Saturday, March 12, 2011

FOILED AGAIN: I thought I was being soooo smart -- drafting a self-referential post at this hour queued via the interface to be published on March 13, 2011 at 2:30 am -- a time which, as you know, will not occur thanks to the Daylight Savings Time shift at 2am. I was curious to see what would happen -- would I wake up and find Biff Tannen as my mayor? is one step ahead of me, sadly. Because when I scheduled this post to be published at that time, an error message popped up: "Because of a daylight savings time shift on the date entered, the time entered does not exist."  So you're seeing it now instead.

(But what if I were posting from Arizona, which does not observe Daylight Savings Time and therefore it does exist? Related, how do tv stations and cable networks broadcasting in Arizona account for the extra hour experienced there tonight while the rest of us jump ahead?)
YOU CAN SAY WHAT YOU MAY ABOUT ANYONE:  Gene Weingarten complains that Our National Anthem is "a mess":
15 dangling clauses that seem more or less mix-and-match interchangeable (Oh, say! can you see/through the perilous fight/o'er the land of the free/by the dawn's early light ... ), all of it amounting to a single, convoluted question that is then ... not answered. The printed lyrics actually end in a question mark.

Does the flag still wave? As yet undetermined! The answer doesn't arrive until the second stanza, which no one knows because it is mostly sung in creepy, hyper-patriotic gatherings of, say, ladies who are direct descendants of Cotton Mather, or during secret Masonic initiation rites involving men wearing aprons.
So the double-Pulitzered Weingarten does the only thing he can: write a new National Anthem, setting the guarantees of the Bill of Rights to the tune of the William Tell Overture, and has Christine Lavin test out how it sounds. "If you're popped by a cop, then you get a trial/Army troops won't be cooped in your domicile" just may catch on.

Friday, March 11, 2011

GIRL ON FIRE: Since I didn't see Winter's Bone, my sole exposure to Jennifer Lawrence has been her red carpet appearances (though I'll see her in X-Men: First Class, and may see The Beaver). As I result, I'm not quite sure what to think of reports that's she's close to signing a deal to play Katniss Everdeeen in The Hunger Games. From what I've seen thus far, she looks a little too old and too glamorous to play Katniss (though she's deglammed quite effectively in the clips from Winter's Bone I've seen)--two of the other finalists--True Grit's Hailee Steinfeld and Abigail Breslin--seem to fit the bill a little better. With Katniss cast, there's still a bunch of interesting stuff to be cast--Peeta, Haymitch, Gale, Rue, Effie Trinket (loved EW's pitch of Elizabeth Banks for the role), Cinna (Project Runway's Austin Scarlett?). Any suggestions?
WE'LL TAKE THE PHYSICAL CHALLENGE! Yes, The Hub's Family Game Night is okay, but I'll gladly co-sign Ken Tucker's call for a revival of Double Dare.
WHAT: A Good Boy; Becomes Of The Brokenhearted; Do You Do With A B.A. In English; Goes Around.../...Comes Around; I Like About You; Is This Feeling?; It Feels Like For A Girl; It's Like; The Hell; Would You Say; You Own; You Want; 'd I Say; 's Love Got To Do With It; 's My Age Again?; 's Simple Is True; 's The Buzz; 's The Frequency, Kenneth?; 's The Matter Here?; 's Up?
OH, 'CAUSE HONEY BELIEVE ME - I'D SURE LOVE TO CALL YOU MY GIRLFRIEND:  Following up on Tuesday's discussion, our friend-who-has-gone-on-six-dates writes:
Given your kind suggestions, I will now begin telling my inquisitors that "I am seeing someone." The conversation can wait. I like him.
AN ADMINISTRATIVE NOTE: I recently discovered that what we thought of as anonymous commenting on this site ... isn't. If you want a post to be untraceable, there's a way to do it (I think), but merely typing in "Anonymous" as your commenting name isn't it.

Here's what I found: even when you don't log in before commenting, it looks like JS-Kit will still associate that identity with comments previously posted from that IP address and, therefore, if you click on that name thereafter to view the details, it'll pull up those previous (and named) comments.

