Saturday, March 20, 2010

WHAT WAS WRONG WITH DOGFISH HEAD'S RPI? The Washington Post twists open a 32-brew Beer Madness competition (though a weak Lager bracket), while ArtsJournal is running its Greatest Living American Abstract Painter Tourney-ish, with a rather nasty Jasper Johns-Cy Twombly matchup still to be voted on in the opening round.
ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING: Given that Fox fills 3 of its 15 hours of primetime already with musical shows, the idea of doing an all-musical week keyed to the return of Glee, is easier for them than it might otherwise be. Details on Fringe: The Musical are already leaking, and the idea of a musical episode of House is either intriguing or frightening, depending on how it's executed. (Since we all know Laurie can sing, and RSL played Harold Hill on Broadway a few years back, they have at least some chops in the area.)
BANDS START UP EACH AND EVERY DAY: Continuing our non-stop completely stoppable coverage of the Pavement reunion tour, today comes word of the must-read Chuck Klosterman piece on the band in the current GQ. (Yes, same issue with the interview with America's favorite new-agey campaign documentarian.)

Among other notes, Klosterman learns (as we knew in June 2005) that Stephen Malkmus is a fantasy sports junkie, Malkmus answers Isaac's December 2007 question on what the hell's up with his lyrics ("Even though we don't have classic, Bob Dylan lyrics, I think they have a tone that holds up better and is less cringeworthy than most other lyric writing. I don't think any of my lyrics are literal. The way somebody's voice sounds is much more important than how meaningful the words are."), and discusses whether having Slanted and Enchanted called "brilliant" changed the way he thought of it:
"Of course it does, in a way. But no matter how much positive feedback you get, it's never enough," Malkmus says. "I'm not a particularly needy person, but it always seems like every review could be better. With a record like Slanted and Enchanted, that was so much a timing thing, along with the fact that its flaws are a big part of what makes it good. It's not like some Radiohead record, where the whole thing is good. Our records aren't good in that way. Our records are more attitude and style, sort of in a punk way. We're good in the same way the Strokes are good. I think Slanted and Enchanted probably is the best record we made, only because it's less self-conscious and has an unrepeatable energy about it."
Below the fold, watch vintage footage of Pavement on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno from 1994, and decide for yourself: "Was Malkmus acting consciously weird given the clash between his band's indie aesthetic and the surroundings, or was he just completely high?" Also, Pavement meets Beavis and Butthead:

Friday, March 19, 2010

EVER HEARD OF IT? Congratulations to the Cornell Big Red, the first Ivy League men's basketball team to win in the NCAA Tournament since the Goodrich/Lewullis/Earl-led Princeton Tigers entered the tournament as a #5 seed in 1998.

Complaints about your busted brackets may be lodged here.

added: The Gus Johnson Soundboard.
AND IT'S NOT EVEN THAT BIG OF A DEAL, SOMETHING LIKE 8 PERCENT OF KIDS DO IT: On a scale of 1 to 10 where '10' indicates "much more likely" and '1' indicates 'there is no chance in hell I will see this now,' how do you respond to the news that Jonah Hill will appear fully nude in Get Him To The Greek, his spinoff-not-a-sequel to Forgetting Sarah Marshall with America's Favorite Satyr Russell Brand hitting screens this June?
THAT'S MY NAME: The AV Club's Scott Tobias inducts Glengarry Glen Ross into The New Cult Canon:
The genius of Mamet’s play is that it’s about honor without honor. It follows beleaguered salesmen who by trade have to manipulate people and lie to them in order to get through the day. And it’s a credit to Mamet that they have our sympathy from the start, so much so that we’re rooting for them to pull one over on their innocent clients just to get their names on the sales board. In fact, I’m guessing it may not be until the play or movie is over that viewers become conscious of how much time their heroes spend lying in the name of business. That’s because we know the rules of capitalism, too: Get them to sign on the line which is dotted. Whatever small measure of honor can be extracted from this life—and the men in Glengarry Glen Ross do have codes, and are essentially decent, thieves though they may be—is precious but transcendent, because it’s all that separates them from the executive despots and their sadistic sales contests.
Favorite line/scene/aspect other than the Baldwin speech? I'll always remember this film fondly for being the first to make me aware of Kevin Spacey, being so impressed by how he held his own against some pretty titanic actors.

