Saturday, November 13, 2010

FREE THE CITIZENS OF PAWNEE: Part of NBC's rationale for the "Leno at 10" experiment was research which said that viewers wanted to see more comedy at 10 PM. Recent launches indicate that this may be the case--light, jokey, character-driven procedurals like Castle, Hawaii Five-0, and The Mentalist are among the bigger hits to launch in 10 PM timeslots in recent years. That said EW is reporting that NBC is contemplating a 3 hour comedy block on Thursdays for the first time in years on Thursdays come Spring, with Parks and Recreation and new Olivia Munn series Perfect Couples joining the four shows already there, with 30 Rock and Outsourced moving to the 10 PM slot. I think there's a very real opportunity there--I find Mentalist to be a bore, and while Private Practice has been quite solid this year (KaDee Strickland has been particularly great with a very challenging plotline)--but both are pretty heavy, and I think something lighter could find an audience there.

Friday, November 12, 2010

NOT TO GOOD TO SWIPE AN NBA FRANCHISE, TOO GOOD FOR THE LINGERIE FOOTBALL LEAGUE: I'm not sure if there is a particular limiting principle regarding sports franchises on display here, but Oklahoma City doesn't want to host a franchise of the Lingerie Football League.
AND I'M LIKE [EXPLETIVE DELETED] YOU: This year's nominees for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Expurgation of a Cee-Lo Green song are:
Vote in the comments (though let's avoid getting political, mmmkay?).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

25 YEARS AGO TODAY, I STOPPED BEING A HOCKEY FAN:   25 years ago today, Flyers goalie Pelle Lindbergh died when, as today's Philadelphia Daily News recalls, his "$117,300 Porsche 930 hit a wall in Somerdale, N.J., at 5:41 a.m. doing 80 mph. Lindbergh had been drinking with his Flyers teammates at the after-hours bar above the team's practice rink in Voorhees. His blood-alcohol level was 0.24, well above New Jersey's legal limit of 0.10 at the time."  Lindbergh was 26 years old.  I was 13, too damn sad to think of watching a hockey game again anytime soon, and scared enough that I didn't touch a drop of alcohol until Admitted Students Weekend at Amherst four-plus years later.

The Inquirer has more remembrances from his teammates.
COME ON DOWN, YOU GOT IT IN YA, YOU GOT TO SCRAPE THAT SHIT RIGHT OFF YOUR SHOES: I need your group help with a solution to a cleaning problem. Yesterday, leaving work in the dark, I stepped in something foul.* One of my dress shoes -- the nice ones, not the ones I tend to beat up -- got it all over. I went back to the office bathroom and washed the shoe (upper, sole, and heel) for 10 or 15 minutes, first with water, then with soap and water, scrubbing with paper towels the whole time, including in the seams. When I got home, I washed it again. Then, before going to bed, I wiped it down with a half-canister of Method wipes. Today, I scrubbed it with a toothbrush, and then I dipped the toothbrush in vinegar and scrubbed it with that. Then I wiped it down with Windex.

It still smells. The soft leather sole smells, the hard rubber heel smells, and the patent leather upper smells. Although it has accumulated the smells of Method wipes, Windex, and vinegar, the original smell remains the most powerful.

Is there anything that can rescue these shoes, or do I just have to throw them out? They're really nice shoes.

*I've spared you the disgusting details up here, but if you're really interested, they're after the jump.
COME FLY WITH ME:  The musical adaptation of Steven Spielberg's so-damn-fun Catch Me If You Can, after encouraging previews in Seattle, will be opening on Broadway this spring and its just-announced talent pool contains many familiar names in these parts: Aaron Tveit (Next to Normal, Wicked, the NPH Rent this summer) in the Leonardo DiCaprio role co-starring with Norbert Leo Butz (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Wicked) as the FBI agent portrayed by Tom Hanks. (And, yes, both men played Fiyero.) Also featuring Tom Wopat as the dad, Kerry Butler (Hairspray's original Penny, Xanadu, Beauty and the Beast) as the love interest, and Linda Hart (Hairspray's original Velma von Tussle - Miss Baltimore Crab 1930) as her mom.

Book by Terrence McNally, music by Marc Shaiman and music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, and if you're seeing a lot of Hairspray alums here, you won't be shocked to see Jack O’Brien as the director and Jerry Mitchell doing choreography as well.  Three actual song titles and one fake:  "Fifty Checks," "The Jet Set," "The Man Inside The Clues," "(Don't Wanna Be) Louisiana Barred."

