Friday, August 19, 2011

SO IT'S BETTER THAN THE HONEY WHEAT BUSHMAN BREAD AT THE OUTBACK, IS WHAT YOU'RE TELLING ME:  Christopher Borelli of the Chicago Tribune makes something I've never tried, at a chain restaurant I've never been to, seem awfully appealing:
There were no children shouting at the lobsters in the tank; the lobsters in the tank at the Red Lobster I visited had divided themselves into sullen gangs, like residents of an aquatic prison yard. Instead, the only thing I heard, the only sound that jumped out, were voices of the Red Lobster waitresses, repeating with a flat cheerfulness, "Be back with biscuits."

Reading back over those last few sentences, I guess I'm making this sound more "Soylent Green"-esque than intended. On the other hand, the online Urban Dictionary defines Red Lobster as "a restaurant you order a meal at solely to get the cheddar biscuits."

Which is remarkable considering that Red Lobster is the nation's most ubiquitous seafood restaurant, the food is mediocre and entrees are far from chain-restaurant cheap — think $18 or more. And yet culinary history is partly a catalog of obsessions, those dishes that inspire slavish devotion, dragging in customers regardless of hunger. McDonald's french fries, Wendy's fries dunked into a Wendy's Frosty, the standard Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich.

The cult of the Cheddar Bay biscuit, however, seems special and intense.
WHO SINGS ON SINGALONGS EVEN WHEN THEY CAN'T STAND STUPID SING A LONG SONGS: This week, for our Friday Playlist, let's talk about sing-a-long songs--what are your ALOTT5MA Karaoke Klassics? For me, I'll often ease in with a (faux)-oily reading of "Pour Some Sugar On Me," and, if I'm feeling audacious, have been known to go down the road of some "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)." You?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

NICHE APPEAL: The Wall Street Journal checks in on Conan O'Brien's ratings, and they ain't so good:
The Time Warner Inc.-owned channel has seen its viewership among 18- to 49-year-olds fall 11% this past television season compared to the previous one—despite Mr. O'Brien's addition last fall. Viewership among those 18 to 34 years old fell by 10.8% over the same time period....

The audience for "Conan," has fallen from about 2.4 million in the show's first month on air in 2010 to roughly 958,000 people this past July, according to Nielsen Co. data.

Mr. O'Brien trails all major competitors on broadcast and cable during his 11 p.m. time slot. In certain weeks, he's also fallen behind newer faces such as Chelsea Handler.

In July, Mr. O'Brien averaged about 685,000 viewers between the ages of 18 and 49, placing him behind cable competitors such as Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart as well as broadcast rivals Jimmy Fallon, David Letterman and Jay Leno.
I hate to say I told you so -- okay, not really, because I totally told you so: "The truth is that while we all generally like Conan O'Brien, we weren't watching Conan O'Brien until his tenure on The Tonight Show was threatened. He's a likable guy doing a genre of show that feels stodgy. And going head to head with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, who already dominate the young (male) audience, I just don't see how O'Brien sustains an audience." Even Conan's boss seems flummoxed:
"We want TBS to be a leading comedy brand," Steve Koonin, president of Time Warner's Turner Entertainment Networks, which includes TBS, said in an interview. The company is still working on fleshing out its strategy. "How we get to that destination we don't have 100 percent mapped out today."
ALL HE'D WANTED WERE THE SAME ANSWERS THE REST OF US WANT: Even though ALOTT5MA Unnecessary Remakes Week is over, I'm not going to ignore the news today that Ridley Scott has signed on to do a sequel or prequel to Blade Runner.
EHN-SHAL-AH: If you have 90 minutes, use them to watch Koran By Heart, a documentary about the international Koran-recital competition, which draws about 200 competitors under the age of 19 to Cairo each year to do exactly that: recite a passage of the Koran precisely given the beginning and ending lines of that passage. Competitors are judged both on precision and proper form -- but not comprehension. Indeed, some of these kids cannot speak a word of Arabic save the rote recital of the Koran itself.

