Friday, December 31, 2010

GOVERNOR PATERSON WANTS US TO RACE TO THE WHAT?  Kill some time with Splitsider's awesome Year in Review posts regarding The World of Things Funny, including the year in humor writing, unintentional comedy, and fifteen funny people who passed away in 2010.
AMERICA VOTED:  The results of this year's ALOTT5MA balloting for the National Baseball Hall of Fame are in, which you can compare with the ongoing BBTF compilation of disclosed BBWAA ballots (we're much higher on Jeff Bagwell, and lower on Jack Morris and Lee Smith):

R Alomar: 48 (of 51) votes (94.12%)
J Bagwell: 43 votes (84.31%)
B Blyleven: 40 votes (78.43%)

B Larkin: 38 votes (74.51%)
T Raines: 36 votes (70.59%)

HOW YOUSE DOIN'?  An incredible map and taxonomy of North American English Dialects, including 620 (!) audio exemplar samples of various dialect distinctions.  Where does "cot" sound like "caught" and "father" rhyme with "bother"?  Click and see.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

SAID RED MOLLY TO JAMES, "THAT'S A FINE MOTORBIKE":  Among those given New Years Honours by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, as new Officers of the Order of the British Empire, are Annie Lennox and Richard Thompson. Said Lennox, "As somewhat of a renegade, it either means I've done something terribly right - or they've done something terribly wrong. In any case, whatever powers-that-be have deemed me worthy of such a recognition, I'm getting my fake leopard pillbox hat dusted and ready."  Below the fold, a favorite performance from each:

DISRESPECT:  When you're only a hired keyboard player for the gig, I don't care how late the featured entertainment is -- it's not your place to show up the artist by posting an I WAS ON TIME sign in front of the audience to show up the woman who's signing your checks.  Even if it's the perpetually punctually-challenged Ms. Lauryn Hill, whose tangles with tardiness are even more amusing in light of the fact that I just attended a Prince show which started on-time and ended at 11pm.  (True, he then played an afterparty concert which started at 3:30am.)

But what the keyboardist did to Ms. Hill, she in turn did to her fans.  When you're starting to be called the Axl Rose of the hip-hop world, it's a problem.  If you just have a problem showing up before midnight for your concerts, don't promote them as starting at 8:00 pm.  And then folks can decide if that's an evening they'd like to have.  This isn't hard.
SHABOOGIE BOP:  Really, I don't know what to say or where to start on the Prince concert last night at Madison Square Garden, the first time in all my years of fandom I had ever seen him live. The largely Sign ☮ the Times-and-earlier setlist speaks for itself.  Yes we're talking about a performer so confident that he could open with "The Beautiful Ones" and not something up-tempo yet still have the audience completely captivated; an artist with such a deep catalog of massive hits that he could have played a completely different set yet not leave people feeling disappointed that he went Steve-Martin-talking-Art, so to speak.  And at no point was he just doing rote versions which mimicked the originals -- we got an exuberant "Little Red Corvette" and a solo piano "Do Me, Baby" and "I Wanna Be Your Lover" (among others).

People were going berzerk -- Oprah's Favorite Things-level screams from the audience.  With good reason -- he plays the audience extremely well, working in-the-round on the same symbol-stage he used for the Super Bowl; the band is solid; and ... I mean, it's Prince.  The man's the closest thing we have to a modern James Brown.  When he comes to your town, spend what it takes.  Just. Go. Who knows -- you may get to see Cyndi Lauper brought on stage to do the O-E-O-E-O's of "Jungle Love."
WHICH ONE'S BETAMAX?  We take requests:
Hey, guys,

I'm frequent Throwing Things reader and occasional commenter Cecilia. I don't want to threadjack yesterday's excellent post on book suggestions, so I was wondering whether we could have a post at some point on the merits of e-books? I've always been anti-e-book, but I'm running out of room and have begun toying with the idea of getting one. I'd be interesting if the Throwing Things community likes the ones they have and the relative merits of the Kindle vs. the Nook. Having seen how much this crew reads, I'd be more interested in their thoughts and recommendations than just some random people at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Thanks!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

SEND CARL FREDRICKSEN TO PARADISE FALLS:  Via new USPS Pixar stamps, coming in August 2011.  (But, really: Cars instead of Monsters Inc.?)
HIS ACTING?  GENIUS!  No matter how much you already like Jon Lovitz, you can't help but think even more of his mensch-itude following this AV Club Random Roles interview.  No, he doesn't get into the night he beat Andy Dick to a pulp (indeed, NewsRadio is the one show he won't discuss), but, gosh has he worked with a lot of interesting people and has generous things to say about them.  Except Andy Dick.
EX LIBRIS: Having returned to NYC, it's time for an ALOTT5MA Holiday Tradition--"What Books Did You Get For Chrismukkah?" I'll also open it up to what you read over the break. As for me, I got Noah Feldman's history of Roosevelt and SCOTUS, Scorpions, which, at least thus far, is both a solid read and solid history (extra credit for not being overly polemical when it would be easy to do so); the final volume of Edmund Morris' massive Theodore Roosevelt biography; Do You Think You're Clever, a book of questions posed to students applying to Oxford and Cambridge and suggested answers; and a photoillustrated book featuring some of Bono's speeches on poverty. Read over the break--Dennis Lehane's Moonlight Mile, which is a solid PI novel as well as an interesting meta-critique of the PI novel, and Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story, which is an interesting effort to write like Kurt Vonnegut that I'm not sure how much I ultimately enjoyed--the world creation is fascinating, but I would have appreciated more time on the world that's created and generally only hinted at and less on the protagonists (especially the female one, who I found to be an uninteresting Manic Pixie Dream Girl variant).
LET US SUPPOSE THAT A FARMER AND A CATTLE-RAISER ARE OPERATING ON NEIGHBORING PROPERTIES: Six and a half years ago, Matt, Alex and I merged blogs when seemed more efficient to post everything on one site rather than having to constantly link to each other's blogs and click ourselves to read them every day, and that it was easier to establish our reputation in the marketplace collectively rather than as separate entities. Also, as the blog expanded to include Isaac, Phil, Kim and others (but without getting larger still), we could have initially-assigned beats for various shows, but through an easily-negotiated series of mutually beneficial exchanges via email we each would be able to reassign these rights end up being able to blog about whatever we felt like regardless of the bailiwick within which the topic was initially perceived to be.

All of which is to say happy birthday to Ronald Coase, who turns 100 today.
NOT REALLY LOTSO FUN: But, hey, you don't go to see Toy Story 3 on Ice for the quality of the skating (nothing more than a perfunctory double was attempted), but mostly to see your favorite characters in an ice-based revue loosely based on elements of the trilogy -- an extended Woody's Round-Up segment, marching soldiers, a trip to Sunnyside, Buzz in Spanish mode, a battalion of Barbies, Ken Does Dress-Up and, yes, The Claaaaaaaaw.

I couldn't help but wonder what Oscar hopefuls might lend themselves to a better ice treatment. Watts suggested via Twitter Black Swan (and she's right), but I imagine that either The Social Network on Ice ("If you guys were the inventors of the toe pick, you'd have invented the toe pick") or 127 Hours on Ice ("Wow ... this blade sure came in handy") are inevitable in the weeks and months to come.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

RETROSPECTIVE ACHIEVEMENT IN CASTING: This morning, 10 Things I Hate About You was on FX, and I caught a few minutes of it. While the film still mostly holds up, what's impressive is how far the cast has gone off it in later years--8 Golden Globe nominations (Gordon-Levitt, Stiles, Ledger (x2), Janney (x4)) and 1 win (Ledger for Dark Knight, with Stiles an unlikely potential winner this year), 6 Emmy nominations (all for Janney, who won 4, with Stiles a probable nominee for Dexter next cycle), 2 Academy Award nominations (both for Ledger, one of which is a win), and a Tony nomination for best actress in a musical (Janney for 9 to 5).

Other members of the cast have had decent commercial success--David Krumholtz (Numb3rs, Serenity), Larry Miller (who's worked consistently as a H!ITG!), Gabrielle Union (who also managed to appear in Bring It On and has worked consistently in movies pitched to a more urban demographic), and Daryl Mitchell (whose career was briefly and sadly interrupted by a paralyzing motorcycle accident, but who's also worked pretty consistently). Given that the cast was almost entirely relative unknowns (Gordon-Levitt was on Third Rock, but that was about it for big U.S. credits), that's damn impressive work.
I'M GOING SMALL HALL THIS YEAR:  Ballots for the Baseball Hall of Fame are now due, but why let the BBWAA have all the fun?  I've set up a Doodle poll for everyone to vote -- please select between 0 and 10 players only; explain your reasoning and show all work here.  Stats are here; BBHOF official mini bios here and hagiographies here ("Bobby Higginson fought for 11 seasons to be the best player he could be....")

