Saturday, April 21, 2012

NICEST KIDS IN TOWN: Thinkpiece time on Dick Clark:

NOBODY LEFT TO BELIEVE IN:  Twenty years ago this weekend, a veritable Who's Who of British music gathered at London's Wembley Stadium to pay tribute to the late Freddie Mercury. Mental Floss has the clips and stories.

Friday, April 20, 2012

I'M HOLDING OUT FOR ELI GOLD HAIRCARE PRODUCTS: The Good Wife will launch a home decor line this fall, so if you want your office to look like Diane Lockhart's, or a bedroom like Alicia Florick's, you're in luck.
COULD HE BE ANY MORE EXCITED? With news that NBC has made its first pilot pickup for Fall (which will mark Matthew Perry's third post-Friends effort at toplining a show, and also features Broadway favorites Laura Benanti and Julie White), it's time to play "fantasy scheduling."  You have to assume that this will be part of a comedy block including The Office, though I'm wondering if that block gets moved to Tuesdays and they rebuild Thursday from the ground up, especially since it's widely assumed that CBS is going to go with a two hour comedy block anchored by Big Bang and Two Broke Girls on Thursdays into Person of Interest at 10.
I'LL TAKE TRACY MORGAN TO BLOCK:  Today's NYT article on MTV2's impending Hip Hop Squares as well as Pyramid host Dick Clark's passing prompts a question: what B- and C-list stars of today would be good contestants on our favorite game shows of yore?  Aziz Ansari in the winners circle on Pyramid? I can see that.

[Also, for the eight people who've seen it, just how good is Twister Lights Out as a challenge on The Hub's Family Game Night? Always brings the drama.]
THE LONG-AWAITED (BUT TEMPORARY) RETURN OF THE ALOT5MA FRIDAY GRAMMAR RODEO: Eric Althoff, formerly of Larry Flynt's Hustler Magazine, spoke at the 16th National Conference of the American Copy Editors Society, and they, too, have a style guide:
Hustler’s stylebook is similar to others, Althoff said, offering guidance to writers and editors at the magazine on word choice for its readers. Among those at Hustler:

— blow job vs. blowjob
— porno vs. porn
— phone-sex vs. phone sex
— girl next door vs. girl-next-door
— cover babe vs. coverbabe

In each of these examples, Hustler prefers the latter usage. On occasion, the magazine would update its stylebook. For example, it now uses “hos” rather than “ho’s.”

Indeed, Hustler will bend its style rules on occasion. Althoff said that the magazine prefers “come” as a verb and “cum” as a noun in references to ejaculation. But on the magazine’s cover, it would allow “cum” in either situation to get the attention of potential buyers. “‘Cum’ is going to jump out at consumers,” he said.
In which case, grab a poncho.  Related: Sarah D. Bunting, on proofreading for Penthouse.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

TAKE A LOAD OFF, ANNIE, AND YOU PUT THE LOAD RIGHT ON ME: I thought I said all I needed to say about Levon Helm, who died today (and for whatever reason, I'm sadder than I expected), except I just read this in the Huffington Post. I haven't said much (anything) nice about Bruce Springsteen here, but, as this story goes, when Helm was about to lose his house because of his medical bills, Springsteen turned up at Helm's house with a million-dollar check and Helm said he couldn't take it. That says a lot about both guys.
YOU WIN OR YOU DIE OF ALCOHOL POISONING: It's Game of Thrones drinking game time!  There's apparently a bar in NYC that holds weekly viewing parties with free shots for all whenever someone dies.  Methinks this is not a sustainable business model, at least if the body count stays as high as it has.
PERFECT FOR PLANNING YOUR UPCOMING VISIT TO NEW FLUFFYTOWN: Did you know that kids like to build pillow forts?  Well, the Times knows, and devotes a lengthy article this morning to their building and architecture.
10 IP 7 H 0 R 0 ER 0 BB 7 K (102 PITCHES): That's supposed to be enough to win, right?

