Saturday, June 20, 2009

OOH, AAH, ALPHA BETA: In his 2009 keynote remarks to the Radio and TV Correspondents Dinner last night, "very famous minor television personality" John Hodgman asks the President whether he is a jock, a nerd, or He Who Shall End The Shameful Division Between The Two. (Contains mild political content, which I know our comments will avoid.)
NEED A NEW LIVER? Apparently, there's an app for that too.

Feel free to taunt me for my lack of an iPhone, or whatever else is worth discussing in the Apple universe.

Friday, June 19, 2009

GARY PAPA (1954-2009): Those of us in the Delaware Valley are a bit misty tonight after learning that prostate cancer took the life of Channel 6 sports anchor Gary Papa today at the age of 54. Papa had battled cancer for the past five years, unafraid to broadcast with his newly-bald head, and fundraised like hell to fight cancer with all the time he had left, including an annual 5K run/walk which will be held on Father's Day as always.

Enthusiastic, knowledgeable, charismatic, and one of the rare transplants to our city (1981) who was beloved like a native. The role of a local sports anchor isn't what it was in the pre-ESPN era, but after a big event like a Monday night Eagles game or the Phillies victory parade, it's still the locals you want to see, and it was to his Action News team to which I and this city turned. The Channel 6 site has catalogued a ton of archived Papa video and tributes today.
WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR, DANNY, GOODNESS OR BADNESS? Tad Friend profiled writer/actor/director Harold Ramis in 2004; the AV Club caught up with him today to discuss Year One, Ghostbusters 3 and the oddness of Bill Murray.

To borrow a phrasing we've used here before -- had he only co-written and directed Groundhog Day, dayenu. Add to that writing or co-writing Animal House, Meatballs, Caddyshack, Stripes ...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

CATPANTS: I have no problem with my SYTYCD predictions being mostly wrong, especially at this stage of the game. My general wrongness, combined with the fact that exactly zero of last week's bottom three couples showed up again in this week's bottom three, shows how wide open the field is this season. Not a lot of chaff in this bottom six, and I was sad to see the departers depart, although I thought each one was the right call. The good news is that we're getting ourselves a brand new couple next week. I love seeing how changing partners impacts the quality of the dancing, and I think this new partnership has the potential to be really interesting in a way that neither of its predecessors really was. (There's an obvious analogy, but I'll save it for the comments so as not to annoy Isaac and his fellow West Coasties.)
NO, IT'S NOT DIABLO CODY: As it turns out, there's a reader of this site who works for Entertainment Weekly, and who I think would read any suggestions you had for the magazine. What I've told this reader is that I think EW needs to seize upon its ability to be smarter than the People/Us universe, to let folks like Mark Harris and Doc Jensen do long-form think pieces on popular culture more often to balance off the traditional "hey! it's a new movie! we visited the set!" pieces to which covers are often pegged. I like it when EW lets movie stars talk about a series of past roles, its oral histories about the making of a film or creation of a tv show, and the great features they've done about forgotten performers or obscure films. If there's a two-word slogan for what I'm thinking, it's "smart populism."
THE KAYFABE DEFENSE: For your first question in the ALOTT5MA Securities Regulation Final Exam, please discuss the following fact pattern (all real). On Monday night's live television broadcast of its RAW program, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) announces that it has sold its "RAW" brand to Donald Trump. WWE issues a press release the following day announcing the deal, and multiple media sources pick up the story. WWE's stock drops almost 10% that day. WWE subsequently clarifies that the press release was merely "promotional for that ongoing story arc." Let's assume that there was no active wrongdoing by WWE employees in shorting the stock or otherwise. Is "everyone knows wrestling is fake" a valid legal defense to any securities claims that might be asserted by the SEC or a class action? Should it be?
AND THEY ALL LOOK JUST THE SAME: As non-Showtime subscribers, Spacewoman and I lag about a season behind on Weeds, so we're just getting started on Season 4. Digging back in reminded me, though, that the show uses some awfully cool music. The most amusing thing about the soundtrack is the way that it gets different artists to do versions of the singsongy theme, Malvina Reynolds's "Little Boxes."

