Saturday, July 9, 2011

CAPTAIN 3000: As Joe Sheehan tweeted, "It's usually not about the narrative. Today, my friends, it is ALL about the narrative. What a story." Congratulations, Derek Jeter.
JUST RELAX THERE, JODIE FOSTER:  There's a number of things that are very right about Horrible Bosses -- its plot structure leads to a satisfying third act which was not what I expected, and it's good to see Kevin Spacey where he belongs in a solid supporting role. At times, the movie is very funny, and that's mostly thanks to Charlie Day being a great Third Lead for this movie. He shines. (And there's a great cameo at the end which I know both Matt and I appreciated.)

That said, you cannot put Jason Bateman and Jason Sudeikis in the same film. They're both solid straight men—the sane man trying to keep it together in a chaotic world—but you can't have two straight men in the same comic plot. One of those roles needed to be more alpha male hero, because their characters and arcs were just too similar. Take your pick: Bradley Cooper, Vince Vaughn, Ryan Reynolds or Owen Wilson, among others. Someone's got to be the star of the movie, and Jason Bateman for all his virtues just isn't that. You can wait for cable on this one.

Friday, July 8, 2011

THAT'S "THE PEN IS MIGHTIER," MR. CONNERY: Splitsider has done the admirable and important work of gathering all 14 of SNL's "Celebrity Jeopardy" sketches in one place, with annotations--for instance, did you know the sketch was created by Norm McDonald to provide a pretext for his Burt Reynolds impression?
13. C. MONTGOMERY BURNS:  Yes, in an ideal world we've be getting paid what we're worth for cross-promotional opportunities like this, but you should still name a fictional horrible boss today.
I'm a fan of the Scripps bee and was just wondering what's the hardest word you've seen in terms of both orthographic trickiness and usage/popularity?

2011: sarangousty (round 12/20, atypical Persian vowels, Google=7,100)
2010: engysseismology (round 6/9, rare Greek root with rarer repeating consonant, Google=9,880)
2009: schizaffin (round 12/16, nearly unsolvable etymology - Greek plus Latin to ISV plus Latin combining form, Google=286 and more than half of those are spelling bee pages)
I turned to our panel of experts. First, from Nupur Lala:
Great question! "Engysseismology" wins my vote, with "schizaffin," "aitch," and "iliopsoas" as closely tied for runner-up. I consider the "surprise element" of the word, which makes some words seem less difficult when viewing from home as opposed to when a speller receives the word. The surprise element can consist of the dreaded "etymology unknown" to a nearly unsolvable etymology to just too much to figure out per syllable. It causes spellers to panic and stop thinking. "Heiligenschein" given in 2006 was a great example of a word that illustrates this principle. It was not intrinsically difficult but would have sent most spellers packing because it sounds intimidating, tests knowledge of German at a very deep level and presents a potential pitfall with almost every syllable.

"Engysseismology" has a surprise element that would have sent me running off stage. The word's length, irregularity within the roots and how terrifying it actually is when spelled correctly all make the word seem cruel in retrospect. I cannot remember any word standing out in my mind like that otherwise.
And Amy Goldstein:
I'll just point you to the widget in my column ...
The five hardest words of the past three years:
. engysseismology, 2010
. Leishmanic, 2010
. myoclonus, 2008
. palatschinken, 2009
. phenazocine, 2010
From this year's list I'll add naumkeag, puszta and sangsue. Was tempted to add phanerogam just because I was thrown off by what I had thought was a Latin root, but it was actually New Latin, so never mind. Also, it has the root phan- = visible in it.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

SAID HUFFLEPUFF, "I'LL TEACH THE LOT, AND TREAT THEM ALL THE SAME":  Ah, yes, Hufflepuff, Hogwarts's safety school.  When your third most famous student is Ernie MacMillan (after Tonks and Diggory), you've got problems, and they're not doing so well on the recruiting front:

(Via Second City.)
CRICKET? TOO POPULAR:  Sports being considered for addition to the 2020 Summer Olympics include  wakeboard, squash, sport climbing, rollersports, karate, and wushu, as well as the reintroduction of baseball or softball. Surfing, dancing, and bowling missed out.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

THE NEXT TIME YOU RAISE A HAND TO ME WILL BE THE LAST TIME YOU HAVE HANDS: Still more Game of Thrones spinoff work by fans—eleven versions of the theme music (start with the violins), and a giant map of Westeros.
EITHER A LOVING CELEBRATION OF THE SQUIRMY HUMANITY OF THE GREAT BUT FLAWED MEN WHO CREATED A NATION OUT OF HUNGER, IDEALISM, AND A DESPERATE YEARNING TO BREATHE FREE, OR IT’S A SECRETLY SUBVERSIVE CRITIQUE OF NATIONALISM THAT DEPICTS THE BIRTH OF A NATION AS A SERIES OF COMPROMISES FROM MEN IMPROVISING MADLY IN THE MOMENT: Nathan Rabin reviews the "surprisingly smutty" 1776 for his My Year of Flops series. He's right, of course: it's a loooong movie, but one saved by the performances of its leads and the triumphant nature of its finish. We, of course, are fans here.
THAT'S WHAT DENNY CRANE SAID: NBC has now officially confirmed that James Spader will be joining the cast of The Office on a full-time basis next season, though he will not be serving as Scranton branch manager for long. The press release also indicates two other pieces of good news--even though her contract is up, Mindy Kaling has apparently agreed to terms to return (at least as a performer), and Craig Robinson may be being elevated to a regular. (In less good news, Zach Woods remains listed as a cast member.)

