Friday, December 30, 2011

EARL GRAY IS THE GREATEST TEA I'VE EVER KNOWN: Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan is transforming what was my neighborhood post office branch into a 1930s style Chinese tea house.
THERE IS NOTHING LIKE A DAME:  Congratulations to Helena Bonham Carter, who after having portrayed the Queen Mother and suffered death at the hands of Molly Weasley has been named a Commander of Order of the British Empire as part of Her Majesty's annual New Years Honours list. Also so honoured is music producer Steve Lillywhite, while golfer Darren Clarke is now an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, with Rory McIlroy a Member of the Order of the British Empire.

Hierarchy of honours explained here, which means we don't actually get to call her Dame Bonham Carter. What does it take to earn a knighthood these days? Be Jonathan Ive. The London native designed the iMac, iPod, iPhone, MacBook Air, and iPad, and is now a Knight Commander (KBE). He's 44.

In what will surely become fodder from some future Encyclopedia Polamalu teaser, the nation decided to just go directly from Thursday to Saturday this week to flip to the other side of the International Date Line to better align with its regional trading partners.
THE YEAR IN FUNNY:  As part of Splitsider's annual retrospective, do enjoy The 10 Biggest Comedy News Stories of 2011, the gloriously time-filling The Year's Best Humor Writing 2011, The Year In Comedy Podcasts, The Top 10 Moments Comedians Made Us Think, and 49 Funny Things To Look Forward To in 2012
PALEOFITNESS, HOWEVER, WAS NOT: Last year, they correctly predicted the rise of hactivism, Robyn, Rooney Mara, and silent films, though they may have erred on the Jayson Werth thing. For 2012, the Washington Post's Hot or Not gurus predict big things for Michael Fassbender (duh), Kate Middleton's uterus (their words, not mine), District 12, Jessica Chastain, and Belgian malinois dogs; while suggesting that the era of hoarding, Ryan Gosling, Etsy, quinoa, Portland, and Adele is over.

More interesting, perhaps?  Their Hot/Not archive going back to 1978 is online, and predictions like 1985's "Out: Culture Club; In: Frankie Goes To Hollywood" and 1996's "Out: Drew Barrymore; In: Alicia Silverstone" ... well, it's a lot like that.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

FROM THE ALOTT5MA PREVIOUSLY AIRED CONTENT DIVISION, BECAUSE IT'S NOT A SWEEPS MONTH:  Today is Ronald Coase's 101st birthday. If you haven't read it lately, do review Isaac's October 2007 post, "The One Where Rachel Wins The Nobel Prize."  (Our centenary post is here.)
COMMENCE CLUTCHING OF PEARLS: A number of you confirmed to me last night that it was perfectly acceptable for me to post, via Buzzfeed, a link to excerpts from 1948’s “You And Your Sex Life: An Illustrated Guide Book For Women.” Warning: not safe for modernity, or the easily embarrassed.

[Also via Buzzfeed: as a counter to the previous Best Fails of 2011 video, how about the Best Wins/Luck of the Year?]
THE YEAR OF GANGS AND SADNESS:  Last night, about eight of us got together on Twitter and agreed that, okay, finally, we're going to watch The Wire in 2012.  (What do you mean you haven't watched The Wire already? Shut up. We know.)

To support each other, we've agreed that Wednesdays will be Wire Wednesdays on the blog.  Episodes are available via HBO GO, or on iTunes (as well as DVD), so by next Wednesday, January 3, please watch "The Target" for our discussion.

Veterans, we welcome your participation, but please protect us from spoilers. Obviously, there are elements of the show that many of us have absorbed through the culture ("You come at the king, you best not miss"; something about a nail gun), but let us try to be surprised.  Next year in Baltimore!
AMERICA VOTED: Forty votes have been cast, and I'm willing to call it over since no one's close enough to the border in either direction. The ALOTT5MA electorate has voted to induct the following players into the National Baseball Hall of Fame:
Barry Larkin (36 votes, 90%), Jeff Bagwell (36, 90%), Tim Raines (33, 82.5%)
We also would have inducted Bagwell on last year's ballot, when Larkin and Raines both fell just short. The rest of this year's tally looks like this:
Receiving Significant Support
Edgar Martinez (24, 60%)
Mark McGwire (21, 52.5%)
Alan Trammell (18, 45%)

We Haven't Entirely Forgotten
Jack Morris and Larry Walker (9, 22.5%)
Dale Murphy (8, 20%)
Fred McGriff (7, 17.5%), Lee Smith (6, 15%), Rafael Palmeiro (5, 12.5%), Bernie Williams (4, 10%), Juan Gonzalez (3, 7.5%), Don Mattingly (2, 5%)
Brad Radke received one vote; he and everyone else would fall off our ballot for next year. Given that next year's ballot includes Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, and Sammy Sosa, this year really is the last chance for a lot of Very Very Good players before the deluge.
I WENT HERE AFTER THE MISS BLACK AWARENESS PAGEANT AND THE FOOD WAS PRETTY GOOD:  Newly reviewed on Yelp: McDowell's, a restaurant in Queens, NY.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

OY, GEFILTE! Manischewitz—it's not just for Hebrews anymore.
PREMORSE. YOU JANE. In what may be my most glaring bout of premorse yet, I have learned that Cheetah the Chimpanzee, star of many a Tarzan movie and apparently the Darwin's tortoise and Churchill's parrot of the great ape world, died on Christmas Eve at the age of eighty. I am, of course, shocked that any chimpanzee could live so long as to only be dead now, not least one this famous.

A much more thorough treatment of Cheetah's life, times and career.

Also, for long-lived animals, check out Adwaita, a tortoise who lived to be perhaps 255 years old.
TOUCHING ME, TOUCHING YOUUUUUUU:  Three reactions to last night's Kennedy Center Honors:
  • It is rather odd, as someone on Twitter pointed out to me, that only two Hispanic/Latino artists have ever been so honored -- Plácido Domingo, 2000, and Chita Rivera, 2002. It has never been difficult to get Carlos Santana to show up at an awards ceremony. Or, perhaps, Rubén Blades? Do we need to wait 20-30 years for Gloria Estefan and John Leguizamo to win?
  • It is rather odd to have "Sweet Caroline" performed at a ceremony hosted by the woman who, as a nine-year-old, inspired it.
  • So the Neil Diamond tribute got Carrie and I to tweeting about The Jazz Singer, as one does, and she couldn't help but wonder: is there a more mismatched father-son on screen than Sir Laurence Olivier and Neil Diamond? I responded with William Daniels and Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate,** to which both Carrie and Adam C. countered with Family Business, with Sean Connery as Hoffman's dad and Hoffman as Matthew Broderick's. Surely you can add to the list.
** As Mike Nichols later recounted, "My unconscious was making this movie. It took me years before I got what I had been doing all along — that I had been turning Benjamin into a Jew. I didn't get it until I saw this hilarious issue of MAD magazine after the movie came out, in which the caricature of Dustin says to the caricature of Elizabeth Wilson, 'Mom, how come I'm Jewish and you and Dad aren't?' And I asked myself the same question, and the answer was fairly embarrassing and fairly obvious."
BIGGIE NEWS: Matthew Yglesias analyzes this week's WSJ report that Wendy's is about to pass Burger King in sales as America's #2 burger-centric fast food restaurant despite having significantly fewer locations. Basically, it seems, Wendy's successfully went slightly upmarket and fresher while Burger King remained stagnant.

In honor of this news, two entries from poet Joe Wenderoth's Letters to Wendy's:

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

JAW, DROPPED:  This Grantland anthology of the year's best moments in sports, thank goodness, captures the three that for me will linger for a long time.  Two positive ones -- the ecstasy of the Women's World Cup quarterfinal match against Brazil and the remarkable night which ended baseball's regular season, but also the one negative: the Los Angeles Lakers' classless exit from the NBA playoffs, a disgusting failure of leadership and character which too soon has been forgotten.

