Saturday, May 12, 2012


** Except it doesn't discuss Goodfeathers, oddly.

Friday, May 11, 2012

CARROLL SHELBY, 1923-2012: I could say something about Carroll Shelby, who passed away today, but why say it when I can show it? You don't have to be a car lover to appreciate these curves, among the most iconic in American industrial design history. 
WHY'D THEY ADD COCONUT? I MISS THE ORIGINAL: As it pertains to The Office at the end of season eight, I declare bankruptcy. Creative bankruptcy.

As you'll recall, at the beginning of the season none of us were excited about having Andy helm the branch. Nothing about this season made that decision feel correct, and at the end, given a perfect opportunity to put someone else in charge (or at least leave the door open to do so at the start of next season), instead more of the same is promised, with the potential for a sane David Wallace replacing the mercurial Robert California at the top of the pyramid.  Bleh.

All you need to know about this episode is that it barely included Jim and Pam, and ended instead with a scene between Oscar and Angela's husband about as shocking as the latest celebrity lawsuit which Gawker called "Welcome Back, Frotteur," which is to say not shocking or interesting at all, no stakes about which anyone could care.  No one cares about Andy, or Andy-Erin. And while we still love Darryl, the Darryl-Val thing grabs no one. Compare last night with the end of "Casino Night," in which Pam and Jim finally kiss, or "Goodbye, Toby," in which the Andy-Angela-Dwight triangle is reignited. That was a show which was both funny on its own right, and had characters whose romantic decisions you cared about. That show was Cheers-level; this one is not.

They made a fatal flaw at the end of last season, which need not have been its last. Everything was set up perfectly for Jim to realize "you know what? I'm ready to be a grownup and run this branch." That would have been a new direction, and a new chance. Instead, we've got a show as deteriorated as Scranton itself, and it's time to move on.
NOPE: Hey, did I just read a Grantland article written as a letter from an Oklahoma City basketball fan to the City of Seattle where the author burned about ten thousand words alternating between humblebrags (my team is so awesome! OMG Seattle you have no idea how awesome this is! such good luck by me!), moaning about how awful it was to grow up in a city without professional basketball (wonder who else is ever going to know what that feels like!), and strenuously patting himself on his back for finally being willing to acknowledge that, as he knew all along, Seattle got really screwed over ("I'm not going to try to forget you anymore, Seattle"; "only a Thunder fan can know how very much it sucks, because we're the ones who do get to enjoy it"*), all in support of the thesis that "that's what we owe each other -- to see it that way, to sympathize with one another"? No I fucking did not just read that article. Because it would be impossible for anything with a brain capable of supporting the motor functions necessary to type words in English to be so unbelievably fucking stupid as to think that people in Seattle should have basketball-related sympathy for Oklahoma City.

If I ever meet Brian Phillips, and I really mean this, literally,** I am going to kick him right in the balls.  Why?  Because only a person who has not just been kicked in Brian Phillips's balls can know how very much it sucks, because we're the ones who do get to enjoy it.

*Worst argument in the history of logic.

**To clarify, not literally.
THE GREY THURSDAY HALF-MASSACRE: By now you've heard that NBC is killing Community and 30 Rock with 13-episode final-season orders, and that it may or may not be doing the same with Parks & Rec (eta:  NBC renewed P&R; Sepinwall says 13 episodes "for now"). It would be unfair to compare this to [BRIEF REFERENCE TO SCENE FROM LAST WEEK'S GAME OF THRONES EPISODE] Theon Greyjoy incompetently hacking away at somebody's neck, having pronounced a sentence he's not competent to carry out, [END OF SPOILER REFERENCE] so I definitely didn't just do that. NBC is a business, and apparently having several of the best comedies on television is bad for business, so NBC has to do what it has to do. Better that we had X.5 seasons of those three shows than none at all.
WHOOP!, THERE FRIDAY GRAMMAR RODEO IS!  Spurred by comments in yesterday's post about CMT and Steve Austin, when you open a can of something to show someone who's boss, are you opening a can of "whoop-ass," "whoopass," "whoop ass," "whup-ass," "whupass," or "whup ass?"  Google stats?

"Can of whoopass"--380K results
"Can of whoop-ass"/"Can of whoop ass"--2.56M results (Google does not differentiate between with or without the hyphen)
"Can of whupass" --16,700 results
"Can of whup-ass"/"can of whup ass"--39,300 results.

