Saturday, November 15, 2008

RETIREMENT FINDS NO REFUGE IN A JURISPRUDENCE OF DOUBT: It's a news item with almost no pop culture hook; I just think it's cool that retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is still riding circuit and will sit for two days of oral argument in Philadelphia this week.

Welcome to Philadelphia, "Weasel" Wyzell.
WHEN THE SECOND LIFE ECLIPSES THE FIRST: So if I'm reading this correctly, a couple who got married both in real life and in the virtual world known as Second Life are getting divorced because the real life husband's virtual alter ego was having sex with a virtual prostitute. (Gotta watch out for those virtual STDs, you know.)

I guess if you met your spouse online, you might have heightened sensitivity to the notion that he or she might meet someone else online, but is virtual sex (which gives something of a new twist to Little Sloan and Little Grey, no?) actually a higher crime than just sitting around chatting in a chat room? If I'm reading between the lines correctly, this excuse has "pretext" written all over it (especially because the soon to be ex-Mrs. Second Life has a new World-of-Warcraft-based beau), but maybe I'm wrong. Experts, please enlighten me.
MY DARKEST SPORTS YEAR GETS EVEN DARKER: If there were justice in the world, any justice at all, Joe Morgan would not have outlasted Fire Joe Morgan.

Friday, November 14, 2008

IT'S BIG SLOAN: Touch me, I'm real? Seriously? Seriously?? And we were doing so well this season, too. Any theories that do not involve either water skis or, as I'm told but never personally witnessed, a refrigerator?

In minor silver lining news, the dye job on Melissa George's eyebrows is less heinous than it was five years ago. And the Sloan/Torres friendship is perhaps the most genuine thing going at the moment. But oh man, "touch me I'm real" isn't even consistent with when Meredith died but didn't die because she had the chance to talk with untouchably dead Denny and Coach Taylor for a while.

Latest Marvel - Packages That Open Without a Saw -

HE GOT THE PACKAGE, ROSIE: Amazon, Best Buy and other retailers are launching a new initiative: how about packaging for toys and electronics that doesn't require a knife, a wire cutter and a blow torch to open? Welcome to the world of "frustration-free packaging".
BECAUSE WE DON'T HAVE ENOUGH PROCEDURALS: ABC announced its midseason schedule this afternoon, and a few surprises and dismaying moments:
  • Pushing Daisies and Dirty Sexy Money are both off the schedule, and will not run beyond 13 episodes this season, though allegedly could be renewed for third seasons (though I wouldn't count on it). Life On Mars is also not on the schedule.
  • Neither Nathan Fillion project Castle nor Cupid made the schedule.
  • Eli Stone stays Tuesday at 10, somewhat to my surprise, though with a weak According to Jim leadin.
  • Wednesday is completely reworked--Scrubs at 8, Mike Judge animated project The Goode Family at 8:30, Lost at 9, and quirky procedural The Unusuals at 10 (Amber Tamblyn, Adam Goldberg, and Harold Perrineau lead the cast).
  • Private Practice moves to right after Grey's, and a massive crossover is planned for sweeps.
HOT TRANNY PIZZA MESS: 24 Prince, the (pretty darn good) neighborhood restaurant operated by Top Chef: Chicago contestant Nikki Cascone is doing "Celebrity Pizza Nights" on Sundays. This week's special celebrity pizza designer? Christian Siriano. Not quite sure how you work fierce ruffles into a pizza, but if anyone can, I'm sure he will.
A VERY SPECIAL POSTING: Normally, I am a big fan of any and all DVD releases from Shout!Factory--recent releases include the excellent re-releases of Sports Night and My So-Called Life, an upcoming special edition of Freaks and Geeks, MST3K boxsets, The Best of The Electric Company, and Spin City (think about what a strong cast that show had, especially in retrospect). But was there really demand to relive the unfortunate fashion choices, excessive use of "Whoa!," and important issues addressed in a special new DVD set of Seasons 1 & 2 of Blossom?