That only Pacino was even nominated for an Oscar (Supporting) can be attributed to how tough a year it was in the categories -- Hackman (Unforgiven), Jaye Davidson (The Crying Game) and Nicholson (A Few Good Men) in supporting along with, um, David Paymer (Mr. Saturday Night); with Pacino himself winning for lead (Scent of a Woman, sigh) over Denzel Washington (Malcolm X), Steven Rea (The Crying Game), Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven) and Robert Downey Jr. (Chaplin).

Thursday, March 18, 2010

ROTISSERIE - IT'S NOT JUST FOR KENNY ROGERS ANYMORE: All twelve league owners from last year's A League With Thrown Baseballs II have opted to return, but in the interests of increased competition and bonhomie we've decided to expand it anyway to include up to 16 teams in our 5x5, head to head format. Details are as follows:
Draft: ESPN, live, Thursday April 1, 2010, 9pm EDT
Format: Weekly head-to-head matchups, one point for win in each category.
Scoring Categories: 5x5 -- OBP, HR, RBI, R, SB // W, K, SV, ERA, WHIP. Owners must have a minimum 5 GS weekly to qualify for points.
Please let us know if you're interested and we will arbitrarily decide who we can accommodate.

Previous champions: Dan Fienberg (2008), J. Bowman (2009).
DUH: I generally steer clear of these tabloid things, but I do have a hypothetical question: What do you expect when you marry someone who was just married to a porn star? Or, if you're on the fence about that one: What do you expect when you marry someone who was just married to a person who had a three-way sex tape with Vince Neil?
TIME SUCK OF THE DAY: Every issue of Spin Magazine ever is now online for free via Google Books. Go find us something good -- a Terence Trent D'Arby cover profile? Juliana Hatfield? A 1991 New Music Preview featuring Deee-Lite, Glenn Danzig, Alice in Chains, Monie Love, Primus, Soup Dragons and "also watch for" Teenage Fanclub, Blues Traveler and Gang Starr. Oh, yes.
MOVEMENT OF JAH PEOPLE: From Tuesday through March 29, a bunch of rabbis are tweeting the Exodus.

The WSJ has more on this and other efforts to modernize Passover.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

IF HE DIED IN MEMPHIS, THEN THAT'D BE COOL, BABE: Sad, sad news tonight--Alex Chilton is dead. He was 59 and the cause of death was an apparent heart attack. Chilton was known to many as the lead singer of the Box Tops, whose blue-eyed soul hit "The Letter" is a staple of oldies radio. But it was with his next band, Big Star, that Chilton had his biggest influence. The band had next to no commercial success in its time, but it influenced a generation of pop-rock bands most notably REM, the Replacements (who of course went so far as to record "Alex Chilton"), and Wilco, among thousands of others.

Don't take my word for it, though. Seek out some Big Star and I guarantee you will be enchanted. "September Gurls" is a great place to start, though you might prefer "In the Street" (aka the theme from "That '70s Show," albeit as covered by Cheap Trick). Or even better yet, let Sound Opinions' Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot guide you through Big Star's albums in this episode of their show from last fall.
IDOL IMMUNITY, BACK UP FOR GRABS: We'll talk about the results on the other side of the fold, but I can note non-spoilery that Idol Immunity is back this season but with a slightly-helpful twist: the to-be-eliminated singer now gets to choose what song to sing while the judges deliberate, and is not stuck with the song performed poorly enough the first time to merit elimination. That said ...
AREN'T THERE ENOUGH NEIL YOUNG MOVIES ALREADY? Jonathan Demme doesn't think so, so he's made another:

Q: The cameras linger on Young's face, and his hands. You made a movie about Neil Young's face.

