Saturday, October 24, 2009

Historians Reassess Battle of Agincourt -

WE HAPPY FEW AT EVEN STRENGTH, WE BAND OF BROTHERS: As it turns out, the Battle of Agincourt may have been more of a fair fight than we've been led to believe.
THE AMAZINGLY DELAYED RACE: CBS is now offering email/text alerts to let us know how late to set our TiVos on Sundays because of football overruns. This week, the East/Central pockets in blue and gold on this map have that risk -- including the NYC metro area because of NYJ-Oak.
TEN YEARS BURNING DOWN THE ROAD: Frequent commenter Adam C. saw Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band finish their four-show Philadelphia run this week. He files this report:
* * *
Align CenterTuesday night, Bruce and the E Street Band wrote their final chapter at Philadelphia’s Spectrum. Starting off with “The Price You Pay,” a gem off of The River that hadn’t been played live since 1981, Bruce and the ESB set the tone – it would be a night of fun (two extended trips through the pit, including crowd-surfing back to the stage during “Hungry Heart,” and pulling his mom Adele onstage for the Courtney Cox part of “Dancing in the Dark”) and of surprises (a so-infectious-you-must-be-clinically-dead-if-you-aren’t-dancing version of Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher” in the Stump-the-Band slot at the end of the main set; original ESB drummer Vini “Mad Dog” Lopez taking over the kit for “Spirit in the Night”; and a double shot of “Thunder Road” and an un-setlisted “Rosalita” to close the show). Also a surprise: Patti was absent for the last show – Soozie Tyrell pulled double duty, adding rhythm guitar to her usual violin/backup vocals.

Mid-show, as planned, they played the Born in the USA album in its entirety – intense, straight-ahead, and with little between-song banter, but that only seemed to reinforce the continued relevance of those 12 tracks. For me, the album, which came out when I was 13, was largely a gateway to Bruce’s earlier work – BitUSA has plenty of its own high spots, but a few songs I’d consider filler. Bruce himself has talked of the complicated relationship he has with BitUSA as an album and as a mid-80s phenomenon – in his book Songs he writes frankly about his ambivalence and dissatisfaction with much of the final product. It was the poppiest music he’d released to that point, yet lyrically it’s pretty grim and downbeat. Only two of the songs (“No Surrender” and “Bobby Jean”) end with something of a happy/hopeful ending (“Dancing in the Dark” is another that at least doesn’t end on a somber note). Largely, the album is about loss – of opportunity, of innocence, of love, of freedom, of control – and the disappointments we find and the cynicism that takes hold as we grow older.

In concert, all in one chunk, Bruce certainly played up the poppiness where it wouldn’t totally gut the songs – still, “Downbound Train” and “I’m On Fire” earned the first mass sitdown/bathroom break of the evening. He has slyly converted “Dancing in the Dark” from the synth-pop studio cut into a guitar-driven, pogoing blast (and yeah, bringing his mom up to dance was irresistibly cute). Together, the album cuts hold up remarkably well as live numbers – the themes of the songs generally fit with the “hard times” narrative that tends to occupy the middle of his setlists on these last two tours, and many of the songs are favorite singalongs anyway. But after the final keyboard stains of “My Hometown” fade, and Bruce takes a moment to acknowledge Garry, Max, Roy, Steve, Clarence and the late Dan Federici as “the men who made Born in the USA,” he takes us right into “Promised Land,” the Darkness song that perhaps most fully expresses an earnest hopefulness. The contrast in tone couldn’t be clearer, even when he audiblizes to insert “The River” before the next setlisted song.

Anyway, nearly three-and-a-half hours of masterful stage- and crowd-play later, I could think of no better way I could have said goodbye. Not just to the Spectrum, a place where I’ve seen dozens of rawk shows, numerous Sixers, Flyers and Big Five games and Duke-Kentucky 1992, and where I took my kids to their first circus and (God help me) the Wiggles. No – I had the distinct feeling I was also saying goodbye to the E Street Band.