ETA: I realized I neglected to link to the theme song. Note particularly the ridiculous purple suit/white tutu pairing and the especially heinous fashion choice for Blossom in her dance break with Six.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

LET ME ENTERTAIN YOU: EW has released its Entertainer of the Year list (rather early though--isn't it normally in the year-end issue?), and Our Fearless Leader's two choices finished 1-2. Some surprises:
  • #25--NPH (and the ALOTT5MA community lets out a collective woohoo!)
  • #22--H!ITG! Richard Jenkins
  • #18--Kid Rock
  • #17--Yunjin Kim and Daniel Dae Kim
  • #12--"Bravo Stars"
  • #10--"The Talking Heads" (not the band, the political ones)
  • #7--Rock Band
  • #4--Blake Lively and Leighton Meester as Serena van der Woodsen and Blair Waldorf.
AS AMERICAN AS APPLE PIE: I don't have a whole lot to say about the premiere of Top Chef (as usual in these Bravo shows, the first half of the season is the culling down of people), but the folks at Eater do, and it's well worth your time, if just for statements like Jeff " probably knows as much about nighttime moisturizers as he does Latin cooking, meaning he knows a good deal about both," and a reference to Padma "go[ing] all Nate Silver" at Judges Table. Discuss below.
A [HOPEFULLY] GIANT [TIME-] SUCKING SOUND: A year and a half or so ago, I perused our blogroll and commenters' listed homepages and reported back on what was going on in our blogger-commenters' lives. Or at least on their blogs. (And I still appreciate Christina's advice on how to crack an egg.) As Adam's what-are-you-up-to post the other day reminded me, I've been meaning to update this for a while, but I'm approximately 70% lazier than I was in February 2007. (That's not true -- I'm just 100% less in a job that I plan to leave.) So, as a companion to Adam's post and a follow-up to mine, I have an idea: you do all the work.

Treat this as an invitation for shameless self-promotion. If you have your own blog, then in the comments, link us to either (a) the post of which you are proudest; or (b) something you've written recently that you think we'd like to read. And if you haven't written something falling into either of those categories, get out of bed and do it already.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Arts, Briefly - Two Women Join SNL -

THE NEXT SIOBHAN FALLON? With Amy Poehler's departure, SNL has hired two new female cast members from the J. Harvie Wilkinson and Alex Kozinski of the comedy feeder universe -- Michaela Watkins of the Groundlings and Abby Elliott of the Upright Citizen's Brigade.

Elliott is the first daughter of a cast member to make the show -- yes, Chris is her dad -- and at 21, ties Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the youngest woman to ever join the cast. (Anthony Michael Hall was 17 when he joined; Eddie Murphy was 19.)
SHAMELESS PLUG: If you live in or near Philadelphia, my good friend, award-winning author Peter Orner, would love to meet you tonight at the Underground America event at the Painted Bride Art Center. The event is part of the First Person Festival, and will feature a panel discussion and dramatic reading from Underground America, Orner's acclaimed oral history chronicling the lives of undocumented immigrants (it was published by McSweeney's as part of the Voice of Witness series, which in my biased opinion, is part of the legacy of the late great Studs Terkel, and full disclosure, I helped edit portions of the book, though I have yet to receive my oft-promised comp copy, but I digress). Do show up and tell 'em ALOTT5MA sent ya.
WHAT, THEY WORRY? According to Defamer, Fox's SNL knockoff MAD TV will hang it up after 14 seasons come spring. Alumni include Orlando Jones, Artie Lange, Nicole Sullivan, Alex Borstein, Frank Caliendo, and Simon Helberg. I'm trying to think of a single memorable moment, but can't.
THE RETURN OF HUNG'S MONKEY: With the return of "Top Chef" impending tonight, the San Francisco Chronicle's Tim Goodman issues a cri de coeur on the difference between "unscripted" and "reality" tv shows, calling upon viewers to drop their anti-nonfiction biases and accept the entertainment value of unscripted tv:

People who love "Top Chef" are mostly crazed foodies, but not all of them. Some people who watch can't pour a bowl of cereal -- they just like people with knives who yell and cry. They like to root for people who used to do something boring before turning to food preparation. They want to see people wilt in the heat of the kitchen (and food-prep battle). They want to see bad meals poorly made. Or good meals mangled -- a debacle so evident to the millions watching that no oven mitt can hide the fingerprints of shame.
My 2003 provisional taxonomy of the reality tv universe still holds up pretty well, though there are plenty of clear subgenres we can parse out like the "Competition: Career Skills" we'll all be watching tonight.

What I appreciate about "Top Chef" is what I appreciate about "Project Runway," only more so. The challenges are often realistic assessments for the skills it takes to thrive in the field, such as the food prep relay races or "what to do with a chicken, an onion, and a potato?", and one does not do better than judges like Anthony Bourdain, Tom Colicchio and the heralded guest chefs they bring in. Are you ready to return to the kitchen?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

WE ARE WHAT WE SEARCH: The NYT reports on a fascinating new Google initiative -- aggregating the locations generating an array of relevant search terms to determine where the next flu outbreak might be hitting, more than a week before the CDC could otherwise.