Since I always fast-forward through theme songs and the first season used only the Reynolds version, I assumed that was it. It wasn't until midway through Season 3, when Spacewoman was a laggard with the remote, when I heard the theme and went, "Hey, that's Laurie Berkner!" (She doubted it, as she usually does when I identify someone by voice, and as a side note it is time for Spacewoman to recognize that my greatest God-given talent is voice recognition.) And when you go back over the roster of artists who have performed "Little Boxes" for the show, both the breadth and the quality are impressive. Berkner, Elvis Costello, Engelbert Humperdink, the Decemberists, Regina Spektor, Joan Baez, the Shins, Randy Newman, Death Cab, Jenny Lewis, and the Submarines, among others? That's a regular Bonnaroo right there.
RICHARD RUSHFIELD IS OVER THERE WEEPING TEARS OF JOY: Carly Smithson has joined a band -- Fallen -- made up of Smithson and the former non-vocals personnel of Evanescence. That first Evanescence album is actually really solid, and guitarist Ben Moody has subsequently written fine singles for other artists, including Kelly Clarkson's "Because Of You," Daughtry's "What About Now," and Avril Lavigne's "Nobody's Home." I'll be interested to see what they put out.
MISS CHANANDLER BONG: So, Bing! Does anyone care? Does anyone think it's superseding Google?

ETA: The scene from which I took the title is, naturally, up on YouTube.
THE EVIL ARE REWARDED, THE BLAMELESS ARE PUNISHED, AND THE RABBI GOES BLIND: In anticipation of this week's new release EW's Owen Gleiberman has ranked all of Woody Allen's films from #1 to #40.

On which were his rankings most off? I'd say his giddy-sweet musical Everyone Says I Love You -- at #29 when it should be near the top 10, and Crimes and Misdemeanors, even at #11 too low when I'd rank it as high as #3 or 4, my favorite of all his dramas. On the overrated side, the well-structured but rather simple Match Point was not better than 34 other Allen films (it's just better than most in the past decade or so), and I remember nothing from Small Time Crooks (#15) other than that it was nice to see Elaine May again. You?
DO YOU MIND IF WE DANCE WITH YOUR DATES? Yes, dear readers, there really is a Dexter Lake Club, and it's still open in Dexter, Oregon. (Hit it.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


A Paragraph of Personal Confession. I'm a little grumpy about having missed the Chess concert on PBS. If I hadn't been so busy racing off to my brand spanking new gym to see if anyone was using this Fitlinxx thing (answer: not that I noticed), I might have caught Adam's mention in time to record it. Hmph. I shouldn't hmph too hmphily, though -- my new gym has all the nifty iPod stuff that is transcribing all the details of my runs directly onto the internet and letting me watch iTunes-downloaded videos on the treadmill screen (so I'm now exactly one episode into 30 Rock - yay me!), and tonight I listened to the BSG podcast for the Season 4 mid-season finale ("Revelations"), which was a lot of fun and which convinced me once and for all that one need not have a grand master plan in order to write a kickass television show. So I'm generally feeling both niftily high-tech as well as athletic, not to mention inspired to go out there and write a logically inconsistent pilot of a TV show.


But as for tonight's SYTYCD, the hmphy hmphing comes back in spades. I just wasn't all that moved tonight. There was some stuff I enjoyed, but on the whole, not so much.

Stuff I Liked.