A: Does everybody talk about guitar face, or is that just my wife? No one gives guitar face like Neil Young. And piano face! And I love him for that. He doesn't care what he looks like. Zero ego. This is actually something he said to me: "I don't have a bad side, because I don't have a good side."

Great interview. Also includes Demme's love of Upper Darby's Tower Theater, where the concert was filmed, and his work on an animated adaptation of Dave Eggers' Zeitoun.
A CONVERSATION BETWEEN A NARRATOR AND HIS SOON-TO-BE-EX-GIRLFRIEND: He rushed in, barely late, but she had already taken a table and summoned a drink. He slid in across from her and braced himself.

She had been preparing her speech for some time now, he could see that, so he spoke first, to unbalance her. "I know," he said.

Her eyes narrowed. "I just can't count on you," she said.

"Christ, I know," he sighed.

She measured her words, paying them out slowly. "You said you'd be different."

He rolled his eyes.

A moment later, she glanced at him -- undetected, she thought -- as he left. Now it's a pattern, she thought. Three in a row.

And then she was lonely and bitter for the rest of her sad, small life.
HANGIN’ WITH MR. COOPER: Now that’s exactly what I wanted from a flash-sideways. It told us something relevant about the alternate-world characters, it brought back some people I missed, it mentioned others, it gave us something to think about regarding the timeline (we know that the Linuses actually made it to the island, and it wouldn’t have made sense for them to go there if Pierre Chang/Marvin Candle weren’t there supervising the project; we’ve now also seen, in Los Angeles, two of the people who were born on the island before The Event), it started to weave together the divergent strands of the Oceanic passengers, and it worked as a stand-alone. I’m still waiting for Desmond, the constant, to show up in the flash-sidewayses to blow our minds with his out-of-timeliness, but if they’re all as good and useful as that one, the wait will be pleasant enough.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

GROTESQUE MUSIC, MILLION-DOLLAR SADBABY WON'T YOU KEEP ME HAPPY: It's "Stones Night: Male Edition" (yeah, that was wrong) on AI, which means that Adam is ceding primary recapping duties to me, one of those Rolling Stones fans who believes that the band didn't exist until 1968's "Beggars Banquet" and broke up after 1981's outtakes album, "Tattoo You." Feel free to comment below, and I'll be back after 10:00 Pacific Daylight (yay, Daylight Savings!) Time with my unfairly harsh criticisms. Sample: Casey James, you're no Mick Taylor!

ETA: After the jump: surprisingly few unfair criticisms!
THUNDERCATS, WHOA! In the category of "things that frighten and confuse me," James Lipton wrote the theme to Thundercats? Really?
ONE LAST CYCLE, THRILL FREAK UNCLE SAM // PAUSE FOR BUSINESS, HOPE YOU UNDERSTAND: The tier analysis is where my Idol kvetching begins -- it's not as important that the contestants are eliminated in exactly the right order as long as over the course of each multi-week period, the sets of ousters are more-or-less accurate. Based on what we've seen so far, here's how the final twelve ought to leave us:

Doesn't Belong Here, And Will Not Be Around By The End of Passover: Tim, Aaron, Paige

Could Linger For A While, But Each Seems Too Limited To Win: Didi, Lacey, Andrew

Will Go Even Longer Than Them, And We All Like Him, But He Ain't Winning Either: Big Mike

The Wild Cards With Serious Potential To Fulfill My Theory #2, and Believe Me Alex Lambert Would Have Been Listed Here With A Bullet: Lee, Katie

My Presumptive Final Three: Siobhan, Crystal, The Outlaw Casey James -- with Siobhan winning.

