Saturday, October 10, 2009

ELVIS NEEDS BOATS! ELVIS NEEDS BOATS! ELVIS ELVIS ELVIS ELVIS (ELVIS ELVIS --ed. per badbad) ELVIS NEEDS BOATS!: For a couple of weeks, you can get the entire Mojo Nixon catalog for free on Amazon.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A/K/A "YESTERDAY": Picking up on a conversation that started in the comments, please advice Callie K and others (all of whom, per the results, know their left from their right) how to scramble an egg.

My twitter-sized recipe: high-heat pan+1tbsp butter; whisk 4eggs+1/4cup milk+s&p & pour in when foam subsides; fold for 1m.
IT'S TIME WE HAD AN ANIMATED DISCUSSION AROUND HERE: And what better subject today to get up in a collective later over than a ranking of the top 50 animated movies of all time. My take, it's a good list, full of some surprises (Final Fantasy?!? Transformers!?!, Fern Gully?!?), and ultimately heavy on the Hayao Miyazaki (rightfully so, the guy is a genius). Beavis and Butt-Head make the cut, but not so Beauty and the Beast. Same with The Brave Little Toaster but not The Little Mermaid. As for Pixar, five of its 10 are in the top 50, with Toy Story 2 (inexcusable), Nemo (likewise), Monsters Inc. (same), Cars (rightfully so), and Up (too soon, though Meatballs makes it) getting shot down. So, which of your favorites were you happy to see recognized and which films should have been on the list?
THE "TRISHELLE CANNATELLA CLAUSE:" Apparently, the roommates of The Real World: DC (currently shooting) participated in a date auction. Prospective bidders were apparently required to sign a release specifically providing that MTV could not warrant that any of the roommates were STD free (along with other, more standard, provisions).
I ALWAYS KNEW THERE WAS NOTHING MY WIFE COULDN'T DO: We've got an interesting group of skills here, as revealed by Humiliation: Round 5. More than half of us can't drive stick, a result which would have been highly unlikely in the era before blogs existed through which we can now find this out, though those here who fell 1-2 short of perfect had r-trilling and cartwheels as their most likely gaps in knowledge.

It's also worth noting that none of the folks who had the most humiliating gaps in knowledge -- Tell time on an analog clock (Racquel), Sharpen a pencil (Maggie), Flossing (Scott), Swallow a pill (Jordan), Shoelaces tied (me), Use a bottle opener (Polarama), and Basic algebra (mcm) -- were generally incompetent at life. True, Robin can dive but not swim; TPE can't ride a bike or do a cartwheel, but call him instead of AAA if you've got a flat in the East Bay; a practicing physician among us can't carve a turkey or chicken ... but none of our high school readers are doing shots yet. Also, a long list of you can touch-type but have to remember which hand is which first, which I think is kinda cool.

The toughest skills to master: Do a cartwheel (Lisased), Carve a turkey/chicken (LF Amy), Change a tire (Kim's neighbor), Ski (Lisa P) and Drive a stick shift (Jake).

Perfect scores were notched by KR, amy (lowercase), Adam C., Deanna, ThrowingWife, Dewb and littleredcar; I won't list the names of those at the other end of the scale. Average was 34, median 35.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A DIFFERENT SENSATION: Banana split! Twins! Kevin's shoes. DWIGHT! A dental hygienist from Carbondale. There, now we're even. Key party. And then a somewhat indulgent, but totally joyous sequence at the end, the sort of thing that a show as beloved as The Office can get away with because, well, we like seeing these characters being happy. "Niagara" doesn't immediately feel like a classic in the same way that hour-longs like "Casino Night" and "Stress Relief" were, but the gags were there, the sweetness was there and as befitting any special occasion, Michael Scott brought the magic by taking an awkward situation and making it much, much worse.
GOOGLE RUINS EVERYTHING: The syndicated version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? is reportedly dumping the "Phone-A-Friend" lifeline. I've got to say that it's largely defensible, given the rise of the "person sitting next to their computer with Google open" strategy that's proliferated in the age of Broadband, which turned it into the equivalent of a free pass on most questions, though it's provoking a fair degree of outrage.

