Monday, December 31, 2012

I WATCH AT THE PLEASURE OF THE PRESIDENT:  All seven seasons of The West Wing are now available on Netflix Streaming, and Vulture has some suggestions for five essential episodes, which somewhat surprisingly excludes Two Cathedrals, though I can't quibble with four of their choices--the fifth, on the other hand?  Well, that's for discussion in the comments.
I GOTTA GET A BELLY FULL OF WINE:  Among the recipients of Her Majesty's New Years Honours for 2012 are actors Ewan McGregor and Adrian Lester, singer Kate Bush, and a metric shitload of folks involved in the London Olympics. Full list here, topped by Professor Peter Higgs (of boson fame) and the Rt Hon The Lord Sebastian Coe both being named to the Order of Companions of Honour.
TIME IS OURS:  Andy Reid's tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles is now over. Like Mike Tanier, I will mostly remember the good times, and regret the fact that unlike with so many of their players the Eagles organization didn't recognize soon enough when Reid's performance had hit its decline phase. Five NFC championship games and a long streak of fond memories are his legacy -- 4th and 26, the two Giants road games decided by miraculous punt returns, the week 17 Dallas game in 2008 -- and now it's time for the next coach to repeat the two sage decisions that Reid did at the start of his tenure: who will be the team's QB of the future, and who will coach its defense? Let us hope for the best, including for Reid himself.

Trivia: Reid's firing means there are only four coaches remaining in America's three major sports who were in their current jobs when this blog debuted. Name 'em.

Friday, December 28, 2012

CUBES AND MR. WONDERFUL:  Andy Denhart praises the best in reality tv in 2012, including a Hard Knocks season second only to the Year of Slapdick.
TAXI DRIVER, BE MY SHRINK FOR THE HOUR:  Open line Friday -- tell us about something in pop culture in 2012 which you liked that we haven't talked about all year.

[And, yes, the performance referenced in the title is as all that as you've heard.]

Thursday, December 27, 2012

THEN AGAIN, THERE'S THE $75M+ WHICH THE STATE OF RHODE ISLAND AND PROVIDENCE PLANTATIONS WOULD LIKE TO HAVE BACK:  WEEI's Kirk Minihane puts Curt Schilling's HOF candidacy through the Keltner Test. Stats here; he fell shy of 60% when we surveyed this year's candidates last month.
SIXTEEN AMERICANS, MAROONED: To go back and watch the first season of Survivor, as I've been doing with Lucy over the past few weeks, is to watch a radically different show. You may recall that it's much more about the survival/"building a new civilization" stuff than the more overtly strategy-focused show we watch now, but it's more than that.

Some examples: the challenges are all framed as more jaunty competition than meaningful battle, with Probst not even shouting "[X] ... wins immunity!" at the end but more of a quiet congratulatory handshake thereafter. (Heck, Probst doesn't hector the competitors during the challenges at all, there's no come on! dig in!) There's barely any strategy talk shown at camp between the immunity challenge and tribal council, and tribal council isn't the Probst-led interrogation it is today but more of a group therapy session. (Throughout the whole thing, Probst is much more Buddy than Boss.) There's less misdirection as to who's going home because there's barely any direction as to strategy in the first place, though there's frequent Probst voiceovers on the walk to tribal council (itself described as arduous) as to possible at-risk castaways. Indeed, the whole method by which the game's going to be decided isn't even introduced until the ninth episode, when Greg (the second post-merger elimination) is announced as the first member of the jury. It's that different. (Also, Rudy's less lovable the second time, and more of a crotchety dick.)

So here's my question: what season do I show Lucy next? I feel like Australia is good enough (Skupin, Colby, Jerri, beef jerky) to be worth watching, but after that I don't feel like every season is essential. Marquesas, maybe (Boston Rob, purple rock, peeing); Amazon, probably; but I think only Pearl Islands is a pre-All Stars one must-see, with Africa and Thailand being utterly skippable. Thoughts? I'll go tally the votes.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

ABRAHAM MASLOW GOT SCREWED:  The New Yorker's Gary Belsky ranks (and links to) the top 100 lists of all time.
DVR ALERT:  Tonight is CBS' broadcast of highlights from this year's Kennedy Center Honors ceremony, with this year's rainbow ribbons going to Dustin Hoffman, David Letterman, Buddy Guy, ballerina Natalia Makarova, and Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, and John Paul Jones.

If you're not watching that, what are you watching during this week of no new programming? I found myself sucked into a trio of Lost reruns on G4 two nights ago -- mid-season five stuff with our crew getting integrated into the Dharma Initiative ... really pleasant stuff I was glad to see again.
I DON'T WANT SOME AMORPHOUS SERIES DETAILING SOCIETY'S ILLS. IF YOU LEAVE EVERYTHING IN, SOON YOU'VE GOT NOTHING: Forgive me if "Unconfirmed Reports" (Sepinwall, AVClub) is the first episode of The Wire in a long time (ever?) that mostly didn't work for me.

First off, what did work? Bubbles' painful efforts at sobriety. Walon seems to be one of the few unambiguously good characters on the show, and what he knows is that the Steps matter, and cannot be taken lightly. And it was good to see Avon again, as well as St. Sen. Clay Davis feeling some pressure. Plus, as some commenters have noted, this isn't the first time we've seen Dee Dee, whose sharing opened the episode: in season 3's "Moral Midgetry," we see her fairly cleaned-up and buying an eight-ball in Hamsterdam; late in season 4, she's buying cigarettes from Old Face Andre's store and talking about her pimp. (Never would have noticed myself.)

But between alcoholic McNulty and reporter Scott, you've got ambitious people creating fictions that'll be more sellable to the powers that be than the messy, unpopular facts, in institutions trying to do more with less -- but if I wanted to see that movie, I'd find Shattered Glass on tv again. It just feels a bit been there, done that (and McNulty's stuff seems extreme even for him at his worst), and the Marlo/Chris/Snoop/Michael stuff feels like more of the same, with Michael in the D'Angelo role of questioning why things have to be the way they are.

The shades of grey are separating too cleanly into black and white, whether in the newsroom, Homicide, or City Hall ... it's been a long time since Carcetti did anything admirable, and the cost of his rejecting the state's money just keeps adding up.

Finally, my title quote. Things are just getting a bit too meta in Baltimore, and by the time you get to season 5 you shouldn't have to justify the series' existence. Harumph.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

HELLO? ELTON! OF COURSE. OF, OF COURSE! SEND AN EMBARRASSINGLY BIG CAR AND I'LL BE THERE! As the oddsmakers predicted, the Justice Collective's cover of "He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother," raising funds for the families of 96 Liverpool fans who were stampeded to death at Hillsborough stadium in 1989, is your UK Christmas Number One Single for 2012. The UK's X-Factor winner placed second, and "Fairytale of New York" finished 12th.

In other UK/popularity contest news, the Bank of England is considering who to put on the new £10 note from among this list of 150+ living and dead Britons supplied by the public. (Charles Babbage!)

Monday, December 24, 2012

BECAUSE PREMORSE TAKES NO HOLIDAY BREAK:  Jack Klugman, son of South Philadelphia, star of The Odd Couple and Quincy, M.E., and winner of the 12 Angry Men tontine, has passed away at the age of 90.

updated: Aw, crap. Not a good day for veteran character actors. Charles Durning has died as well. We may remember him most fondly as Doc Hopper in The Muppet Movie or for his supporting work in Tootsie, To Be or Not To Be (one of two Oscar noms), The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas or countless other films, but Durning was also a hero at D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge, and the Purple Heart (3x)/Silver Star winner will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery with the thanks of a grateful nation.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Friday, December 21, 2012