My theory on Crystal Bowersox is essentially that she's Melinda Doolittle 2.0 -- exceptionally poised, talented and ready. Will never screw up, and will always be in the A to B+ range of performances. But her genre isn't quite what the marketplace is seeking, and this competition will reward Siobhan's perceived growth/rise (because of her relative youth) more than Bowersox's every-week maturity and hyper-competence, even though The Pride of Marston Mills is plenty experienced herself.

Now let's see how wrong I can be. (Here's last year's initial tiers from when the competition was down to ten -- but given the change in wild card format we're dealing with similar levels of exposure now. And in 2008 at this very stage, I was very, very wrong.)

added: Alan Sepinwall with his own tier analysis. And Fienberg interviews the twelve. You'll never guess who said, in re "what's your dream theme week," the following: "I want to have a Disney theme week. Me being young, that's kind of a cliche for me to say, but I think it would be awesome to see everybody pick a Disney song and do it."
FLOWERS? As the old story goes, a tourist was once walking around in a small town in the Czech Republic and noticed a little store with a bunch of watches and clocks hanging in the window. The tourist walked in and asked, "Can you please fix my watch?"

The man behind the counter quickly responded "Sorry, but I don't repair watches." The tourist was confused. "You don't repair watches? But I saw all the watches and clocks in the window. What is this store?"

"I'm a mohel," the store owner quickly responded, puzzling the tourist even further. "If you are a mohel," he asked, "then why do you have watches hanging in the store front?"

"Well," he explained, "What do you want me to put in the window?"

And that's the story which came to mind when seeing today's Philadelphia Daily News article on "vaginal rejuvenation" surgery and its accompanying illustration.

added, relatedish: Our old friend Alex ("T-Muffle") Balk, on some newfangled tampon ad. (via @anamariecox)

Monday, March 15, 2010

MARCH MADNESS, THE SQUEAKQUEL: In an apparent effort to democratize its Sexiest Woman Alive franchise, Esquire is running its own bracket of races, with four "divisions" (music and fashion, television, sports, and movies)-- a few matchups of note:
  • Alessandria Ambrosio (2 seed) v. Miranda Kerr (15 seed)--A legit shot for a 15/2 upset there, I think.
  • Blake Lively (1 seed) v. Heidi Klum (16 seed)--Lively has a tough road for a top seed, given how tough the "region" is, potentially having to beat out 8 seed Minka Kelly, and 4 seed Christina Hendricks as well as Klum just to make it to the Elite 8.
  • Christina Hendricks (4 seed) v. January Jones (13 seed)
  • Anne Hathaway (8 seed) v. Rachel McAdams (9 seed)--these two have a tough first round matchup, but then face the winner of Megan Fox/Helen Mirren, which could lead to a #1 being bounced early.
  • The other two top seeds are Beyonce and Natalie Gulbis.
This seems worthy of serious bracketology analysis.
HI, WE'RE THE REPLACEMENTS: In conjunction with tonight's induction ceremonies, the Boston Herald's Ira Kantor lists the 15 most egregious omissions from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, an interesting (Heart, The Commodores, Neil Diamond) but more mainstream list than the list of 25 deserving non-inductees we posted in January 2009.
DETOUR: MACHINE GUN CHARGE OR SEVENTEEN MONTHS STANDING KNEE DEEP IN MUD, FECES, AND HUMAN REMAINS: Dumb mistakes, odd strategy choices, brilliant visuals, and an in situ Philimination, what more could you want?

First, I thought the bus was going to be a dreadfully unnecessary bunch, but given the cost of staging the main event, all was forgiven. The baguette-to-battlefield stage was fairly standard stuff (N.B.: if someone hands you something that isn't a yellow and black envelop, open it anyway), but the battlefield made for terrific visuals. The 100 yard crawl was the obviously-better task (relying, yet again, on the basic ALOTT5MA maxim) and actually - with a Fokker DrI and a French airplane (which looked more like a mid-1920s DeHavilland than anything authentic used by the French) strafing the plane - looked like quite a bit of fun.

