Saturday, May 3, 2003

UP NEXT: SCRATCH-N-SNIFF SCALIA: Oh, it's good to have been a charter subscriber to The Green Bag, An Entertaining Journal of Law.

We're getting Bobbin' Head Rehnquists, complete with four gold stripes on each arm.

Much better than an Sports Illustrated NFL helmet phone, ain't it?
I'LL DEFER: Joe Weiner says that the trippy site below has something to do with amusing people while they're on hallucinogenic drugs. Go figure people would find a way to harness the internet for that.
THE PRIME SUSPECT? GRAVITY: New Hampshire's fabled Old Man of the Mountain is no more.

The Old Man of the Mountain was New Hampshire's official symbol (what? it wasn't a packie?), and graced the rear side of its commemorative quarter. Over the past few days, however, gravity and erosion best him at last.



Of the Old Man, Daniel Webster once said: "Men hang out their signs indicative of their respective trades; shoe makers hang out a gigantic shoe; jewelers a monster watch, and the dentist hangs out a gold tooth; but up in the Mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men."

If I'm a ladybug in the Granite State (the official state insect), I'm sleeping with my one eye open tonight.

edited to add: an enterprising Farkster is already on the case.
ITEM!: 1. Alabama football coach Mike Price, having met Destiny, has now met his destiny. The University fired him today.

2. Olympic figure skating gold medalist Sarah Hughes will attend Yale in the fall.

3. And you thought the White Sox had it bad: eight teenagers were arrested at a baseball game at Grover Cleveland High School in Queens, NY yesterday, for running onto the field with handguns and shooting at centerfielder Ricky Perez, who earlier in the day decked one of his eight assailants in a grocery store brawl. The teens rushed the field from behind the centerfield fence, armed with guns, broken bottles and baseball bats. Details here and here.
TIME-SUCK OF THE DAY: Can't explain it. Just go.

Even odder than that Kikko-Man video.
A BIRTHDAY BASH: Congratulations in advance to Howard Bashman, whose How Appealing weblog celebrates its first birthday this week.

Since its inception on May 6, 2002, Howard's blog has accomplished two things worthy of praise:

1. His blog covers an area that no one had before on the web -- appellate litigation. For those of us who attended law school because we find the law intrinsically interesting as an intellectual pursuit, appellate litigation is the fertile land between the Tigris and the Euphrates where the most stimulating matters grow. Appellate litigation is the real-life zone where so many law school questions are asked: "Well, what if we changed this fact -- what result then?" "What if we tried to apply this law to a new context?" It is also the realm in which the Constitution's emanations and penumbras are defined and refined, over and over again.

Appellate litigation is important, and no one thought to cover it on the web before Howard. Which leads us to . . .

2. He does it so well that one cannot imagine a competitor emerging. What's wonderful about the weblog is that Howard performs himself that which he praises in others: the writing is clear, elegant, and occasionally dotted with witty pop cultural references. He says no more than he needs to, and points you to others when need be, being both comprehensive and succinct in one fell swoop.

It's a heck of a website and Howard, I should add, is a heck of a nice guy.

Since I'm still expecting to be busy on its formal birthday, let me on this early day say congratulations, Howard, and thank you.

Friday, May 2, 2003

ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING: The Hot Button's Dave Poland was also at one of yesterday's screenings:
The Wachowskis must have a hard time buying pants because their balls are so freakin' huge. The first film's clean, clear, undeniable answer to the question "What is The Matrix?" made the experience a brilliant puzzle that was not too complex to piece together by film's end. Not so this time. The boys question everything we thought we knew the last time. And they add new ideas constantly throughout the film. And we don't always get the answers.

. . . .

When we get there, The Matrix might be the greatest trilogy of all. The idea that we will be experiencing the climax of this story and the climax of Lord of the Rings in the same year is almost overwhelming. The funny thing is that although the series share many elements, they could not be more different at the core. Both are "save the human species" adventures. But Lord of the Rings is about the power of people coming together. And The Matrix is about the power of the individual and, eventually, the value of human love. The warmth of Rings makes it the Oscar favorite for next year. But these two trilogies will skip down the primrose path of time together as decades pass.

So are you confused yet? I hope so. I don't want to get in the way of your experience of this film. Or of my next viewing of the film. This is a definite 2 or 3 timer film. It is so much richer a pudding than the first film that some people are going to have to let their intellectual stomach settle a little after seeing it. It’s challenging that way. But it is a challenge that is going to blow people away.