Also, this trivia via Wiki: the film's original cast had James Gandolfini instead of Hanks, Ed Harris instead of Christopher Walken and Chloe Sevigny in place of Amy Adams.
"INCURABLY CORRUPT":  The WaPo's Sally Jenkins decries the BCS for creating a college athletics universe of economic haves and have-nots, and calls upon Congress to kill it by treating BCS bowl money as taxable income to the schools.  (That the BCS also fails to crown a legitimate national champion is mentioned in passing, but isn't so much her point.)
FIVE PART HARMONY AND FEELING: Alright, alright, there's not a lot of harmony here, but oh, what a feeling!

If you're from the '90s*, and have The Metal Gene (speed or grunge variants), you'll remember Helmet. They're still around, or back, with changed personnel, but it's the old Helmet that really did it for me. The original Helmet, John Stanier's Helmet, had drumming like automatic weapon fire, like an odd number of metronomes amped up on a cocktail of meth and semi-effective anti-psychotics and layered beneath an irresistible roar that worked to give psychological validity and something like the authority of myth to lyrics that, presented straight, wouldn't have drawn a B- from the creative writing proctor in your Freshman English class. That Helmet. This Helmet:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

HAVE I FALLEN SO FAR AND IS THE HOUR SO LATE? For those of us who play fantasy football, this is an odd moment. We're all 9/13 of the way through our regular seasons, yet the actual football regular season is only at the halfway point, with 28/32 NFL teams having played just eight games so far.  So in one sense it feels very late, but there is so much football left to be played.
ORANGE MOCHA FRAPPUCCINO:  Ever wonder what happens to you if you drive away from a gas station with the gas pump still in your tank?  The New York Times talks to gas station owners and insurers to find out.
THE TRUTH IS, SHE DIDN'T EVEN NEED THE 'L':  Chris Jones, the Esquire writer who this summer investigated the guy who had the perfect Showcase Showdown bid on The Price Is Right, explains exactly how Caitlin Burke knew what she was doing on Wheel of Fortune:
When Burke first sees a puzzle, she immediately begins breaking it down into smaller pieces — "chunks," she calls them. Each word becomes its own miniature puzzle. In Burke's case, she was given a couple of leads during the Prize Puzzle of last Friday's episode. The third word was a single-letter word, which had to be either A or I. And more important, there was that apostrophe in the opening three-letter word, between the first and second letters.

Of the few hundred thousand words in the English language, only two — I'VE and I'LL — fit that construction. Which meant the single-letter word was almost certainly A. The first phrase that popped into Burke's head while she hoped for her turn at the wheel — I'LL HAVE WHAT SHE'S HAVING — didn't come close to fitting the puzzle, but it made I'LL seem an unlikely starting point. Because HAVE is the word that probably follows I'LL, and here, Burke was searching for a three-letter word....

I'VE... A... I'VE GOT A...
FLY AWAY! Dave Niehaus, the looooooongtime voice of the Mariners, has passed away. If you didn't grow up in or near Seattle, listening to Niehaus's velvet-and-vodka voice calling Mariners games, seemingly every night at 7:05, you won't ever know what you missed. If you did listen to those games, you know that even though Niehaus could put a charge into you on a deep fly ball or a close play at the plate, you couldn't get a sense of his greatness just from listening to a highlight reel. The best part of listening to Niehaus was just his oscillating narrative unspooling over the better part of an evening, sometimes calmly describing the business of baseball while leaving enough room for the ambient sound to fill in the picture; sometimes getting suddenly tickled into fluid amazement by unusual plays, weird player quirks, or even strange things he spotted in the crowd. Even late in life, when he only called a few innings of the games and frequently mixed up the players or forgot their names, he remained far more entertaining than the bland or outright stupid voices the Mariners hired to prop him up. I loved Dave Niehaus, absolutely loved him, and am sad to see him go. But I am happy that Hall of Fame voters were smart enough to induct him a couple of years ago, when he could really enjoy it.
THE MAN THIS MAN COULD SMELL LIKE:  So I spotted a new fragrance ad featuring Matthew McConaughey, and forgive me for being dense -- but is the point to smell like McConaughey, or that this stuff is so good that you'll no longer smell like a pot-smoking naked bongo player whose only good role in about a decade was his bit part in Tropic Thunder?  Does it clean you up so much that you smell like noted theologian Palmer Joss?
I'M THE PUNKY QB KNOWN AS ... AS ... ?  Now that everyone's aware of the NFL's problem with chronic brain trauma, more examples surface.  Former Bears/Eagles/others QB Jim McMahon told the Chicago Tribune this week that "Back then, it was just tape an aspirin to your helmet and you go back in. I've worked with some neurosurgeons and it's a very serious thing, man... My memory's pretty much gone. There are a lot of times when I walk into a room and forget why I walked in there. I'm going through some studies right now and I am going to do a brain scan. It's unfortunate what the game does to you."  McMahon is 51 years old.
SAVE THE BABY; TOSS THE BATHWATER: For my money, tonight's was by far the best Glee of the year, and maybe the best-written Glee I can remember. That's not to say that it was All the King's Men, but for a show that is usually as lazily written as this one, the fact that we were given a beginning, a middle, an end, fully shaded characters, plot movement, three stories with some or a lot of emotional resonance, all three of which played well against each other without being exact parallels, and a non-monstrous Will Shuester, plus a great fake-out with the score suggesting the thematically on-the-nose "Beautiful," but cutting into a mash-up that was very much not "Beautiful" -- frankly, I didn't think this was a show capable of putting together as cogent and likeable an episode as that one. [takes breath after run-on sentence] Also, Heather Morris doing the enthusiastic dancing.