And he wanted to pitch the 11th.  First time in eighteen years a pitcher has thrown ten shutout innings and lost.
COME ON IN, GUYS: Three notes on Survivor, for those still watching this season:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

THE H_BG_B__N __ _TT_E M_NDS: According to Salon's Willa Paskin, the following things are wrong with Wheel of Fortune:

* No one explains the rules

* Pat Sajak does not ask people what they will do with the money (although some people volunteer this information)

* There are often both male and female and both black and white contestants (although never more than three of any one kind)

* Grandmothers have been enjoying the show for years

* The puzzles involve well-known and, ultimately, guessable phrases

* People can both win money and lose money very quickly

* It does not provide a sufficient parable for the American viewer to understand the dangers of oversaturation of collateralized-debt obligations or credit default swaps

* When an individual wins a car, they are not made sufficiently aware of the long-term costs associated with ownership

* Americans still watch the show despite the fact that Vanna White has gotten older in the 30 years that she has been on the show

* It is unclear whether one has to specially purchase a diaresis
THE WORLD'S OLDEST TEENAGER:  It's hard to think of folks who touched as many aspects of mainstream American popular culture as Dick Clark, who passed away this morning at the age of 82.

From American Bandstand to $100,000 Pyramid, from Rockin' us into each new year to TV's Bloopers & Practical Jokes (the predecessor of FailBlog, kids) to creating the American Music Awards, Dick Clark was the safe face of rock and roll, the gatekeeper, the icon, the dipper of dipthongs, the man who introduced the acts, stepped into the background, and counted the money.

There's not an adult in America who needs to be told who Dick Clark was, and that, perhaps, is his greatest accomplishment.

Added: The NYT obit suggests another angle: with Bandstand, was Dick Clark responsible for creating a national youth culture? Before that show happened, what national television show was targeted towards this audience?
THE GREATEST CAMPAIGN AD OF THE 1997 ELECTION CYCLE, ONLY IT'S 2012, BUT THEY DIDN'T HAVE YOUTUBE BACK THEN:  Ryan Hedblom is running for student body president of Minnetonka High School, and yeah, baby, he wants your vote.
I LOOKED INTO THE SOUL OF THE BOY SITTING NEXT TO ME: Time Out New York ranks the fifty funniest people currently living in New York City.
SPREAD THE WORD, DARLING. OMAR BACK:  Oh, indeed. The thing about The Wire's season two episode "Hot Shots" (Sepinwall, Ariano) is how familiar Baltimore is starting to feel again. The band is getting back together, only there's a lot more people involved this time around -- we see the power and oiliness of St. Sen. Clay Davis, only from another angle; we see Prez carry forward what he learned from season one's Barksdale Organization investigation to enlighten his father-in-law Valchek, only to see Valchek use that information only to continue a vendetta against Burrell; we see McNulty's "I am the most brilliant police in the history of ever, ever" shtick deflated by Bunk and Lester in a scene so satisfying to the audience that one wondered why it didn't end with Bunk asking whether McNulty liked them apples.

And while the police are pursuing their unknown (to them) targets without much in the way of its best tools (outside the medical examiner's office), the Barksdale Organization yet again demonstrates how effective it can be when it wants to be using the lowest-tech of surveillance tools, with one exception: how could Avon be so sure that D'Angelo would take heed of his warning?

[In the meantime, life for blue collar white ethnic males in the early part of the 21st Century is frustrating, and job prospects are fleeting.  Cue "Atlantic City" and Roger and Me, and does anyone need a camera?]

One thing about this episode initially rang false:  the Donette/Stringer scene. It just felt like too much of a cliche, especially with the "I'm an XL"/"No doubt" flirtation, and out of character for the otherwise austere, business-focused Bell. But then it occurred to me: Stringer's there to get Donette to visit Dee in prison, because that's important to his business interests; if this is what Donette wants (and she clearly does), he's got to do it. Power is power, and Donette has it here.

So bring your tweedy impertinence and Budapest-bought boobies to the comments, and let's talk.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

VIRGIL CAINE IS MY NAME AND I SERVED ON THE DANVILLE TRAIN: The sad news out of the Internets is that Levon Helm, drummer and vocalist for the Band, is in the last stages of a battle with cancer. I realize that there are all kinds of cultural issues surrounding it, but for my money, "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" is one of the most powerful songs in rock history, a song whose narrator's regret is matched seamlessly with Helm's vocal. There are only a few songs that I can count on to give me goosebumps and a shiver in my spine, actual literal goosebumps and a literal shiver, if I haven't heard them in a long enough time, and that's one of them.