TMZ apparently prefers "whoop," while Andrew Sullivan prefers "whup."  Where do you stand on this crucial issue?
PROPS. ALL PROPS MUST CONTINUE TO BE MAD PROPS:  If it's Mother's Day weekend, that means that hundreds of University of Chicago students are now somewhere between the Windy City and (for this year) Iowa, working on such Scavenger Hunt tasks as:
  • This is my stapler. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My stapler is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. My stapler, without me, is useless. Without my stapler, I am useless. I must bind my documents true. Bring your Swingline 747 Classic and one cleaning tool of your choice to Judgment, dismantle the stapler into eight pieces, present for inspection, reassemble, load a fresh clip, and put the finishing touch on [the ScavHunt list]. [7.47 points, plus 1 point for every minute under 5]
  • Render a group portrait of the current Supreme Court, one justice represented in each of the following styles: manga, Mii, Ralph Steadman, H.R. Giger, Jules Feiffer, Raymond Briggs, Matt Groening, Jack Kirby, Al Hirschfeld. [9 points]
NAZI PUNKS FUCK OFF: Castle Wolfenstein 3-D turns 20. And here -- to celebrate that milestone and to blow a Nazi-shaped hole in your Friday -- is a web-based version of the game.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

BOY, MR. LUGOSI, YOU MUST LEAD SUCH AN EXCITING LIFE! WHEN IS YOUR NEXT PICTURE COMING OUT?  Is it just maybe possible that, for their own sakes (and for the cinema's), Tim Burton and Johnny Depp ought to start seeing other people?  Does anyone disagree that in the past decade-plus, Burton's best film is the one in which Depp doesn't appear and vice versa?
Y'ALL WANT TO KNOW WHAT YOU'RE PLAYING FOR?  A CAN OF WHOOP-ASS:  CMT has signed Stone Cold Steve Austin to host Redneck Island, in "12 red, white and blue-collared Americans" will be taken "out of the South, far away from cold beer," blah blah blah "hilarious mental and physical challenges designed to celebrate the group's strengths and limitations," $100,000 to the winner, though it's not clear whether it's based on the competitors' vote or because Stone Cold said so.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

M-I-C K-E-Y M-O-N-E-Y: It would be less distracting to me -- as a viewer -- if ABC would merely require that all actors in all ABC programs wear Mickey Mouse ears and not otherwise discuss Disneyland than would the current regime where characters within the shows talk about or attend Disney properties as if they were disinterested.
CAUGHT IN THE LOOP: In discussions of Smash, it’s pretty much inevitable that Glee gets brought up, as they share a couple of crucial strands of DNA (musical shows are uncommon enough), and both have derailed (in very different ways) after promising beginnings into hot messes.  However, there’s one thing that the shows share in common, but led to different results—both developed their first seasons in a bubble.  Because of how Glee was produced, the first 13 episodes were all basically locked and loaded before anything but the pilot aired.  Likewise, because Smash debuted at midseason, it was largely produced and written before the series began airing.  However, the results were completely different, and I want to talk a little bit about the bubble and its effects after the break (warning--long.  Not Robert Caro-long, but long by blog standards.)
NEVER ROCK THE MIC WITH THE PANTYHOSE:  Even more links testifying to the greatness of Adam Yauch:

I GOT THE SHOTGUN, YOU GOT THE BRIEFCASE. IT'S ALL IN THE GAME, THOUGH, RIGHT? Just like last week, this week's Wire episode, "All Prologue," (Sepinwall, Ariano) was satisfying and dramatic in ways that you've trained me not to expect the show to be. Whether it's the Omar-Maury confrontation or the overwhelming inevitability of what happened to Dee (really, flushing the drugs and looking at your kid's picture at the start of the episode, and he explains Gatsby ... stack the deck much, Mr. Simon?), it just felt a bit too predictable, even when we were seeing what we wanted to see.

So, yes, I'm happy to see Shardene happy with Lester, and I was delighted to see Prop Joe back in action and to see the police back together so easily applying season one's methods to the Sobotka detail. But overall, I feel like some shades of grey are being washed out -- other the Sobotkas, who receive the kind of 3-D empathy that the show is capable of at its best, the ambiguity's going away. No reminder of Dee's past bad acts when it comes to his death; no nuance with the Greek, Etan, and the new Big Bads the way there was last year with Avon and Stringer; everyone on the police seems clean and competent.

Still, there's half a season to go; let's see what happens next.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

THAT YOU MAY KNOW THE MEANING OF WITHIN: Mad Men this week famously broke TV’s last taboo, the Beatles Barrier, when Don dropped, then lifted, the needle on Revolver’s “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Why that song? For one thing, its sentiment – that one should “surrender to the void,” because attempts to control one’s destiny are futile – is both anathema to Don and also a pretty good description of his last few years. Also, I think, because it's so quintessentially later-Beatles John, and Don Draper is fundamentally a Paul, and Megan is fundamentally a John (or even more so a George), and that’s where we’re heading this season. But now that Don has a Beatles song, everybody in televised drama is going to want one. So let’s dish them out:
AND IT WAS STILL HOT: Maurice Sendak has passed away at the age of 83; his books will live on forever.  In an October 2011 interview with The Guardian, fascinating for many reasons, he described himself as follows:
I'm totally crazy, I know that. I don't say that to be a smartass, but I know that that's the very essence of what makes my work good. And I know my work is good. Not everybody likes it, that's fine. I don't do it for everybody. Or anybody. I do it because I can't not do it.
And from a 2006 NPR interview:
INSKEEP: ... Is it emotionally hard for you to place children in jeopardy in your drawing? When it gets time to do that page, does it take something out of you?

