Saturday, May 21, 2005

FALLEN, HE HAS, TO THE DARK SIDE: I've realized that we don't have an open thread for Star Wars discussion open yet, so I'll do so, with my thoughts up front. Certainly the best of the "prequel trilogy," and arguably the best Star Wars movie that Lucas has ever directed. Performances from McGregor and McDiarmid are both quite good, and there aren't nearly as many boring moments and off-notes as there have been in the last two movies (there's also a blink and you'll miss it cameo from an Academy Award-nominated actress. That said, the Christensen/Portman scenes feel hyper-artificial, which I blame on Lucas, as both of the actors have proven their acting talent in other projects, and the final line of Vader's just doesn't quite work--there's a bit too much breast-beating from Christensen in the suit. This is probably the first of the prequels that I'll pay to see again., and that certainly says something about it.
DEFEAT ALL ZOMBIES: In a very handsome flash-animation game.
ROGUES GALLERY: If you're like me, when you picked up your Sunday NYT Magazine and saw this guy on the cover, you probably thought, wow, that's about as creepy a subject as they can profile, right?

Wrong. Say what you will -- say what you will about Pennsylvania's junior senator -- but at least he's always struck me as being absolutely sincere in his [insert adjective] beliefs.

But fellow profile subject author-slash-wife-of-famous-person Gigi Levangie Grazer, on the other hand? The profile reads like a Mobius strip with one side that says "fake" and the other side "even faker". Everything you hate about Hollywood is encapsulated in her. At least, that is, as Alex Witchel tells it.

Friday, May 20, 2005

LONDON GIGGING: We're you lucky enough to see the Clash play London's Rainbow Theater back in '77? If so, you can now say you were at one of the greatest gigs of all time, as that Clash show (with support from The Jam and Buzzcocks, to boot) ranks first on Time Out London's list of the Top 100 London Concerts.

All of which begs the question and leads to your weekend homework: What are your three favorite concerts you've attended? I'll provide my answer in the comments after I give it a little thought.
START SHARPENING YOUR KNIVES: With Apprentice and Top Model (Naima!) over, all we've got left in reality finals for the spring are The Contender -- which only a few of us, sadly, are watching -- and American Idol, about which we soon can talk at length.

But where will we be directing our eyes, and our snark, this summer? Reality Blurred has compiled it all, along with a preview of the fall (when no new original reality shows are scheduled to debut). Here's the summer highlights, IMHO (listings his; descriptions mine):

  • Hell's Kitchen: Iron Chef meets The Apprentice [FOX, May 30, 9 p.m.]
  • Beauty and the Geek: Well, Heffernan liked it. [WB, June 1, 8 p.m.]
  • Rock Star: INXS: Will Terence Trent D'Arby enter to reclaim his job? [CBS, July 11, 9 p.m.]
  • Dancing With The Stars: I'm A Minor Celebrity, Get Me Rhythm! [ABC, June 1, 9 p.m.]
  • Hit Me Baby One More Time: American Idol for has-beens to compete, and not just judge. Will Terence Trent D'Arby enter? [NBC, June 2, 9 p.m.]
  • The Scholar: ABC (probably) ruins Adam's idea. [ABC, June 6, 8 p.m.]
  • The Cut: Project Runway plus Hilfiger minus craftsmanship. [CBS, June 9 p.m.]
  • I Want To Be A Hilton: complete with home video challenges. [NBC, June 21, 8 p.m.]
  • The Law Firm: Remember 'The Partner'? This is like that, only it'll air, and a Terence Trent D'Arby appearance is unlikely. [NBC, July 27, 8 p.m.]

What are you looking forward to? Which shows might not suck?

Thursday, May 19, 2005

THE PAUL REVERE RHYME I KNOW INVOLVES A WIFFLEBALL BAT: Kudos to the Amherst College Sports Information Department for commemorating Sunday's NESCAC Baseball Championship extra-inning win in verse:
Listen my children and soon you will clamor
Of the 10th-inning run of young Jared Banner.
On the fifteenth of May, in Two-thousand-and-five,
Hardly a man who saw the game live
Will soon forget his famous line drive.

He said to his mates, “If we reach the tenth inning
Barrel on ball will be but the beginning.
By walk or by hit from home plate I’ll advance
Four bags I will round when commencing to prance:
One base if by grounder, and two toward the gap
Third base in a flash my toes will then tap,
Ready to scramble and streak into home
Through Coach Thurston’s stop sign my spikes will soon roam." . . .