ETA: on the way home, it occurred to me that part of what makes that song unusual is its perspective. There are a million songs about fighting wars, and no shortage of songs about winning them. There aren't too many songs about what it feels like to lose a war, and that song occupies the field in the way that few songs can monopolize a topic.

But that's praise for Levon Helm the musician, not Levon Helm the man, so let me quote @chrrisswartout: "when my BF got cancer Levon was so kind. Sent him a lovely letter with his # and told him to call anytime 24/7. He said that he got scared at nighttime and so he could call whenever he wanted."
YOU GET A ROSE, AND THIS SERVICE OF PROCESS UNDER THE FEDERAL RULES: Apparently, tomorrow morning, a purported class action is going to be filed against ABC and the various folks behind The Bachelor(ette) claiming that the failure to have a person of color as the title "player" constitutes racial discrimination, with the class made up of African-Americans who claim to have applied and been rejected.  The lack of diversity among contestants is a legitimate question, even if I'm doubtful there's a valid claim there.
THIS IS WHAT IT SMELLS LIKE WHEN DOVES CRY:  The Artist Formerly Known As The Artist Formerly Known As Prince has been hit with a $3,948,798.58 default judgment for failing to promote a Prince-themed line of perfume as promised. Here's last week's order in Revelations Perfume v. Nelson, and the referee's lengthy decision below is here. Basically, default was entered because Prince's attorneys withdrew, and Prince failed to appear at a required status conference the following month. Go figure. As for the basis for the damages, it's Prince Being Prince:
On or about February 23, 2007, the parties met Prince in Las Vegas to discuss progress of the fragrance and promotion efforts. [Prince's assistant Ruth] Arzate also attended this meeting at which time Prince approved the launch date of July 7, 2007 to take place at Macy's Minneapolis, but he forbade Revelations from using his name or symbol on either the bottle or carton for the fragrance. Revelations alleges that it explained Prince's position was not consistent with previous promises under the License Agreement and would be a huge disadvantage for launching the brand....

The November 2007-meeting does not take place with Prince. Couey and his wife flew to Minneapolis, Minnesota and arrived at Prince's music studio to find no one there. Couey called Arzate. She informed Couey that Prince was expected to be at the studio. However, on a return call from Arzate, she informed Couey that Prince was in New York and would not make the meeting. 
THE DILEMMA OF THE LOVESICK LOTHARIO: How many times on a sit-com is the optimal number of times for the incurable womanizer character to fall hopelessly, romantically, head-over-heels in love? My answer: you get to fire that bullet only once (Sam Malone). Dissents from: Bright-Kauffman-Crane (Joey Tribbiani, at least twice that I can remember in eleven seasons of Friends, plus once on Joey); Bays/Thomas (Barney Stinson, at least three times in seven seasons of How I Met Your Mother). If you fall in puppy-dog-heartsick-strings-on-the-soundtrack-once-in-a-lifetime love every other year, you are not an incurable Lothario. You are that guy who always thinks he is falling in love. You are just a sluttier Ted Mosby.
WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, LINDA FIORENTINO? A compilation of Vanity Fair's annual Hollywood issue covers, dating back to 1995.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SYDNEY BRISTOW: A calendar of fictional characters' birthdays. HT: KR.

Monday, April 16, 2012

MEET CUTE:  Bill Plympton did last night's Simpsons couch gag.

[Other recent favorites: Banksy; John Kricfalusi; Game of Thrones.]
CARRYING THE BANNER: The Pulitzer Prizes were announced today--a few winners and finalists of note:
  • The Philadelphia Inquirer's series on violence in Philly's public schools wins the Public Service prize.
  • The Harrisburg Patriot-News wins the Local Reporting prize for its reporting on the Penn State football scandal.
  • No award for fiction this year, despite impressive finalists--Swamplandia! and The Pale King.
  • Drama prize is won by Water By The Spoonful, a relatively unknown play, with Other Desert Cities being a finalist.  (Not even mentioned as a finalist--Book of Mormon.)
  • In a rarity, a recent biography of Malcolm X wins the History Prize and is a finalist for the Biography prize.
Anything else we're missing?
I SAW HER, YEAH I SAW HER WITH HER BLACK TONGUE TIED 'ROUND THE ROSES, FIST POUNDING ON A VENDING MACHINE, TOY DIAMOND RING STUCK ON HER FINGER: HBO's Girls debuted last night (as perhaps you know, if you have synapses). It was very funny, crisply and efficiently written in a way that pilots rarely are. I was kind of afraid of it, because of the "Sex and the City without Manolos" synopsis that has been making the rounds, but that, thankfully, is a gross and superficial mischaracterization, like saying that Entourage is just "Reservoir Dogs without guns," because it is about a bunch of guys in Los Angeles who are obsessed with status and money. In its first episode, Girls observed its characters more sharply than SatC ever did and deftly avoided, while at the same time acknowledging, the latter show's impulse toward reductive taxonomies of women.