I do not understand the logic of doing a blind U-turn on someone when you are at the front of the pack and have at least a two-hour lead. Still, if you are going to try to eliminate someone, sticking them into that challenge was the way to do it. At one point in my life, I had morse code memorized and could probably have keyed out three to five words per minute and understood it at a rate of about two wpm. Even with that, I could not have made up time on the belly crawl. It's an art. And probably works better if you wear arm garters and spats.

The task was not undoable, however. There are breaks at the beginning of the message and between each letter. The first trick would have been to identify the number of letters, then break it down from there. Joe et ux figured out how to break it down eventually, but they were doomed by then. The speed bump was harder than the Sauna Bus, to be sure, but not hard enough that it made passing a struggling team impossible.

On the back end, the bicycle ride was cute but changed nothing. Next week, some sort of needle-in-a-vineyard challenge.

NO OMEN BUT HIS COUNTRY'S CAUSE: For much of the first half of Episode One of The Pacific, uncleverly entitled "Episode One," the show lives up to its title, both as a noun and an adjective. Once we get through the ritual (but still affecting) goodbyes and the familiar scenes of nervous men cabined on overcrowded ships, the Marines are put ashore on Guadalcanal expecting what would later come true at Normandy, but instead find a tropical paradise occupied, at least at the beaches, only by other Marines. The Marines move inland, through a lush forest where the stillness begins to become a burden, until finally they find the first of what I imagine will be a long series of tit-for-tat savageries. And then, the pacific part of the Pacific having been dismissed, there's the battle (confusing, as always), and the aftermath, and the letter-home voiceover.

In other words, Band of Brothers. It's not a comparison the series is resisting. The episode opens with the BoB-style interviews with veterans (after Hanks's From the Earth to the Moon-style voice-over), then cuts into what is either the BoB theme or something identical, with the swelling strings that disappear into a somber french horn riff. But who would want to distance oneself from BoB, a series that deserves its place alongside the greatest seasons of HBO's modern dramas? If the goal of this series were to be 3/4 as good as that one, it would be enough.

And yet, there was at least one surprise -- a view of a Japanese soldier that was none of the three stereotypes one tends to see in war movies (crafty villain; cartoon assassin; noble adversary), performed jarringly naturalistically. So that was nice.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

CAN THE FIGHTING IRISH DEFEAT A MONARCH? Our annual ESPN NCAA Tournament Bracket Challenge is now open -- group name: "ALOTT5MA". Last year's winner was J. Bowman.

Your thoughts on the bracket are, of course, welcome.

added: Dan Levy has some thoughts on the times and announcing crews, including an underwhelming Gus Johnson subregional and -- shockers -- Jim Nantz getting a Duke game in prime time.
THAT'S CLARENCE OVEUR. OVER. Actor Peter Graves -- star of tv's Mission Impossible, host of AMC's Biography series and co-star of the Airplane movies -- has died at the age of 83.
THAT'S RIGHT, TOODIE. I AM: ALOTT5MA Fave Anthony Bourdain, two items.

1. In an NYT Mag article on the rise to whatever-she-is-now of Gwynneth's friend The Lovely Katie Lee Joel:
“Why people want to watch people cooking and eating on TV — I’m still trying to figure that out,” says Anthony Bourdain, a longtime restaurant chef whose phenomenally successful best seller, “Kitchen Confidential,” became his pivot into information-packed food-travel shows. “In the beginning,” he adds, harking back to Julia Child and even Emeril Lagasse, “some believable ability with food, some kind of credential, was at least implied.” He doesn’t think that’s the case anymore, and says, “Just as teenage girls need nonthreatening teen idols, whether they sing or appear in vampire movies, America clearly needs likable people who appear in the kitchen.”
2. When Gabbaland's Toodie isn't feeling well, Dr. Tony makes housecalls with perhaps the greatest line reading since Alec Baldwin intoned about his deity status in Malice. Video below the fold: