Saturday, February 20, 2010


Friday, February 19, 2010

OH LORD, STUCK IN A LODI AGAIN: Forbes brings you the twenty worst cities in America. A big shout-out for a local No. 2, Stockton, just edged out by Cleveland. Ohio and the California Central Valley can show ALOTT5MA fave Philadelphia (ha, No. 20!) what miserable is all about!

Here's the whole list, to avoid wading through the slideshow:
OTHERWISE KNOWN AS A ROADMAP FOR THE NEXT FEW MONTHS OF DINING OUT: Yesterday's announcement of the semifinalists for the 2010 James Beard Foundation Awards for chef/restaurant excellence will have a lot of familiar names for our readers across America, including:
  • Stephen Starr, Lettuce Entertain You's Rich Melman and the guys who run Legal Sea Foods and Chipotle competing for Restaurateur of the Year.
  • Tom Colicchio and Marc Vetri up for Chef of the Year. And among the nominees for Rising Star Chef of the Year is our favorite bearded cooking gnome, Kevin Gillespie of Woodfire Grill in Atlanta.
  • Outstanding Restaurant semifinalists including Babbo, Vetri, Daniel, Vidalia and Spiaggia.
  • Three Philadelphia contestants for New Restaurant of the Year, including Koo Zee Doo.
  • Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery is up for Wine and Spirits Professional.
  • Beloved-by-my-Evidence-professor Arun Sampanthavivat among the Chicagoland nominees for Great Lakes Chef of the Year. And in addition to all the great Philadelphia chefs nominated in the Mid-Atlantic region, there's room for Bryan Voltaggio as well.
  • Not a lot of love for Las Vegas -- only Picasso's Julian Serrano up for Restaurant of the Year, with Joël Robuchon getting the most nods in the specialized and regional categories.
WHO DOESN'T LIKE SAYING THE NAME 'DICK BUTTON'? More thoughts from Gretchen on last night's competition:
The men's free skate was everything Olympic figure skating should be -- extraordinary athleticism combined with grace, musicality, and even a little humor. Evan Lysacek's win was really a triumph for the new Code of Points. It seems like skaters are finally figuring out how to design programs that showcase not only jumps, but also the unsung elements of figure skating -- transitions, footwork, spins, and the quality of the skating. Evan's program was brilliantly designed to gather points at every moment. By contrast, Plushenko's program was basically a bunch of jumps, interspersed with the occasional hip swivel, strut, or blown kiss. It brought to mind his exhibition programs -- all preening, no actual skating. It was like he was doing Russian supper club choreography. Don't get me wrong -- I think he's a charismatic skater and his jumps are incredible -- but there's no question in my mind that Lysacek was the superior skater.

I loved Nobunari Oda's Charlie Chaplin tribute, and he gets major props for moving past the broken shoelace so quickly. (In 1994, Tonya Harding broke a shoelace before the long program and totally fell apart. Stephane Lambiel's closing spin, the highest-scoring spin of the night, moved so fast that I thought he might launch himself off the ice. Daisuke Takahashi was so good -- and if he had just been able to land that quad, he very well might have come away with the silver instead of the bronze. But my favorite program of the night was Johnny Weir's. He had the audience with him from the very beginning, and delivered the artistic performance of the evening. I thought he was ridiculously underscored on program components (including interpretation and choreography, where there's no way he should have been under Stephane Lambiel) but regardless of the scoring, he was really a star out there.

