Saturday, January 9, 2010

5 = ZERO: As I said the last time I did one of these, "I don't mind losing to another good football team on the road, but I mind losing like this." This was a game in which the Eagles never seemed competitive, and as such The Stages of Eagles Grief must be processed in order:
Denial: Seven days ago this team was on the verge of a first-round bye; now, it's over and Mark Sanchez is still playing? Really? The Andy Reid Never Loses His Playoff Opener Streak was just a statistical improbability and not a guarantee of future results?

Bargaining: We missed starting middle linebacker Stewart Bradley all season. Brian Westbrook was never fully back after his concussions, and as such neither was the rushing game. Maybe we just needed an Andrews brother on the offensive line, while DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin just keep improving. With just a few tweaks, this team isn't that far away from where it needs to be. And we always knew this team wasn't quite as good as its potential playoff seeding suggested, that its grade was artificially inflated by having not played Dallas a second time yet.

Anger: And yet, it is so far away. Andy Reid still doesn't know how to do clock management, and couldn't figure out how to repeat last week's failure against Dallas this week. Once again, Donovan McNabb came up small in a playoff game, and it's infuriating. This team did nothing well against Dallas, in two straight weeks. Dallas. Ack. FAIL.

Despair: Having cast its lot with Andy Reid's contract extension through 2013, the big remaining question is whether Donovan McNabb returns at quarterback next year. There is no easy answer, and it may well be that McNabb is simultaneously the best answer among the viable alternatives and an insufficient one to lead this team to the championship we crave. This is a team that certainly may be good enough to go 10-6 next year (but, oy, that home out-of-division schedule), but not 12-4 or better, not en route to a championship team from where we sit now.

What follows is a cold winter for those Philadelphia sports fans like me who lack interest in ice hockey or the time to follow Villanova (or Temple) basketball, and a long thirty-nine days until Roy Halladay reports in uniform with his fellow pitchers and catchers in Clearwater.

Acceptance: Come again? Oh, yeah. The Phillies. The 2008 World Champion, 2009 National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies. That which leavens everything else sports-related which seems painful. This is no longer a city which lives and dies based on the green and white; it is on Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins and the rest that our hopes reside. And Roy Halladay. Tonight's loss doesn't hurt as much as it would have a few years ago, because we've known the most likely path to a parade starts on the other side of Pattison Avenue. Spring is coming, sooner than you think.
HAVE YOU MET MY HUSBAND, GABRIEL COSMOPOLITAN? There is a little app floating around Facebook right now that takes a look at your first name and grades your parents on their naming originality. Nothing rocket-sciencey about it -- it takes a look at how popular your name was the year you were born, parses it in a couple of different ways, and that's more or less it. The fun part is that it then tells you what your parents might have named you if you had been born today. (Basically, if your name was #47 in 1975, then your name if born today is the #47 name from 2009.)

While I had no problem with my parents getting an F- for naming me Kimberly in 1971 -- it was the #4 name that year, having peaked in popularity in 1967 -- I feel more than a little besmirched by the suggestion that my 2009 name would be Madison.
YES, IT'S SO 2009 OF US: Those who are following us on Twitter may have noticed a new feature with which we're experimenting -- we're using the Twitterfeed service to let folks know whenever we have a new post. If that's of interest to you, sign up for the feed and do tell your friends.

Open thread for feedback on this, all the layout changes and anything else meta that's on your mind.
I KNOW WHAT YOU WATCHED LAST SUMMER: Here's a nice time sponge: Netflix data of the top 50 movies by zip code.

Friday, January 8, 2010

THE SECOND COMING OF THE PUPPY CHANNEL:I don't know that I've ever seen a movie trailer more likely to provoke divergent responses than the one for Babies. Yes, it's 2:25 of babies being babies, without any narration or anything else. At its core, there's an interesting sociological work there--the four babies being followed represent dramatically different cultures--but sociology doesn't sell, so we're instead left with a trailer that seems designed to be featured on Cute Overload. I'm not sure I can do 90 minutes of that. (Also awesome is that the trailer noted that the movie is rated PG for "cultural and maternal nudity throughout.")
GET THOSE BROKERS BACK IN HERE! TURN THOSE MACHINES BACK ON! TURN THOSE MACHINES BACK ON! Frozen Concentrated Orange Juice futures have reached a two-year high. (It is that time of year.)
BREAKING NEWS: Via Deadspin, uh, I guess former NBA great Scottie Pippen was attacked by midgets and felt like he needed to issue a press release?