Fans have speculated for a while about this, but Clarence Clemons, who will turn 68 in January, truly looks like a man who is taking his victory lap. He had a lot of spotlight moments Tuesday, but C’s body has betrayed him. He’s had both knees replaced and struggles with hip and back problems. Rumor is he needs back surgery and that the recovery will be lengthy. He doesn’t move much during the show – when Bruce brought the surviving BitUSA-era E-Streeters center stage for their mini-set curtain call, Clarence had a hard time getting over from stage right. On the songs that called for C to blow baritone sax, he played without taking the instrument from its stand. Trumpeter Curt Ramm, who played on Bruce’s Seeger Sessions tour, joined the band for several songs, and it had the feel not just of augmentation, but of a subtle passing of the torch. Clarence has gutted it out night after night on this 2-year tour, but given all of the above, you can’t help but think that his performing days are, perhaps imminently, nearing an end. Tellingly, the jokey byplay between C and Bruce, so much a part of the stage show even through the Magic tour, is now limited to Bruce running over to Clarence to share the mike on a handful of verses.

So if this turns out to be the last time I see Bruce Springsteen play with a heart-stopping, pants-dropping, house-rocking, earth-shaking, booty-quaking, Viagra-taking, love-making, legendary E Street Band that includes The King of the World, The Master of the Motherf**king Universe, The Big Man, Clarence Clemons, then I can say that there was no better way to have ended a run of live ESB performances that I’ve enjoyed dating back to 1988’s Amnesty International Human Rights Now! Show at the old JFK Stadium. This was a top 3 show for me – it made me wish I had been of concert-going age in the late 1970s and early 1980s so I could have compared it with the epic shows on the Darkness and River tours.

Friday, October 23, 2009

GODLESS KILLING MACHINES DESK: Further evidence that bears remain the #1 threat to humanity comes from this story, which raises many questions--why teach a bear to ice skate? Can a bear do a triple salchow? How does the bear skate--four legs or two? And why, given that it already has sharp claws and teeth, would anyone strap blades on a bear?
UP NEXT, THE 'GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD' LITIGATION: If your Baby has not become an Einstein after watching those DVDs, Disney will give you a full refund. Settled prior to (threatened) litigation, so no one's going to be able to object to a class settlement; details on how to obtain relief here.
THIS GUY NEEDS TO BE TICKLED: Dr. Eric Foreman and 13 others constitute the Boston Globe's list of 14 annoying tv characters. As critic Matthew Gilbert explains, "Not the ones created to irritate — remember Steve Urkel on 'Family Matters'? — so much as those who offend our personal tastes. They grate on our sensibilities, sometimes so acutely (David Caruso, 'CSI: Miami') they are dealbreakers." Still, there's one included in there on which he is very, very wrong, someone whom I and many here would list among tv's finest fictional constructions.
LET ME ENTERTAIN YOU: So, apparently, EW is looking for folks worthy of holding the title Entertainer of the Decade, a topic on which I am sure have opinions. (Also worthy of discussion--who's this year's Entertainer of the Year?) For reference, Entertainers of the Year since 2000 are: Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, Denzel Washington, J.K. Rowling, Jon Stewart, Robert Downey Jr., and the casts of Lost, Grey's Anatomy, and Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King. If you're picking from that list, I think you have to go with Rowling for longevity and influence--there wouldn't be Twilight without Potter. Going off the list, there's a strong argument for American Idol, at least the show and its "top tier" winners--Clarkson and Underwood.
DO YOU REALLY THINK SHE'LL PULL THROUGH? Results for this week's Humiliation VI: The Unbreakable Round are in, and as expected, Amy's having never taken a sick day (despite having spent an overnight in a hospital as a patient, having her wisdom teeth out, an ear infection, pink eye and the flu) gives her the win for the most abnormal lack of suffering, with only starshy926 concurring on the perfect attendance. The other most common maladies suffered by all but a few: a cold (Jessica), cavities (me), flu (Michelle), glasses/contact lenses (Maret), acne (Deanna), nose bleed (Alyssa) and strep throat (Robin).

