Saturday, July 16, 2011

'CAUSE YOU ASK FOR IT: Via commenter Saray comes word that Sara Bareilles will replace Nicole Scherzinger this fall on The Sing-Off's judging panel. My only experience with Bareilles-as-personality was her between-song patter and general goofiness at Philadelphia's July 4 concert this month ... and this girl's got spunk.

Saray adds: "For what it's worth, everyone in the a cappella world is rejoicing. When the discussion began in the community about a replacement, Sara Bareilles was everyone's first choice - she's thoughtful and talented, and has a background in a cappella (she performed in UCLA Awaken while she was in college)."

Friday, July 15, 2011

IT IS REAL AND, APPARENTLY, SPECTACULAR:  As part of its ongoing series of reviews of pornographic parodies of American sitcoms (which we've noted before), Splitsider's Sarah Schneider reviews XXX Seinfeld. Yes, there is a Porn Nazi (No porn for you!), but honestly they had me once they named the wacky neighbor "Crammer." (NSFW language, but Isaac opened the door for this.)
'TIL FIVE HOURS LATER I'M CHEWING ...: Stephen Malkmus (long late of Pavement) and the Jicks want to get their new single, "Senator," on the few radio stations that play songs like those played by Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks. The problem is that the song includes the word "blowjob," which you can't say on the radio, even on a radio station whose listeners are comprised 100% of people who know and occasionally use the word "blowjob." Just saying it this way makes me think that FCC decency rules are kind of like cryptography, where the speaker and the listener want to communicate but are required to scramble the message. Whatever.

In any event, to get around the ban on the word "blowjob," the Jicks and their label, beloved Matador, are holding a contest to come up with a euphemism for "blowjob". My suggestion is "act in which a person uses the mouth and tongue to stimulate the genitalia of a male sexual partner." Because you can't say "blowjob" on the radio.

The spelling bee kids are gone, right?
THEY SAY SO MUCH, SO FAST: This week's Friday playlist originates with an audience suggestion (yes, we do take them) from frequent commenter Watts--"uptempo sad songs." As I was mulling over what an appropriate theme this week would be on my way to work this morning, Mumford and Sons' "Little Lion Man" popped on the iPhone, and that's almost a paradigmatic example of what I'm looking for there--some seriously melancholy lyrics coupled with a banjo solo that wouldn't be out of place on Banjo Boogie Bonanza. Add as you see fit, ladies and gents.
"WHAT MATTERS IN THE MUPPET UNIVERSE ISN'T PERFECTION, BUT EXPRESSION":  A Friday thinkpiece from The Awl's Elizabeth Stevens on the post-Henson Muppets:
Let me preface my next statement by saying that I know it will seem ridiculous to the casual reader, inflammatory to a good many fans, and downright specious to the expert of rhetoric, but for me watching Steve Whitmire’s Kermit is akin to watching someone imitate a mythic and longed-for mother—my mother—wearing a my-mother costume in a my-mother dance routine. This person’s heart is in the right place, which only makes it worse. “You should be happy,” the person pleads with me, “Look, Biddy! Your mother is not gone! She is still here.” Now, no one would ever do that. No one in her right mind would think it would work. A child knows his mother’s voice like he knows whether it's water or air he's breathing. One chokes you and one gives you life. Strangely, I feel the same about Kermit. Whitmire is an amazing performer—especially as the lovable dog Sprocket on “Fraggle Rock”—but, when he's on screen as Kermit, I can feel my body reject it on a cellular level.
THERE IS A PUB QUIZ, BUT I IMAGINE IT'S BUTTERBEER-ONLY: LeakyCon 2011, a Harry Potter fan convention, is happening right now in Orlando, and since at least one of our readers is included in it let's take a look at the agenda:
Rowling's Not So Flawed Plan: The Elder Wand as a Symbol of Masculine Power and the Importance of Love Between Its Masters (Essie Pinsky)
This lecture will examine the phallic nature of The Elder Wand, and its use as a symbol of masculine power, and identity. Essie will discuss the factors that allowed Harry to defeat Voldemort in the penultimate chapter of Deathly Hallows by examining the importance of love between the men in the Harry Potter universe. She will compare the true path of the Elder Wand to the false one, and determine the factors required to become a true master of The Elder Wand.

