Saturday, May 28, 2011

YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU: Say you've got a very large pile of money and want to make sure that your worthless children don't get any of it. Also, your worthless grandchildren. And, also, everyone you might have ever met in your entire life. You write your will like lumber baron Wellington R. Burt, who made sure that no one got any of his money until twenty-one years after his last grandchild (then living at the time he wrote his will) was dead and buried.

Some of the press is calling this "bizarre." It is nothing of the sort. Mr. Burt could push his estate no further into the future than now due to a important little bit of law -- the Rule Against Perpetuities -- which prevents someone from keeping control over their estate long after death. Mortmain -- the dead hand -- isn't something the law favors. And Mr Burt's lawyers knew -- as every student studying for their first year property exam or bar exam knows -- that "No interest is good unless it must vest, if at all, not later than 21 years after some life in being at the creation of the interest."

What this means is that none of his leeches spawned from his loin got at his $100M until 92 years after he died. And a dozen or so people who never met the cheap bastard are now set for life.
"I WAS SHOUTING TOO MUCH ON THE FIRST ALBUM," ADDS PLANT. "I STOPPED SHOUTING A LITTLE BIT BY THE SECOND ALBUM. BY THE THIRD ONE I FINALLY LEARNED HOW TO SING":  In the fall of 1973 Led Zeppelin toured the West Coast in support of Houses of the Holy, and the Los Angeles Times sent a 16-year-old Cameron Crowe to profile them. Here's your lede:
The majority of the San Diego crowd, not unlike those in the 29 other tour stops, had spent at least seven hours waiting outside the Sports Arena in anticipation of the evening’s performance by British rockers Led Zeppelin. Sold out by mail-order weeks in advance, the event had led many to pitch their sleeping bags outside the doors the night before. Now, with house-lights dimmed and 8 o’clock several moments away, 18,000 hold their lighted matches high while throngs crush toward the stage-front.

Just as hysteria reaches a peak, four musicians take the brilliantly lighted stage and the thunderous opening notes of “Rock and Roll” blast through 33,000 watts of amplification, more wattage than the sound system used at Woodstock....
Crowe's website, The Uncool, currently has over 150 of his old pieces online, including a profile of the Allman Brothers (his first Rolling Stone cover story, also 1973) with a backstory which may sound extremely familiar: I left the tour in an emotional mess and wound up catatonic in the San Francisco airport, where I ran into my then-stewardess sister Cindy. She cheered me up and sent me home....
GIVING HOPE TO PUDGY TWELVE-YEAR-OLD DORKS EVERYWHERE:  That's what Dan Suitor said the last time we discussed the maturation of Matthew Lewis, the actor playing Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter films. Below the fold, kids, the Neville Longbottom Deathly Hallows II teaser poster, and yes I'm still pissed they cut the St. Mungo's hospital scene from Order of the Phoenix:

Friday, May 27, 2011

A HICKEY FROM KENICKIE IS LIKE A HALLMARK CARDWHEN YOU ONLY CARE ENOUGH TO SEND THE VERY BEST:  Drug addiction and its consequences have inevitably claimed the life of Jeff Conaway. The star of Grease and "Taxi" was 60.
MY SIGNATURE MOVE IS CALLED THE INSECT: A few quick, non-incisive notes about the return of So You Think You Can Dance:
  • Mary Murphy is back, and there's actually a story about her absence from the judging table. At first it was fatigue -- she was tired from back-to-back seasons, and then negotiations for last season started to drag, and then she over-committed herself, and then she agreed to be a choreographer instead of a judge, and then she got throat cancer and went on radiation treatment. I'm happy to say that she's currently in remission. I do not care to hear her scream or spout nonsensical catch phrases, but one learns more from Mary Murphy in those instances when she buckles down to give a critique than from any of the other judges. I guess I can't say I'm thrilled that she's a weekly judge, but I'm certainly thrilled that she's cancer-free.
  • There are two go-to moves for the contemporary dancers that I don't think we've talked about yet. The first is The Barber Pole. Dancer makes a corkscrew motion with his/her body around an imaginary center, imitating the red stripe on a barber pole. The second is the one where the dancer gets all pixellated and you can't tell what's going on. Or maybe that's just my DirecTV having trouble with Fox.
  • Was the first 45 seconds of I, Dummy's turf the best thing you ever saw? We've seen gliding, but the way that his gliding accelerated ... dang.
  • Also love that the turf dancers got filmed doing their thing on Grand in West Oakland. My bike commute!
  • SYTYCD did, by the way, set the world record for saying "beautiful San Francisco!" and then immediately cutting to shots of Oakland. It was kind of insulting that they pretended the Paramount Theater is in San Francisco.
  • So Atlanta was a neverending stream of great dancers. Why not show us more than 0.3 seconds of them dancing? This show really doesn't grossly overdo it with the bad auditions (like Idol does), so even if they couldn't cut the 15 or so minutes (out of two hours) they spent on those, couldn't they trade some of the montage, b-roll, and up-next for a couple more 90-second auditions?
DOES HE GO BOWHUNTING FROM HIS JETPACK?  Mark Zuckerberg now will only eat meat he has killed himself.