It is no coincidence that all of that happened in an episode that was as light on Rachel, Finn, Rachel and Finn, Will Shuester's love life and rap career, and stunt casting as any episode in the show's run.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NO, THAT'S OUR FACTS.  OUR CASE IS WHAT WE DO WITH THOSE FACTS ... WE NEED TO GIVE OUR TRUTH THE DRAMA OF A LIE:  Yes, it's The Good Wife by way of Janet Malcolm, a show which asks you yet again to come for the political intrigue, but stay for the violent rodent sex.  Sure, Eli Gold's not as smart as he thinks he is (or is he?) and Lili Taylor's around to sing once more about the one who got away, but what I imagine we'll want to talk about is Michael J. Fox's fun role as a devious defense attorney.  It's a part which could have gone cliche insofar as we're so used to seeing comic actors play against type this way (thinking of Martin Short on Damages here) -- but still, as always, the writers here have one or two nice twists at the ready.  (Also, we may want to talk about the one who got away.)
NO, I HAVE NOT SEEN FAWKES: Having had a lovely trip out to Phoenix today, a few thoughts:
  • As someone on Facebook already observed, the City of Phoenix's seal bears a creepy resemblance to the symbol of the Rebel Alliance.
  • My flight out was fairly full and deplaning took forever, largely because folks had an excessive amount of carryon luggage with them, which had to be laboriously hauled out of overhead bins. I'm wondering how much of any recent increase in flight delays is indirectly due to the airlines' imposition of baggage fees. If the airlines weren't charging baggage fees, I suspect many of those bags would have been checked, and they'd be able to deplane and turn the plane more quickly, minimizing delays.
  • I tend to allow plenty of time to get to the airport, which often results in me checking my bag pretty early. However, because of how airlines sort and load luggage, this backfires--the first luggage to get checked is the first luggage loaded, and winds up at the back of the cargo hold. Thus, it is the last to come off the plane and get unloaded, leaving the passengers who checked in first as the last to be able to leave the airport at the destination. Any good way to solve this?
SO I TOLD HER, WE'D STILL BE FRIE-ENDS....  Reunited in this very post -- NYMag's Adam Sternbergh profiles Jimmy Fallon as he continues "cultivating a distinct, and refreshing, strain of humor: the comedy of unabashed celebration," while the WaPo's Paul Farhi sits down with Tina Fey on the eve of her being awarded tonight the annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, now being explained by the producers as "recognizing a body of work that is important to our culture... it's not an award for quantity, and it's not a career-sunset award. It's for a person whose body of work is defining of our time."

