Friday, January 28, 2011

THE FUTURE ONLY BELONGS TO THE FUTURE ITSELF:  Yes, tomorrow night's new SyFy film features Debbie Gibson v. Tiffany (c'mon: Gibson way more talented), but more importantly it's Mega Python v. Gatoroid -- yes, the alligators are on steroids. Also featuring Mickey Dolenz as himself, and Mrs. Landingham as the park ranger.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE LOVELY BOYLAN SISTERS? On October 3, 2004, the pilot episode of Boston Legal explored whether there should be a black Annie, with the help of a Very Special Guest. (HT: Vulture.)

EXCUSE ME, MR. PRESIDENT, SIR, IT'S YOUR 11:30 PHOTO OPPORTUNITY - THE LITTLE GIRL WHO SOLD THE MOST GIRL SCOUT COOKIES: The Girl Scouts are experimenting with discontinuing sales of cookies beyond the "core six" varieties -- Thin Mints, Do-Si-Dos, Trefoils, Samoas (Caramel deLites), Lemon Chalet Cremes and Tagalongs (Peanut Butter Patties) -- the top five of which account for 77% of all their cookie sales.
ALOTT5MA FRIDAY GRAMMAR RODEO: Over the transom from Watts:
Ran across this at work tonight: "an historical encyclopedia"
"An historical" or "a historical"? To n or not to n?
I assumed this was easy: it's "an historic," isn't it? But then I start looking at other sources, and it turns out I've been making a historic error.  Merriam-Webster recommends:
The court made a historic decision last week.
 But why?  Oxford Dictionaries:
An is the form of the indefinite article that is used before a spoken vowel sound: it doesn’t matter how the written word in question is actually spelled. So, we say ‘an honour’, ‘an hour’, or ‘an heir’, for example, because the initial letter ‘h’ in all three words is not actually pronounced. By contrast we say ‘a hair’ or ‘a horse’ because, in these cases, the ‘h’ is pronounced.

Let’s go back to those three words that tend to cause problems: historic, horrific, and hotel. If hotel was pronounced without its initial letter ‘h’ (i.e. as if it were spelled ‘otel’), then it would be correct to use an in front of it. The same is true of historic and horrific. If horrific was pronounced ‘orrific’ and historic was pronounced ‘istoric’ then it would be appropriate to refer to ‘an istoric occasion’ or ‘an orrific accident’. In the 18th and 19th centuries, people often did pronounce these words in this way.

Today, though, these three words are generally pronounced with a spoken ‘h’ at the beginning and so it’s now more logical to refer to ‘a hotel’, ‘a historic event’, or ‘a horrific accident’.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

WHAT'S WITH ALL THESE AWARDS? THEY'RE ALWAYS GIVING OUT AWARDS. BEST FASCIST DICTATOR -- ADOLF HITLER: Splitsider's Josh Kurp ranks the ten funniest films ever nominated for Best Picture.

It's not that great a list, because here's what's missingThe Graduate, TootsieButch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Broadcast News, Working Girl ("$6000? It's not even leather!"), The Great Dictator and especially M*A*S*H.
KEEP THE CHANGE, YA FILTHY ANIMAL: New York law has two big restrictions on what landlords can do with security deposits. First, they have to put the money in an interest-bearing account and the interest must be paid to the tenant. Second, to cover the expense of opening, maintaining, and dealing with the account, they can keep up to the first 1% of interest. Interest rates being what they are, this means I received my annual interest check from Bank of America on my security deposit this week, which I believe amounted to interest of .1% on my security deposit. Even at the ridiculous rental rates in Manhattan, that amounts to a check that's less than the cost of a first class stamp (and may even be a check that's for less than it cost BOA to mail it in bulk mail). Any suggestions for what the appropriate thing to do with such a check is? Is it even really worth depositing? Do I walk to my friendly neighborhood bank branch and ask for cash--in pennies?
CARL MONDAY-ISM IN OUR TIME:  Oh, yeah: this was amusing as hell on last night's local news -- your mailman may be drinking on the job!  Yes, it has hidden cameras.  Yes, it has the post-tavern confrontation with the reporter saying "Please don't drive!"  Oh, so good.  (HT to Dan Suitor on the title.)
NO BUSINESS LIKE SNOW BUSINESS: Open or closed today? (Me: open at 10am.)

Below the fold, what otherwise would have been a post titled Up, With People:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

SO THAT'S WHY THEY CALL IT THE TIFFANY NETWORK: Yes, I am amused by CBS's current Valentine's Day PSA directed toward men (I had to rewind it several times just to confirm that I didn't mishear).
LITMEME: I just bought, for my Kindle, The Hangman's Daughter, by Oliver Potzsch, or possibly Patzsch (depending on which web site you're reading). I bought it because it seemed right up my alley, but also because it's currently #1 on the list of Kindle bestsellers (and has been in the Kindle top 100 since its publication in mid-December).

This is weird, right? I had literally never heard of this book until I bought it. As far as I can tell, it's not on any New York Times bestseller lists, and Barnes & Noble says that it doesn't even have any copies in stock. There isn't even a Wikipedia page. How could there not be a Wikipedia page for a best-selling book?

