Friday, August 14, 2009

THINGS THAT BOTH SUCK AND BITE: Look, we've whined copiously about EW's excessive coverage of Twilight (the 5 covers in the last year, the keeping the books on the bestseller list for "adults" even when categorized as YA elsewhere), and I get the argument for why they're doing it (it sells magazines on the newsstand by the boatload), and, indeed, there's a pretty good argument that New Moon belongs on the cover of the Fall Movie Preview, since it's one of the few sure things on the Fall movie calendar. But can we all agree that two covers in the span of three weeks is well more than enough? The "Vampires" cover story of two weeks ago had no real hook to anything current (save True Blood), and was clearly gratuitious. I could deal with it, since it was in a week where there weren't other big cover options--Funny People was the only major release, there's no new TV, no big music news, etc. But if they knew that they were using Twilight yet again for Fall Movie Preview, why not adjust it a bit? The "fall movie" season doesn't begin for another few weeks, so why not change the covers up--have a cover last week for GI Joe or Julie and Julia, use the District 9 cover (which seemed somewhat sparklevamp inspired, with the glowy eye and all) this week, and push off this one a week or so?
PREVIOUSLY, ON MAD MEN: Smoke, drink, cheat, impregnate, marry, return, exchange, charm, menace, harass, impersonate, conceal, deny, pimp, freelance, fire, overrule, overachieve, subsidize, paw, apologize, self-loathe, promote, frolic, collapse, recover, collapse, promote, deflect, transfer, swelter, blackmail, panic, fail, abort, acknowledge, copy, crash, betray, entertain, mock, author, insult, insinuate, seduce, flail, fix, underestimate, preach, vomit, separate, mourn, register, road-trip, disappear, urinate, relapse, insurrect, rape, trump, cuckold, reconcile, drink, smoke.

This recap brought to you by Draper Herbal Essence: Philander, rinse, repeat. Set your DVRs for August 16.
RAW BAR IN THE RAIN? I'm assuming Adam, our usual correspondent on matters Top Chef, couldn't catch this week's episode, but there's demand, and a few thoughts to kick us off:
  • Seriously, a chef specializing in Asian food who cannot identify Hoisin Sauce by taste? In fact, all these "Masters" did pretty damn poorly in the taste-test. (Half couldn't recognize peanut butter?)
  • Rick Bayless continues to be awesome, as does Hubert Keller, though the panel's man-crush on Keller is all-too-evident.
  • This was the first time this season that personal drama took the front seat, rather than the cooking. Did that make for better or worse television?
I'LL TAKE POTPOURRI FOR $600, ALEX: Adam and I are both on the road the next few days, so we're running shorthanded, but two stories from yesterday that I suspect there's desire among our readership to talk about:
  • Michael Vick has signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. Adam loudly proclaimed last night on C-SPAN that "Donovan McNabb is my quarterback," but perhaps there are differences of opinion here, or just a desire to echo Adam's sentiment.
  • Guitar virtuoso and technical innovator Les Paul died yesterday at 94. The obit gives a nice description of Paul's achievements, and notes that up till less than two months ago, Paul was continuing to play a weekly show at a small jazz club in Manhattan. Pretty damn impressive.
Consider this an open thread.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

TOTALLY VIOLATING OUR NON-COMPETE CLAUSE WITH SHONDA: Me. C-SPAN. Tonight, probably around 9pm. May involve political content; God willing will involve humor as well. Check your local listings.
MAKEUP TASTES GOOD: Via warmingglow, a video that dares to ask: two untrained dogs on a live TV news pet-adoption segment -- what could possibly go wrong?
CAN YOU TELL ME HOW TO GET: After a couple years on hiatus, the Cosmopolitan family has returned to Sesame Street. When we first started watching it with Cosmo Girl, Mr. Cosmo and I spent way too much time deliberating the differences between the Street of the '70s and the Street circa 2005. (Resolved: This House Likes Elmo's World.) But it's actually just as interesting to see how the show has changed just in the few years between Cosmo Girl and Cosmo Boy. Animated (claymated?) Ernie and Bert instead of "Journey to Ernie"? No more singing pipe organ for the number of the day? Really, really long Street sequences at the top of the show?

But Cosmo Boy's absolute faaavorite aspect of Sesame Street is something that I gather is new this past season: Murray Has a Little Lamb. Murray is the "What's the Word on the Street" monster, whose relevance I had questioned whenever I saw him in passing last season. (Apparently he's the crossover monster who hangs out in the real world. Kind of like International Grover only sticking to the five boroughs instead of, say, Bangladesh.) But now he's got his own gig with little lamb Ovejita, who I gather beat out Rosita, la Monstrua de las Cuevas, for the role of primary spanish-speaking muppet. (I smell a Title VII lawsuit.) There's actual stuff going on in the sketches, for which muppet wiki can give you the deets, but the thing that has Cosmo Boy rolling in the aisles is Ovejita's tendency to run into the camera frame unexpectedly, much like the mahna-mahna guy does. Some stuff is just funny, whether it's 1979 or 2009. The song is catchy, too.

(Sorry, no youtube at my office, but I suspect that one of my co-bloggers can help a monster out.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

IT'S IN MY DEPARTMENT, ISN'T IT? At the risk of beating a horse that we killed in the Ted comments below, I just wanted to say that even though my DVR didn't want me to see it, the third episode of Ted last night, "Jabberwocky Part 2," will change the way I watch television.
THEY'RE SHUTTIN' US DOON: What would you do if you stumbled across The Decemberists busking on the sidewalk? Why, cite them for unlicensed busking, of course.
WE COVET WHAT WE SEE EVERY DAY: Two reasons to be jealous of our friend Daniel Radosh this week:
I WILL ALWAYS BE THE GIRL WHOSE 16TH BIRTHDAY IS FORGOTTEN: In "sentences I never thought would exist" news, Molly Ringwald has an op-ed in today's NYT. The subject, unsurprisingly--the death of John Hughes. Some fascinating surprises--neither Ringwald nor Anthony Michael Hall had talked to Hughes in 20 years, and that Hughes broadened Ringwald's musical horizons. It's worth your time.
WE'VE FINALLY CONQUERED PRIVACY: By now, you know exactly what you're going to get out of Better Off Ted: absurdist comedy, cleverly efficient plotting, more laughs in a half-hour (or two) than are available in the entire rest of the summer prime-time network schedule combined, and a lecture from me about how you should be watching it. Because in the world of network television something this beautiful must be killed, I'll let our friend Fienberg tell you about how how he and Sepinwall pointed out to Ted creator Victor Fresco that ABC passed on a prime opportunity to use current headlines to promote the show. Also, Sepinwall is on the case about why we can't see all the Veridian Dynamics commercials. I get why ABC can't carry programs that people don't watch, but would it kill them to do a couple of obvious and nearly free things to get a few more eyeballs? And not the spilled-on-the-floor kind?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

TIME FOR A BLOGGER ETHICS CONFERENCE: "Possible rant coming," I emailed Isaac this afternoon. "I'm really pissed at Deadspin for running the Josh Hamilton photos. It's only funny when the person *isn't* someone with a serious substance abuse issue. Contact the team/player, tell them the pictures are out there, but don't use them."

[Previously on: Josh Hamilton: Josh Hamilton was the first player taken in the 1999 amateur draft, a can't-miss prospect if ever there were one, but his career and life imploded in the minor leagues as, or because, he spiraled into drug addiction. Several years later, he became a born-again Christian and recovering drug addict. After the Reds acquired him basically for free (later trading him to the Rangers for whatever the opposite of free is), Hamilton revived his baseball career too, and quickly became one of both the best offensive players and the best feel-good stories in baseball. Last weekend, Deadspin posted some months-old pictures of him falling off the wagon, both drinking and flirting with women (he's married) in a bar. Within days, Hamilton authenticated the pictures and talked candidly and at length about the struggles of a recovering addict (he had already discussed the matter with both his family and his employers, right after the incident).]

This exchange followed:

Isaac: It's news. And while obviously this isn't the reason they ran them, arguably the threat of publicity might be an added deterrent to future issues. I have to say, he handled it extremely well -- it's easy to root for him.

By the way, would you have asked people not to publish or report on Joe Namath trying to kiss Suzy Kolber? No pictures of Mischa Barton in free-fall? Nothing about Mel Gibson's issues? Whitney Houston? Pete Doherty? Amy Winehouse? Drew Barrymore? Those are all people who either have acknowledged or appear to have serious substance abuse issues.

Adam: It's news, but not news that makes me happy, and Deadspin is supposed to be about the happy. So that's part of what's going on here.

I think there's also a public/private line that obviously puts Namath on one side of it away from Hamilton, who wasn't on live tv when this was all happening. I guess it's that the series of pictures make it real in a way that even "OMG, what happened to Barton's face?" doesn't, and if it's true that he blacked out and didn't even remember any of it, it just makes me sad.

He doesn't deserve to be a laughingstock for this. He's a human being with weaknesses, and he deserves support.

Isaac: He is a public figure. I think what's making you touchy is that, like I said, it's easy to root for Hamilton. Easier than for, say Barton. But I don't see how you treat them any differently. Also, I'd say that Deadspin did more to ruin Jamal Anderson or Sean Salisbury, in both cases possibly unfairly, than Hamilton.

Adam: It's more than that it's easy to root for him -- it's that there's a difference between someone who knows what he's getting into -- the Leinart photos -- and a guy who put himself into a vulnerable situation where he slipped. And, to be fair, maybe he intended to. But this takes Deadspin out of the role of "scrappy upstair afflicting the comfortable" and puts it in the role of bully, and I don't like it.

Anderson got arrested. That's public interest. Salisbury sexually harassed colleagues. What Hamilton did had no victims other than himself.

Isaac: Except that it's not clear Salisbury sexually harassed colleagues. Nobody's ever seen the supposed picture. And with Anderson, I'm not talking about the drugs -- I'm talking about all the insinuation that he's gay.

Anyway, Deadspin hasn't been the scrappy upstart for a long time. The notion of "without access or favor" motto is a joke. It has access and grants favor. It has been a bully for a long time. But it also is required to be a bullshit detector, and the Josh Hamilton redemption arc probably needs the air let out a bit.

Adam: No one's seen the Salisbury picture, but we do know that he was fired. As for Anderson ... yeah. They haven't really had much fact to back up the insinuation.

It's like the debate at the end of Primary Colors -- is there such a thing as a piece of sleaze reporting that's just so sad and human that you shouldn't use it?

Isaac: [Deleted reflection on an unrelated piece of sleaze reporting close to home.] ... But still, I don't think that it shouldn't have been used. I just wish nobody had watched it.

As for Hamilton, he is a public figure and he was in a public place and he was very publicly doing two things at odds with the public image he's been selling of himself -- clean and God-fearing. I wish it didn't happen, and Deadspin's glee about it is shameful (that's Daulerio's attitude, by the way -- Leitch would have run the photos but with more reflective text, I think), but it happened and I don't see the point in not reporting it.

Adam: If it were knowing hypocrisy, that's one thing -- if Curt Schilling gets outed as a steroid user, I'm all for it. Your example reminds me of Todd Solondz's film Happiness, and the whole notion that most people who do evil things don't think of themselves as evil, aren't consciously twisting the ends of their mustaches, but are fucked up for one reason or another and stuck in pathologies they can't control. Obviously, someone who's a danger to others needs to be exposed and stopped regardless of his intent, but again, that doesn't seem to fit Hamilton.

Isaac: It doesn't even have to be hypocrisy. Just a relevant data point. Would you have been okay with it if Leitch had done a piece for a print publication talking about how sad it was?

Adam: Probably. The number of photos made it a piling-on offense.

Isaac: One thing on which I hope we can both agree is that if one guy is going to have the kind of public relapse that Hamilton had -- and we both wish he hadn't -- then one couldn't possibly handle it better than Hamilton did. No excuses, no dissembling, no anger, and no sense that his apology was leading some kind of agenda. Just a guy who adequately conveyed that, for him, his long-term struggle to succeed is too important to get overly worked up about media attention to any particular failure.

Adam: Agreed. No "I'm sorry if I hurt...," no blame on anyone else. That's how you do it.

[Related audio: Dan Levy talks to AJ Daulerio about his decision to run the photos.]
HOMER NEEDS A NEW HEADSHOT: The head honchos over at This Recording have assembled a list of the 100 Greatest Writers of All Time, giving me more reason to be ashamed for never having really read any Faulkner (suggestions on which Willy F book to begin with are welcome in the comments). Interestingly, six of the top 33 writers, are named William (Faulkner, Shakespeare, Yeats, Blake, Wordsworth and Carlos Williams.
GO NOW! GO NOW! While you still can't get Epitaph One, the missing post-apocalyptic Dollhouse episode, on Hulu, there is a new launch there today that will make folks happy--all 19 episodes of My So-Called Life are now available for streaming. (Also, all produced episodes of The Return of Jezebel James are available, even the 4 that never aired.)
IT'S THE CIRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRCLE, THE CIRCLE OF LIIIIIIIIIIIIIFE: In an era of Bronx Mowglis and Anniston Kaes and Marions and Tabithas and Hazels and Phinneii and Shilohs, here's something you don't see very often these days on the famous-baby-namer circuit. David Daniel Otunga, Jr. was born yesterday to Take-This-American-Idol-Title-and-Shove-It Oscar Winner Jennifer Hudson and her fiancé, wait for it, David Daniel Otunga.