YOU GOT TO MOVE: It's never a bad time to remind people of their obligations in an airport or on a plane, but as we hit the high season for holiday travel, now is an especially not-bad time.
  1. Walk left; stand right.  If you know nothing of anything in this world, you should at least learn this lesson, because it applies wherever there are things moving at different speeds.  Moving walkways?  Don't stand next to your companion; stand in front of or behind her.  Escalators?  Pull your wheeled suitcase behind you, and let the hurrying people pass.  This means you, people blocking both of the long escalators at Dulles.  
  2. And don't just try to slow-walk your way into compliance.  Many people in airports are in a hurry for good reasons.  Get out of their way.  
  3. If you must text or email, move to the side of the concourse.  The part of your brain that types also short-circuits your sense of direction, overregulates your speed, and disables your situational awareness.  If you meander in front of me while I'm trying to hustle from G-20 to A-20 in Minneapolis, I will enjoy running you over.  
  4. In that nerve-wracking time when people start jockeying for position before they call your boarding group, find a decent place to stand.  As everybody inches closer, you have two choices:  stay where you are and yield your position, or inch closer in proportion to everybody else, maintaining the same relative position.  Don't try to weave through the crowd to improve your position, because then everybody will, and all hell will break loose.  
  5. When it is a scrum, it is a scrum.  Once something resembling a line forms, it is a line.  You enter a line from the back, not from the middle.  
  6. They keep saying it, and you keep not listening.  Your bag goes into the overhead compartment WHEELS FIRST.  If your bag only fits in sideways, IT DOESN'T FIT. Check it.  
  7. If the person behind you is in a car seat or is carrying a child on his or her lap, you cannot recline your seat.  True, this is an unexpected inconvenience to you.  But you cannot do it, period, so don't bother making mad faces at the parents.  
  8. Middle seat gets both armrests.  This way, everybody gets at least one armrest, and it best equalizes everybody's space. If you think that the shared armrests are for whoever first claims them -- a rule that frequently would leave the middle-seater wedged between two elbowy people -- you have entitlement issues. 
  9. Relatedly, no matter how important you are, there is no hierarchy of in-flight activity.  Your splay-elbowed comfort while typing out your brief, presentation, or screenplay does not warrant jabbing your sleeping neighbor's elbow off the armrest.  
  10. If you're in the middle or window seat and you have to get up, don't grab the seat in front of you to steady yourself. You're capable of standing up without bouncing that person like a rubber toy.  
  11. Never conduct a conversation across a person.  There is little on a plane as irritating as being right between two people shouting at each other.  Perhaps you could offer to trade seats?  
  12. Exiting a plane is like a wedding recessional.  Everybody in the front row goes, then everybody in the next row, and so on.  No matter when you reached the aisle, if you are in Row 21, you are not going to get off before the people in Row 20.  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

BELGIUM! WHERE THE WEATHER IS SHIT AND THE GIRLS DRESS LIKE WIDOWS:  Tom and Lorenzo review this year's Miss Universe national costumes.
ACT LIKE WHEREVER YOU ARE, THAT'S THE PLACE TO BE:  Via Watts, the 100 most-searched-for out-of-print books, a list topped by the most controversial coffee table book of all time.
MA'AM, I AM EIGHT YEARS OLD. YOU THINK I WOULD BE HERE ALONE?  A doctor evaluates the severity of the injuries suffered by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern in Home Alone.
IN WHICH AL CAPONE'S VAULT, GEORGE MAGAZINE, AND TIM TEBOW RECEIVE EQUAL BILLING:  Mike Tanier recounts some of the more Epic Fizzles in world history.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

IT OFFENDS PEOPLE: I don't mean to step on TPE's post about Bork, but many of us who both write on and read this blog are alumni of the University of Chicago law school, and Bork was both an alumnus and a participant in some important parts of the school's history, and -- without touching on any of the stuff that would require invocation of The Rule -- I wanted to add two additional thoughts:

On Bork as a young man:  Abner Mikva, who taught at the the U of C at the same time that many of us were enrolled there, was a law school classmate and long-time close friend of Bork despite their divergent political views, and he told many fond stories of Bork (including that, in preparation for Bork’s confirmation process, Mikva had advised Bork to “Get rid of the beard – it offends people”).  My favorite was from the famed antitrust class that (future Attorney General) Edward Levi taught for four days a week and seminal U of C economist Aaron Director untaught on the fifth day.  One day, Director made the argument that rent-control laws were bad because they ended up pricing the people they were supposed to help out of the market in the first place, so those laws should never be enacted.  At the end of class, Bork rushed to the lectern, and asked, breathlessly (as Mikva tells it), “but what about the poor widows?  Would you get rid of the rent control laws and put them out on the street?”  “Young man,” Director reportedly replied, “I said you should never enact rent control laws. I didn’t say anything about getting rid of them.”  When I heard the story, Mikva added, with a chuckle, “Bork, he was the biggest bleeding-heart liberal of us all.”* 

On Bork as a writer:  In law school, one of my favorite things about law books was their comprehensive and effusive acknowledgements sections.  The double-acknowledgements section in my version of Bork’s The Antitrust Paradox, which reprinted the original acknowledgements and then added a second acknowledgements section for the anniversary edition, was, to my mind, the pinnacle of this art.  It had a beginning and an ending (if no middle) and told a tale that included friendship, camaraderie, conflict (regarding the reaction to the original publication of the book), triumph, and actual unexpected heartbreak (the death of Bork’s wife).  It was a short thank-you note with all the flavors of a decent novel.  Whatever else one thinks about Bork, and people have certainly thought about him a lot, that acknowledgements section framed him for me in a light in which I think most people (other than Mikva) usually didn’t see him.

*I cannot vouch either for the accuracy of the story as originally told to me or for the accuracy of my recollection of the story.  It was a long time ago. 
IF I WANT A SALAD, I'LL ASK FOR ONE: (N.B.: This post was granted a No Action Letter under the Rule by ALOTT5MA Headquarters; this is not a place to discuss the politicization of the judiciary or the politicization of anything that does not threaten the health of your liver).

Judge Robert Bork died today at the age of 84. We will leave the discussion of his legal significance to any other site on the internet. For now, in memory of his long service on the bench and in academia, I present to you his letter of December 2005 to the Wall Street Journal, probably the most practical thing he ever wrote:

Eric Felten’s essay on the dry martini is itself near-perfect (“Don’t Forget the Vermouth,” Leisure & Arts, Pursuits, Dec. 10). His allusion to constitutional jurisprudence is faulty, however, since neither in law nor martinis can we know the subjective “original intent” of the Founding Fathers. As to martinis, the intent may have been to ease man’s passage through this vale of tears or, less admirably, to employ the tactic of “candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.”

What counts in mixology is the “original understanding” of the martini’s essence by those who first consumed it. The essence remains unaltered but allows proportions to evolve as circumstances change. Mr. Felten’s “near-perfect martini” is the same in principle as the “original-understanding martini” and therefore its legitimate descendant. Such latter-day travesties as the chocolate martini and the raspberry martini, on the other hand, are the work of activist bartenders.

Mr. Felten lapses into heresy only once. He prefers the olive to the lemon peel because the former is a “snack.” Dropping a snack into a classic drink is like garnishing filet mignon with ketchup. The correct response when offered an olive is, “When I want a salad, I’ll ask for it.”

Robert H. Bork
The Hudson Institute

To wit, with the Christmas and New Year just ahead ahead -- and Hannukah just passed -- it's always a good occasion to discuss your favorite holiday drinking traditions. Is there a new cocktail you've discovered? A bottle of scotch you mean to try? Or, of course, if you have anything you want to add to expand the penumbra of appropriate gin concoctions, let us know in the comments.
ROLL THE GARBAGE:  Many of the films in this year's batch for the National Film Registry are in there for technical reasons (early use of color photography, most notably), but there are also things you would have thought were in already (Anatomy of A Murder, Born Yesterday), a few more contemporary (The Matrix, Slacker, A League of Their Own), and perhaps most deservingly--They Call It Pro Football, the first film from what became NFL Films.  The Atlantic earlier this year had a nice and fascinating longread on just how much They Call It Pro Football changed the game, which is well worth your time.
GOD STILL RESIDES IN THE DETAILS: We begin the final season of The Wire with a copy machine/lie detector ploy first used in the first season of Homicide: Life on the Streets, and if there's a more meta way to indicate that everyone in the City of Baltimore will have to do "More With Less" this season, I'm not quite sure what it would be.

Everything is turning to shit in City government, owing to Carcetti's decision to protect his gubernatorial hopes (he thinks) and dignity rather than accept $54 million in state funding for the schools. Police aren't getting paid, Major Crimes has been broken up (again), McNulty's drinking again, and the investigation into Marlo Stanfield's organization is over**, as is the effort to solve all the dead bodies in the vacants. The only person who seems happy? Herc, charged with spending Maury Levy's money to help the criminals of Baltimore remain at large.

But at least we have a Fourth Estate to cover it all. We haven't dealt with the media much in the first four seasons, save Herc's efforts to derail Hamsterdam, but, hey, it's Meldrick Lewis, city desk editor! And lame-ass editors above, ambitious reporters below, an adorable grammar snob, and ... not enough resources to do their job. Great. But when there's only one Cool Lester Smooth in the world, I'm glad someone else noticed the Fat-Face Rick zoning deal. Maybe something will come of this political corruption investigation after all, but whether its success would actually help the people of Baltimore is another story.

(Most intriguing detail: why is Chris Partlow interested in Sergei Malatov? Also: no longer in the opening credits, per Wiki: Burrell, Prezbo, Bunny, Cutty, Royce, and Bodie.)