So, what to do if you'd like to post anonymously? Use a proxy server, and if someone can suggest a good one I know it will be appreciated. Look: posting under some consistent name here is the norm, and it's how this community gets built and sustained.  But there remain circumstances in which anonymous commenting is warranted. and I want to ensure we protect your ability to do that as best we can.

[No Grammar Rodeo today; we totally did that on Tuesday, and there's plenty of time to argue about when you should employ the passive voice, and when it should not be used.]
FROM THE SPORTS-RELATED BRAIN TRAUMA DESK: I wish the NFL had more sponsors like Air Canada, which has told the NHL that it will withdraw its sponsorship if the league doesn't take "serious" and "immediate" action on blows to the head, writing:
From a corporate social responsibility standpoint, it is becoming increasingly difficult to associate our brand with sports events which could lead to serious and irresponsible accidents; action must be taken by the NHL before we are encountered with a fatality.

Unless the NHL takes immediate action with serious suspension to the players in question to curtail these life-threatening injuries, Air Canada will withdraw its sponsorship of hockey.
What animated the letter? Watch this hit on Max Pacioretty, which resulted in a fractured fourth cervical vertebra, severe concussion, and ... no suspension of the player who caused it.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

EIGHTY-THREE DAYS TO GO:  Our first Spelling Bee update of 2011, courtesy reader BeeFan:
I presume you've heard the bad news.  Vanya Shivashankar will not be at the Scripps Bee this year.  She finished third at the Olathe regional.  Alas.  Plenty more tries left for her, of course.  Next year she'll be as old as Kavya was on her first trip to the Bee.  (Vanya did win the North-South Bee last year in her age group.)

Laura Newcombe won the Toronto regional again.  Looks like Canada will send the top three spellers to Washington this year so she can return even if she doesn't win a mind-boggling third Canspell.
Also, for the first time (and as a benefit of the move to a larger facility), tickets are now on sale to attend all rounds at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center down the Potomac in National Harbor, MD.
AMERICA VOTED: After the sub-Fresh Beat Band medley of Michael Jackson songs, after a stripped-down Adam Lambert performance and a lot of things I fast-forwarded past, the results themselves were no surprise. Below the fold ...

YOU LOOK GOOD, GIRL: In a case of life imitating art imitating life, or perhaps life just going on after a brief interruption of imitative art, consider the story of Felicia "Snoop" Pearson. Snoop had already served six years in prison for second-degree murder when David Simon & Co. hired her to play a heroin-gang hit [wo]man on The Wire named, in an astounding coincidence, "Felicia 'Snoop' Pearson." Early this morning, Pearson was arrested in connection with a 'large-scale' heroin distribution operation.
ANYONE WHO CAN'T MAKE MONEY OFF SPIDER-MAN SHOULD GET OUT OF THE MONEY-MAKING BUSINESS: Item!  Aaron Sorkin approached to join creative team of Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark; declines.  Didn't stop Matt and I from tossing around some ideas:

  • Instead of flying across the room, Spider-Man makes his entrance saying "I am the Lord, your God."
  • Joshua Malina replaces Reeve Carney as Spider-Man.
  • Bono and the Edge are replaced by old Gilbert & Sullivan tunes.
  • Peter Parker stops halfway through the show to complain about what bloggers are saying about the show.
  • The Daily Bugle is now a Very, Very Important live tv show.
  • And everyone in the cast would know the name of the assistant wardrobe supervisor.
15 MEGABYTE HARD DISK DRIVE - $2,495.00: Eighty-five vintage computer print ads.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

AND I'LL TRY NOT TO SING OUT OF KEY: As far as I'm concerned, the night belonged to Casey Abrams and James Durbin. Casey's With a Little Help From My Friends sounded totally authentic -- which is not so easy when taking on Joe Cocker. And after I got over my realization that James's bandanna thing is less a stylistic move than an aural restraint mechanism, I was wowed by his Maybe I'm Amazed. He sounds like a less precious Adam Lambert -- which ain't a bad thing at all. These two guys are off to a strong, strong start.

This leaves me with some other questions and comments.

#1. Can Pia sing anything other than Big Ballads? Rewatching her group sing from Hollywood Week, I'm reminded that the answer should be yes. But only two weeks in, I'm already restless. She's safe, and should find herself easily in the top half this week, but please, can one of this vaunted flock of producers score a bit of tempo for Pia next time?