The charm of the movie is that these kids are pretty much the same kids we have come to know and love as part of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. All seem quite bright. Some kids have terrific parents. Others have been neglected to learn nothing but the Koran. And if you don't want to squeeze the stuffing out of the adorable Rifdha Rasheed of the Maldives by the end of this movie, well, I don't even want to know you.
LET ME BE ME: Like a lot of people, I read Will Leitch's profile of Michael Vick in GQ published online this morning, and, um, is there something I'm missing? Because when you just focus on the parts in which Vick is directly quoted, there's not much there, there, other than the insight that the NFL steered him away from signing with Buffalo or Cincinnati (which had offered him starting jobs) and towards a third-string role in Philadelphia. Beyond that, as much as Leitch tries to suggest that there's a bolder, less remorseful Michael Vick out there being restrained by his PR advisors, the evidence backing that spin seems just doesn't appear on the record.

As I've suggested in the past, I remain uncomfortable with Vick's being the starting quarterback for the Eagles, and believe that atonement and a changed life can only be demonstrated over time. And so far, he's doing that.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

THE OLD MAN IS DOWN THE ROAD AT ONE FIRST STREET, NE: Mental Floss recounts the story of when John Fogerty was sued for plagiarizing ... John Fogerty, with the case making it to the Supremes on the attorney's fees issue.

Related: Neil Young tells the story of what it was like to be sued by Geffen for recording an album that didn't sound enough like "Neil Young."
A SPORT OF VIOLENCE, EXCLUSION AND DEGRADATION: How about playing dodgeball on a giant trampoline field?  I believe we now have our Next ALOTT5MA Outing.

Related, just because I saw it on Family Guy last night: Jesus plays dodgeball.
PARLEZ-VOUS THING THROWER? A request from one of our faithful readers, a friend of mine since days of yore--they are planning a trip to France for approximately two weeks in October, flying into and out of London, and then making their way across the Channel. Paris and Normandy are definitely on the itinerary, and they are open to potential other locations in France or elsewhere (they'll rent a car for at least part of the time). Museum, restaurant, tourist-y site suggestions are all more than welcome. My suggestion would be to spend a day or two in London, take the Eurostar through the Chunnel, spend some time in Paris (where you decidedly don't need a car), and wrap up with a few days in Normandy, ideally returning the car and taking the ferry across the Channel, but I'm sure y'all will have far more expertise in the matter.
DOES THIS MEAN THAT THE DISCO MINIATURE GOLFING QUEEN IS NOW ELIGIBLE TO BECOME MISS TRI-STATE AREA? Miss America remains as American as apple pie -- she, too, suffers during an economic downturn. The WSJ explains how Miss Mule Days and Miss Loris Bog-Off have become hot prospects for struggling state pageants. Added plus: Firm Grip butt spray can be expensive.
DO YOU WANT TO KNOW THAT IT DOESN'T HURT ME? NPR's Marc Hirsh wants to know why Kate Bush never made it big in America, and has a striking conclusion.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

WICKED CRAVING FOR A FRIBBLE:  Yes, this post title's familiar, but now there's video of the skit in utero: Fey. Dratch. Second City, 1997.  [Via Splitsider's Rachel Dratch appreciation post]
WHY I LOVE BASEBALL, PART 594: How about triple plays on consecutive dates? Last night, the Brewers turned the exceedingly rare 4-6-3-2; tonight, the Red Sox went 5-4-3 around the horn.  And from earlier this season, the Cleveland team goes 3-4-6 off a bunt in the air for the trifecta.
THIS NOTE'S FOR ME: Fascinating article over at the New York Times about the brewing dispute over the termination of record companies' ownership of music made in and after 1978. Apparently the 1978 revisions to the copyright statute gave "authors" the right to terminate others' ownership over their works after 35 years. I have no idea what this means -- who an author is (Rick Rubin?), whether it is based on publishing or performance rights, etc. The NYT also points out that it isn't clear whether termination rights apply, for example, to bands who sign their contracts in foreign countries but record here. The recording industry, of course, claims that all works by contract artists are "works for hire," which, from what little I know, seems to be an aggressive but non-frivolous argument. The only thing that seems settled is that there is a ton of money at stake, and going from royalties to ownership of an artist's catalog might cause significant changes both in the finances of some individual artists and in the tenuous health of the record companies.
EVERYONE WHO READS THIS BLOG EITHER IS ALREADY DEAD OR OTHERWISE WOULD HAVE LIVED TO BE 200 YEARS OLD: According to some presumably junk science,* every hour of television you watch shortens your life by 22 minutes. But it would have been 22 minutes of sitting on the couch in a dark room complaining that nothing was on, so don't sweat it.