One final note: what is the future of the quad? As Adam pointed out and as Evan Lysacek demonstrated, the quad often isn't worth the risk. Only two skaters (Plushenko and Kazuka) delivered a clean quad last night. Four years ago, I thought that a quad would have been required for men's skating by now -- but then again, back in 1988, when Midori Ito was the first woman to land a clean triple axel in competition, I would have predicted that triple axels would have been de rigeur for women. Clearly, I was wrong both times. I wonder if we're just hitting the limit of the sport -- and if future developments in jumping will have to come from better skating technology, rather than from pushing the limit of the human body.
Video of all performances is here.
SO SORRY: Isaac has already discussed the upcoming Tiger Woods apologizapalozza, but hey, it gave EW an excuse to link to Dan Rydell's apology, so there's something worthwhile as a result, right?
PANTS ON THE ICE, PANTS ON THE ICE, LOOKIN' LIKE A FOOL IN THOSE PANTS ON THE ICE: One of the charms of the Winter Olympiad is that it marks the American public's quadrennial love affair with curling. Of course, the star of curling this year isn't (thus far) a team of strikingly attractive blondes, but pants. Namely, Norwegian curling pants--and yes, you can buy your own. If you're less sartorially and more mathematically inclined, there's "Curl With Math," which is basically FiveThirtyEight for curling.
FOR YOUR THOUGHTS: Take a look at the new back-of-the-penny design, which indeed (as one tweeter noted) looks like the logo for Abraham Lincoln's soccer team:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

WHAT HAPPENS IN THE VILLAGE, STAYS IN THE VILLAGE: Your biennial Olympic Village condom story, though unlike Beijing the Vancouver condoms do not say "faster, higher, stronger" on them, but there is a special US Curling condom named "Hurry Hard." Ahem.

Your live commentary on the men's figure skating finals is welcome here.

added: Detailed NYT analysis on why a well-performed triple lutz is generally a better risk for men's skaters than attempting a quad. And for our Grade of Execution junkies, the full scoresheets are online.
<CARNAC>BOLOGNA, JANEANE GAROFALO AND SCROTUM</CARNAC>: Is it possible that we let four days pass without mentioning the untimely passing of Doug Fieger, better know as the lead singer of the Knack? To make up for this gross oversight in our usual chronicling of pop culture departures, here's a look at some great "My Sharona" moments in pop culture from Weird Al (natch), the gang from Reality Bites, Filipino prisoners, Jimbo Jones, and Cheech Marin. Plus, Us catches up with Fieger's "little pretty one, Sharona Alperin.
STEALING BLATANTLY FROM HARPER'S: A selected list of Facebook groups in the "Can this (allegedly humorous item) get more fans than (something/someone I dislike)" vein (I have excluded the large subset of expressly political ones), now updated with membership numbers for each group:
  • Can this pickle get more fans than Nickelback? (Pickle--1,383,495 fans, Nickelback--1,411,454 fans)
  • Can this sausage roll get more fans than Cheryl Cole? (Sausage Roll--1,076,000 fans, Cheryl Cole--1,533,115 fans)
  • Can this pickle get more fans than Twilight? (Pickle--552,278 fans, Twilight--5,033,473 fans)
  • Can this guy who looks like a THUMB get more fans than Miley Cyrus? (Guy who looks like a THUMB--130,723 fans, Miley--2,017,481 fans)
  • Can this hobo get more fans than the Jonas Brothers? (Hobo--60,333 fans, Jonas Brothers--2,103,953 fans)
  • Can this teapot get more fans than Zac Efron? (Teapot--9,532 fans, Zac Efron--140,314 fans)
  • Can this outhouse get more fans than the Texas Longhorns? (Outhouse--8,614 fans, Texas Longhorns--206,335 fans)
  • Can this stapler get more fans than Justin Bieber? (Stapler--6,009 fans, Bieber--1,762,699 fans)
  • Can this Slayer song get more fans than the Bible? (Slayer Song--3,052 fans, The Bible--1,642,783 fans as "religious organization," 750,399 fans as "consumer product")
  • Can this M&M get more fans than Eminem? (M&M--1,486 fans, Eminem--2,630,151 fans)
  • Can this chicken nugget get more fans than Lady Gaga? (chicken nugget--1,398 fans, Gaga--5,282,907 fans)
(Seriously, all of these are real.)
WE'RE THE GOOD GUYS, MICHAEL: One thing I've been struggling with during the XXI Winter Olympic Games -- who are we rooting against, anyway? In the absence of the Soviet Union and its client states, and with these not being the Games in which a host China is trying to dominate with underage gymnasts and the like, who are the bad guys? It can't be our polite hosts, so, who? Anyone? And are your Olympics diminished by only having athletes to root for, and not ones so much to root against?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

DARLING DON'T YOU GO AND CUT THAT HAIR: So, we've got our final 24, and if our Wacky Dancing Parade has taught us anything this year it's that we've clearly got the least talented group of dancers in Idol history, as well as some of the worst hair. (All is forgiven, Amanda Overmyer!)