  • CAT! I didn't care for the bottom half of her dress -- the ruffles got a little carried away somewhere between her waist and the hemline -- but Cat herself was in fine form tonight, from the "three-way" to the rock-and-roll imps to the scolding of Max to the calling for a referee on the question of Phillip's knees.
  • Randi and Evan: Yeah, I saw the difference in explosiveness between Randi and Evan, but who cares -- it was fun! And they were dancing to "Shake a Tail Feather," which is the most fun! song ever! And Mary Murphy stopped screaming briefly, thereby enabling her to offer up actual thoughtful instructive commentary on the dancers' technique, which is always fun!
  • Caitlin: I really didn't pay much attention to Jason during this first hip hop routine, because I was so busy thinking about how cute and Britney Spearsish Caitlin was. I get that the dancing wasn't synchronized properly (for the newbies out there, a non-synchronized hip hop routine is the kiss of death on this show as far as the jidges are concerned), but I really enjoyed watching her.
  • Asuka and Vitolio: I liked this one. As I observed last week, the more classic ballroom styles sometimes fade into the woodwork on this show -- not this time. But I think this was probably my favorite routine of the week, and it wasn't that good.
  • Kayla: There must have been extra estrogen on the set tonight, because here's another guy (Max) I wasn't paying any attention to. Particularly at the top of the routine, I found Kayla's exploding jerky movements really compelling and magnetic. I'm not 100% sure I understand why the judges are SO pro-Kayla vis a vis some of the other dancers, but she was wonderful tonight.
  • The part of the Karla and Jonathan routine where she sort of jumped squirmily into his outstretched arms and he kept his arms extended for a while: the rest of the dance didn't do much for me, but that bit was worth the price of a plane ticket to LA for new Canadian choreographer Stacey Tookey.
  • The utter ridiculousness of the gobbledy-gook that comes out of L'il C's mouth. I started writing some of it down, then gave up. "Modifying your manipulation of movement"? And that was one of the ones that sort of made sense! It's like he does some sort of 20 cent word Mad Libs before he judges.

The Not-So-Much.

  • Poor Phillip: Ow. It was just so . . . stompy.
  • Ade and Melissa: This is the second consecutive week in which I've been left cold by a routine that the jidges fell all over themselves to praise. Is it just me? I think I'm just not getting Melissa -- I went back to watch this dance a second time, focusing purely on Ade, and liked it somewhat more.
  • The partners of Caitlin and Kayla who made no impression whatsoever on me this week.
  • Ashley and Kupono: I kind of liked the first part, but ultimately it was a little snoozy.
  • Janette and Brandon: Yeah, it was really really really fast, and that 210 degree split in the air was insane, but what I want to know is this. How come it's an international crisis if a hip hop couple is off by a millisecond or two, but Brandon and Janette can be completely out of sync and no one cares? I would also like to reiterate the question I ask every season: is Doriana Sanchez the only disco choreographer on the planet?
Predictions: Ashley/Kupono, Karla/Jonathan, and . . . of course it should be Jeanine and stompy Phillip, but I suppose this will be a test of America's love for the wiggly popper dude. I suspect that if Jonathan shows up in the bottom three again, this may be the end for him. And as for the girls, I don't have a strong view, but I'll go with Karla.
I CAN FIND A LOVER, I CAN FIND A FRIEND, I CAN FIND THE PHONE NUMBER OF THE LAWYER I USED FOR THE FIRST TWO DIVORCES: KCosmo's Neighbor broke the story to us, and by now you know -- a separation has been announced after five years of marriage between piano player William Joel, 60, and his wife Katherine Lee, 27, the original host of Top Chef.

Your reactions in the forms of Mr. Joel's lyrics are welcome.
A SHOW WITH EVERYTHING BUT YUL BRENNER: It's been suggested to me that I alert this site's readership to PBS' broadcast tonight of a concert performance of the Broadway musical Chess starring Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal and Josh Groban (I believe that's the proper hierarchy for this site) filmed at Royal Albert Hall. Check your local listings.
MY UNDYING XOXO: Finally, one network has realized that 8/7 Central on Mondays is a pileup (HIMYM, House, Chuck/Heroes, Gossip Girl, Dancing With The Stars), and blinked a show out of the slot. Somewhat surprisingly, it's the CW, which is moving Gossip Girl to 9 and flipflopping it with inexplicable success One Tree Hill. Makes sense, moving the much-buzzed but little-viewed Gossip Girl out of the way of the mess and against weaker competition, while OTH's tween driven audience will likely be loyal. (Also, GG is perhaps a bit racy for the "family hour.")