** The New Day Co-Op started in season three. That the police still seem unaware of its existence drops my enthusiasm for Major Crimes a notch or two.
ARTISANAL, SUSTAINABLE, AND TWEE:  Forget about perennials like moist and panties -- what were the worst words of 2012? (Warning: contains some political content, as well as reference to an alcohol intake practice about which I was previously unfamiliar.)

related: Is it Les Mis or Les Miz?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I'M GUESSING JOE KLEIN DID NOT WRITE THIS ONE: So, apparently American Idol is about to get its own Primary Colors/Devil Wears Prada novel where similarities to real life persons are "purely coincidental" (wink wink, nudge nudge).  Does anyone care enough to actually read it?  Did Richard Rushfield write it?
HYDRATED:  Language Log tries to figure out why so many people are averse to the word moist:
The words in question are not taboo in the culture at large. Women seem to be more more likely to have this reaction, though perhaps they are just more likely to talk and write about it.. Sounds and sound associations may play a role (the diphthong usually spelled 'oi', certain consonant clusters, etc.); semantic associations may play a role (slimy textures, lower-body garments like panties and slacks); but the process seems pretty random and erratic, also hitting on random-seeming words like hardscrabble, baffle and tissue. Nevertheless, certain specific words (such as moist and panties in English) seem to be frequent victims. This lexical specificity could be because the process is more deterministic than it seems, or because of cultural transmission that doesn't reach the threshold of creating new lexical taboos, but does create a widely-shared aversion to particular words well above chance levels.
IT'S ALL CONNECTED:  Reminder that tomorrow, Wire Wednesdays continue with "More With Less," the first episode of the final season.
WILLIAM WORRALL MAYO AND BETTY FORD DISAPPROVE AS WELL:  Some Gilda's Club cancer support centers are planning to change their name because young people have no idea who Gilda Radner was; her longtime collaborator, Alan Zweibel, is not pleased:
Okay, let's say that these young people have not heard of Gilda who passed away in 1989. I personally think it could be a good thing because when these young people ask who she was, they can be told that she was a very funny comedienne who made millions of people laugh on television every week. And then they can be told that when she was stricken with ovarian cancer, instead of retreating, she embarked on a mission that took her to the cover of Life Magazine that had an article entitled "Gilda Radner's Answer to Cancer: Healing the Body with Mind and Heart." And took her to L.A. Lakers games where she laughingly compared her bald head with Kareem's. And took her onto an episode of "It's Garry Shandling's Show" where she made cancer jokes because she looked her disease in the eye when she told me, "My jokes are my only weapon against this fucker."
URBAN PROBLEMS DESK:It's been a few years since we last discussed it, but as we come to the end of the year, it's time to once again discuss the question of holiday gifts/tips.  Two questions:
  1. Is a tip/gift a reward/incentive for past performance, or is it an encouragement for future performance?  For instance, I moved earlier this year into a new building.  Is a lower gift appropriate as a result? 
  2. Who to give to and how much?  Some are easy--my assistant gets a gift, and the three doormen on staff at my building will each get something and a card, but mail carrier?  Newspaper delivery?
My inclination is $5-10/month lived in the building for the doormen (who address me by name and are constantly helpful), but I want to make sure I'm not out of the ballpark there.

Monday, December 17, 2012

MANIACS: Even before Silver Linings Playbook introduced Bradley Cooper's garbage bag accessorizing to the world, consumer researchers determined that Philadelphia leads the nation in sweat apparel purchased per capita for the second straight year.
AFTER BRIEF STOPS IN SIAM AND TRANSJORDAN:  The UChicago Indiana Jones package mystery has been solved.
CHRISTMASTIME FOR THE JEWS: I still can't believe they're releasing Streisand/Rogen and Midler/Crystal in the same week.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

YOU, LIEUTENANT WEINBERG?  Twenty years ago this weekend, A Few Good Men was released in theaters. Welcome to the Sorkinverse.
CAN WE BE FUNNY AGAIN? I am not entirely sure, but SNL's Royal Family Doctor last night (and Martin Short in general) was the kind of silliness I needed. Chunnel.

Friday, December 14, 2012

HE LITERALLY HAS TO GIVE UP THE FUNK: In order to satisfying a $1M+ debt to his former law firm, George Clinton has been ordered to turn over the Funkadelic master sound recordings of “Hardcore Jollies,” “One Nation Under a Groove,” Uncle Jam Wants You,” and “The Electric Spanking of War Babies.”  The district court opinion is here.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

TO PROFESSOR HENRY WALTON JONES, JR:  The University of Chicago has received a mystery package.
THAT WASN'T HERB TEA ... THAT WAS HERB!  The wacky hijinks of NBC's Night Court will always remain in a dear place in my memory, so I regret to inform that its creator, Reinhold Weege, has passed away at age 62. Weege also wrote more than 100 episodes during the show's nine seasons, which balanced the madcap with the sentimental (and far too many real-life deaths) with aplomb, and made a star out of John Laroquette while giving Harry Anderson the platform for which the show was always intended. Also: Mel Tormé.
YOU HAD NO RIGHT TO FILL A MAN LIKE THAT WITH AMBITION:  Nominating The Newsroom and Smash for Best TV Drama and Best TV Comedy instead of Mad Men and (Parks & Rec or Louie) suggests just how poorly today's Golden Globe nominations will go over as an assessment of merit, even in the Yemen (see Sepinwall), but since they have some predictive power on the film side it's worth discussing, if only to hear the titters of glee from the far corners over Jack Black's nomination for Bernie.

added: First Fey-Poehler hosting promo.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

HARRY DRANK DEEPLY. IT WAS THE MOST DELICIOUS THING HE'D EVER TASTED AND SEEMED TO HEAT EVERY BIT OF HIM FROM THE INSIDE: Two-and-a-half years after its opening, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando has served its five millionth butterbeer.  For those keeping score at home, that's 5,506 butterbeers daily.
'NOT YOUR FATHER'S OLDSMOBILE' JUST PISSED OFF ALL THE FATHERS WITH OLDSMOBILES: There are two (probably an infinite number, actually, but I'll round down to two) ways to look at Windows 8. One is that Microsoft, distracted by the shiny bauble that is the iPad money-printing machine, has moronically and belatedly decided that everything it makes is going to be either tablety or appy. The other is that Microsoft is internalizing the lessons of Blackberry and trying to make sure that when the generations to whom iPhones and iPads are native technology finally graduate to business tools, Windows-based computers will be both familiar and exciting to them.

Whichever you believe, Windows 8 is a pretty upsetting change for those of us who have a lifetime of accreted Windows knowledge and a firm dedication to the old separation of church and state: the iPad is mostly for fun; the laptop and desktop are mostly for business.
IT'S 12/12/12, AT 12:12:12:  Last chance we'll get to do something like this for the next eighty-eight-plus years, until the first hours of the year 2201 2101. So name a favorite "twelve" or "dozen".
BUT YOU GON' LET GO OF THAT BOY. BET THAT:  I try to write about the season four finale to The Wire, "Final Grades," and I'm just too overwhelmed to say anything. Alan, as you'd expect, has a comprehensive summary of where all the characters are at the end, but even that only begins to cover how utterly defeated one feels at the end of the season. Heroic efforts by well-meaning men (and they're all men, it seems) -- Prezbo, Bunny, Cutty, Carver, and to some extent Carcetti -- often backfire, and rarely succeed, and when they do succeed seem to do so for the kid who seemed the least deserving, non-Donut division.  [And we love Donut here.]

Crime, boy, I don't know. Locking up the Barksdale Organization didn't make a difference, because Marlo's right there to take over, and even more brutally. Lock up Parton Partlow and Snoop, and Michael's already ready to take over. Take out Marlo himself, and, well, look at how many other people were there at the latest New Day Co-Op meeting, with the Greeks always needing distributors. Hamsterdam may not have been the answer, but the status quo does not work.

Which leads to the season's true villain: statistics. Whether it's in terms of police clearance rates or students' educational achievement, what Simon and Burns want us to absorb is how much chasing the numbers can distract from, and often work against, the actual goals which the statistics are meant to measure.

Finally, Bubbs. Oh, god, it did get worse.  Damnit.
A DENIAL! A DENIAL! A DENIAL!  Among the headliners at tonight's Madison Square Garden concert for Sandy relief will allegedly be a quasi-Nirvana reunion with, of all people, Paul McCartney on vocals, with Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic playing.  Unclear if they'll be playing Nirvana songs, McCartney songs, or some combination thereof, but this could be strange and wonderful.
ITCHY AND LUMPY: Honoring its "bizarre tonal shifts from wacky comedy to breathtaking earnestness to incomprehensibility," Nathan Rabin inducts The Star Wars Holiday Special into his Flops series.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

THREE SIX MAFIA AND MARTIN SCORSESE, NOW TIED: The Best Original Song Oscar has a bunch of weird rules requiring songs to be submitted in advance for clearance, to be adequately featured in the film (a closing credits song is only acceptable if it is the first thing heard once the credits roll), and to be original for the film.  The finalists list came out today, and it's actually kind of interesting:
  • Either for lack of submission or lack of eligibility, the only Hunger Games song eligible is one by the Arcade Fire.
  • Katy Perry's "Wide Awake" is the biggest mainstream hit (topped out at #2 on the Hot 100) to be eligible in a long while.  You have to go back to 2002, when "Lose Yourself" won, to find a Top 5 hit amongst the nominees.
  • Let's be honest--this category is probably almost certainly going to go to "Suddenly," the big ballad they wrote to get Les Mis into this category, right?
  • Despite rumors that "Skyfall" might be ineligible due to its prominent use of the original "James Bond Theme" vamp, it is eligible, and I can see it being a spoiler for those who aren't Les Mis fans.
At a bare minimum, performances of the last 3 should add a little jolt to the broadcast, right?
MY DUTY'S TO THE LAW:  A few nights ago at Joe's Pub in NYC, Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe had a Confrontation.