If history has taught us anything, it's that multiple singers in next week's Round of 24 will make truly dreadful song choices -- someone will again demonstrate, as Kim put it two years ago, "that crooning without having preestablished a fan base is never a good AI strategy." [Also that week: I compared Danny Noriega to Johnny Weir and Garrett Haley to Plushy -- and it wasn't an Olympic year!]

But we have our twenty-four, and one of them will be The Next American Idol. Come next week, our full team coverage should be in full gear.
ROCKIN' THE CORSET AS ONLY HE CAN: I'm not competent to discuss last night's men's figure skating short program (other than to say that I was left rather cold by Evan Lysacek's near-flawless performance, that I still [heart] Plushy and to repeat my tweet from last night that "Jeremy Abbott [was] turning triples into doubles and doubles into singles like Ryan Howard on the basepaths, pre-2009"), and Gretchen wasn't available, so we turn instead to the aptly-named Required Elements site for its liveblog to anchor our discussion of last night's event. with the video of every performance also available on NBC's site.

This post is open for your discussion of tonight's figures-free Olympics coverage as well; will Shani Davis finally find an event he likes?

PRIORITIES: I don't know about where you are, but here in the Dulles airport, the biggest news is that TIGER ANNOUNCED THAT HE WILL HOLD A PRESS CONFERENCE. The way Airport HLN is covering it, you'd think Germany just invaded Poland. So if you depend upon ALOTT5MA for your news, please sit down, make sure your cardiologist is on speed dial, pour yourself a stiff drink, and listen as I repeat myself: A PERSON WHO PLAYS GOLF HAS SCHEDULED A TIME IN THE FUTURE AT WHICH HE WILL MAKE A VAGUELY WORDED STATEMENT OF CONTRITION APPROVED BY HIS LAWYERS AND PUBLICISTS. Now take the rest of the day off to spend time with your loved ones.
FOR WHEN YOU REALLY NEED ASPIRIN AT 3 AM: Duane Reade, the NYC pharmacy chain that is almost as ubiquitous as Starbucks and McDonald's, is being purchased by Walgreens. Walgreens stores are inevitably better laid out (and typically much larger than) Duane Reade stores, and there are more than a few street corners in NYC with Walgreens and Duane Reade right next to each other. It'll be interesting to see how things consolidate.
DR. SHELDON COOPER WOULD BE PROUD: Further efforts toward a Grand Unified Theory of Pop Culture (as previously discussed in relation to Mad Men):
  • The awesomeness of an episode of Lost is directly proportional to how much Terry O'Quinn or Josh Holloway is in an episode.
  • The awesomeness of an episode of Lost is inversely proportional to how much Evangeline Lily is in an episode.
  • The legendary-ness of an episode of HIMYM is inversely proportional to how much time is spent with Ted. (Exception--the first episode with Sarah Chalke.)
  • The quality of an episode of Big Bang Theory is inversely proportional to how much Howard's mother appears in that episode.
  • The quality of an episode of Castle is directly proportional to how much screen time Susan Sullivan and Molly Quinn have in that episode.
  • The quality of an episode of Grey's Anatomy is directly proportional to how much Bailey features in that episode, ideally telling off people for being idiots in their personal lives.
  • The excellence of an episode of Dollhouse is generally inversely proportional to how much Echo/Caroline features in a particular episode, and directly proportional to how much Victor and Sierra feature in the same episode. (Exception--The Attic.)
Please provide other such correlations you have noticed.
A SWEET ROMANTIC PRODUCT PLACEMENT, FOR YOU, FOR YOU, FOR YOU...: You may have heard that Devo has been reincarnated ... or perhaps reanimated, and playing shows of their old material in DC, Chicago, NYC, LA, SF, over the last months of 2009. Now it seems they're firmly committed to being recommodified, and will be performing at the Olympics in a corporately coordinated fit of conspicuous self-promotion. Original members have put together a new album, of new material, and distanced themselves from the evil elf-mouse hybrid "Devo 2.0" that was pushed on an uninterested public a few years ago. Indeed, the acid intelligence of the band I love is evident again in interviews and performances, and the new project is explicitly being conceived as an attempt to embrace and exploit modern media and marketing processes. Note the gentle tweaking of CNN's sloganeering balls in their Olympic-flogging interview with the band: "'What do you think?' We want to know."