ETA: Alan has thoughts about how this is going to work, and what he think it means about who should become regional manager as a result.
THE OUTLOOK WASN'T BRILLIANT FOR THE MUDVILLE NINE THAT DAY: As we head into the All-Star Break, the New York Times reminds us (as if we needed reminding) of the fun of minor league ball with its short, happy history of the Dayton Dragons.
LATER, I WILL DISCUSS WHETHER PEANUT-SHAPED OR PATTY-STYLE NUTTER BUTTERS ARE BETTER FOR DUNKING IN YOUR LOUIS XIII COGNAC: Ever wanted wine pairings for your Kentucky Fried Chicken? Too bad, because here they are.
PUHFECT TOGETHAH:  The Awl ranks the 50 state slogans (and DC's).

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

SO WE AGREE: GOD SAVE THE QUEEN: Presented without commentary, though I implore you to fix that with your own clever caption:
R.I.P. ASS DAN:  Only one of the performers listed below will not be appearing at the Gathering of the Juggalos 2011:
George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars
Ice Cube
MC Hammer
Vanilla Ice
Jimmy "JJ" Walker
Brian Posehn
So Sick Social Club
Charlie Sheen
Rowdy Roddy Piper
The Honkytonk Man
I BARELY EVEN KNOW 'ER: Baseball fans complaining of All-Star snubs, check out this comparison:

Player A: 12-5, 3.02 ERA
Player B: 11-4, 3.05 ERA
Player C: 5-8, 3.05 ERA
Player D: 8-5, 3.02 ERA
Player E: 3-9, 3.02 ERA

You only have room for one of these guys on your All-Star roster. Which do you choose? Probably nobody would say Player E. It seems like a lot of the traditional baseball writers are saying Player B was jobbed. The actual selection process ended up with Player D. But who are these players with silly names?
NOTES ON A PARADE: If you were a visitor from outer space, and if you chanced upon our fair planet in your travels, and if your landing party picked July 4 to touch down, and if you happened upon a small town with a parade at the moment of your landing, you might think: what a savage race is this, which sends its youngest children into pitched battle over trinkets and unhealthy morsels thrown from monstrous motorized death machines, and whose bravest young demonstrate their mettle by snatching the booty from underneath the death machines, only to leap away from the wheels at the last possible moment.

In other words: if you are the adult with the task of guarding the rear float wheels, July 4 is a harrowing day.
WHICH DOOBIE DO YOU BE?  Last night, as Michael McDonald and the Roots serenaded hundreds of thousands on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway (seriously: great concert -- especially the Boyz II Men surprise appearance -- and great coverage on Channel 6), my thoughts went to one particular place—somewhere in this crowd, Freddie "Rerun" Stubbs is trying to record this show. Based on my Twitter feed, I was not alone in summoning up this particular memory.

Yes, we've talked about the two-parter "Doobie or Not Doobie" before, and we can do that again, but I want to summon up a more basic question: why is it that two- and three-parters of classic (and not-so-classic) sitcoms seem to stick with us more than ordinary episodes? Because I can tell you every detail of the Brady Bunch trips to Arizona and Hawaii, the Diff'rent Strokes "Dudley Almost Gets Molested" Very Special Episodes, or the Happy Days demolition derby episodes centered around the dreaded Malachi Crunch far more vividly than I can the traditional runs of the shows. (Seriously: I don't think I have any other specific memories of What's Happening!! other than the episode in which Dwayne's NFL gambling run is based on his helmet color preferences.)

So what is it about sitcom two-parters? How large was the market for bootlegging Doobie Brothers concerts in the late 1970s? And how great is the irony that these episodes can now be viewed in their entirety on YouTube?

Monday, July 4, 2011

A TOO-FORGOTTEN FOUNDER: As previously noted, Hail Caesar! The authorship of this poem is unknown:
In that soft mid-land where the breezes bear
The North and South on the genial air,
Through the county of Kent on affairs of State,
Rode Caesar Rodney, the delegate.

Burley and big, and bold and bluff,
In his three-cornered hat and coat of snuff,
A foe to King George and the English State,
Was Caesar Rodney, the delegate.

Into Dover village he rode apace,
And his kinsfolk knew from his anxious face,
It was matter grave that brought him there,
To the counties three upon the Delaware.

"Money and men we must have," he said,
"Or the Congress fails and our cause is dead,
Give us both and the King shall not work his will,
We are men, since the battle of Bunker Hill."

Comes a rider swift on a panting bay;
"Ho, Rodney, ho! you must save the day,
For the Congress halts at a deed so great,
And your voice alone may decide its fate."

Sunday, July 3, 2011

KISS KISS KISS BANG BANG BANG: Drew McWeeny slideshows 25 sequels he wouldn't mind seeing Hollywood attempt.
THE MIDSUMMER LIST OF GRIEVANCES:  Time for our annual kvetching about the MLB All-Star Game rosters; it's not like folks care nearly as much about the game itself.  (Really: Beltran over Andrew McCutchen? No room for Mark Teixiera?)