Saturday, January 17, 2009

HE HAS ALSO BEEN VOTED BY HIS PEERS AS 'MOST LIKELY TO SHOOT HIS EYE OUT': Two days ago in North Hammond, Indiana, "Police were called to the 3900 block of Hohman Avenue shortly after 8:30 p.m. and found the 10-year-old with his tongue stuck to a streetlight pole. The Field Elementary School fourth-grader managed to mumble to police that a friend had dared him to lick the fixture."
"JEWS DON'T FIGHT." "THESE JEWS DO." The thing about Defiance is that even if Ed Zwick hadn't directed, I think I'd still be calling it Glory II: The Hebrews Strike Back, because there are a lot of parallels -- a previously little-known story of resistance and bravery by an oppressed minority during wartime, learning to take arms against an overwhelming foe, only this time with a happy ending.

It's formula, but as I've written before (Akeelah and the Bee, Drumline, Stick It) I've got no problem with formula as long as it's done well, and Defiance is formula done well on what happened when a few Byelorussian Jews in 1941 stopped being polite and started arming themselves in the woods. If all I tell you beyond that is "the brothers argue about the proper use of force," "it gets cold in the winter," and "the role of women in the resistance is debated," you can probably plot out most the movie. All I can say, then, is that if you were interested in the movie, you should see it and will enjoy it, but it's not essential viewing.

To follow up on my earlier curiosity -- sadly, Feuerstein is indeed designated a role closer to the town baker than a stuttering killer, a pamphleteer assigned lines like "I suppose you could say I was -- I am -- an intellectual" and "If my friends at The Socialist Review could see me now!" while demonstrating a lack of ability with a hammer (paging Freud!). Still, he carries himself with the nobility and good spirit one would expect and, when called upon, acts heroically. (Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber are also good.)
LIKE SOME MAGICAL ANIMAL: I was poking around the Ikea-Saudi Arabia website, and am delighted to report that for 4 riyals, you can get a breakfast with a side of bacon.
BUT YOU AND I'VE BEEN THROUGH THAT, AND THIS IS NOT OUR FATE: Battlestar Galactica returned yesterday. And I hardly begin to comment without spoiling something. Yet, the surprise aboard Galactica was so appalling and so unexpected, and yet strangely in character, that it was - perhaps - the most human moment yet on this show. A couple of other thoughts, and spoiler city, in the comments.

By your command.

Friday, January 16, 2009

DINGLEBEAR: Demonstrating increased sympathy with a recent gripe of mine, cartoonist Ruben Bolling on those curious toilet tissue ads. [H/T: sconstant]
THE INTERNET IS ALSO FOR CONTEST SUBMISSIONS: Following up on our coverage from last week, the producers of Avenue Q have announced that they're going to test 4 finalists to replace "George Bush" in "For Now," and chose a line based on audience response. Your finalists:
  • "Recession"--Very timely, but has a serious scansion problem.
  • "Prop. 8"--Very theatre-friendly, but runs the risk of being obsolete quickly.
  • "This show"--Amusingly meta-textual given current financial difficulties on Broadway, and a potential permanent replacement in the show that'll hold up for years.
  • "Your mother-in-law"--Cheap joke, doesn't scan at all well, not quite sure why this is a finalist.
I'm going to guess "Prop 8" gets the strongest initial response from audiences, and either it or "this show" is the final cut.

INDUCTION JUNCTION: It's been a busy week on the Hall of Fame beat, with Cooperstown and Cleveland both welcoming new classes, but that doesn't mean the nation's thousands of other halls have been quiet. Here's a few of the other Hall of Fame stories that have recently slipped through the cracks.