Death Eater Recruitment and Training (Tom Forrister)
This informational training session is for those who identify as Death Eaters and/or those who identify as “other” but still want a piece of the action. Bring your cosplay or roleplay experience to a whole new level in this combination of LARPing and lifestyling. We will discuss the purpose and structure of the Order of the Dark Lord, protocols, drills, standing orders, intimidation techniques, and applying theatrical principles for combat and other dramatic effect.

Casting Your Patronus: The Representation of Mental Processes in Harry Potter Novels (David Martin)
In the Harry Potter novels J. K. Rowling has given us several valuable metaphors for thinking about what goes on inside our heads: Depression (dementors), irrational fears (boggarts), daydreaming (the Mirror of Erised), and other things. For Rowling, these are real. This presentation explores these metaphors. What does Rowling say about her imaginary creature or object? What does modern psychology say about the issue represented by that creature or object? What can we learn and use? And
then we'll have some chocolate.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

CARMAGEDDON COULD ALSO BE THE TITLE OF THE MOVIE WHERE SEAN BEAN IS SHOT WHILE BEING STRANGLED WHILE DRIVING: Los Angelino thing-throwers: how are you going to survive Carmageddon (for non-Angelinos: the trafficocalpyse resulting from this weekend's three-day shutdown of the 405 freeway between the 10 and the 101, possibly for construction or possibly just because Michael Bay wants a bikini-clad helicopter pilot to drop napalm-soaked dynamite trucks on it)? My guess is that the budget for personal hovercraft rentals at CAA and WME is through the roof.

And non-Angelinos: how would you survive the catastrophic closure of 10 miles of freeway, leaving you only 517 other miles of freeway and 382 miles of traditional highway to get you where you're going, which is nowhere, because you have already been warned to stay inside and away from the deleterious effects of Carmageddon?
YEATS WAS THE MOST VIOLENT OF THE NOBEL PRIZE WINNING POETS: Adam sent me this awesome compilation of Sean Bean death scenes. As Buzzfeed says, "Sean Bean dies a lot." I don't want to spoil the clip for you, but don't get too attached to the character that Sean Bean plays. I mean, he played one character named Prey (Faceless) and another named Toombs (Airborne). And if you think he's going to turn it around, well, three of his upcoming projects are Soldiers of Fortune (playing a Russian guy -- the Russian guys never survive), Silent Hill, and Missing.

And what's really impressive is the range of deaths. There is some real death artistry. Anyone can get shot to death, but shot through Yeats? Shot repeatedly on a bouncy couch, bang-boing-bang-boing? Shot while being strangled while driving? Or how about being garroted on a bridge, and then the bridge suddenly collapses, and then being hung? Or being menaced by cows, then falling off a cliff, then being pelted by cows? Or being impaled on debris on a boat, then going, gosh, this is not so bad, I mean, I'm only impaled on debris, at least the boat isn't exploding, and then guess what? Sean Bean, you are the dyingest man alive.
TEXAS FOR FIVE SEASONS: To continue the celebration of Friday Night Lights' much deserved multiple Emmy nominations for the final season, two items:
THE ONLY THING I'M GUILTY OF IS LOVING PAWNEE. AND PUNCHING LINDSAY IN THE FACE AND SHOVING A COFFEE FILER DOWN HER PANTS: For a long time, the Emmys have occupied the awards-space that the Grammys used to fill -- not respected for who was nominated or who won, and a lousy three hours of tv on top of it.  Well, the Grammys fixed the second (and marginally improved the first), and today's Emmy nominations suggest significant improvement on the nominating front.

Critics' darlings abound: Friday Night Lights for best drama, and its two leads in the acting categories; multiple Justified and Louie nominations; Parks and Recreation for Best Comedy (but no love for Ron f'n Swanson?); Game of Thrones and Peter Dinklage (and Miss Blankenship!) all among those recognized.  And then the expected stuff for Mad Men, The Good Wife, 30 Rock, The Office, Modern Family (four best supporting actor noms), Boardwalk Empire and the like.