Keep reading.

I think Jen and I may need a babysitter come 05.15.03.
MMM . . . KRISPY KREMES . . . : Neil Cumpston of AICN has seen The Matrix Reloaded. Among his relatively spoiler-free, measured comments:
Jim-Jammity Jesus Krispy Kreme Christ on a twat-rocket, this movie blew me apart and put me back together only after I'd got put back I felt like I had thirteen dicks and they'd all gotten blown by a surfer chick with 26 heads (2 mouths on each cock). I will see it ten times and if I see Star Wars George or that gay Batman director butt-hole any time during the ten screenings here comes Mr. Punch.

This is the sequel to the MATRIX Movie that came out four years ago and after seeing it I can say I could have waited another four years it is that fucking good. This movie is a pillowcase with soda cans inside that beats the living mule-fuck out of you but you're all like, "Bring it on honky tonk" because the beating feels like summer and Halloween and Cheetos at the same time. This movie is Mad Max's shotgun-gun from ROAD WARRIOR, only it shoots ass-kicking only at jocks. This movie is tits!

. . . .

[H]ere's the thing: you could wear headphones and listen to Dio during this whole movie and you wouldn't miss anything, there's so much ass-kicking going on.

The Matrix Reloaded opens on May 15, 2003.
TO SIR, WITH GLOVE: Congratulations to Detroit Tigers outfielder Eugene Kingsale (.281/.369/.316), Baltimore pitcher Sidney Ponson (2-2, 4.80 ERA) and Dodgers minor league pitcher Calvin Maduro, who were knighted in their native Aruba on Tuesday.

FOREVER LOVELY: I'm tired of reporting on wrestling-related deaths. Too many, too often.

Elizabeth A. Hulette, known to wrestling fans nationwide as The Lovely Elizabeth, valet to then-husband Randy "Macho Man" Savage, died this morning at the age of 44. Cobb County (Ga.) police have not yet determined whether it was a suicide, death from natural causes, or a drug or alcohol overdose. They have apparently ruled out foul play, however.

Police received a call for assistance early Thursday morning from the residence Hulette shared with former wrestler Lex Luger (Lawrence Pfohl), who was arrested later in the day for a controlled substance found in the home. Draw your own early conclusions.

Full details, to the extent that they're know, are here.

Elizabeth was a wrestling valet during an era in which women in sports entertainment were not asked to pose nude for Playboy, not asked to risk their bodies wrestling, not asked to degrade themselves in pools of mud. What she did was act, and act well: her on-screen love-hate-love relationship with Savage made for the most compelling drama of the WWF's 1980's boom, and her live "wedding" to Savage was the kind of stuff Vincent K. McMahon did best -- over-the-top campy melodrama. Elizabeth did it all with class and dignity, not words one often hears in the world of sports entertainment.

You don't hear every-other month about former baseball players dying. Or football, or hockey, or even boxing. Why can't wrestling organizations prepare their employees for a life after the sport?

Thursday, May 1, 2003

AND THE D.A. CAN'T GET NO RELIEF: The Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa, Atlantic City's first new facility in 13 years, is going BYOB:

Bring Your Own Bible.

It is, so far as the reporter could figure out, the first casino in the country to deprive its patrons of the Gideons generosity.

The Borgata people say they're doing so to be extra-inclusive, by not alienating anyone by not having their preferred text in the room. Others say they're trying to be extra-sinful in their marketing.

Me? I like the old Atlantic City, out where the sand's turnin' to gold.
ON YOUR MARKS: Reliable sources are reporting that The Amazing Race 4 will begin airing on CBS on Thursday, May 29, at 8:00 pm, taking over the Survivor slot.

And there is much rejoicing.

See my previous writings on The Best Show On Television, Period here and here.

Believe me, this blog is going to cover TAR4 like Andrew Sullivan on an anti-war liberal.
"HE KNOWS": Speaking of which, do you think that The Hot Button's Dave Poland is worked up again about last night's results?

You bet:
I am embarrassed by the increasingly obvious racist nature of American Idol voting. There was only one kid who deserved to be kicked off of the show this week… for a change it was not even close. Joshua Gracin was not even close to the quality of any of the other singers on Tuesday night’s show.