On the rare side, only 12/175 of us have had the measles, with tonsil removal, pneumonia, mono, poison ivy and fainting also less frequently suffered. [Q: has medical practice just changed with regards to tonsils, or was tonsil removal just a bigger deal in the popular culture of the 1970s than it is today?] Most of us have had braces, but we're about 50/50 on pink eye, cold sores and overnight hospitalization.

Winners of the Elijah Price/Jonathan Vosburg Division -- for spending the most time in the infirmary -- were Meghan (A Different One), slowlylu, Kevin B, Joan H., tim, Michele M and kevbo nobo. And yet while Amy has never take a sick day, 35 of you still have suffered from fewer ailments than she has -- the Whatever Name Bruce Willis' Character Had In That Movie Division is led by Moira, Duvall, Jeff, starshy926, Russ, Katelyn, Barb and Abby G. Average of 16.52 out of 28 maladies listed, median of 17.
AND YET THE RIVERVIEW IS TOO CROWDED, WHICH IS WHY NOBODY I KNOW GOES THERE ANYMORE: Not only is our neighborhood's last video store closing; they're ending production of the Ritz Filmbill, which functioned as "IMDB for people who don't have computers" for folks waiting for the movie to start at Philadelphia's art house chain.

added on the local institution front, albeit not film-related: in nearby York County, PA, Snyder's of Hanover is buying Utz Quality Foods, helping America's largest pretzel maker (I did not know that before) expand into the potato chip world. Also, Uts!
THAT OUGHT TO SHUT THE ... OH, WAIT, HE DIDN'T SAY THAT: Legendary-in-his-time zany comedian Soupy Sales is dead, and yes, he really did on a New Year's Day show once suggest to kids that they go into their parents' wallets and send their pal Soupy those green pieces of paper inside with the pictures of guys with beards on them ... and he'd send them all a postcard from Puerto Rico later on. (Result: one-week suspension.) He also, many here may remember, held the mid-1980s radio slot between Imus and Stern on Double-U Ennnnnnnn Bee Cee, and did the voice of Donkey Kong in the 1983-85 CBS animated show Saturday Supercade.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I'M-A-DO-US: When NBC Comedy Night is working, oh, it makes me happy. The Office was a brilliant extension of what we know about the Michael Scott character and extended it to the next logical (narcissistic, boundary-free) place, and this is a plot I'm eager to follow for a while. Much better than 30 Rock, which had the one-liners but nothing genius -- I just don't care about any of the characters right now, and that leaves the show pretty empty.
RAYNER'S REIGN: Bravo has renewed Top Chef Masters for a second season; James Oseland, Gael Greene, Gail Simmons, Kelly Choi and Possible ALOTT5MA Fave Inductee Jay Rayner are all returning.

No, I haven't seen Restaurant Wars yet; when I do I'll update this post, but you should feel free to discuss here.

updated Friday night: I don't have anything to say about the episode itself, but I do want to talk about the preview. Because I do believe I know what Natalie Portman's dietary restrictions are, and it's a double-whammy including something which many here have called wanted to see on the show for some time ...
AND THUS AYELET WALDMAN NEEDS TO FIND A NEW FORUM IN WHICH TO DISCUSS HER FABULOUS MARRIAGE: Returning to the topic of defuncting magazines, here's an entertaining discussion of all that was ridiculous about soon-to-be-shuttered high-end mommy magazine Cookie. Lots of snarking for the mockery-inclined, but also an interesting note on the differing mission of the parenting magazines of our childhood versus the parenting magazines of our parenthood:

The ladies’ magazines our mothers read were all about making the Effort visible . . . . [T]he bulk of these magazines’ pages, as well as their covers, were devoted to elaborate cakes a mother could make for any and all occasions, like a Tom Turkey cake for Thanksgiving with jellybean eyes and a wattle fashioned of Red Hot Dollars . . . . The thing about those cakes, though, is that even though they would be summarily eaten almost as soon as you had finished, the point of them would be to say, look how hard Mom worked!