As for me, I'm still not convinced on Blyleven -- HOF pitchers don't get just one start in a seven-game World Series, as Blyleven did in 1979 -- and while he was really, really good for a long time I don't know that he was ever great, and it's not quite enough for me.  (Same with Palmeiro.)  The rest I feel are pretty straightforward -- my attitude towards PED users is that they should be inducted if the stats clearly warrant it, and that the plaques should acknowledge what is established about the player's conduct.

So, my ballot: Alomar, Bagwell, Larkin, E Martinez, McGwire, Raines.  Go cast yours.  75% to induct.

related:  Joe Posnanski on the respect due to those players you know you're not voting for:
"YOU ONLY HAVE SO MANY OPTIONS ONCE THE BATHTUB IS FULL":  The NYT explores all the behind-the-scenes stuff they do at Walt Disney World to keep the lines moving.  Two things you might not have known:

  • "In recent years, according to Disney research, the average Magic Kingdom visitor has had time for only nine rides — out of more than 40 — because of lengthy waits and crowded walkways and restaurants. In the last few months, however, the operations center has managed to make enough nips and tucks to lift that average to 10."
  • "Disney has also been adding video games to wait areas. At Space Mountain, 87 game stations now line the queue to keep visitors entertained. (Games, about 90 seconds in length, involve simple things like clearing runways of asteroids)."

Monday, December 27, 2010

GOD FORBID SOMETHING HAPPENS TO HER, JIMMY SMITS AND AUNT BERU ARE READY:  Natalie Portman is engaged and expecting. Her intended, Benjamin Millepied, is a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet who used two of his 1,000 feet to appear across Portman in Black Swan (or did he?), for which he served as choreographer.
"THE WIMPS WHO STOLE CHRISTMAS":  Okay, so the Daily News' Will Bunch isn't happy that last night's football game was cancelled, but as one of the season ticketholders who would have been called upon to find a way to make it to Lincoln Financial Field last night I'm not at all upset with the decision, because I would not have gone.   Normally, I'll drive 10 minutes from the house to park the car for free on the street near the Ellsworth/Federal subway station, and it makes for an easy trip.  But I can't imagine chancing the weather conditions last night, especially for the way back.  The snow/wind/ice combo did not bode well, esp. given the risk of being plowed in.  The game would have looked like fun on tv, but there wouldn't have been more than 20,000 people there, and now I've got a nice Toy Story 3 on Ice/Eagles combo for Tuesday afternoon/evening.

Flash-forward to next Sunday, and the NFL has flexed Seattle-St. Louis for the night game.  Would I have rather seen Chicago-Green Bay?  Yes.  But if the Eagles lose one of these two games that one becomes meaningless for Chicago, and who wants to see Todd Collins and Garrett Wolfe in prime time?  So consider this an NFL investment in the future of Sam Bradford, James Laurinatis and Chris Long instead.  As for the "oh, a 7-9 team shouldn't be playoff-eligible," yeah, probably, but it's so rare as to not be worth changing the rules over.  I'd be happy with playoff seeding based on record alone -- allowing the Ravens to host the Colts instead of vice-versa -- but radical change is not needed.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

"THIS IS A SONG THAT I WROTE WITH A VERY GOOD FRIEND OF MINE NAMED MITCH ALBOM ... THERE'S AN AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION ASPECT  TO THIS SONG":  Ten years ago this month, Warren Zevon performed around the corner at Philadelphia's Theatre of the Living Arts, and thanks to the glory of the Internet it's all downloadable and streamable for free at  It's got all the hits you'd want to hear, and the recording quality is so pristine that if you listen real carefully during "Hit Somebody," you can pretend to make out my voice among the throng.

(The other great thing about that particular track is that this was before the song was available in any format, so we were all hearing it and responding to Buddy's story for the first time.  FWIW, Kevin Smith's film adaptation of the song is now set to film next summer, with Nicholas Braun replacing Seann William Scott in the lead.  No, I can't think of a successful film that was based on a song -- what, "Alice's Restaurant"?)
BOXING DAY BLIZZAPOCALYPSE 2010:  Nothing precipitating in Queen Village yet; please keep us updated on your neck of the woods.  (I am supposed to go to Vick-Vikes tonight, but we'll see about that.)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

I'M SORRY, SON, BUT YOU MUST HAVE ME CONFUSED WITH SOMEONE ELSE.  MY NAME IS ROGER MURDOCK.  I'M THE CO-PILOT:  DeSean Jackson attempts to go undercover as a clerk at a local sporting goods store.

Friday, December 24, 2010

COLEMAN, I HAD THE MOST ABSURD NIGHTMARE. I WAS POOR AND NO ONE LIKED ME. I LOST MY JOB. I LOST MY HOUSE. PENELOPE HATED ME. AND IT WAS ALL BECAUSE OF THIS TERRIBLE AWFUL ...  The Guardian (UK)'s Peter Bradshaw argues that Trading Places is the greatest Christmas movie ever because "It has all the elements in place: a Christmas setting, a fable about money not being important (the story is Dickensian in sentiment, Shavian in form), a rich vein of comedy, and some sharp black comedy that doesn't overbalance the essential heartfelt hokiness."

Your favorites are, of course, welcome.
ONE OF THE FEW RETAILERS TO MARRY CULT APPEAL WITH SCALE:  Among David Brooks' picks for the best magazine articles of the year (and do share your own links -- I'll again point you to GQ's Comedy Issue from the summer) is this fascinating Fortune article inside the secret world of Trader Joe's.
AND CHECKING IT TWICE:  Try not to get the collywobbles, you troglodytes, because those of us who aren't smellfungi might not be discombobulated or flummoxed but instead have a rambunctious hootenanny (without too much billingsgate or argle-bargle, or, God forbid, a brouhaha) over this list of the 100 funniest words in the English language.
HE'S MAKING A LIST:  Joe Posnanski charts the thirty-two most painful self-inflicted losses in sports history.  Do watch the video for #10, titled "God bless those kids, I’m sick, I’m gonna throw up."

Thursday, December 23, 2010

REQUIESCAT IN PACE, DIAPERMAN:  As part of its annual The Lives They Lived magazine edition (Mandelbrot! Holbrooke! Steinbrenner! Yarnell!), the New York Times provides a photo-and-sound montage of the musicians who died in 2010, including P-Funk musical director and guitarist Garry Shider and some whose passings we have previously noted.
OKAY, BUT HOW MANY CAN YOU USE IN A SENTENCE?  Dr. Robert Beard believes he has determined the 100 most beautiful words in the English language.  "Moist" did not make the cut, but "diaphanous," "insouciance," "propinquity" and "tintinnabulation" did.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

THE WORST REVIEW HE WAS INVOLVED IN SINCE CHARLES BARKLEY'S COMMENTS LAST WEEK:  Back in the day, when the land was new and pop culture blogging was a rare pursuit, I enjoyed putting together posts which compiled harsh reviews of new films, like the Steve Martin-Queen Latifah dud Bringing Down the House and Roberto Benigni's Pinocchio.  And among the reviews I uncovered eight (!?) years ago was Brett Favre's diss of the film, with his family leaving before its completion.