Is it a surprise that the dark skinned black woman who stepped up huge in the last two weeks was voted off the show before the country boy? Had it been any surprise that Rickey Smith was voted off before the obviously inferior blondes, Kimberly and Carmen?

As I’ve written before, I am not a fan of rushing to race as an excuse for anything. But I have no other way of explaining this. Even Joshua Gracin held his head in his hands when he found out he wasn’t even in the bottom 2… He knows.

A lack of taste by America would not disgust me this much. I am used to that. But there is something really wrong here. Votes are counted for contestants, not against them. So it’s not like someone is saying, “We don’t want black people in the final four.” But in a season where black singers did seem dominant, it may be that Kimberly Locke is only still around because she straightened her hair. And that’s not right.

I still loved the moment on last night's show when Simon Cowell explained that we had to abide by the public's votes, because this was a democracy, after all . . . and the audience booed him for saying it.
BRINGING THE SNARK: Yes, I was disappointed by the American Idol results last night. Sure.

"Disappointed" does not seem to cover TWoP recapper Shack, however:
Shut up, Josh. Shut up, Josh. Shut up your no-talent mushmouth, Josh. Shut up your creepy Joker-rictus smile, Josh. You can't sing, Josh. Shut it. Shut your creepy, constipated, off-key, slurring, fake-twanging, SMUG, DUMBASS JOCK FACE! Did I needed to be reminded of FOX's primary demographic by having your untalented self sit there on the couch while Trenyce and Ruben land in the bottom two in the votes? No, I didn't. Ruben! I don't even like Ruben, but at least Ruben can sing. So can Trenyce. You can't sing, Josh. Shut your flapping, lyric-forgetting, mumbling, DUCK-WALKING, OUT-OF-SHAPE, SMIRKING PIEHOLE! You got Trenyce ejected! You're the reason I don't care who wins anymore. As long as it's not you. And it's not going to be you, Josh. Because you can't sing. So shut up, Josh. Get off the stage.

Via this link.
EUPHEMISM OF THE WEEK: From an article on Alabama football coach Mike Price, 57 and married, who spent a night two weeks ago in Pensacola, Fla., which included dropping several Benjamins at a strip club named Arety's Angels on a woman named "Destiny", and concluded at his hotel room at the Crown Plaza Grand Royal Hotel, where an unnamed female guest of his ordered one of everything on the room service menu, totalling over $1000, and asked that it be packaged to go. Anyway, Destiny saw nothing wrong with it, saying:
"He just wanted to admire a beautiful woman"

Just like Toulouse-Lautrec and the Moulin Rouge, I'm sure.

Read the whole article here.
"SOMETIMES MY MOTHER AND MY LITTLE SISTER CONSIDER ME TOO LAZY": What do you do when you're twelve years old and you're about to graduate college?

Enroll in medical school, of course. And as long as you're going to do that, why not do it at The University of Chicago?

Read about the remarkable Sho Yano and his (motivated? crazy? dedicated?) parents via this link.

Paging Dr. Howser . . . .
AS USUAL, HE'S ABSOLUTELY CORRECT: Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Simon Cowell on celebrity judges on "American Idol":
''I personally find it a bit insulting having celebrity judges on the show,'' Cowell says as Idol heads for the homestretch, culminating with the May 20 finale. ''To me, it's our role and nobody else's to judge these kids, because we've chosen them from the beginning.''

For more, including his views on this year's and last year's finalists, keep reading.
YOU'RE BRINGING THE BOYS TO MEN. HOW THEM BOYS GONNA WIN? Cosmo Macero persists in continuing this white-boy afro walkoff. Who you tryin' to get crazy with, ese? Don't you know I'm loco?

I see your Leo Sayer, and invoke the mighty power of Juan Luis Pedro Phillipo de Huevos Epstein, otherwise known as Welcome Back Kotter's Juan Epstein (Robert Hegyes):

Cosmo, you're not going to win this, so don't even try. You'd best quit this before the Big Dig comes to you, if you know what I'm saying.


Epstein's Mother.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

"WE DECIDED NOT TO CALL THE COUPLE TO ASK IF THEY REALLY LOOKED THAT GOOFY": And boy, did the Eau Claire (Wisc.) Leader-Telegraph regret it. Y'see, they received this engagement announcement photo from Sarah Palmer and Nate Moquin:

And on January 20, they printed it.