New material by the original members could hardly fail to have more appeal than Devo 2.0, the derailed-by-Disney 2005-2006 kiddie pop effort that made the shriveled remnants of my youthful soul scream and cry in an impotent fit of desk chair rebellion. The heart of the problem with the 2.0 project, as Bob and Gerry Casale explain in this YouTubed interview, was that Mice Have No Genitals. (That's a tidy summary that works on a number of levels, but the whole interview is worth a look.) Casale's further explanation that the band agreed to change their music for Disney --- for example, to "make it about junk food" instead of more existential issues --- because the result was somehow more perverse, because it was "de-evolution for real," resonates only weakly. Clearly, there are some things you can do without, and that's good.

So, for your consideration, here's Devo's YouTube channel, where can be found November/December 2009 concert footage and some predictable but congenial propaganda and product-flogging (and links, of course, to more of the same at Devo-branded sites).

Compared to other locations, the recent concert videos from Los Angeles are generally of superior sound and video quality.
THIS WILL BE MY AIN TRUE POST ABOUT IT: Oscar co-producers Adam Shankman and (I forget who the other guy is; Shankman's the one who's beloved here) have announced that finally, we'll have an Academy Awards ceremony without yawn-inducing performances of Best Song nominees that no one cares about.

For 1984 the nominees were "Against All Odds," "Footloose," "Let's Hear It for the Boy," "Ghostbusters" and the winner, "I Just Called To Say I Love You" (which, of course, is sentimental tacky crap, and if you want that you should go to the mall).** It's safe to say -- with apologies to Markéta and Glenn, A.R. and the Three 6 Mafia -- that movie songs just aren't as culturally important as they used to be, and this is a fantastic move to cede more time during the Awards to the films being honored.

** Yes, that's right -- the Academy did not believe any songs from Purple Rain were worthy of individual recognition, though its music as a whole won for Best Original Song Score (over The Muppets Take Manhattan and Songwriter), the final year in which the category existed.
WHEN I AM WRITING MY PROBLEMS BECOME INVISIBLE AND I AM THE SAME PERSON I ALWAYS WAS. ALL IS WELL. I AM AS I SHOULD BE: Esquire's Chris Jones has a heartbreaking, yet inspiring profile of Roger Ebert, today. When combined with Ebert's own journal entry of 1.6.10 ("So that's what's sad about not eating. The loss of dining, not the loss of food."), it just reminds you of how much we all take for granted, every day.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

NEVER FEAR, I WILL MAKE A NEW POT OF COFFEE: If there is one constant throughout the years of Lost, it is that a Lockecentric episode is always better than a Jack- or Katecentric episode. And after years of watching horrid, gut-wrenching things happen to Locke, it was a relief to see a universe -- whatever the heck universe alt.lax might be -- in which his life is a smidgeon less miserable. (Best moment in that regard: the rueful chuckle when the sprinklers went off.)

Plenty to talk about, but despite all the mythology plotline advancement,* it's a relatively little thing that struck me the most: if the change in the Locke family dynamic is as it was reported, then how exactly does the chair figure into things?

