Saturday, February 18, 2012

A CELEBRATION OF WATERSLIDES, OXEN, AND A YOUNG WOMAN NAMED FLORINKA: One of the ways in which CBS is promoting the new (20th!) season of The Amazing Race, beginning Sunday night, is with an ad highlighting Great Freakouts in Race History.  There's a nice ten minute video someone's compiled from the first five years of racing, and I suspect many here have some favorites.

Friday, February 17, 2012

I THOUGHT HE WAS DEAD ANYWAY: Funny or Die answers the Twitterverse's great unanswered question from the Grammys: "Who the #*&@ is Sirpaul McCartney?"
THE TERRORISTS WIN: The news out of the NBA League That No Longer Exists -- the news apart from the donnybrook breaking out among New Yorkers, Bay Area-ers, Asian-Americans, collegiate elitists, Christians, and Republican politicians to claim ownership of Jeremy Lin -- is something about Seattle taking steps to build a basketball stadium while Sacramento's hold on the Kings seems precarious.

Let me get this out of the way first: I think that Seattle is a better place for an NBA team than Sacramento. Seattle is bigger (a million more people in the metropolitan area, 15th-largest in the nation to 22nd, plus within TV-package and driving distance for residual Vancouver basketball fans) and has a richer basketball history (the Sonics were ingrained in Seattle's DNA in a way that the Kings have not been since moving to Sacramento in 1985; plus, Seattle grows NBA talent out of proportion to its population). The Kings in Sacramento are more like, say, the NHL Kings in LA -- present but not beloved. But I recognize that that may just be my bias talking; discount at will.

What I really want to say is that even if Seattle gets another team, a resurrected Sonics, it will just be a cherry atop a giant bowl of shit. Part of me thinks that this is all just a ruse by David Stern to extort a bit more money from Sacramento for the Kings (and all the better that his dupe is Seattle, the city that had the temerity to refuse him the last time he came demanding money). Even if it works, though, it serves the NBA's nefarious interest. A large part of the NBA's business model today is to increase the value of its franchises by demanding nine-figure stadium subsidies from local governments. The Sonics' move to Oklahoma City is Stern's stick, and the Kings' move to Seattle could be his carrot.

That's why, if you live in any city other than New York, Boston, Chicago, or Los Angeles, this should matter to you. The NBA wants a new stadium in each city every 20-25 years, and it wants you -- the taxpayer -- to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for it. If your politicians say no, the NBA will take its ball and go play somewhere else -- and the NBA knows that's not likely to happen, because the electoral effect of losing a beloved sports team is more visceral than that of the impenetrable financial calculus of stadium subsidies.
MY NAME ISN'T KRUSTY THE KLOWN. IT'S HERSCHEL KRUSTOFSKY. MY FATHER WAS A RABBI. HIS FATHER WAS A RABBI.  HIS FATHER'S FATH ... WELL, YOU GET THE IDEA:  We, too, will offer the Poniewozik/Sepinwall challenge in advance of Sunday night's 500th episode of The Simpsons: name one -- and only one -- episode of the show which is your favorite.

Mine is the one referenced in the title, and per their challenge I will not list the 5-10 others I could have chosen.  Nor should you.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

IT'S A CHEMICAL WEAPON, ESSENTIALLY: From New Mexico comes word of the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Pepper, weighing in at 1.2M-2.0M Scoville units. I cook with Habenaros often enough. I'm aware of what careless preparation with a hot pepper can do to a hangnail or an errant eye rub, but the flavor of Habenaros in a jerk sauce is worth the risk. Yet at more than a million scovilles, I'm not sure what one could do with a scorpion pepper one could not better do with mace.
IF YOU WERE IN MY TAX BRACKET, YOU WOULDN'T BE SHOUTING SUCH SOCIALIST PROPAGANDA: A question, prompted by Matt's Bunheads post below: for imperious and disapproving mothers of a certain vintage, are you Team Kelly Bishop or Team Jessica Walter?

And while we're at it, Emily Gilmore, Lucille Bluth, or Malory Archer quote?
YOU SHOULD PROBABLY LEAVE YOUR COPY OF THE KAMA SUTRA AT HOME:  The Free Library of Philadelphia is hosting speed-dating sessions where each potential suitor has to bring a representative book as an icebreaker, and we couldn't help but wonder: if you were (or are) on the market, which book would you bring to introduce yourself?  And which book, in the hands of the person across the table, would have you wincing and hoping for the next rotation to happen quickly?
TWIST, AND SHOUT:  Good heavens--people are spending ridiculous amounts to bring their kids to see Nickelodeon's (Original Marina-Free) Fresh Beat Band in concert. (Non-parents: here's what you're not missing.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

HAIL PROMETHEUS: I've never seen anyone try to steal fire on Survivor before, so that was cool.