Which would've been fine, of course, had Nate told Sara that he was planning on using that picture. He thought he was being cute. Sara was less amused than he anticipated.

The couple is still planning to wed on May 10. You can read about them here.

Aside from the glasses issue, two other factors would have prevented the New York Times from running the announcement:
1. The Grey Lady does not do engagement announcements any more.

2. The Times requires that "couples posing for pictures should arrange themselves with their eyebrows on exactly the same level and with their heads fairly close together. Couple pictures should be printed in a horizontal format."

Remember that, Mopey Boy.
THIS MEANS WAR: Cosmo Macero of the Boston Herald sees my Darnell Hillman and raises it to Oscar Gamble.

First off, Jack Osbourne still wins. This is all about second place.

Next, Cosmo failed to include the best Oscar Gamble picture. It's here, and it's frightening.

Third: Chicago Bulls center Artis Gilmore trumps Oscar Gamble because of the sideburns:

Fourth: I do have a trump card. Iverson. SLAM Magazine. Old School issue:

Game. Set. Match. You wanted me to bring it, Cosmo? It's brought.
AND I WOULD'VE GOTTEN AWAY WITH IT, TOO, WERE IT NOT FOR YOU MEDDLING KIDS: Mark E. Perk had a simple plan to avoid being recognized on Illinois' registry for convicted sex offenders: dress up like one of the Beastie Boys in the "Sabotage" video, instead of looking like Jame Gumb in Silence of the Lambs.

Did it work? My headline gives it away, though the Illinois State Police had nothing to do with foiling the plot. (They're much better at apprehending fugitives, anyway.)
WHEW: The Jack Osbourne picture has been located again, and has been moved to a secure facility to prevent further disruption of this blog's mission by the Murdoch Empire. So click here or scroll down and behold Jack Osbourne in Full Outrageous Tuffle, and, on a serious note, let's all hope for the best for him as he works his current problems.
GOD BLESS THE MERRY PRANKSTERS: The location: Boiling Springs High School, outside of Carlisle, PA, home of the Bubblers.

The event: Prom Night.

The prank: A faked letter to parents from school administrators in advance of prom night, which contained the following language:
We realize students may participate in reckless physical behavior. As a result of this knowledge, the school will be renting a limited amount of hotel rooms for private parties. Throughout the dance, we will also be distributing a 'Bubbler Condom Care Package' containing free condoms and a brochure about the dangers of unprotected sex."

The reaction: Priceless.

Via Obscure Store.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

THE OTHER FIFTEEN PERCENT COME OUT HERE: Thank for reminding me that it was twenty years ago today that Chicago Cubs skipper Lee Elia burst forth with a tirade against his team's fans which dropped more F-bombs than the N.W.A's Straight Outta Compton, and I believe uses said word (and its permutations, including the Oedipal ones) in every linguistically possible manner.

I can't excerpt a single line here without subjecting this blog to censorship from every filter on earth. So just go here and read the whole thing if you can, or listen to a large chunk of it, unbleeped, via this website. If you want to read a version where a lot of *'s replace the letter 'u', click here.

Kids, ask your parents first before clicking.
FALSE IDOL: I don't want to talk too much about the performances on American Idol tonight -- Ruben and Kimberley were aces, as always; Clay was as good as we've seen him; Lashundra added Anna Mae Bullock to her list of impressions (okay, make that Trenyce and Tina Turner, fine); and Josh, well, if Josh remains next week, we as Americans have screwed up.

No, what I want to talk about is a more global critique I've had of the show which was in full force tonight: its relentless, pathological un-hipness.

American Idol purports to be a television program designed to select the next pop superstar. For today. 2003.

Why, then does the show so frequently ask its performers to perform in genres of the past? Tonight, the kids were singing Neil Sedaka songs. Neil Sedaka? What on earth does this have to do with finding a pop superstar for today? How does a successful rendition of the dreary "Where The Boys Are" identify a performer capable of a successful recording career for contemporary listeners?

This season, we've seen Billy Joel night, Neil Sedaka night, country-rock night, Motown, disco, and movie soundtrack night.

But where's the hip-hop night? How about modern dance music? new jack swing? alternarock? new wave?

(Please, tell me you wouldn't love to see Clay singing "Bizarre Love Triangle" and Ruben work his groove on the Human League's "Don't You Want Me?")

