Friday, August 28, 2009

DJ AM, 1973-2009: DJ AM -- celebrity DJ, erstwhile Nicole Richie paramour, and tabloid veteran, all relatedly, I guess -- died today. My first thought was that a guy who cheated death twice, climbing out of both a rock-bottom crack habit and a fiery, deadly plane crash, ought to have been able to cheat it again. That's not the way it works, of course, and the stories today of his struggles to wean himself from painkillers after the crash make his end sound sadly inevitable. The needs of a burn victim and a recovering drug addict are woefully incompatible, so I think I'll see this as a delayed casualty of the crash.
THAT ACTUALLY TOOK A WHILE. I HAD TO PUT MORE AND MORE NICKELS INTO HIS HANDSET UNTIL HE GOT USED TO THE WEIGHT, AND THEN I JUST TOOK THEM ALL OUT: Fans of the sadly-defunct recall its occasional When Stars Mate feature (and its counterpart, When Stars Split), which existed "to determine who in current celeb/celeb pairings has gained by the relationship, who has lost, and how the balance of power could be altered."

In that context, I ask you to evaluate the news that John Krasinski and Emily Blunt are now engaged.
TOM BO LI DE SAY DE MOI YA, YEAH, JUMBO JUMBO: I'm not sure if it tops the Macalester students (and others) who've attempted to replicate Lionel Ritchie's "Hello" bust, but Conan O'Brien's bust has now been sculpted using 300 pounds of white chocolate and five pounds of bacon.
NO, PLEASE, TELL ME ABOUT THE BURIED CANNON AGAIN: According to a recent NYT article, many college tour guides are no longer walking backwards "to facilitate more natural conversations, as well as to soothe the anxieties of mothers in particular, who tend to worry about their guides falling over curbs or toppling over signs that weren’t there the day before."

It's Friday. Tell us something neat we should know about your college campus -- like that Amherst's has a 15-story steeple from a church which no longer exists.
BUTTERFLY IN THE SKY, I CAN GO TWICE AS HIGH: Reading Rainbow will end its 26-year run on Public Broadcasting today as the third longest-running kids' show in PBS history, behind only Sesame Street and Mister Rogers. As the linked story points out, while other PBS shows like Sesame Street and Electric Company emphasized the tools of reading, Rainbow took a different approach, emphasizing the joy of reading, as the original theme sequence illustrates. The official site has a list of every book featured on the show, and I'm guessing we have fond memories of many of them.
MY BELOVED OCCASIONAL COMMONWEALTH: In various research projects over the past few months, I've come across two gems in the Massachusetts General Laws:
  • Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 89, § 3: "No person shall travel on a way with a sleigh or sled drawn by a horse, unless there are at least three bells attached to some part of the harness."
  • Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 272, § 33: "Whoever exhibits for hire an albino person, a minor or mentally ill person who is deformed or a person who has an appearance of deformity produced by artificial means shall be punished by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars."
[I discussed the latter with a libertarian lawprof at UCLA who shall remain nameless; he agreed that this was unconstitutional as to albinos, but constitutional as to minors or the mentally ill on the grounds of consent, which raises the question of whether we'll ever see a Little People, Big World prosecution.] And this is still on the books: "Whoever wilfully blasphemes the holy name of God by denying, cursing or contumeliously reproaching God, his creation, government or final judging of the world, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching or exposing to contempt and ridicule, the holy word of God contained in the holy scriptures shall be punished by imprisonment in jail for not more than one year or by a fine of not more than three hundred dollars, and may also be bound to good behavior."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

WE COULD HAVE BROUGHT ANYONE INTO THIS SHOW: JANET JACKSON, PAULA ABDUL ... NOMI MALONE IS WHAT LAS VEGAS IS ALL ABOUT! SHE'S DAZZLING, SHE'S EXCITING, AND VERY, VERY SEXY: Oh, I love it when real life imitates Showgirls -- Paula Abdul "is reportedly fully committed to putting together a Las Vegas song-and-dance show that's she's been developing for several years."

Please, let it include the volcano scene, the leather-biker scene, the wedding scene with the marbles ... and absolutely no nudity whatsoever. [Seriously, has anyone ever tried to stitch together the plot of Goddess?]
IT WOULD HAVE MORE FITTING HAD SHE DIED IN A MOTORCYCLE CRASH: With yesterday's prominent deaths grabbing the headlines, I didn't want to let the passing of Ellie Greenwich go by without notice. Who? You might not know Greenwich by name, but surely you know her by lyric--"I met him at the candy store," "The night we met I knew I needed you so," "I met him on a Monday and my my heart stood still," "When I was a little girl I had a rag doll/The only doll I've ever owned," and "There she was just a walkin' down the street." Greenwich, who died yesterday at the age of 68, penned some of the most memorable pop songs of all time. Working alongside with her then husband, Jeff Barry, Greenwich is also credited for discovering Neil Diamond and shaping the sound of his early hits like "Cherry, Cherry" and "Kentucky Woman." Following her divorce from Barry and the fading of the Brill Building sound, Greenwich worked as an anonymous member of the Archies, a jingle singer and writer ("Oo, la, la, Sasoon"), and backup singer and arranger on records ranging from Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl" to Blondie's "Dreaming." She released work under he own name, as well, and starred "Leader of the Pack," a 1984 Boadway musical based on her career.