What do we have in Survivor: One World Is Enough For All Of Probst?  Tyrion Lannister, a bunch of buff guys strutting around shirtless and in jeans like they're on Team Jacob, chicken-chasing (complete with jolly banjo music), and Colton -- The Gayest Gay Man In The History Of Survivor, and he will quip you faster than Taylor Swift flashes her Surprised face.

I am digging the structure of the show so far, and especially the Hantzlessness.  We'll see how it goes.

In the meantime, Linda Holmes suggests some rules for winning Survivor (a few of us are in the comments there), and a bunch of Survivor alums go to that Northwestern class to share secrets.
MISS PATTI WOULD BE THRILLED: We didn't note when ABC Family picked up the Amy Sherman-Palladino/Sutton Foster series Bunheads (likely to begin this summer), despite much interest when the pilot was announced, but we are obliged to note that Kelly Bishop has agreed to recur as Foster's character's mother-in-law, who it's safe to presume will be imperious and disapproving.
AND THE MEMORIES OF WHAT LOVE COULD BE: Rarely is a published list as consonant with my personal preferences as Michael Slezak's list of the top 10 Hollywood Week performances on American Idol.

If anything interesting happens tonight, we can discuss right here. Tomorrow night, presumably, we are divided into four rooms....
THE SONG OF THE MOCKINGJAY: Aside from two Taylor Swift songs (one of which is a collaboration with indiefolk heroes The Civil Wars, and which is pretty darn radio-unfriendly) and a contribution from Miranda Lambert/Pistol Annies, it's hard to imagine a more indie-friendly soundtrack for a big blockbuster than The Hunger Games: Songs From District 12 And Beyond, which features tracks from Kid Cudi, Arcade Fire, the Decemberists, the Punch Brothers, and Neko Case. That track listing certainly suggests that they're not polishing all the rough edges of the book to make it into a film.
WELCOME TO OMAR'S DAL:  Is America ready for mainstream Indian fast food chains, with such menu items as "tandisserie" chicken and "curritos" -- curried burrito-style wraps?
NEVER GET HIGH ON YOUR OWN SUPPLY:  Rules, codes, and bureaucracies dominate "One Arrest," this week's episode of The Wire, but really you can say that about every week. There's a lot of underestimating going on -- the police don't realize that Stringer will figure out why Stinkum wasn't arrested; Damien "Day-Day" Price the limo driver underestimated that Daniels' first name is "Lieutenant"; we need to stop underestimating the police work that Prez, Lester, and Bunk can do; and sadly Bubbles, Johnny, and Wallace can't underestimate just how gripping heroin addiction can be.

So Bird's in a cage, phone service is spotty, and Councilman Clay Davis makes his first appearance.  I understand I'm supposed to pay attention to him.
JUSTIFIEDUH: Anyone else feel like this show got a lobotomy during the off season?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

THIS LIST WAS NOT MADE BY AN ACCREDITED SNL FAN BUT BY AN ENTHUSIASTIC BLOGGER WITH A LOVE FOR ALL OF JULIA SWEENEY'S MEMORABLE CHARACTERS: Paste lists SNL's top 30 characters of all time, and while I can forgive the exclusion of Gilly, who most people outside of my immediate family can't stand, how can you leave Nick the Lounge Singer off the roster? And I am guessing characters excludes celebrities or else Alex Trebek & Sean Connery and even Buckwheat would be here. And while Dan Aykroyd merits the most mentions with four (Killer Bees, Wild and Crazy Guys, Coneheads and Blues Bros.), Dana Carvey wins the most praise for holding down the top two slots, solo with the Church Lady at No. 2 and alongside Wayne at No. 1. But seriously, Pat?

So, who else deserved to be on the list? Talk amongst yourselves (No. 11) in the comments.
EITHER TOROS IN THE ATMOSPHERE, OR TYPICAL CHICAGO WEATHER: The charming and delightful Amy Watts is organizing a blog meetup for an upcoming trip to the Windy City. She writes:
Chicago Meetup: here are the (very vague) details so far:

Marsha and I will be going to Bring It On: The Musical for the evening show on Saturday, March 24. Let's say we'll buy our tickets over this weekend - so if people want to go to the show AND sit with us, they should contact me by Friday, February 17 at amywatts at gmail. If you don't care about sitting with us, you can buy their tickets anytime and just let us know if you want to meet up before/after/during the show.

Sunday, March 25, afternoon or evening will be the "official" alott5ma meetup, specific time and activity dependent on who wants to come and what they want to do when. There's been talk of the Art Institute. Given that that day is also my actual birthday, it's entirely likely there could be cake involved at some point.
MY SISTER IS WAITING FOR US IN CHINA. WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO HER IF WE DON'T GET HER?  I've given Smash two episodes, and my basic reaction is this: who wrote this shit? Look: I'm a big fan of cliched backstage stories so long as there's some wit or self-awareness involved, but this is done so straight and predictably that I feel like I'm laughing at characters who don't know they're being laughed at. Really: when you tell us early on that Dev has a Very Very Important Dinner for which Karen Cannot Possibly Be Late ... and then she's late, and Dev reacts exactly the way you'd expect if this were a dumb and predictable show...  one starts to believe this is, in fact, a dumb and predictable show.