Kelly Clarkson's album was able to debut well in this crowded marketplace certainly because of the hype from her being on the show, but also because its first single, "Miss Independent", sounds like a Christina Aguilera song, sounds like the other things on the radio. It does not sound like Neil Sedaka.

What the show does well, even with its poor genre selections, is separate the better singers from the worse singers. But it does not do a good enough job to identify the performers and entertainers, and separate them from those who happen to have a good voice. (This means you, Lashundra.)

So, can we have some contemporary music on the show? Fill me with Neptunes, and stop building up the buttercups. Please?
WHILE WE'RE ON THE SUBJECT: In case you weren't aware, at some random point during the next week or two this blog will cease to be updated regularly, for a period of 3-5 days, minimum.

(Translation: Jen's due date was yesterday. Read all about it here.)

Oh, dear, you must be wondering, how can I amuse myself if Adam's not around? My life before this blog was solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.

Fear not. For starters, check out all the links down the left-hand side. I am particularly happy to note that TV Tattle is back to near-daily publication for May sweeps, and once you check it out you'll realize just how lazy I am some days when it comes to finding links for y'all. And for those not in the media business and already-knowing, Jim Romenesko's MediaNews is invaluable daily reading for the best news about the news, mostly focusing on the world of print journalism.

If that's exhausted, let me suggest a few good time-sucks:
1., for good links and great Photoshop spoofery, like today's set of movie poster hacks.

2. The Atlantic Monthly always has good archived articles online. Read them.

3. Better yet, you did know that every single episode of public radio's This American Life was available online, didn't you?

4. Peruse lists of items required and tasks needing to be performed during past University of Chicago Scavenger Hunts. Be proud that our nation's best and brightest not only designed these weekend-long activities ("Bring a lightbulb from the birthplace of Thomas Edison"; "Make mathematical sense of Jay-Z's ``H.O.V.A.'' and interpret its meaning in the context of the song", "Have Arthur Andersen audit a class", etc.), but also faithfully execute them, every year.

5. If you have to, spend more time at work doing work. Yeah, I know, not ideal.

6. Read the spoiled endings from over a hundred movies at Jim's Cinepad.

7. Learn more about the real-life General Tso.

8. Back to archives: all of Bill Simmons' ESPN writings are online, even if his previous "Boston Sports Guy" columns are not.

9. Even if you missed the original airings, re-read Television Without Pity's recaps of every Amazing Race episode ever. Or all six seasons of Survivor. (From Survivor episode 1-1: "Each team treks onto the beach, where an elaborately constructed and ridiculously stupid obstacle course awaits them. Is Jeff Probst extremely self-important or is it just me? He makes them all touch their life on the island, the immunity idol. How very Bradys Go To Hawaii. And how'd he get away with removing it from the construction site, anyway?")

Or some other show.

That should be enough to hold you over for at least a few days. :)

Okay, and one last thing, one I haven't mentioned before in five months of blogging: why not read the first chapters of Jen's books, and, if you're sufficiently entertained, buy one. C'mon, dawg.
YES, BUT WERE THE SCALLOPS ON A DAY BOAT, OR A WEEK BOAT? Sara Dickerman's fine piece in today's Slate on deciphering menu English reminded me of the menu at Philadelphia's Los Catrines Restaurant and Tequila's Bar, an authentic Mexican restaurant off Rittenhouse Square housed in the former Magnolia Cafe.

(For trivia buffs, the space also served as the setting of Mr. Glass's high-end comic art gallery, Limited Edition, in Unbreakable).

Anyway, the menu at Los Catrines is the wordiest, oddest thing I've ever seen. You're not just ordering food; you're accepting a multicultural narrative about the legacy colonialism. Here are just some of my favorites:
Nachos Obligatorios: "La Frontera" (Mexican border) has become an illusion. The real frontera is a third country which extends 100 miles into the US and 100 miles into Mexico. Its citizens are the Mexican-Americans. Odd as it may seem, the "Nacho" is the perfect representative of this area. It denounces its traditional origin yet retains it. Simultaneously, it is drawn towards its destiny yet does not embrace it. Corn tortilla chips, refried beans, ground beef and Chihuahua cheese. $6.50.