Of course, it'd be better to be able to enjoy sports in a world in which you didn't have to wonder which institutions were covering up the rapes of children, and which exciting collisions were leading to lifelong brain trauma. But sports have never existed in a vacuum; this is just the latest iteration of the horrors which cannot be isolated from sports anymore so than they can be isolated from life itself.
FROM THE MOUTHS OF BABES: Good advice is good advice, especially when it is sung, and no matter who it comes from, and no matter whether it is dispensed in a diaper between two stuffed cars. And in the war of the puppies vs. the babies, the babies take a lead.
WATTS HAPPENING:  Congratulations to Amy Watts, whose Classic City Psycho Kitties rose from a 7-6 record and the #6 seed to defeat Ross, Dan Fienberg, and 2009 champion Alex Gordon en route to the third annual ALOTT5MA FFL Championship.

Amy largely won with the team she drafted in our $200 auction -- Rodgers ($41), Welker ($15!), Colston ($18), Fitzgerald ($43), and Finley ($14), with serviceable RBs (including free agent Darren Sproles) filling in the rest.  Congratulations, Amy!
SMALL HALL: As we did last year on a late December day when I didn't have anything else to blog about, I've created a Doodle poll for your votes for the 2012 National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. Vote for anywhere from 0-10 players; stats are here; hagiographies accumulating on the Hall site here.

My ballot is the same as last year's, minus Alomar's induction: Bagwell, Larkin, E Martinez, McGwire, Raines. I used to take Jack Morris more seriously, but in comparison with the starting pitchers who'll be inducted in the next five years -- Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, P Martinez, Clemens, Schilling, R Johnson and Mussina -- he just doesn't compare.

On McGwire, my answer remains constant: Induct, but Acknowledge. Just have the last sentence of his plaque read "Admitted to using steroids during his career," and let visitors put it all in context.

added: Joe Posnanski's ballot and reasoning.

Monday, December 26, 2011

TOP OF THE POPS: The Military Wives Choir, formed for a British reality series, crushed the UK X-Factor winners to claim this year's Christmas Number One Single with "Wherever You Are," with proceeds being donated to the Royal British Legion and the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association.

In third place, "Dominick the Donkey."  Below the fold, our perennial Christmas Number One:

INSTEAD OF A REPEAT OF LAST YEAR'S BOXING DAY BLIZZAPOCALYPSE COVERAGE:  From the location of [                      ]'s [             ] at the end of David Fincher's Seven to the magic one on Lost to the one in which Adrian Pasdar slept on Profit (which followed the Alice in Chains song), boxes have played an important role in our popular culture over the years.  (Maybe.)  Add to the list.
WHITHER THE PEACH PIT AFTER DARK, OR BALTIMORE'S WATERFRONT BAR?  Flavorwire ranks ten favorite tv show bars/nightclubs/lounges.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

HOLLYWOODLAND: I'm trying to figure out how to say this right, and I think Tasha Robinson leads me in the right direction: Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist is an homage to a wonderful era in film history, a demonstration of the charms which can be had without words. But in and of itself, it's just a nice film, but not a great one.

Look: Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo are totally charming and spot-on as the leads. But if I want to see a film about the change from silents to talkies, Singing in the Rain and Modern Times has it beat in spades. The Artist doesn't add anything new to this type of story; it just tells that sort of story with exactly the beats you'd expect -- plus, for some reason, an incredibly distracting swipe from the Vertigo (1958!) score which totally took me out of the movie (as it did Dana Stevens).

The movie is cute and winning, but way too derivative to be truly memorable. Slate's David Haglund is right: this shouldn't be a second straight year for Best Picture to go to a film about a guy who has trouble talking.

Friday, December 23, 2011

CUE MY FATHER, ASKING, "WHY DIDN'T THEY TAKE THE SCUDDER FALLS BRIDGE? THERE'S NO TOLL!" Artist Mort Künstler has created a more historically accurate depiction of Washington's crossing of the Delaware River on December 25, 1776.

Previously: The Hessians? Not drunk.

[Ritual Dad Joke #2: "How could the Hessians not realize Washington would be coming from there? The town's name is Washington's Crossing!"]
JUST ASK THE HERPES MONKEY: Actual press release from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA): "'We Bought a Zoo' is a Fun Movie, But Buying Zoo Animals Can Be a Bad Idea." [HT: @dhm]

Other things in Cameron Crowe movies you may not want to do in real life:
  • Blasting your boombox outside your ex's window
  • Dugout sex
  • Present a manifesto to one's employer as to how everyone in the firm is behaving unethically
  • Hang out with Citizen Dick
  • Topeka. House party. LSD.
STOP ... POOPINGAmong the more prestigious -- or at least, the most consistent awards I've given out each year on the site is the ALOTT5MA Award for Funniest Half Hour of Television of the Year. Our past winners are:
2004The Daily Show, Night Two of the Democratic National Convention ("My father was a poor Virginia turd-miner ... ")
2005South Park, "Best Friends Forever"
2006The Office, "The Injury"
200730 Rock, "The Source Awards"
2008The Colbert Report, April 17, 2008 (Edwards, Clinton, Obama cameos from Philadelphia.)
2009: The Office, "Broke" ("Our balls are in your court.")
2010: Um, let's award one retroactively today. (Community, "Modern Warfare"? 30 Rock, "Live Show" or "When It Rains, It Pours"? It's Always Sunny's Lethal Weapon V episode?) 
2011 is easy. Because while I'm a late convert to Parks & Recreation, I know brilliance when I see it. Sunny's "Chardee MacDennis: The Game of Games" and "The Gang Goes to the Jersey Shore" made me bust several guts ("rum ham!"), as did Curb ("The Bi-Sexual," "Palestinian Chicken," "Mr. Softee") and Louie had multiple awesome episodes ("Moving," "Bummer/Blueberries," "Joan") which were among other things funny, to not recognize P&R's pantheon-level third season would an a historic mistake.

And while "Harvest Festival" and "Li'l Sebastian" have their own significant charms, I understand the allure of a meat tornado, and I appreciate how hard it is to do silly as well as that show does. Is there really a question about this?
That's a very good question, sir. And I would counter with my own question, which is: Why is half of your face all swirly?
Rewatch the whole thing this weekend. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

WE WANT TO REACH THE OTHER 50% OF THE WORLD'S CHILDREN: After years of anthropological and psychological research, Lego is unveiling a "Lego Friends" line in the new year, as a Bloomberg BusinessWeek cover story explains:
Whereas boys tend to be “linear”—building rapidly, even against the clock, to finish a kit so it looks just like what’s on the box—girls prefer “stops along the way,” and to begin storytelling and rearranging. Lego has bagged the pieces in Lego Friends boxes so that girls can begin playing various scenarios without finishing the whole model. Lego Friends also introduces six new Lego colors—including Easter-egg-like shades of azure and lavender. (Bright pink was already in the Lego palette.)

Then there are the lady figures. Twenty-nine mini-doll figures will be introduced in 2012, all 5 millimeters taller and curvier than the standard dwarf minifig. There are five main characters. Like American Girl Dolls, which are sold with their own book-length biographies, these five come with names and backstories. Their adventures have a backdrop: Heartlake City, which has a salon, a horse academy, a veterinary clinic, and a café. “We had nine nationalities on the team to make certain the underlying experience would work in many cultures,” says Nanna Ulrich Gudum, senior creative director.

The key difference between girls and the ladyfig and boys and the minifig was that many more girls projected themselves onto the ladyfig—she became an avatar. Boys tend to play with minifigs in the third person. “The girls needed a figure they could identify with, that looks like them,” says Rosario Costa, a Lego design director. The Lego team knew they were on to something when girls told them, “I want to shrink down and be there.”
As the article acknowledges, "The Lego Friends team is aware of the paradox at the heart of its work: To break down old stereotypes about how girls play, it risks reinforcing others." And, indeed, Lucy doesn't need a "Lego for girls" -- her Lego is everyone's Lego, the one in which she builds the Star Wars and Harry Potter vehicles and buildings she loves, and in which pinks and pastels and curves are unnecessary.