  • Tommy Lee Jones headlined this year's class of the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame. Joining Jones was his No Country For Old Men co-star Barry Corbin; presumedly Javier Bardem fell just short. The normally ornery Jones, who has won an Oscar, Golden Globe, Emmy and even an MTV Movie award, said of the honor, "This might be the first time that I’ve taken an award personally...This is the first time in all my long years of award winning that I wish my granddad could be here."
  • "Stone Cold" Steve Austin will be headlining this year's WWE Hall of Fame class, the first wrassler from the so-called "Attitude Era" to be inducted. Here's a look at some others (Mr. T!) who should also be enshrined.
  • When the second class of your Stand-Up Comic Hall of Fame includes Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Bob Newhart, Sam Kinison, and Don Rickles, your initial class must have been hella good. Without clicking on the link, can you name the first five comics Bullz-Eye magazine chose for its inaugural class?
  • In other sports, Monica Seles will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame this summer, Jeff Agoos and Joy Fawcett were to the National Soccer Hall of Fame, golfers not named Tiger were added to this year's World Golf Hall of Fame ballot, and Muscles Yankee and Miss Easy are this year's nominees to join the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame’s Living Horse Hall of Fame.
AMBER WAVES OF GRAIN: I had my first bout of premorse since TPE coined that phrase, when I found out Andrew Wyeth died today and not two decades ago. Wyeth was one of those painters who you could use as a pretty useful gauge of another person's attitude toward painting. A lot of people (we'll call them modernists and postmodernists as a particularly blunt shorthand) thought he was an anachronism and hated what he did and how he did it. Others, we'll call them Rockwellians, either loved what he did and hated how he did it or hated what he did and loved how he did it, depending upon how you define your terms. And then some people just loved Wyeth.

Wiki says that the knock on Wyeth is that he was representational, not abstract, but, as usual, that's not quite right. Any number of non-abstract painters doing or incorporating figurative work have served as darlings of the contemporary art commentariat. I think that the knock on Wyeth has been more that he adopted a kind of bucolic small-"r" realism that seemed, to some, unchallenging. Wyeth's work is kind of like Rockwell without the optimism. That's a pretty narrow path to walk, and it's not for everybody (for the most part, not for me, though given the Yankee Stadium thread I doubt I'll be picking up any passengers on the anti-anachronism train here), but there's no doubt that Wyeth walked it well.

Incidentally, Wyeth's best-known work was his Christina's World, an image that Robert Zemeckis used cleverly in Forrest Gump, when Jenny sees her childhood home and breaks down. Christina's World is one of those rare images, like Guernica or the Endless Summer poster, that can supply an instant set of associations and emotions upon recognition.

The articles say that Wyeth is survived by his wife Betsy, but they weirdly don't mention what ever happened to Helga.

ETA: Okay, this is funny, though it may cause Eagles fans to wince a little.
IN THE PROCESS OF TRANSFORMING INTO BOB SAGET: This incredibly long interview with Josh Radnor of HIMYM is actually pretty interesting, with him talking about his favorite episodes, how the show was cast, and the secret political message in this clip.
YET SOMEHOW, RADIO SHACK SURVIVES: For those in the market for electronics or similar, Circuit City has announced it will be converting its Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding into a liquidation of all stores. At least in NYC, I've consistently found Circuit City to be skanky and poorly organized (even at its brand-spankin'-new stores on 5th Avenue and near Lincoln Center), but there will likely be good deals available during the liquidation.
ANALOGIES: CHUCK BERRY:R&RHOF AS BABE RUTH:BHOF: In our recent discussions about the inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame and to the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, from time to time we make analogies regarding how, for example, a music star compares to a baseball star. And, in fact, our earliest analysis of whether artists belong in the R&RHOF was based upon the Keltner list derived by Bill James to determine whether baseball players belong in the BHOF.

Now comes the "One Poor Correspondent" blog to take this a step further with an illuminating post noting 7 such analogies, focusing primarily on recent inductees to the two Halls. Neither Adam nor I feel the Metallica analogy in the post is quite apt. Adam suggests that Metallica is analogous to Mariano Rivera.

Feel free to make your own pairs. This post lists what its author feels are the 25 Most Deserving Non-Inductees to the R&RHOF. Perhaps one of them is the "Bert Blylven" or "Tim Raines" of rock music.

