Saturday, October 30, 2010

WHAT'CHA DOIN'?  The NYT explores how Nickelodeon is battling with the Disney juggernaut on TV.
THE MASTER: Biographer Robert Caro turns 75 today.  According to an interview he did with Charlie Rose last year, we should be seeing the fourth and final volume of The Years of Lyndon Johnson at some point in 2012 -- and if there's a more (and longer-) anticipated work of nonfiction out there, I don't know what it is.  (The first three volumes were published in 1982, 1990 and 2002.)

For some forty years, he has made his life's work illuminating the way in which power functions -- through Johnson and NYC's Robert Moses (The Power Broker) -- and I cannot begin to express how indebted to him we all are.  If there's anyone here who has not read all four of Caro's books yet, please stop reading this blog, buy them, read them and come back here in a few months when you're done.  Seriously.

Friday, October 29, 2010

"NOT REALLY SOBBING. MORE LIKE A GOOD 'SPORTS CRY.'"  A Texas attorney sought permission of the Court to continue a conference scheduled for Game 1 of the World Series.  Motion granted.
A BREATHTAKING PORTRAIT OF THE END OF DAYS: I like zombies, and I like TV, so I -- ouch, what the -- was already pretty excited for Sunday's premiere of AMC's Walking Dead, which is basically the next Mad Men, except that the style is tattered instead of retro and Pete Campbell is decaying and people order their scotch with grey matter, not ice. Then I saw the fan-made unofficial credits, and my excitement boiled over into a, I don't know, a dull, aching hunger, a hunger, a hurrrrrrrr hurrrrr


Thursday, October 28, 2010

"I JUST HAVE A BAD FEELING," O'BRIEN SAID. "I JUST THINK JAY'S GOING TO HURT ME IN SOME WAY."   Finally, (an excerpt from) an excerpt from the impending Bill Carter book for which you've been waiting:
“I know how hard I worked for this,” Conan told the NBC executives. “It was promised to me. I had a shitty lead-in.” His tone was soft, but the words were clipped. Graboff knew this was Conan in the raw, speaking from the heart. ...

Conan listened to Gaspin, still with a faraway look in his eye. Finally he did have something he really wanted to say, something that was all but burning a hole in his chest. “What does Jay have on you?” Conan asked, his voice still low, his tone still even. “What does this guy have on you people? What the hell is it about Jay?”

Neither of the NBC executives had an answer and cast their heads down. Conan thought they were working at looking sympathetic, following some lesson that had been taught at corporate school.
One nice detail: part of what informs O'Brien's suspicions is the Leno-in-the-closet story that Carter broke in his first telling of the Late Night Wars.  This VF excerpt also gets into the making of O'Brien's public statement, which we discussed back in January with reference to another Carter excerpt (from the last book).
IMPORTANT: DENG PICKED ME UP IN #2605 AT 12:35 P.M.: Tapping into the ALOTT5MA hive mind here with a travel-related question: Why do blank cab receipts have all the wrong information? There's no room for the passenger's name or a client billing number/identifier, but there are always blanks for cab number, driver name, and time. Are there not enough billable-hour lawyers and consultants and accountants taking cabs to make a client-identifier field useful?

(If you can answer that one, then move on to the bonus round: what malformed person designed the Delta seat backs -- fence-post upright with a sack of rice bolted right where your head should go?)
DATING WITHOUT PITY: In a rare (at least in recent vintage) new media to old media transition, Sarah Bunting (formerly of TWOP) has joined Time Out New York as their new dating advice columnist.
ONE DOWN, THREE TO GO: Not too much to say about the, er, 11-7 pitching duel between Lincecum and Lee. Except to say this (NSFW):

HANGING ON IN QUIET DESPERATION: Having played Tim Canterbury (of The Office, original version), Arthur Dent (Hitchhiker's Guide), and now Dr. Watson (updated Sherlock), is Martin Freeman currently the Britishest working actor?
DON'T TELL HIS HEART, HIS ACHY BREAKY HEART: With news that Billy Ray Cyrus and his wife are splitting, this raises the question of where on the curve of teen stardom (colloquially known in some circles as "The Lohan Curve") Miley is. Miley hasn't reached the Mean Girls level in terms of general popularity (and frighteningly, Mean Girls 2 arrives next year, without any of the original cast/crew involved), but is she primed for a fall? Are we due for an overly literal song from Miley about dealing with her parents' divorce?