Related, of course: David Foster Wallace, "Consider the Lobster" (Gourmet, August 2004).
I DON'T BELIEVE YOU—YOU'RE A LIAR:  An interesting question I saw someone pose on a message board recently and I've been batting around with friends: prior to Adolf Hitler, who was America's go-to "so-and-so is worse than [X]" historical comparison in common parlance?  Related, before one could be considered as smart as Einstein or a rocket scientist, what individuals and professions were similarly esteemed?
ALOTT5MA FRIDAY GRAMMAR RODEO: As several of you pointed out to me during the week, Slate seems to be on a grammar kick of late and this week takes on the 'em dash':
The problem with the dash—as you may have noticed!—is that it discourages truly efficient writing. It also—and this might be its worst sin—disrupts the flow of a sentence. Don't you find it annoying—and you can tell me if you do, I won't be hurt—when a writer inserts a thought into the midst of another one that's not yet complete? Strunk and White—who must always be mentioned in articles such as this one—counsel against overusing the dash as well: "Use a dash only when a more common mark of punctuation seems inadequate." Who are we, we modern writers, to pass judgment—and with such shocking frequency—on these more simple forms of punctuation—the workmanlike comma, the stalwart colon, the taken-for-granted period? (One colleague—arguing strenuously that certain occasions call for the dash instead of other punctuation, for purposes of tone—told me he thinks of the parenthesis as a whisper, and the dash as a way of calling attention to a phrase. As for what I think of his observation—well, consider how I have chosen to offset it.)
See, related, this NYT editor's lament about the overuse of the 'em dash'.  Meanwhile, The Economist's style guide suggests:
You can use dashes in pairs for parenthesis, but not more than one pair per sentence, ideally not more than one pair per paragraph.

Use a dash to introduce an explanation, amplification, paraphrase, particularisation or correction of what immediately precedes it. Use it to gather up the subject of a long sentence. Use it to introduce a paradoxical or whimsical ending to a sentence. Do not use it as a punctuation maid-of-all-work.
And the Chicago Manual of Style outlines the differences between the hyphen (-), en dash (–), and em dash (—).

Thursday, May 26, 2011

NEW YORK'S HOTTEST CLUB IS THE INTERNET. IT HAS EVERYTHING: Korean Snookis; Cistercian telemarketers; cats that look like Amy Poehler ...
I KNOW A LITTLE GERMAN:  In anticipation of The Hangoverover, Adam Sternbergh delineates the difference between character-driven and joke-driven comedies, suggesting that Todd Phillips and Judd Apatow have unnecessarily sent the latter into hibernation:
If you were to list your favorite comedies of the last five years, I bet at least three of either Apatow’s or Phillips’s films would make the list. Yet can you recall a single famous gag from any of these movies? What was the absolute most hilarious joke in “The Hangover”? (My informal straw poll suggests that it was Galifianakis’s mispronouncing “retard.”) Tellingly, the most quotable sequence from any Apatow movie is the “You know how I know you’re gay?” exchange between Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” which was improvised on the sidelines, then stuck into the film, and which, trust me, does not benefit from being reproduced for posterity in print. Surely there must be at least one indelible gag, line, or scene from just one of these films? If there is, I can’t identify it, and don’t call me Shirley.