So you'd think that the cash-grabbing shitpile sequel Little Fockers would be a natural for this turf, but Rotten Tomatoes makes the job too easy and NYMag's Willa Paskin sifted through all that just to find the ones focusing on Harvey Keitel's scene with Robert DeNiro.  In other words, you don't need me anymore for this.  But I'd be remiss if I didn't highlight (via Paskin) the New York Post's review, for which Kyle Smith has as his lede:
"Little Fockers" may not be the worst, most vulgar, most pathetic and least funny picture of the year. But it's a strong contender for second place behind the picture Brett Favre allegedly sent over his cellphone.
I believe we're now at 12 years since DeNiro's last solid dramatic role -- Ronin. Our kids may never understand what the big deal was.
"IT LOWERED THE BAR FOR BLOWJOB REFERENCES ON POP RADIO":  No, you couldn't possibly guess what the Village Voice named atop its list of the twenty worst songs of 2010:
"Hey Soul Sister" is an orgy where bad ideas trade STDs, and the most syphilitic brain-fart stumbled in drunk from a Smash Mouth show. (For those of you who arrived late, Smash Mouth was a band from the late '90s that was formed when a soul patch met cake frosting. Their wikki-wikki scratching and dorkpie hats did to music what blood-soaked clowns do to the dreams of sleeping children.) Listen to "Hey, Soul Sister" a few times and you'll inevitably be reminded of the "whistling solo" from the Shrek house band's inescapable "All Star." From Smash Mouth, Train picked up an earworm that burrowed into society's asshole, laid 4.7 million iTunes eggs, and gave birth to a grey cloud of banality that covers the Earth.
As bad as that is, #15 may be worse.
LIKE A LEMON TO A LIME, A LIME TO A LEMON:  Tablet Magazine ranks the top 100 greatest Jewish songs ever, and by "ever" they mean "ever" as in "Dayenu" and "Adon Olam" qualify, and by "Jewish" they mean, well, it's a bit expansive.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

#11: THE FINAL CHUNG-CHUNG:  The Associated Press has released the results of its poll counting down the top ten entertainment stories of 2010.  Not a terribly exciting year, apparently.
YOU DON'T HAVE THESE PROBLEMS ON DEAL OR NO DEAL: I didn't watch Million Dollar Money Drop last night (nor, based on the ratings numbers, did many other people), but apparently, Fox screwed up one of the answers, leading to contestants losing $880K. As a general rule, contestants on these sorts of shows have to sign a release saying that the producers have the final say on whether an answer is right or wrong and you have no appeal from that, but shows have often admitted error, either during a taping (Jeopardy! regularly has credited contestants with additional money during the game, with explanation from Alex) or afterwards (Millionaire has invited contestants back to continue playing when a question has been proven to be ambiguous), to avoid bad publicity. It'll be interesting to see how it plays out.
SO I'M SITTING IN A BAR IN GUADALAJARA:  Alex Balk lists The 39 Best Songs Performed By Kirsty MacColl, In Order.
I HOPE SHE KNOWS YOU ONLY LIKE THE BEGINNINGS OF THINGS:  Alan Sepinwall, Tim Goodman, Maureen Ryan and the AV Club each count down the best of television in 2010, reminding me yet again that I've been watching the wrong NBC sitcoms and need to learn more about meth dealers.
$100,000 AND A PLASTIC SUMMER CAMP TROPHY THAT YOU ALL HAVE TO SHARE: Once last time, Marsha takes the solo on NBC's The Sing-Off:
* * *
Tonight’s Sing-Off showcased the brilliance of the format NBC has chosen here. Pick a bunch of groups that are all going to sound at least acceptably decent, use amiable judges, don’t let anyone vote until the end, and get the whole thing over within 15 days. The audience will focus much more on the songs they like and the groups they have crushes on (and the songs they’ll download from iTunes) and who wins (and whether the right groups went in the right order) will matter much less to the viewers than the fact that they had fun.

I don’t have much to say about the result, except that once again, the competition was won by six guys who can pull off wearing fuschia shirts. And once again, the winner was obvious from the first episode. And I’ll be happy to buy their album.

PAGING THE LATE WILLIAM SAFIRE:  You know the cliched closing line from standup comics: "Thank you! I'll be here all week!  Try the veal! Don't forget to tip your waitresses!"

Here's what I couldn't help but wonder:  why veal?  Did this derive from some particular comic's routine?  A particular venue's ability to prepare the meat of young calves?  I'll take your best answers, whether well-researched or off the top of your head.

Monday, December 20, 2010

I FEEL IT IN MY FINGERS; I FEEL IT IN MY TOES: So, yeah, the X-Factor winner is your Christmas #1 (again) with this crapfest, with "Surfin' Bird" placing third and Cage Against The Machine's cover of "4'33"" well back of the pack.

This blog only cares about the Christmas #1 title because of Love Actually, of course, so it's to that film we'll turn to remedy the yucky feeling. Via Linda Holmes, the Belfast Giants professional hockey team:

PUBLIC SERVICE OR SHAMELESS MISUSE OF BLOGGING RESOURCES? With fewer than five days left until Christmas and a handful of people likely left on your (my) Christmas list (if you are my brother, STOP READING RIGHT NOW), let me ask this question: what is the best commercially available gift you have ever (or recently) received, with a value no greater than, say, $100 or $150?
BEAUTY FADES; DUMB IS FOREVER: I have very little to say about the Survivor finale
-- it was a satisfying end to an unsatisfying season, with perhaps the lamest cast since Survivor Thailand (Pornboy Brian's triumph). So, instead, two questions: (1) What would you have had them do in the case of a 4-4-1 tie at Final Tribal, which nearly was the case?  The rulebook (p8) leaves it to the producers to decide.  So: fire-lighting contest on an LA soundstage?  Split the money?  Re-vote now that everyone has watched the season?  (2) Are you interested in the Redemption Island twist for Season 22, and would you like it more if (as rumored) Rob Mariano and Russell Hantz will play some role in the season?
I AM SHOCKED THAT HE NEGLECTED TO MENTION THAT VINCENT SPANO IS A NATIVE NEW YORKER:  Even before yesterday's football game, Joe Queenan saw fit to use the WSJ op-ed page to explain why Philadelphia is better than New York City.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

FROM BERLIN DOWN TO BELIZE: The San Francisco Chronicle's always awesome Annual Geography Quiz.
"UNDER ANY REASONABLE DEFINITION, IT'S A HORROR FILM":  That's the quote from Devin McCullen here which I had in mind upon attending Black Swan last night, and it's an accurate one.  This is a film which starts off as an anvillicious, overwhelmingly formulaic black-and-white (literally) drama (seriously, I starting calling out lines before they happened) about The Virginal, Always In Control Girl Who Needs To Loosen Up which gradually, and then completely embraces its freaky side.  Oh, yes, it does, and this is decidedly not a sequel to the beloved-in-these-parts Center Stage.  This is one intense, occasionally ludicrous film that eventually wins you over through its commitment to its universe and the intensity of Natalie Portman's and Barbara Hershey's performances.  (Full spoilers in comments, because I know many here have seen it already.)

added:  The House Next Door's Jason Bellamy and Ed Howard talk at length about this "outrageous, unrestrained, heavy-handed, horny opera."
WIGGEDY WAKE: SNL was uneven last night -- especially disappointing to see the much-beloved Jeff Bridges not really find his bearings -- but this was awesome:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

ONE-HALF WANDERING JEW:  I finally had a chance last night to watch Carrie Fisher's Wishful Drinking, her recent one-woman show currently in rotation on HBO, and I strongly recommend you find an hour and a half when you can to sit back and let Fisher tell you some stories.  It is a full, frank and funny as hell confessional, from mom and dad to George Lucas to ex-husband  Paul Simon (Fisher says that "Hearts and Bones," "Allergies," "Graceland," and "She Moves On" are each about her) to the gay Republican operative who wound up dead in her bed a few years ago.  She does not shy away from talking about her addiction and mental illness issues, either, and the overall impression you're left with is that indeed, tragedy plus time equals humor -- or, at least, when you've survived what Fisher has it's a damn good coping strategy.

Also, there's a Princess Leia sex toy involved.
TROUT MASK REQUIEM: Don Van Vliet, better known as Captain Beefheart, has passed away at the not-quite-ripe old age of 69.

Probably I'm not the guy to try to say quite what he meant to music, or America, or the line between art and pop-culture in the back half of the 20th Century, or whatever all else one might deem relevant, but if you keep an eye out over the weekend I bet someone with a superior sense of music history will do something like justice to the legacy of this singular and -- let's face it, strange artistic genius.

For my part, I tend to think of him as one of the seminal comparatively ingenuous and straightforward innovators that every subsequent prog-rock project failed to improve upon. This may be entirely invalid, either on its face or as a symptom of the fact that I do not, generally speaking, like or "get" prog rock. If challenged, I'd probably have to concede that I don't know quite where it begins, or ends, or what it was arguably doing in between. So, please, if any of you know better, do say something. Indeed, say as much as possible. Even if not inaccurate, that view is certainly inadequate. The shadow he cast is much longer, and wider, and it has weirder things slithering about in it.

In the language of my own generation, Beefheart was "alternative" a quarter century before it occurred to anyone that that word might be used to sell music. Something about his legacy -- his inventiveness, his audacity -- I don't know, something about his music allows me to hope that the effort to sell music did not after all succeed in evacuating that word of meaning.

Rest in peace.