Related: NPH and Jason Segel; Jason Segel and Paul Rudd; Paul Rudd and David Wain.
THAT'S GOING TO BE ONE WEIRD CONCERT:  Interestingly, our Doodle poll from earlier this year managed to almost exactly pick this year's inductees to the Rock Hall of Fame.  All five of the nominees who the ThingThrowers rewarded with 50% or more of their votes got in--Public Enemy, Rush, Donna Summer, Randy Newman, and Heart.  N.W.A. came in just under the 50% mark in our poll and likewise didn't make the cut from the Hall.  We did miss badly on one inductee, though--Albert King got under 10% of ThingThrower votes, but will go into the Hall.  We can already start looking towards next year, where we've got a mortal lock on the first ballot (Nirvana) and a bunch of interesting marginal cases (Fugazi, Phish, Morrissey), and I expect N.W.A. goes in next year, with a few voters shifting with "Public Enemy needed to go in first."  Our Keltners for Donna Summer, Heart, and Rush.
IF #SLATEPITCHES DIDN'T ALREADY EXIST... "Grapefruit is unwieldy, disgusting, and in some cases dangerous to eat. It is indisputably the worst fruit anyone has ever put on a plate."
BANJO:  Matt Zoller Seitz ranks his twenty-five favorite tv comedy episodes of 2012.

Monday, December 10, 2012

WORKED IT: Vulture's annual video necrology for the tv shows, and characters, which died this season. Contains potential character spoilers for Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Homeland, Grey's Anatomy, and American Horror Story, among others.
SELL, MORTIMER, SELL!  Tennis star Novak Djokovic has bought the entire supply of the world's most expensive cheese. "Pule, a smoked donkey's milk cheese that comes in a white, crumbly form, comes with such a high price tag because one kilogram of the delicious delicacy requires 25 liters of donkey milk."
PLEASE IMAGINE A SUCCESSFUL PUN INVOLVING 'CARRIE ON' AND 'WAYWARD SON': I don't have Showtime, so my viewing of Homeland is arrested at the end of Season 1. But a long-time reader has requested that I open up a thread for discussion of last night's episode, and we do requests. Spoil away in the comments.
ALOTT5MA STYLE GUIDE:  When writing about the band which styles its name as fun., is one obligated to roll with it and let sentences go wherever they go? Vulture's review of the Z-100 Jingle Ball concert contains sentences like this:
Despite her One Direction allegiance, fun. was my new friend’s favorite set of the night, and she was not alone — even the wandering lemonade guy joined in on the “We Are Young” sing-along.... Fun.’s sound is “unique” and “classier” than most pop music, according to my neighbor, which was her endearing way of saying that she recognized something different and more accomplished in their songs.
Especially that sentence with the apostrophe -- is it better to reword to avoid a punctuation traffic jam like that?

[On another note: if Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, and One Direction are the current rulers of the Teen Pop roost, this is a pretty damn good time for teen pop music, isn't it?  For evidence, I'll present the Bieber acoustic number from the AMAs, and Ms. Swift from the aforementioned Jingle Ball expressing her thoughts on a reunion with an ex.]

Friday, December 7, 2012

YES, BUT CAN HE PLAY THE MUSIC AND LIGHT THE LIGHTS?  Apparently, none of the human cast for The Muppets will return for the sequel, but your new human lead?  Emmy winner Ty Burrell (after negotiations with Christoph Waltz fell through) will play an Interpol inspector investigating something the Muppets are doing.
I SAVED LEAP DAY! AND CONNECTED WITH MY SON! AND SOLVED A BIG CASE OF MURDER!  The Writers Guild of America has announced its nominations for the best of television in 2012, with separate honors for comedy and drama, for new series and returning series, and for episodes of particular note.  Breaking Bad has 4/6 of the dramatic episode nominations (with another going to the most infuriating episode of Mad Men); Modern Family 3/6 of the comedic.
MY SISTER IS WAITING FOR US IN CHINA. WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO HER IF WE DON'T GET HER? Vulture notes the highlights of 2012 in hatewatching: Smash, The Newsroom, The Killing, and Gallery Girls.
#FIRSTWORLDPROBLEMS DESK: Look--I love Fandango--it's an easy way to check not only what's showing at local theatres but also to know whether things are selling out before I make plans.  However, when a movie is showing in multiple formats, there is no way to get all showtimes in all formats displayed on one page, as Fandango considers each format a separate film.  For instance, The Hobbit is showing in four formats in the NYC area next week--2D, 3D, IMAX 3D, and High Frame Rate 3D (it's also apparently showing in IMAX 2D in some markets, though not in NYC)--that means I have to look at each format's listings separately or browse by theatre to get a full list of showtimes.  Any reason they can't fix this?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

DEAR NFL NETWORK: I like football, Cee-Lo Green, and the Ramones. Cee-Lo Green singing football-related words (lyrics, whatever their precise aesthetic definition, are better than this) over the music to Blitzkrieg Bop is nonetheless utterly -- I emphasize: UTTERLY -- unappealing. If you must have Thursday Night Football intro music, please do better. If you're just doing this reflexively because the broadcast networks do it on Monday and Sunday nights (and you're still kind of figuring this whole thing out after seven years) please consider doing something else instead.
A BANKRUPT LOUDMOUTH AND CHILD SUPPORT CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR:  Mike Tanier evaluates Warren Sapp and the other 14 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

added from the chronic brain trauma desk:  Roger Goodell is floating an idea to eliminate kickoffs by giving the kicking team a "4th and 15" from its own 30, effectively replacing a kickoff with a punt and an onside kick with a normal offensive formation from 4th and 15 (or fake-punting). It is weird. It would change the game significantly.  But if this is what the research shows might lead to a safer game, it has to be considered.
THE DIRECTOR INITIALLY THOUGHT IT HAD A "NINETY-FIVE PERCENT CHANCE OF BEING AWFUL":  And yet Rocky das Musical is a hit in Germany, and the Stallone adaptation may come to the States. Here's a trailer.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I WANT THE TINY DOG TO GO WITH THE STATUETTE: From a quick spin, looks like Frank Ocean, the Black Keys, and fun. dominated the Grammy nominations, but a few other things of note:
  • Even more departure than usual between Record of the Year (for the recording artist) and Song of the Year (for the songwriter) than usual, with only "Stronger" and "We Are Young" making both categories.  Interestingly, the Grammys split on teen pop confections, giving a Record nod to "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" but a Song nod to "Call Me Maybe."
  • Carly Rae Jepsen does not get into the Best New Artist field, which pits fun. and Frank Ocean against one another.  Indeed, the Canadian Cutie is up only for Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance (which interestingly is 5 women--used to be separate male/female categories).
  • EGOT Watch--Bernadette Peters, Audra McDonald, Matthew Broderick (principal soloists on nominated cast albums), Ellen DeGeneres (spoken word), and Bret McKenzie (for Man or Muppet, up against two Hunger Games songs and Let Me Be Your Star)
  • Because of the Grammys' bizarre rules, the album Watch The Throne was eligible last year, while tracks on it are eligible this year--"No Church In The Wild" and "N****s In Paris" both rack up in the rap category.
  • Interestingly, I think we have our first nominee for score from a video game, with Journey (a PS3 network game) getting nominated alongside Tintin, Dark Knight Rises, and Hugo.
  • Blanked?  Justin Bieber.
PERHAPS THE MOST EVEN NUMBER OF ALL: The BBC would like to remind you that zero is an even number.
MIKE AIN'T MIKE NO MORE:  Damn you, Pelecanos.

We enter "That's Got His Own" (see also Ariano) understanding that bad things are going to happen -- just as the people of Baltimore are trapped in systems which resist sweeping change and only allow for tiny nuggets of hope and progress, so too does The Wire seem trapped in a dramaturgical system in which nothing can stop cruel outcomes in the penultimate episode of a season.

I was about to say "cruel fates," but it wasn't fate. Michael had choices, even at the end of this episode when it came to staying by Cutty's side or showing allegiance to his crew. Randy, as Alan details, has had a score of bad things go badly for him, and now it's up to him to decide whether to give up on the system based on how he's been let down, his you gonna look out for me? rant every bit as devastating as Dee's where the fuck is Wallace? in season one. Dukie,with no stable home, and no more Prezbo do to his laundry? It's hard seeing hope for him, and as the assistant principal notes there are many more Dukies in Prezbo's teaching career to come next.