As Alan notes, the show has a serious case of Studio 60-itis, in which the writers feel the constant need to have other characters tell us just how brilliant and wonderful everyone is (the scene with the adoption letter, ugh), with minimal evidence that the characters are, in fact, all that. Indeed, yet again, we've got an NBC behind-the-scenes drama that comes with much hype, and with talent behind the scenes and on stage whom we've liked in the past ... and the execution just isn't there. I may watch it just to laugh at it, but I'm certainly not enjoying it on its own terms.
ARTICLE IV, SECTION 3: One hundred years ago today, the Arizona Territory was admitted to the Union as the forty-eighth state.  From the Public Enemy song to the Glen Campbell, from Raising Arizona to the 1970s sitcom Alice, I hope I haven't exhausted the list of things from or regarding Arizona worth listing when we do lists like this.

[Bonus!  Okay, so I totally missed that on January 6, New Mexico celebrated its centennial of becoming the 47th state -- not that they got an official 47-star flag out of it. But since we're not slated to do another state centennial blog post for another 47 years (coincidence!), and given that we appreciate both our New Mexican commenters and the whole green chili thing, you should list your Pop Culture and Other Things We Like About New Mexico as well.]

Monday, February 13, 2012

WITH MALICE TOWARDS NONE, EXCEPT THE SPARKLY ONES: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter: The Movie.
DEBTS THAT NO HONEST MAN CAN PAY: Bill See looks back at Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska, which was released thirty years ago this March. "Nebraska is a kind of magic in the bottle that’s only captured through sheer happenstance. It’s no coincidence that Bruce walked around for weeks with the cassette in his back pocket, unaware it would not only become his next record but be talked about, and rightfully so, as one of the true masterpieces in American music":
TRACY JORDAN'S REVENGE: We didn't notice this last night, and it's worth a separate post--while Parker/Stone remain O short of EGOT, the Book of Mormon win for Best Musical Show Album does give producer Scott Rudin an EGOT, with an Oscar for producing No Country For Old Men (and a ton of other nominations), a 1984 Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Childrens' Program, and 7 Tonys--all for producing, including Passion, The History Boys, Doubt, and Book of Mormon.
THIS RECORD WAS INSPIRED BY SOMETHING THAT'S REALLY NORMAL -- A RUBBISH RELATIONSHIP: Last night's Grammy Awards were, all in all, an entertaining mishmosh of genre mashups, worthy tributes, and the kind of overblown disasters one only gets to see at awards shows. Yes, Nicki, thank you for making my Super Bowl halftime prediction ("Nicki Minaj will be weird enough to compel my mom to call me immediately thereafter to ask me who the heck that was") correct, albeit a week late.

The best performances were the simplest: Adele's comeback, Jennifer Hudson's unadorned tribute to Whitney Houston (which was so spot-on vocally that it made one question Whitney's own singularity), and, most surprisingly, Paul McCartney and friends' rocking romp through the end of Abbey Road, the best awards-ending performance I can remember since Pearl Jam and Neil Young closed the 1993 VMAs.  Bullets:

  • Commenter Randy asked the question last night on Twitter, and I don't have a great answer: who's the last artist to have the kind of massive critical and cross-demographic popular acclaim that Adele has now? Best answer I could come up with was Lauryn Hill, but that wasn't as widespread as this.
  • I think my BRUUUCE credentials are sufficiently established that I can state unequivocally that there was no justifiable reason for him to open the show last night. (Heck, it's not like he was nominated this year.) Should've been Jennifer Hudson.
  • Twenty years ago, Nirvana couldn't win a Grammy until after Kurt Cobain had died.  Now, Dave Grohl is the Jose Oquendo of the evening, and the Foo Fighters are so industry-established as to win almost every award for which they were nominated.
  • Chris Brown, ugh.  Double performance, double ugh. Shame on you, NARAS, and this quote makes it worse.
  • It is amazing to have Lady Gaga just sit there for three and a half hours and not have her perform, or win a single award. (Seriously, why was "Born This Way" not the song she pushed for consideration?) 
  • Nice work by LL Cool J as host; he had the difficult job of establishing the right tone for the evening (we are in mourning, but we have permission to celebrate as well), and he pulled it off well. I have been warned, however, not to call it a "comeback".

Sunday, February 12, 2012

GRAMMY NIGHT 2012: As a night expected to be focused on a young woman who sang "we could have had it all" shifts to the one who belted "Didn't We Almost Have It All?", comments are open. Matt and I will also be tweeting most of the night.