#2. Exactly how strong is the country voting bloc? I don't have a good sense as to whether Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery can phone it in until the top 5 or so, but I suspect that it doesn't matter whether I think Scotty is a one-trick pony or who Lauren decides to be as between Melissa Etheridge and Kellie Pickler. Neither one should be in any trouble anytime soon.

#3. Paul McDonald did not previously reveal this level of twitchiness. When Adam posited yesterday that Casey Abrams might be a less shticky Taylor Hicks, I thought that it was actually McDonald who might fall into that category. After watching him tonight, though, I find myself concerned that maybe he's a more shticky (or at least more twitchy) Hicks. Relistening to his performance without watching, though, it was still pretty bad. It improved about half way through, but there was just no comparison to his Blackbird or Maggie May.

#4. If there is one thing in this life as to which I am consistent, it is that I hate Stevie Wonder songs on AI. And thus Stefano Langone has no place in my life. (He even sang Stevie in Hollywood!)

#5. Jacob Lusk sings like an Eddie Murphy parody of Jacob Lusk. stab stab stab stab stab

#6. No one else really worth extended discussion. Thia got screwed by her producer, and she knew it. Yodeling has no place on Idol. Declaring that your idol is Miss Ross does not mean that you need to style yourself exactly like her. Good to know that Jennifer Lopez has adopted the Paul Abdul "you're so pretty" lead-in to kiss of death commentary on actual singing. And while I didn't care for Naima's performance, I appreciated the effort to dance and thought she seemed much more relaxed than she did last week.

One last thought: Did anyone else notice that the "My Idol" theme deterioriated over the course of the show, so that what started out as this is my idol turned into this is a person whose song I have decided I would like to sing now?
I HAVE A LIMO/RIDE IN THE TRUNK/I LOCK THE DOORS/IN CASE I GET DRUNK: The life cycle of a celebrity scandal:
  • Day -365.0 to -90.0: Blind items appear regularly, with increasingly transparent identifying puns
  • Day -90.0 to 0.0: News stories begin to refer to star as "controversial" or to his/her "party lifestyle"
  • Day -90.0 to 0.0: News stories rebutted by soothingly illogical dissembling by well-paid PR staff
  • Day 0.0: Eruption of luridly detailed, difficult-to-spin event
  • Day 0.2: Early adopters begin making knowing references
  • Day 0.5: Early adopters begin making parody videos
  • Day 0.5: Jokes begin to take the form of repetition of quotes or slogans in lieu of actual punch lines
  • Day 1.0: Celebrities tweet earnest messages of concern for fellow celebrity, punctuated with earnest exclamation points
  • Day 1.0: Mass consumption of parody videos
  • Day 1.0: Sharp-witted opportunists begin selling sloganized t-shirts
  • Day 1.5: Dim-witted would-be ironists begin purchasing sloganized t-shirts
  • Day 2.0: Publication of stories by laziest journalists in the world collating quotes from celebrity tweets of earnest concern
  • Day 2.0: Complete cultural saturation of jokes taking the form of repetition of slogans in lieu of actual punch lines
  • Day 2.0: Twitter experiences unusually high load at the moment. Please be patient and try again later
  • Day 2.0: Parody videos cease being funny, do not cease being made
  • Day 2.0: Slack-jawed nation begins to develop chemical tolerance to scandal, requires greater concentration of scandal to remain entertained
  • Day 2.0: Celebrity begins experimenting with ways to profit from media saturation
  • Day 3.0: Early adopters adopt policy of prefacing every joke about scandal with prophylactic joke about how tired they are of scandal
  • Day 3.5: Meredith Vieira learns about scandal, is amused
  • Day 4.0: Dim-witted would-be ironists receive sloganized t-shirts via UPS 2-day shipping
  • Day 4.5: TMZ and celebrity convene focus groups to figure out how to extend story cycle; agree to engage in and cover self-consciously scandalous behavior for mutual benefit
  • Day 5.0: Dim-witted would-be ironists who selected UPS 2-day shipping don sloganized t-shirts
  • Day 5.2: Dim-witted would-be ironists try to gauge reactions of passers-by
  • Day 5.3: Dim-witted would-be ironists feel kind of insecure, change back into timelessly ironic t-shirts
  • Day 6.0: Dim-witted would-be ironists who didn't pay for UPS 2-day shipping receive packages, experience buyers' remorse
  • Day 6.0: Ann Curry learns about scandal, makes joke, laughs at own joke, silently congratulates herself for her currency
  • Day 6.7: Nation implores Saturday Night Live not to make already-tired joke about scandal
  • Day 6.701: Nation's mother laughs at Saturday Night Live joke about scandal
  • Day 60: Haitian relief organizations note sharp uptick in receipt of "vatican warlock assassin" t-shirts
  • Day 155: Law & Order franchise and pornography company engage in frantic race to be first to market with ripped-from-the-headlines product
  • Day 820: Book's vague, passing reference to scandal seems dated; is rare sour note in otherwise keenly-observed novel
THEY'VE GOT EVERYTHING THERE: Even though he's been in 16 movies since 2007, Bill Hader has never had a leading role. That's apparently about to change, as he's set up two projects for him to star in. Of particular interest is the first--a Vaughn Meader biopic, which I can actually kind of see Hader knocking out of the park, given his talent for impressions.