And then there's Namond, raised in the most stable and middle-class of environments, but with the worst values being impressed upon him by his mother. Is it because he grew up more comfortably that he resists the gangster ethic? Is it because of Bunny? Who knows? But the kid has a chance ... for what, I don't know. What happens when he's no longer in Bunny's class?

Other things happened too: Carcetti's shit-eating tour continued in Annapolis; Lester worked the politics so he can now open up the vacants; Herc took his punishment like a man (just as De'Londa said Wee-Bey did);  Omar has his most audacious heist yet (love the cameo from The Greek's crew); and Bubbs ... okay, kinda saw that coming. But damn you, Pelecanos.
NOT SO PRECIOUSSSSS: It seems that early reaction to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has been rather mixed, with particularly mixed reaction to the high frame rate version that some theatres will present.  Given that, studios seem to have made a rash decision to pile up all their big releases for from the 19th-25th.  This weekend, we have only the terrible-looking Gerard Butler soccer movie and next weekend only The Hobbit as a new wide release.  In contrast, between December 19 and 25, we have SEVEN new wide releases, plus several interesting limited releases for Oscar play--Zero Dark Thirty, The Impossible, Not Fade Away--and, I'm assuming, further expansion of a few other Oscar hopefuls (most notably, Silver Linings Playbook).  Admittedly, I'm still behind (likely fare this weekend is Lincoln and perhaps a trip to Bring It On: The Musical before it closes), but isn't there room here?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A GLASS OF BAILEY'S IRISH CREAM, TOPPED OFF WITH A SHOT OF JAMESON, DROPPED INTACT INTO A PITCHER OF GUINNESS STOUT:  God bless the Fourth Estate; the DN's Molly Eichel tracked down the guy who completed the Irish Bus Bomb at the P&P Club from the end of Anthony Bourdain's Layover trip to Philly. The episode is a wonderful valentine to what Bourdain calls "a town with a low tolerance for bullshit and a whole lot of heart," and I commend it to you all.
DOWN BY THE RIVER WHERE IT'S WARM AND GREEN:  It looks like starting next season, the NBA franchise in Louisiana will abandon its once-buzzworthy nickname from its Charlotte days to become the New Orleans Pelicans. Runner-up appellations included "Krewe" and "Brass".
BECAUSE SKATING WITH CELEBRITIES WAS ALREADY DONE: Because of several "13 and out" shows (Private Practice, 666 Park Avenue, Last Resort), as well as the need to fill between cycles of Dancing With People You Might Be Vaguely Familiar With, ABC has a bunch of midseason stuff.  Of particular note:
  • Despite the floppage of Last Resort ratings-wise, ABC is sticking the similarly-themed Anthony Edwards-led conspiracy thriller Zero Hour into the Thursday leadoff spot, where it will assuredly be massacred by the mixture of Idol and Big Bang Theory.
  • Between-Dancing-cycle fillers on Tuesday include what looks like a Top Chef-type competition (with hosts Anthony Bourdain and Nigella Lawson) and Celebrity Diving, which is exactly what it sounds like.
  • Suburgatory, which has had a dynamite second season, loses the plum post-Modern Family slot in April to a Sarah Chalke sitcom.
Good news is that it looks like Happy Endings isn't being touched--I'd been afraid that its low ratings, it might get yanked early.
FAMILIAR QUOTATIONS: Vulture is already in full-steam year-end wrap-up mode, and one of their features is a list of pop culture quotes of the year which covers film, TV, and music.  Sadly, it contains a Zero Dark Thirty semi-spoiler (apparently a memorable Jessica Chastain line, which I can guess the context for, despite not having seen the movie), but it's hard to find flaw with a list that manages to include both Jesse Pinkman shouting about magnets and Tony Stark on Middle Eastern food.
IT WILL NOT BE BETTER THAN BEFORE:  If Christine McVie is not involved, does it really count as a Fleetwood Mac reunion tour?

Monday, December 3, 2012

I'M GOING TO PIG OUT ON ALL I CAN GET FROM UCLA:  Now enrolled as a freshman, Justine Bateman is not receiving satisfaction when her fellow calculus students keep yammering in class.
THE WINTER OF OUR CONTENT: January season premieres: Justified, Cougar Town, Community, Downton Abbey, Girls, plus that singing show. Have Januaries always been this way, or is saving the good stuff for winter a new thing?

Unrelatedly, I just saw on the HBO web site that they're doing a (mini?) series of Neil Gaiman's American Gods. I kind of wish I could sit in on that pitch meeting: "well, it's kind of like a road movie with Henry Rollins and Thor's dad ..."
KEEP ON PUSHING:  Sports Illustrated has named Lebron James as its 2012 Sportsman of the Year. It'll sell more magazines than a Usain Bolt cover would have, which is the only other name which immediately comes to mind, but it's hard to complain about this choice.
WHEN THE LEGEND BECOMES FACT, PRINT THE LEGEND:  Having finally seen Argo, I strongly recommend it on its own terms, but with a big caveat. Lord knows I will love any movie set in 1980 which puts a 2-XL into a kid's bedroom, but there are limits. Spoilers after the break:

Friday, November 30, 2012

NBC HAS SOLVED ITS MARIA PROBLEM:  For a planned December 2013 live broadcast of The Sound of Music, the Smash producing team of Craig Zadan and Neil Meron has cast Carrie Underwood as Maria von Trapp.
HELLO:  As Alan Sepinwall noted on the Twitter, Mandy Patinkin turns 60 today. Here's him singing Bali Ha'i, Swanee/Mammy, and Something's Coming (the latter two from Letterman), and some acting he did with Christopher Guest that one time.
HE'S A SYMBOL, AND THE SYMBOL LIVES ON:  Fantastic interview with director Christopher Nolan in Film Comment on the completion of his Batman trilogy. A taste:
With my co-writers David Goyer and my brother [Jonathan Nolan], we decided early on that the greatest villains in movies, the people who most get under our skin, are the people who speak the truth. So with Ra’s Al Ghul, we wanted everything he said to be true in some way. So, he’s looking at the world from a very honest perspective that he truly believes. And we applied the same thing to The Joker and Bane in the third one. Everything they say is sincere. And in terms of their ideology, it’s really about ends justifying means.... I think truly threatening villains are the ones who have a coherent ideology behind what they’re saying. The challenge in applying that to The Joker was to have part of the ideology be anarchic and a lack of ideology in a sense. But it’s a very specific, laid-out lack of ideology, so it becomes, paradoxically, an ideology in itself.
NASHVILLE: A guest post from our friend, singer/songwritier Paul Tabachneck:
* * *
I mentioned to Adam that I'd love for us to talk some about Nashville, which I started watching with low expectations, but have been pleasantly surprised by. Callie Khouri and Co. have done the rare turn of paying rapt attention to the craft of songwriting, and it has become the beating, bleeding heart of this program. This show could have been awful — instead, it feels to me like a good idea turned great.

The reason "Smash" worked, when it worked, was that its' original material was written the way a musical would be — music and lyrics written by one duo across the board, with the exception of the Ryan Tedder debacle (which the show acknowledged as such). When the show was in Marilyn mode, it was sublime, because the musical-in-the-musical felt real. The route this show has taken to finding original music has been much more intricate, and one could argue that it had to be, to get it right.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

TEST HER AGE LIKE SHE'S A DOMINICAN SHORTSTOP: I haven't seen much of X-Factor this season beyond the absolutely insane Lyric 145 riff on Mary Poppins from earlier this season, but, okay, this Carly Rose Sonenclar performance of "Rolling in the Deep" from last night is just ridiculously assured for a thirteen-year-old. Yeah, 13. Born in 1999. In the UK, the show has launched One Direction, Leona Lewis, and Jedward already; Sonenclar seems destined to be its first US star.
EXIT POLLS: First 48 HOF votes in, here's where we are:
Would induct (75%+): Bagwell (44 votes), Clemens (44), Biggio (42), Piazza (42), Bonds (41), Raines (36).
Just short: McGwire (33), Schilling (28).
Receiving some consideration, and remaining on the ballot: E Martinez (18), Sosa (14), Trammell (13), Walker (10), Murphy (7), Palmeiro (6), Morris (5), Wells (3).
Explain your one vote: Conine, Lofton, Mattingly, McGriff, L Smith, Rondell White, B Williams.
The average voter selected 8.125 candidates, which is remarkably high. One-third of all voters used all ten slots. Six voters skipped both Bonds and Clemens (with five of them omitting McGwire as well); three voters skipped Piazza but otherwise supported the other five we'd induct. (Strategic voting?)