I'm not the only one with qualms; check out Lego's Facebook wall. As Powered by Girl's Stephanie Cole writes:
I can speak from personal experience and assure you, Lego, that girls do like minifigs. They also like Star Wars and Harry Potter, and they like being creative and making up stories that involve adventures and good and evil and things blowing up. But if you keep on excluding them from your marketing vision, soon they will start to believe that they would rather have hot tubs and little plastic boobs. If your research is correct, many of them already have. And if that happens, some girls might miss out on all the fantastic, adventurous imaginative play that only comes around once a childhood. The part of me that still fondly remembers epic Lego vs. Playmobile battles with my sister and cousin, is pretty royally pissed off.
HAPPINESS AT THE MISFORTUNE OF OTHERS?  THAT IS GERMAN!  A compiled twelve minutes of the best fail videos of 2011, which assuredly will provide you more delight than the upcoming Three Stooges movie.
COCO LOCO:  I don't believe one can read Shaun Assael's ESPN Magazine piece on PlayoffPAC's attacks on the college bowl system's apparent abuse of nonprofit law and come away feeling good about the status quo. Thankfully, PlayoffPAC has posted many key documents online for your perusal.
THE ALOTT5MA AWARD FOR TELEVISED FATALITY OF THE YEAR: Congratulations, [Person on Game of Thrones]!  Better luck next year, Breaking Bad.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

THIS YEAR, TO SAVE ME FROM TEARS: The Awl's Tom Keiser argues that Wham's "Last Christmas" is "the most horrible holiday song ever made," calling it "a wallowing mess of a song. It mistakes self-indulgence for closure. It contains a synthy falseness that would make even Paul McCartney and Wings wince."

Did You Know? Wham! settled a lawsuit filed by the songwriters of Barry Manilow's "Can't Smile Without You," who claimed that the song ripped off its melody, and agreed to donate the song's first year's royalties to Band Aid.
EVERYTHING IS GREAT, EVERYTHING IS GRAND: Three songs from The Muppets are among the thirty-nine shortlisted by the Oscars for Best Original Song eligibility. Other possibilities include a song written by Glenn Close for Albert Nobbs (and she does need the G-O), "The Mighty Sven" from Happy Feet Too, and submissions from Chris Cornell, OK Go, and  Zooey Deschanel.
BUSY WITH WHAT IN A BURGER KING BATHROOM?  Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen list classic hip hop songs you can play for your children.

Monday, December 19, 2011

HE INTRODUCES THE ACTS! "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, BOYS AND GIRLS ..." I cannot possibly imagine that anyone here would have any comment upon a columnist's efforts to rank all ninety-two fulltime cast members in SNL history from worst to best.

(Underrated: Rock, Rudolph, Fallon; overrated: Dunn, Sudeikis, Meadows. The top ten is the correct ten, but I'm not sure about the order.)
THE REAL DRAGONSLAYER: I've got nothing to say about the end of this season of Survivor, which will go down as one of the five lamest in show history. Other than anything-having-to-do-with-Cochran and a few moments during last night's episode (the Redemption and first Immunity Challenge, the threat of a tie), just a blah cast with blah strategy.  Screw honor; I want game play. Bring on the next, hopefully better cast -- and no Redemption, right?

Fienberg, AV Club with the recaps.
HIGH FLYING, ADORED: In honor of Steelers WR Antonio Brown, from whom I need 19 fantasy points tonight in order to defeat Alex and join Watts in the ALOTT5MA FFL Finals (she having already thwomped Dan Fienberg), please name your favorite Antonio, Antoine, Antawn, etc.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

FOR MASKERS AND BERGAMASKERS ENTICINGLY TO ROAM: For the first time in six years, they're adding new songs to the Fountains of Bellagio repertoire, including "In the Mood" and "Billie Jean". The article notes that coins, wedding rings, plenty of drunks, and a catfish have been scooped out of the artificial lake, but does not contain this obligatory link.

For another video to make you smile, you'll have to go below the fold, for last night's SNL Bublé Duets skit. Yes, it's another impression parade, but what a parade:

Friday, December 16, 2011

MY QUESTION, SHOULD YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT:  So I'd really like to see the apparently super-awesome new action movie directed by Brad Bird, but I have no interest in seeing Tom Cruise in a fourquel.  So the Clooney films and Hugo top the list of what I'd like to see this weekend, but what's on yours?
GET A LIFE AND A $100 TICKET: Hugh Jackman's singing, dancing Broadway extravaganza has become quite a hot ticket, so who's the next star to give us a solo performance? Why, William Shatner, whose Shatner's World: We're Just Living In It will have a limited run in February.
CAUSE OF DEATH WAS NOT A LETHAL MIXTURE OF POP ROCKS AND COKE: Edie Stevenson, the copywriter responsible for the famed Life cereal Mikey commercial, has died at the age of 81.
NO ONE, AND I MEAN, NO ONE, COMES INTO OUR HOUSE AND PUSHES US AROUND:  Unless by "our house" you mean Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger's "Rudy Nutrition" energy drink pump-and-dump scheme and by "no one," you're excluding the Securities and Exchange Commission, to which Ruettiger today agreed to pay a $382K fine, as well as a permanent bar on serving as an officer or director of a public company and other restrictions, for his admitted violations of securities law. It is unclear whether Ruettiger remains five foot nothin', a hundred and nothin', and hardly a spec of athletic ability.
DID NOT GO GENTLE: I am consciously grazing against the edge of our No Politics rule, but I would be remiss if I did not note the unfortunate passing last night of Christopher Hitchens, esophageal cancer having claimed him at age 62.  The profoundly prolific polemicist gleefully knocked down orthodoxies, assuredly pissing off each of us on multiple occasions, but, wow, what wit! what writing! His was a brain worth following wherever it chose to go. “I personally want to ‘do’ death in the active and not the passive,” he once wrote, “and to be there to look it in the eye and be doing something when it comes for me.”

Christopher Buckley has some thoughts, while Vanity Fair has compiled much of his writing for the site and his Daily Show appearances, along with a video compilation of his best ripostes.

Bonus: Mental Floss on ten lesser-known folks who passed away in 2011.
COULDN'T MISS THIS ONE THIS YEAR:  By Maret's request, a (slightly edited) repeat of a question Isaac asked last year at around this time:
With just days until Christmas (and Hanukkah) and a handful of people likely left on your (my) list (if you are my brother, STOP READING RIGHT NOW), let me ask this question: what is the best commercially available gift you have ever (or recently) received or would like to receive, with a value no greater than, say, $100 or $150?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

WHY DON'T YOU JUST JUMP OFF THE ROOF, RIGHT HERE AND NOW? THAT'S WHAT YOU REALLY WANT, ISN'T IT? YES, YOU DO. YOU SMOKE CRACK, DON'T YOU?  The actor who played Sams in Lean on Me, Jermaine Hopkins, was arrested for trying to buy 200 pounds of marijuana from an undercover cop.
SORRY, NO NOMINATION FOR PIPER PERABO THIS YEAR: We don't have anything terribly profound to say about the Golden Globe nominations, other than that they continue the Globes' trend to fetishize the new (4 of the 5 best drama series and 3 of the 5 best comedy series nominations are for freshman shows of varying levels of merit), love on star names (2 acting nods for Ryan Gosling, an acting and a directing nod for George Clooney), and the utterly random (Callie Thorne? Johnny Galecki but not Jim Parsons?). Take it away, folks.
NEXT YEAR'S FRONTRUNNER? FARTMAN: Howard Stern has officially announced that he's joining America's Got Talent as a judge, replacing Piers Morgan. Earlier reports indicated that this would also mean live shows would move from LA to New York for production to accommodate Stern's desires, and I wouldn't be shocked to see the show held for the fall, rather than airing in its traditional summer slot, to take advantage of the publicity.
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS IV: THE CHIPPENING:  Following The Squeakquel and now Chipwrecked, surely we can determine a title for the inevitable fourth film in the trilogy.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

DEWEY CARE: FlavorWire slideshows the twenty-five most beautiful college and university libraries in the world United States and Europe.
HEY GIRL, I'D LIKE TO TRANSPORT YOU ACROSS STATE LINES FOR IMMORAL PURPOSES IN VIOLATION OF THE MANN ACT: Having addressed everything from feminism to the peculiarities of the Park Slope Food Co-Op, it was assuredly only a matter of time until the Tumblr Law School Ryan Gosling existed. That said, I'm sure we can come up with some better suggestions.
IT STARTED WITH MOHAMED BOUAZIZI:  Time Magazine has named The Protester as its Person of the Year, besting Admiral William McRaven, who commanded the assault on Bin Laden's compound; Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei; Rep. Paul Ryan; and, um, Kate Middleton?
LIGHTS, PLEASE? The AV Club's Todd VanDerWerff did not care for last night's Glee Christmas episode. I liked it more than he did, but I can certainly recognize that it's just icky to belt the line "well, tonight thank God it's them, instead of you!" directly in front of the people you're thankful you're not.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

GUNTER GLIEBEN GLAUCHEN GLOBEN: Just in time for Hanukkah, it's the first trailer for Summer 2012's Rock of Ages, featuring a whole lot of people we like to see around here, as well as a bare-chested, hard-rocking Tom Cruise.
BARELY ALIVE FROM NEW YORK: If Taran Killam's dancing in "Les Jeunes de Paris" wasn't enough to make you a fan, this Wednesday at 4:30am backstage recreation of Robyn's video for "Call Your Girlfriend" might not push you over the top.  But it should.
FROM THE ALOTT5MA COURTSHIP DESK:  Okay, agreed, the letter previously discussed presents possible issues of Asperger's-related issues which renders it not necessarily the best topic for jocular discussion. If that's what caused his failure to recognize and respond appropriately to social cues, it's not funny.

