Saturday, August 25, 2012

SECOND COMES RIGHT AFTER FIRST: Neil Armstrong, First Man on the Moon, has died at the age of 82.

Plenty of ink will be spilled about Armstrong's incredible career as a fighter pilot, test pilot, astronaut, engineering professor and private citizen. I can't do that on short notice and probably not as well.

But I can say this: it is almost certain that no name from the 20th century is apt to last longer that Neil Armstrong. Whether we ever become -- as I ardently hope we do -- a spacefaring species spreading out among the stars, or slip back down into medieval destitution, in the longest term, what Armstrong did on July 20, 1969 will remain the most important symbol of human achievement in the 20th century and probably the second millenium.

Good Luck, Mr. Armstrong. Ad Astra and Goodbye.

ETA: Here's exactly the sort of remembrance I knew I wasn't going to top.
TIM HORTON, YOU'RE ON NOTICE:  "O Canada", Molson style.

Friday, August 24, 2012

ALOTT5MA FRIDAY GRAMMAR RODEO:  Hat tip to Oxford University Press for updating its online dictionaries to include takeaway, soul patch, vajazzle, and a new definition for douche, among other genius amendments.
IT'S ABOUT THE BIKE:  Lance Armstrong will be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, as well as other prizes and awards, as he has chosen to no longer fight the allegations of doping levied against him by the United States Anti-Doping Agency.

As I suggested a few years back, to me there is a threshold of philanthropy which excuses just about any sin in one's professional life, and Armstrong (like Jerry Lewis) assuredly has passed it for me. If he doped in a sport in which everyone was doping,** it's not something about which I feel terribly worked up. Just don't let him host SNL again.

** Dave Zirin: "Of the seventy top ten finishers in Armstrong’s seven Tour De France victories, forty-one have tested positive for PEDS, Armstrong is a hell of a lot more than just number 42." And:
No adult male saw Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa in 1998 and thought, “Someday I’m going to hit 70 home runs.” No adult female saw Marion Jones and thought, "Someday I’ll win gold at the Olympics.” But legions of adults have watched Lance Armstrong and thought, “Someday, I’m going to beat this damn cancer.” That’s a deeper connection than fandom or even the virtual-world of fantasy sports could ever provide. If Lance Armstrong has been able to further the connection because he’s white, photogenic, and politically connected, (and did I mention white?) then to his credit, he’s leveraged those advantages to raise over $500 million for cancer research and access to treatment in poor and minority communities across the United States.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

CONVERSELY, THAT MEANS THEY'VE NEVER LIVED IN A WORLD IN WHICH TPE AND I DID NOT KNOW EACH OTHER:  That Kurt Cobain has always been deceased in the lives of the Class of 2016 (good luck, Cat!) is just one of the "crap, I'm old" realizations from this year's Beloit College Mindset list.  (The other one which hurts?  They've never known tan M&Ms; replaced with blue in early 1995.)
TRANSTROMER, MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE:  Ladbrokes has posted its odds for the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature, with Benner's choice Haruki Murakami topping the board.  (I remain on Team Stoppard.)
IS VLAD SOMEHOW INVOLVED?  In what seems like something custom-made for The Soup, Discovery Health will soon debut a new series--I Was Impaled!
MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP: Time for a YouTube rabbit hole!  Fun with Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker, including the gorilla detector (sadly, no Beaker in that one), fireproof paper, the multiplying machine, and elevator shoes.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I WANT PEOPLE OUT THERE. I WANT REPORTERS OUT THERE. THEY'RE WHAT'S KEEPING ME ALIVE:  Forty years ago today, John Stanley Wojtowicz, a gay Vietnam War veteran, along with 18-year-old Salvatore Natuarale attempted to rob a Chase Manhattan branch in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, to obtain the $3,000 he needed for his partner's sex change operation.