People always talk about the-past-this-the-future-that, but you know what? The present is pretty damn cool too.
CARMICHAEL. CHARLES CARMICHAEL: For all that we're lamenting, lately, that NBC has done wrong, here's something it did right last year: Chuck. Before the strike-induced hiatus, Chuck was an entertaining piece of light cheese, good for a laugh or two as long as you didn't think too hard about it. Last season, Chuck grew into an exceedingly entertaining piece of ultra-light supercheese, good for a belly laugh or two hundred as long as you didn't think too hard about it. In other words, like its titular hero, it remained its dorky, awkward self, but acquired improbable superpowers. Its lead is charming, its three leads' chemistry is outstanding, it is strangely capable of delivering self-consciously stupid spy-plotting and emotional resonance in the same package. It is snazzy and nimble, even while it styles itself as the supreme homage to mid-budget 80s entertainment, using Chevy Chase and Scott Bakula as key guest stars while riffing on Spies Like Us and Back to the Future and War Games (and, if I'm guessing correctly about Chuck's newfound powers, Greatest American Hero).

No, it's not without its flaws. As Alan points out, at least once a week there is a colossal hole in the plot. It is frequently predictable. The writers still haven't figured out how to make Sarah a fully-formed character instead of a love object (something unhelped by the distance with which Yvonne Strahovski plays the role). Despite all that, this is the show that most consistently made me smile last year -- not laugh, but just smile at the characters, the music, the ridiculous predicaments, the giant musical numbers involving Sam Kinison and an Indian lesbian, the freaking awesome cliffhanger.

It's back this Sunday. If you haven't watched this show, this may be of note: last year, the show managed to bring new viewers up to speed in a few clever and economical opening minutes. Hopefully it will repeat that feat this year.

And hey, I hear NBC may have some hours to fill later this year but has nothing in the pipeline. Anyone for a back-13 order?
SIMON AND I ARE AS CURIOUS TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS AS EVERYONE ELSE: Another year, another new Idol judge. Ellen DeGeneres talks to the WSJ:
The Wall Street Journal: What are you doing to prepare for your now role as a judge on "American Idol"?

Ellen DeGeneres: I'm starting to criticize everyone I see, no matter what. I'm like, you thought that was a good outfit to wear? I just start criticizing people. But really, I'm trying not to think about it too much… I don't want to be influenced by anyone thinking I have to be different. I'm going to be myself and I'm going to be brutally honest in a kind way, I hope… Whatever comes out of my mouth will be a surprise to me and you.

WSJ: Paula Abdul was known as the nurturing judge. Do you think you'll be a similar type of judge?

Ms. DeGeneres: I don't know if I'll be as nurturing as she is. She always found a positive thing to say instead of attacking. I'll probably try to be somewhat encouraging. Just because in standup [comedy] there's no where to hide. When you're in a band, you've got the guitar player you can turn to but when you're by yourself on stage I know what that feels like and I know it doesn't feel good, especially with millions of people watching. But I'll be honest. I don't think it helps anybody to be encouraged and not told the truth.

DeGeneres won't be in the audition episodes, which begin next Tuesday, January 12. We'll see her for the first time when we get to Hollywood, Baby.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

INDEED! "A POX UPON'T!" 'TIS YOUR ANSWER TO EVERYTHING. YOUR MERRY REVELS HAVE ENDED, SIR. CONDOLENCES. THE ROGUES LOST; THE ROGUES HAVE ALWAYS LOST, WILL ALWAYS LOSE, AND SO IT WILL BE TOMORROW AND TOMORROW AND TOMORROW: Circulating around the Internets today -- Two Gentlemen of Lebowski -- The Dude's tale, had it been written by Shakespeare. An excerpt, after the break:

WELL, MAYBE THIS MAKES IT EASIER FOR MAX WEINBERG TO TOUR AGAIN: I'm reticient to link to anything TMZ reports, but they are reporting a good news/bad news situation:
  • Good News! Effective February 1, The Jay Leno Show permanently leaves the 10 EST time slot, first for Olympics coverage. Post-Olympics plans remain unclear, but apparently involve original programming in the slot. (I wouldn't be shocked to see some USA programs--In Plain Sight or Royal Pains, perhaps?--make a jump to the sister network.)
  • Bad News! Post-Olympics, Jay will return to the 11:30 EST timeslot. Left unclear for the moment is whether this is a return of The Tonight Show With Jay Leno with Conan getting an unceremonious axe, or a new half-hour Jay Leno Show to serve as a leadin to The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien.
Fallon apparently remains untouched.

ETA--OK, the NYT now has the plan as Leno--11:35, Conan--12:05, Fallon--1:05. Three questions from that:

1. What are the shows called? Does Leno get back the "Tonight" name? If so, what do the other shows go to?
2. Does Leno even have guests, or does he just run with 30 minutes of "comedy?" He can fill a 30 minute slot with intro, monologue, and one of his staple bits (Jaywalking, Headlines, etc.), and then a nice toss to Conan.
3. This could actually benefit Conan--no longer is he head-to-head with Colbert, and I can see folks flipping from Colbert to Conan, or flipping from Letterman in his second half hour to Conan.
I'M STILL WAITING FOR MY COPY OF "THE EROTIC ADVENTURES OF HERCULES" TO ARRIVE FROM NETFLIX: With "The Simpsons" celebrating 20 years this Sunday, IGN has a fun look at the Top 25 Simpsons Peripheral Characters, with No. 1 being a character who last appeared on the show in Season 10.
COMFORT, POWER, HANDLING, AND ABJECT, HELPLESS TERROR: I realize I'm six or seven years late on this, but did you know that for five years Chrysler sold a car called the "Crossfire"? I realize that ballistic branding has some success for American car manufacturers (hello, Dodge Caliber), but exactly what positive association was this brand manager trying to evoke? Has there ever been anybody in the history of gunplay who entered a crossfire with anything less than severe reluctance and stomach-roiling anxiety, or who exited a crossfire without thinking, "thank God I survived that; may I never get into another crossfire again"? Unless there is some sort of positive connotation of which I'm unaware, this must be the worst car brand name I've ever heard.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

SOUTHERN PARVATI LAW CENTER (HT: FIENBERG): The Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains cast is revealed, with 9 of the 20 making this their third chance for $1M. (Well, fifth for Boston Rob if you count his two Races, though Rupert's stint as a rent-a-magical-native reward on Israeli Survivor doesn't count.) Four former winners in the cast -- under-the-radar Sandra Diaz-Twine, Fireman Ton Westman, J.T. Thomas and the subject of this post's title -- as well as a few runners-up (including Colby and Stephenie). Hopefully, we'll see a smarter multi-faceted strategic game than Rob's domination of the original All Stars season (really, Lex, you trusted him?), and I'll certainly give this season a chance.

added: EW talks to the competitors about their strategies.
WINKY DINKY DOG: Via Cinematical, a rather extensive list of fictional restaurants and coffee shops. Rob's Place, Above the Top, the Regal Beagle and plethora of Simpsons eateries are included.
WELCOME TO THE MEETING, TWITCHY: Lost seasons 1-5, recapped in 8:20 8:15.

added: Is this the end? Well, of this iteration of Lost ...:
Q: Can you say definitively, after this final episode, there will never be another produced hour of "Lost" on film, TV, Web, any medium -- this is it?

Cuse: The Walt Disney Co. owns "Lost." It's a franchise that's conservatively worth billions of dollars. It's hard to imagine "Lost" will rest on the shelves and nothing will ever be made with "Lost." Eventually somebody will make something under the moniker of "Lost" -- whether we do it or not. We just made a commitment to this group of characters whose stories are coming to a conclusion this May.