On the other hand, when it comes to how-do-you-know-it's-over, I hope we can agree that it is worth mocking if your modus operandi for one night stands is to send your new friend home in a private car with a gift basket containing autographed Derek Jeter memorabilia -- even if (or especially if) you're Derek Jeter who's providing the parting gifts.
WHO SAYS THE INTERNET ISN'T POWERFUL: Linda Chorney's album Emotional Jukebox hadn't recorded a single SoundScan sale when Grammy nominations arrived and none of her prior albums have officially sold more than 25 copies. Nonetheless, it's nominated, alongside albums from Lucinda Williams, Ry Cooder, and Emmylou Harris, as Best Americana Album for the 2012 Grammys. Billboard looks at how it happened.

Monday, December 12, 2011

HIS BIG SHOT:  The 76ers weren't smart enough to snap up the Twitter identities for the new mascots under consideration, but they're smart enough now to hire as the team's new social media coordinator the 23-year-old who did.
A BOESKY, A JIM BROWN, A MISS DAISY, TWO JETHROS, AND A LEON SPINKS, NOT TO MENTION THE BIGGEST ELLA FITZGERALD EVER:  Moviefone lists 25 things you didn't know about that don't actually add too much to your appreciation of Ocean's Eleven, but I'm a softie when it comes to excuses to reference the film.
NO, BABY!  The ALOTT5MA Unnecessary Remakes Desk reports that Austin Powers: The Musical might be a real thing, along with the previously-threatened fourth film.
I SEE MYSELF STILL AS A STRUGGLING ARTIST TRYING TO CREATE MUSIC:  As it does every year, the WaPo profiles this years' Kennedy Center Honorees -- Neil Diamond, Meryl Streep, Barbara Cook, Sonny Rollins, and Yo-Yo Ma.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

CLEARLY "RESIDENCE" DOES NOT MEAN "HOME DEPOT:" We haven't talked much about this season of TAR, largely because most of the legs have been pretty bland--filled with first in, first out challenges that spoonfed people, bunching designed to eliminate any team getting a lead, and with a single dominant team (Snowboarders for Jesus) for much of the Race. So tonight's finale was nice in that the clues and tasks were actually tricky. Of course, it promptly demonstrated why that style can be problematic, as one team found a task so tough that they had to repeat it at least 5 times before passing, and another team had difficulty deciphering a clue, sending them well out of the way. Credit to the editors for making an effort to make it seem close/competitive even at the end, when it was clear who our winners would be, but this was not the best season.
BY THE WAY, I DID A GOOGLE SEARCH, SO THAT'S HOW I CAME ACROSS YOUR EMAIL: In case you missed it, please read this 1,615 word clinic in how not to court someone.
3MTA3: Mental Floss tells the stories behind eleven classic album covers.

Friday, December 9, 2011

"I ALWAYS FIND MY PEOPLE HERE!"  That's what KarenNM commented yesterday upon realizing she was not alone in her Ann Curry not-exactly-a-fandom.

So I couldn't help but wonder: what other obscure, seeming aberrant, or possibly controversial pop culture views do folks here hold for which they'd like to determine if there's more support out there?  (Here's one: my daughters have been watching a lot of Looney Tunes lately, and I've realized that I just don't get the appeal of Sylvester and Tweety at all. It's just watered-down Tom and Jerry without the inventivess of Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote. What's the point?)
HE, OF COURSE, RETREATS TO HIS PORTUGUESE VILLA BECAUSE BEING WHITE IS HARD: Videogum nominates Love Actually as the worst movie of all time.
SO IF YOU BELIEVE IN FATHER CHRISTMAS, CHILDREN, LIKE YOUR UNCLE BILLY DOES, THEN BUY THIS FESTERING TURD OF A RECORD:: Wagering is open for this year's UK Christmas #1 single, with the favorites being (a) whoever wins UK X-Factor; (b) a choir of military wives created for a reality series; (c) Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit", being re-released as a fundraiser for a UK children's charity; and (d) The Smiths' "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want."
GLEE MEANS, LITERALLY, GLEE: If you're going to go out on a forced extended vacation, you might as well do it the way that Community did, with a brilliant, dense, layered, pissed off episode. One could probably sit down and write a term paper on everything that went right, from the spot-on parody (the bad rapping and production numbers, the nonsensical characterization, the continuity failures) up one level to overt rips ("if you don't like Glee Club, it doesn't make you a bully, and saying it does is reverse bullying"), to the reproach to Community's own fetishists (Annie's sexy/infantile come-on) to the meta jabs at Community's tone and self-destructive behavior. Community may have spent too much time this season trying confusedly to please disparate masters (including NBC, and not excluding its superfans), but this episode was nothing but the show doing what it wanted to do, well and proudly, and boy, did it hit the spot for me.

In other news, I'm trying to think of a sadder clown on recent TV than Ellie Kemper's Erin.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"I FOLLOW HIM ON TWITTER, BECAUSE IT'S SAD:" The cast of Community (minus Ken Jeong) divides into two teams for a pop culture trivia deathmatch (contains moderate NSFW language). Unsurprisingly, Alison Brie knows her cheesy romcoms, Chevy Chase comes off as kind of a dick, and Donald Glover knows his MTV VJs. Also, you'll be shocked by some of the things they miss.
THE MOST SHOCKING JUDICIAL ROSE CEREMONY EVER: Following up on our discussion about David Denby's breach of the Dragon Tattoo embargo, a similar imbroglio has resulted in litigation. Producers of The Bachelor are suing Reality Steve, a site which has made its name by getting spoilers for the show, claiming that the folks behind the site have offered money to contestants to get them to breach confidentiality agreements and asserting tortious interference with the producers' confidentiality agreements with the contestants.

As a general rule, at least under New York law, tortious interference with contract is pretty much the last refuge of someone looking for a claim who can't/doesn't want to sue the party who actually breached, and the interesting thing here is that the producers have not sued anyone for actually breaching their contract--indeed, while the folks behind the site don't seem to deny sending the e-mails, their defense is (in part) that no one took them up on their offer to pay them to breach. This will be interesting to watch to see how it develops.
BOOM! SHAKE THE ROOM! Have you ever thought "well, I love my iPhone/iPod, but wish it had a much bigger speaker that weighed 700 pounds?" Now there's a solution to that problem, with the iNuke Boom.
THE BOY WHO WON: Daniel Radcliffe is your EW Entertainer of the Year for 2011.

(Our earlier speculation is here. I stand by my Pitt/Clooney call.)
SEACREST IN?  He's apparently being recruited to replace Matt Lauer on The Today Show.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

FOUR IS THE NEW THREE: Not only did Col. Potter join his predecessor Lt. Col. Henry Blake in the great M*A*S*H tent in the sky today, but in what has to be one of the oddest "celebrity" death days in recent memory, also passing today were: Dobie Gray, he of "Drift Away" fame; Pusuke, who at 26 was the world's oldest dog; and Barbara Orbison, the widow of Roy Orbison.
ALOTT5MA PREMORSE DESK:  On March 28, 2010, in a discussion of premorse Marsha commented: "I was 100% sure Harry Morgan was dead. But he isn't."