IS IDINA MENZEL NEXT? I'm still not planning on watching Idol next season, but Kristin Chenoweth as a guest judge for a portion of the auditions is certainly an interesting choice that'll make some folks around here squee.
HOT CHICKS WITH....: U.S. News may well have the market cornered on determining America's Best Colleges, but GQ has a sure-to-be-controversial list of the douchiest colleges. Unsurprisingly, Above The Law is attempting to compile a similar list for law schools.
THE WILD GOOSE: The WaPo reports on Wawa's gradual invasion of the Beltway, while some other chain marches in from the west. "The Philadelphians and Jerseyans all have that unshakably loyal Wawa jones ('youse goin' to Wawa's?'), swearing allegiance to the convenience chain's coffee and its made-to-order hoagies, singing its old jingles ("They do it just a little bit better . . . ") They are Eagles fans and Princeton grads; Amish teenagers on their rumspringa year, schizzed out on doughnuts and Camel Lights. They are those soldiers in Iraq who get packs of Wawa coffee shipped from home..."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

MUSHY ON MUSHY IS NOT NICE, OR THE TALE OF THE WILTING SHISO LEAF: [Open thread for this week's Top Chef Vegas. My comments by the morning. Big ups for my fellow Somerton native Jennifer Carroll, because my parochialism outweighs the fact that our last meal at 10 Arts was not terribly good.]

Okay, I don't have that much to say. It's just weird seeing chefs making fundamental mistakes in execution this season, so soon after the professionalism and consistency of the Masters. It's always good reminding people that Todd English has an awesome restaurant in Las Vegas but please, Tom, don't make anyone else cry.
972-0 IN 162 GAMES: Rick Sutcliffe, on Derek Jeter, ESPN2 Wednesday Night Baseball: "Maybe the most amazing thing about him is that in games he plays, their winning percentage is over 600%."

I hate the notion that baseball acumen automatically translates to broadcasting competence.
THE WITNESS: We assumed you'd understand why we don't have an obituary post for Ted Kennedy -- this isn't really the blog for that, given the contentiousness over his life and legacy. But we cannot let go unremarked the passing today of writer Dominick Dunne at the age of 83 from bladder cancer.

Dunne's columns for Vanity Fair were sui generis -- a captivating mix of true crime reporting, courtroom intrigue and high society gossip. Whether it was the death of Princess Diana or Sunny von Bülow, the O.J. Simpson trial or the Menendez brothers, who Dunne met for lunch was always as important as what was said in court. As Graydon Carter recounts, Dunne led the comfortable life of an Ephman in Hollywood, producing movies and hobnobbing with the stars, until:
In 1982, as nearly everyone knows, Nick’s daughter Dominique, a beautiful young actress, was strangled to death. The event punctuated what had already been a tumultuous period in his life. But before he left New York for Los Angeles to attend her killer’s trial, he went to a dinner that would change the course of his life. (Such was his luck, then as always.) At a Sunday kitchen dinner at the home of Vanity Fair writer-at-large Marie Brenner, Dunne was seated next to a feisty young British editor named Tina Brown, who was in town to discuss the possibility of editing Vanity Fair. She asked Dunne to keep a diary of the trial, which became the basis of the first article he ever wrote for this magazine. The rest, as they say, is history.
Even if I never quite "got" the Edmond Safra thing, Dunne's unique niche of diarist-slash-victim's-advocate is not easily replicated. Class gave him access, but his talents as an observer, interviewer and writer made him memorable. Even with all his ridiculous name-dropping, as Jen notes Dunne fought the good fight for victim's rights, helping justice be done on behalf of battered and murdered women like Martha Moxley, Nicole Simpson, Lana Clarkson and his daughter. (She also says An Inconvenient Woman is terrific.)

Now can people please stop dying this summer? Enough already.