Yes, GoogleTrends is awesome -- find the ten cities most interested in Googling "Friday Night Lights"! Determine the places where you might want to market peanut butter. (Or, yeah, something useful like the flu thing, but I haven't figured out another great public service purpose ... yet.)
THE FREAKS OF THE INDUSTRY: Despite a dreadful campaign, no articulated agenda, a lousy support staff, and bad personnel decisions, at least one election I cared about still broke the way I hoped it would: San Francisco Giant Tim Lincecum won the NL Cy Young Award.

I didn't get to many Giants games this year. But I did see him and, wow, is he fun to watch. Great stuff and the most ridiculous mechanics since Craig Counsell. Make a date next time the Giants are in town next year or, in the years to follow, wait until he's in pinstripes. There's no way we're going to be able keep this guy.
CAN AN IBEN HJEJLE SIGHTING BE FAR BEHIND? Yes, it's nice seeing the Championship Vinyl employee who didn't parlay the film into a series of multi-million dollar leading comic roles still finding gainful employment, and Todd Louiso had a nice, sad touch with his scenes as Hizzy's patient this week. But, really, this one was all for the 'shippers, and if it wasn't the most dramatic episode ever, it did move several long-term balls forward. And, hey, a Chase sighting!
NOW RELEGATED TO "HE PLAYED FOR ONE OF THOSE OTHER PHILLIES TEAMS" STATUS: Yeah, I remain fascinated by the whole Lenny Dykstra, Investment King saga, but I have no sympathy for a guy who's not paying his lawyers (or accountants) (or publishing partner), and am honestly pretty turned off by the tone of this meant-to-be-fawning profile in today's Philadelphia Daily News:

Flying commercial is the very definition of hell for Dykstra, who says he has not done it in years. One of the chief components of The Players Club is providing access to private jets, which will be supplied by the company Dykstra oversees, "Legends Air." He has his own personal jet that has been in the shop since summer: The engines are being worked on and the interior is being redone. Dykstra himself is keeping a close eye on the progress, even down to the design of the dinner plates that will be used in the cabin. Someone handed him a sheaf of papers with patterns on it during the trip up to New England. He examined each carefully until he finally came to a decision.

"Here," he said, holding one of the patterns up for general inspection. "Look how classy this is."
I can't hear that last line without imagining Fred Armisen and Scarlett Johansson explaining the joy of marble columns and chandeliers. (You like eating steak? You ain't eaten steak until you've eaten it under a CHANDELIER!)

Read the article, because here's my real question: tell me how many times your bullshit detector goes off when Dykstra describes how much he's worth or what his plans are.
FOR THE WOMEN: AVOID ANY GUY WHO HAS INSPIRED A CHARACTER IN A BOOK BECAUSE EVEN IF HE'S BEEN WILDLY EXAGGERATED FOR COMEDIC EFFECT THERE WILL COME A TIME WHEN IT WON'T FEEL THAT WAY (UH, PRESENT COMPANY EXCEPTED): From the John Carney who is not a superannuated NFL kicker is this helpful, if New York- and male-centric Guide to Holiday Romance. Surely you have addenda. (Deadspin)

ETA: For equal time, I'm bumping Maret's comment up to the post:
For women nothing sums it up better than this conversation between the always hilarious Miss Alli, Sars, and Regina about 81 Guys: All of them That Guy. Read the comments too.

"Alli: Oh, and he hangs out at Whole Foods with the Four Horsemen of the Capitalist Apocalypse: I Can Taste The Tears Of The Downtrodden In Every Cup Of Starbucks Coffee Guy, Can’t Read Anything Purchased At A Non-Unionized Bookstore Guy, Guy With A Strange Preoccupation With Trash-Talking Pottery Barn, and Guy Who Thinks The Biggest Problem Facing Today’s Progressive Is Browser Compatibility.

Sars: He’s fighting the real enemy.