(No, I can't find video of the title sketch online.)
MAY THE ODDS BE EVER IN YOUR FAVOR: I finally got around to finishing Mockingjay last night, and now that an adequate amount of time has passed since the book's release, wanted to open up a thread to address two issues relating to the series:
  • Judging from a lot of the chatter I've seen on the Internet, seems that Mockingjay is an incredibly polarizing conclusion to the series, with a fair number of folks who loved the first two books hating the conclusion of the series. Admittedly, Mockingjay is a considerable change from the first two, being even bleaker in tone, and a previously major character disappears from much of the book (and has a dramatic character change when he returns), but in most ways is a pretty natural conclusion to the series. I suspect a lot of the disgruntled fans are angry because the final volume has an unusually high body count, including several beloved characters, and because of how the romantic conflict in the series is ultimately resolved. That said, I did find the final 30ish pages quite rushed, as though Collins only had time to write an outline-y first draft in order to meet her deadline. This isn't Twilight, where (based on the overviews I've read) the final volume goes completely bugnuts (half-vampire/half-human child! Edward giving Bella a c-section with his vampire teeth!)
  • There will, of course, be a movie, and casting is well underway. The kids are tricky not just because of the ordinary difficulty of casting young adults, but because the characters are not (at least for much of the story) remotely glamorous. In particular, Katniss has to have both the unerring ability to kill and deep reluctance about using it. Allegedly, a lot of folks want Lyndsy Fonseca (Nikita, and FutureTed's daughter on HIMYM), but she seems a little old. A name I haven't heard, but who I might be able to see working, would be Ariel Winter (Alex on Modern Family), but she might be a little too snarky.
I'm sure y'all have thoughts on the books and the casting--fire away

Monday, November 8, 2010

WHEN ONLY THE SECOND-MOST-AMAZING THING IS THE STATE OF PAT SAJAK'S COIFFURE:  A woman solves a puzzle on Wheel of Fortune rather quickly.  How awesome is it?  Well, look: in the near-eight years that this blog has been in existence, we've never had reason to link to a Wheel clip before now.

added:  Via an Althouse reader, Caitlin Burke explains how she did it:
ULNAR COLLATERAL LIGAMENT RECONSTRUCTION: The National Baseball Hall of Fame today announced the twelve men up for induction in next month's Veterans Committee ballot:
Former players Vida Blue, Dave Concepcion, Steve Garvey, Ron Guidry, Tommy John, Al Oliver, Ted Simmons and Rusty Staub; former manager Billy Martin; and executives Pat Gillick**, Marvin Miller and George Steinbrenner.
My votes would go to Miller for sure; Simmons probably and John possibly (I need to crunch the numbers); and Steinbrenner ... reluctantly, but yes.

** As to Gillick, Isaac suggests that I note: "He has fetishistic preferences for age over youth and for newspaper stats over advanced metrics, and Philadelphia is the first team that he has not left in a complete shambles at the end of his tenure (having traded away or shelved all of the youthful talent in the process of acquiring aging veterans)... In 2003, when the Mariners were one obvious flaw away from a second 100-win/AL West title season, he spent the trading deadline 3000 miles and a continent away from the office, paying no attention, because that was the day he picked to move his family into their new house. The Mariners won 93 games and finished a game and a half back of Oakland after not making a significant move all year, including (of course) at the deadline. They badly needed a 3B (Cirillo's OPS+ was 74) and could have used an upgrade at SS (Carlos Guillen, pre-Detroit, had an OPS+ of 107 but was playing terrible defense), plus they could have used a PH because their bench stunk."

added:  Fired Joe Morgan!  ESPN Sunday Night Baseball is replacing its broadcast crew with Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser and, if he's not managing somewhere, Bobby Valentine.
[IT'S] ACTUALLY PSYCHOTIC. [IT'S] INSANELY JEALOUS. [IT'S] IRRATIONAL, AND I'M SCARED OF [IT]: A viewing of The Social Network this weekend did nothing to change my mind about any of the reasons, both good and bad, that I have for never having used Facebook as a social medium. That's not to say that I haven't signed up for Facebook, though, because I have. I did it because I have to use it for some job-related research. So I gave Facebook my name, sex, and birth date, and nothing else (except that I've fed it the names of some people I've tried to locate, again, for work and not personal reasons).

Because I'm not a Facebook power-user, I haven't followed the news about its privacy issues too closely, but from what I recall, it has focused on Facebook's harvesting of the data you exchange over the site -- your list of friends, the links you exchange, and the personal data you enter yourself -- for profit. That's bad, but in a what-did-you-expect kind of way. It's no different from what the banks do.

I can't shake the feeling that Facebook is engaged in a more ominous kind of data gathering, though. As I said, I've given Facebook nothing more than my name (I'm aware of a half-dozen or so other people in the US with the same name) and birth date. The searches I've run are work-related, and do not include my own friends. Yet Facebook has proven remarkably adept in identifying and suggesting that I friend people I knew in high school (and before), in law school, and from this very blog. It couldn't have guessed these names from the information I've exchanged over Facebook itself, since I haven't exchanged anything potentially relevant. It couldn't have guessed these names from "blogs and news media" from which Facebook admits to supplementing user profiles, because I blog under a pseudonym and am, sadly, unfamous.