And since we're on the subject of Hader--is Stefan funny because it almost invariably makes Hader break, or does Hader breaking detract from the funny? Discuss.
PINEAPPLE, LIME, ORANGE, CHERRY, AND CREAM SODA: Commenter Jake wants to know:
Are the iconic Life Savers rolls disappearing? Recently my wife had a roll of Life Savers that she purchased at the airport. Popping a green one in my mouth, I was aghast that it was watermelon and not lime. Having not had Life Savers for a while, I had forgotten completely that they replaced lemon and lime with raspberry and watermelon in the 5-flavor roll a few years ago (a development to which I was and remain opposed). In any event, I ended up eating most of her roll, and while doing errands, sought to replace it. To my utter amazement, I could not find a roll of Life Savers anywhere -- not at two different grocery stores (Giant and Harris Teeter), not at CVS, and not at a local beer/wine store. The grocery stores had them in bags, but not rolls. So, I'm wondering -- does this mean the rolls are being phased out completely, or is this just an odd quirk of the stores where I live (Montgomery County, Maryland)? Am I the only one who is annoyed by this?
WITH CHAFAFA ON THE SIDE:  In which Kim and I set the stage for American Idol 10, the three-month finals of which begin tonight:

Adam: If this Idol were like the three which preceded it, picking a winner would just involve finding the non-threatening white guy who had room to grow performance-wise and who might have talents in reworking or rearranging songs, and it'd help if he were Southern or, at least, not explicitly Yankee or cosmopolitan in demeanor. Under that standard, I'd just assume that Nashville's Paul McDonald will be your next American Idol, after having been chased by Casey Abrams and Scott McCreery, and we could end the conversation right here.

But this may not be more of the same, and that's because Idol's enduring success depends on its occasionally locating a Next Pop Superstar like Carrie Underwood or Kelly Clarkson -- and that's something the show has not done lately. Not only does the show's credibility depend on it but it also affects the bottom line, given the new partnership with Universal Music Group and Jimmy Iovine throughout the competition. The blood is in the water, with NBC's The Voice and Fox's own X-Factor with Simon Cowell on the horizon, so now more than ever Idol needs to not just keep people watching (and voting) (and buying from iTunes) week after week but also anoint someone with market potential.

So, Kim, does that person exist in this competition? Can the producers and judges change the show enough to steer voters in his or her direction? Or is all of this irrelevant because the voting base isn't going to change, and we should all just calm down and enjoy the ride to McDonaldland?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

FOLLOWED BY OUR DISCUSSION OF THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN "LIKE ME" AND "LIKE ME LIKE ME": One of our female readers has a question that's half-language, half-another-word-starting-with-l-that-I-know-she's-not-up-to-yet:
Boy meets girl. Boy asks girl out. Boy and girl go on, say, 6 dates. Boy and girl have not discussed their relationship status. How should boy and girl refer to their status? Dating? Going out? Seeing each other? 
Going on dates?
To me: I think if someone else asks, you're at least "seeing someone." It's "dating" if you've reached the point that your next public rendezvous isn't a question of mutual interest but of mutual availability.  YMMV.
SPECIAL TUESDAY GRAMMAR RODEO (WHOPPERS JUNIOR DIVISION): Those of you with long memories will note that today's Mardi Gras marks the 10th such celebration since Philadelphia's 2001 Mardi Gras riots, chronicled on our pages in 2003 and preserved on YouTube as well.