Now he is. Alan Sepinwall remembers the M*A*S*H/Dragnet star, dead at 96.
"FOR HIS WIT AND INTUITION, COMBINED WITH HIS PASSION FOR THE GAME AND HIS DOWN-HOME STYLE": The National Baseball Hall of Fame has selected Tim McCarver as the 2012 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually for lifetime excellence in baseball broadcasting. He is the only second primary television analyst to win the award, which has previously gone to much more talented people.

Seriously, how does McCarver win if these are the criteria? "Voters were asked to base their selections on the following criteria: longevity; continuity with a club; honors, including national assignments such as the World Series and All-Star Games; and popularity with fans."
I FEAR ALL WE HAVE DONE IS AWAKEN A SLEEPING FAMILY AND FILLED IT WITH A TERRIBLE RESOLVE: Yesterday, the crew from Mythbusters fired a cannonball that ricocheted off a wall, through a house, out the back of that house and down the street, where it destroyed the dashboard of a minivan. Fortunately, no one was hurt.
BELLIGERENT NOSTALGIA:  The new Mark Harris thinkpiece on the potential Oscar field is a must-read:
If this turns out to be a year that yields, say, six Best Picture nominees, and those nominees are The Artist, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, War Horse, The Tree of Life, and (speaking of escaping from present-day realities) The Help, what will anyone make of the list 15 or 20 years from now? All they will glean about 2011 is that (a) 2011 was an immensely unappealing subject to the filmmakers who endured it, and (b) an extraordinary number of people either lived in France, came from France, fought wars in France, or really wanted to visit France. 
Is this an issue with the Oscars or with the movies? It’s easy to say that Academy Awards are only a reflection of what’s out there. But plenty of 2011 movies are, on some level, about the way we live now, and they’re eminently worthy of consideration. Imagine a list composed, for instance, of Moneyball, Margin Call, The Descendants, Contagion, Ralph Fiennes’ contemporized Coriolanus, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Collectively, they’d create a very different snapshot of a year and a world — more specifically, a recognizably post-9/11 world in which we are largely obsessed with and freaked out about money and war and an always looming sense of threat. Throw those six movies into a time capsule and, when it’s unearthed generations hence, someone might at least be able to make a reasonable guess as to when it had been buried.
BECAUSE YOU CAN'T SPELL MARKETA IRGLOVA WITHOUT AN E, G, O, AND T: Once, the Musical, will open on Broadway in March 2012.

Irglova and Hansard did not win the two Grammys for which Once (the film soundtrack) had been nominated; otherwise, they could have joined Mel Brooks in garnering three-fourths of the crown for multiple adaptations of the same work (in his case, G-O-T for The Producers).  Nine actors have gone O-T for the same performance.

[Side EGOT question: Eminem's Super Bowl ad for Chrysler won a Creative Arts Emmy for Best Commercial, but it looks like the award goes to the ad agency and production company. Is he in fact only a Tony away from EGOT?]
AN MC TO A DEGREE THAT YOU CAN'T GET IN COLLEGE: The Rock and Roll Non-Country Popular Music of the 1950s and Beyond Hall of Fame has decided to induct in 2012 The Beastie Boys, Guns N' Roses, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Donovan, Laura Nyro, and The Small Faces.

We had discussed this year's nominees here; among those passed over were The Cure, Donna Summer (again), Tom Waits, Heart, and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

ALL HAIL THE LANNISTER:  GQ has named Peter Dinklage its Stud of the Year 2011. (Slightly NSFW pictures.)  They've also named Jay-Z the King of the Year, and the grilled cheese their Sandwich of the Year.
NO MORE #8 SEEDS UPSETTING #1:  Grantland's Katie Baker and Puck Daddy's Greg Wyshynski assess the winners and losers in the NHL's radical realignment scheme, which may bring with it new conference names.
I'VE GOT CAROLINE IN THE BEDROOM RIGHT NOW, PASSED OUT COLD. I COULD VIOLATE HER TEN DIFFERENT WAYS IF I WANTED TO: Adam's post on Christmas Story reminded me that I watched a little of another beloved piece of our shared past this weekend -- Sixteen Candles was on in the waiting-for-sleep-to-take-me hours. Since I was born in 1970, it didn't take me too long to remember how weirdly good Anthony Michael Hall was in that role. What I didn't remember, though, was what a menacing sociopath Jake Ryan was. He invited the geek to rape his girlfriend (as long as the geek didn't leave her in a park somewhere) and teenaged girls everywhere swooned? People forgave a lot in the 80s if you looked a little like Matt Dillon.

(And, as TPE mentioned below, Long Duc Dong.)
FROM THE ALOTT5MA PROBABLY-UNNECESSARY ADAPTATIONS DESK:  A new musical version A Christmas Story is proving fairly popular on the road, except that they've kept the scene with the waiters singing "Deck the Halls" in the Chinese restaurant, and, come on, people, it's 2011, and as the show's original composer said (he's been let go for "artistic differences"), “I had a very strong feeling that I didn’t want an Asian kid taken to a musical and saying to his parents, ‘Why are they making fun of us?’".
GREETINGS FROM ASBURY SHARK: From the network that brought you Sharktopus and Mansquito -- and the writing team that brought you, um, the tv holiday classics The Dog That Saved Christmas, The Dog That Saved Christmas Vacation, and The Dog That Saved Halloween -- comes the 2012 sure-to-be-tweeted Syfy telemovie Jersey Shore Shark Attack. Starring Paul Sorvino, Tony Sirico, Jack Scalia, Joey Fatone, Vinny from Jersey Shore, and HITG! superstar William Atherton.

Monday, December 5, 2011

STORE THIS AWAY FOR A FUTURE TRIVIA CONTEST:  According to NYMag, Adele's “Someone Like You” is the first-ever U.S. No. 1 to feature nothing but voice and piano.  I did not know that.
BRING BACK BIG SHOT: Hip Hop is dead in Philadelphia -- the 76ers mascot others, not the cultural movement -- and the combined talents of Jim Henson's Creature Shop and locals have yielded these three finalists to replace him -- "Big Ben" Franklin, B. Franklin Dogg, and Phil E. Moose.

At least it's better than Li'l G.
COMBINED 1,982 WINS AND TWELVE NATIONAL TITLES: In a year that has seen its off-the-field sports news dominated by investigations of college sports programs once deemed iconic, Sports Illustrated will honor Mike Krzyzewski and Pat Summitt as its 2011 Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year.  They join John Wooden (1972) and Dean Smith (1997) as the only college basketball coaches to receive the award.
ARTISANALLY SHAT: If you were looking for a detailed tasting review of Kopi Luwak, the naturally preprocessed $420/lb Indonesian coffee, look no further.
NOT SINCE JAMES MADISON HAS AN EMBARGO BEEN SO HOTLY DEBATED: So, critics and select awards groups have already seen Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, but under the terms of an embargo date--reviews were not supposed to be published until December 13. However, David Denby of The New Yorker broke the embargo with a review that published online today and is available in the issue arriving on newsstands and in mailboxes beginning today. Unsurprisingly, this has provoked a pissing match between Denby and producer Scott Rudin. Frankly, I don't understand the big deal--Dragon Tattoo is all-but-certain to be a big financial success regardless of reviews given the momumental book sales (though the fact that it's apparently a very hard R may cut into that), and the film that was shown was the finished film, not an incomplete work print.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

WE KIDNAP AND RAVAGE AND DON'T GIVE A HOOT:  A few observations from a quick trip to the Happiest Place on Earth for P's 4th birthday:

  • I would gladly stay at the Polynesian again. So nice to be on the monorail track, and to have a view of the fireworks at night from the hotel. Also, great swimming pool for the kids, and Disney's Magical Express succeeded with our luggage in both directions without fail.
  • Holy crap is Star Tours an awesome simulator ride.  We ended up on Hoth. (Also, P was selected as the rebel spy, which in addition to having her joke chosen by Marty Wazowski at the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor made the trip full of win.)
  • Cannot recommend more highly the importance of hitting a park as soon as it opens. Friday morning at the Kingdom, we were able to blitz, in about two and a half hours, Goofy picture/Dumbo/carousel/Small World/trio of princesses/Pirates/picture with Pirate Goofy/Jack Sparrow show/pictures with Jasmine-Aladdin/carpet ride, without once requiring a Fastpass.  Seriously, showing up at Dumbo and seeing no line whatsoever was an amazing surprise.
  • It's weird that construction of the expanded Fantasyland is visible to the public.
  • Are there EPCOT fans out there?  Can someone explain it to me beyond "Walt wanted a permanent World's Fair"?  It's so large, and if it weren't part of WDW I don't know that it could survive on its own.
  • Animal Kingdom, on the other hand, I enjoyed -- and this was my first time there. The theming is really well done; Kali River Rapids is a great ride, and the Lion King show is a solid half-hour for the kids. (For an adult that's seen too much Cirque du Soleil, everything else pales a little, but you know I'm a sucker for the movie and will admit to being impressed that they squeezed "Be Prepared" into the kiddie show, even if it was ixnay on the azi-Nay.) Also, 4-D Stinkbug!