NYT obit adds this nugget -- "The [family's] spokesman had initially declined to confirm the death, saying the family had hoped to wait a day before making an announcement so that Mr. Dunne’s obituary would not be obscured by the coverage of Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s death."
YOU CAME AND YOU GAVE WITHOUT TAKING: I was decidedly unimpressed with the recent Broadway revival of La Cage Aux Folles, but a much-acclaimed British production is apparently making the leap across the Atlantic next season. That alone wouldn't get me there, but that the production will apparently feature Mandy Patinkin as one of the two leads (the Robin Williams part in Bird Cage) might. For years now, it's been an open question whether Patinkin is more brilliant or crazy, and it'll be interesting to see where this one falls.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

SURRENDER DOROTHY: Popwatch tells me that today marks the 70th anniversary of the film release of The Wizard of Oz. I don't know that there's anything new I can say about it (though you might) -- it is iconic, fundamental, one of the true Ur-texts from which so much of our culture flows while remaining hypnotic, funny, scary and weird. Something I'm wondering -- at what age can I let Lucy watch it without completely scaring the crap out of her? Because the Wicked Witch of the West (and no I will not call her Elphaba) is hardcore creepy-threatening, and I have a feeling Lu will leave the room before the first fireball is thrown ...
SINCE BEN AFFLECK AND MATT DAMON WROTE IT, I SUPPOSE IT'S THEIR FAULT: The AV Club's Mike D'Angelo explains why an oft-quoted scene from Good Will Hunting is utter bullshit from a therapeutic perspective. "Even if this exchange had been more credibly written and acted," D'Angelo writes, "It still badly distorts the practice of therapy, sending the message that a counselor is supposed to feed you the answers to your problems rather than create a context in which you come to some sort of meaningful revelation on your own. And if you don’t immediately accept the answer to your problem, this scene tells us, then it’s the shrink’s duty to pinch your nostrils shut and shove the answer down your throat until you finally swallow. "
VINNY BARBARINO'S DREAM IS NOW A REALITY: I am not sure if I'd ever want to suck the snot out of my daughters' nostrils using a filtered synthetic tube, and am deeply disturbed that the Nosefrida would allow me to do so. Thanks, Swedish scientists! (HT: my brother.)
HOW MANY ROADS MUST A MAN DRIVE DOWN? Seriously, can you imagine a less useful celebrity voice for your GPS than that of Bob Dylan? I mean, maybe "New York City Subway Announcer" or "Adults in Charlie Brown Cartoons," but I'm hard pressed here.
DEPRIVING THE WORLD OF DIAGNOSIS BY MULTIPLE CHOICE: The NYT reports that groundbreaking test prep guru and dedicated philanthropist Stanley H. Kaplan died yesterday. Apparently, if medical schools had thought more favorably of Jewish graduates of public colleges around the beginning of WWII, I might not have had anyone to help me prepare for the LSAT. I think Kaplan ended up doing okay for himself despite the inaccessibility of med school.

(Inexplicably omitted from the list of Kaplan's philanthropic endeavors is the Stanley H. Kaplan Nursery School, located around the corner from my apartment. Kaplan Nursery School does not require standardized testing for admission.)

Monday, August 24, 2009

NO WORD ON IF SHE GOT ANY TWO BUCK CHUCK: Justice Sonia Sotomayor has made a ruling I suspect we all can agree with--shopping at Trader Joe's is awesome (cf. The Onion). Share your current essential TJ's purchases in the comments. I'm just grateful I don't have to stand in line anymore at the one off Union Square.
GUESS I'LL ALWAYS CA-A-A-A-A-RE: Now this felt like Mad Men. Last week was worth the price of admission for Sal's, er, cooling experience with the air conditioner, but the goings-on at Sterling Cooper this week felt much more organic than Don's sojourn down to Baltimore to boink stewardesses and talk about how there will always be rain. And now we know what the rest of the season is going to be about. We can talk about substance in the comments, but just a few thoughts out here:
  • How insanely dated did that Ann-Margret clip feel? And how great was Peggy's awkward effort to play girly-girl in her mirror? I'm glad to confirm that Elisabeth Moss is actually 27, because she looked positively antediluvian compared to the little college guy.
  • I didn't catch the relevance of Margaret Sterling's wedding date until Alan mentioned it. That should be interesting.
  • I find January Jones somewhat attractive in real life, but man, she was just born to live in the early 60s. Unrelatedly, the look she shot Don when Don resolved her family situation with about as much authority as he used on Bobbie Barrett last season -- it does serve to remind that while Betty Draper may be cold and aloof, the actress portraying her is not. That being said, I'm not sure why Don thinks this is the right solution to the family's problem.
  • I didn't understand what Don was saying to Peggy when he told her to "leave some tools in your toolbox" -- was it just "don't try to be everything to everyone all at once" or is there something else I'm missing?

Fantasy Football - Free Fantasy Football Leagues, Rankings and more -- ESPN

THE PATRICK JEFFERS SEASON, TEN YEARS LATER: There has been a request that we recreate a free FFL league for ALOTT5MA readers, and I'm happy to do so. Indicate your interest in the comments, and we'll organize this for an evening draft. (Auction?)

In addition, I have created a suicide pool for this NFL season on ESPN's site for all ALOTT5MA readers -- just create your entry and find group "ALOTT5MA". As with all our ventures, this is for entertainment purposes only; please, no wagering.

YouTube - Doc Bottoms Aspray AllOver Body Deodorant Commercial

NO BACTERIA, NO STINK: Would you believe that this innocent and helpful ad has been banned from MSNBC?