Contra Cookie's New Mom:

Cookie recommended themed entertaining for the New Mom as well, but the birthday boy’s cake was in soft focus compared to the no-fuss hand-squeezed passionfruit caipirinhas served to the adult guests. How easy it was for the New Mom to entertain! [S]he could whip up an al fresco Brazilian churrasco for sixteen in no time flat, and everyone, including the four-year-old guests of the birthday boy, devoured the pork skewers and coconut rice balls she threw together just that afternoon while the New Mom sat back and ENJOYED HERSELF — and while I, reading it, wanted to scream.

Ah, Cookie. Go gentle into that good night.
THE BEST USE OF SCHINDLER'S LIST FOR COMEDIC PURPOSES SINCE SEINFELD: At this point the pro- and anti-Glee factions have to be galvanized, but beyond last night's broadcast, featuring Puck's star turn in his "personal tribute to a Jewish musical icon", there's much news in the Gleeverse:
  • Joss Whedon will direct an upcoming episode. Here's hoping we get to see New Directions tackle something from Dr. Horrible's oeuvre.
  • Madonna has given the Glee creators complete access to her catalog. Gee, who could take the lead on "Papa Don't Preach"?
  • For those of you have been late to the party or like me have all the past episodes clogging up your Tivo, the first 13 episodes, aka The Road to Sectionals, will be released on DVD on December 29.
  • Looks who's on the cover of this week's EW.
As always feel free to throw a virtual slushie on my Glee glee in the comments.
I FEEL BAD, AND I'VE FELT WORSE: Sorry about the belatedness; this week's Doodle poll for Humiliation: The Unbreakable round is now active. Vote now so we can see whose positive health record (the "I've never had [X]") is the oddest. You can't win if you don't vote.
ONE MORE STEP: That was the message from every member of the Phillies organization after tonight's victory, and I have to say that it was also the attitude among us in the crowd at Citizens Bank Park tonight. No one believes that being National League champions is enough. There are four more victories to come from this confident squad and their backwoods savant manager, and if this journey takes us to the Bronx, so be it. No one's afraid.

added morning thought: I was at the game with my dad last night, as I will be for Game 3 of the World Series. Now, my dad grew up in Brooklyn in the 1930s as one of three siblings -- his older brother as a Dodgers fan, his younger sister as a Giants fan. My dad, however, rooted for the Yankees, and to this day still listens to Yankees games on the radio and supports them. So this (potential) matchup is going to be tough on him -- he asked me last night if he could wear his Lou Gehrig replica jersey underneath his Phillies jacket to the game. I told him that since he rooted for the Yankees the last time the teams met in the Series, he should root for the Phillies this time. We'll see.

bonus coverage: Henry Hill celebrates the Game 4 victory; Celebration FAIL.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

HE ATE, SHOT, AND LEFT:'s entry page currently has a headline reading "Police Say Man with Knife Shot at Dorm."

So I guess he had a gun too. Or: that's not how I use my knife.
INTELLIGENCE WORK ISN'T TRAINING SEMINARS AND GOLD STARS FOR ATTENDANCE: If there's a yin to Bronson Pinchot's yang about who's an asshole in Hollywood, it's probably this item related via New York magazine:
[George Clooney's] guests have to put up with his notorious penchant for elaborate pranks, however, and the latest to be on the receiving end was his friend and Oceans 11, 12 and 13 costar Matt Damon, who visited the Clooney villa this summer with his wife and family.