So when you hear of a Jr. or a III or a XIV these days, do you think "ah, what a nice refreshing return to tradition"? Or do you think "sheesh, what a lost opportunity to bless the naming canon with another brand-new-from-whole-cloth name"?

p.s. I find it morally offensive to have linked to someone who thinks that David Daniel Otunga is Jennifer Hudson's "fiancee," but that's the first place I saw it reported, so I'm sticking with it. xox the spelling police
BOOM BOOM MANCINI POW: It's been a while since we've looked into the whole Song of the Summer question, and now we've received a request from Genevieve to help play disc jockey for an upcoming event:

It's an outdoor, public-invited multiple-hour event at an elementary school, including a race, so I'm looking for fun, upbeat music with lyrics that are fine for a large spectrum of kids (there are always toddlers and preschoolers at the event, and it's aimed at kids).

It's in memory of a young classmate whose favorite song was by Green Day and who liked U2, so we want interesting pop/rock, not pap and not "kid's music" ( I know there's plenty of good kids' music out there - we used to own a big stack of Dan Zanes et al. -but that's not what they played last year and not really what's wanted). During the race we'll play particularly energetic music. Some Latin-influenced music would be a plus (I've got Ozomatli's "Can't Stop" and am looking to see which of their songs in Spanish would be good). And we definitely don't want sad songs.

I've got a decent list of songs to start with but I really need more current stuff and more ideas in general. My knowledge of current music is not so good, so I've been combing other lists I've seen, and I've found some good songs by bands I didn't know (Arcade Fire's "No Cars Go," Those Dancing Days' "Run Run"). I've looked at the prior years' "songs of the summer" lists, and think I'll include "Sweet Escape" and "Umbrella," but definitely not "Cape Code Kwassa Kwassa," for example. I've looked at other lists of songs that inspire, songs to run to, etc. Winnowing out the ones that aren't kid-friendly and aren't upbeat has been the biggest challenge there. Help from the immensely talented and musically knowledgeable ThingThrowers would be so much appreciated.

Monday, August 10, 2009

SO YOU'RE MY UNCLE JOEY. BETTER GET USED TO THOSE BARS, KID: Tom Vanderbilt wonders what ever happened to playpens.
MATT AND I HAVE BEEN COMING TO THESE VACANT LOTS WITH OUR DAD OUR WHOLE LIVES: Big news on the casting front today as Tom Cruise's son, Connor, has joined the cast of the Red Dawn remake. What was more interesting to me (other than momentary confusion after I read that Connor "made his big screen debut in 2008 as the young Will Smith in Seven Pounds"...oh, yeah, he and Nicole adopted), was that the remake of the John Hughes-meets-John Wayne original not only has the Chinese taking over for the Russians (presumably, the Cubans will sit this invasion out) but "filming is slated to begin next month in Detroit."
JUST BECAUSE IT'S SUCH A SLOW DAY ON THIS BLOG: Apropos of completely nothing, why would an organization as technologically advanced and efficiency-maximized as the starfleet in Battlestar Galactica adopt such an obviously inefficient standard as octagonal paper? I just started watching BSG, but this is driving me to distraction.

And if that doesn't interest you, please justify the modern version of The Heartbreak Kid without using the words Neil or Simon.
UNDEAD DEAD DEAD EYES? In shocking news, judging from the results of the Teen Choice Awards, teens apparently really like Twlight, The Jonas Brothers, Selena Gomez, Gossip Girl, and David Archuleta.
BUT NOT PRIUS: On Friday night, occasional commenter Chuck, a blog lurker and I stumbled upon an odd recognition -- gosh, a lot of car model names also work as names for exotic dancers. (Note: we were not at a gentleman's club when this happened. It was because we were in a Saturn Aura.)

But, seriously? Aura, Miata, Diamante, Corolla, Altima, Odyssey, Camry, Avalon, Sienna, Carrera, Cayenne, Spyder, Bonneville, Catalina, Firebird, Escalade, Seville, Explorer ...
PLURAL NOUNS OF MAN'S NAME: Two bands, one slot: Fountains of Wayne or Kings of Leon? Defend your reasoning; show all work.