*I agree with Our Friend Alan that the end-of-series clarity we've started to get on the mythology has demythologized the mythology. (When Dorothy finds out that the Wizard is just a guy behind a curtain -- well, that kind of takes some of the wind out of the Wizard's sails, no?) Nothing to be done about it, and I'm not complaining, but it does make the cave drawings somewhat less of an OMG reveal than an oh, this is how they're finessing this issue.

All hail Terry O'Quinn, man of faith, in the comments.
BEFORE THE COOL DONE RUN OUT I'LL BE GIVING IT MY BESTEST: In an episode more padded than what an errant Southwest flight attendant imagined Kevin Smith's ass to be, Hollywood Night 3 was just a weird mess. Structurally, it reminded me of the first scene in the last season of The West Wing -- once you tell us who's in which room, you've sucked out a lot of the drama and suspense from what's to come. I much prefer the old way -- let 'em perform, then do the shtick with the rooms, then the March of Death.

What can be said about the Top 24 as it's shaping up is that, at least for now, it's an older, more mature group than we're used to seeing. One more hour tomorrow night (presumably capped by the Wacky Dancing Parade), and then the march from 24 to 20 to 16, 12 and beyond begins ...
IDOLS GONE WILD: Not one, but two Idol alumni are joining the cast of Hair in major roles--both Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo will appear when the "Tribe" switches to an all-new cast next month.
ONLY WANNA BE WITH WHO? Apparently, Kevin Eubanks will leave The Tonight Show shortly after Jay returns to the desk. Darius Rucker (aka Hootie) has denied that he's planning on becoming the new bandleader. Any suggestions for Jay? Of course, there's also the argument that a band isn't necessary on late night any more, though Leno needs someone to laugh at his jokes, and seriously, The Roots have become an awesome part of Fallon.
THE PLUSHY SEX BOMB IS PREPARED TO DETONATE: ALOTT5MA Award-Winning Correspondent Gretchen** recaps last night's pairs figure skating action, and previews the men's competition which begins tonight:
Last night, pairs skaters Pang and Tong put together an impossible dream of a free skate at the Olympics -- an inspired, exuberant, and clean performance to music from Man of La Mancha. It was the highest-scoring free skate of the night, but it wasn't enough to move them into gold. Shen and Zhao, despite a freak stumble out of a lift, were just too dominant in the short program for Pang and Tong to catch up. Nevertheless, the evening felt really satisfying to me -- from the gold for sentimental favorites Shen and Zhao to the winning performance by Pang and Tong to the exclusion of the uninspiring Russians and inflated-score-Canadians from the podium. In a judged and subjective sport like figure skating, it's really great when the judges seem to get it right.

The commentators mentioned last night that Pang and Tong got a 1 point deduction for a music violation. (We theorized at home that their coach just got confused about which mp3 to cue up.) Actually, the music was of a perfectly fine length, but the skaters stopped two seconds after the music did. Really, shouldn't that be called a skater violation, rather than blaming the poor innocent music?

Finally, there's a reason why Russian skaters traditionally excel in international competition, and why China is surging far beyond what the Americans can pull together. And no, New York Times, the Chinese victory does not represent a democratizing moment. The USSR had the institutional infrastructure to put together pairs from an early age, move them away from their families to training centers, provide government support for their sports careers, and keep them focused on skating. While the collapse of the Soviet Union resulted in the collapse of this training system, China's incredible success at pairs skating is the result of a very similar, Soviet-style system (and, of course, one passionate coach, Yao Bin). Yao Bin picked Shen and Zhao to skate together; they moved into sports training dormitories; and they have remained paired for 18 years. By contrast, American skaters are basically left to their own devices to find their partners. Many pairs skaters don't begin skating in pairs until they are much older, often after hopes of a singles career have burned out. They just don't have the years of experience to develop the kind of consistency, trust, and unison skating that gold-medal-caliber skating requires. Many are also self-funded -- as NBC made clear last night, with references to Mark Ladwig's overdue mortgage payments and Jeremy Barrett's second career driving the Zamboni. I'm thrilled for the Chinese skaters and their coach, but I think it's pretty clear that elite pairs skating requires a more interventionist, less democratic approach.