Friday, December 17, 2010

HOLD THE CHUNKS 2 TILL NEXT YEAR: Perhaps it's just because Tracy Jordan has recently reminded us of the risks, but it seems like there are a large number of potential Norbitings out there for big Oscar contenders this year. Ones I immediately see:
  • Natalie Portman, current frontrunner for best actress for Black Swan, has No Strings Attached, a romantic comedy opposite Ashton Kutcher in which she, a busy medical resident, pursues a "friends with benefits" relationship. I'm willing to bet complications ensue and they end up falling for each other. I actually have some hope for this, since it's directed by Ivan Reitman, but has definite Norbit potential.
  • Jeff Bridges, defending best actor and best actor contender for True Grit, has Tron: Legacy. Yes, it's a safe bet that Tron will get some technical nods (production design, effects, maybe score), but remember, Norbit was Oscar-nodded for makeup.
  • Justin Timberlake, potential supporting actor contender for Social Network, has Yogi Bear. Need I say more?
  • Ben Stiller, extreme dark horse actor contender for Greenberg, has Little Fockers.
  • Geoffrey Rush, supporting actor frontrunner for King's Speech, has The Warrior's Way.

Any I've missed?

LET'S ALL GO TO THE LOBBY:  Okay, moviegoers, what'll it be this weekend among the new releases -- Black Swan, How Do You Do? Know, Yogi Bear, The Fighter or Tron 2: Electronic Boogaloo?

If you're contemplating Black Swan please review the NSFW trailer below the fold, which suggests its ties to a favorite film of mine -- plus, below the fold, a new Yogi Bear trailer you'll appreciate:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

DANCING DON'T CAUSE PROBLEMS, IT SOLVES 'EM! Justin Timberlake says that if SNL were to offer him a 1-2 year contract, he would "absolutely" take it.

Make this happen, Lorne.  Easiest decision since Will Ferrell showed up for an audition.
SO, WHO'S PLAYING SORKIN? With Law & Order Original Recipe no more, someone has to take up the "ripped from the headlines" mantle, and The Good Wife is going to make an effort with an episode that's in no way based on the idea of Mark Zuckerberg suing the folks behind The Social Network.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

SCALLIBUT:  I don't have much to say about tonight's Top Chef All-Stars that you haven't seen from me in previous seasons -- I love me some technique competitions.  I appreciated the "go to a restaurant, now do their food" challenge, and found myself missing the extra 15 minutes (that I normally regard as padding) where I felt like we could have learned more about the chefs' cooking processes.  The eliminations ... one was unsurprising, the other disappointing but justified.

I am nowhere close to predicting a final four yet.  Richard Blais, almost for sure.  Marcel, probably.  The others?  Not. A. Clue.

added: Bourdain.  Colicchio: "Stephen has a solid knowledge of food. But cooking is something you have to practice. Repetition is key. You don’t forget how to do it, just as you don’t forget how to ride a bicycle, but you have to ride that bike a lot to win the race. Stephen might have all the knowledge in the world, but he didn’t have the chops to pull off his dish."
EENY MEENY MINEY MO, CAN'T LET JERRY LAWSON GO: We welcome Marsha back for Night 4 of NBC's The Sing-Off:
* * *
Before I get to the music and the results, I have to say my now-annual bit about the costumes. I suppose I can appreciate the desire for something telegenic but non-identical within each group, but the colors are so ridiculously loud (the Backbeats’ outfits during “White Christmas” actually hurt my eyes), the almost-but-not-quite-matching thing is distracting and painful, and worst of all, tonight the female Backbeats looked like the greatest hits of the Judy Jetson Streetwalker Collection. When their lead singer is in a shiny dress so short I hope her mother isn’t watching, and she’s singing “I need somebody to love” to a man three times her age, I don’t know how NBC is getting away with airing this in the family hour.

TONIGHT, ON DOCTORS WITH PROBLEMS HAVE SEX: In large part because I've been watching them on significant DVR delay, I haven't written about our friend Shonda Rhimes' two Thursday night shows, which have both been having pretty darn solid seasons, though through two very different paths. Grey's Anatomy has reaped big dividends from committing to making the dramatic events of last season's finale have consequences for the characters. After two seasons where external events have required cast changes, we have a stable cast, and we're following them as they cope with trauma in unexpected ways. In particular, we've seen very good work from Sandra Oh and Chandra Wilson, and the Callie/Arizona plot has been an interesting one. Sure, not everything is working--Sarah Drew's character often comes off as more annoying than endearing, and Kim Raver's character isn't fitting in entirely--but this is easily the best season in several years.

Private Practice, on the other hand, has reaped benefits from fairly quickly getting past the "Maya gets married/has a baby and Del dies" ending of last season and instead going in a different direction, with Audra McDonald disappearing for most of the first half of this season. In part because she was added after the backdoor pilot and was originally written as an outside antagonist, KaDee Strickland always seemed a little outside the scope of the show--she's slowly moved into the spotlight with her relationship with Cooper and joining the titular practice. However, with the current plotline, she's finally gotten some really meaty material to work with, and is knocking out of the park pretty consistently. Again, not everything is working (the Sam/Addison relationship is kind of boring, "Sheldon is a sex god" played childishly, and the Pete's mother plotline was silly), but this one storyline has been so well executed that it's elevated the entire show.
YOU THINK YOU CAN CATCH KEYSER SOZE? YOU THINK A GUY LIKE THAT COMES THIS CLOSE TO GETTING CAUGHT, AND STICKS HIS HEAD OUT? Kevin Spacey kinda sorta talks to The Daily Beast about his private life -- to a point.  It's quite interesting to see Spacey both tacitly acknowledge the sort of truth one assumes about someone when he brings his mother as his Oscars date, yet pointedly insist on a line between public and private: "I don't live a lie. You have to understand that people who choose not to discuss their personal lives are not living a lie. That is a presumption that people jump to.... I am different than some people would like me to be. I just don't buy into that the personal can be political. I just think that's horseshit. No one's personal life is in the public interest. It's gossip, bottom line. End of story."
SO GOOD YOU WON'T EVER KNOW, THEY NEVER EVEN PLAYED A SHOW, CAN'T HEAR THEM ON THE RADIO: Commentophile Heather K. proposed that Dr. Teeth be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and many of you volunteered to carry that standard. Dr. Teeth's merits aside, it does appear that the official, Wennerian RRHOF applies an unwritten rule of "existence" for inductees, and I ask, is that fair?

So let's right this wrong and break ground on the Fake Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Eligibility is extended, and restricted, to anybody who (a) makes or has made music professionally; (b) is fictional; and (c) is worthy of induction in a Fake Hall of Fame. In other words, no Hannah Montana, but unlike the RRHOF, we'll accept country, rap, disco, whatever.

Before we can vote on inductions, though, we need a comprehensive list of nominees. I'll start with a few possibilities; you add others that you believe warrant consideration. Once we get a list going, we may ask people to state their cases. To start us off:
  • Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem
  • Eddie and the Cruisers
  • The Late Greats
  • Stillwater
  • Emmett Otter's Jug Band
  • Don Music
  • Music Producer Bruce Dickinson
"LAUGHABLE WHERE IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE SERIOUS AND DEPRESSING WHERE IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE COMEDIC":  The AV Club ranks the fifteen worst films of 2010.  They do not care for  formulaic romcoms, and I am grateful to have not seen any of its honorees so far.
I BELIEVE I DESERVE SOME RECOGNITION FROM THIS BOARD:  "For connecting more than half a billion people and mapping the social relations among them; for creating a new system of exchanging information; and for changing how we all live our lives," Time Magazine has named Mark Elliot Zuckerberg its Person of the Year, besting the Chilean Miners, Julian Assange, The Tea Party and Hamid Karzai.

He is the second-youngest winner in PotY history; Charles Lindbergh was only 25 when he won in 1927, and Zuckerberg bests 1952 winner Queen Elizabeth II by two weeks.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

HOLY EX PARTE, BATMAN!   There were a lot of nifty twists to this week's The Good Wife -- adding Barry Scheck to the show's odd collection of real-life cameos, the New Yorker story on Cameron Todd Willingham's execution, Lord John Marbury, excited utterances, single-candidate debates (seriously, where's Smokey and Lorrell?), Zach meets Kalinda -- and yet ...

THERE'S MORE TO LIFE THAN A LITTLE BIT OF MONEY, YA KNOW.  DON'CHA KNOW THAT?  Just Born, Inc., maker of Mike & Ikes, Marshmallow Peeps and other candies, made an ultimatum at its 2009 sales meeting: make your 2010 sales goals and enjoy the 2010 convention in Hawaii; don’t make the goals and we’ll gather in Fargo instead.

This week, two dozen Just Born employees gathered in Fargo for their annual convention, and the town is rolling out the red carpet, with an itinerary including a screening of the film, "a visit to the woodchip Marge statue in the fabulous Fargo Theatre, a trip to the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead for an author reading of the recently released book, How Fargo of You, and a sleigh ride and dinner at Divot’s Golf Course."