We'll be digging in the weeds all day (two more noms for Timberlake-as-lyricist, and one as SNL host; Pig Vomit nominated for his portrayal of the Chairman of the Federal Reserve!; Bill Simmons gets an Emmy nomination for the 30 for 30 series), and supplementing this post as we can.

added: Linda Holmes: "The Twitter vote for Most Aggravating Snub (Again) seems to be going to Community, which was completely shut out. In fairness, some of its more likely nominees might have been in the supporting categories, and Modern Family — where this year, all six of the major players were nominated — takes up a lot of real estate in those categories.... Runner-up is probably either Fringe or Ron Offerman of Parks & Rec, and while Offerman would be a great and worthy nominee, again, when one show takes four nominations in a single category, it's hard to break in. David Simon's Treme also got a big nothing, but at this point, fans of his past work (including the aforementioned The Wire) expect very little from the Emmys."

Alan Sepinwall: "Overall, though, the good far outweighed the bad this year. There will always be bad when you have this many shows, often being voted on by people who have neither the time nor interest in watching a lot of TV until they get the submission episodes for the nominees, and who have their own biases just as much as I do. But I look at Parks and Rec, at Friday Night Lights and Margo Martindale and Louis C.K. - and I have pie-in-the-sky fantasies about some of the less-famous nominees walking up to the stage - and I'm mostly content with how these nominations turned out, especially given how angry some past lists have made me."
CHOOCH: I've previously acknowledged my love for Sports Illustrated's Gary Smith, perhaps the finest feature writer in America. He has written a profile of Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz, and it's well worth your time. Here's a snippet:
Cliff's ready. Chooch isn't. He enters the bullpen bathroom as the national anthem begins for his ritual moment of soul searching, and stands alone in the dark ...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

GABRIELLE CARTERIS DISAPPROVES:  But Ryan Murphy insists that Lea Michele, Cory Monteith and Chris Colfer will graduate from Glee and leave the show at the end of this season. Explains Murphy, "You can keep them on the show for six years and people will criticize you for not being realistic, or you can be really true to life and say when they started the show they were very clearly sophomores and they should graduate at the end of their senior year.”

EVERYONE'S RAPPING LIKE IT'S A COMMERCIAL: You may have noticed in recent weeks the little button added to the "share this post" bar, and if you're like me you had no idea what it meant initially. Apparently, this is all part of the Google+ rollout, and when you click on a +1 (if you're signed into Google) it will improve where that post appears in Google search results and indicate to your friends and Google contacts (through your Plus profile and elsewhere) that this is something worth reading.  So if you like something here, do that. Thanks. More info here.
CHEESE-EATING SURRENDER MONKEYS:  In advance of its Women's World Cup semifinal match against the United States at 11:30am EDT today, please remind us why you hate France.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR DNA:The new boss on CSI: Original Recipe will be Ted Danson. Danson's been doing some interesting work in recent years both comic (Curb Your Enthusiasm and Bored to Death, which has already wrapped a third season with Danson) and dramatic (Damages), and may actually get me to tune in (Wednesday at 10 is a wasteland with ABC's boring-sounding Revenge and L&O: Extra Tasty Crispy). Of more interest is the report of who they went to first--Tony Shalhoub, Robin Williams, and John Lithgow. Has the time come for Williams to return to TV? If so, is this the way for him to look at getting there?
POTTER, MORE: The latest from our recombinant culture: Hot Neville, Draco, and Ron attempt to sound American and sing "Party in the U.S.A." (more Hot Neville here); the top ten noncanonical HP 'shipper pairs; the Death Eaters' "Monster" cover; The Fresno (AAA) Grizzlies' HP-themed uniforms; and, finally, the not-at-all-inevitable Book of Mormon/Harry Potter mashup.

added: Harry Potter graffiti. 43 Harry Potter-themed cakes.
GEORGE GLASS, IN MOURNING: Sherwood Schwartz, who created both The Brady Bunch and Gilligan's Island, has passed away at 94. To say he enriched our lives is an understatement.

As Schwartz explained in a 2002 Retrocrush interview (seriously, read the whole thing), the Brady Bunch was something of an aspirational show. "I think that people growing up might see a family that they would try to emulate because they have deficiencies in their own family. They don’t talk to their parents as well as the Brady kids talk to theirs. If they’re similar, they have something in common. Either way, families tune in to see The Brady Bunch. We just wanted an entertaining show that had certain moral qualities."