And tonight, the men's short, featuring the Return of Sex Bomb Plushy, the always-entertaining, potentially-fur-wearing, Tanith-Belbin-roommate Johnny Weir, dark horse Jeremy Abbott, skating to bluesy music in a gorgeous short, and world champion Evan Lysacek. The US men have a real chance at the podium here, but it's a strong field.

One thing to look at is the number of quads. The skaters are really split between those who can quad and those who can't. In the former camp, Plushy, Jeremy Abbott, the Czech Republic's Tomas Verner, Brian Joubert, and Stephane Lambiel. In the latter, Evan Lysacek, Patrick Chan, Johnny Weir, and Nobunari Oda. Another thing to look at will be the transitions -- the little moves that skaters do before performing a jump or another required element. Abbott has beautiful transitions, which raise his scores. Plushy, by contrast, just jumps, and jumps, and jumps. (Note: waving your hands in the air does not usually count as a transition.) If Plushy is perfectly clean, he'll probably jump his way to victory. But if he stumbles, then another skater with fewer quads and a higher level of difficulty could sneak in.
** It's not in her contract that I have to call her that; I just like saying it.
THIS MIGHT BE THE DAY YOU FINALLY INVEST IN THE DUAL-TUNER TIVO: A two hour Hollywood Week episode of Idol, new Lost, Winter Olympic coverage including the men's figure skating short program and Lindsey Jacobellis' long-awaited return to women's snowboard demolition derby, and Best in Show night at the Westminster Kennel Club. How are you organizing your tv time tonight?
YET ANOTHER INSTALLMENT OF MY OCCASIONAL, INFERIOR ATTEMPTS TO RESURRECT NEWSQUIZ -- THE SQUEAKQUEL: You know the Rules by now. Just tell us who said this within the past week, and why:
Try to imagine Pegasus mating with a unicorn and the creature that they birth. I somehow tame it and ride it into the sky in the clouds and sunshine and rainbows. That’s what it feels like.
Your most funny, least accurate responses are welcome, and feel free to use those "like" buttons in the Comments to designate your favorites. And I like this quote so much that I think I'll enter as well.

updated, 5:30p: And your actual answer is ... American snowboarder Graham Watanabe, on how it felt to make the Olympic team in snowboard demolition derby. (He was eliminated in the octofinals yesterday.)

Monday, February 15, 2010

MOVE OVER, JOHNNY SWITCHBLADE: ADVENTURE PUNK: Is there a child in your life whom you loathe? If so, I'd like to recommend to you the worst toy in the entire world, KidzLabs' Dig-a-Dino Dinosaur Skeleton Excavation Kit. The concept is simple: use the tools provided to excavate dinosaur skeleton parts, then assemble them. Or, more accurately and without exaggeration, use a plastic knife and a nylon-tipped paint brush to turn a block of plaster with all the characteristics of solid rock into a gallon of asthma-exacerbating powder, then sift through for the fingernail-sized pieces necessary to assemble a rickety and ill-fitting model. In our house, it took two full hours of constant scraping for two adults to get all the dinosaur bones excavated. By the end, the digging tool was filed down to almost nothing. And I ended up with an arm so sore that I had to cut short my time in the gym the following day.