Next year's threat: Rapid City, South Dakota.
TURN ON YOUR HEARTLIGHT, LET IT SHINE WHEREVER YOU GO:  The 2011 inductees into the Rock and Roll (and Whatever Other Non-Country Music The Kids Have Listened To Since The 1950s) Hall of Fame are Neil Diamond, Alice Cooper, Tom Waits, Dr. John and Darlene Love.

When we voted in September, the Beastie Boys were the overwhelming favorite on the ballot, followed by Waits, Diamond and a significant gap before Bon Jovi, LL Cool J and Mr. Cooper.
THE COMPUTER WILL BE PRODUCED BY A COMPANY CALLED CYBERDYNE SYSTEMS: In February, Jeopardy! goes to a new place--Men (Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings) vs. Machine (IBM's Watson)--for $1 million.
GLAMOUR GETS YOU A NOMINATION: As usual, the Golden Globe nominations are a mixture of the obvious--The Fighter, Black Swan, and Social Network racking up big nods on the movie side, Glee, Mad Men, and Temple Grandin on the TV side--and the surprising, some pleasant (Walking Dead for Best TV Drama, Elisabeth Moss for lead (not supporting!) actress in a TV Drama, Emma Stone for Best Actress (Comedy)), and others completely inexplicable (Burlesque and Red for Best Picture (Comedy/Musical), The Tourist with 3 major nods, Piper Perabo for Best Actress (TV Drama), Jennifer Love Hewitt for Best Actress (TV Movie), Scott Caan for Best Supporting Actor (TV)). Doesn't look like it changes the picture that much from an Oscar perspective--no surprises on the drama side, though Blue Valentine may have picked up a little heat from this--and the bizarre comedy/musical nominations aren't likely to give us any change (Kids Are All Right has cinched a nod for Best Picture, and the others are non-factors).
STOP ME IF YOU'VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE:  Multiple sources are reporting that Cliff Lee will sign with the Philadelphia Phillies -- I'm hearing 5y/$100M.

Yes: a rotation of Halladay-Lee-Oswalt-Hamels-Blanton.  Wow.

Monday, December 13, 2010

STILL AIN'T GOT NO BAND: Guest Sing-Off analysis from our good friend and frequent commenter Marsha:
* * *
First off, thanks to the ALOTT5MA crew for letting me do this. Given that we have a professional a cappella staffer (and lots of educated acappellaheads) among our commenters, I’m nervous to do this, but happy nonetheless.

Getting a few important bits out of the way:
1. Thank goodness for improved sound quality this year. It really shows in the big group numbers, where everyone is mic’d correctly and you can hear the soloists AND the blend.
2. Thank goodness for the end of brackets. Though it didn’t really change the outcomes I would have chosen this year, it has the potential to do so, and I find that annoying.
3. Shut up, Nicole.
NAH, THEY WASN'T SETUPS. THEY WAS GOOD FIGHTERS, BUT THEY WASN'T KILLERS LIKE THIS GUY: Much-beloved Philly Quizzo host Johnny Goodtimes argues that given all the early career losses and the the superiority of his contemporaries, Rocky Balboa doesn't deserve induction into the Boxing Hall of Fame.
HE MADE A BOO BOO:   The Yogi Bear ending they didn't want you to see.   The WSJ has the story of the 25-year-old RISD grad who spent months putting it together.

Me? I'm pulling for the Se7en ending -- or, as Fienberg put it, What's in the pic-a-nic basket? What's in the baaaaaaasket? What's in the basket?  Of course, if Yogi knew the secret of The Prestige it would explain his resilience...
MY DAUGHTERS DO NOT LIKE FOOTBALL:  Indeed, to ask them to surrender two minutes on a Sunday afternoon so that Dad can catch an update via NFL Red Zone constitutes one of the bigger asks I can make of them.  "Do we have to?  This is boring," is Lucy's typical response.  But offer them a glimpse of football in the snow, and you'd have thought I had unearthed some special Yo Gabba Gabba! with Luke Skywalker as the Dancey Dance guest.  (Lucy's not old enough yet to realize Han > Luke.)

But kids get the Playing In The Snow Is Awesome.  Look: it sucks for the fans at the stadium -- winning or losing.  On tv, however?  I am a bit more geeked out for Super Bowl: Meadowlands after yesterday's Patriots-Bears game.

P.S.  So why are the Patriots so good in the snow, year after year?
P.P.S.  DeSean didn't deserve that penalty.  He hadn't scored yet.
P.P.P.S.  No, I can't stop watching the Metrodome roof collapse video.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

TO DREAM THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM: So maybe I'm overrating the value of a classical education, but was the puzzle clue on tonight's finale of The Amazing Race that hard?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

PRONOUNCED "CAESAR":  This blog, as you've probably noticed by now, doesn't actually care about Division I-AA football (or that it's been renamed), even when it comes to the hometown titans of Villanova.  Nor would we be writing about today's upset playoff win of Appalachian State merely to highlight that senior wide receiver Matt Szczur scored touchdowns via rushing, receiving and passing all within that same game (and in one half).

But add to that this story:  Szczur is also a baseball prospect.  Last season, years after having been encouraged by his football coach to be tested, he found out he was a 1-in-60,000 stem cell match for a toddler suffering from leukemia and sacrificed ten baseball games last season to donate the necessary bone marrow.  After the season, he became a fifth round draft pick of the Chicago Cubs, and had a 960 OPS in low-A ball this summer. "Anybody can go out there and play football or baseball," Szczur said, "but there's not too many people who get a chance to save a life."

I understand someone else won the Heisman.
HERE'S TO 30 MORE:  With the final film of its first run airing tonight, Dan Fienberg ranks all of the ESPN 30 for 30 documentaries from bottom to top.  (We did some interim ranking in August.)  Where I'd disagree with him most is that he has the USFL and Loyola Marymount films too low (though that may be because of my affection for the subject matter) and the rotisserie baseball one far too high (stylistically, I couldn't deal with the goofiness).  As noted before, my top three is Reggie/Escobars/6-17-1994, and I'm not sure that the order matters.

Overall, what a nicely ambitious series, and a real demonstration that sports documentaries could move beyond Ken Burns/talking heads format into something with more authorial voice.  Yes, there were some stinkers towards the end, but given how generic so much of ESPN feels these days this was, overall, an unexpected pleasure.
DEAR UNCLE RANDY: So I was riding on the train to NYC yesterday for a business function, and the gentleman who was sitting next to me got off at Newark and, I discovered, left his expensive-looking silver business card case in the seat. I opened the case and ascertained its owner, then emailed him offering to return the case to the address listed on the card.  Within hours he wrote back:
Thank you. Never even missed it ... you are very kind. Maybe I can return the favor someday.
So here's the question: do I just hope that he pays it forward some day, or can I make an explicit suggestion that he do something in return, like make a charitable contribution of whatever amount he deems appropriate to some worthy apolitical cause of my naming?  Does the fact that it's The Holiday Season increase or decrease my ability to make such an ask?

Friday, December 10, 2010

HEAVEN IS OVERRATED: iTunes announced today that America hates music, though technically the phrase it used was "'Hey, Soul Sister' was the most downloaded song of 2010." Is this the most anachronistic new song ever to get this popular? A band whose previous peak was over a decade ago (on the foaming crest of fake-alternative rock radio) name-checking Mister Mister and making a big deal about radio/stereo? I predict that in 2030, the number-one song transmitted directly into consumer brains via neural embedding will mention downloading a Train song via iTunes.

In the nearer term, I see two major related consequences. First, Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, and Randy Jackson almost certainly have heard the first verse of this song a million times in AI auditions. Second, the biggest loser here is the band that owns the rights to the song previously used by every male AI contestant with a preference for inoffensive mainstream rock -- "Drops of Jupiter."
MUST-SEE: I just wanted to give brief props to the four really cool NBC half-hour comedies last night.

Community did something I usually don't like -- an animated episode -- but by acknowledging its animatedness mined both emotional stakes (part of the point of this episode was how tenuous Abed's grip on reality really is, and how his friends want to protect him from that) and comedy (Professor Duncan: "You're grabbing me in real life!"). And [SPOILER ALERT] the reflection of the live-action characters in the claymation TV screen at the end was really cool.

30 Rock -- that was just damn funny. I don't think this show has done this many jokes per minute since its glorious second season. The Tracy story didn't really pay off for me, but virtually every word and glance among Liz, Jack (angrily: "or other things"), Colleen, Milton, and Avery was golden, and I even liked how the show used Jenna and Paul's mostly straight (pun intended) but so weird "O Holy Night," where he was in drag singing the high harmony and she was in blackface as Lynn Swann.

