Saturday, February 2, 2013

HE CATCHES TOUCHDOWNS, AND HE GETS THE GOLDEN JACKET:  At long last, Cris Carter is being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, along with Jonathan Ogden, Bill Parcells, Larry Allen and frequent litigant Warren Sapp. The five beat out Jerome Bettis, Andre Reed, Michael Strahan, Charles Haley, and Aeneas Williams on the final balloting; those five will be joined on the 2014 ballot by first-time-eligibles Derrick Brooks, Tony Dungy, and Marvin "Person of Interest" Harrison.
OKAY, CAMPERS, RISE AND SHINE, AND DON'T FORGET YOUR BOOTIES 'CAUSE IT'S COOOOOOLD OUT THERE TODAY: It's February 2, so it's time to talk about the movie again. Do you buy the whole Buddhist thing, or should we just quote lines for a while and generally discuss its awesomeness?

Participate in this thread, or it's gonna be cold, it's gonna be grey, and it's gonna last you for the rest of your life. (Or maybe not: Phil tweets that he sees no shadow.)

Friday, February 1, 2013

THE PRESIDENT HAS THIS DISEASE AND HAS BEEN LYING ABOUT IT, AND YOU GUYS ARE WORRIED THAT THE POLLING MIGHT MAKE US LOOK BAD? IT'S THE FALL THAT'S GONNA KILL YA: From the same people that brought you the Law and Order conviction rate database comes an effort to chart Jed Bartlet's first-term approval ratings and compare them to other Presidents.

Unrelated, but still fun: their efforts, before last night's episode, to reconcile Alec Baldwin's role on 30 Rock with the show's having "Kim Jong-Il" rip off his Glengarry Glen Ross speech.
1. Winner/final score.
2. Official Game MVP.
3. Which advertiser tops the USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter?
4. Predict something interesting about Beyonce's performance. [Portions of the setlist have been leaked.]
5. Will Alicia Keys' rendition of the National Anthem run over/under 2:15?
Tiebreaker: Pick a prop bet as listed on Football Outsiders. Get it right. The tougher the odds of winning your bet, the more credit you get.

Previous winners: 2006: Benner; 2007: me; 2008: Joseph J. Finn ; 2009: Scott; 2010: Scott again; 2011: GoldnI; 2012: Phil. As they will tell you, the prizes are Fame and Glory within this community, but nothing financial.

[My picks: San Francisco 24-20, Colin Kaepernick, Dorito's, Jay-Z will not appear, and under. Tiebreaker Prop: Dennis Pitta scores first TD of game.]

Thursday, January 31, 2013

THAT BALD SALAD RUINER:  I'm a little verklempt right now; Alan's recap is a good place to start on how they shut it down, and I may add more in the morning.  In the meantime, there are many good lists of 30 Rock lists out there, and ... oh, I will miss this show.
WELL, IT'S NOT TITLED THE HANDSOME REPORTER WHO SAVES THE DAY: So, there are reports that The Girl Who Played With Fire may get made with an interesting twist--writing out Mikael Blomkvist because Daniel Craig wants more money--though David Fincher and Rooney Mara would return.  From a creative standpoint, I don't mind so much--Salander is a far more interesting character than Blomkvist, who becomes a more and more blatant Mary Sue figure as the trilogy goes on, and the second book in particular focuses on her.  It's an interesting career call for Craig, on the other hand, for whom Dragon Tattoo has been the only real commercial success other than Bond.  Do we care?  Does a Craig-free, but Fincher-directed version of this excite you?
NO, IT'S NOT UMA THURMAN DAY ON THE BLOG, BUT ... Really, we almost had a Pulp Fiction with Daniel Day-Lewis, William Hurt, Sean Penn, or Bruce Willis as Vincent Vega?  (Okay, I'd actually want to see the Hurt version.)
HISTORY IS MADE ON BUZZFEED: Riveting behind-the-scenes take or unfair anonymous smear campaign against a female showrunner and any actor who's gone for season two: oh, why can't this Smash exposé just be both?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

THERE IS A MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS POST:  If you're not on Twitter, you missed the delightful interaction between Wil Wheaton and Grover from Sesame Street earlier today, and you shouldn't.
ONLY ROBOCOP CAN FIND CHECKERS:  Yes, that picture of Richard Nixon meeting RoboCop is not a photoshop job.  It really happened.
I'VE ONLY REALLY EVER PLAYED MYSELF:  My Unified Muppet Theory has been confirmed in an interview with Kermit himself. Vindication is awesome.