But I couldn't help but wonder: what's the plural of Mardi Gras? If I wanted to say "I still can't believe what happened ten [MGs] ago," what term would I use?  Mardis Gras?  Mardi Grases?  Something else?

Monday, March 7, 2011

ONLY SLIGHTLY LESS LEGITIMATE THAN THE GOLDEN GLOBES: In addition to Shawn Michaels, the WWE Hall of Fame this year will induct Hacksaw Jim Duggan, a man whose loquacity, in-ring versatility and fondness for garden tools have few peers in sports entertainment.
IF ONLY HE HAD AN APROPOS LYRIC REGARDING MISUNDERSTANDINGS OR MISTAKES, SO THAT I COULD HAVE A WITTY TITLE TO THIS POST: According to Phil Collins's U.K. rep, he's only taking a break from music and is not retiring.  But then he found out he was wrong when he thought he was right -- according to a statement by Collins on his own website, he is "calling it a day" but wants you to know he's conscious of the fact that in recent interviews he "ended up sounding like a tormented weirdo who thinks he was at the Alamo in another life, who feels very sorry for himself, and is retiring hurt because of the bad press over the years," none of which, he insists, is true. Need I say we care?
MORE LIKE DOUBLE POSITIVE: A little while ago someone -- perhaps Matt? or perhaps not -- mentioned that Sepinwall had identified "Donald Glover crying" as something that is never not funny. I think that Sepinwall also had long ago named "Donald Faison dancing" as something that is never not funny (though it may just have fallen into the slightly broader category of "never not enjoyable").

It got me thinking -- what else is never not funny? I'd say "Leslie Knope listing things" tops my list, though "Raylan Givens talks people out of gunplay" and "fake band names by anybody" are up there too.
I MARCHED THROUGH IT LIKE GENERAL SHERMAN, WITHOUT THE TORCHES: When I noted I’d be going to Atlanta for a long weekend, there was some interest in some bullets as to my culinary and cultural adventures in the Deep South’s biggest metro area (Atlanta itself is surprisingly small population-wise, but there are tons of “pocket cities” and suburbs). Since you asked, I deliver:
  • The World of Coca-Cola—Neither as cheesy nor as fun as you might have hoped. Particularly disappointing is the “Coke In Pop Culture” gallery, which makes space for some Coke-driven Pop Art, the “Coke Couch” from Idol Season 5, and only a single small case on the New Coke debacle. The origins gallery and the tiny bottling plant were cool, as was the chance to sample not just international Coca-Cola products, but also the new “Freestyle” machine, which dispenses several new specialty products (Orange Coke? Raspberry Coke?). Touristy, but worthwhile, especially with kids, I’d expect.
  • Georgia Aquarium—A very well done aquarium, notable for three things—its size, the size of several of the animals kept there (it’s one of the very few aquaria large enough to house whale sharks, which, amusingly, are neither whales nor sharks), and the large number of touch pools offered for kids. Pricey, but if you’re into marine life, worth it.
  • The Varsity—An Atlanta institution, this “world’s biggest drive-in” isn’t worth it for the food (greasy burgers and chili dogs, mediocre fries, though a nice fried peach pie), but the atmosphere is interesting (someone made the mistake of ordering a Pepsi while I was there, and the cashiers have a prescripted, very loud, rant for that). Not haute cuisine, but you get why it’s an institution (being crazy cheap and located basically on the Georgia Tech campus also helps).
  • Flip Burger—Commenter Amy joined me for lunch at Richard Blais’ burger joint. Unsurprisingly, few of the burgers are straight up. I was a bit underwhelmed with the burger—I opted for one that was a burger patty topped with chopped/shredded BBQ brisket and house BBQ sauce. The sauce was a bit thin and overly spicy, tasting more like a house spice sauce like Tabasco than a BBQ sauce, and the combination was too dense for its own good—a veritable meat tornado--some cheese to break it up would have been a good idea. The sides, on the other hand, shined—the fries and onion rings were solid, but most impressive was a roasted cauliflower, which was spiced to perfection and got eaten far more quickly than you might expect. Of course, this being a Blais joint, the large tub of liquid nitrogen in the back has to get used, and it’s used primarily for milkshakes—I opted for one based on Nutella with torched/toasted marshmallows on top, which was excellent. As one might expect with Blais, not every experiment works, but when they do, they really do.
  • Center for Puppetry Arts—Amy and I then headed to this Atlanta institution—we passed on the puppet shows, but did the Jim Henson tour, which tours the collection of Henson puppets and related things donated to the museum, including original Kermit, Ernie, Big Bird, Rowlf, Dr Teeth, and Pigs in Space puppets, as well as a bunch of stuff from other Henson projects—Fraggle Rock, Labyrinth, the La Choy Dragon. Included in the tour is the “tunnel of arms” from Labyrinth, which was staffed not with puppeteers, but with extras. One would hope they are now very proud of having had the opportunity to grab the young Jennifer Connelly’s ass and get paid for it. The other part of the collection is less impressive, and the “random puppet heads” room is seriously creepy. The Henson stuff is very well done, and I hope they find the space to show more of it.
  • Watershed—This restaurant (out in Decatur) is a well-regarded temple to traditional southern cooking co-owned by Emily Sailers. As you’d expect from a Sailers-owned restaurant, the vibe is light and airy, rather than a crowded mess.While they apparently brought in a new chef about a year and a half ago to replace the highly regarded former chef, who left to pursue other interests, the food was quite solid—a massive pork chop was thick, meaty, but still tender (though a touch salty, which is often unavoidable when working with pork), the mac and cheese excellent, the collard greens good (I am not a fan, but these were nicely buttery), and the Very Good Chocolate Cake lived up to its name.