From a 2001 interview:
I thought I had a great idea. And it's still a great idea. It's people. Here's a serious show. It's serious in that Arabs and Jews have to learn to live together for they're stuck together. North Koreans and South Koreans, they have to learn. If you don't learn, you'll all die. So there's this philosophic basis -- this is not an afterthought, this is in the show. When the show first came on the air I got with regularity bachelor's degree, master's degree thesis from people in the theatrical area explaining what's the basis for "Gilligan's Island." Like I didn't know. It was carefully thought out, these seven people. That took me like a year to figure out who should be on the island. And it was all with a view towards the respect that people have to learn for each other because nobody is the same as anybody else. When would a billionaire sit down and have lunch with Gilligan, except if he had to? The same is true of a movie star and a professor. There's miles between them, but when they're stuck in the same place they have to learn to live together. That's what the show is about, people learning to live together....

THESE WORK FOR ALL INTENSIVE PURPOSES: I learned a new word yesterday: "eggcorn". Says Wiki, it's "an idiosyncratic substitution of a word or phrase for a word or words that sound similar or identical in the speaker's dialect. The new phrase introduces a meaning that is different from the original, but plausible in the same context, such as 'old-timers' disease' for 'Alzheimer's disease'. This is as opposed to a malapropism, where the substitution creates a nonsensical phrase."

Other examples include "bold-faced lie", "collaborating evidence", "throws of passion" and "in lame man's terms," and because there is an internet hundreds more have been collected.

Monday, July 11, 2011

ANY VOTES FOR GEORGE FOSTER? As some of baseball's leading mashers step to the plate for the Home Run Derby this evening, Ben Shapiro asks a shrewd question: if Jose Bautista finishes this season with 62 home runs, will you regard him as baseball's single season home run king?  (The asterisk-less leaderboard is here.)

I've posted a poll.

Poll Results: 60% of you say Barry Bonds remains the HR king (though that number was steadily around 70% for most of the voting), 28% would recognize Bautista, 9% Roger Maris, 1 vote for Babe Ruth.
THIS EXPLAINS THAT INCIDENT AT A KENTUCKY FRIED CHICKEN WHICH MY LAWYERS HAVE ADVISED ME NOT TO COMMENT UPON:  According to new medical research, “we have this evolutionary drive to recognize fat, and when we have access to it, to consume as much as we possibly can.”  According to Dr. David Kessler, “We think we eat it because we like it, but it’s not just because we like, but because we want it.”
SOLO FREEZES BRAZIL: I've been trying to think of something to say about yesterday's Women's World Cup quarterfinal match between the United States and Brazil other than wow and um, wow, and then it occurred to me this morning. I believe this is the first women's sports competition I can think of in which gender was irrelevant to and did not alter one's appreciation for the event. Not once did I mentally compare the quality of play to that which one might see in a men's game, not once did the match seem smaller, less physical, less intense, less anything. This was a game for the ages, and I sure hope you watched it.

Bonus: Gus Johnson calls the Wambach goal.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

THE LONGEST-AWAITED SEQUEL SINCE CHINESE DEMOCRACY: It is a testament to how unpredictable an author is that one cannot even identify the characters in the latest installment of his series without spoiling for a significant portion of his audience. So with the HBO initiates still catching up on Game of Thrones and its sequels, I'm not going to say a single thing about what I understand is coming up in So You Think You Can Dance with Dragons, which is coming to your Kindle on Tuesday, except that Salon loved it. Warning: the Salon article is light on details but does identify some of the main characters, so if you don't want to know who isn't dead, don't read.
NOT SO CLEAR EYES, FULL HEARTS, SHOW ENDING: Since the final episodes of Friday Night Lights aired on DirecTV earlier and have been available on DVD for quite some time, we won't devote Full Team Coverage to Friday's NBC finale (which is running in a 90 minute slot, so we get the uncut version). That said, ESPN has bought the rerun rights and will run them on ESPN Classic--the first season will run as a marathon this week. The show will also become a staple of the Longhorn Network (a partnership of ESPN and University of Texas, devoted to Texas sports) when it launches in August. The same source also indicates that Grantland is going to be running an oral history of the show (apparently this week) to build up excitement for ESPN's reruns, which I expect will be well worth your time.