The theory, in short: The Muppet Movie is a true-ish origins story about how the Muppets became actors; all Muppet films and projects are the works these performers have created under Lew Lord's Standard Rich & Famous Contract, and that's why each movie (and the tv shows) can vary in terms of Kermit and Miss Piggy's relationship, their relative level of success, etc. The Muppets, in turn, is the movie about what happened to that troupe after decades in the limelight, after starring in those films and having all those famous people show up on "The Muppet Show."

Two excerpts suffice. First, on dealing with the success of The Muppets:
Well, we hadn’t done a big movie in a long, long time, so really just seeing the guys everyday was celebration enough. Because, you know, when we’re not working, we go and do our separate things. We don’t live in a big house or anything. I don’t really spend a lot of time in Hollywood. I go back to the swamp. Piggy usually won’t come to the swamp with me—she just goes off with my credit card and I don’t see her for months. It’s very strange.
More tellingly, as to a character in the next movie, Constantine, being his doppelgänger:
We talked about putting me in makeup and having me play both roles, but we decided Constantine needed to be a guy who could do a Russian accent. And, you know, I’m a pretty accomplished actor and all, but besides the Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island films, I’ve only really ever played myself.
HT: @sepinwall, @suddenlyissoon
GOODNIGHT, PO-POS:  Aw, shucks. With "Took" (Sepinwall, AVClub, THND), The Wire continues to close a few doors and give more characters grace notes on our way out of their fictional Bal'mer, St. Sen. Clay Davis' reliance on Ah-Silly-Us, Pro-mee-thus Bound, and good old fashioned huckstering to get him out of trouble (as well as real life superlawyer Billy Murphy, whose victories include a multimillion dollar suit for carbon monoxide exposure on behalf of the workers at the Ruth's Chris where Bunny took Namond et al); Kima mirroring McNulty's frustration with Ikea, but showing that she's ready to be a fantastic "aunt," at a minimum.

As far as the McNulty silliness goes, yeah, I'm starting to appreciate the black comedy (and Bunk's glares) as this thing escalates way beyond his control, but mostly I'm waiting to see who gets called on the carpet first between him and Templeton, and just how much the fallout ends up punishing Freamon and Gus, respectively.

For completists, of course, this episode was a Tommy Westphall multiverse highlight: John Munch, who's based on the real-life Jay Landsman, walks into a bar with the real-life Jay Landsman, here playing Dennis Mello, and then in walks Gus Haynes, played by Clark Johnson, who of course also played Munch's partner Meldrick Lewis on "Homicide." Yippee.

Of course, what I'm really waiting for now is for Freamon to bring in Prezbo to solve the clock code, and for Quantico to figure out what's up with McNulty. Also, R.I.P., Savino: Maury Levy got you a short sentence (from the Kima shooting) for this?
IT'S AFTER SIX. WHAT AM I, A FARMER?  Favorite 30 Rock lines. Go!
GOLLY!, SHAZAM!, AND MAZEL TOV!  Jim Nabors and his longtime partner finally got married this month.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I'M GUESSING THIS ONE MIGHT HAVE TOO MUCH BLACK SWAN: We'd jokingly proposed Breaking Bunheads a while ago, but now, Starz has put into development a drama about the "dark and gritty" "dysfunctional underbelly" of the ballet world from a Breaking Bad producer, cementing our position of power over all of Hollywood.
YOU'RE LIKE A DEER OR ELK IN HUNTING SEASON:  Wonderful WSJ A-hed about a group of ten friends from Spokane who've played a month-long, nationwide game of tag every February for the past twenty-three years.  Yes, whoever was tagged last by the end of the month has to remain "It" for the next eleven months.
NOT TRYING TO INDUCE PANIC OR ANYTHING, BUT.... Bats carrying the Ebola virus scare me even more than Monster Squid.... though not as much as Sharktopus.
IS THIS SUFFICIENTLY MATERIAL TO REQUIRE A FILING WITH THE SEC?  In the wake of the success of Doritos Locos Tacos, Taco Bell has confirmed that a Cool Ranch version will be launching shortly.  Personally, I'll stick with the 3 soft tacos and a side of Cinnamon Twists.
THIS IS NOT MY AWARD: For a sixth year, Christy in NYC is back to sum up the American Library Association's annual awards for the best in children's publishing. Yay!
* * *
My friends! It’s that time of year again. Yesterday was the Monday morning when the tweets about Downton Abbey, Girls, and SAG dresses in my feed were drowned out by anxious, anxious book publishing people. The announcement of the Youth Media Awards at the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting! Here are your big winners:
The Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults went to In Darkness by Nick Lake.

The Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children went to Jon Klassen for This is Not My Hat.

The John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature went to The One and Only Ivan by Katharine Applegate.
But there are many more awards and honors to mine here for your next favorite book. A few more things I’ll highlight about the whole list:

Monday, January 28, 2013

LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF TRIVIA: One of our correspondents notes that he's thinking of starting a pub quiz night in his locality and has asked for tips.  As part of a team that is quite regular at The Big Quiz Thing in NYC and has done other trivia nights from time to time, I'll offer some advice:
  • Remember that not everyone who comes to the event is going to be good at trivia, so make sure the show is entertaining for them even if they're not getting a ton of questions right.  Have audio and visual elements to keep folks entertained (audio and video rounds or questions are a great thing as long as the venue is set up in a way that makes them work).  The BQT also awards "smart-ass points" for wrong but funny answers, which is another great way to keep people engaged in the show when they're not terribly good at the game.
  • Scoring between rounds always generates a lull.  Make sure to have enough folks "staffing" the game that it goes quickly and offer something between rounds to keep folks engaged--I've seen short films, had live comedy, had a good DJ, or had mini-games offered in those segments.  
  • Question difficulty is hard to gauge, and may have to be adjusted over time depending on the crowd.  Well written questions, I find, have both a front door way and a back door way in--with the back door way ultimately being easier, but requiring picking up on an internal clue or piece of wordplay.  Also, make sure that unless you're specifically promoted as a specialty area night, you've got a wide range of questions, so everyone's niche of knowledge gets to contribute.
  • Have fun--if you're not having fun up on the stage, the people in the room aren't going to be having fun either.
I'm sure other folks here have experience and thoughts, and to the comments we go.
I'M THE BIRD, YOU'RE THE ORNITHOLOGIST:  Fantastic conversation with Steven Soderbergh, at the self-proclaimed end of his film directing career:
These things—I can feel them coming on. I can feel it when I need to slough off one skin and grow another. So that’s when I started thinking, All right, when I turn 50, I’d like to be done. I knew that in order to stop, I couldn’t keep it a secret—so many things are coming at you when you’re making films that you need to have a reason to be saying no all the time.... It’s a combination of wanting a change personally and of feeling like I’ve hit a wall in my development that I don’t know how to break through. The tyranny of narrative is beginning to frustrate me, or at least narrative as we’re currently defining it. I’m convinced there’s a new grammar out there somewhere. But that could just be my form of theism.
LEMON PARTY:  Zoller Seitz, FTW:
30 Rock is always and foremost a parody of sitcoms, and increasingly of itself; the knowing quality makes the poignant moments fascinating. When a sitcom foregrounds its artifice as strenuously as 30 Rock—making up alternate histories of American broadcasting in its second live episode, or scoring a “tender” closing montage to a moppet pealing “Camptown ­Races”—there’s no earthly reason why we should feel for any of its characters; and yet we do, because the very tropes that 30 Rock loves to mock are embedded in our TV-watching subconscious. The show says, “Look at how shamelessly television pushes your buttons!” while hammering on those very same buttons.... 30 Rock is uniquely skilled at eating its cake and having it, too, while crowing “Isn’t cake ridiculous?” and making you crave cake. A show this unpretentious yet assured can end however it wants and get away with it.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

IT COULD FALL AT A MOMENT'S NOTICE:  According to a report in New York magazine, the Tappan Zee is a troubled bridge over waters and could collapse at any minute. Among its problems? It was built at one of the widest crossings over the Hudson just to keep it out of Port Authority of New York jurisdiction.