Not all of the trip was high points (the nearly 9 hours from checkin at the Atlanta airport till return to my home due to a weather mess in NYC last night was less than fun, and it was chilly all weekend), but still, a worthwhile trip.

COME BACK, KIM DELANEY! Via the AV Club Philly, six films shot in Philadelphia but set elsewhere.  Left out: Jimmy Smits's Outlaw (a/k/a Sh*t My Ghost Lawyer Dad Says), where his "DC" apartment in the pilot is on the same block of Delancey Street as Winthorpe's home in Trading Places and the NPH The Best and the Brightest shoot highlighted in the link, and in which the Franklin Institute's front steps become a courthouse's.  Also, why does Philadelphia sub in for Cedar Rapids in Cedar Rapids?

A fuller list of Films Shot Here is here.
POSSIBLE WORLD EXCLUSIVE - MUST CREDIT ALOTT5MA:  At about fifty-six minutes into Eddie Murphy's Coming to America (1988), Prince Akeem of Zamunda is introduced to two American myths presented as fact -- a competitive St. John's basketball team and a gratuitous hand-job from his date for the game, Patrice McDowell, sister of his eventual bride Lisa (accompanied to the game by Darryl "Soul Glo" Jenks, played by ER's Eriq LaSalle). Inspired by recent research on Ferris Bueller's Day Off and The Town, I wanted to try to determine: what game was it?

As it turns out, this wasn't that hard to determine: the Redmen were facing the Marist Red Foxes at the Garden, something they did twice in the years preceding the filming. Indeed, Marist's Rik Smits (#45) is immediately recognizable during the sequence, with the Dunking Dutchman delivering the kind of powerful 7-foot-plus performance the silver screen would not see again until Shawn Bradley's work in Space Jam nearly a decade later.

And pretty clearly, it's the December 28, 1987 game, the first round of the 36th ECAC Holiday Festival Tournament. The players we see match up with the box score -- including Boo Harvey (#3), future NBAer Shelton Jones (#31), and future NBAer/defendant Jayson Williams (#11). Most tellingly there's a scoreboard ad for "Knicks vs. Phoenix, Tue. Jan. 5 - 7:30 P.M" -- a game the Knicks indeed played (and lost).

In conclusion, as Akeem said at the game: Yes! In the face!