I'm sure somebody can explain it to me, but I'm baffled about what could explain how the book is catching fire electronically but doesn't even merit a mention elsewhere.
HEY, H.O.V.A. MAN, HEY, DAPPER DAN: Will Smith and Jay-Z have teamed up to remake Annie for the big screen, with Willow Smith to star.  Fill out the rest of the cast, if you like.

(No, I don't know if that Don Budge fellow is available.  Yes, we've argued here multiple times as to whether the Rob Marshall/ABC version is better than the John Huston/big screen one: 1st, 2nd, 3rd times.  I'm still right.)
RES IPSA: Acai berries -- miracle or scam? I'm going with scam. Miracles don't advertise with Symantec-immune pop-under ads.
STILL NOT BLUE BELL: Sure, it may be snowing and cold, but they have found a way to make Girl Scout Cookies even more dangerously addictive--ice cream. Edy's now has vanilla with Tagalongs pieces, vanilla with Samoas pieces, and chocolate with Thin Mint pieces flavors (avaialble through April).
ANOTHER HUNDRED LYRICS: Like many of you, I've been reading Finishing the Hat, which is an essential for those who love Sondheim and musical theatre, but a few comments:
  • According to Sondheim's agent, the second volume will follow this fall and be titled Look, I Made A Hat, and cover the lyrics from Sunday In The Park With George and thereafter. Given that the lyrics to "Finishing the Hat" will appear in that volume and that it represents the "completion" of Sondheim's career (he claims to be retired from new projects), shouldn't the two be reversed?
  • While there are juicy tidbits here and there, it's odd how much is missing--for instance, there's no discussion of Dean Jones' departure from Company (which led to the only breaking of the Tonys' "opening night performer" rule ever) or of Chris Kattan's last second firing from The Frogs. Given how poisonous Sondheim's writing about other lyricists is, would have been interesting to hear his side of the story on some of these.
  • While it's lovely to see some of the cut songs (in particular, a cut song from Gypsy that got cribbed from for "Rose's Turn" and the discarded finales for Company), the dance number "Tick-Tock" from Company, one of the very few "dance songs" Sondheim has ever written solo, appears nowhere in the book.
  • Company is (or at least can be) a pretty bleak musical. (I recall reading about a production somewhere where after singing "Being Alive," Bobby puts a gun to his head, the lights go out, and we hear a gunshot--curtain.) The original finale, "Multitudes of Amys," actually makes it a little more uplifting, but what they had out of town--"Happily Ever After"--which takes parts of the "Being Alive" lyric (e.g., "someone to sit in your chair, to ruin your sleep"), and refers to it as "happily ever Hell," makes even the "suicide ending" seem almost uplifting. Because Sondheim is so focused on the lyrics, he doesn't talk about why the book changed requiring the shift--I wish he'd done that.

Know many others have been enjoying this, and wanted to open it up for your thoughts.

DAVID E. KELLEY AND AL PACINO:  Given the recent announcements of Regis Philbin, Brett Favre and The Connecticut Senator Who Looks Like Emperor Palpatine, Slate's Emily Yoffe wants to know who else should be encouraged to retire already.  (Obvs, keep your answers to our bailiwick.)
BAD SNOWMANCE 2011:  I'm rather stunned that schools are, for the moment, open in Philadelphia.  As now reads, "Pre-dawn ambush: So far, 1 to 2 inches of snow has been measured in parts of the region, and, yes, this was not supposed to happen."

Keep us posted.
"OF COURSE, ONE GREAT IDEA GUARANTEES NOTHING": Few people in recent years have contributed as much to our understanding of baseball as Vörös McCracken, who figured out around the turn of the century that while pitchers could control strikeouts, walks and home runs, "There is little if any difference among major-league pitchers in their ability to prevent hits on balls hit in the field of play."

It's counterintuitive, but a decade's worth of research have proven it's largely true. There is no consistent year-to-year skill in "getting them to hit balls at the fielders" -- it is random. (Knuckleballers and extreme fly-ball pitchers are the outliers.)

All of which is to tee up this remarkable piece of journalism from Jeff Passan, on McCracken's journey from obscurity to the Red Sox, to where he is now.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I'M A MINER! (NO, YOU'RE AN IDIOT.) The Amazing Race 2 -- an absolutely pantheon-level of awesomeness in the reality tv universe -- is finally available on DVD.  The season aired in the spring of 2002, and is the one with Team Cha Cha Cha, Tara & Wil, and the Groanies, while featuring the biggest airport error in Race history and some of my favorite Race tasks ever -- one involving a giant snow globe, a blow torch and a chisel; and one on the weirdest golf course ever.  Also: the closest finish in Race history, one suffused with so much dramatic irony and tension that I can't even begin to describe it.  This is the season where a competitor urges the guy at the taxi stand, "We're in a race for a million dollars!" and he responds "I don't care. I'm not gettin' it."