Mr. SENDAK: No. Because really I think all children are in jeopardy. I think it is unnatural to think that there is such a thing as a blue-sky, white-clouded happy childhood for anybody. Childhood is a very, very tricky business of surviving it. Because if one thing goes wrong or anything goes wrong, and usually something goes wrong, then you are compromised as a human being. You're going to trip over that for a good part of your life.
TANTALUM STATUS: In the early 1980s, American Airlines began to sell a pass that entitled the holder to unlimited First Class travel.
"We thought originally it would be something that firms would buy for top employees," said Bob Crandall, American's chairman and chief executive from 1985 to 1998. "It soon became apparent that the public was smarter than we were." The unlimited passes were bought mostly by wealthy individuals, including baseball Hall-of-Famer Willie Mays, America's Cup skipper Dennis Conner and computer magnate Michael Dell. Mike Joyce of Chicago bought his in 1994 after winning a $4.25-million settlement after a car accident. In one 25-day span this year, Joyce flew round trip to London 16 times, flights that would retail for more than $125,000. He didn't pay a dime.
They've spent most of the time since trying to deprive the sixty or so holders of the pass the benefit of their bargain.

Monday, May 7, 2012

THEY CALL ME QUIET GIRL, BUT I'M A RIOT, YEAH, MAYBE TULISA, IT'S ALL THE SAME -- THAT'S NOT MY NAME: I think it's time to stop thinking about Game of Thrones as a slavishly faithful adaptation of the books that changes the details only to get down to the ten-hour-per-season running time. That was true last season -- with the exception of the unambiguous depiction of the Renly-Loras relationship, everything on film was right there on the page. It hasn't been true this season, though. The key plot points, obviously, are the same, but Benioff and Weiss seem to have felt more comfortable filling in the spaces in between with material either altered or invented to make the best TV show possible, books be damned. And it's working well -- where the books are dense, the show is brisker and sharper (better for TV), and the show is still capable of surprising from time to time. So I think I'm going to stop talking about the books, not because I'm joining the show-only zealots, but because the books seem less relevant to a discussion of the show over time. Specifics after the jump.
COOL HWIP:  Just try it! Or taste it!  Is there such a thing as a Mad Men metaphor being too spot-on?  TVDW:
Cool Whip’s a chemical imitation of the real thing, something that’s designed to taste good enough to surpass the original, so long as you just give in and “taste it.” But Cool Whip—like Miracle Whip or a maraschino cherry—is only good as a substitute so long as you’re not intimately acquainted with the real thing. Cool Whip tastes good, but mostly in isolation. It melts down into a miracle, maybe, but it can’t compete with the taste of real whipped cream, ideally done yourself in your own kitchen. The characters most central to tonight’s episode—Don, Peggy, Pete, and Megan—have all done their fair amount of looking for sustenance in a substitution, but the substitution will always start to taste a little empty if you give it too much thought. It’s why Don and Peggy’s attempt to replicate Don and Megan’s easy banter falls flat (in a scene that’s one of the most cringeworthy of the whole series). They’re trying to replicate something that can’t be replicated.
Mostly I'm freaked out by the existence of Don Draper, Supportive Husband. Okay, sure, in private he may turn off "Tomorrow Never Knows," but at least he gave it a try. But to see him accept Megan's decision to leave SCDP so calmly, so soon after their tumultuous evening at Howard Johnson's, and to not fire Peggy on the spot after her outburst at the dessert lab ... if Don Draper is growing up, I'm not sure I know this show anymore.
COULD YOU BE CLEAR ABOUT YOUR PRACTICING HABITS, SINCE WE CAN'T SEE YOU PRACTICE?  Ten years ago today, Allen Iverson provided one of the more unique press conferences in sports history.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

BRING THAT CHICKEN HOME: In the beginning, part of made The Amazing Race so swell was having so many fun teams to root for, different from the types of heroes you'd ordinarily see on tv, whether Danny & Oswald, Kevin & Drew, Chip & Kim, or the criminally underrated Gus & Hera. It wasn't just about seeing the world and watching teams sort through puzzles and tasks, but actually giving a shit about the results. (That, and seeing someone take a watermelon to the face.)

Which is another way of saying that once Bopper & Mark left last week, I didn't much care what would happen tonight. While this finale returned to some of my favorite tropes of finales past, esp. including some properly grueling physical tasks, it didn't get my heart pounding at any point. Oh, for a task even half as good as the poker chip counting or the Alaskan ice globes. I'd much rather talk in the comments about favorite TAR finale tasks than anything we've seen tonight, and to be clear ...