If it sounds familiar, well, it is, and the NYT has a nice set of articles (overview, interview with hostage, photos) commemorating the anniversary. Among the links therein is the Life Magazine article which formed the basis for Sidney Lumet's masterful film:
“If they had been my houseguests on a Saturday night, it would have been hilarious,” Shirley Ball recalls. “Especially with John’s antics, the way he hopped around all over the place, the way he talked. John called me ‘mouth’ because I was the talkative one. It was, ‘Hey, mouth, do this’ and ‘Hey, mouth, do that.’ I really liked them both. They tried to be nice—except when they were cornered. Such aboveboard guys, they even told us they would kill us if they had to.” 
“I’m supposed to hate you guys, but I’ve had more laughs tonight than I’ve had in weeks,” bank manager Barret tells John Wojtowicz.
DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK:  Not only did LL Cool J (star of the number 2 drama on television) knock out a guy who had broken into his home, the robber was hospitalized after Cool J took him out.
YOU KNOW, THERE'S TWO KINDS OF DOCTORS. THERE'S THE KIND THAT GET RID OF THEIR FEELINGS, AND THE KIND THAT HOLD ON TO THEM. IF YOU HOLD ON TO YOUR FEELINGS YOU'RE GOING TO GET SICK EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE. IT'S PART OF IT:  As part of its series heralding shows which hit at least 100 episodes, the AV Club selects ten episodes representing ER at its best. (None of them feature Dr. Dave Malucci.)

Matt re-reviewed "Love's Labor Lost" as part of our 2009 retrospective.
THIS MAN HAS MY FULL SUPPORT:  That's what Odell Watkins scribbled on the back of his business card handed to Marla Watkins for use in expediting Cutty's bureaucratic needs with the new gym, and I'm sure both Robert Caro and the Institute for Justice could have a field day with the Cutty scenes ... but we're not here to talk about that.

Because at the heart of The Wire's season three episode, "Slapstick," are a series of consequential, if very human mistakes which seem bound to doom characters who had it all on the right path. We'll start, as we must, with Prez.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

BECAUSE NBC DOESN'T HAVE ENOUGH PROBLEMS AS IT IS: Two big TV stories folks are likely to want to discuss:
  • Starting next January, ABC is flip-flopping Nightline and Jimmy Kimmel Live, with Kimmel going head to head with Letterman and Leno.  I'm not a huge Kimmel fan, but will be interesting to see how folks respond to a younger option in the timeslot.  As compensation, Nightline in Primetime replaces What Would You Do? as a Friday night news magazine.
  • Perhaps 2 years later than it should, Greg Daniels has confirmed that the 2012-2013 season will be the last one for The Office.  Do you think we need to see Michael Scott one more time before the show wraps (if only so Steve Carell can win an Emmy for guest actor)?  Any other threads that need to be wrapped up?  Do we care about Schrute Farms, which is apparently going to make its first appearance as a backdoor pilot during this season?

Monday, August 20, 2012

QUEEN OF THE CACKLE:  Phyllis Diller wasn't the first female standup comedian, explained Gerald Nachman in Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s, but she was the first to make it respectable, "to drag female comedy out of the gay bars, back rooms, and low end resorts and go toe-to-toe with her male counterparts in prime clubs." As to her pissed-off, self-deprecating housewife shtick, she once said that "I was saying all the things women were thinking but not saying," and her 50,000+ index cards of jokes are part of the Smithsonian collection.

She passed away today at the age of 95, and they don't make legends quite like that anymore.  Here she is on The Ed Sullivan Show, 1969.
TONY SCOTT, 1944-2012:  Unlike his brother Ridley, Tony Scott's films were not typically critical favorites, but were nonetheless successful--often extremely so.  He helped Tom Cruise become a movie star, directing Top Gun and Days of Thunder, was a staple director for Denzel Washington in action hero mode (Deja Vu, Crimson Tide, Man On Fire, Taking of Pelham 123, Unstoppable), and helped establish Will Smith as a big action star with Enemy of the State.  But despite all the success, Scott apparently took his own life yesterday afternoon.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

UGLY CHICKENS DESERVE TO DIE:  Zap2It lists the forty-five weirdest reality shows of all time, though they left out both  of 2002's competing torture/quiz shows.