HT to Gawker for reminding me of the Lohan video.
FIVE PART HARMONY AND FEELING: Here, for your late-night noodling enjoyment and/or work-day procrastination is something truly amazing: a moment with one foot in the '70s and the other in the '80s; a highly choreographed yet not ready for prime time presentation, seemingly equal parts We Are The World and TMBG's Prosthetic Foreheads, at once earnestly messianic and undeniably absurd; something I've been looking for (perhaps every 18 months or so) on the internet ever since I first set up an account with, and that the gods of Youtube have finally delivered in greater glorious detail than I had any right to expect.

This is the great grand-daddy -- the all-singing, all-dancing, Shai-Hulud of ear-worms.

Ladies and Gentlemen, a 1982 performance of Human Sexual Response's utterly gobsmacking song, Land Of The Glass Pinecones:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

YOUR TIME HAS COME TO SHINE:  Y'know how it's often said that book reviews are often more about the reviewer than the book?  I don't mind it when it comes to Paul Simon's NYTBR review of a compilation of Stephen Sondheim's work, where Simon shares:
I saw “West Side Story” when I was 16 years old, and I have two vivid memories of the show. One, I didn’t believe for a minute that the dancers were anything like the teenage hoods I knew from the street corner, and secondly, I was completely overwhelmed by the beauty of the song “Maria.” It was a perfect love song. Sondheim was less enamored with the lyric he wrote for Bernstein. He describes it as having a kind of “overall wetness” — “a wetness, I regret to say, which persists throughout all the romantic lyrics in the show.” Sondheim’s rule, taught to him by his mentor, Oscar Hammerstein II, is that the book and composer are better served by lyrics that are “plainer and flatter.” It is the music that is meant to lift words to the level of poetry.

Sondheim’s regret about “Maria” reminded me of my own reluctance to add a third verse to “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” I thought of the song as a simple two-verse hymn, but our producer argued that the song wanted to be bigger and more dramatic. I reluctantly agreed and wrote the “Sail on silvergirl” verse there in the recording studio. I never felt it truly belonged. Audiences disagreed with both Sondheim and me. “Maria” is beloved, and “Sail on silvergirl” is the well-known and highly anticipated third verse of “Bridge.” Sometimes it’s good to be “wet.”
Simon explained to Playboy back in 1984, as it turns out: "It was about [then-girlfriend Peggy Harper, later his first wife], whom I was living with at the time: Sail on, silver girl ... / Your time has come to shine was half a joke, because she was upset one day when she had found two or three gray hairs on her head."

[Another interesting (and true) quote from that fascinating interview: "I don't think that Simon and Garfunkel as a live act compares to Simon and Garfunkel as a studio act. In terms of performing, I've never really been comfortable being a professional entertainer. For me, it's a secondary form of creativity. I'm not a creative performer. I'm a reproducer onstage of what I've already created. I guess everyone who goes on the stage is exhibitionistic, but there are limits to what I'll do to make a crowd respond."]
NEW SHIT HAS COME TO LIGHT:  Jeff Bridges to host SNL on December 18.  Among other things, at 27+ years since hosting gigs he'll smash the 23+ year gap record just set by Sigourney Weaver earlier this year.
SURVEY SAYS!  Tell us the worst thing that's ever happened to you because of an allergic reaction to medication.

That any of our sensible and intelligent readership might have checked out Black Sheep a few weeks ago, whether on my feeble recommendation or because someone switched DVDs on you at the video store when you weren’t looking, seems not too terribly probable. Anyone that did, as much as or as little as they might have enjoyed themselves, was probably left asking: “What if…?”

What if the makers of Black Sheep hadn’t resorted to camp?

What if they hadn’t played it for laughs?