The first category includes movies like “Beverly Hills Cop,” “Meet the Parents,” “Manhattan” and “The Hangover”; the second includes movies like “Austin Powers,” “Blazing Saddles,” “Bananas” and “Airplane!” The primary distinction lies in their respective relationship to reality. In character-driven comedies, funny people say funny things and fall into funny situations, but it’s all contained within the realm of plausible realism; nothing absurd or unbelievable occurs. Joke-driven comedies, by contrast, start with the absurd and unbelievable and go from there. Their jokes burst the boundaries of realism; in fact, they’re often about bursting the boundaries of realism. Character-driven comedy is Meg Ryan loudly faking an orgasm in a deli and an old woman saying, “I’ll have what she’s having”; joke-driven comedy is a woman (in “Top Secret”) being asked to translate a conversation and saying, “I know a little German,” then.
THE LAST CHANCE I MAY EVER HAVE TO LINK TO SOMETHING INVOLVING NBC'S "OUTLAW," A/K/A "SH*T MY GHOST DAD LAWYER SAYS":  The complete 2010-11 primetime ratings for the 18-49 demographic.  Idol was tops overall, Modern Family among sitcoms and Grey's Anatomy (yay, Shonda!) among dramas.
I GRADUATED FROM BOSTON COLLEGE, WHICH SOME CALL "THE HARVARD OF BOSTON": Two graduation speeches below the fold: Amy Poehler's Senior Class Day speech at Harvard, and John Ratzenberger's commencement address at Providence College, where his daughter was among the graduates:
SWING DOWN, SWEET CHARIOT, STOP, AND LET ME RIDE: The Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African American History and Culture (opening 2015) has obtained the P-Funk Mothership for its permanent display.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

FEATURING THE SONG ABOUT THE DREAMS AND THE FAIRIES AND THE RAINBOWS AND ALL THAT OTHER CRAP:  Open live discussion thread for tonight's American Idol 10 finale.
HOWEVER WILL THEY LEARN WHAT THE INTERNET IS FOR? Yes, there's now an official "School Edition" of Avenue Q for high school productions--the script's been tweaked throughout, two songs are gone entirely ("My Girlfriend Who Lives In Canada" and "You Can Be As Loud The Hell You Want"), "The Internet is For Porn" is replaced by "Social Life Is Online," and the Bad Idea Bears have slightly different bad ideas.
IT'S A HELL OF A TOWN: Like most episodes of this season, the finale of Glee was simultaneously overstuffed with narrative (yes, it's yet another round on the Rachel/Finn/Quinn/Jesse merry-go-round!) and utterly unexplained (Sam and Mercedes have been dating since Prom?), and utterly inconstently written (Quinn gets yet another character 180, and Brittany S. Pierce can suddenly deliver long monologues about acceptance and love?), but that's not what I wanted to talk about. What this episode reminds us is that even though the show is known for elaborate production numbers, it so rarely shoots on location or outside. Indeed, the only non-backlot or set material I can recall from this season are the mall used in "Born This Way" (which may well be a stock backlot) and some football-related footage (which was probably shot on a backlot).

In contrast, this week's episode featured copious location shooting, not just outdoors, but even at indoor locations (that was definitely the Gershwin theatre interior and I'm pretty sure that was actually Sardi's), which made the show look gorgeous. Of course, this is likely a deliberate choice to make New York seem like the fairyland of Oz to contrast with the drabness of Lima, but it made the episode look spectacular, even if the original songs weren't up to snuff.
MY FATHER'S NAME IS ANTONIO ANDOLINI ... AND THIS IS FOR YOU:  First EW ranked the top ten "fourquels" of all time; now NYMag tells the history of the film prequel.
A CORPORATE OBITUARY, FROM MEMORY AND EXPERIENCE: Many years ago, one of my issues of Mad Magazine included an economical two-page spread on the evolution of an American business. In the first panel, a matronly woman in an apron and a gray bun opened a shop called Mom's Homemade Cookies in the shadow of a giant factory crowned with a monstrous "FOOD INC." sign. In the next panel, the line for Mom's stretched out the door and around the block, past the Food Inc. factory. Mom's expanded, then franchised; Mom herself traded her apron for a dark suit. The Food Inc. factory went vacant and the sign came down. In the last panel, the factory came back to life, its workers raising a "MOMCO" sign, and in its shadow, a matronly woman in an apron and a gray bun opened a shop called Aunt Ida's Homemade Muffins.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

BABY WE AIN'T GOT NO PLACE TO GO/I HOPE YOU UNDERSTAND:  Scotty entered tonight's Idol finals as the presumptive favorite, and nothing about tonight performance-wise changed the inevitable. I did like seeing Lauren singing to her mom, though.

Is this the first time the performance finale had a halftime show?  I did appreciated the relative judicial silence, but I was in no way the target audience for tonight.

Tomorrow: the two hour-plus parade of nonsense and frivolity followed by ten seconds of actual news.  We won't be covering-it-live, but will be open for your live, lively comments.
D.C., SAN ANTONE AND THE LIBERTY TOWN: Jonah Weiner explores the return of the saxophone to rock music.

Related: Steve Hyden explains how Huey Lewis and the News's Sports hit number one in 1984; our 2007 post on Ten Great Songs Nearly Ruined By Saxophone; the (moved) 80s Sax Solos Page. Below the fold, "The Curse":
THEY DIDN'T DROP THE BALL. THEY DROPPED THE BALL, KICKED THE COACH IN THE NUTS, AND TOOK A CRAP IN THE QUARTERBACK'S MOUTH: My open and notorious biases towards Curtis Hanson's book adaptations notwithstanding, I thought Too Big To Fail was a hell of a good attempt to tell the story it tried to tell.