Lindelof: Somebody made a sequel to "Gone With the Wind." Sometimes the franchise transcends the storyteller. The definitive edition of "Lost" ends this May on ABC, and that is the story that we have to tell. It has a beginning, middle and end. That ending will not have cliffhangers, or be set up in such a way that people will be saying, "Clearly they're going to make more of these." We don't have any connection to another TV series or movie, but there's a new "A-Team" movie coming out, for god's sake. This is a business that thrives on known commodities. "Tron" is the most buzzed-about Disney movie for next year, and it has been gathering dust for 20 years. I cannot imagine there will not be something with "Lost" on it involving smoke monsters and polar bears and time travel.
THE WHOLE SITCOM WAS IN A HOT, DENSE STATE: As usual, the artist formerly known as Miss Alli has nailed it with this dissection of how Big Bang Theory went from the pilot (which I hated) to a highly enjoyable sitcom, with an emphasis on how important diminishing the sexism inherent in the original concept was to making the show work--making Penny an equal (in some ways, if not raw intellect) to Sheldon and Leonard has been key to creating an enjoyable ensemble, even if they need to find something to do with Wolowitz. (Via Sepinwall on Twitter, naturally)
THE WOW FACTOR: I still haven't seen Avatar (though on the list for the immediate future), but is there any question that it's going to win the Visual Effects Oscar? I mean, why are we even bothering to have 6 other "finalists?" That said, it's nice to see some diversity--District 9 made use of a fair number of practical makeup effects, supplemented by CGI, and for all the flaws of Transformers 2 and 2012, there was some fine effects work there.
HAWK, NOT HOCK: Andre Dawson is now a Hall-of-Famer, but stealing the 1987's NL MVP's thunder is the fact that Roberto Alomar garnered 73.7% of the vote, to fall just eight vote short. Theories on Alomar's failure to reach 75% range from the fact that some may have thought he wasn't a "first-ballot" HOFer to lingering resentment over that loogie. Perhaps just as disappointed today is Bert Blyleven, who with 74.2% of the vote, missed by just five votes. ALOTT5A fave Edgar Martinez received 36.2% in his first year on the ballot. And somehow, one of the 539 voters felt David Segui was worthy of enshrinement in Cooperstown. 
I JUST WANT TO SCREAM "HELLO": So first came the nervousness Tuesday night on account of the raging fire at the apartment building next door to my father's, and relief that both he and his building were safe and secure. But a local tv station's coverage of the event poses a difficult question -- does my 78-year-old dad really qualify as "elderly"?. What, friends, is the dividing line between "old" and "elderly" -- is it a number, or does it relate to capacities? Because on either metric, I didn't think the term fit him yet.

I've been overly statty lately, and Randy Johnson's numbers make their own irrefutable arguments, so I'll leave the stats aside. At 6'11", the long, thin Johnson was one of the most unusual physical specimens in baseball. A wild and ineffective slinger in his early career in the Montreal system, my beloved Mariners acquired him (and others) for a half-season of Mark Langston and watched him grow into an elite talent (for those looking for a "Jack Morris Game 7 Moment," he delivered the second-greatest moment in the greatest game ever played, when he caused total bedlam in the Kingdome during his walk from the bullpen to the mound for three innings of one-run relief – and the win – on one day's rest). Seattle shipped him to Houston in a controversial contract-year trade: Johnson was injured and, for him, subpar in the half-season before the trade; he got healthy for the rest of the season and essentially won the division for Houston. Some misguided Seattle fans see this as evidence of malingering to force a trade, but I think this is wrong -- it wasn't in Johnson's makeup to soften his performance. He went to Arizona the following year, where he made Schilling unashamed to be a distant-second starter, won a World Series and notched the best post-40 pitcher season in baseball history; spent a couple of (still decent) decline years in the Bronx (where he was about as good, relative to the league, as Jack Morris was in his prime); and twilighted in San Francisco.

There are other pitchers during Johnson's career who could lay at least an equal, and maybe -- maybe better, claim to being the best, but of that club of sublime pitchers in the last two decades, Johnson was the most feared member. With a low, wide left-handed delivery that appeared to reach around left-handers' heads, hundred-mile-an-hour heat, and occasional wildness (like the discharge over Kruk's head in the All-Star Game), lefties always had to fear taking one on the chin, even while Johnson was slipping it right in the sweet spot. But Johnson had three plus pitches – his heater, his curve, and a murderous slider, which meant that if lefties cowered when he unfurled his left arm, righties were no happier to see that oversized appendage swinging toward them.

The Unit was prickly, probably because his prominence (at his size, it was impossible not to stick out) interfered with his private nature. All that unsightly hair couldn't have helped. But he also was canny, analytical, and hard – very, very hard – to hit. Of the modern players least likely to be duplicated, Johnson, with his size, power, and stamina, must be the foremost.

P.S.: When he goes to the Hall, his hat should have an S on it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

IN THIS ONE, BOND EXPOSES THE SEEDY UNDERBELLY OF SUBURBIA AND DEALS WITH HIS CRIPPLING ALCOHOLISM: It's not yet official, but allegedly Daniel Craig wants Oscar winner Sam Mendes to direct the new Bond flick, and the producers seem inclined to oblige. Certainly, Mendes has made some fine films, but I'm not persuaded he's right for this.
SAWYER'S ISLAND: Some folks want the Walt Disney Company to change a possibly dated attraction at its parks into a Lost-themed experience for guests.
YOU CAN'T TORQUEMADA ANYTHING: The annual Kennedy Center Honors coincided with my vacation in Mexico last week so I didn't blog it at the time (note to self: even more cenotes next time!), but for those who missed it you will want to view its singing, dancing Mel Brooks tribute with Martin Short on a horse and Glee's Mr. Schu as the most handsome singing Nazi you've ever seen.

Also: Jon Stewart eloquently honors fellow Garden Stater Bruce Springsteen, Eddie Vedder sings "My City of Ruins" and Ben Harper and Jennifer Nettles perform "I'm On Fire," which might not have made my top fifty list of Songs You Should Be Sure To Play When You're Honoring Bruce Springsteen, but was rather nice regardless.
EVERYBODY DO THE PROPAGANDA: While big "classic" musicals are dropping like flies on Broadway right now (Ragtime and Finian's Rainbow will each close at a total loss in the next few weeks, and the allegedly nightmarishly bad Birdie revival bidding bye bye shortly), it's a fascinating season for new musicals, with the Fresh Prince/Jay-Z-produced afropop musical Fela! being joined by Green Day's American Idiot this spring. (Also coming--the Nathan Lane/Bebe Neuwirth Addams Family musical, which got mixed reviews in Chicago, and a musical about a mythical legendary gathering of Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis.)
ONE MAGIC LOOGIE: Ahead of tomorrow's Baseball Hall of Fame announcement, Baseball Think Factory has been compiling votes by the writers who have voice their opinions. With 99 full ballots in, the returns indicate that Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven and Andre Dawson should start booking motel rooms for their friends and family in Cooperstown this summer. As for the much-disccussed Edgar Martinez? He's currently running 7th in the voting with 41.4%, behind the aforementioned trio, plus Barry Larkin, Jack Morris, and Tim Raines. My prediction for tomorrow is Alomar and Dawson get the call with Blyleven falling just short.

YOU TOOK ME BY THE HAND, MADE ME A MAN: Melora Hardin, better known to us as Jan Levinson-Gould, will release her first CD--a mixture of Broadway standards and new material she wrote, later this year. And, no, "That One Night" isn't on there, though "I Dreamed A Dream" is--take that, Susan Boyle.
YOU ARE WHAT YOUR RECORD SAYS YOU ARE: Truly epic - Joe Posnanski's essay on the last decade of Kansas City Royals baseball.

Monday, January 4, 2010

THE JULIAN EDELMAN SWEEPSTAKES: For those who are interested, we have an ESPN Gridiron Playoff Challenge group. Free, easy salary cap-based contest for one and all.
THANKFULLY, THEY DID HAVE MR. PERSONALITY (#238) RANKED AHEAD OF MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS' AGE OF LOVE (#260): Apparently, I wasn't ambitious enough -- the NYT's Jon Caramanica has ranked The 348 Best Reality Television Shows of the Aughts.
YOUR MASHUP QUIZ: After Adam posted that mash-up of the top songs of 2009, I thought, "how hard could that be?" As it turns out, moderately hard. Or not hard, but exceedingly time-consuming. Anyway, after the jump is my maiden voyage on the Good Ship Mash-Up, "Let There Be Drums." With the dumbest video a lawyer can create in under an hour.

Points to anybody who can identify all of the source material -- only five sources in all.