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.