In other gameshow news, Fox has picked up remake rights to hit UK show The Cube, which sounds incredibly stupid (contestants must complete 7 "simple" games to win big money), but which, if you watch, it's oddly captivating.
YOU SAID SOMEDAY I'D HAVE A WHOLE LOT OF MONEY, I'D BE A MILLIONAIRE, BUT WHEN THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN OVERNIGHT I FOUND OUT HOW MUCH YOU REALLY CARED: I don't drive terribly often, and almost never on a weekday morning, but I happened to drive Cosmo Girl to school today and thus happened to be listening to the XM 80s station around 8 am when the DJ (are they still called DJs?) mentioned that there were still some cabins available for the 2nd Annual Rick Springfield cruise. That's right, boys and girls, apparently you can go on a Carnival cruise from Miami to Cozumel next month with Rick Springfield. (The best part of the pitch was that on Fan Appreciation Night -- the last night of the cruise -- Rick will be playing the Working Class Dog album in its entirety live on stage for the first time ever! Forget that Springsteen "Born to Run" concert last month -- this is news.)

I was ten when Working Class Dog came out, so while I remember the "Jessie's Girl" phenomenon and owned the album, I was a little young for the Rick Springfield squeeing sweet spot. So who exactly comprises the target audience for this cruise? Is it women between three and ten years older than me, who were a little less pre-pubescent back in 1981, looking to toss back some rum punches and party until late in the night with their teen idol crooning "Red Hot and Blue Love" over on the lido deck? Or was Springfield the David Cook of the early 80s, giving all the thirty-somethings something to talk about, making this a little more of a verging-on-senior-citizen-status cruise? Pictures from last year's cruise seem to indicate the former.

I hate to be judgmental, because, you know, we try to avoid that sort of thing around here, but I do feel a need to say just this: ew.
HERTA SO GOOD: Phillip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, Amos Oz, Kurt Vonnegut, (oops, can't win if you can't breathe) Bob Dylan and host of other writers you have likely read will have to wait till next year, as Romanian-born German writer Herta Muller has won this year's Nobel Prize for Literature.

BRIEF NOTE: Halfway through SYTYCD's Vegas week, I'd like to say that the show has set a world record for fleeting glimpses of a man dancing in a belted yellow diaper.

added to by Kim: I am way behind on this season, having only watched a couple of audition episodes and no Vegas yet. But I did want to mention one interesting format change, tweeted to me by my BFF Nigel: the first top-20 week this season will be a non-elimination le,g in which each dancer will have the opportunity to dance in a choreographed number in his or her own genre. Presumably puff pieces will abound, and there will be no complaints about dancers getting insufficient pimpery before America is called upon to start ousting people. Good call, Nigel, and good call by Fox, permitting an extra week of programming.
THE MOST ANTICIPATED TV WEDDING SINCE MARCIA AND JAN MARRIED WALLY AND PHILLIP: As you may be aware, two Dunder Mifflin employees are set to tie the knot tonight in a very special episode of The Office. While most list makers are recounting TV's other big wedding events, Mo Ryan over at the Chicago Tribune has a great list of the best Pam and Jim moments from the drunken kiss at the Dundies to the rest stop proposal.
SEE, THERE'S THIS BIG HAND, AND THEN THIS OTHER HAND: We'll keep voting open throughout the day on our fifth round of Humiliation: Basic Life Skills, in part because the competition is so close and also because, well, I'll be at Game Two this afternoon. So if you haven't already, sharpen your pencils and confirm your mastery of and reveal your gaps in some of life's fundamental tasks, and we'll look at the data tonight. Losing, indeed, is a bitter pill to swallow (or, in Jordan's case, what -- hide in the ice cream?)
OUR WEEKLY POST -- FOR THE HALIBUT: I have nothing interesting to say about Top Chef Vegas this week -- some favorites were threatened, but in the end we're still in what Scott Tobias rightly calls (via Roger Angell) the "dusty middle innings [...] there’s still plenty of game to go, but right now we’re in that listless inertia period of the season, waiting for the chaff to go away and the serious competitors to take over." Challenges blah, ideas blah, product placement blah, elimination blah, and Eli's kind of a dick, isn't he, though not as much as Mike Isabella yet.