In other WB/CW TV news, the second season of the late, lamented, Everwood is now on DVD, featuring many appearances by future stars including Kristen Bell as a cheerleader with ruptured breast implants, the beginning of Sarah Lancaster's arc as BadNanny Madison, Marcia Cross as a new love interest for Treat Williams, and James Earl Jones as a miner and pianist.
THE QUESTION IS WHAT'S GOING IN MR. PETERSON. A BEER PLEASE, WOODY: I have to say, I'm still fascinated by the idea launched on a recent Bill Simmons podcast of remaking Cheers, setting it in Chicago and casting Vince Vaughn in the Sam Malone role. Can we find a part in it for Tim Meadows? Because he needs work, and I like him.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

WE'RE STILL WAITING FOR PETER KING TO WEIGH IN BY MISSING THE POINT: It was not that long ago that it might have taken a few days for the "outrage" about Artie Lange's appearance on The Joe Buck Show to metastasize into "outrage"-about-the-"outrage". While Will Leitch accurately noted that part of the problem was Buck's inability to wrest back control of his show, I want to focus on one underreported aspect -- perhaps the only one left: Lange wasn't that funny (video NSFW). Merely saying shocking words to someone not expecting to hear them isn't inherently funny -- it just makes you a lazier Sarah Silverman. Nothing he said actually made me laugh -- the most I got was a slight sense of amusement at watching sanctimonious Buck squirm. When Shaquille O'Neal can pack more effective homophobic humor into a single tweet (context here) than Lange could in eight minutes, that's saying something.

[Also, both Jason Sudeikis and Paul Rudd sadly played the role of Braylon Edwards to Lange's Buzz Bissinger, staying out of the fray rather than intervening on behalf of a host who needed it.]

When someone's given space on television to call into question viewers' fundamental assumptions about the justice of a market-based economy, their belief in a higher power or the necessity of a "war on drugs," then we can talk about someone being "outrageous." Until then, I'll just say the world misses Bill Hicks.
ELBOW ROOM, ELBOW ROOM, GOTTA GOTTA GETCHA SOME ELBOW ROOM: Apropos of nothing but the fact that this was the kind of thing that my college roommate Woody and I would have geeked out about, did you know that Cambridge, Massachusetts is the fourth-most densely populated city in America, two spots ahead of Chicago? That El Monte, Norwalk, Garden Grove, and Downey -- four LA-area suburbs or exurbs that I think may not even have any residential buildings taller than two stories -- made the top 25, while Baltimore, Detroit, and Oakland did not? That America's most densely populated city (New York, duh) not only did not make the list of the 35 densest cities in the world, but that it was less than a quarter as dense as the #1 city, Dhaka? (113,000 people per square mile? That's insane.) That Paris and Barcelona are denser than Hong Kong proper or Shanghai? I mean, I had never even heard of some of the cities on the world list. Obviously, I find this endlessly fascinating.
THE WAITING IS THE HARDEST PART: Over the last few years, I've realized that I do have a fundamental credo, a principle around which I order my life and think others should order theirs. It's that the world runs better when everybody gets out of everybody else's way. We've talked about many applications of this principle -- never getting to the front of a line without knowing what you want when you get there; the walk-left-stand-right principle; the inviolable rule that on a freeway a car should always be moving appreciably faster than traffic in the lane immediately to the right. It is with this principle in mind that I announce the worst invention in the history of human health: Fitlinxx.

Fitlinxx is basically a hardware/software combination that tells you what to do in the gym. I'm sure it has competitors, but Fitlinxx is the only one I know. I'm sure it has tremendous benefits -- it probably gives you a workout so well-rounded that I might be willing to overlook the use of an "xx" when a "ks" would do. But I won't, because I want to punch Fitlinxx right in the xxer.

The problem is that in giving you an exercise on a machine, then a timed period of rest, and then another exercise on the machine, Fitlinxx seems to have vested a large group of gymgoers with a belief that they have machine-squatting rights. Normal people do exercises, get up, wander around for a few seconds (letting others use the machines we've vacated), and then sit back down for more torture. Fitlinxx users, to a man, use up their allotted 30 seconds of rest (and usually more) sitting on their machines staring daggers at anybody with the temerity to draw near the Cone of Fitlinxx Sovereignty. If I linger at a machine a nanosecond longer than I need to, some Fitlinxx user is always handy to goose me out of my languor. So why can't Fitlinxx users taking a mandated 30-second break let me in for a 12-rep/12-second set?
.217/.254/.330: Am I still a fan during his slump? Of course. But Jimmy Rollins should not be the leading vote-getter at shortstop for the National League in the 2009 All-Star Game.