The Office was the other slice of bread in this happy meat-on-sad sandwich, but the part that really got me was the effective and overt Dwight-Jim psychological thriller subplot. You expect things like that from Community, but I don't remember this show ever doing it. Enjoyable.

And commercials reminding us that last season's best comedy, Parks and Recreation, is back in January? It's a Christmas miracle.
READY THE HARD HATS: Yes, we know it looks funny--in response to the virus queries we've gotten from several folks, we've tweaked the template in an effort to resolve some things. (Hopefully, the change we've already made should have resolved at least some of the virus issues.) We're going to continue tweaking the template as needed, and if you can be as specific as possible with the errors/warnings you're seeing, it'd be helpful.
PHONE RINGS, DOOR SLAMS, IN COMES MY TICKET ORDER: In the great Venn Diagram of things that hit the ALOTT5MA sweet spot, Neil Patrick Harris in a New York Philharmonic production of Company this Spring would seem to basically hit the bullseye. Yes, parts of the book are dated, and yes, Bobby is a rather inert character for much of the show, but this could be very very interesting. (Other casting suggestions are encouraged.)
NOW HE CAN VOTE AND OWN FIREARMS: Forty-one after he was arrested (and later convicted) in Miami of indecent exposure, public use of profanity, and public drunkenness -- a trifecta that in Miami is known today as "brunch" -- The Doors' Jim Morrison has been pardoned. Not that Morrison, who has been dead longer than most of us here have been alive, really cares, but it's about time somebody did something for the man who gifted us a world in which Val Kilmer demands to be taken seriously as an actor.
The slim, fit-looking president of Botswana -- considered one of Africa's most eligible bachelors -- says he is finally ready to get married but made it clear that overweight women need not apply.

President Ian Khama, 57, has never been married, but at a political party meeting last month he said his top requirement for a future wife is that she needs to be tall, slim and beautiful – in a country known for short, heavy set women....

Khama claims he's been too busy running the country to find a wife, and has dispatched presidential aides to find a suitable mate.

The president's status as a bachelor is of general national concern. Khama, elected in 2009, is not only president, he's also the chief of the Bamangwato people, Botswana's largest ethnic group. Marriage is a requirement of tribal tradition, something that Khama, so far, has defied.
Alright, I'll taste the soup.
PRINCETON CAN USE A GUY LIKE JOEL:  Nice toss-up question from the AV Club today -- name a fictional party from film or literature you'd have liked to have attended.  A certain "Roman toga party"?  The big bash in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet?  Jackie Treehorn's beach bonfire, or the graduation party where Lloyd Dobler played keymaster?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I KNOW BECAUSE THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER PUBLISHED IT: James L. Brooks' romcom How Do You Know cost $120 million to make (minus $20M in tax credits from Phila and DC), including $40M in salaries between stars Paul Rudd, Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson and Jack Nicholson. Before you click on that link, guess how much of that $40M went to each of them.
GRAPHIC DESIGN FAIL OF THE DAY: Can someone (anyone) explain to me the logic behind Comedy Central's new logo? I do agree that the logo could use a little freshening--it's been the same since 2000, and the logo was only slightly changed since the network launched in 1991, but something that looks like a rejected concept for a logo for Creative Commons.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I DON'T KNOW WHY I'M GOING HOME:  And on Top Chef All Stars tonight, I can't explain it either.  I don't even know that an elimination by Gail Simmons and Katie Lee should even count on a show that's bringing back Anthony Bourdain and Wylie Dufresne next week.

DO NOT TAUNT THE ANGRY LOOKING WHIFFENPOOF. OR THE ONE WHO LOOKS LIKE YOUNG HODGMAN:  Ah, yes.  "Modern" (or Buble) songs done a capella tonight on The Sing-Off, with one easy and one surprising elimination.  Full discussion below the fold.

[Also, wow: Kathy Bates' new show lets her litigate against a two-armed Rocket Romano?  Awesome.]

HOW'M I DOING? NOT FEELING GROOVY: "The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge," Nick Carraway tells Jay Gatsby, "is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world." From the ground, Woody Allen's Manhattan made it magical. Hank Scorpio blew it up.   Are they really changing the name of the 59th Street Bridge to the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge?

[Related: does anyone refer to the Triboro as the RFK Bridge?]
OUR OWN VERSION OF THE ILIAD: We've received some inquiries about folks getting Trojan warnings when they come to the blog--we're looking into it from our end, but it appears this is an issue on the Blogger side of affairs (linked to the template), rather than anything we've posted here in particular, and none of us are getting the errors, despite various firewalls of our own, which may indicate that Norton is generating false positives for some reason--rest assured that we're as committed to keeping this site virus-free as you all are. We'll keep you posted on further developments and apologize for the inconvenience.
I WANT CHANNING TATUM TO STOP BEING IN STUFF: We haven't talked about Glee in several weeks, and last night marked our last new episode until the Super Bowl. A few bullet points to spur some discussion:
  • As I noted over on Twitter, Lima, Ohio and William McKinley High School seem quite vulnerable to several Establishment Clause claims. (Though they were careful to choose only non-expressly-religious Christmas songs to appear in the episode.)
  • As noted over at HitFix, if you had Brittany in your office pool for "most three-dimensional character of the season so far," you've turned a nice profit. (And Coach Beiste is probably running in the top 3, alongside Kurt.)
  • We get a passing reference to Rachel's Judaism, but Puck's goes unmentioned?
  • Even by the relaxed standards of Glee, the Kurt/Blaine number, while lovely, had absolutely no narrative tether to the rest of the episode.
  • Apparently, Brittany S. Pierce and Hermione Granger share a deep and abiding dedication to the welfare of elves.
  • We established last year that Will's parents apparently live nearby--they've apparently disappeared, since Will spending Christmas alone was a major plot point.
  • For all the problems I had, there was a lot of funny stuff--Mike Chang's wish that supplied the post title, Will's list of potential gifts to give to Sue ("1. Dog Robot 2. A Soul")--and some authentically heartwarming stuff (the final scene, "I don't hate Christmas. I just hate you.").

At its best, the show remains a ton of fun, and even when it's misfiring, there are enough moments that work that I'm not going to abandon it any time soon, despite a shaky start to this season as they try and figure out a way to balance the overly large ensemble while at the same time adding even more characters to the mix--seriously, the show now has 15 performers billed as regular (though some do not appear in every episode), plus Mike, Sam, Figgins, and Blaine, who are regulars in all-but-title, which is way too many.

AND THAT'S WHY YOU CHECK THE AMAZON GOLD BOX:For any who might not own it, or anyone looking for a suitable gift this Holiday season--Amazon's offering all three seasons of Arrested Development on DVD for $28 today. It's been offering some great TV on DVD deals in the Gold Box over the past few months, offering seasons of Good Wife, Modern Family, and Community at massive discounts (and the Community DVD's are well worth picking up, even at close to full price, if just for the ton of special features, especially commentary on every episode from a revolving group of creatives and actors).
WHEN HE'S KING OF THE WORLD ...  The Baseball Writers Association of America has elected the Philadelphia Daily News' Bill Conlin as the 2011 J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner for lifetime contributions to baseball writing.  Conlin will receive the award as part of the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies next July, same weekend that Pat Gillick will be inducted (and Marvin Miller, sadly, won't be), with Roberto Alomar, Jeff Bagwell and Bert Blyleven (at last) as the likely main ballot inductees.  He is, to my knowledge, the third DN journalist of this era to be inducted into his sport's hall of fame's writer's wing, joining Ray Didinger (NFL) and the late Phil Jasner (NBA).

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

TEN THOUSAND PEOPLE, MAYBE MORE:  Billy Bragg had to add his contribution via telephone, but otherwise the Cage Against The Machine all-star recording of "4'33" went off without a hitch yesterday.  Proceeds of the potential Christmas #1 single will benefit, among other charities, the British Tinnitus Association and the Campaign Against Living Miserably
BABA BOOEY BYE BYE: Howard Stern says he's not going to take a paycut from his current $100M/year deal with Sirius/XM to provide his talent, while Sirius/XM says "you're taking a paycut if you want to stay on our airwaves." Now, I'm no fan of Stern (found him far more interesting before he divorced his long time wife and married the hot, much younger lingerie model), but I think it's an interesting question--where does he wind up--does he become the biggest, most expensive, podcast ever? Does he take his act to cable TV? Does CNN want the ratings juice enough that they'd turn over a couple of hours to him? Does he get his own TV network? Any idea on where this is winding up?
FOR CAESAR RODNEY, PUNKIN CHUNKIN AND DOGFISH HEAD 60 MINUTE IPA:  Today is Delaware Day, celebrated annually to commemorate its becoming the first state to ratify the United States Constitution on December 7, 1787.  Back in October 2008, our friend George suggested things the Tampa Bay Devil Rays should do during their unscheduled World Series off-day marooned in Wilmington.