Salsa Veracruzana: Oh Veracruz!!! Fascinating, enchanting and surreal world! The door through which Europe entered into timeless Mexico. A place where an infinity of culinary marriages occurred and engendered eclectic flavors and incomparable dishes. Such is the case with this delicious salsa which bears the wonderful contributions of the Mediterranean. Olives, capers seduced by the pre-Columbian tomato, all of them shaken with a light touch of jalapeno with its allies, sweet peppers. This delicious meeting of worlds is served to the client's taste, a whole red snapper ($22.95), a grouper fillet ($18.75) or a third choice: jumbo shrimp ($21.75).

Mole Poblano: Spanish colonialism had been the imposing force for decades, yet through inter-marriage a new culture gradually emerged -- the Mestizo. In the city of Puebla, several convents were active in creating much of the traditional Mexican cooking, as we know it today. One such convent was expecting a visit by a distinguished archbishop. A nun decided to serve a sauce known by the Nahuatl Indians as "mulli". However "mulli" is a potpourri of hot chiles. Knowing the holy man was not accustomed to spicy dishes, she set to the task of adding ingredients that would counteract the chiles: chile ancho, dorado bread, tomato, cloves, bitter chocolate, chile poblano, peanuts, sugar, almonds, chile guajillo, friend tortillas, chile chalaca, carrots and garlic. This very combination makes a mole poblano a truly rich and complex sauce. A succulent boiled chicken breast exalted from the past. Served with rice and refried beans. $14.75.

Pollo Entortillado: Our heroine, the tortilla, faithful friend of the Mexican, has been present since the beginning of time. It was holding hands with the tortilla that we were born as a culture. It has always been our source of nourishment, thousands of years cannot pry us apart from this maternal culinary symbol. Through it, everything that goes into the mouth of Mexicans is screened, vigilant of everything we are about to enjoy. In this treat ground tortillas cover two boneless chicken breasts which are fried and then covered with the glorious chile chipotle and tomato sauce. Rice and refried beans as garnish. $16.75.

The full menu is here, and just so you know, Inquirer restaurant critic Craig LaBan is fond of the place. And, for what it's worth, Jen and I may be headed there later this week as we seek out every labor-inducing strategy under the sun . . .
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: In an unfortunately predictable piece of news, Jack Osbourne, 17, entered rehab this weekend.

We here at Throwing Things wish him the best of luck in his recovery, and I can only add my hope -- as someone who has been similarly afflicted in the past -- that he gets a decent haircut before he leaves:

There's such a thing as a healthy head of white-boy curly hair, and then there's mad tuffle, as my wife likes to say. I don't even know what one calls the stage beyond that, but we're in serious Darnell Hillman homage territory now.

edited to add: It's fixed.
"POOR JUDGMENT" AND "BAD DECISIONS": Yes, I'd say that when you're a Division I college basketball coach who just suffered a disappointing loss on the road, you shouldn't go out partying with a player from the other team and wind up drunk at a late-night student party.

And, needless to say, you shouldn't let them take pictures of you either.

Yes, Iowa State's Larry Eustachy is in a bit of trouble right now. Here's your bullet points of stupidity:
1. Eustachy arrived unexpectedly at the party between 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m. in the company of Josh Kroenke, a junior guard on the Missouri basketball team. (Eustachy is a friend of Kroenke's father, Stan.)

2. Eustachy drank beer into the early-morning hours.

3. Eustachy declined to leave the party around 3 a.m., despite being urged to leave by individuals who accompanied him.

4. Eustachy, 47 and married with two kids, was photographed nuzzling with (or attempting to nuzzle with) several female Mizzou students.

5. Eustachy became belligerent with one male partygoer, who objected to his presence.

6. Eustachy openly criticized the performance of his Cyclone basketball team in its loss to Missouri when asked about his team by those at the party.

7. Eustachy finally eft the party between 4:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. after residents of the apartment called a taxi for him.

Yes, but did Iowa's highest-paid state employee climb onto the roof and shout "I am a golden god!"?

Monday, April 28, 2003

I CANNOT POSSIBLY BE THE FIRST PERSON TO REALIZE THIS: After he loses the American Idol crown to Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken belongs on Broadway in the role of the angsty video artist Mark Cohen in Rent. Right? Right.