Alli: By cleaving to Netscape 4.7."
SUDDENLY SEYMOUR...IS DEAD: The long lost alternate ending to the film version of Little Shop of Horrors has surfaced on YouTube (Part I, II, and III) and this time the vegetable wins--big time.
PURE REASON SAYS NO KIDS: Did anyone else assume that the post-credits end sequence of HIMYM's episode was going to be Lily discovering she was pregnant? Finish your bacon first, and then we ought to talk about whether the show, in fact, now knows where's it going for the rest of this season, and whether it's someplace good.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Deep Secrets of ‘The Daily Show’ - City Room Blog -

THAT GOAT WAS RIGHT! "The Daily Show" writers tell all, including what a typical day is like, how one gets a job on the show, and what last week's results mean for their humor.
HOUSE OF YORK: Is there a league obligation for a given team to appear on Monday Night Football on a periodic basis? Because I can think of no other thing which supports providing a bigger audience for the 49ers.
A PH.D IN STREET STRUT: With the announcement of the new First Family's Secret Service code names (seriously, "Renegade?" Did we just elect Lorenzo Lamas president?), it's useful to recall that while CJ Cregg's Secret Service code name was "Flamingo" (sadly, her rant on this subject does not seem to be available on YouTube), shouldn't it have been "Jackal," or perhaps "Big Bird?"
REMEMBER THE OCEANIC SIX: Recall Isaac's recap of the first two seasons of Lost? What if you set weekly versions of that to jangly indie rock, resulting in songs like "Be My Constant," "The Ballad of Sayid Jarrah," and "The Island Won't Let You Die?" Then you get Previously On Lost, a Brooklyn-based (shocking!) band, about which the WaPo has a lengthy story. Many songs are available on their MySpace. (New episodes start January 21, Wednesdays at 9.)
MR SIMPSON, PLEASE DO NOT FEED MY GOD A PEANUT: While the cast on this season of the Amazing Race is not very compelling, the last couple of legs have been surprisingly well structured, with plenty of opportunity to pass other teams. Last night, despite having a (seemingly) long Speed Bump, Ken and Tina managed to get back in the middle of the pack, courtesy of some very bad racing by the frat boys and the divorced chicks. A couple of other thoughts:

Why do some racer not read (or at least not seem to comprehend) the instructions on the clue? There are hundreds of envelopes atop that tower, do you suppose any one of them is fine? Especially when they are labeled "Try Again"?

Why do some racers decide, based on no evidence whatever, that the clue has to be somewhere? The TAR staff are going to bury the clues in a bird-litter box? Really?

What happened to Phil's greeter?

Finally, where can I get an electrified Ganesh? That's better than a Sacred Heart velvet painting, for my money.
FRANKLINS V. ORTHOGONIANS: has released its list of the top ten books of 2008, including:
  • The Northern Clemency, a novel by Philip Hensher
  • Hurry Down Sunshine, Michael Greenberg's memoir about his daughter's mental illness
  • Nixonland by Rick Perlstein, about which I'm totally biased because I'm friends with Rick, but it's his masterful history of how America went from voting in LBJ 60-40 in 1964 to the Nixon landslide eight years later
  • The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski
  • The Forever War by Dexter Filkins, reporting from the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan
Five Four novels help round out the top 10 -- The Likeness by Tana French; Serena by Ron Rash; So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger; and The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon -- followed by The Ten-Cent Plague by David Hajdu, a history of the comic book censorship crusade of the 1950s.
GETTING TO LIKE YOU, GETTING TO HOPE YOU LIKE ME: Callie K's big news last night plus Finch's recent nuptuals remind me that it's been a while since we've had an omnibus "hey! what's going on in your world?" thread. So here it is.

A quick story from last night's Eagles game. So, they have a new system in place at the Linc where if you have a situation in your section which requires some kind of intervention -- which believe it or not can happen at a Philadelphia sports event -- you can text message a number, provide your location and explain the problem. So halfway through the second quarter last night, I employed the system:
Assist Eagles bench. I can't find my offense. Please remove LJ from this area.
To which, five minutes later, they responded:
The GuestAssist service is provided to ensure a safe environment for all guests. Continued misuse of the service may result in your mobile being blocked.
Grr. Some people have no sense of humor. (Or the ability to stop the run.)
RING THE F***ING BELL: For those of us of a certain age and shared set of experiences, noting that Sunday marked the 11th anniversary of The Montreal Incident speaks for itself and will usher a complex set of memories regarding contracts, moral obligations, double-crosses, the intrusion of reality into a fake sport and the (justifiably?) paranoid actions of one Vincent Kennedy McMahon. For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, Dave Meltzer's contemporaneous account explains it all.