Query for the Schilling abstainers: is it "I don't think he's worthy" or "even if he may be worthy, he's not First Ballot material"? Polls remain open.

updated, Friday 11am: I'll leave the poll open, but the results haven't much changed with twenty more votes in, other than a burst of increased support for Alan Trammell bringing him close to Edgar-level. Given this data, I might as a voter consider throwing a vote Kenny Lofton's way to keep him in future consideration and strategically skip voting for someone like Raines who likely isn't getting in this year, but isn't falling off the ballot either.
THE BOXES NEVER REACH MY HOUSE: From the long-dormant ALOTT5MA Samurai-I-Am-Urai Desk comes word of a San Francisco woman securing the arrest of a local package thief using a samurai training sword and a half-can of bear spray.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

VOTING SHALL BE BASED UPON THE PLAYER'S RECORD, PLAYING ABILITY, INTEGRITY, SPORTSMANSHIP, CHARACTER, AND CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE TEAM(S) ON WHICH THE PLAYER PLAYED: The National Baseball Hall of Fame has released its 2013 ballot for modern players. Its thirty-seven names include some of the biggest stars in baseball history, and some of its more disgraced names. This will be a hell of a debate, and we should continue to have it here.

I have set up a Doodle poll for the ALOTT5MA community to vote. Please vote for no more than ten names, because that's what the BBWAA does. I have long believed that players accused/admitted of PED usage should be voted into the Hall if their accomplishments so merit, and with their Hall plaques "teaching the controversy" where appropriate. My 2013 ballot reflects this:
Bagwell, Biggio, Bonds, Clemens, E. Martinez, McGwire, Piazza, Raines, Schilling, Wells.
The toughest decision for me was the tenth slot, between David Wells, Sammy Sosa, and Rafael Palmeiro, and in that case I did go for the "who wouldn't have made it but-for-usage?" tiebreaker, as best I could. The others, to me, are pretty clear, though I did give Dale Murphy a second thought because this is his fifteenth, and final year on the regular ballot. Ultimately, though, he didn't excel for quite long enough for my tastes. (Our discussion of the 2011 ballot2011 Doodle results.)
THEY DO OVERLOOK THAT HE WAS THE BOMB IN PHANTOMS:We speculated about EW's Entertainer of the Year a couple of weeks ago and turns out we were all wrong.  For reinventing his career (as embodied by his direction of and performance in Argo), your Entertainer of the Year?  Ben Affleck.

ETA:  The full list includes a number of folks we speculated about--Channing Tatum, Joss Whedon, Jennifer Lawrence, Seth MacFarlane--a few we should have expected--the cast of Homeland, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt--and an interesting surprise choice in Kerry Washington.
AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO KNOWS HOW TO PLAY THIS GAME?  It's "A New Day" in Baltimore, with as many steps forward as backward as the Carcetti administration begins. First, the line which made me happier than just about anything I've seen on The Wire:
Detective Freamon, you have carte blanche in picking your squad. In fact, you can pick your supervisor, for all I care. Motherfucker, as far as I'm concerned, you are the Major Crimes Unit. It's morning in Baltimore, Lester. Wake up and smell the coffee.
With that, the lights get turned on, the miniatures put away, and Real Police get to start policing. Just thrilling to see Freamon put the pieces together on Lex's murder and the vacants. Meanwhile, Good Carcetti starts throwing his mayoral weight around against stats-driven policing, and Omar brings the drama to Prop Joe as only Omar can.

And then there's everything else. It's difficult to figure out which kid is most doomed: Dukie and Namond from being phased out of their protected classrooms, Randy for snitching, or Michael for having chosen to align himself with Marlo's crew and defending Randy (and seeking the One Ring). Bunny's classroom no more, and Prez's may not be for much longer (between the anticipated test scores and the budget cuts), but they're making whatever impact they can.

Meanwhile Bubbs is still getting beat up because Herc is the worst fuck-up ever, Carcetti's already being squeezed between the ministers and the school budget deficit, Prop Joe is between a shovel and a spade, and, worst of all, next week is this season's George Pelecanos episode. May god have mercy on the City of Baltimore.
DRYLAND IS NOT A MYTH! I'VE SEEN IT!  As part of its continuing effort to be the butt of every joke imaginable, SyFy has announced it is developing a weekly TV series based on Kevin Costner's notorious flop Waterworld.
I'M NOT BEING DEFENSIVE! YOU'RE THE ONE WHO'S BEING DEFENSIVE!  On December 15, Martin Short will return to host SNL the first time since 1996. Paul McCartney will be the musical guest, and I'm sure he'll be having some wonderful ... songs for the season. (Jamie Foxx/Ne-Yo on December 8, and Foxx hasn't hosted since 2000.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

THE MOST IMPORTANT MAN IN SPORTS IN THE PAST FORTY YEARS: Tom Boswell pays tribute to the late Marvin Miller.

I dug up the first NYT article I could find on Miller, a January 18, 1968 column by Bob Lipsyte. Reading it now makes clear just how much Miller changed the world:
A SPECTER is haunting the capitals of sport—the specter of unionism. Athletes are groping seriously toward some kind of representation more effective than the present players' associations, and established unions, such as the Teamsters, have shown enormous interest in putting locals in the locker room. ...

Player leaders feel that owners have generally acted like lords of the manor and treated their athletes as petitioners. This is true, but owners must also be appreciated as among the last frontier spirits left in American business—especially those whose family-owned clubs were formed in other eras and held together by pure orneriness and benevolent despotism. Now, when America has entered upon a gold-plated age of sports, these old owners aren't about to cut bright young labor lawyers into the bonanza.
FROM THE EIGHT DAYS OF GIFT-GIVING ADVICE DESK:  Two weeks ago we talked about what we're reading now, but reader Cecilia couldn't help but wonder: "I just love the book posts where everyone gathers together to geek out over what books they're oping to receive, planning to give as gifts, and intending to read as one year ends and the next begins. Could we do that soon, please?"

Monday, November 26, 2012

DOWN TO ONE MAN: Way back when Kirk Cameron had a crisis of faith over a chaste scene-within-a-scene, Alan Thicke famously told him, "Son, if Growing Pains is too blue for you, maybe you're in the wrong business." Thicke presumably would not have exactly the same advice for Angus T. Jones, the titular half-man from Two-and-a-Half Men, whose show surely is bluer than Growing Pains (from what little I've seen from the bumpers at the end of DVRed episodes of Big Bang Theory). But it's still a little jarring to see a TV star who less than a year ago signed a $300K-per-episode renewal declare that his show is filth and demand that he be allowed out of the business.  Congratulations on the reverse-Biehl, Angus T. 

I have no reason to doubt his sincerity, I don't begrudge the man his right to practice his faith however he thinks he must, and, even if I think it's a decision he may live to regret, there are far worse excesses a rich nineteen-year-old can indulge in than binge-piety.  We arrive at our destination from different directions, Angus T. Jones and I, but I think I speak for both of us when I say:  Can this please, pretty please, finally kill that damned (however you interpret that word) show? 
TOWN VS. FROWN: When Walking Dead premiered, I was excited -- a show that ran past the 90-minute/250-page mark might give some thought to the question that crops up at the end of every short zombie piece: what next? But The Walking Dead took its time getting there. Its first season was about the need to find moments of pre-apocalyptic normalcy in a post-apocalyptic world, and its second was about learning to let go of the notion of pre-apocalpytic normalcy (and pre-apocalyptic morality) altogether. So it's only in this, the third season, where we get down into what post-apocalyptic normalcy really is.
HIS VIBE IS MORE SKEEVY ENGLISH STREET URCHIN THAN POWERFUL CRIMINAL MASTERMIND:  TV critic Eric Deegans has a list of the four Worst Mistakes Currently Airing on the Best TV Shows.
IT'S SOOOO AMAZING! YOU SPIN THIS THING ON THE GROUND AND IT GOES ROUND AND ROUND. I COULD WATCH IT ALL DAY:  With Cyber Monday** upon us and the eight days of Hanukkah fast approaching, can we collaborate on good gift ideas for kids?

Two I'd like to recommend: ThinkGeek as a general resource for brainy kids (and grownup) stuff, and (as taught to me by the elder Spacechild) the card game Monopoly Deal, which is just endless strategic fun to excite a child's inner Machiavelli. 

** A friend asked on social media this morning: do we still use the term cyber in any other context other than today's online sales? It wasn't that long ago that some of us edited an entire legal volume titled The Law of Cyberspace.
APPARENTLY, IT INVOLVES METH, A BUG, AND SOME FRIED CHICKEN:  An idea we've been kicking around ALOTT5MA HQ: would you be interested in a sequel to Wire Wednesdays, in which those of us slackers who've never watched a Breaking Bad episode would unite to do so in 2013? Would you be more or less likely to do so if we accelerated the pace to two episodes/week, in order to catch up in time for the start of the final season next summer?

[Wire Wednesdays are tentatively scheduled to end on February 20, 2013.]