At the time Damon was trying to lose the 30lbs he gained for his starring role in his new film The Informant! and was working out in the gym twice a day and eating nothing but small salads.

So Clooney employed a woman to surreptitiously take in the waistband of all Damon’s trousers every day by an eighth of an inch. “He couldn’t understand how he seemed to be gaining weight while he was trying so hard to lose it," recalled Clooney with a laugh.
PAPA, CAN YOU HEAR ME? I'm both pleased and disturbed to know that the title of Creepiest Celebrity Father (previously held by Joe Simpson--seriously, 70,000 hits for "Joe Simpson Creepy" on Google), has a new holder. Mitch Winehouse, father of notorious trainwreck Amy, has apparently remarked on his daughter's recent breast enhancement, saying "Her boobs are great as well. I shouldn't have said that should I? She looks absolutely fantastic."
I KNOW EVERY STEP, I KNOW EVERY SONG, I KNOW THERE'S A PLACE WHERE I BELONG: From the "way too much free time on someone's hands" files, artist/photographer Richard Howe presents Manhattan Street Corners -- all of them.

(My corner doesn't feature either of the Cosmo Kids, but their preferred Mr. Softee truck was in residence at the time of the photo.)
LOOK, MA, NO CAVITIES! Previously on the game of Humiliation: the screen, the palate, your childhood, the map, the basic skills of life.

This week, we'll employ bad dad's suggestion and make this round the Unbreakable round: name a physical/medical malady you haven't suffered which you assume everyone else here has.

This round veers a bit from previous ones insofar as there's not necessary something humiliating about having never broken a bone or missed a day of school, but many of us seemed to think it'd be interesting to compile the information and see what happens. So go ahead, give us your oddest gaps in personal health, and we will vote on your most interesting and rare admissions later today.

later today is now. Go vote.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

YOU NEED TO MOVE THAT BACKGROUND PLAYER OVER THERE, BECAUSE I HOOKED UP WITH HER LAST YEAR, AND SHE'S STARING AT ME: Bronson Pinchot dishes about his former co-stars, including "the biggest bore on the face of the Earth" and "one of the most unpleasant human beings I’ve ever met in my life."

added: Pinchot now has even more to say about Denzel Washington.
TWO FINGER SNAPS AND YOU LIVE IN BEL-AIR: If there is a lesson to be learned from the life of Vic Mizzy, the composer responsible for the themes to both The Addams Family and Green Acres, it is "own the publishing rights." Mizzy, who died Saturday at the age of 93, also sang the Addams Family theme, overdubbing his voice three times because the studio too cheap to hire singers. I miss decent theme songs in prime time, but thankfully there are always cartoons

MOUNTAINS CRUMBLE TO THE SEA: This is Spacewoman's rant, not mine, but I'll pass it along. Spacewoman stopped for gas this morning while taking the Spaceboys to school, and what should pop up on the giant gas-station advertisement video screen one gallon into a fifteen-gallon refill? The 2012 long trailer, which you may have read about in EW recently -- you know, Roland Emmerich's latest big-budget fantasy about the end of the world. And what better show is there for a captive six-year-old and three-year-old to watch just before school starts, Spacewoman wants to know, than an incredibly realistic depiction of their old hometown buckling, exploding, and tumbling into the ocean under a hail of buildings, cars, and people?

I'm not one for censorship when a person has the ability to turn off the TV, but once the nozzle is in the car, you're at least a minute from a getaway. I would think that the advertisers should have some responsibility not to show things that will give kids nightmares. And remind me again -- why is sex an automatic red band while cataclysmic violence is approved for all audiences?

So why did it take me 15 years to see one of the most acclaimed movies of the 1990s? I certainly wasn’t too busy not getting laid during my high-school years to watch Hoop Dreams. I guess I just thought 170 minutes was an awful lot of time to invest in any film.

