Friday, March 22, 2013

AZUL, THE EAGLE:  I have seen some crazy-ass things happen in person as a sports fan -- Princeton overcoming a 40-13 deficit to beat Penn at Penn, 4th-and-26, three no-hitters (Alvarez, Millwood, Halladay), and a string of breathtaking A.I. performances in do-or-die games during the 76ers' playoff 2001 run coming to mind at this late hour.

So Florida Gulf Coast? Thank you for that. Still can't believe how thorough and joyous it was, basketball played with energy and intelligence against a school I've rooted against for thirty years. See you again Sunday.
FIGHT FIERCELY, HARVARD: Fair Harvard may have won its first ever NCAA basketball tournament game yesterday, but in deeper shame, they've been stripped of 4 NAQT titles (the successor to College Bowl) due to a team member's unauthorized access to question materials.  (Some in these parts will be quite happy that one of the titles has now been awarded to former runner-up Chicago.)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

PRESERVE THAT FUNKY MUSIC:  Far funkier stuff is already in the National Recording Registry, the Library of Congress' musical equivalent to the National Film Registry, but this year's new inductees are interesting and include Sounds of Silence (giving Simon two records in the registry, with Graceland being the other), the original South Pacific cast recording, "The Twist," Dark Side of the Moon, and the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever.
AND I GUESS THAT WAS ODIE IN THE WOOD CHIPPER: Bill Murray's excuse for starring in Garfield? He thought screenwriter Joel Cohen was Joel Coen.
LUTZ!  SI ranks the 68 tournament teams based on the coolest alum of each institution.

Also: if you know anything useful about this year's squads from Creighton, Cincinnati, San Diego State, Oklahoma State, Duke, Albany, Georgetown or Florida Gulf Coast, please let me know, because my dad and I will be there for all the fun tomorrow and Sunday.)

(And I'm already wondering: is March Madness opening weekend one of those sporting events which are better on tv than live, because of all the other games going on?)
LIFT YOUR SKINNY FISTS LIKE ANTENNAS TO HEAVEN: In which three genial eight-year-olds are ruthlessly exploited by WNYC to provide a review of last year's Godspeed You! Black Emperor album (and other recent releases).

H/T Mefi.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

TOSS THAT BRIEFCASE, IT'S TIME TO GET LOOSE: So it turns out that Grammy closing number was a preview: Public Enemy, LL Cool J, De La Soul, and Ice Cube are touring together this summer.
LOCK LENO IN THE CLOSET. AND LEAVE HIM THERE:  For the third time in the past twenty years, NBC seems serious about replacing Jay Leno with the funnier guy in the 12:30am slot.  While he remains atop the ratings (overall and in 18-49s), Leno's current deal expires in fall 2014, and, gosh, never seen this sentence before: "Given the past turbulence involved in changing hosts, NBC wants to make the transition ... as smooth as possible."

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

ETHICS DESK:  It's fairly universally acknowledged that Coca-Cola with cane sugar tastes better than the current U.S. formula, which uses high fructose corn syrup.  In the US, there are two ways to get your hands on "sugar Coke."  The first is through grey market imports from Mexico, where the product is still bottled with the original sugar formula.  At least in some neighborhoods, this is a fairly easy endeavor.  The other route is that Coke makes (in fairly limited quantities) Kosher for Passover Coke that contains sugar rather than corn syrup and is otherwise slightly adjusted to abide by the appropriate rules.

My local Gristedes stocks (in fairly substantial quantities) two liter bottles of the KFP Coke product.  So, three ethical questions:

1.  Is it ethical for me, a non-Jew, to purchase the KFP Coke product simply because I prefer the taste, though I would have no religious or ethical bar to drinking the regular coke with HFCS?

2.  Would it be ethical for someone (regardless of religion) to purchase the KFP Coke in bulk and then resell later in the year at a markup to people who prefer the taste?

3.  Is the ethical calculus in any way changed if I were to take the last remaining bottle of the product, rather than one of many available bottles?
TOMORROW WE'LL DISCOVER WHAT OUR GOD IN HEAVEN HAS IN STORE: It's hard to hit this blog's sweet spot more squarely than Passover + Les Misérables + a capella. If this production from Yeshiva University's Maccabeats is all the pop culture we get out of our upcoming eight unleavened days, dayenu.
BUT ISN'T HE SUPPOSED TO BE BALD? Page Six is reporting (so take it for what it's worth) that Justin Timberlake will play Daddy Warbucks in the Jay-Z/Will Smith-produced and Quvenzhan√© Wallis-starring remake of Annie.  Timberlake's people are denying it, but that could be interesting.