I have no idea how much we should commiserate in the comments about this season's merits, because I'd hate to spoil things for the uninitiated. If you've ever enjoyed a season of the show, this is one you need to see.
CAPITALISM: THAT'S NOT HOW YOU DO IT: Let's say that you're a business that caters to tourists. Not just any business that caters to tourists, but a themed diner that features singing waitresses, located smack in the middle of Times Square. And then one of your waitresses goes on television -- not just any TV show, but the most popular show in America for many years running. And not just any most popular show in America, but one whose audience consists, in giant part, of exactly the people who you want to know about your restaurant -- that is, people who might want to be tourists in New York, and who, if they do, are likely to spend time in Times Square doing touristy things. And what does your waitress do on that show? She sings, and she does it well enough to earn the judges' heaping praise for her talent. It goes so well, in fact, that the show sends a crew to your restaurant, where they film your front door, your waitress belting something out, and your patrons having a ridiculously good time. Millions upon millions of people in your target audience have just been treated to a feel-good puff piece about how much fun they could have in your establishment -- developing a personal connection to one of your employees in the process -- and it didn't cost you a penny. You have won the Powerball Lottery of free publicity. So what do you do?

Well, fire the waitress for going to American Idol's Hollywood round, of course.*

*Caveat: TMZ link, so this may not be true.
THE GUY MAY SEEM PLUSH AND HUGGABLE ON THE OUTSIDE, BUT INSIDE, HE'S A MONSTER: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced the nominations for this year's Academy Awards and, yes, that funny stoner guy in Pineapple Express can hereafter be billed as Academy Award nominee James Franco. Here they are.

Overall nominations leaders: The King's Speech (12), True Grit (10), Inception and The Social Network (8 each).  Oh, and Randy Newman now has his 19th nomination, with one win thus far.

It looks like Winter's Bone did slight better than expected, as did True Grit (acting nods for Bridges and Steinfeld), and there were no supporting acting nods for The Social Network ... but in terms of the merits I'm going to defer to the folks who saw more of these films than I did.  Go to it.

added:  We are aware of, apologize for, and are completely helpless with regards to all sorts of problems with Echo commenting right now.  A service for which we are paying.  Please copy any comments you draft before hitting "post."

added:  NYMag on this year's Oscar-seeking narratives.  "It's this year's zeitgeist-capturing, generation-defining, conversation-dominating front-runner. Vote for another movie at the risk of your own relevancy!"

Monday, January 24, 2011

A LITTLE GLOWING FRIEND:  Indeed, as the post says, "Best. Object. Ever."  Available at Amazon for $14.99. (HT @radlein)
I'D BE GGG FOR THIS: MTV has ordered a pilot from Dan Savage where he'd travel to colleges and give sex advice to students.

While we're on the topic of that network, should I be watching Skins?
READING THE CONTENT ON THIS DRIVE WILL DRIVE YOU INSANE: When the data you need to keep on a memory stick isn't just dangerous, but pure and utter evil, only one type of drive will do--one with Cthulhu on it.
I GOT FLAVOR AND ALL THOSE THINGS YOU KNOW: Ladies and Gentlemen, introducing Flav's Fried Chicken. No absentee ownership there in Clinton, Iowa, either. "You're going to find me in here working. You're going to be catching me seasoning my chicken, frying up my chicken, and not only that, but serving my chicken to my people."
#WHERESJWBOOTH:   Name an historical event whose contemporaneous Twitter coverage would have been worth following.  For bonus Likes, supply some of the missing coverage:
Survived purple tunnel, but how's Potus surviving without a hat? #whhinaug

Just heard Ruckelshaus resigned too; is there anyone left at DOJ?

Well, now we've got a second piece of videotape Rob Lowe would like to erase. #oscars
Related, from 5770: TweetTheExodus.

(One in an occasional series of possible posts inspired by Patton Oswalt's recent appearance on The B.S. Report.)
ARE REX RYAN AND MARK SANCHEZ THE NEW ANDY REID AND DONOVAN F. MCNABB? My only comment on this weeekend's games is that I'm delighted that for the second straight year, we're getting a Super Bowl matchup of two damn good football teams who through both the regular season and the playoffs demonstrated their belonging in this game.  This, I have a feeling, is going to be a good one.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

NOT A BIG COLLEGE TOWN: A request from commenter kennedy jane:
My 19 year old daughter and I are planning a trip to Boston over her spring break in mid-March. (My thanks to her friends' parents who decided they would do family vacations thus killing the kids-only trip to some beach!) Neither of us have ever been to Boston and I know many folks on this blog are very familiar with the area. Any suggestions on what area to target for hotel, what to see/do, where to eat? We are touristy kind of girls so we will be hitting the spots that would be listed in a travel guide but would love to hear suggestions for other not so well-known spots. Thanks for any suggestions!
MAKE ME A CHANNEL: Much as I like the ceremony of the Catholic Mass, most parish music programs suck because -- in no small part -- most of the modern hymnal is dreadful. That said, Bono singing 'Make Me a Channel of Your Peace' is something I'd drop $1.29 for. (Alas, no audio here).