*The study was performed by "experts from the University of Queensland, Australia." I mean no disrespect to Slowlylu, but have you ever heard the phrase "Australian scientists have discovered ..." followed by anything of consequence?

HT: @HitFixDaniel, whose Twitter handle is both an identifier and a series of sequential instructions.
DO YOU LIKE PINA COLADAS? [THEN YOU'RE OKAY, ACTUALLY]: Those of you who remember our 2008 Summer Cocktail Series may be intrigued—or offended—by The Awl's asserted list of Drinks That You Should be Ashamed to Order in Public.

Monday, August 15, 2011

THOME, THOME, THOME HAS DONE IT AGAIN:  #599 and #600 tonight.  Only seven players have more, and his place in Cooperstown should be secure.
THE YEARS THEY FLEW AND WE NEVER KNEW: Yes, our old friend** Alex Balk's appreciation of the Madonna song "I'll Remember (Theme from With Honors) is cute and all, but it's the question from Anil Dash in the comments that I want to present tonight: "Serious question: Least hot Madonna song ever? Maybe tied with This Used To Be My Playground?"

** Did you know we're now at seven years post-TMFTML?
DOUG ELLIN MAKES ME REGRET SAYING ANYTHING NICE: So, Entourage. To defend myself a bit, the last episode ended with a recovering drug addict witnessing the suicide of one of his business partners, a friend from rehab. That is a setup fraught with dramatic possibilities. One possibility that I hadn't considered is that it would lead, 23 minutes later, to the boys chasing each other with a rubber penis in celebration of falsifying evidence in a criminal case. Did I really say a few days ago that the show seems to be growing up?
SHE WAS NOT HAD AT "HELLO": Splitsider surveys the lost roles of Janeane Garofalo.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

LOSER LIKE WHO? Isaac has previously warned us of the peril of trying to apply earth rules of logic to Glee, and Glee: The 3-D Concert Film may stretch the rules even further. The movie's made up of three intercut parts:
  1. Footage of the cast (just the younger portion thereof, save for a cameo appearance by ALOTT5MA Designated Whipping Girl Gwyneth Paltrow doing "Forget You") performing songs, mostly from Season 2, with some minimal dialogue between the cast members to set it up, entirely in character. Apparently, the film is supposed to be of New Directions, not of the "Cast of Glee." Some folks acquit themselves quite well--Lea Michele demonstrates her pipes, Kevin McHale is clearly the strongest male singer, and the camera has a hard time looking away from Heather Morris during "Slave 4 U" in particular (as Fienberg observed). Others work out less well--Dianna Agron gets screwed because she has only one song (largely, I anticipate, because they wanted to minimize Chord Overstreet's presence), and Cory Monteith again reminds us that he can neither sing nor dance.
  2. Footage of the characters backstage--again, entirely in character (at least sort of). There's no writing credit on the film, so the stuff may be improvised. Some works well--Brittany gets off some suitably bizarre remarks (most memorably, correctly noting that her boobs will look awesome in 3-D), Rachel gets to react to being told that Barbra is in the house. Most other folks get only a few moments, perhaps because they're uncomfortable. I'm not quite sure how this fits into continuity. Are we to believe that New Directions (following their loss at regionals) somehow signed a worldwide tour which sold out and an accompanying film, and then, returning to Lima, Ohio, find themselves still losers? Admittedly, the film's flop status makes it possible to play some meta games here, but still.
  3. Documentary segments (shot by another crew entirely) of folks proclaiming their love for Glee and how it's helped them accept others/accept themselves. Three are central players--a cheerleader who's also a little person talks about how the show helped her gain confidence, a girl with Asperger's talks about how Brittany helps her connect with people, and a guy with a painful coming out story talks about how he wished he had someone like Kurt as a role model. The problem is that these segments, while genuinely affecting, don't mesh with the continuity of the rest of the film. They talk about the show as a show, while the rest of the film maintains the pretense that the characters are "real" and the ones performing.
On the whole, the film's not bad--as Fienberg noted in his review, it takes away the increasingly bizarre plot gymnastics and lets the performers focus on the music, but it also shows where the show and its ensemble are weak on that front.