Monday, March 18, 2013

I'M A LEAF ON THE WIND, WATCH AS I BURN MYSELF MAKING WAFFLES: In honor of the end of The Office, Rainn Wilson has shown us the audition sign-in page he was on, which shows a number of interesting paths that could have been:
  • Adam Scott as Jim
  • Alan Tudyk as Michael
  • Matt Besser as Dwight
  • Mary Lynn Rajskub or Anne Dudek as Pam
THE ONLY STABLE POINT IN THE COSMOS:  The Philadelphia Inquirer profiles the Foucault Pendulum at the Franklin Institute.
SCIENCE IS SEEKING A CURE FOR THIRST AND I HAPPEN TO BE THE GUINEA PIG:  Whether you accept MZS's resolution of the Vulture Sitcom Bracketology depends on whether you consider The Simpsons to be a sitcom in the first place. If you do, and if cultural impact is part of your criteria, that pretty much ends the inquiry, and I rather like Seitz's analogy that we don't discount the overall greatness of the Rollling Stones just because they haven't been brilliant for the past few decades.

If like me, however, you see animation as liberating The Simpsons to do things with narrative, scope, and pace which go way beyond what filmed programming could do, such that it's comparing apples with MacBooks to put it in a competition with Cheers, Roseanne, and The Cosby Show, then not only did Seitz get it wrong but he answered a question which should not have been asked. Especially, as Linda Holmes notes, when ubiquity is used as a metric for quality, and The Simpsons are being compared to shows which didn't have Usenet/WWW vehicles to drive discussion and foster that ubiquity. (And there is no Cheers or Cosby equivalent to Songs in the Key of Springfield.) Moreover, looking at things that way denies the singular talents of the shows' stars -- you couldn't reproduce The Cosby Show because there's only one Bill Cosby.

We don't knock George Washington's skills as a general just because he didn't use tanks and bombers. Same should apply here; Cheers 4ever.
GORDON JUMP, CALL YOUR AGENT:  Mental Floss has compiled clips from twelve very special Very Special Episodes which you will be so excited, so excited to watch.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

DWIGHT FINALLY GETS TO BE A COP: So, production on The Office wrapped yesterday, and despite the mess that was the reworked backdoor pilot for The Farm (which suffered largely from trying to make Dwight, a character who's become little more than a cartoon villain in recent years into a sympathetic protagonist, as well as a "back at the Office" subplot that featured Packer at his most cartoonish), Rainn Wilson has already booked a new gig--playing the lead in what sounds an awful lot like Policeman Gregory House for CBS

CBS has a fascinating problem this year--they've got a bunch of starry and big pilots--in addition to this one, they have pilots with Robin Williams/Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jim Gaffigan/Mira Sorvino, Anna Faris/Allison Janney, Rupert Grint/Stephen Fry, Will Arnett/Margo Martindale, Toni Collette/Dylan McDermott, Josh Holloway/Marg Helgenberger, Jorge Garcia/Audra McDonald/Sam Neill, Jason Isaacs, and a third NCIS show.  The problem?  CBS has only 2 clear holes at this point (8:30 Monday and 9 PM Friday), and even if they can shows that are on the bubble by CBS standards, that only frees up another couple of slots (Undercover Boss, Vegas, Golden Boy), they don't have room to pick up much.  My bet?  They order a drama or two for short runs to serve as filler between Survivor cycles, and wind up splitting Good Wife's timeslot--giving it 22 episodes in 2 rerun-free blocks of 11, with another drama (The Ordained seems the logical choice) running uninterrupted in the middle.  I wouldn't be shocked to see them expand to two hours of comedy on Thursday as well, potentially with Big Bang and Two and A Half Men serving as 8 and 9 PM anchors.
BROGURT?  Taste tests of the day: some of the folks behind NPR's WW...DTM! try a new "yogurt for men"; the Philadelphia Daily News's Chain Gang hunts down a Shamrock Shake, describing it as "a little like a creme de menthe parfait, minus the alcohol."