Friday, December 2, 2011

NOT SINCE PROPERTY CLASS: A lot of folks are likely to see The Descendants because of its Oscar buzz, and some because of its trailer, which erroneously sells it as a madcap comedy, and some brave souls may now be more interested in seeing it knowing that it invokes the Rule Against Perpetuities as a major plot point. I really admired parts of it, particularly the performances from George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, and a surprising dramatic turn from Judy Greer, but I found myself unsatisfied by the end--without spoiling things here (though the comments are fair game)--it seems we're building to a moment of catharsis, and then, instead, we opt to end in a moment of quiet. In that way, it reminds me of Payne's prior About Schmidt, which ended not with Nicholson exploding, but with a moment of peace.

It also seemed to polarize the audience, with some applause at the end (seemingly primarily from the older set), but a fair number of folks grumbling that it was the worst thing they'd seen in a while. I find myself in the middle, though the older folks may drive it to a few nominations (screenplay and Clooney seem the naturals).

Thursday, December 1, 2011

FINALLY, I'LL GET TO GO TO CASA BONITA! With its oft-juvenile humor and heavily male fan base, South Park would seem a natural for a video game (and a few have been done in the past). However, I wasn't expecting the next effort to be an RPG with writing/voice from Parker and Stone from the folks who've previously given us KOTOR II, Neverwinter Nights II, and Fallout: New Vegas. This could either be fascinating or a complete and utter mess.
TALE AS OLD AS TIME: I see the new trailer for Disney's adaptation of John Carter is out. I'm reasonable excited for this, although coming in the heels of Avatar it will look derivative of, rather than the source, of one of the great tropes of science fiction: Earthman leads native aliens against their oppressors.

I am more curious, however, about the decision of Disney to restyle "Princess of Mars" as "John Carter." Perhaps they did not want to get Dejah Thoris mixed in with the pantheon of Belle, Cinderella and Ariel. Understandably, since Dejah Thoris would have slit Gaston's throat before dawn and gutted the Beast before he'd ever had a chance to explain himself.
CAN IT: Sensitive to consumer concerns, Coca-Cola will be dumping the white holiday cans which it had created for its primary soda because they were confusing too many people who thought they were being served Diet Coke -- so much so that the company had to issue a fact sheet to help folks tell them apart.
SUPPLEMENTAL EGOT WATCH: For years, there've been efforts to revive or remake Jimmy Stewart classic Harvey either on stage or on screen, but they've fallen apart, with the closest to fruition being a Spielberg-directed version that would star either Tom Hanks or Robert Downey, Jr. We're finally going to get a version next summer, though, with Emmy winner Jim Parsons filling Elwood's shoes. I'm not sold, in part because his performance as Sheldon is so amazing and so utterly different from Elwood P. Dowd, but if he can pull it off, it'll be an impressive display of range.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

GOD MAY MAKE NO MISTAKES, BUT THESE FOLKS SURE DO: Here are your nominees for the 2012 Grammy Awards, now with fewer categories than before!  Quick bullets:

  • A whole lot of Adele going on.
  • Possibly getting closer to EGOT: Tina Fey, Trey Parker/Matt Stone, Daniel Radcliffe.
  • How the hell did Kanye not get nominated for Album of the Year? How can you have a Record of the Year category without one Lady Gaga song?
ONLY A KID, BUT HARD TO SCARE:  Finalists for the role of Éponine in the Crowe-Jackman Les Misérables appear to be Scarlett Johansson, Evan Rachel Wood, Lea Michele, and Taylor Swift.

And remember, Isaac: they already cast Anne Hathaway (as Fantine).
THEY'D NEVER CANCEL IT--IT'S A CROSSOVER HIT! It's not confirmed yet, but it's heavily rumored that provided ratings/acclaim hold up, HBO will renew Game of Thrones for two more seasons shot back to back, which would cover the third novel and limit the issues posed by child actors aging out of their parts, as well as giving some breathing room for Martin to finish the last two books before the show gets there. If that model works, I wouldn't be surprised to see it followed by a 3 season renewal which mashed up books 4 and 5 over three seasons.
YOU'VE GOT MIDGETS VIOLATING A TRANNY. I THOUGHT IT WAS HYSTERICAL, BUT MTV DIDN'T:  I am greatly enjoying my read through the new oral history of MTV by Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum, which both tells the business story (and how the "I Want My MTV" campaign was crucial in getting cable operators to pick up the network) as well as its discussion of the videos themselves, whether it's the homoerotic content in Billy Joel's "Allentown" video, or the generally fucked-up nature of Van Halen's "Pretty Woman," the section on which you can read here.
OF COURSE, WE HAPPENED TO BE IN OUR WHITE PANTS: You should be listening to Slate's Hang Up and Listen sports podcast anyway, but especially this week because Stefan Fatsis's discussion of the Nick Novak incident uncovers more than a few seconds of panic from athletes in other sports, including these football tales compiled by WIP host Anthony Gargano for a 2010 book.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

SCREW YOUR COURAGE TO THE STICKING-PLACE, AND WE'LL NOT FAIL:  Alan Cumming is Macbeth.  And Lady Macbeth. And Banquo, MacDuff, and everyone else in a one-man production of the Scottish play he'll bring to Lincoln Center next July.
AND, REALLY, HOW BAD CAN IT BE WHEN THE GUY WHO PLAYED MIKE DEXTER IN CAN'T HARDLY WAIT IS A VAMPIRE DOCTOR AND ELDER STATESMAN?  Say what you will about the Twilight films -- and let's be honest, we basically only invoke the sparklevamps here to complain about EW's excessive coverage thereof -- but as NYMag's Kyle Buchanan points out, at least unlike other blockbusters it thoroughly passes the Bechdel Test.
THE MAVERICK: Various SI writers are posting essays on their favorite 2011 athletes, but can anyone realistically win Sportsman of the Year 2011 other than Dirk Nowitzki?

Amended: Okay, I forgot Aaron Rodgers isn't just having this great regular season, but won the Super Bowl earlier this year. Equally worthy pick.  I still prefer Dirk.

(Others suggested in an SI poll include Aaron Rodgers, Pat Summitt, Albert Pujols, Novak Djokovic, and Hope Solo.)

Monday, November 28, 2011

VERY GOOD. HAPPY CHRISTMAS!  Just added to Steven Spielberg's Lincoln biopic starring Daniel Day-Lewis: Mad Men's Jared Harris (Lane Pryce) is Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.  (He's also co-starring as Moriarty in the new Sherlock Holmes film.)

With Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln; Joseph Gordon-Levitt as assassination magnet Robert Todd Lincoln; Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens; and David Strathairn as Secretary of State William Seward.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

BANG BANG! Whether it's Stevie Johnson's celebration or the Continued Miracle of Tim Tebow or Nick Novak doing what one needs to do, feel free to discuss any of the NFL games this weekend other than the one I attended.
SEGEL'S CORE MISTAKE IS TO PUSH THE MUPPETS TO THE MARGINS IN A MOVIE DESIGNED TO GIVE THEM THE SPOTLIGHT:  One of the House Next Door contributors didn't like The Muppets, following the headline with this statistic:
Case in point: Of the more than 20 songs in Henson’s three Muppet movies, only one of them has a non-Muppet performer (“Piggy’s Fantasy” in Caper, in which Kermit vies with a voice-dubbed Charles Grodin, which is part of the joke). Yet of the six original songs in Segel’s film, only one of them is Muppets-only. One.
Also, he doesn't care for "We Built This City." Conceded.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

THE FINE PRINT OF THE STANDARD "RICH AND FAMOUS" CONTRACT:  Let me get the obvious out of the way first: The Muppets, and the Toy Story short which precedes it, is a joyful romp. It gleefully mocks one's efforts to impose the standards of realism upon it while landing joke after joke, and even if its "are we too earnest for this era?" questioning is a bit strawmanish ("strawmanly?") it nevertheless will hit you in a place that is warm and fuzzy.  Or Fozzie.

The note I want to add is that part of what the film does is absolutely confirm my Unified Muppet Theory -- that while The Muppet Movie tells the "true" story of how these performers came together and formed a troupe, each of the subsequent films (as well as "The Muppet Show") is a fictional work created within the narrative universe of that film -- namely, The Muppets Take Manhattan and the like are the films being created under the terms of the Standard "Rich and Famous" Contract.

Oh, those terms. Indeed, The Muppets returns to that original narrative. This is the movie about what happened to that troupe after decades in the limelight, after starring in those films and having all those famous people show up on "The Muppet Show."  It is premised upon the details of that Contract upon which Kermit failed to perform due diligence, highlighting the importance of hiring top-notch attorneys to protect one's intellectual property.  And in the end (and this can't possibly be a spoiler), it sets the terms in the fictional universe (as well as, hopefully, our actual one) by which these characters can now go back to making whatever future silly films they want.

Also, it has Mickey Rooney.  And fart shoes!
WITH FOUR-PART HARMONY AND FEELING:  Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.  Via Joseph Finn, the ultimate "Alice's Restaurant" guide.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

CONGRATULATIONS, ANDREW BYNUM:  PTI's annual review of the Turkeys of the Year in sports.
I DO RADIO COMMERCIALS FOR....PRODUCTS: It's a Thanksgiving tradition to watch Jed Bartlet on the Butterball Hotline and him considering whether he's "soft on turkeys." Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
MAYBE THEY NEED TO USE A GEORGE FOREMAN GRILL: The Union Square neighborhood in New York got Manhattan's first IHOP below 125th Street, and many are thrilled with 24 hour Rooty Tooty Fresh 'N' Fruity, the restaurant's immediate neighbors are angry with the incessant smell of bacon.
MR. AND MRS. MALLARD WERE LOOKING FOR A PLACE TO LIVE:  From Moby to Meany to Morrie, from a scarlet 'A' to one 'L,' the Boston Globe selects 100 favorite books about New England or by New Englanders.
ALL HE EVER DOES IS NOT GET INDUCTED:  Because Cris Carter's name appears on the list of 26 semifinalists for 2012 induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I'm pleased. Bill Parcells, Steve Atwater, Willie Roaf, and Jerome Bettis are the names that jump off the page for me, though you may have other ideas.

Also, I couldn't come up with a reason to do a separate post on the end-of-season baseball awards other than an itch to work in BRAUN OVER BRAINS? as a headline, but if you're exorcised over any of the selections this is as good a place as any to discuss.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

MAY SHE DANCE WITH DRAGONS: Anne McCaffrey passed away today. It's been years since I read one of her novels, but her most famous series (Dragonriders of Pern) is a fascinating fusion of fantasy (dragons! harpers! pre-industrial society!) and science fiction (the "dragons" are genetically engineered creatures that help colonists on a new planet). Her other series had similar fusions--her "Talent and Hive" novels were set in a far future of space travel, but space travel was guided by psychic/magical air traffic controllers. The fusion made her books unpredictable and interesting in genres all-too-often content to rest on the same tropes again and again, making her the first female to win Hugo and Nebula awards, and a member of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. Her imagination will be missed.
WHY DON'T WE GET THINGS STARTED?  The Muppets currently stands at 100% on the Rotten Tomatometer, 28/28 including a rave in the NYT, and this reaction from Scott Weinberg:
Never did I expect that the Muppets would earn a comeback as warm and wonderful as this one. The seventh feature film from the immortal Jim Henson creations, The Muppets is, quite simply, everything a lifelong Muppet maniac would want in a new movie. It's sly and sweet, kooky and clever, warm and witty, silly for kids and subversive for grown-ups. It offers a refreshingly earnest "let's put on a show with some great old friends" attitude, it pokes fun at the Muppets' present state of pop culture limbo, and best of all: it knows why a man approaching 40 would be interested in a new Muppets movie -- and it delivers the old-school goods with a remarkable sense of craft and confidence. This is not a Muppets for a new generation; it's the Muppets as cool as they always have been; it's the younger generation that needs to catch up.
Scott Mendelson looks at the tracking numbers: "93% of kids under 12 are aware of The Muppets, only 39% of that group expressed 'definite interest' in seeing them return to the big screen. Translation - 54% of said demographic is comprised of spoiled, good-for-nothing little shits who don't know how good they have it. Fortunately, these kids are too young to make consensual decisions about movie-going, so use your parenting authority to drag their butts to a theater this weekend, under the threat of Safe Surrender if need be."
COULD IT BE ... SATAN?  Remember how just last week we got into a discussion of the role (and overuse) of recurring characters on SNL? NYMag has undertaken a comprehensive analysis of the topic, ranking all seasons based on the percentage of sketches relying on recurring characters** as well as slideshowing the twenty-five most repeated characters in show history -- and, guess what: Trebek and Connery do not make the cut.  (Well, Trebek should have.)

The one on that list I never really got?  Nora Dunn's Pat Stevens. What was the point?

** Excluding political impressions.

Added, Related: Splitsider's Five Rules for what makes a recurring sketch work.

Monday, November 21, 2011

OUTRAGEOUS!  It seems a bit beside the point to criticize the American Music Awards for crass commercialism. The show exists, of course, only because Dick Clark saw a marketing opportunity in 1973 and is, literally, a popularity contest.

Apparently, however, Jennifer Lopez may have hit a new low last night in brazen shilling, disappearing during her lipsynched musical performance reemerge next to the car she's currently promoting. The University of Pennsylvania's John Legend tweeted that "That had to be the most shameless thing I’ve ever seen in a performance. I was genuinely shocked," and Questlove concurred: "Yo. I know I didn’t just see that dumb Fiat. I KNOW I didn’t just see that friggin’ Fiat."  Here's the video.

[Also, party people were in the house last night, and they and David Hasselhoff had a good time.]
BEATS HAPPENING:  The NYT explains how Dr. Dre's headphone company became so popular.
"THINGS ARE STARTING TO HEAT UP DOWN ON E STREET": Bruce Springsteen has promised a new album and a world tour for himself and the band in 2012, the first without Clarence Clemons.
WHITMAN SAMPLER:  So I've been watching AMC's Sunday morning rebroadcast of Mad Men over the past few months (for those not following along, we just again shut the door and had a seat), and I couldn't help but wonder if this reaction is shared by others: the Don Draper flashbacks are, generally, a showy waste of time which don't illuminate all that much.

I recognize that when you have a character as deceptive and un-sharing as Don Draper, flashbacks may be the only way to unpeel that particular onion--certainly, I'll concede, it's better than hearing him voiceover a journal entry. And of course, I'll concede the scene at the train station when Dick/Don pulls out of town for the last time and his brother catches a glimpse of him.  On the whole, though, I'm a fan of show-don't-tell, and the storytelling in the flashbacks (especially when you see the episodes all stacked up like this) feels a bit lazy and indulgent compared to the remarkable things this show can do.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

CAREER PATH INTERCEPTED: Yale senior Patrick Witt, previously discussed here, today chose the Harvard game over his Rhodes Scholar interview, in part because he believed he couldn't pursue an NFL career if delayed by time in Oxford.

Harvard impressed them with their prowess, did, winning 45-7 today. Witt went 24-39 for 226y, 1 td and 3 interceptions, and can re-apply for the Rhodes next year.
WHY DO I GET THE FEELING YOU'RE GOING TO BE THE DEATH OF ME? (but it's SFW!) lists five noteworthy contemporary actors whose once-promising careers may have been derailed by the film franchises they chose to join.