In other food news, I'm watching Next Iron Chef for the first time this season because of our particular rooting interest in Philadelphia's Jose Garces. Anyone else watching (anyone else have a cockscomb recipe?), and is this generally a series worth the time?
HUSKER DU'S GREG NORTON DEMANDS A RECOUNT: The "American Mustache Institute" -- an organization with an amusing "history" -- is now accepting votes for the 2009 Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American of the Year, "recognizing the person best contributing to the Mustached American way of life over the past year." Nominees include Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, Eric Holder and David Axelrod.

John Oates will perform at the awards ceremony later this month.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

THREAD THE NEEDLE: Perhaps because this was a Quinn and Terri-heavy (and generally singing-light) episode of Glee, I expect opinions to be decidedly mixed on the episode, but I thought that the girls' mashup was one of the more creative things the show has done musically, rather than a straight cover. The ending, of course, set up some interesting stuff for the future, giving Sue something to do beyond being a one-dimensional villain. Next week, based on iTunes, we're getting "Keep Holding On" and a Finn/Rachel "No Air."

That said, Glee finishes second tonight to Modern Family on the list of shows that made me laugh heartily at 9 PM. Because MF has 10 principal characters, they can cycle them through and create new pairings and groups of interactions rather than relying on the same ones week after week, and we got three new sets of interactions this week (Jay/Phil, Alex/Gloria, Claire/Manny). Also it's rare that you can find a sitcom that manages to balance 4 plots in 22 minutes in the way Seinfeld used to. In particular, the entire Costco plot made me laugh heartily, if just for Jesse Tyler Ferguson's perfectly played excitement, and Ty Burrell already deserves a supporting actor Emmy more than Jon Cryer ever did. My one nitpick is why every episode seemingly needs to end with a heartwarming moment of the family coming together to overcome its differences. Still, funny, funny stuff.
HUG THIS OUT: Look, there's no question that this season of Entourage bit hard. The umpteenth "Eric pines after Sloan" plotline? "Since Jerry Ferrara is dating Jamie-Lynn Sigler, let's have his character date her, too!" A half-baked stalker plot for Vince? Drama deciding to quit acting? A complete failure to use Gary Cole (save for the brief "I'm going to sign Sorkin today!" plotline)? Fail. But Sunday's finale did have one redeeming moment--Matt Damon, playing himself as a celebrity angry at Vince for failing to give enough to charity. Unfortunately, the best part was after the credits, but YouTube has it (NSFW, contains naughty words).
BUT GOLDIE LEE WAS MORE THAN HE KNEW HOW TO HANDLE: Apparently it's time to expand the ALOTT5MA baby names beat to include the broader universe of things that people do with names. I'm not sure when a trendlet becomes a trend, but I think it's worth noting that joining Sarah Michelle Prinze on the "Happy Anniversary, Sweetie, I'm Taking Your Name" train* is Heidi Klum. On Monday, Klum filed a court petition to henceforth be known as Heidi Samuel.

Seems to me that this will do precisely bupkis to identify her with her husband, Seal -- raise your hand if you knew that the guy's name was Seal [five middle names omitted due to space considerations] Samuel. What it may do is provide some entertaining shock value for unsuspecting parents of Henry and Johan's nursery school playdates (assuming that there are some non-celebrity-focused parents in Los Angeles). When you know that Mrs. Samuel is coming to pick up little Henry Samuel from the playground, but it's Heidi Klum who shows up to collect her son, well, that's whatever the opposite of a bait and switch is.

(*There's a certain cynicism to all this: hey, I was a big famous person 'ere I met you, and so I am going to keep my name on the off-chance that this whole marriage thing doesn't work out for us, just to keep things from getting complicated, but now we have some kids and I'm feeling pretty good about the state of our union, so I'm ready to commit now.)