My only complaint, which is possibly unfair, is that the show has a pretty narrow world view. It's not clear to me whether the show expects the audience to sympathize with the central conflict in the pilot -- will Hannah's parents continue to support her, two years after she graduated from college? I didn't. And I get that we're supposed to recognize that Hannah makes bad choices and is not entirely sympathetic, but it also irritated me that Marnie (who, on Hannah's shoulders, wears the white gown) and Jessa (red gown and horns) disagreed on tactics but agreed that the only strategy was to beg the parents for more money. The show is funny, well-acted, and well-timed, but I'm not sure how long I can take it if it's going to be just a bunch of stunted young adults lamenting about how unfair it is that they can't live beyond their means.

Nope, one other complaint. Hilde Desmond and Jean Weir are the same age? Impossible.
WHAT IS DEAD CAN NEVER DIE: But (SPOILER ALERT for last night's Game of Thrones)
NOBODY'S BUSINESS BUT THE TURKS:  The final five cities seeking to host the 2020 Summer Olympics are Tokyo, Madrid, Istanbul, Doha (Qatar), and Baku (Azerbaijan).

Doha, for what it's worth, proposes to move the Games to the first two weeks of October given the obvious weather concerns; interesting that three of the five potential host cities would be the first to bring the Games to the Muslim world. (Sarajevo would come closest, I guess.) Between Summer and Winter, the next four host cities are London, Sochi (Russia), Rio de Janeiro, and Pyeongchang (South Korea).
YOU'RE THE KING:  “Power resides where men believe it resides,” Varys explains to us on Game of Thrones this week. “It’s a trick, a shadow on the wall.” It is the ability to send men places they would rather not go; it is the ability to have them batter each other bloody for your amusement.

So, of course, I'm talking about this week's Mad Men. Below the fold, for the spoiler-unaware ...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

IF IT'S ANY CONSOLATION, I THINK YOU ALREADY SHOULD BE SHOT AT: Full confession. Not adding value. Just pointing. This ------------> Space Janitors.
FARM-RAISED SALMON:  I don't believe I've ever said this about a movie before, but my only real complaint about The Three Stooges is that it doesn't have more celebrity cameos. It's that kind of movie, and I only wish even more names had joined in the fun.

Give credit to the Farrelly Brothers for making a giddy, entirely family-friendly film that keeps the Stooges as they are, and doesn't overdo the cultural dislocation humor or adopt a condescending attitude towards our protagonists. Instead, it's a homage to the Stooges by just doing the kind of movie they'd still be doing today, with cartoonish violence and pratfalls aplenty. No learning, no growing, minimal hugging.

Kudos in particular to all three leads, to Larry David's work as a nun, and to Isaiah Mustafa for continuing to find gainful employment.
MINDLESS ADVERTISING: The last few times I've been to the movies, as part of the pre-show, I've been subjected to a very odd ad for boyband Mindless Behavior (which apparently wants to be the new B2K), which, sadly, I can't seem to find on the Internet.  In the ad, we hear little (if any) actual music, but instead, lots of screaming fans together with bold statistics in all-caps like "MILLIONS OF YOUTUBE VIEWS!," "TRENDING ON TWITTER FROM OVER 50 COUNTRIES!," "THOUSANDS AT MALL OF AMERICA IN-STORE!," and, my favorite, "EXCLUSIVE MERCHANDISE LINE AT KMART!"  What, exactly, is the goal of this ad?  It certainly tells me that this group is popular among teenagers, but gives me no idea what they sound like (the answer appears to be "the unholy union of Justin Bieber and T-Pain" judging from this video) or why I should want to buy their records.  Is it to get people to pitch endorsement deals to them?  Is it to tell parents "this is popular, buy it for your kids?"  I just don't understand it.