Friday, November 18, 2011

TOPOGRAPHIC TORTURE:  Forget about the birds and the pigs and the agricultural undead -- 3 Slices is free, simple, and addictive.
GIVE JOON PAHK A REMATCH:  The Philadelphia Inquirer explains the methodology of this year's Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions winner, someone about whom we've written before.  (You will rarely see a game shift as dramatically as what this competitor pulled in Double Jeopardy in the first part of the finals.)
PENNY CANNED? It's been a bad week for Abed. Not only is Community going on hiatus, but Cougar Town doesn't have a spot on ABC's midseason lineup. Of note:

  • Cross-dressing comedy Work It! replaces Man Up! on Tuesdays, with Celebrity Wife Swap filling for Dancing With The Vaguely Famous Results until The River (creepy found footage show from Paranormal Activity creator Oren Peli) takes over the slot in February for a short run.

  • Winter Wipeout leads off Thursdays for a while, until it gets replaced with Ashley Judd/Sean Bean thriller Missing.

  • GCB (fka Good Christian Belles, fka Good Christian Bitches) replaces Pan Am out of Desperate Housewives, though ABC may return to Pan Am for a second season.

In addition to Cougar Town, no slot yet for Our Friend Shonda's new crisis management show Scandal, which, if I were a betting man, winds up Thursdays at 10, with Private Practice wrapping its season a little early, or takes the slot from Body of Proof on Tuesdays. Also not scheduled--Don't Trust The B***h In Apartment 23, which I'm guessing they're holding if Work It fails or to launch out of Modern Family.

HIS FIRST CLIENT WILL BE JUKT MICRONICS:  A reader points out that for the first time in eleven years, the California Supreme Court will be reviewing a case of whether someone's moral character makes him unfit for the Bar, and that someone is Stephen Glass, whom the New York Bar previously refused to admit on said grounds.

This article reviews the opinions below, which do not otherwise appear available online, with the majority citing character witness testimony in his favor by "two law professors, an owner of TNR, an investigative journalist, four attorneys (including a partner of the firm where Glass is employed), and a founder and CEO of an educational software company who was a Rhodes Scholar," as well as "declarations of five witnesses, including three lawyers, a director at Human Rights Watch, and an International Relations Officer for the U.S. Department of Labor." A dissenting judge noted, however:
Although he provided evidence of some rehabilitation, the Committee proved that five years after his initial public fraud, Glass was not truthful on his application for admission to the New York Bar. In that 2003 application, he expressed remorse for his lies and promised to be honest. Yet, to gain admission to practice law in New York, Glass understated the number of articles he had fabricated and exaggerated his efforts to help the magazines identify those articles. At a time when he should have been scrupulously honest, he presented an inaccurate application because it benefitted him—the same behavior as his earlier misconduct. And as late as 2005, Glass told one psychiatrist that he was still in the process of understanding and accepting his past misconduct. Just two years later, in 2007, he applied for admission to the California bar.

This record does not demonstrate Glass’s complete rehabilitation. If he is admitted to practice law, California courts and others will rely on his word as an officer of the court... Indeed, if Glass were to fabricate evidence in legal matters as readily and effectively as he falsified material for magazine articles, the harm to the public and the profession would be immeasurable. Given the magnitude of his misconduct and his subsequent misrepresentations on his New York Bar application, Glass has not shown proof of reform by a lengthy period of exemplary conduct which ‘we could with confidence lay before the world’ to justify his admission.
[Also per our earlier discussions on this topic, that other author's name still does not appear among those admitted to practice in New York State (though she did pass the bar exam), nor does her name appear on the website of the firm where she is employed.]

Thursday, November 17, 2011

JOSE CRUZ WEEPS:  Major League Baseball has confirmed that the Houston Astros will move to the American League West in 2013, joining the Texas Rangers there, and as early as next year (but no later than 2013) there will be a second wild-card team added to each league, with the two wild cards facing in a one-game playoff.

I'm actually fine with the latter, because I like the idea of creating incentives for winning one's division, but a pair of 15-team leagues? Ugh. Interleague play should be a rare midseason treat, not something which occurs every week of the year. From what I've been able to piece together, we're likely instead looking at 18 games against each divisional rival (total 72), 6x each for the other 10 teams in the league (60), and 30 interleague games -- basically, doubling the number of interleague games and inexorably leading us to the destruction of the American and National Leagues as distinct entities and the introduction of the designated hitter into all games. Boo!
LET THEM ENTERTAIN YOU: EW's already started polling for the "audience" choices for its Entertainer of the Year issue, so time for us to start some irresponsible speculation:
  • Melissa McCarthy--Sure thing for the Top 10 with the Emmy win and turn in Bridesmaids, but no way she goes to #1, right?
  • Daniel Radcliffe/Harry Potter--If he'd gotten a Tony nod, maybe, but they already honored Rowling when Deathly Hallows came out in book form.
  • Adele--Another sure thing for the Top 10, but #1? Tough sell, even as inescapable as "Rolling In The Deep" and "Someone Like You" have been. A boatload of Grammy nominations will help her case, and they'll be news right around the time the issue comes out.
  • Game of Thrones--Has both a successful TV series and top-selling books, but is it too geek? True Blood draws a bigger audience.
  • Twilight--God, I hope not, but it sells magazines to stick them on the cover. (That said, they're doing a Breaking Dawn cover this week--would they do two that close together?)
  • Emma Stone--Several big movies this summer, and "starlet of tomorrow."
  • The cast of Modern Family--Swept the Emmys, big critical and commercial hit? Seems like a recipe for success.

Anything I'm missing that's blatantly obvious, or that should be there?
NOW, HE IS KNOWN ONLY AS ... THE FALCONER:  The Awl lists Thirteen Notable Traditions Found On UNESCO's List Of Intangible Cultural Heritage, In Order, but in truth the whole list is pretty neat. The United States doesn't participate in the process of adding "intangible heritage practices and expressions" to the list, but it's not hard to think about what we might suggest—the blues and square dancing, perhaps?
NAME ONE OTHER MASSIVE HIT SINGLE THAT DOESN'T HAVE A CHORUS BUT DOES HAVE A MANDOLIN:  I read about them in Time magazine—Jessica Winter annotates (and suggests replacements on) the R.E.M. forty-song retrospective, Part Lies Part Heart Part Truth Part Garbage 1982-2011.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

SURE TO BE BETTER THAN THIS YEAR'S OTHER MOVIE ABOUT A ZOOKEEPER: Fox is pulling a surprising move with We Bought a Zoo--it's not blinking from a December 23 release date (which puts it up against Tintin, Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and the wide release of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, with War Horse following two days later)--instead, it's going to sneak the movie for paying audiences next weekend to try and build up goodwill. This seems to me a silly decision--if the movie's ready, why not release it earlier (say, this weekend, when the other wide options are Happy Feet Two and Sparklevamps Finally Get It On, or any other weekend in December, where the mainstream adult options are pretty thin)?
OFFICER LOCKSTOCK IS ENFORCING THESE NEW RULES: Starbucks, in an effort to cut maintenance costs, is apparently reducing or eliminating public bathrooms at many of its Manhattan locations. It's a privilege to pee, my friends, a privilege to pee.
MAKING C&S FUN: Those of us who went to law school likely remember the glory days of cite and substance checking, which at least as of 2002, when I was running it, still involved sending 2L's off to scour random libraries to get copies of the hard copy material. Westlaw and Lexis were not OK, much less "well, I put it into Google." I paid many a trip not just to the main NYPL on 42nd Street, but the Science, Industry, and Business Library, and other random locales. However, it seems new students of journalism have never gained that skill, so a NYU professor of journalism has come up with a treasure hunt to force students to learn how to navigate a library and find things in those dusty stacks.
GODDAMNIT BABY YOU KNOW I AIN'T LYIN' TO YA I'M ONLY GONNA TELL YOU ONE TIIIIIIIIIMEAHHHHHHHYEAAAH! The Hollywood Reporter reports that the original lineups of both Black Sabbath and Van Halen (ok, with Wolfgang van Halen replacing Michael Anthony) have signed deals to record new albums for release in 2012 and tour again.