In other news, Ione Skye and Ben Lee had a baby girl a couple weeks ago, and have chosen to honor my Bubbe Goldie by naming their daughter Goldie Priya Lee. I'm not sure that Bubbe Goldie would have known what to do with the name Priya other than baffledly make some more world-class blintzes, but the times, they are a-changin'.
WELL, CERTAINLY BEATS "GOSSELIN" IN THE "KATE" CATEGORY: So, according to Esquire, Kate Beckinsale is the Sexiest Woman Alive With A Project To Promote And Who Was Willing To Pose In Her Underpants For Us. Sadly, the decline of Fametracker has deprived us of the annual notes from the editorial meeting in which this determination was made (for 2005 winner Jessica Biel and 2006 winner Scarlett Johannson), but we should discuss both Beckinsale's worthiness for the title and the upcoming November Sexiest Man Alive announcement.
VELCRO WINGTIPS? Previously in the game of Humiliation: the screen, the palate, your childhood, the map.

Today, I want to go a little more abstract, but I think you'll get the gist of it: name some ordinary life skill or habit that you should have figured out by now but haven't. For example, I still can't keep my shoelaces tied for prolonged periods of time. It's a problem. For someone else, maybe it's "parallel parking," "how to toast bread properly," "how to set up a new fax machine" (hi, Mom!) or "can't remember that juice and butter belong in a refrigerator."

The key, as always, is that you should believe that your gap is (a) unique and (b) at least somewhat humiliating. We will vote on your most interesting and rare admissions later today.

added: Later today is now. Go vote. If you don't vote, your entry can't win.
FOR HARRY: We have believed, before, in a place called hope (and amended for 2008); a belief that there are better days ahead. We have discussed the promise of the Phillies -- "the idea that we are responsible for our behavior when they lose, but that we also rise or fall as one city." We joined together for the pennant victory and then, finally, champions. W.F.C.

[Thank you, Will Leitch, for recognizing that "Philadelphia fans don't receive nearly enough credit for avoiding the Boston plague, immediately turning into our-shit-don't-stink self-important spoiled brats after winning a long-awaited title. They're pretty much the same miserable fucks they've always been, and you have to salute them for that."]

We have been to the mountaintop, and we know what it takes to get there. It is humbling, and I don't think any Phillies fans believes we have quite enough. Yes, the starting pitching is better on paper, but Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels have not been pitching at peak level for some time, J.A. Happ hasn't been there, and Pedro, dear Pedro, I hope we know how to use you.

Raul is better than Burrell, CHUTLEY!! is CHUTLEY!! ... but ultimately, inevitably, the conversation must turn to the bullpen, where the gap between what we have and what we had so unimaginably wide. I do not know what happened to Brad Lidge between then and now, whether the karmic price for 2008 was his abominable 2009, but between the present Lidge and the absent Park and Romero, there does not exist a Phillies fan who has confidence that a lead established in innings 1-6 can be preserved by this pen for the remainder. And overlaid atop all this is the dread of facing again a Colorado Rockies team which eliminated us so easily two years ago.

These are not the times for florid prose. We know what real victory looks like, and what it takes to get there. It's not about "character" or "destiny" -- it's about having your talented baseball players play better baseball than the other team. Maybe we can. Maybe. But until beaten, we remain W.F.C. For now. Your playoff predictions and hopes are welcome.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

