Friday, April 29, 2011

FROM THE ALOTT5MA STRIKING FACIAL HAIR TRENDS DESK:  Kim and I couldn't quite find the words to describe Adam Lambert's striking new look.  Other than striking.

In other news, do not click on this gallery of examples of the monkey tail beard if you have trouble unseeing bizarre things which hipsters are now doing.  (HT: Glark.)
ALOTT5MA FRIDAY GRAMMAR RODEO:  I think there's something that we need to discuss.  According to the NYT stylebook:
that, which. Use that, not which, in a restrictive clause — a clause necessary to the reader’s understanding of the sentence: The town that the pitcher calls home is tiny Hawley, Pa. (The sentence serves no purpose without that the pitcher calls home.) Note that there are no commas around the clause. In a nonrestrictive clause — one providing added information, not essential to understand the sentence — use which, preceded by a comma: Hawley, Pa., which the pitcher calls home, is tiny. (The sentence is understandable without which the pitcher calls home.)
Claims "Grammar Girl": "A quick and dirty tip (with apologies to Wiccans and Hermione Granger) is to remember that you can throw out the 'whiches' and no harm will be done. You use which in nonrestrictive clauses, and if you eliminate a nonrestrictive clause, the meaning of the remaining part of the sentence will be the same as it was before."

CMOS basically agrees, though conceding that "Some people use 'which' restrictively, which is more or less okay (and popular among writers of British English) as long as no commas are involved."

Here's a challenge that you can take, which is a nice test of this distinction. Does it matter?

Survey SAYS! "The difference between 'that' and 'which' is something that I ..." care about and get right (44%), care about but get wrong (33%), or ignore (21%).
A PARADE OF SILLY HATS:  We join this Royal Wedding, already in progress.  Snark (or gape) away.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

AS A PERSON WHO BUYS A LOT OF EROTIC CAKES, IT JUST FEELS GOOD TO BE REPRESENTED ON ONE:  What I can say about tonight's episode of The Office without spoiling is that it was manipulative, predictable, and still deeply affecting.  And funny. I (or someone else) will have more to say in a bit; it's a little dusty in here.
AMERICA VOTED: You know the drill.

ONE TWO THREE FOUR, ANYONE WATCHING ANYMORE?: So, we start by booing the Commish. And I like it.

And the "ESPN Insider" guy's eye makeup has him looking like a besuited refugee from an Adam Ant video. And I LOVE it.

And the Panthers start it all off by picking Cam Newton, who, given his history and the dismal state of the Carolina team, is sort of a Schrodinger's Quarterback, a Jamarcus Elway, if you will, and --

And is anybody else watching this absurdly over-hyped and labor-relationally strained pseudo-event this year? Thoughts?
OUR BALLS ARE IN YOUR COURT:  Obviously we need to talk about Michael Scott today, and Alan has a nice piece on his evolution "from barely-tolerated nuisance to the kind of guy whom everyone in that office will speak of fondly for years to come as they recall all the good, bad and ridiculous things he did." His timeline places well the key moments of that transformation as Scott went from screaming, pouty five-year-old desperate for attention to somewhere around 8-10, where at least he's got some concept of the needs of others and can take advice on occasion.

And, okay, maybe we can counter his list of Growth Moments with Michael At His Worst (Phyllis's wedding, Scott's Tots), where the comedy of discomfort was truly squirm-inducing (the dinner party) ... but, hell, Steve Carell invested so much awesome into this character that I just want to remember the good stuff today  (Also, I have strong confidence that they'll hit the right notes tonight.)

Below the fold, two clips which y'all know are favorites of mine:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