I'm totally fine with the argument that all-star voting should be based more on "who are the perennial stars that the fans want to see on the big stage?" -- Ichiro, for example, belongs in the game every year no matter what. I also and remain steadfast in my advocacy that each year, the Commissioner "should have the right to name a player to each squad who may not necessarily deserve the honor for this year, but who ought to be honored by Baseball Nation as a whole in this marquee event during the twilight of his career." [This year, for example, Randy Johnson ought to be on the NL roster, even if it means taking three Giants starting pitchers.]

In-season performance has to count for something, however, and Rollins' is so woeful that it'd be an embarrassment to have him starting in the game. But maybe I'm missing the national picture -- is Jimmy Rollins such a national star that he belongs in no matter what, or is he just the beneficiary of sell-out crowds in Philadelphia and fans not knowing who Hanley Ramirez is?

Monday, June 15, 2009

TRAGEDY TODAY, AS FORMER PRESIDENT GERALD FORD WAS EATEN BY WOLVES: Revealing interview today on the AV Club as the Dana Carvey hype-the-DVD-hope-for-a-comeback tour continues, with these tidbits of special note:
  • At the time he left SNL, he was working with Robert Smigel, Conan O'Brien and Kevin Nealon on a film to be titled Hans And Franz: The Girly-Man Dilemma.
  • He's been asked to host the Academy Awards at least twice.
  • He's ready to make his comeback "as a senior comedian," hoping to obtain "Walter Brennan-type roles, Gabby Hayes kind of stuff, be the old-timer.... I want to announce that I’m available for work-for-hire in Hollywood right now. Game shows, holiday shows, I’ll host things. Any work that anybody needs. There you go."
BEVERLIOTT: As promised/threatened -- name your favorite Canadian film director. [I vote Egoyan.]
I AM NOT THE ZODIAC: Normally, the Washington Monthly wouldn't be suitable link fodder around here, but I think we have to make an exception for this month's article from Michael O'Hare, in which O'Hare describes his life as the subject of a Zodiac Killer theory. It's well worth your time.
IT IS (ALMOST) OUTTA HERE: I love the Internets. I was able to pinpoint the most unusual thing I'd ever seen at a baseball game: an inside-the-park Grand Slam, when Chico Walker of the Chicago Cubs hit one into left field and Kevin Mitchell -- my favorite Giants left-fielder -- couldn't quite save the day. That was August 28, 1991 at Candlestick Park. Never seen a no-hitter (let alone a perfect game) or an unassisted triple-play. Now, of course, it's an event that suggests a fat, slow outfielder (check), rather than some great individual effort (save some tolerable quickness). But that was, nevertheless, pretty awesome. A comprehensive (to 1999) list of the feat can be found here.
ALL THE NEWS THAT'S FIT TO PRINT: It's normally the Arts section of the Times that provides us with fodder for discussion, but the only interesting thing there today is the lament over the death throes of the Virgin Megastore, which apparently managed to liquidate most of the vast piles of Hannah Montana: The Movie Soundtrack CDs I saw there last weekend before closing on Sunday. However, today, it's the business section that offers much fodder for discussion, including:
ELLIOT! BEVERLY! A theoretically infinite number of people surveyed, top [x] answers on the board, here's the question -- name a film that you're glad you saw once, but which was so creepy or depressing that you have no interest whatsoever in ever seeing it again.
BEVERLY! ELLIOT! New York magazine lists the Ten Greatest Multiple-Role Performances in Movie History. Left off the list, strangely, were both Eddie Murphy's and Jerry Lewis' Nutty Professor films (though arguably they don't qualify) as well as Jeff Portnoy's work in the Fatties films.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

X: Twenty-five years ago, he was alternating between coaching the Albany Patroons of the CBA and los Gallitos de Isabela in a Puerto Rico summer league. Tonight, Phil Jackson coached his tenth squad to an NBA championship in the last nineteen seasons. No matter how much you want to take away from that accomplishment for having Jordan, Pippen, O'Neal and Bryant on his squads, it's still quite something.
WHY WOULD WE MISS A CHANCE TO CELEBRATE OURSELVES? Four years ago yesterday Kim Cosmopolitan crossed over from frequent commenter to blogger, bringing us a tart humor, a propensity to telegraph her cues for vigorous eye rolls, and a singular love for the union of guys with dolls. I'm a fan.