What if they’d set out to make a really horrifying film instead of just a "scary movie"?

What if they didn’t stop with creature shop prostheses and splatter but went all out and got real intimate and viscous and pointy and Cronenbergy about things? (I’ve lost my copy of the ALOTT5MA Manual of Style, so maybe that should be “Cronenbergian”. Not “Cronenbergesque” though. No. No indeed.)

And what if they’d set it in Ireland with cows instead of New Zealand with sheep?

In that (those) event(s), the movie in question would have been the deadly well done and so far under-appreciated if by no means groundbreaking 2005 Irish Film Board effort Isolation, the story of a near-broke Irish rancher who rents his operation out to a not-ready-for-prime-time geneticist, thereby putting himself, his stock, his large animal veterinarian, and a pair of caravan gypsy fugitives squatting near his property in peril of being consumed by the mutant offspring of tough economic times and secrets man was not meant to know. It's dark, tense, drippy, and sticky, with cringe and jump-factors that will remind you (if you like this genre of film) why you like this genre of film. It's the 28 Days Later to Black Sheep's Dead Alive, if that means anything to you. If it doesn't, likely best you stay away.

In closing, let’s be clear that I’m not recommending this movie. Not because I didn't like it, but because it’s just not the sort of thing one recommends (without the excuse of a semi-scientific algorithm that automatically generates recommendations from previously expressed preferences submitted willingly by the recommendee, thereby insuring that it’s their own silly fault).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

HIT THE RASTAMAN, HE SAID "BLOODCLOT":  Since 1984, twenty-four New Yorkers have been killed or seriously wounded in egg-throwing-related incidents during the Halloween season.

Your safe ways to enjoy drive-by eggings: video, sample-annotated lyrics.  Also, some good news -- MCA (Adam Yauch) has recovered from his cancer scare, and the Beastie Boys will have a new album in Spring 2011.
IN THE TERRITORIO LIBRE:  Singing the National Anthem at the first two games of the World Series are soul singer John Legend and country trio Lady Antebellum, neither of whom have any connection whatsoever to San Francisco.  The SF Chronicle's Justin Berton has a much better idea:
Lawrence Ferlinghetti reads the national anthem: The poet and activist would need no musical accompaniment or fireworks, he just gets up at a podium - cup of coffee in hand optional - and dramatically reads the anthem. Put images of other great beat poets on the big screen. Instead of a deafening squadron of F-18s, a single dove flies overhead.
PUNDITRY: Lookout Landing's annual analytical World Series preview. Gets me every year.
YOU SHOULD HAVE LISTENED WHEN TPE SAID TO FEAR THE BEARD: The San Francisco Giants' Mike Brian Wilson -- he of the Game of Thrones beard -- gives good interview. (A little old, judging from the beard length, but I just saw it.)
DON DRAPER ALWAYS WINS: How does the cast of Mad Men pass the long hours between shots on set at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce? Playing board games, including, most amusingly, 1960: The Making Of The President.