JOHNNY, WHEN WERE YOU NERVOUS? New York magazine charts the gregarious raconteur's progress through the year.
WHEREIN I'LL CATCH THE CONSCIENCE OF THE KING:An interesting Top 10 list I hadn't seen before--the Top 10 most produced plays in regional theatres which are members of Theatre Communications Group during the 2008-2009 season (excluding Shakespeare and holiday shows, and actually 14, due to ties):
  • Only one musical (25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee)
  • The most produced play comes from a playwright I've never heard of, who's never been produced on Broadway. Indeed, only one of the top 4 shows even had a Broadway run,
  • The only "classics" to make the list are Our Town and Glass Menagerie.
  • The revival of Boeing-Boeing has led to a rediscovery of the (very funny) play, with it tying for the last slot on the list.
Anything you'd expect to see on the list but that isn't there? (I would have figured Proof and Rabbit Hole would have had more staying power, but I guess not.)
WELL,WE CERTAINLY KNOW SHE CAN TALK FAST: Because of Maura Tierney's cancer treatment, NBC needs to recast her role on the upcoming Parenthood, and was allegedly desperately pitching the role to Helen Hunt. Now, Hunt is apparently out and reports are Lauren Graham has been offered the part. The original pilot (directed by Tommy Schlamme) was apparently excellent, the cast is solid (Peter Krause, Craig T. Nelson, Bonnie Bedelia, Mae Whitman), and the show's being run by FNL mastermind Jason Katims, and if this casting news holds up, maybe NBC can use it to salvage what's been a dismal fall for it thus far (I'd suggest Wednesdays at 8, replacing Mercy, where competition is largely non-existent, or, in an ideal world, replacing one of the Leno nights).
YOU'VE MADE A HUGE MISTAKE: The polls are closed, the results have been tallied, the dissenters have been disappeared, and the stonemasons and demolition men are getting set to replace the God-hewn face of a pristine mountain with the pop-culture equivalent of three great presidents and Teddy Roosevelt. That's right, the ALOTT5MA commentariat has elected its four favorite television seasons of all time (roughly coinciding with its four favorite television seasons of the last decade), and they are:

Arrested Development, Season 1 (2003-04) (40%). Just a brilliant, messy, self-aware, unhinged season of cascading and compounding jokes, where even the reaction shots got belly laughs. I wonder how it's going to hold up -- it was so unusual for its time, and so unlikely to be repeated, that I suspect that it will lose nothing at all with the passage of time, like, say, Being There (which it parodied in Season 3) or Midnight Run.

Veronica Mars, Season 1 (2004-05) (31%). Wow, this surprised me. I couldn't even get through that first season on DVD. Maybe I'll give it another shot. Wish I could say something, but all I've got is that Kristen Bell seems appealing to a unique combination of young women and geeky men, and that can't account entirely for this showing. Incidentally, if you want to see Bell in a different light, try her two-episode arc in Deadwood.

The West Wing, Season 2 (2000-01) (30%). The President and Josh got shot, some talk show host refused to stand when the President walked into the room, Ainsley Hayes set up camp in the Steam Pipe Trunk Distribution Venue, Josh had PTSD, we flashed back to Bartlet's first campaign, Bartlet decided to run again, Ambassador Robin Colcourt offered his advice, Big Block of Cheese Day convinced CJ that the map was upside-down, and then there was that scene at the Cathedral that everybody except me thought was so spectacular. Interesting factoid: Maddy named this one of her favorite seasons even though she was eight when it aired.

Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000) (27%). Off the top of my head, I can't think of a weak episode of this show. A pioneer of awkward comedy that launched the careers of unknowns Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, James Franco, Busy Phillips, Linda Cardellini, Martin Starr, and Samm Levine, with smaller pre-fame roles for Lizzy Caplan, Joanna Garcia, Kayla Ewell, Samaire Armstrong, and Ben Foster (who apparently annoyed everybody with his method approach), the show knew its characters and delighted in exposing their flaws. I would have given Franco the supporting-actor Emmy for his work in the penultimate episode, when Daniel both needled Ken for who he was dating and later calmed him down about it.

Monday, October 5, 2009

BLUFFIN' WITH HER MUFFIN: I am not at all interested in Lady Gaga, which is not to say I dislike her. Actually, I think that if you're going to do that kind of spacey electronic stuff, you might as well dress up like some nutcase robot stripper. It seems to me that an artist can get lost in, or subverted by, that kind of music, and the antics are a way of countering that. Gaga makes it both easy to ignore her if she's not your cup of tea and easy to remember her if she is.

Still, via a retweet by Simmons today, I can't help thinking I'd be more likely to like pre-Gaga Gaga, a.k.a. Stefani Germanotta. The Janis-meets-Macy alt-R&B may not be my cup of tea, and threatens to dissolve into Spin Doctors jam extranea, but there are hooks, there is interaction with a live band, and there's a hint of the signature loopiness without the oversaturation that defines the Gaga personality.