Monday, December 6, 2010

EVERYBODY WANTS TO RULE THE A CAPELLA WORLD:  A thread for the debut episode of NBC's The Sing-Off.  My comments below the fold; also, more Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town.
A COMMENT ON COMMENTS:  You may recall that it was 49 weeks ago that this blog finally upgraded to a new template and, with the demise of Haloscan, accepted Echo's offer of a one-year free trial of its commenting features.

Well, that year is coming to a close, and the piper would like to be paid.  $10/month, to be exact.

There is a lot to like about Echo -- the multiple login options, the use of avatars, the "like" button, threaded comments and the ease of moderation from our end.  At the same time, its synchronization feature is erratic -- yielding multiple days on which comments aren't accessible from many devices -- and we do have issues like triple-posting and the like.

Also, this blog is a hobby and a lark for all of us -- we have never accepted advertising or sought any revenue from this, but nor do we necessarily want to be spending money on it either.  It may be an irrational distinction, but I think to have to start to paying for this would change they way we experience doing it.

Still, I wrote back to the Echo folks, $120/yr is a bit much for the value you provide to us.  How about $50, and if service improves we'll consider a full fee next year?, to which they responded, basically, "That's nice. Here's some other platforms you may want to consider instead."  (They've been quite friendly, in fact.) Intense Debate was one, and obviously we could use's own commenting functions.

So here's where we need your help.  What we're looking for in a commenting host is the following:
  • It should be free.
  • It should be simple and clean as a layout matter.
  • It should not require a complicated login, and must protect the pseudonymity/anonymity of our users.
  • It should synchronize with our existing comments, which reach 2,000/month.
  • It should allow comment reading and posting from all mobile devices.
  • It should allow for easy moderation/editing/spam protection.
  • Ideally, it would allow for threaded comments, "like" buttons, etc.
  • It should reward its bearer with riches beyond his or her wildest imagination.
So, gang, any advice? 
MORE AMUSING THAN ANOTHER ROUND OF "GAYLORD FOCKER" JOKES: The idea of someone deciding to legally change their name to "Captain Awesome" is amusing enough. That it resulted in a newspaper story including the sentence "That judge — whose name Awesome cannot remember and who is not identified in Awesome’s court records — questioned his seriousness," elevates it.
THIS IS A COMIC BOOK ABOUT FEDERALISM: Have you ever been troubled by whether evidence gathered by Professor X through mindreading is admissible? Whether the Keene Act in Watchmen would pass muster under current commerce clause jurisprudence? The patentability of all those things on Batman's utility belt? Well then, have I got a blog for you. (The only shortcoming? It's not apparently run by Matthew Murdock, who, as we all know, has substantial practical experience with these issues.)
YOU'VE GOT TO KEEP THE DEVIL WAY DOWN IN THE HOLE: There are two ways to tell a zombie story. In the first, there's no hope, in which case the story is an endless tale of attrition, where survival is dependent upon constant vigilance, and inevitable lapses are punished. In the second, there is a solution, and the struggle is less for survival than goal-oriented salvation. These tropes are not unique to zombie fiction (see A Brief History of the Dead for an example of the former; Battlestar Galactica for an example of the latter; Dan Simmons's The Terror for a book that keeps you guessing between the two), but zombie fiction forces the choice. In Zombieland, you know our idiot heroes aren't going to save the world, but you Resident Evil would be a lousy game if your only goal were to escape unharmed.

What was nice for me about this brief, engaging, surprisingly measured and thoughtful season of The Walking Dead is that it postponed that choice as long as it did. (Hopefully, I'm not spoiling the choice the show made.) Alan Sepinwall's summary of this season was that it was more prologue than story, and that seems exactly right: the direction next season is going to take necessarily will be different from the thread of this short season. So bring on next season.

Also, as usual, I will root for the zombies.
YOU ARE LISA SIMPSON:  Josh Kurp's Eight Times The Simpsons Made Me Cry might be my favorite highlight from SplitSider's Classic Simpsons Week.
NUMBER ONE SONG AFTER NUMBER ONE SONG: As a reminder, NBC's "The Sing-Off" returns for a second season of competitive unaccompanied singing this evening. The ten teams are listed here, including collegiate teams from Yale, Oregon, and USC/UCLA. Ben Folds, Shawn Stockman and Nicole Scherzinger return to judge. We all liked this show last season, and we've got some real experts in a capella singing whom I expect to see in our comments as the brief season progresses.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

SO IF YOU BELIEVE IN FATHER CHRISTMAS, CHILDREN, LIKE YOUR UNCLE BILLY DOES, THEN BUY THIS FESTERING TURD OF A RECORD:  Last year, Rage Against The Machine's "Killing in the Name" finally broke the streak of X Factor winners of the annual UK Christmas #1 Song competition.  Odds have been posted for this year's battle, and among those hoping to defeat the single from whoever wins X Factor 7 (expected to be their version of Lee DeWyze) is a reunited Take That as well as perennial favorites "Last Christmas" by Wham! and, of course, "Fairytale of New York" by the Pogues with Kirsty MacColl.

Want another oddball winner?  Two chief contenders: The Trashmen's "Surfin' Bird" (yes, because of this) and a celebrity cover (Billy Bragg!) of John Cage's "4'33"" (which will include remixes).

[For those unclear with what we're getting when X-Factor hits the States next fall, meet Jedward.]
... WILL BE ELIMINATED:   Thoughts about the penultimate episode of The Amazing Race 17 after the fold.

YOU HAVE THE LUXURY OF NOT KNOWING WHAT ANDY REID KNOWS:   According to, Philadelphia Eagles teammates have become so concerned about wide receiver DeSean Jackson's apparent unwillingness to take hits that “Vets were going to give 10 a code red if he didn’t quit being a candy ass.”

Saturday, December 4, 2010

DID YOU DO THE MONKEY?  In Sunday's NYT, Steve Martin defends himself:

I'M THE BEAVER, WALTER. AND I'M HERE TO SAVE YOUR DAMN LIFE:  Please attempt to watch the trailer for the new Mel Gibson movie without giggling in ways not intended by the filmmaker, Jodie Foster.

Friday, December 3, 2010

IF I COULD HAVE ONE WISH THAT I COULD WISH THIS HOLIDAY SEASON:  Steve Martin has a new novel out about the art world, a milieu in which he has much personal and direct experience.  So when NYC's 92nd Street Y promoted an event with Martin in conversation with an art critic/historian (who also does the NYT Mag's condensed/edited interview page), you'd expect that most of the conversation would be about that.

Which, as you probably know by now, caused something of a shitstorm on the Upper East Side, with angry emails during the event prompting an organizer to interrupt the talk to, basically, demand that the band stop promoting the new album and play "Freebird" already, as Linda Holmes put it:
It is exactly — exactly — like demanding your money back because Elton John didn't play "Rocket Man." Too bad, so sad. Nobody promised you the cookie-cutter experience that every other audience seeing every other similar event has ever seen. When you see an artist perform — and even more so when you hear an artist interviewed — there is no guarantee of the content; that's the exact point of going. Why would you go to hear someone speak if you already knew what he was going to say? If you want to read about how Steve Martin feels about acting and comedy, couldn't you find several looseleaf binders full of that stuff? The guy is not a recluse.
Worse, the 92nd Street Y wholly undermined Martin and Solomon by offering refunds to the disgruntled, essentially saying "your talk was worthless."  That's just something you don't do -- it's basically a Pander Or Die notice to every future speaker, and a red flag against doing anything challenging or new.  Even if the interview in fact wasn't going well, that's just the risk you take as an audience member at a live event.  Sometimes Springsteen's going to play the hits; sometimes it's all "Devils & Dust" and "Dream Baby Dream" on the pump organ.  You might not love it, but you can't ask for your money back either.