But the names it has identified bear a striking resemblance to the names of people in my (supposedly private, secure) Outlook email account. Facebook knows very few of my college friends, with whom I have mostly lost touch. Yet it frequently identifies as a potential friend the crazy person who emails every lawyer in San Francisco to see who can take his paranoid anti-FBI litigation. It hasn't tried to put me in touch with any of the people for whom I've searched using Facebook, but it often tries to get me to friend a woman with the same name as a client contact of mine.

I don't want to say that I don't have a problem with a site that harvests information I exchange over it. I have a much greater problem, though, with a site that reads my email without my permission -- particularly if it's a site that admits in the past to harvesting and selling data. I'm a lawyer who works with a lot of documents subject to varying legal confidentiality requirements, some out of the ordinary even for lawyers accustomed to the attorney-client privilege. I have never consented to Facebook viewing my emails (even to/from) information, and I never would.

Is anybody else out there really skeeved out by this? Or have I completely missed the boat on Facebook's friend-suggestion algorithm?
SPINNING TO INFINITY: We haven't had a The Amazing Race thread in a couple of weeks, I don't think. We're becoming big fans of Nat & Kat, simply because they get it done without a lot of whining about the unfairness of certain tasks. Twenty-two year vegetarian confronts a lamb's head and chows down. Woman deathly afraid of heights climbs on a gondola and forces herself through it. I imagine there is a fair amount of this sort of everyday courage in medicine, so I'm not surprised. But it's a nice change, and they are doing quite well.

That's not why I'm posting though: Kevin and his Dad were faced with a 10,000 Rouble cab fare. Approximately ~US$330. I'd always wondered about the wait-around time on these cabs and how it was handled and, given that prices in Russia (for foreigners at least) are confiscatory, $300+ for a half-day's cab doesn't seem out of line. But it's never seemed to be an issue before and no one else had that sort of trouble (of course, no one hired a cab for as long as Kevin). Anyone note any TAR-lore about how all this? I'd be surprised if teams ever had that much pocket money.

Second: why can't TAR get some better stage-winning prizes than Travelocity, 7-UP, and some random slugs of cash?
I'M HERE AND YOU'RE HERE AND IT'S TRUE, THERE'S A WHOLE LOT OF WALKING TO DO: What I learned about zombies from last night's Walking Dead (still zombies, so I'm still enjoying it): zombies can climb fences, but they can't climb ladders.* They can use rocks as tools, but they can't drive cars.

*Plants vs. Zombies begs to differ.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

ZUCKERMAN UNPUBLISHED: U.S. News and World Report, the once-weekly magazine best known for its various Rankings issues, is ditching all the magazine stuff to just do occasional Rankings publications.  According to AdAge, its circulation was 1.1 million this year, which raises a question -- who was still reading it anyway?
A 21 WAVE MOTION GUN SALUTE: Yoshinobu Nishizaka, co-creator of anime classic Space Battleship Yamato (released stateside as Star Blazers), died today at the age of 75 in a drowning accident off his own Yamato steamship in the Bonin Islands, and I swear I have a decent alibi.  As always, I will use anything Star Blazers-related as an excuse to link to the latest version of the trailer for the upcoming live-action film, now with English subtitles and a theme song by, gulp, American Idol judge Steven Tyler.  No, it doesn't beat the original.
I'VE BEEN WATCHING YOU LIKE A DINGO WATCHES A HUMAN BABY: The list of "super awesome American animated films not made by Pixar" is not that long -- Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon, maybe Kung Fu Panda ... and now, I'm pretty sure, Megamind. Not just for the gorgeous 3D, not just for being infinitely better than Despicable Me in the "humanize the villain" genre of 2010, not just for the extra work it's given to whoever's writing a dissertation on "Tina Fey and Body Image Issues" based on how her character was drawn and not just for the random Donkey Kong and Marlon Brando in Superman references and the Shepard Fairey-esque No You Can't posters, but for crackling dialogue like this voiced by Will Ferrell and Brad Pitt:
Megamind: In case you've noticed, you've fallen right into my trap!
Metro Man: You can't trap justice! It's an idea, a BELIEF!
Megamind: Even the most heartfelt belief can get corroded with crime!
Metro Man: Justice is a non-corrosive metal!
Megamind: But metals can be melted, by the heat of revanche!
Metro Man: It's REVENGE, and it's best served cold!
Megamind: But it can be easily reheated, in the microwave of evil!
Metro Man: Well, I think your warranty's about to expire!
Megamind: Maybe I got an extended warranty!
Metro Man: Warranties are invalid, if used beyond their intended purpose!
Bring the kids. Borrow some if you have to.