Saturday, May 7, 2011

WHATEVER MAY COME, AND WHATEVER MAY GO -- THAT RIVER'S FLOWING:  Twenty-five years ago this week Peter Gabriel's So was released. It is an album I can picture as easily as I can see, yet it's the songs beyond the big hits -- and let's not forget, "In Your Eyes" didn't become an anthem until its use three years later in Say Anything -- that I'm drawn towards now. "Don't Give Up," "Mercy Street," and "That Voice Again" all stick with me more than the singles with the claymation.

I was thirteen at the time, so I had no context whatsoever for Gabriel before the videos -- and So served as the gateway drug. Soon enough came "San Jacinto" and "Solsbury Hill,"to "No Self Control" and wondering why the people in "Games Without Frontiers" were singing she's so popular, to "D.I.Y." and "Here Comes the Flood."  I only saw him live once, when the Amnesty tour came to J.F.K. Stadium in 1988, and I remember being blown away by the lighting, by the sincerity and emotion, by all those fists for Stephen Biko.

I don't listen to Peter Gabriel much anymore, but this week's anniversary reminds me that there once was a high school Adam who loved those cassettes, and played them 'til they wore thin.
HEY, LET'S ALL PROMISE THAT IN TEN YEARS FROM TODAY WE'LL MEET AGAIN, AND WE'LL SEE WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE WE'VE BLOSSOMED INTO: And this summer marks the 10th anniversary of the release of Wet Hot American Summer, so David Wain, Joe Lo Truglio and Ken Marino did an interview with The AV Club.

[Bradley Cooper recently confessed to James Lipton that he missed his graduation ceremony from The Actor's Studio to film his sex scene with Michael Ian Black. Heh.]

Friday, May 6, 2011

A MOTHER'S DAY WEEKEND TRADITION UNLIKE ANY OTHER:  Yes, it's University of Chicago Scav Hunt weekend, and here's the 2011 list.  Highlights:

  • Re-cut Disney's The Lion King into a sub- five minute video that summarizes all ve seasons of The Wire. [15 points]
  • The most evil thing you can build using the only the parts and materials included with one IKEA item. [15 points]
  • A Congressional Medal of Honor. [25 points, 25 points for bringing the recipient too]
  • An XFL jersey. [20.01 points]
  • In 1961, a Soviet surgeon stationed in Antarctica removed his own appendix. This year, we will perform a far more difficult maneuver. Lying on your back with a game of Operation on your chest, remove all twelve organs without setting the buzzer o more than five times. Be sure to have an attending Judge present in the operating room when this feat is attempted. [18 points]
  • Dan Lacey has created his incredible tribute to Barack Obama riding a unicorn. But why don't the Republicans ever get any love? Bring us a painting of Dick Cheney, naked, riding a Kraken. [12 points]
  • An e-mail from Steve Jobs to a team member, dated after List Release. [10 points]
From Monday’s NY Times.
A trusted courier of Osama bin Laden’s whom American spies had been hunting for years was finally located in a compound 35 miles north of the Pakistani capital, close to one of the hubs of American counterterrorism operations.
The question is: why do you need the possessive apostrophe after Laden at the beginning of the sentence. You could have written:
a) A trusted courier of Osama bin Laden whom American spies had been hunting for years . . .
b) Osama bin Laden’s trusted courier whom American spies had been hunting for years . . .
But it seems redundant to me to have both the word “of” (which denotes possession) and the possessive apostrophe. Of course, in spoken English, I think it is quite common to have the double-possessive construction. “John is a friend of mine.”
I think you need to go further in order to make clear if it was the courier, not OBL, who was being surveilled.  So modify (b) to make the appositive clear: "Osama bin Laden's trusted courier, whom American spies hand been hunting for years, was finally located ..."  Thoughts?
BLAME OUR PERSPICACIOUS READERS FOR NOTICING:  This year, the championship finals of the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee not only won't be in D.C. (moving across the Potomac to National Harbor), but they apparently won't be on ABC either -- ESPN, according to the official website, will be covering it live on Thursday, June 2 (corrected) at 8:30pm.  Now, mind you, this may be a good thing, if it means that the competition won't be so broken up by lengthy commercial breaks and profile segments, and instead be treated more like the afternoon rounds are -- like a competition.  (We'll be here live, regardless.)

More good news? The larger location means the public can buy tickets for all rounds.

In other Bee news, two returning competitors to note today: Canada's Greatest Speller, Laura Newcombe, is back for her third and final time; and 2008 Shonda Fave speller Sriram Hathwar -- then the Bee's youngest speller ever at barely-eight -- is back for a third time, having bested the kid who deprived him in 2010.  [The final three words in that Bee: brahnt-uh-FO-bee-uh (fear of thunder); eh-POK-uhl/EH-puh-kuhl (momentous); and vahy-TOO-puh-ruh-tiv (condemnatory).]

Thursday, May 5, 2011

NIGHT OF THE HUFF: Dan Fienberg watched so we didn't have to.
WHAT BECOMES OF LIAM? With the sad news (in this house, at least) that Kristen Wiig is retiring her Gilly character (along with Penelope), all sorts of lists are being made of other characters SNL should retire. Flavorwire would like the kissing Vogelchecks, among others, to check out. concurs about the Vogelchecks, but no more "What's Up With That?" would be tragic. What SNL characters would you be happy to never see again?
BETTER THAN SHARK WEEK! It's baby name week at the Social Security Administration, and the 2010 names list is up.

Early read on the girls' top 20: The Infanta name trend remains ascendant, with Isabella hanging on to the top slot. There's a bit of mobility in the 2-4 zone, going Sophia, Emma, Olivia instead of Emma, Olivia, Sophia in 2009. Not a lot of excitement otherwise -- the biggest move in the top 20 is Hailey, which went to 19 from 25.

In the boys top 20, no news at the top of the pack, with Jacob/Ethan/Michael maintaining their 1-3 spots. 4 is Jayden, up from 8, and Elijah cracks the top 20 at 18, up from 22. The biggest news is Mason, which fliew up to 12 from 34. (Given that it was my second choice name for Cosmo Boy back in 2006, I am feeling pretty good about dodging that bullet.)

That's it for me for now, but I expect others will have thoughts to add over the course of the day. And of course, keep an eye out for insight from the Baby Name Wizard over the next few days. (For starters, here's her take on the fastest-rising names this year.)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

IN IT TO WIN IT:  We only saw one performance tonight from someone who went all-out to demonstrate his or her worthiness in a reality competition, and that was Rob Mariano. That's the Survivor I've been missing, the one in which deprivation and physically grueling challenges created drama.

I'm basically done with Idol this season, and have gone from fast-forwarding the intro packages to skipping the judging to now skipping most of each performance as well. The show that I want to see -- and the one that this Iovine-added season promised to deliver -- is one which sought and created the next contemporary artist. The show took a fatal turn away from that path two years ago when Kris Allen outlasted Adam Lambert, and the ascension this year of the G-Rated Lambert and two uninspiring country artists has not improved matters. Nor have the singers themselves (save Haley, I guess) improved all season long. As Matt Zoller Seitz aske yesterday, "When are the chrysalides going to open up and release the beautiful butterflies?"
BETTING SUSPENDED ON HEADLINE OF THE YEAR: Via @KenTremendous and others, I don't really see any competition in the next eight months for the exquisite headline/sub-head combination of German throws puppy at Hells Angels bikers then flees on bulldozer: A German student created a major traffic jam in Bavaria when he made a rude gesture at a group of Hells Angels, hurled a puppy at them and then escaped on a stolen bulldozer.

Incidentally, double-bonus Grammar Rodeoids:

(a) I never noticed this, but according to both the Telegraph and the patch on the back of the leather vests, it actually is "Hells Angels." Those gentlemen have forgotten their apostrophe. When they read this, they will be so embarrassed.

(b) The sub-head needs a comma after "them." Or perhaps a Hells Angel stole it to use as an apostrophe.
THE FORCE SURROUNDS US AND PENETRATES US. IT BINDS THE WHOLE GALAXY TOGETHER: On this Star Wars Day (marked this year with the announcement of a 9 disk Blu-Ray set that will gather seemingly everything short of the Holiday Special), let's discuss an interesting question--what has worked in the Star Wars universe beyond the three original films? I'll offer up a couple of obvious suggestions--the Zahn/Thrawn trilogy of novels was quite good, even if the further "Expanded Universe" in that direction has apparently gotten increasingly unhinged, and Knights of the Old Republic was quite excellent, even if BioWare has gone back to that basic well one too many times (seriously, both Dragon Age and Mass Effect feel like KOTOR with a new skin/backstory).
After many delays, due to our respective workloads at the end of the academic year, the girl and I were finally able to go on our second date. On Sunday afternoon we headed off to a general purpose farm/recreational area two towns away, played a spirited round of minigolf (I clinched a two stroke win on the last hole), and ate handmade ice cream while we talked on the patio. It went great; a good time was had by all.

Today, after we were both done with finals, we met for coffee and - after some smalltalk - had a State of the Relationship conversation where we sort of fessed up to liking each other and tried to sort out how it's going to work over the summer. She's headed back to Poughkeepsie, NY tomorrow, and I'm likely to spend the next few months bouncing between my family's home in Southern New Hampshire and my apartment in Worcester, MA. I'm going to try to get out there every few weeks, and we're trying to sort out some good places to meet in between or go together when we actually see each other.

So, my questions for the commentariat are twofold: A.) How do you make the long distance thing work, especially when you're just starting out? and B.) Do you have any suggestion for places we can meet in between or go to when we're together? I've got some limited ideas for A (unlimited texting plan, Skype, etc.) and she's already suggested previously that she'd like to see Niagara Falls and Montreal, so that seems like it'd work for a bigger trip but I also need some time/money intensive options.
Northampton, MA, anyone?  On the former, I think the regularity of the contact is what matters most. Just keep making time for each other.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

IF YOU DON'T WANT TO ROOT FOR YOUR TEAM, THEN YOU SHOULD GET THE HELL OUT OF THE STADIUM:  Set your DVRs** -- tomorrow night at 9pm EDT, Comedy Central will re-air the November 7, 2001 South Park episode "Osama bin Laden Has Farty Pants," which I once described here as being second only to The Onion's post-9/11 issue as a cultural response to the Attacks. Among other things, its homage to the WW2-era Looney Tunes cartoons is just spot on.  (Also, Stevie Nicks.)

** Of course, that's the same time slot as the third half-hour of American Idol (five singers, twice each) and an all-new Modern Family, so even if you have a dual-tuner DVR you're [potentially] S.O.L. because this is the only airing.  Thankfully, the full episode is online at
WE'RE NO DISNEY/PIXAR, BUT IT'S BEEN VASTLY MORE SUCCESSFUL THAN QUAKER OATS/SNAPPLE:  Today is the seventh anniversary of Matt and Alex combining their independent blogs with what Isaac, Phil and I were doing here.  "For a day or two, anyway," we wrote, we'd refer to the combined "A List A Day"/"Throwing Things"/"Live From Five Minutes Ago" entity as "A List Of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago."  [TPE and Kim joined soon thereafter as well.]

How long ago was it?  Among the things we blogged that week were the season one finale of The O.C. and overall finale of Friends, George Huff's ouster from Idol, and the funny "Debbie Downer" sketch which just aired on SNL for the first time.  Good times, gang.
THE MOTHERF*****R WITH THE TONY: Tony Award nominations are out, and a few surprises and notes:
  • Despite a fair number of eligible big stars (Robin Williams, Ben Stiller, Jim Belushi, James Earl Jones, Chris Rock) the only "name" in leading actor in a play is Al Pacino, who's got a tough fight with Joe Mantello for the win.
  • A surprising amount of love for two long-closed shows--The Scottsboro Boys and Women on the Verge of A Nervous Breakdown--with Scottsboro beating out Priscilla and People in The Picture for the fourth Best Musical slot and both of them getting Original Score nods.
  • Several highly acclaimed productions failing to score nods--no love for any actors in the much acclaimed War Horse (though many tech nods and a special Tony for the puppets), no nod for Daniel Radcliffe in How To Succeed, and only one acting nods for the three main leads in Priscilla.
  • No shock that Book of Mormon leads all comers (Best Musical, Best Book, Best Score, Best Director, Best Choreographer, Best Lead Actor (x2), Best Featured Actor, Best Featured Actress, and tech nods pretty much everywhere. Its only real competition? The glitzy Sister Act, which may get votes from folks who found Mormon too edgy, but it sure looks like Parker and Stone are going ET, with a plausible shot at picking up a G for the cast album next year.

Monday, May 2, 2011

OUR TRENTONIAN JUSTICE: Six springs ago we discussed our favorite irregular adjectival and demonymic forms for place names  -- Oxonian, Monégasque, Mancunian and the like. Today, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia waded into the fray, insisting that the name for someone from the Equality State is "Wyoman" as part of his dissenting opinion in a water rights matter:
The dictionary-approved term is “Wyomingite,” which is also the name of a type of lava, see Webster’s New International Dictionary 2961 (2d ed. 1957). I believe the people of Wyoming deserve better.
The Google count is decidedly against Justice Scalia, and wonder what's next: wading into the Arkansan/Arkansawyer dispute?  Connecticutian/Connecticotian/Nutmegger?
HERE WE ARE NOW, ENTERTAIN US: I was out with friends on Friday night and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" came on at the bar, prompting a discussion of how it still sounds fresh and modern despite being recorded 20 years ago. That fact makes the utterly unnecessary Miley Cyrus cover of the song perhaps even more disturbing.
JUSTICE FOR THE UNDEAD: Chuck Wendig of The Escapist fully and definitively explains what's wrong with every zombie video game you've ever played.

(Hint: It's not the nihilistic fascination with necrotic apocalypse, the seeming conviction that one or more of humanity's flaws or excesses will lead inevitably to our extinction, or the aggressive re-imagination of our friends and neighbors as moaning soulless cannibals.)
DING, DONG: Y'all understand at this point the subjects for which this blog is not the place, and yet I couldn't quite imagine just returning to our normal routine today without some acknowledgment of last night's news.

So here's a question: what have been the most satisfying villain deaths for you in pop culture history? Is it Molly Weasley's not my daughter, you bitch! killing of Bellatrix Lestrange?  The melting Nazi in Raiders of the Lost Ark?  Hans Gruber's gravitational demise? One of the falling Disney deaths?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

SHAKE THE GNOME, NOT YOUR BODY:  Well, that was a bit confusing of an hour of Racing tonight -- a seemingly fatal mistake in Detour options (or execution), a seemingly fatal swiping of someone else's gnome bottom (you'll see it and understand), and a seemingly fatally inadequate penalty for a rather egregious violation of race rules.  And yet ... well, I'll have to go below the fold to spoil the drama of speedy chocolate painting. (Thanks, Captain Obvious.)

CHEESE, SQUASH, DUCK!  Every single secret ingredient reveal in two minutes from Iron Chef America's Chairman Not-Kaga.

added: Via Joseph J. Finn, Chairman Kaga -- 150 reveals in alphabetical order.  BONITO!