It's a melodramatic musical posing as a rock/pop show, just like the magical elf from North Carolina. Just imagine him working his enunciational magic through wordy tunes like "La Vie Boheme":
To days of inspiration
Playing hookey, making something out of nothing
The need to express -
To communicate,
To going against the grain,
Going insane
Going mad

To loving tension, no pension
To more than one dimension,
To starving for attention,
Hating convention, hating pretension
Not to mention of course,
Hating dear old mom and dad

To riding your bike,
Midday past the three piece suits
To fruits - to no absolutes -
To Absolut - to choice -
To the Village Voice -
To any passing fad

La vie Boheme
La vie Boheme

(Okay, I'm second. One more person and it's a meme. Two more, and we've got a movement.)
HE'S FORTY-ONE? LIKE, WHOA: On all other weekends, there are no strong reasons to seek out the LA Times Book Review. Last weekend, ma nishtana ha'lailah hazeh, there were two:

1. A David Foster Wallace sighting. The noted metafictionist with Pynchonesque literary productivity of late is now teaching at Pomona now, in a course so obscure you can't find it on the department's website.

The syllabus for "Eclectic/Obscure Fictions for Writers"? "The Man Who Loved Children," by Christina Stead; "Play It As It Lays," by Joan Didion; "The Moviegoer," by Walker Percy; "The Golden Notebook," by Doris Lessing; "Desperate Characters," by Paula Fox; "Giovanni's Room," by James Baldwin; "In Watermelon Sugar," by Richard Brautigan; "Nightwood," by Djuna Barnes; and "Speedboat," by Renata Adler.

2. My wife showed up. Who knew? Hey, Prof. Volokh -- when a newspaper wants to republish significant portions of a blog, must they ask first? (Or, to Randy Cohen: should they?) (Not that we care -- it's a cute piece.)
"CAN I HAVE THE NINTH?" Ever wonder what really happens in a major league dugout during a no-hitter?

Now you know.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

HOW DID JOHNNY ESTRADA DO TODAY? Among its many virtues, baseball allows for the possibility of perfect individual achievement.

Sure, a football team can score a lot of points, or its quarterback can throw well, but there is always more that can be done. A basketball player can make every shot he takes, but, still, he could always have taken one more. There is no such thing as "flawless" in these sports.

But when a baseball pitcher allows no hits, or pitches a perfect game (a word which appears nowhere in the lexicon of any other sport), well, that's a level of individual accomplishment that is rare, precious and wonderful to behold.

All of which is to say that I had a hella good time at today's Phillies game, with Kevin Millwood pitching a complete game no-hitter over the San Fransisco Giants, winning 1-0. It was a tense, exciting, beautiful game, the kind of thing I think you appreciate more the older you get, since you understand how rare these things can be. There were kids at the game today for whom this was their first Phillies game, and I hope they realize it isn't always going to be like this.

It was not the first no-hitter I had ever attended -- back in 1991, I saw White Sox rookie Wilson ("Uncle") Alvarez's blanking of the Baltimore Orioles during the last season at Memorial Stadium. Interestingly, both Millwood and Alvarez had to face Hall of Famers in getting through the day -- Cal Ripken Jr. back then, Barry Bonds today.

I first realized Millwood was working on a no-hitter back in the 4th inning. Each inning, it grew more and more real, and by the 7th, every fan in the park realized what was going on. The fans in the cheap seats already had 9 K's up on the Mill-O-Meter, and with each out the cheers became louder, but at the same time, more anxious. This is Philadelphia, after all, and we don't tend to follow through when hopes are raised.

Bonds had his last at-bat in the 7th inning, a strikeout looking. Three straight fly outs in the 8th, and then the 9th, oh, the 9th -- all excitement, but still, a lot of tension. It was, after all, still a 1-0 game against the best team in the National League. Two ground outs, a walk, and then Marquis Grissom hit a deep fly to center field. Ledee chased it down. Game over.

Man, am I glad I've learned to use the digital camera. This is going to be fun. Did I mention it was the Phillie Phanatic's 25th birthday today?

Lawyers often say res ipsa loquitor -- the thing speaks for itself. But this one requires a little elaboration.

The Phanatic -- well, read here. He is what he is, whatever he is.

Among the celebrants, we've got Philadelphia Saturday morning tv legends Captain and Mrs. Noah; college mascots including the St. Joe Hawk, Penn Quaker and Drexel Dragon; various Phanatic relatives and inflatable "zooperstars" Derek Cheetah, Ichiroach Susuki, Ken Giraffey and, though he missed Zooperstar practice, Stallion Iverson. Clammy Sosa did make a late appearance. Of course.