It was, as Matt Zoller Seitz writes, an expert combination of explanatory narrative with more than a soup├žon of "wealth porn".  This is the story of the Serious Men Who Saved The World, which is the story Andrew Ross Sorkin told in his book of the same name (and yes, that was him as the press conference reporter), and if it didn't get sufficiently into the irony these are also largely the people who caused the mess, or explore alternate paths the crisis could have taken ... well, neither did the author. But if you want to see a movie in which TARP is sold as the least-bad--but-absolutely-necessary-option and the trio of Paulson, Bernanke and Geithner are portrayed as hard-working, noble pragmatists who did their best -- played by the not-bright-enough anchor from Broadcast News, Pig Vomit, and Stillwater's Russell Hammond -- this movie tells that story well, and whether it's the proper story to be told (as opposed to something more darkly comic, or tragic) is left for the history books -- or your comments.

Things I particularly liked: James Woods's Dick Fuld and Dan Hedaya's cameo-level appearance as Barney Frank; the big explanatory scene on credit default swaps; the explanatory parade of bankers before the big meeting at the NYC Fed; William Hurt's various stages of stubble; and that they kept in the Warren Buffett at Dairy Queen scene, because it really happened like that. (Berkshire Hathaway does own Dairy Queen, FWIW.)

Monday, May 23, 2011

WE HAVE TO GO BACK:  One year ago tonight, Lost ended.  It is holding up very well in my memory; I miss having something that big to watch (though, to be fair, I guess Game of Thrones has ambition too -- though no one there's insisting we're the good guys!).

There are aspects of the show I never need to see again -- Jack's flashbacks, The Temple, anything with Boone and Shannon, most of the Tailies stuff -- but by and large, this was a show that aimed high in terms of mythology and emotion, and largely delivered. More like that, please?

Sepinwall has some thoughts: "Setting the mysteries and the oblique clues and frustrating answers aside, 'Lost' mattered. 'Lost' was grand and tragic and funny and exciting and a show that felt not quite like anything that had been tried before - and, based on where its ratings were by the end, and the struggles of all the shows to imitate it, one that may be unlike anything we ever see in the future."
ARE THERE MUPPETS IN THIS MOVIE? I'm not quite sure what to think about the oddball (and exceedingly meta) first trailer for The Muppets, other than that I love Jason Segel's delivery of the headline and the announcer's brilliant use of pausing, but I'm quite sure y'all have some reactions.
AND THESE ARE THE BEST MACAROONS SALMA HAYEK AND I HAD PUT IN OUR MOUTHS, EVER: Three Oprah episodes to go, and the NYT's Brian Stelter argues Wednesday "is the biggest such moment in television since Johnny Carson quit 'The Tonight Show' two decades ago."

As I said when she announced the impending end of her show, others can speak more competently about the impact of her show "in commerce, in literature, in spirituality and self-assessment, in reviving the talk show format in the post-Donahue era, in philanthropy, and so on," and all I can reiterate is this: most people who start in life where she was, and who are where she was at age 14, don't end up anywhere close to where Oprah Winfrey ended up. It is a remarkable, and fundamentally American story.

Okay, let's hear her scream some celebrity names.
FREE SY SNOOTLES:  Some folks are adamant about restoring the disco sensation "Lapti Nek" to the Blu-ray release of Return of the Jedi, as part of the general frustration regarding George Lucas's refusal to let fans see the original theatrical versions of the trilogy -- in which Han shot first.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

BRING IT ON DOWN TO LIQUORVILLE:  Three noncontroversial opinions following last night's SNL finale with which no right-thinking person can disagree:
  • Had Justin Timberlake first emerged as a star as a cast member of Saturday Night Live rather than via 'N Sync, he'd have been one of the biggest breakout stars in show history on a level, at least, with Dana Carvey. And it's only with his next visit that he joins the Five Timers Club.
  • It's time for Fred Armisen to go. He's the second longest-tenured member of the cast (since 2002; Seth Meyers joined a year sooner), and I feel like we've seen everything he can do on the show. The Prince Show feels like it was a lifetime ago, and his Barack Obama remains sub-awesome. It's time to make that trip to Portlandia a more permanent one.
  • Tracy Morgan was underappreciated in his day, and the Brian Fellow's Safari Planet below the fold is genius. Was that squirrel scared to fly after 9/11?