Sweet blessed Lord, was I ever wrong. Hoop Dreams tells an intimate story on an epic scale. It needs to be 170 minutes long just to do justice to the depth and richness of its subject. Hoop Dreams only appears to be about a pair of basketball players from the Chicago projects; it’s really about everything. It’s less about hoop dreams than about the myriad soul-shattering ways the American Dream can fall apart. It’s less a sports movie than an American tragedy.

Yes, we'll play Humiliation again tomorrow on other topics, but this is a movie you should have seen already.
WE'VE GOT ICE: "There have been 1,251 postseason games in baseball history," writes Jayson Stark this morning. "Only two others -- two -- ever ended this way, with a walk-off extra-base hit by a team that was one out away from losing."
Now here came one last pitch -- at 98.8 miles per hour. According to data compiled by Inside Edge, it was the hardest pitch anyone had thrown to Jimmy Rollins THIS ENTIRE SEASON.

"It was funny," Rollins recalled of the moment before that pitch left Broxton's hand. "Right before he threw it, I said (to himself), 'Hit a ball in the right-center-field gap . . . right over Broxton's head. That's at least one run.' "

And then it happened ... precisely ... like ... that.
I BELIEVE MY MAJOR IS BEING MOCKED: "We're kidding ourselves if we think this research typically has the obvious public benefit we claim for it," says Indiana University Prof. Jeffrey Isaac regarding attacks on federal funding for political science research, with the divide between "policy" and "science" being at the center. But I want to focus on this quote:

As for those who criticize quantitative analysis as too narrow, [University of Michigan Prof. Arthur] Lupia said that the big questions were precisely what interested him. His work has been used by the World Bank and government officials in India, for example, to figure out which villages had sufficient institutions and practices to ensure that money earmarked to build a water system would not end up in someone’s pocket. Political science can also help determine what institutions and arrangements are needed to help a dictatorship make the transition to a democracy, he added.

After the fall of Communism, “when Eastern European governments were writing their constitutions, I can guarantee you they weren’t calling George Stephanopoulos,” Mr. Lupia said.

Well, yeah. Because that all happened from 1989 to 1991, when Stephanopoulos was a Hill staffer for Rep. Richard Gephardt. I know I made sure to take some history classes alongside my polisci requirements ...

Monday, October 19, 2009

SHRIMP! FRIED! RICE! Tim Horton's! Non-douchey Ted! Kenny Rogers! Tantrum! Road trip! Jeff Foxworthy? [Seriously, a better-than-average episode having nothing to do with the quest for YM, with good stuff on both A- and B-plots, especially on the Canadian front.]

Actor who played Horshack returns to classroom as teacher - Broward -

OOH! OOH! Ron Palillo, who played Arnold Horshack on Welcome Back, Kotter, has returned to high school to teach a scrappy, but loveable group of underachievers and delinquents a bunch of South Florida kids who want to go into acting.

For real, twenty years of Treehouse of Horror? (And airing before Halloween for once?) Even if only the zombielicious "Don't Have A Cow, Mankind" was true Grade-A Simpsons, there are certain cultural institutions worth our unending respect, and Treehouse is one of them. Quote away.

edited: In 2005, TVSquad's Ryan Budke ranked the Top 5 Treehouse Segments. I'd replace #4("Homer³") with "Hungry are the Damned" (first Treehouse, first Kang/Kodos, How To Cook for For ty Humans), but it's a respectable starting point.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

WE NEED TO BOOK TICKETS FOR "THE PERSIAN GULF"? A belated start, a global landmark underused, another lame Fast Forward, too much cooperation and self-racial-stereotyping, and a whole lot of running around in the desert without the camera being able to give us much of a clue as to who was racing smartly. Also, "I can't sled"? Really?

Seriously, just skip this leg of The Amazing Race and read Jay Rayner's account of dining in Dubai (which, contra the racers, is for sure in recession) -- a much more entertaining, and shorter, use of your time. I'm not sure what's wrong this season, but it's not quite there.