Friday, November 23, 2012

HELL OF A PRICE TO PAY, ISN'T IT? "I Dream of Jeannie" made him famous, "Dallas" made him an icon just slightly before my time to be aware of why "Why shot J.R.?" mattered so much to the grownups, but I think Larry Hagman may have saved his best for towards the end, because I'll be damned if I've seen five minutes of better screen work than his Gov. Freddie Picker in Primary Colors. Hagman's Picker so clearly carried the weight of his personal history, of bad decisions he thought he had escaped, and would have escaped, had the lure of politics not roped him in one more time. His lament, in that penultimate scene, just floors me every time:
Fucking cocaine. I was really so successful in everything did ... business, politics. I could handle anything ... except cocaine. But I didn't know that because of cocaine. That's what fucked up my marriage, not anything else. I did go to bed with Renzo once or twice. It was a coke thing. I could do anything, so I did that, too. I'm seeing a really nice woman now. I suppose I have to tell her. Hell of a price to pay, isn't it?
Hagman passed away today at the age of 81, in Dallas.  Two years ago, the Austin Film Society prepared this clip reel, and I think you'll enjoy it.
WHEN IN DOUBT, BLAME THE PHILADELPHIA POLICE:  Why is today called Black Friday? (Bonus! What about Black Monday, Black Tuesday, etc?)
SO IF YOU BELIEVE IN FATHER CHRISTMAS, CHILDREN, LIKE YOUR UNCLE BILLY DOES, THEN BUY THIS FESTERING TURD OF A RECORD: Ladbrokes has posted odds for this year's UK Christmas #1 single, this year topped not by the X-Factor winner but by a charity cover of "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" by Sir Paul, Robbie Williams, Sporty Spice, Holly Johnson, and others being released of December 17 for the victims of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 Liverpool supporters were crushed to death during an FA Cup semi-final match with Nottingham Forest. (An independent inquiry this year revealed official efforts to shift the blame to the victims.)

You can still get 6/1 odds on One Direction, as if Simon Cowell weren't rich enough already.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

AS GOD AS MY WITNESS:  An oral history of the WKRP in Cincinnati episode "Turkeys Away." Yes, you can find the video online.
THEY'RE NOT LEARNING FOR OUR WORLD; THEY'RE LEARNING FOR THEIRS:  Leave it to The Wire to go even bleaker as we turn the corner towards the end of season four with this week's installment, "Misgivings," in which one quiet reaction from Chris Partlow speaks volumes about shared pain.

So many things to talk about this week -- how the best work of Carver and Bunny can get horrifically undermined by Namond's mom; how Randy's effort to do the right thing (in the right way) and Michael's to do the right thing (the wrong way) may doom them both; how Marlo takes no chances; how Officer Walker may be the worst of them all, because Donut, while pathological, is largely harmless. But mostly it's about Chris Partlow, who understands exactly what Michael's complaint is, and whose brutal resolution of it makes clear how much he, too, must have suffered at one point. When you've appalled Snoop ... you know something else is going on.
THE THERMOPYLAE, THE MASADA, THE FORT MCHENRY OF QUIET:  Tim Kreider writes in the NYT about the battles it takes to keep Amtrak's Quiet Car quiet.

[He cites therein the work of philosopher Aaron James, whose new book Assholes: A Theory defines the term in this manner: "A person counts as an asshole when, and only when, he systematically allows himself to enjoy special advantages in interpersonal relations out of an entrenched sense of entitlement that immunizes him against the complaints of other people."]

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

NO WAY:  Mike Myers has completed writing a script for Wayne's World 3, which features "Wayne and Garth coping with the new era of music, transitioning from access cable to streaming internet (ala Youtube) and Wayne balancing his marriage to Cassandra." Myers is 49, Dana Carvey is 57, and the last time a Wayne's World film was released Justin Bieber was still in utero. Can we just say party off already?
KUDOS FOR THE 'F,' BUT THE APOSTROPHE'S ABSENCE IS DISTURBING:  The AA baseball affiliate in Reading, PA, has dropped its "R-Phils" moniker to become the Reading Fightin Phils (or just "Fightins"), with a pugnacious 1950-style ostrich as its new mascot. Why an ostrich? The Crazy Hot Dog Vendor, of course.
YOU THINK YOU'RE THE CLEVER LITTLE GIRL WHO KNOWS SOMETHING. THERE'S SO MUCH YOU DON'T KNOW, SO MUCH. WHAT DO YOU KNOW, REALLY? YOU'RE JUST AN ORDINARY LITTLE GIRL, LIVING IN AN ORDINARY LITTLE TOWN: Criticwire's weekly survey asked critics to name their favorite underrated Hitchcock film, with Frenzy, The Trouble With Harry and Shadow of a Doubt among those with multiple nods.

Monday, November 19, 2012

LIKE, EVER:  An Eagles season this depressing deserves a swiftian musical response: "We Are Never, Ever Gonna Win With Andy."

[I see nothing wrong with Reid finishing the season; he has earned the right to a dignified departure. But it's over.]
FOR PRACTICAL PURPOSES, EVERYONE KNOWS WHAT A LOBSTER IS:  Publishers Weekly selects the top ten essays of the post-war era.
LET THEM ENTERTAIN YOU:  As we near the end of the year, it's time to begin speculating about EW's Entertainer of the Year.  My thoughts for the frontrunners:
  • Joss Whedon and the cast of The Avengers--It's the #1 movie of the year by a big margin thus far, and the only thing I'm seeing the rest of the year that has a shot at topping it is The Hobbit, which I'm not convinced isn't going to disappoint commercially.
  • Jennifer Lawrence--Star and face of The Hunger Games (the #3 movie of the year thus far), and a likely Oscar nominee for Silver Linings Playbook.  She's easily going to be on the Top 10 list, but #1?  I doubt it.
  • Twilight/Kristen Stewart/Robert Pattinson--This is the easy choice to sell magazines, and Stewart has been the female lead in two $150M+ grossers this year, not an easy feat.
  • Channing Tatum--Lead in 3 $100M+ grossers this year, covering comedy and drama, and will sell magazines.
  • Seth MacFarlane--TV empire, what will almost certainly remain the highest-grossing comedy of the year, and hosting next year's Oscars?  Again, sounds like a Top 10 choice, but I'm not convinced #1.
  • E.L. James/50 Shades of Grey--Would be only second writer to be so recognized, but in terms of cultural force, there's a darn good case to be made.  But would the cover sell?
  • Taylor Swift--Would be the first ever repeat winner, but she's the logical choice for music this year if they want to go in that direction.
  • The cast of the NCIS Franchise--TV's top scripted show by a country mile, with a third spinoff coming later this year. (Also possible in a similar vein?  The cast of The Big Bang Theory.) 
Anything else I'm missing?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

COUNTLESS SCREAMING ARGONAUTS: "In 1976, They Might be Giants presented Elvis Presley with a demo of 'Birdhouse in Your Soul.' Elvis loved the song so much he recorded a version that was never released."
WE'RE JUST PUTTING PIECES TOGETHER:  Ten years ago today, I started blogging. (Remember the original design?)

There's not much to say, other than thank you—to my old friends and new who have joined me in writing for this little corner of the web, and to all of you who keep coming back to read and participate. I deeply appreciate the community we've built here, and have no plans on stopping anytime soon.

Friday, November 16, 2012

INDY, WHY DOES THE FLOOR MOVE?  Leitch and Grierson rank all twenty-eight Steven Spielberg films. As a bonus (a) there's no slideshow, and (b) it's pretty much right. Sure, I'd move Catch Me If You Can higher and drop War of the Worlds some, but any list that has Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom outside the top ten ... well, apparently Spielberg has made a lot of great, great films.
CHUNG CHUNG: Last year, we noted the development of a database chronicling the conviction/outcome rates for Law & Order.  The database is now complete, and shows that yes, in later seasons, the conviction or otherwise clear positive outcome became far more common, either because of DAs Branch and McCoy taking a tougher stance than their predecessors, or more likely, because network pressure led them to decrease the number of morally ambiguous endings.
HE LET HIS CAREER PLOW INTO AN ICEBERG:  Back in when this blog was first emerging from the primordial ooze,** one of my early posts was on Film Threat's list of the once-hot actors and directors with the coldest career forecasts in Hollywood. Go take another look at that list, and, yeah, Mira Sorvino, Winona Ryder, and Hayden Christensen never quite made it, though others on the list (Matthew McConaughey, Kathryn Bigelow) did manage to turn it around.