The package cautions, accurately and misleadingly, that the toy is "not for children under 3." It should have replaced "under 3" with "or adults." Because of the clever combination of sharp implement (the excavating tool) and heavy bludgeon (the plaster encasing the skeleton), I think the toy's highest and best use is as prison contraband.
I DON'T MEAN TO BUG YA: Jim DeRogatis, on the worst rock movies of all time. On Scorsese's The Last Waltz: "I’m from the punk era. I believe what’s great about rock ’n’ roll is community and the tearing down of boundaries. And the basic thrust of The Last Waltz is that these are superheroes so much better than you. Plus, it’s boring. It’s fun looking for the scenes where you can see the cocaine on Neil Young’s nose, but these guys are insufferable, and Robbie Robertson is the king of that."
EKATERINA GORDEEVA, COME ON BACK: In preparation for tonight's Olympic pairs figure skating long program, ALOTT5MA Award-Winning Correspondent Gretchen reviews last night's short program:
Last night, the short program in pairs figure skating demonstrated just how good the best figure skaters in the world really are -- and how far the rest of the field has to go. Chinese pairs Shen and Zhao set the bar with the very first program of the night. While I wasn't particularly moved by the performance (and affirmatively hated the arrangement of "Who Wants To Live Forever"), their extraordinary execution, including perfect unison on jumps and turns, crisp throws, and clean lifts, made everyone else look a little shabby for the rest of the night. The other highlight was Savchenko and Szolkowy. I love their skating and their theatricality -- on a night where everyone was telling love stories, it was great to see a pair embrace unusual costuming and emotions. By contrast, both American pairs were enthusiastic, energetic, and charming -- but not in the same league as the gold medal contenders. (Both American pairs, however, chose great music -- especially Evora and Ludwig, with themes from the score of Love Actually.)

Going into tonight's finals, the real question is whether the judges will be able to stomach a podium without a gold for a Russian team. Kavaguti (the Japanese woman who gave up her Japanese citizenship to become a Russian pairs skater) and Smirnov are probably the best-placed of the Russians to pull off a medal. Their highest score for the free program in international competition was a 139.23, at the European championships, which (though probably inflated) is consistent with the Shen/Zhao all-time high of 138.89. (By contrast, the highest score Canadian skaters Dube and Davison have ever pulled off was a 124.12.) Kavaguti and Smirnov are also coached by the legendary Tamara Moskvina, whom the judges adore (or fear). But none of the Russians are really dominant favorites -- and Chinese skaters Zhang and Zhang or Pang and Tong could make a run at the podium. And if the judges continue to prop up the Canadians, as they did with Dube and Davison's component scores, it's possible that we'd see a non-Russian gold medalist for the first time in twelve years.
Feel free to live-blog in the comments during tonight's competition.

added: Related -- Sarah Stodola on why Russian male figure skaters are such heartthrobs compared to their American counterparts.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

THEY CLEARLY DON'T KNOW HOW TO PAINT: After 14 previous seasons of The Amazing Race (we don't count the Family Edition). you'd think teams understand that reading the instructions might be important during a racearoundtheworld. We saw more dumb mistakes during this leg of the Race than we have in quite some time, and if there's one thing I don't like on my Race it's bad racing. Seriously, Bertram van Munster: how about casting people for the show on the basis of who'd be really good at it, rather than on whose backstory seems most interesting?

[Also, a first on the Race: the 15 minute penalty. Let us never see it again.]

You may have favorites (or hateds) already; you may have nicknames for them which we can spread across the Internets. (Fienberg's getting started.) Do share.
FINALLY ALL THOSE EROTIC DREAMS I HAVE HAD INVOLVING FRANKLIN PIERCE CAN BE EXPLAINED: In honor of the day we honor all our commanders in chief by appropriating their images to shill for cars and bargain furniture, Nerve has ranked all 43 U.S. presidents in order of sexiness from Nixon to Teddy Roosevelt, who surprisingly finishes just ahead of JFK and Obama for the top spot.
THE WORST CASE BLAMING THE VICTIM SINCE HITLER ACCUSED POLAND OF "DRESSING REALLY SLUTTY": The death of Georgian luge athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili? According to the International Luge Federation's swift determination, it's all his own damn fault, with no responsibility ascribed to the track's ultra-fast design or the organizers' refusal to give international competitors a fair opportunity to practice on it.

[My side Olympics question: in all these X-Games events, how are we supposed to know which jumps and flips are the most impressive to judges? I was watching the women's freestyle moguls last night, and had no idea whether a "helicopter turn" is better than a backflip and whatnot. It all looks dangerous and ligament-destroying to me.]