(Click on pictures to enlarge. I'll try to keep this to a minimum; I know a lot of people have slow connections.)
"THESE DAYS, IT'S REALLY POSSIBLE TO GILD A TURD": The Chicago Sun-Times' Jim DeRogatis has been one of my favorite music commentators since I spent a lot of nights listening to his "Sound Opinions" talk show back in law school. (They've got archives online.)

And Tom Petty is, well, Tom Petty. Put them together, and . . .
Q. There was a notion among some rock critics in the early '90s, before Nirvana, that everything that can be done with guitars, bass and drums has been done, and the future is all in synthesizers and sequencers. You've never subscribed to that theory.

A. I think that those people who went for the sequencers and the synthesizers at the time really dated themselves by doing that. We always saw them as not timeless instruments. We stay organic; if we want to make a synthesizer sound, we'll find some organic way to do it. Those computer instruments seem to date themselves, and if you look back at a lot of that music from the '80s, you almost kind of laugh at it. It's very much of an era, and I think the best songs are kind of timeless. They last a long time.

Q. You have songs that could have been recorded in 1967 or in 2007.

A. Yeah, and the nicest thing is that they still play our whole catalog. That's what I'm most proud of, I think.

Q. When you did something like "Don't Come Around Here No More," it sounds as if you were really having a field day in the studio, with gates and reverb on the drums and those strange echoes that come in and out. Was that kind of like "kid in a candy store" time?

A. Yeah, it was. I wanted to make a single that sounded like nothing anybody had ever done, and to this day, I don't know that anybody's ever made a single like that. We worked very hard on that song--maybe a month--and we were doing things like right in the middle, there's a big piano note, a grand piano, and we literally grabbed the tape and pulled it across the heads [of the recorder] so it makes this kind of "whoooooo" [laughs].

You can read the entire, wide-ranging interview here, and you'll be real glad that you did.
I CAN'T BELIEVE I BEAT HOWARD BASHMAN TO THIS ONE: What does it mean to be a "Philadelphia lawyer"? Marc Schogol of the Philadelphia Inquirer has the answer.

Howard, are you a pettifogger?
A TEPID BREEZE: We saw the new mockumentary A Mighty Wind last night. If this is the last movie I'm going to see at a theater for the next few months, I'm going to be resentful towards Britain's Fifth Baron Haden-Guest of Saling for quite some time.

A Mighty Wind fails because it is far too gentle at times, and not funny enough at others. The story centers around three reuniting folk groups -- The Folksmen, a trio of Spinal Tap vets Harry Shearer, Michael McKean and the aforementioned Mr. Guest; the overly chipper New Main Street Singers; and Mitch and Mickie, the maudlin former couple portrayed by Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara. And I only cared about the first of the three -- their jokes were funnier, the music-industry satire there had some edge to it, and, frankly, it's just fun seeing Harry Shearer as a bald Amish-looking guy busting out his Seymour Skinner voice in song.

The New Main St. Singers plotline was too punctuated by juvenile sex jokes; the Mitch and Mickie stuff slid past poignancy into patheticness. There was just something about the Levy character's catatonia that made it no longer funny, and while comedy and drama can inhabit the same movie, it wasn't warranted here.

End result: every time the Folksmen weren't on the screen, I was upset. (Also, while it's funny the first time hearing Ed Begley, Jr.'s Scandinavian tv producer's dabbling in Yiddishkeit, it's not funny the tenth time.)

The other problem is structural: the whole movie is building to the big reunion concert at the end, but there's barely any drama or tension about the concert itself. In Best in Show, you wanted to see which dog would win; in Waiting for Guffman, you wanted to see how the musical ended up. But here? There's almost no interaction between the groups. They all show up. They sing their songs. The songs aren't funny -- they're straightforward homages. The concert ends. And, with a brief "six months later" coda, so does the movie.

It's a shame, because these are funny people. Unfortunately, the Shearer-McKean-Guest loose, improvisational appearance on the World Cafe radio show last week was funnier than anything in the movie itself -- the guys were unrestrained, goofy, fun.

So, while you'll laugh a few times when you see it, ultimately A Mighty Wind just blew. What a disappointment.