I saw a lot of standup comedians live growing up, and I was always disappointed when they'd just do the same routines from their HBO specials and tv.  I didn't want that; I wanted to hear something new.  If you want to attend events where you know exactly what you're going to receive, go see Gallagher.  Steve Martin is not Gallagher, and he's not going to smash the watermelon every night. Thank goodness.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

WELL, YOU COULD ALWAYS ADD BILL MURRAY: Could the current Tommy Hilfiger commercials be any more Wes Anderson-y? (I suppose you could also replace the Vampire Weekend song with a British Invasion one, but tonally, the song is very Anderson.)
THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT! Although the eternal child Bart Simpson was EW's first Entertainer of the Year back in 1990, this year's Entertainer of the Year is Taylor Swift--the youngest real person to ever obtain the title--and in my view, it's certainly a defensible choice, given that she's had achievements in music (the armload of Grammys, Speak Now), film (Valentine's Day, which wasn't terribly good, but I found her hyperactive performance interesting), and TV (hosting SNL surprisingly well) over the course of the year. Unsurprisingly, the comments at EW are ablaze with how this is horrible, with folks arguing for (among others) James Franco and Jon Hamm. Make your arguments.
WHATEVER DRAGONS SHE'D BEEN CHASING, SHE CHASED THEM AND TRAPPED AND SLEW 'EM BETWEEN ACTION AND CUT:  After a few years away from the business, Kirsten Dunst is back.  Thank goodness -- between Dick, Bring It On, The Virgin Suicides, Spider-Man and, for what it's worth, her stint on ER, this is an actress with a remarkable ability to convey sincerity, who draws your sympathy every time -- and I am rooting for her comeback.
EGOT WATCH:  Among the nominees for Grammy Awards announced last night, in the category of Best Spoken Word Album for Children, is Emma Thompson for Nanny McPhee Returns.  She's already got the "E" for her guest spot on "Ellen" and the "O" for starring in Howard's End and for adapting Sense and Sensibility.

[Feel free to comment about the nominees in any of the 109 categories here.]
CORRECT ME IF I'M WRONG. IS THIS THE CRAFTIEST [TWELVE-LETTER WORD FOR INCEST] WHO'S EVER BEEN ON THIS SHOW?   Sometimes, Anthony Bourdain doesn't need to be fancy.  Sometimes, all he needs to say is "Didn't look good. Didn't taste good.  Wasn't cooked right," and as much as one might have expected a different outcome, this first Top Chef All-Stars result certainly makes a certain amount of sense.

That said, Bourdain's blog is already up.  As to the dish I thought seemed the worst, he wrote: "Whatever the f--- it was, was diabolical. A pu-pu platter from Hell. If Hell was a bad tiki bar in a Long Island strip mall."

I'm already ready to be rid of the subject of the title quote, as well as Mikey, and Sepinwall's right that Fabio's got a nasty case of Rupert-itis. Count me on Team Blais for now, but there are plenty of chefs (Somerton's Own Jen Carroll, Angelo, Hootie Hoo and Jamie) for whom I'm rooting.  Welcome back to the kitchen.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

PLEASE GO ON. REGALE ME WITH A STORY, WOMAN:  Oh, Survivor.  No, we've never quite seen that before.
I'VE BEEN TO HOLLYWOOD; I'VE BEEN TO REDWOOD: In Los Angeles, we aspire to be scandalously sexy. In DC, unscandalously sexy. In San Francisco, scandalously unsexy. Discuss.

(I've been traveling a lot.)
YOU CAN'T STOP THE BIEBER: Tonight, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences will announce the nominees in the 109 categories for the Grammy awards. For reasons explicable only to someone who's not me, the eligibility year is September 1, 2009-September 30, 2010, meaning that big recent albums (Speak Now, The Incredible Machine, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy) are not eligible, though early release singles may be ("Mine" would seem a safe bet for nods in at least the country categories), and older albums are (Susan Boyle, Michael Buble, Jay-Z's most recent). HitFix has a preview, suggesting we're in for a big year for Gaga, Lady Antebellum, and Eminem. Anyone you're rooting for or against?
HOOTIE HOO: We don't blog about every permutation of Top Chef here, but its first All-Star season? Hells yes. Starting tonight, we'll be seeing the return of the following folks who didn't win, but sure seem like fun to have around again:
Season 1: Tiffani Faison, Stephen Asprinio
Season 2: Marcel Vigneron, Elia Aboumrad
Season 3: Dale Levitski, Casey Thompson, Tre Wilcox
Season 4: Richard Blais, Spike Mendelsohn, Dale Talde, Antonia Lofaso
Season 5: Fabio Viviani, Jamie Lauren, Carla Hall
Season 6: Michael Isabella, Jennifer Carroll
Season 7: Angelo Sosa, Tiffany Derry
WEDNESDAY MORNING, 3 A.M. (EXPERIMENTAL INTERNET ENTERTAINMENT EDITION): Hey. Got 10 minites? How about 8 minutes and 53 seconds? If you're still up, man, there's no reason not to give it that much longer.

First, open this DJ QBert YouTube scratch freestyle in a new tab, but just for the audio (no need to watch DJ QBert throw down at this time). Then, while he works over Kool G Rap, go here, and scroll down through the cornucopia of variously compelling artworks, faster or slower as interest dictates.

Mabye click some links. Maybe read some of the titles. Ponder the pretty pictures. Relaxen und watchen das blinkenlichten. Waxin' and milkin' all of y'all squareheads. Mmmm... that's good internets!

Sweet dreams, sleepy people.
ECONOMY OF (FOUR LETTER) WORDS: Baby. That'll do, really.

I was sitting here trying to express my frustration and disappointment with the just-concluded season of Sons of Anarchy. The screed was getting longer and longer. The tirade was getting more and more torrid. The rant was veering from the vaguely literate to the indulgently vulgar and consuming punctuation conspicuously (primarily of the parenthetical and interrobang varieties).

Then I remembered a comment from one of our worthy readers (Amber, here) that adequately captured the general disappointment with Shoot 'Em Up a few years ago. It seems to me that it applies equally well to the Sons of Anarchy situation this season: simply put, it had too many babies in it.

Cut Abel The Kidnapped Wonder-MacGuffin out of the storyline and it could have been perfectly serviceable run of episodes. There would have been time for so much more of the good stuff about law vs. order, practice vs. principle, love vs. lifestyle, that previously threatened to make this show more than a bad soap opera dressed up in black leather and dirty denim. In fact, if Jax Teller hadn't gone all Sally Field on us this season, it would have saved cast, crew, audience, and production company the time, expense, strain, and embarrassment of that thumpingly ill-scripted and implausible trip to Ireland. None of that was remotely necessary, and it was all done at the expense of more interesting themes, plot lines, and characters--the very things that drew me in last season.

Really, my list of gripes is profanity-laced and never-ending, but that sums it up: too many babies.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

BETTER WITH REWRITE: As I clean out my DVR from last week, I finally figured out why I keep watching Better With You. I recognize it's not terribly good, but almost every performer is exceedingly likable and better than the material (the exception is Jake Lacy, who, not surprisingly, is the only member of the cast without a laundry list of prior credits). In that way, it reminds me of The Class, another show with wildly scattershot writing, but a solid and very likable cast, including many who went on to things that made much better use of their talents--Lizzy Caplan (Party Down), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family), Jason Ritter (to the extent The Event works at all, he has a lot to do with it), Andrea Anders (Better Off Ted), and Jon Bernthal (Walking Dead). I hope Better With You is likewise the gateway to better projects for its cast (particularly Joanna Garcia, who's well past due for a big hit--Privileged was arguably the last really good show on the CW, even if I'm still watching Gossip Girl).
WHAT ABOUT THE F**KING KIDS? We all recall the joy of the infomercials for the Gathering of the Juggalos, but it's time for Juggalos to celebrate the holidays--yes, Sugar Slam hosts an exhortation for all good Juggalos to give back (NSFW).
ONE NIGHT IN BANGKOK: Yes, it's basically Chess: The Musical: The Roleplaying Game Module.
"LEADER OF THE SAINTS, INSPIRATION TO HIS CITY":  The editors of Sports Illustrated have named Drew Brees as their 57th annual Sportsman of the Year.

Other SI writers penned essays on their nominees, including Chris Nowinski, Roy Halladay, Rafael Nadal, Ndamukong Suh, Armando Galarraga, Mike Krzyzewski and the San Francisco Giants.
COLLECTIVELY, "AWWWWWWW":  Via today's WaPo comes word of a new site,, which is devoted to pictures of newborn animals at zoos around the world.  They're all tagged by category, so children's music fans can indeed isolate the baby belugas and other adorables by species.
LET THE SUN SHINE IN: In the spirit of WikiLeaks, it's about time this blog stepped-up and, you know, exposed some stuff.

Secret Stuff!

Like this super secret list of Secret Societies of the Morning F Train over at Heading East.