They are indeed soulless, godless, rampaging killing machines. Wikipedia, natch, features an admittedly incomplete list of fatal bear attacks in North America.
TWEET, TWEET: I've already spent all too much time today with Mo Ryan's list of TV celebrities on Twitter, covering everyone from almost all of the cast of Glee to writer Jane Espenson, and now you can, too. Most bizarre thing discovered through this process--courtesy of Aziz Ansari--Larry David + Hannah Montana, in which Curb Your Enthusiasm goes all Disney Channel, and it's a party in the USA.
CAN WE HAVE OUR MONEY NOW? Hey, pop culture (and other product) purveyors! Only two more months for you to send us free stuff before we have disclose it under penalty of a major fine. (As far as I know, the only freebies we've ever been offered were a copy of WKRP Season 1 on DVD and some random screeners of TV Land original programming like The Cougar, but we're more than happy to take bribes, at least for the next two months.)
SHE WILL NOT BE COMFORTED WITH APPLES: Wow. Condé Nast to shut down Gourmet, Cookie, Modern Bride, and Elegant Bride magazines as a result of McKinsey's ongoing analysis of the publisher.
162 + 1: First off, congratulations to the gentleman who posts here as J. Bowman for his start-to-finish win in the second ALOTT5MA rotisserie baseball league. His CalSci Athletics had a plan for our h2h league, focusing on a dominant all-reliever pitching staff which conceded wins but cleaned up weekly in SV/ERA/WHIP, taking down our own Alex Gordon by a 6-2 margin in our two-week finals. Bo and I have been in fantasy leagues together for more than a decade, and his excellence here comes as no surprise. Thanks to everyone who made this a fun season.

We'll talk playoffs soon enough, but first it's a question of hardware. I can't imagine MVP ballots led by players other than Pujols and Mauer. That's just common sense. On the Cy side, I'm flummoxed. Carpenter v. Wainwright v. Lincecum feels like such a close call, and I want to resist giving it to Carpenter over Wainwright based on sheer narrative, though Lincecum's late-season fade may help reduce things to that pair. I've got no answer. On the AL side, I know better than to argue against King Felix given who one of my co-bloggers is, so someone else can make the case for why silly things like "ERA" and "strikeouts" make the case for Zack Greinke. So, yeah, I'm punting on both until someone here persuades me.

Finally, that +1, and I don't have a dog in the hunt between the Tigers and Twins tomorrow. Just someone explain to me the wisdom of this policy, per the AP: "The New York Yankees, holding home-field advantage throughout the postseason, can choose whether they want to start the playoffs against the Twins-Tigers winner on Wednesday or Thursday. The tricky part: The Yankees get one hour after the tiebreaker to announce their decision."

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I'M IN THE MOTHERBOARD NOW: When all the teams but one take the same option in a Roadblock, that dissident team can make up a lot of time on The Detour Less Traveled. Or they can completely screw it up in several obvious ways and make clear why the other teams were all wise to take the other option, making clear that Independence in the race (Độc Lập, of course) is overrated.

The real thing to talk about here -- other than whatever we've learned about the teams in this low-strategery, high-execution episode -- is what felt like some pretty lax application of the rules during the roadblock challenge. As I understood the rules, Lance Smash! should not have worked in a challenge that called for surgery, not Gallagher. Once you're done watching this on your VCRs, we can talk.

Fienberg: "I'm at a loss. Were there exciting things in this episode that I missed? Or was it a real dud of a follow-up to an exciting two-part premiere?"
FOUNDATION GARMENTS DON'T WORK FOR EVERYONE: Random thought spurred by my watching of Mad Men Season 1 on DVD (current verdict? The Sterling Cooper material--great, Don and Betty's "ain't suburban existence empty? plotline--nicely done, but been there, done that): We've observed, and quite rightly, that Christina Hendricks is one of those women who looks far better in the period drag than in modern attire (and similar could be said for January Jones), but isn't Alison Brie (who plays Pete's wife) the converse? She's quite deliberately dowdied up for her role as Mrs. Campbell, but is considerably more charming and attractive in her role on Community.