DOES THE MILK SAY, "LET'S GO DOWN TO THE CRISPER DRAWER AND MAKE TROUBLE"?  Damas y caballeros, the comedic stylings of Brian Williams.  (The NBC anchor, not the late Bison Dele.  The one who dissed the NYT and Brooklyn in a single elegant move, and enjoys slow-jamming the news.)
I FELT THE EARTH MOVE UNDER MY FEET because stretching out six finalists into 90 minutes by adding three duet numbers in an unexciting genre (The Songs of Carole King) left me so bored that I sensed the earth's rotation while sitting on the couch. Even the show's two best moments -- the Casey/Haley duet and Durbin's davidcookian take on "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" -- have to be placed in quotes, because it's so been there, done that at this point.  I agree with Dan that the final James/Jacob duet was a travesty, but that's the only other remarkable thing about a show the leaves me wondering if anything other than habit is keeping me in this until the James/(Someone Country) finals.  So read Ann Powers on Idol, women and contemporary music, and I'll see you in what I expect to be a short comment thread.
CLEARLY, CONTINUITY IS NOT THE SHOW'S STRONG POINT: Vulture has already done a fine job charting the ridiculous inconsistency with which Quinn Fabray swings from "sweetly innocent" to "total psycho hosebeast," and last night's episode only added to that, bringing in a truckload of utterly inexplicable backstory (seriously, neither Sue nor Santana was able to uncover this in their prior machinations?). That said, whenever they bother giving her something with a little meat, Dianna Agron is actually knocking it out of the park, as she did with her monologue to Rachel several episodes back about how she's doomed to live in Lima or with the dramatic material in last night's episode between her and both Rachel and Lauren. Admittedly, she's neither the strongest singer or dancer, but she seems to be the only one taking things even remotely seriously, despite the absurdity of her plotlines.
588-2300-RIP: Knowing we have quite a few Chicagoans as well as ex-pats around these parts, I wanted to note the passing of Elmer Lynn Hauldren, a.k.a., the guy from the Empire Carpet commercials. Hauldren was 89...years old not $/sq. ft.
FRENCHIE!  Look, other than the Flyers' beatdown of the Sabres last night there was nothing else on, so I, too, sampled a few minutes of The Voice.  Dan Fienberg has a fuller summary, but my attitude for now is that I've seen enough audition episodes in my life, so I'll wait for the mentoring/coaching to begin to see if this spin on the singer-competition genre presents something new and worth watching.  You?
UNTIL MAY, WE'RE ALLOWED TO DO RERUNS: We last asked this question in March 2005 upon the passing of Johnnie L. Cochran, but why not try again: who is now America's most famous practicing attorney?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

DO RE ME ME ME ME: The NYT reports today on a study which has determined, based on analysis of the lyrics to pop songs of the past 30 years, that there is a "statistically significant trend toward narcissism and hostility in popular music," noting the contrast between 80s hits like "Celebration" ("Let's all celebrate and have a good time!") and "Ebony and Ivory" and its message of togetherness and more recent hits like Fergie's "Personal" ("It's personal, myself and I") and JT's proclamation that he (not "we") was bringing sexy back. And yes, there's a reference to "the Cee-Lo Green comic ode to hostility with its unprintable refrain."

[If you're around town, Philly Pretzel Factory are giving away free pretzels all day.]

Monday, April 25, 2011

ONE MAN SHOULD NOT HAVE THIS MUCH POWER ON AN ISLAND, BUT I'M GRATEFUL THAT I DO:  While you should listen to every episode of the Firewall & Iceberg podcast, of course, you should especially listen to this week's edition because Dan and Alan discuss my question -- should he win, where does Boston Rob's performance on this season of Survivor rank among the all-time performances on reality competitions?

Part of why I asked is because so many of the performances I think of as dominant -- Stefan Richter (Top Chef 5), YaYa DaCosta (ANTM 3), Colin and Christie (TAR 5), Kris and Jon (TAR 6), Eric and Jeremy (TAR 9), Daniel Vosovic (Project Runway 2), Adam Lambert (American Idol 8) and Rob himself (Survivor All-Stars) -- are from folks who ended up as runners-up. In terms of folks who dominated and won, the list is narrower -- Richard Hatch (Survivor 1), Hung Huynh (Top Chef 3), J.T. Thomas (Survivor: Tocantins) and Michael Voltaggio (Top Chef 6) come to mind, but only the first two come close to the "no one else deserves to win this thing" sense of control that Mariano is now.

Of course I'm forgetting someone, which is why I have y'all.
IF THIS HAD BEEN THE LONG FORM, HE'D BE DEAD BY NOW: You may recall that terrific video, F**k me, Ray Bradbury. Proof that there is justice in the industry awards universe, this video is a finalist for a Hugo Award.
NO [RETURN]:  The world's last typewriter factory has closed?  Not quite, say the folks at Swintec, who still manufacture and sell typewriters to prisons and other government facilities.

I remember it was a big deal in 8th grade (1985-86) that they changed the name of the class at my middle school from Typing to Keyboarding.  I have to imagine the demise of correction fluid and carbon paper is soon to follow.
NO, I HAVEN'T GOTTEN THE CALL YET, BUT ...  If you were selected to appear on Jeopardy!, on what subjects would you focus your preparation?  (For me: classical music and opera, British monarchs, and Final Jeopardy! wagering strategy.)
SIX HOURS A DAY, SIX DAYS A WEEK, FOR SIX YEARS:  A complete novice is testing Malcolm Gladwell's theory by seeing if he can become a professional-quality golfer by putting in 10,000 hours of practice.