to Lisa Marie and Michael Lockwood a week ago. We at Medieval Craft Guild Naming Headquarters salute the choice.
MURDER, SHE SANG AND DANCED:After a poorly received return to Broadway in last season's Deuce, Angela Lansbury will appear on stage again later this season in a revival of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit, opposite Christine Ebersole and Rupert Everett. No word on whether murder and mystery will follow her wherever she goes. In other Broadway news, Oliver Platt has signed up to star in the upcoming Broadway revival of Guys and Dolls, portraying good old reliable Nathan, Nathan Nathan Nathan Detroit, a role previously inhabited on stage and screen by Walter Matthau, Alan King, Frank Sinatra, Robert Guillaume, Bob Hoskins and, of course, Nathan Lane. No casting yet for Sky Masterson, Miss Adelaide or Sarah Brown -- let alone Nicely-Nicely Johnson -- so your suggestions, hopes and fears are welcome.
STAT BOY: New York magazine and former Fametracker scribe Adam Sternbergh -- of whom we've long been a fan -- has done an extensive profile of Nate Silver of and Baseball Prospectus fame, focusing on the differences between (and similarities of) forecasting politics and baseball:

As stats are to baseball, polls are to politics; i.e., the basic numeric measurement of how things have gone in the past and how they might go in the future. Ask any pollster, though, and he will tell you that polls aren’t meant to be used as predictive tools — they’re simply a rough measure of where the electorate stands at a given moment. As pollster John Zogby put it to me, “We take snapshots. And when you take many snapshots in a row, you get motion pictures.”

But unlike baseball stats, polls are a notoriously imprecise measurement. In baseball, at least, a hit is a hit. With polls, a yes isn’t always a yes. Sometimes it’s more like a “maybe,” or a “yes, until I change my mind,” or an “I don’t know, but I’ll say yes anyway to get you off the phone.” Poll results can vary dramatically based on what you’re asking, who you’re asking, how you’re asking, and how many people decide to answer you. Three different polls were conducted recently asking Americans how they felt about the federal $700 billion bailout. They all asked the question in slightly different ways and the results were essentially useless: One poll had people in favor of the bailout 57 to 30 percent, one had them against it 55 to 31, and one was basically split down the middle. In other words, polls are, at best, educated guesses. But if there’s one thing Nate Silver loves to make, it’s an educated guess.

Regardless of your political views, it's a piece worth reading.

Monday, October 13, 2008

AN ENCYCLOPÆDIA OF SUCK: I started to recap this week's HIMYM, and then I thought about the last ten minutes again and threw up in my mouth. But then I thought about the Barney stuff, and that was good. And so was the history of apartment damage and of interventions. But then they got back to all the Look, We Can Handle Real Emotional Stuff, and I threw up in my mouth again. Oh, those last scenes in the bar. Oh, the pain. Make it stop. Let Ted go to the suburbs, and then we can focus on the characters that don't make me want to shove a meat thermometer into my ear.

For NBC Pages, ‘Please Follow Me’ Is a Fervent Wish -

IN FIVE YEARS, WE'LL EITHER ALL BE WORKING FOR HIM ... OR BE DEAD BY HIS HAND: The New York Times goes to the real 30 Rock to meet with NBC's pages, a program so selective and prestigious that 7,000 people apply for 60 to 85 slots each year. (Yale Law School, by way of comparison, has about half as many applicants for three times as many slots.)
TOO LATE FOR ROBERT K. OERMANN, SO JUST SHINE IT UP FOR BOURDAIN: They're going to add an Emmy for best Reality TV Judge.
IT'S NO CATFANCY: I am increasingly convinced that there is an ongoing effort to create media channels so narrow that each and every person will have a publication and/or television network directed towards them and them alone. The fact that there is now a publication-- Bingo Gossip, devoted entirely to major events impacting Bingo players in the state of Texas -- suggests to me that we're already well on our way.
HOLD ME LIKE YOU DID ON THE LAKE ON NABOO: EW offers up some of the worst movie dialogue ever. I'm sure you can do better (or worse, depending on how you look at it).
HOW ABOUT A THREAD TO TALK ABOUT SUNDAY NIGHT TELEVISION:Including, but not limited to Desperate Housewives, Mad Men, Brothers & Sisters, Dexter, and Entourage. Is that something you might be interested in (arguably NSFW)?
NUMBER 11 -- HIS GIRL FRIDAY? Via OFDF and inspired by Nick & Norah, New York magazine ranks the top ten "one crazy night" films of all time.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

FIGHTING CHOLITAS: Well, they've finally found a new variation on the "learn a local dance" task on The Amazing Race, and while lucha libre isn't quite as cool as the dancing-for-tips on the Cape Town dock from TAR2, seeing a man in a cape fail "somersault" does have its own joy. [And, really, who are you to doubt El Dandy?] Also appreciated? A rehash of the TAR12 clue from India of "find an ad in the local newspaper that gives you your next clue." And especially appreciated, if not necessarily enjoyed? The return of a particular outcome-affecting plot point from TAR3 -- same situation, same result.

Okay, so we have no idea whether the flights were spoonfed or found, and I don't really love or hate any teams strongly enough yet to make this a great season. But overall? Good clues, solid editing, worthwhile episode.

historicalarchives | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

THE SURGEON GENERAL HAS ADDED SNUFF TO TOBACCO PYRAMID: Rarely does one need to say "Hey, you should read The Onion this week," but given the general awesomeness of the publication of their October 6, 1783 issue from the archives, hey, you should read The Onion this week. If you can resist headlines like "Rural Quaker Scandalized By Intricate Furniture Pattern!" and "A Mifchevious WOMAN Wander'd Outside of Home," explain yourself.
DROP THE CHALUPA:The chiuapocalypse chihuapocalypse continues at the U.S. box office, with "small cute talking dog" beating out Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe, flesh-eating zombies, inspirational football movie, and Keira Knightley in a corset. I won't be shocked to see it continue next week, since this week's big release is a video game adaptation starring Mark Wahlberg, who probably should stick to talking to animals. (The big showdown comes in 2 weeks, when High School Musical 3 and Saw V face off in a box office battle that'll have the least overlap between audiences for the top films ever.)
YEAH, THAT EARLIER RELATIONSHIP DIDN'T SEEM TO BE WORKING OUT: His heroic, patient efforts during third season of The Amazing Race made clear that Zach Behr could be a great partner for someone -- just not the ungrateful woman with whom he was racing -- so we're please to pass along word from the Times that he got married last night.