** How old is this blog?  One of the early posts expressed jealousy that the Red Sox had hired as GM some 28-year-old kid named Theo Epstein. The first TAR finale recapped? The one with Zach and Flo.
SHOW YOU:  Updating a story we may have mentioned once or twice before, it turns out that Kikko-Man Fight! was not, in fact, an actual Kikko-Man ad. Management regrets any misunderstanding.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

MOKIKI DOES THE SLOPPY SWISH: I don't expect many people to agree, but I think that "The Legend of Mokiki and the Sloppy Swish" was the best thing SNL has done in years and years and years. Origins. That is all. No, actually, it's not: "Sad Mouse" was the best thing about the prior episode. So I'm kind of not missing Lonely Island. A show that only did things like those two shorts would be one of my favorite shows on television.
WHEN I THINK I'M OVER YOU, I FIND I'VE JUST BEGUN: One of the terrific things about the internets, of course, is digging through to find old songs you'd long since forgotten. I was delighted to find a clean copy of the theme to Dark Star, "Benson, Arizona," which is a terrific little song that, as it should, accounts for the effects of time dilation of a relationship between an astronaut and his Earth-bound love. Anyway, what old song have you recently dug up that made you happy? Or, perhaps, was better left un-reheard?
I WAS RAISED IN THE S-E-A DOUBLE-T L-E: So I've been thinking of a trip to Seattle/Vancouver/Victoria/Whistler with the Earthling clan next summer. Curiously, despite being born in California and having lived there for all of about 5 years of my life, I've never been to Seattle (nor, for that matter, Canada).

The trip is, at least nominally, a baseball trip. So there will be a Seattle Mariners game and at least one minor league game. But other than that, I'd love to hear your big ideas for what to do in that slice of North America. Islands on which to stay, museums to visit, attractions to see. Outdoor/Indoor/Kid Friendly Kayak Operators/etc. Recall Little Earthling will be not quite 9, Wee Earthling 5.

Obviously, Isaac, I'll probably pin you and Mrs. Spaceman down as we get closer for more specifics, but feel free to pipe in.

I know very little about Seattle. But thanks to Sir Mix-a-Lot, I know Seattle ain't Bullshittin'

IT'S CALLED PANDORA BECAUSE IT OPENS UP A BOX FULL OF HORRIBLE STUFF: Do you like music? Of course you do. Do you generally want to see musicians you like rewarded for making good music? Or do you want there to be financial incentives for people to make music that will appeal to you? Congratulations, you are a sane person with common sense.

Do you want to pay zero-to-thirty dollars a month for streaming access to all the music in the world, or at least to a radio station playing songs algorithmically targeted to your own taste? Now we're talking.

But if you want both (a) to compensate the makers of music and (b) to pay next-to-nothing for your own music, you have a problem. It's not possible to do both. See this depressing and informative article by a member of Galaxie 500 about the miniscule royalties he receives for thousands of spins on Spotify and Pandora.

One reads a lot about Spotify and Pandora and how they're trying to find solutions -- including legislative and administrative solutions -- to "the royalty problem." "The royalty problem" is that Spotify and Pandora don't want to pay for the product they're distributing. Streaming services like to pretend that they're promoting the product, not selling it, but let's not kid ourselves. Streaming services want to be the model that replaces music ownership, relegating the purchase of music to the niches of collectorship and dj-dom. But if you eliminate music sales as a potential source of meaningful income for musicians (admittedly something the recording industry has done pretty well on its own), you are basically telling musicians not to bother. In the short term, good for Spotify, good for Pandora; in the long term, bad for everybody.
JOE BETHERSONTON OF 11454 PRUDER STREET, APARTMENT 23-R, FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA, 50504: One week from right now, what will you be cooking?
FIGHT THE REAL ENEMY:  A worthier critical target—Drew Magary v. the Williams-Sonoma Catalog.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

WHY DOES THE EMPIRE CARE, ANYWAY, ABOUT REDUCING ITS ORGANIC GARBAGE OUTPUT? Joshua Tyree has some questions about the plausibility and efficiency of the Death Star's trash compactor.
WELCOME TO FLAVOR TOWN:  Count me among the dissenters to those squeeing with delight over Dexter's dad's trashing of Guy Fieri's new Times Square restaurant. Not that I think the restaurant is any good -- I trust that it isn't -- but that merely saying that a thing everyone expects to be bad, is bad, is a waste of the NYT's resources no matter how many creative ways you can say "bad."

What a worthwhile review does is place the item being reviewed in context -- whether it's comparing Fieri's place to other restaurants-for-the-masses or a movie like Transformers or Battleship to big dumb action movies which delivered. Until a reviewer makes clear what the expectations are for the genre, and establishes markers which demonstrate an appreciation of when it's done right, then merely saying "this was bad" over and over again is unhelpful. Compare it to what Time Out NY wrote yesterday, which while almost as dismissive took more effort to explain why the restaurant fails:
-GATEANOMICSTASTIC:  Eleven creative suffixes which yield awful portmaneaux.
WE MIND YOU ASKING:  After several weeks of incremental progress and optimism, this week's Wire Wednesday episode, "Know Your Place," is where The Way Things Are just starts slapping people in the face. Prez's classroom progress, reflected in motivated, organized students making progress in math and probabilities? Cast aside for teaching-to-the-test in language arts. Bunny's efforts to reach out to the worst kids stymied by his recognition of how little society expects of them—and that they know it. Carcetti's sincere efforts to reform Baltimore police? Politics require that Burrell be retained-but-bypassed, not removed.

[Quick aside: Other than myself, Marsha, and Watts, is everyone else either completed the series, or behind the pace/quit?]

Then there's the truly sad stuff, because there's bad and worse: Herc being allowed anywhere near active policing has led to Bubbs getting battered again, screwed up the Stanfield investigation, and placed Randy's life in severe jeopardy. And Michael, poor Michael: too afraid to reach out to Cutty, Prez, or Social Services, so the kid with perhaps the best chance of escaping the life may have sealed his fate.

Finally: "Aunt Kima."  Sigh.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

EL-NO:  Kevin Clash's accuser has recanted. Phew.
APPARENTLY, ALOTT5MA NOW HAS A PENNSYLVANIA MINOR-LEAGUE BASEBALL NICKNAME ALTERATIONS DESK: Unwilling to let Reading have all the fun, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre AAA franchise (formerly the Red Barons, more recently Yankees) appears to be going with Trolley Frogs as its new appellation, beating out Black Diamond Bears, Blast, Fireflies, Lumberchucks, Porcupines, and RailRiders.

What is a Trolley Frog? According to the team, "Known as the 'Electric City,' Scranton is home of America's very first electric trolley car. A trolley frog is not only a mechanical part of a trolley, it takes us into a creative world of frogs, lily pads and snapping tongues."
THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE:  An AVClub retrospective on Santana's Supernatural ("perhaps the most popular LP of the ’90s that absolutely nobody cares about today") raises the following question, for which I've posted a poll in the right-hand column: which ubiquitous late-career comeback smash from an iconic 60s/70s artist is more contemptible: Santana (w/Rob Thomas) on "Smooth," or the Beach Boys' "Kokomo"?

There can be only one. Defend your vote.

Update: "Kokomo" won (which is to say, lost) the fan vote; 70% of you thought it was worse.
BY GOD, NO MANURE-HEAD'S GONNA STOP ME: The cultural history of the term "poopy head."
OLD ENOUGH TO REMEMBER SIMON AND SCHUSTER AS ACTUAL PEOPLE:  Remember two and a half years ago, when we were all surprised to learn Herman Wouk was still alive?  Because, guess what? He's still still alive, and the NYT checks in with the 97-year-old author today because unlike that slacker Philip Roth, he's got a new book out.

Monday, November 12, 2012

TORN US APART:  The Australian rock bank INXS has finally called it quits, a mere fifteen years (and one J.D. Fortune) after the death of lead singer Michael Hutchence.
FOR ONCE, PLEASE, LET'S HOPE THIS ONE ISN'T TRUE: Kevin Clash, oy veh. I'm glad he has Sesame Workshop's full support.
BECAUSE WE DON'T DO THIS ENOUGH:  What are you reading now, and what recent reads do you recommend?

I had intended to finish it in advance of the election, but I am still finishing up Richard Ben Cramer's epic What It Takes: The Way To The White House, his revelatory chronicle of the 1988 presidential race which helps Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush, Michael Dukakis, Gary Hart and others come to life in a way that can't be revealed via day-to-day campaign journalism. You truly come to understand who these men are and what made them tick, and its biography of Dole, in particular, is just tremendously moving.
WE WANTED TO TRASH THE CANON AND CANONIZE TRASH:  Is it possible you'll find the artsier-than-thou Slant Magazine list of the top 100 films of the 1990s even more aggravating than AV Club's list of 50 last month? Take a look. Provocative and interesting, sure, but overall just plain ... wrong.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

FROM SNIGLETS TO THE JUDY DOLL:  In honor of HBO's fortieth anniversary this week, Splitsider's Bradford Evans attempts to rank the top 16 comedies in the cable network's history.  No love for 1st & Ten, sadly.  (Also, definitionally, shouldn't Tanner '88 have been in there?)