ETA: Some fine Brits have restyled the Mad Men characters into Mr. Men.
MAKE YOUR OWN KIND OF MUSIC SHOW: While Fox seems committed to making Idol even more populist and tween/Bieber-driven and NBC is happy with America's Got Talent as something of a mid-market affair centering on "she can actually sing!" Susan Boyle-type scenarios, there's arguably an upscale talent show niche out there, and according to EW, Bravo is going there, with some interesting twists:
  • All songs will be original and will have to cover a wide range of genres, "everything from dance tracks to love ballads."
  • No viewer voting--like Bravo's other reality competition shows, elimination will be entirely judge-based. No Sanjayas.
  • Your head judge? Kara DioGuardi (filling the Tom Collichio role, it seems). Filling the Padma Lakshmi/Heidi Klum host/judge role will be Jewel. Remaining judges will apparently be a rotating cast of famous folks.
Certainly, this is more interesting and challenging than Idol, and certainly the revised Idol where contestants can stay in their comfort zone for the entire season, but I'm concerned it might be almost too hard--"you have 4 hours--write and perform a country song" seems even harder than "you have 2 hours and $200 at Gristedes to make a dress."
HE'S NOT HOT FOR YOU (3X): In his (paywalled) review of Keith Richards' memoir, the New Yorker's David Remnick asserts that "The Stones have not written a song of consequence in thirty years."  Really?  "Thru and Thru," anyone?  (And did Remnick specify "written" as opposed to "performed" to excuse his love for "Harlem Shuffle" and its douchetastic video?)
GUILTY GUILTY GUILTY: 40 years ago today, Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury arrived in papers, and apart from a hiatus in 1983-84, has been a continuous fixture since. In honor of the anniversary, Slate has the full 14,600 strip archive open to the general public for the next couple of weeks, and provides 200 particularly memorable strips as an entry point. There are a lot of impressive things about Doonesbury and Trudeau's work--the evolution of his art from the rough pencils of the early days to the highly detailed work we see now, how he has created a finely intertwined group of characters and aged them (at least after the hiatus, when he moved away from Walden College and introduced a broader universe), and how he's been willing to break down barriers about the types of characters we see in the comics.

Monday, October 25, 2010

AS BEYONCE SANG, IF YOU LIKE IT ...  While it didn't receive a ton of comments, my recent post about "Adam's penis" didn't generate any negative feedback either.  So, I wondered, does that mean I finally can cross the "diamond-encrusted cock-rings" threshold in a subsequent post?  I asked at the ALOTT5MA Standards & Practices Desk, and none of my co-bloggers expressed any problem with my blogging about "diamond-encrusted cock-rings," which is good because that means we can talk about what Eminem gifted Elton John and David Furnish with to celebrate their union, because you'll never guess in a million years what it was.

For more on cock rings, see this Mr. Show featured video.

N.B. The ALOTT5MA Style Guide, 5th Edition does not note any preference between "cock ring," "cock-ring" and "cockring".
Y'KNOW, IT'S NOT FAIR PEOPLE ARE SEATED 'FIRST COME, FIRST SERVED. IT SHOULD BE BASED ON WHO'S HUNGRIEST. I FEEL LIKE JUST GOING OVER THERE AND TAKING SOME FOOD OFF SOMEBODY'S PLATE:   Can basic economics concepts be taught via judicious use of Seinfeld clips?  These folks think so, and have tagged clips based on concepts including asymmetric information and the Coase theorem.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

KEEF:  If you're not planning on reading the new Keith Richards memoir and have trouble looking at his face in HD during all the publicity, the Guardian (UK) summarizes twenty key facts to be learned from the book.
I BLAME KATY PERRY: Seems like at least one Elmo has started misbehaving.
DYNASTY DEFERRED:  First off, hats off to the San Francisco Giants and their fans.  You earned these wins through clutch hitting and pitching which held out bats at bay, and as much as many in the Delaware Valley would like to attribute this result to a lack of talent/clutchiness/whatever on our team's part, the Giants pitchers are at least equally culpable in inducing said lack of awesomeness.

And this remains a damn good Phillies team, and sadly one which we're likely to never see reconstituted in this form again. Jayson Werth is likely gone, and his replacement will not match him in moxie and bearditude.  But that's it -- all the other core players will be back.

Yes, I'm disappointed about this result.  I'm disappointed in the weakness of our bench, a question for which "Ross Gload" ws not an answer.  I'm disappointed in how sloppy the fielding was this series.  I'm disappointed in the failure to drive in runs when the situations presented themselves.  And I'm prematurely disappointed in the Philadelphia fanbase for what's going to be a  long winter of turning Ryan Howard into the next Donovan McNabb, designated for Azazel to take on all the team's collective sins.  Make no mistake: it will be ugly, and it is unearned.

Making the playoffs requires having a talented team.  Winning in the playoffs requires them to be playing at the height of their talents come October.  In 2008, the Phillies did; in 2010 they didn't, and many months will now be spent ascribing excessive meaning as to why, until pitchers and catchers report and hope begins anew.

In the meantime, I'm going to try to enjoy whatever baseball we've got left.