Here are lists of the members of the Baseball HOF and the R&RHOF.
WE CAN WATCH THE WATCHMEN:That the Watchmen case has settled and the film will arrive in theatres as scheduled is important enough, but two other thoughts from the article.
  • The settlement as reported is going to make it very hard for the movie to be profitable. Production costs for the film are reported at around $130 M, and Fox's settlement adds at least $5M in cost, and they get huge gross participation. That means the film will have to gross well north of $300M worldwide to turn a profit theatrically. I'm not sure an unrelentingly bleak, hard R rated comic book movie with no widely known actors or characters can do that. (To give an idea, movies in that range of box office include Twlight, Van Helsing, Liar Liar, and Beverly Hills Cop.) Sure, if geeks approve of the film, the DVD will sell like hotcakes (as will the "Black Freighter" animated DVD coming out in tandem with the movie), but there are apparently radical changes to the ending that may anger some folks.
  • Apparently, part of the horse-trading that went on to get the deal done involved WB delaying their option to work with Steve Carell on Get Smart 2 so that he and Tina Fey can do a romantic comedy called Date Night together during their respective hiatuses. It's an interesting pairing, to be sure.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

WITH AN OINK OINK HERE, AND A CLUCK CLUCK THERE; HERE A {@%^!!, THERE A $@%^!!, EVERYWHERE A %*%^! %*%^!: This new judge -- this "I'm a Really Big Deal across the Pond, just ask Bravo's marketing department" judge -- known, we are told, repeatedly, for his colorfully cruel commentary, are they setting him up for a late-season redemption arc? Or is he just an asshole? Gail was never this colorful, of course, but in a good way. Here in his second week, whenever Toby Young was talking, I found I missed her slightly over made-up self presentation and the awkwardly pointed professional criticism that left me wondering if she didn't habitually speak in long well organized paragraphs suitable for publication in feature length magazine reviews that the Bravo editors felt compelled to chop down to topic sentences for airing on basic cable television. And it's not that I don't think that Toby belongs on television, just that at this point it would be more gratifying to see him beaten up in a pub by one or another species of brutally pragmatic Jason Statham than to listen to him talk about food.

Speaking of redemption arcs, the wrong person bought the farm this week. Across several seasons of semi-attentive Top Chef viewing I cannot recall another instance where there were as many reflexive incredulous exclamations of seemingly genuine shock and disapproval when the Chopped Chef returned to from Judges' Table and reported the result. Anyone remember anything similar? There was an implicit "But you're better than both of them! ... And we like you better!" that hung in the air. That's good TV. Just 1 and 1/4 seconds of good TV, admittedly, but good TV nonetheless. Or maybe the reaction just resonated with a result that felt like it came out of left field. When Tom started asking other parties if they knew how to wrap a roast, and then, when they protested that they did, asked if they knew the reason for doing so, it seemed certain that things were going another direction.

On the subject of "both of them," was it a good idea to tease next week's episode as an "are they humping or not" sneaky-cam expose? If so, how? Reality TV certainly has had its successes in the cheap hormonal relationship drama department, but that does not mean that a show with strong appeal to less prurient interests needs to be soiled with cross-over content for viewers of Real Housewives of Wheatridge Community College and Culinary Vocational Institute who happen to wake up from their last Klonopin Kossack Martini to find Top Chef on the idiot box. Why ruin Restaurant Wars (in which drama is not likely to be scarce, exactly) with obstructed shots of those two canoodling? There has to be food-related mayhem that could fill that time. Instead, for example, why not score my flesh with an oyster fork, wrap me in cheesecloth, roll me in rock salt, and soak me down with red wine vinegar? (There, Bravo. If I can say it with a British accent can I have a job?) Of course these shows are about personality and personal interactions. This particular show is better when it focuses on personality traits and interpersonal choices with professional consequences, specifically those that relate to being a successful chef. Likely there are cases when who one is humping has a professional impact (e.g., Tom Arnold, Gary Hart, etc.), but this isn't one of them.

How awful is that word, by the way? "Humping," that is. "Fucking" would be preferable if the footage left any question of that interpretation, but so far it's all a matter of "are they lying by each other or on each other? moving? how much? just dozing or actively nuzzling?" Blech. But the point is that the word choice was considered seriously, and the irritating word seemed more appropriate than the one that is commonly regarded as more offensive. "Fucking," I mean, to be clear about the latter, and clear that it would have been used despite the associated level of reflexive offense if it had been more appropriate, but for that reason only. Unlike our Finnish Friend, let's not take perverse pleasure in saying "cock" on cable just because there is a barnyard-related fig leaf to excuse doing so. No no. {@%^ no! That would be like asking Padma to cram down a Velveeta and Spam grilled cheeze sandwich just because the Quickfire Challenge gave you an opening. Occasionally I curse to get my point across, as the man said, and that's all. It's not recreational. Honest. Despite liberal use of canned and bagged staple items in the kitchen, ours is not that sort of household. Besides, for recreational on-line swearing it's more fun on a classy blog like this to use "%*%^$&%^@#!," or similar, and permit readers to guess the word in mind or, better, to fill in their own.

Otherwise, enormous "amen" for farm fresh ingredients, local and seasonal food, and respecting the quality of life of the critters that sustain us. The repeated exhortations to (1) leave the fat on and (2) cook meat on the bone if you get meat on the bone, were particularly welcome. They were also so, so much more useful and edifying than (3) don't hump fellow cheftestants while protesting continued loyalty to someone at home.
AHORA CON MIGO TU BAILES PARA HOY:There are many things to love about the closing credits to Slumdog Millionaire (arguable spoiler, as the clip contains part of the last pre-credits scene as well, but come on, if you can't guess at least that part of the ending, you clearly aren't living in this universe). One thing I particularly like is how it integrates the names of actors with their faces in the credits. Especially for a film cast pretty much entirely with folks who the American audience wouldn't recognize, I appreciated the chance to know the names of the people who I'd been watching.
THE HAUS THAT JETER COPIED FROM RUTH: I was all set to do a post on how Albert Speer would have loved the new Yankee Stadium, what with the monumental scale, the massive flattened and simplified classical elements, and the self-conscious, self-aggrandizing musculature. It pretty much looks exactly like what Speer would have built. Or this.

But then I realized something I didn't know -- the new Yankee Stadium isn't repurposing Nazi propaganda architecture; it's just replicating, detail for detail, the facade of Yankee Stadium of 1923, minus the 1970s additions.

So this is slightly, but only slightly, less a horrifying idea. First, you should just never build a major new civic building by pretending you're building an old building. Buildings, like art and language, are artifacts of their own time. It would be silly, except as a stunt or an academic exercise, to write a modern mob story in Elizabethan English and iambic pentameter. If your neighbor converted to a pyramid, a castle, or a log cabin, you'd probably move. It's fine (maybe necessary, under some circumstances) to incorporate, to echo, or to acknowledge prior buildings, but to sell something by saying: "my concept for this is that it will look exactly like the original one" is lowest-common-denominator architecture. That's a bad idea on its own merits. And second, even if it weren't, and even though the original Yankee Stadium predated Nazi architecture, it just looks like Nazi architecture. Nazi architecture has acquired a meaning -- much in the same way, but not degree, that the swastika acquired a meaning. The Nazis didn't invent the swastika, but the Nazis are the reason why we don't use it now.

So, look, Yankees: everybody in baseball already hates you. Did you really need to give them more reasons?
GO AHEAD, YOU KNOW, WIKIPEDIA IT! With just under three weeks until previews start, here's an oddly low-energy series of interviews with the four leads of Guys and Dolls. With the exception of Oliver Platt, who seems to have some idea of what's going on, Craig Bierko, Lauren Graham, and Kate Jennings Grant are apparently most excited about handing out flyers on Broadway (Bierko), being the tallest cast ever assembled on Broadway (an appropriately though disconcertingly blondified Graham), and doing a show set in the 1930s, 'cause that makes it unique! and original! and edgy! (Grant, who apparently hasn't seen Annie anytime in the last couple of decades).

In their defense, though, they're barely into rehearsals yet, and seem to have gotten corralled into interviews when they thought they were just showing up for a photo shoot in their freshly sewn costumes. And lest I come off as one of those snarky internet people at whom Graham takes a swipe during her interview (who, me?), let me just reiterate that I am deeply excited for this revival and in fact bought tickets for the second first preview on February 4 after the first first preview, originally scheduled for February 3, was cancelled on me a week or so ago.
SPOILER ALERT: They mount a successful comeback. They fall short. He loses the split decision. He knocks him out. He makes a tackle on special teams gets a sack. It's wide right. There's a dude down there. She was conning them. It was the name of the guy who got blown up. It was Tessio, he was always smarter. It's the future. They have the bomb. He didn't know he'd go to starboard. He's a god-damned robot. She's an android. Uh, that was Kevin Bacon's penis. They never looked behind the poster. He does or does not get whacked. Their weakness is water. His weakness is water. He switched the addresses. He's not who he says he is. He is the guy in the Hawaiian shirt. He is the other guy. He dies, and his sidekick dies, and she dies, and the balloon dies, and the dog dies, and the shark eats him, and he was dead the whole time. He's his father. She's his sister. She's her daughter and her sister. It didn't really happen at all. It was a dream, or a hallucination, or Hell. It's a sled. It's a dude. It's the best friend. It's the boss. It's Kevin Costner. It's people. It wasn't him at all. It was him all along.

ETA: If someone feels like, you know, naming these, I won't stop you.
THAT'S FOR TAKING THE KID OFF THE RAFT: So the Paley Center for Media (formerly the Museum of Television and Radio) did a fan poll to determine the two best episodes in Lost history, which they'll show this Saturday as part of a series of Craphole Island events this month. The winners? "Through The Looking Glass", the season 3 finale, and "Walkabout", the first Locke episode. The pilot and "The Constant" placed third and fourth, and nothing else was close.

Mo Ryan sat down recently with Lindelof and Cuse to discuss the new season (no spoilers). Six days to go.
FLIGHT RISK: Anyone else following the Marcus Schrenker plane hoax story? It's like watching a Coen brothers film** play out in real life. Crime, boy, I don't know ...

** Or the Krusty the Clown scheme in the Simpsons episode "Bart the Fink," which of course was named for .... [h/t Andrew.]
WHAT THIS AUTO REPAIR SHOP NEEDS IS A LIVE BULL: Before I get a little weepy, I'd like to give this warning to people who will begin watching Season 3 of FNL this month: Don't watch the previouslies. Seriously, while this is a show that, as I said last week, doesn't depend upon surprising plot twists, the way the previouslies telegraph the action is tremendously irritating.

There's so much, and so little non-spoilery, to say about this episode, so I'll err on the side of so little. First, for all of the great performances by so many actors, I should mention that Billy Riggins was a fine character in a beefed-up role (other than the copper-stealing plot), good for low comedy but also delivering unexpectedly touching moments as well. Second, the most reliable feel-good moments in this show come not from romances or fourth-quarter comebacks, but from Tim Riggins enthusiastically pitching a dumb idea, like seeing Gypsy or buying a bull. Third, great work early in the episode by Matt and Grandma Saracen, though I thought the resolution was unnecessary. Fourth, most depressing wedding reception ever, for so many reasons. And fifth, no likely series-ending scene has ever made me want more to see the doomed next season.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

LET'S GO TO THE MALL: With Paul Blart: Mall Cop invading multiplexes this weekend, Stuck in the 80s blogger Steve Spears lists his five favorite 80s Mall Movies. It's hard to knock any out of the top five, but I have a special place for Weird Science, where Anthony Michael Hall got the Icee dumped on his head by Robert Downey's BFF at Northbrook Court, which was within spitting distance of my boyhood home. And then there's Andrew McCarthy getting it on with Rob Lowe's mom in the glass elevators at Water Tower Place in Class. Any other Robin Sparkles-approved movies I'm missing?
I'M AFFORDED FIVE QUESTIONS, BUT I'LL ONLY POSE ONE: Ten years ago this week, Jon Stewart began hosting The Daily Show. I think we can all agree that worked out okay, though ... oh, he was so young before it started!

When's the last time you wondered how Craig Kilborn was doing?

e.t.a. Clips of that first episode, featuring Michael J. Fox (thanks Jordan!), are online. Wrote the NYT at the time:

Jon Stewart takes over as the host of Comedy Central's ''Daily Show'' tomorrow night, but don't expect many changes in the nightly news parody. ''Except I'll be reading the news with a Yiddish accent,'' Mr. Stewart warned, and proceeded to ad-lib the day's headlines sounding uncannily like Jackie Mason. ''We're going after the audience that never got over the cancellation of 'Chicken Soup,' '' he said, referring to the Jackie Mason-Lynn Redgrave sitcom that made a brief and forgettable appearance in 1989.

But seriously, what changes does the stand-up comedian foresee for the show, which has established a loyal following over the past two years? During an interview in the TriBeCa offices of Busboy Productions, his Miramax-based production company, Mr. Stewart, 36, professed not to know where the show was headed. ''I'm going into this thinking that it's a great show, I have a pretty strong comic voice, and we're going to spend the first three months trying to blend those two things. It's not rocket science.''

ALL OF THIS MIGHT HAVE BEEN AVOIDED HAD HIS PARENTS CHOSEN A DIFFERENT MIDDLE NAME, SAY COORS OR RUPP: When last we reported on young Adolph Hitler Campbell he was enjoying his Wal-Mart birthday cake after being denied a cake bearing his full name from the local ShopRite. Now Adolph and his sisters JoyceLynn Aryan Nation and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie have been removed from their parents custody. Details are scant at this point, but imagine the "furor" if this is simply about giving your kids awful, awful names.
ADULT ENTERTAINER, CHILD EDUCATOR, AND THE KING OF THE CROSS-FADER: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will induct this year Metallica, Run-DMC, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Bobby Womack and Jeff Beck (the Mark Langston of the RRHoF) with Wanda Jackson entering as an early influencer. Missing the cut among the finalists were Chic, Iggy and the Stooges, and War. Says DMC:
I'm a rap dude, I'm an MC from Hollis, just rockin' the mic, and to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with the Beatles, and (Bob) Dylan, and the rock 'n' roll gods? It's ridiculous! Ridiculous in a good way.
[I recognize that I still haven't done the Keltner analysis on Run-DMC, but, seriously, is this a question? Once you determine that rappers are eligible for the Hall, Run-DMC is inner sanctum first ballot.]
ON EARTH, 200 YEARS AGO, I WAS A PRINCE WITH POWER OVER MILLIONS: Actor Ricardo Montalbán has passed away at the age of 88. If you look up the word suave in the dictionary, I believe you'll find his picture there, though I'm betting his career will be summarized in a different single word (or name), and/or a three-word phrase, as soon as I open up the comments.
I'D REALLY RATHER WATCH HEIDI:President Bush's farewell address is shaking up the TV schedule on Thursday--lineups are reported to be:
  • FOX--Bones preempted, replaced with two hours of Kitchen Nightmares to begin after speech.
  • ABC--Ugly Betty preempted, replaced with a half hour of speech coverage from 8 to 8:30, and a Scrubs rerun at 8:30--Grey's and Private Practice as normal
  • CBS--Normal programming, delayed for the speech. CSI repeat at 8:15, new CSI (William Petersen's farewell) at 9:15, Eleventh Hour at 11:15.
  • NBC--A revised schedule begins after the speech--8:15 Earl repeat, 8:45 new Earl, 9:15 new Office, 9:45 new 30 Rock, 10:15, new ER. (though the article's unclear--they may be joining the Earl repeat in progress). ETA--NBC promotion tonight is that they're doing a half hour of coverage of the speech, moving Earl to 8:30, and running the rest of their schedule as normal.
Set/Pad your DVR accordingly.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

IGNORING ORSON WELLES' STAR TURN AS UNICRON: With Clint Eastwood threatening to hang it up and Heath Ledger primed to win an Oscar for his last role, /film takes a look at the 10 Greatest Final Performances in Acting History, with John Wayne in The Shootist topping the list. Overlooked, Vincent Price in Edward Scissorhands, where ironically his last scene is a death scene.
HOLD ON A MINUTE, BITCH: Oh, I think we're going to do just fine with Kara (not Kah-ra) DioGuardia. The "Vision of Love"-off just sold me. I don't think we saw The Next American Idol (hereafter, "TNAI") tonight -- no, not even Miss Carly Smithson v2.0 -- and the fast-forward button on my TiVo got plenty of use, but, hey, the show is back the show is back.

Possible 'Moonlighting' reunion film? - Entertainment News, Film News, Media - Variety

DO BEARS BEAR? DO BEES BE? Does the prospect of a "Moonlighting" reunion film excite you? I think this is a show I'd rather just keep preserved in amber and in my memories, even if Willis and Shepherd (and a certain Chinese man) are interested. But it's nice to know it's possible.
THINGS MISSING FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES: In preparation for stripping down its comics selection dramatically (losing "Cathy," "Judge Parker," and "Mary Worth," among others), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution did a survey of its readers about their comics preferences, and reports the data. A few tidbits:
  • Zits is the #1 favorite across all demographics
  • Doonesbury scores #8 most favorite, and #9 least favorite. Also making appearances on both lists--Pearls Before Swine, Brewster Rockit, Get Fuzzy, and Family Circus, in part due to generational divides.
Interesting data to be sure, and I'm assuming the AJC doesn't carry Gil Thorp, or it'd be all over the "bottom."
AWAY WITH THIS PRETENSE! YOU CANNOT SPEAK, BUT KISS ME IN MY HUSBAND'S ABSENCE: I have been putting off mentioning the birth of Jennifer Garner's second daughter until that baby got herself a name. But now it is time -- time to introduce Seraphina Rose Elizabeth Affleck to the world!

(The name's a little heavy compared to Violet, but I don't have it in my heart to be anything other than happy for Sydney Bristow's ongoing maternal happiness.)
THE IMPOSSIBLE HAS HAPPENED: Vin Scully tops this list of the 50 Greatest Sports Broadcasters of All Time from something called the American Sportscasters Association. While Scully is a fine top pick and it's hard to quibble with most of the legends in the top 25 or so, WTF are Chris Berman and Bill Walton doing on the list?
DON'T CRY FOR WII, ARGENTINA: Andrew Lloyd Webber Karaoke Hero is apparently in development for a number of consoles.
THAT'S WHAT MAGAZINES ARE FOR: As someone who regularly eats dinner out alone, but almost invariably does so while reading a magazine (though typically one with a little more substance than Us Weekly), I found the Marshall plot on last night's HIMYM amusing (even if Alan misunderstood what "reading a magazine" was about). On the other hand, I was a little skeeved out by FutureTed at least theoretically telling his kids about having a "Friends With Benefits" roommate relationship with Robin, even if that plotline led to Barney's big screen television purchasing advice and political analysis. Discuss.
RETURN OF THE MOTHERSHIP: Tonight, after leaving us for eight months (although never really leaving us, thanks to the tour, the albums, the reruns, the YouTubage and my seeing Ruben, Frenchie and Trenyce in Ain't Misbehavin' last week, which I will review soon) following a particularly captivating season, American Idol returns for its eighth year.

We're getting three weeks of auditions instead of four, but four judges at the table instead of three, and Richard Rushfield has six reasons to be hopeful, and six to despair regarding this season. No, five of his six bad reasons are not "Carly Smithson can't come back," and he and I do agree on at least one of the positives, though I wouldn't phrase it quite as strongly: "I am of the opinion that Hollywood Week is not only the most thrilling part of Idol, but possibly the greatest drama in all of television - leading up to the Green Mile; the most harrowing viewing since Euripides. This year we will receive not one but two weeks of Hollywood Week (oxymoron though it may be.) I say, that's a good start, but it's still not enough."

Will you be watching tonight, or are you waiting for the chaff to be threshed and winnowed first?

Monday, January 12, 2009

SOME, I SUPPOSE, MIGHT REGARD IT AS REALLY ROTTEN: We last discussed the Venn diagram of "funny" and "offensive" when discussing the portrayal of New York Gov. David Paterson on SNL. In that spirit, I offer you Robot Chicken's "Laff-A-Lympics: Munich".
INTERRUPTING HER SCHEDULED DIVE INTO COMPLETE OBSCURITY: Apparently, Vanessa Hudgens has auditioned for a role in Twilight sequel New Moon. Credit to her for at least trying to have a semblance of an acting career and aging with her audience, even if I can't imagine the studio (which is apparently trying to move the sequel fast and cheap) paying her the sort of salary she'd likely want.
JIM ED RICE AND RICKEY HENLEY HENDERSON: Jim Rice was elected today to the Baseball Hall of Fame on his 15th and final try. Rickey Henderson was elected in his first year of eligibility with 94.8% of the vote.

Rice was a boyhood hero of mine (I wore the number 14 all the way through high school sports) so I am delighted by the news. I do understand that Rice was a borderline choice. A balanced analysis of his achievements is here. Rice was the 1978 AL MVP. He was an All-Star 8 times. He hit 382 home runs in 16 seasons with the Boston Red Sox. From 1977-79 he averaged .320 with 41 homers and 128 RBIs.

I also have great affection for Rickey Henderson, who was the 1990 AL MVP. Henderson was a 10-time All-Star who stole 1,406 bases, far surpassing the 938 stolen by Lou Brock, who is in second place. He owns the modern-day, single-season record with 130 steals in 1982, and the career mark with 81 leadoff homers. He played 25 seasons for Oakland, the Yankees, Toronto, San Diego, Anaheim, the Mets, Seattle, Boston and the Dodgers. He also inspired many good stories (look under "illeism, malapropism and anecdotes").

Sunday, January 11, 2009

HELP STING FIND HIS AIN TRUE RAZOR: [open thread for discussion of the 2009 Golden Globe awards. Feinberg liveblogs, and he and I absolutely agree on this one: "9:43 p.m. Gee, Pierce Brosnan. Thanks for spoiling the end of 'Mamma Mia!' for me."]

Full analysis tomorrow. Jai ho!
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What jumps out at me in looking at the results this morning are the names I don't see: no wins for Milk, no wins for Frost/Nixon, no wins for The Curious Case of Forrest Gump Benjamin Button. Admittedly, there are many fewer awards given out by the HFPA, and by a smaller and weirder electorate, but no film but Slumdog Millionaire is getting any momentum out of the evening.

Again: Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a bad movie. Let us never speak of its victory again. Also, Jen asked me if the results meant that she should watch HBO's Recount already. The answer is yes.

And I am happy that Kate Winslet has finally one a major award -- let alone two. Feinberg had two notes on this worth discussing -- first, that there's apparently no way her role in Kate, the Sexy Illiterate Nazi is a supporting one; and second, the question of what other role she should have won for in the past. I'd say Clementine in Eternal Sunshine, for which she lost to Annete Bening (Being Julia ?!?) at the Globes, though losing to Hillary Swank in Million Dollar Baby at the Oscars is no shame.

This trivia note: of the eight actresses who've been nominated for Oscars in lead and supporting in the same year, four claimed one of them, though none of the three most recent did (Emma Thompson, Julianne Moore, Cate Blanchett -- though, okay, Thompson's double loss in 1993 also had Holly Hunter double-nominated with a win for The Piano), and no actor or actress has ever won both acting Oscars in the same year.

Finally, to Mickey Rourke: next time, thank your screenwriter. That's the guy who makes sure you don't ramble like that when the camera's around.
YAKETY SAX MAKES ANYTHING FUNNY: Frighteningly, there is a person on YouTube who has uploded a series of videos which overlay TV theme songs with the Pierce Brosnan James Bond "Gunbarrel" opening. For instance, we have Knight Rider, The A-Team, Boston Legal, The Twilight Zone, Doogie Howser, and, yes, The Benny Hill Show.
WHY CAN'T US?, CONT'D: Today marks the tenth anniversary of Andy Reid's hiring as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. Happy anniversary, Big Red, and thank you. Onto Arizona.
ALL BECAUSE GLENN MILLER AND HIS BAND ONCE TOOK A DUMP THERE: Barack Obama, as many of you know, spent the first two years at Occidental College, Mrs. Earthling's alma mater, before transferring to Columbia. Yet, as the campaign advanced, Occidental's alumni relations seemed to be making a pitch for the Obama Presidential Library. This quarter's alumni magazine would make David Axelrod question its objectivity. Fawning interviews with the fellow across the hall who insisted on calling him Barack, a freshman roommate, other usual suspects. Now, whatever the politics of it -- and the political activities of the student body that make this a good alumni magazine story -- just what connection fairly gives an institution a claim on a fellow? While Occidental boasts a few notable alumni who, in fact, graduated - Jack Kemp '57, Terry Gilliam '62 - it also has lots of dropouts in the ranks of Hollywood -- Ben Affleck '94 (DNF) among others.

The conversations we've had with the Little Earthlings pulmonologist (Punahou '89), Mrs Earthling (Occidental '92) and me, suggest that any connection -- at least in the short term -- is a horse which will be beaten to death and beyond. Recognizing this has to be net good for fundraising and will be done for almost any connection, just what are the minimum contacts required for an institution to ride someone's coattails, or your own?
TAKE THAT, FRED SAVAGE: Man, you have to give SNL credit for doing that "Broadway" sketch, which a good 85-90% of the audience didn't get--I mean, it's pretty rare you call upon someone to pull out a Stephanie D'Abruzzo impression--and featured jokes that seemed designed to be obscure (in particular, the Jeremy Piven one).