Seriously, why can't other sports beat writers compose in verse?
MAYBE IT'S BECAUSE OF THE SMOKING BAN: Lindsay Lohan is allegedly attending a fundraiser for NYC Mayoral candidate and City Council Speaker Gifford Miller tonight. Given that Lohan was allegedly strongly considering attending and appearing at the RNC last summer, apparently, all that time with Tara Reid may actually have accomplished something.
DR. FUNKE'S GOOD TIME VARIETY HOUR DIDN'T MAKE THE CUT: As usual, Fox's new schedule is needlessly and ridiculously complicated, with almost every show reshuffling timeslots in January to make way for American Idol 5. The bullet points:
  • Arrested Development is given the virtually competition-free Monday at 8 slot, against Wife Swap, 7th Heaven, Fathom, and King of Queens, which could and should bode well for its future--however, it's slated to finish its run in the fall--it's not on the January schedule.
  • In January, suprise hit House moves to Monday nights at 8, followed by another "non-stop" season of 24.
  • Other new shows of potential interest include Kitchen Confidential, a comedy starring Bradley Cooper of Alias and Jack & Bobby as a chef, Prison Break, a 24-esque drama about, well, a prison break, Head Cases, in which Chris O'Donnell and Adam Goldberg play "slightly unhinged lawyers," and Reunion, a high-concept series in which each week's episode follows one year in the life of a group of high school friends.
THE AU PAIR BLABBED: Is it wrong of me that, when I read this story about the possible salacious reasons why Royals manager Tony Peña stepped down, what I really want to know is whether his patented one-leg-extended-crouch was involved?

Which, at least, would be safer than this, about which you've likely read already.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

YOU SET THE TONE, CARTER: Thursday night, Noah Wyle leaves 'ER' after eleven seasons as Dr. John Carter, leaving S. Epatha Merkerson (Lt. Anita van Buren) of 'Law and Order', I believe, as the longest-running series regular on tv. (ER's Yvette Freeman and Deezer D have also been there since day one with Carter.)

Anyway, without Carter, there would have been no 'ER' -- he was the newbie through which we learned the hospital world, a curious mix of naivete and privilege who always remembered that there existed moral standards beyond mere hospital rules.

He's been stabbed, addicted to painkillers and, perhaps most regrettably, grown a beard to denote his seriousness.

More than any other character on the show, I think of Carter (do you ever think of him as "John"?) in terms of his relationships with others -- his "Gamma", his cousin Chase, and his many loves (and almost loves) on the show -- Harper Tracy, Anna Del Amico, Abby Keaton, Susan Lewis, Rena (the teenager), Lucy Knight, the cancer patient played by Rebecca de Mornay, Liz (the one with a doctor fixation and gonorrhea), Abby Lockhart, Roxanne (the volleyball-playing insurance saleswoman), Wendall, and now, finally, Kem.

But the most important relationship for Carter was the first: Dr. Peter Benton. Through the two of them, we saw the complexities of a mentor/mentee relationship between two men whose for each other was occasionally in doubt, rarely vocalized, and always central to our understanding as to how modern hospitals worked. What made 'ER' special in those early days was the way in which we understood the various institutional and ethical pressures on the doctors and nurses. It wasn't always the tepid soap opera is now; it used to be a serious drama about work, told at the breathtaking pace of real life.

My favorite Carter-Benton moment was the one I'd like to think of as their last together, even though I know it wasn't: Carter's drug intervention, and the flight to Atlanta. Because, dammit, Benton cared, and six seasons of character build-up actually meant something. I miss that 'ER', a show in which our emotional investments in the characters paid off, where our expectations weren't slashed for cheap effect by a wayward helicopter.

Noah Wyle is just 34, and theoretically, he has a long career ahead of him, though I can't imagine him as not-John Carter. If he does nothing else, still, dayenu. For eleven years, Carter was enough for us.

edited to add this, plus some more former Carter flings: Matt Zoller Seitz of the Newark Star-Ledger adds his thoughts: "Wyle gave the character an emotional, intellectual and philosophical consistency, and a depth that let us deduce what he was thinking and feeling even when he wasn't speaking. Wyle never lost track of Carter's essence. He played Carter as an American aristocrat who felt guilty over being born rich, yet who was too considerate and classy to make that guilt a matter of public record, and too well-bred to involve even his lovers and close friends in his private troubles, no matter how grim things got. . . . Wyle made you aware, on an almost subliminal way, that Carter was doing penance for his family's wealth. There were times when he seemed to embrace misfortune, as if he felt he did not deserve to be as smart and decent as he was as if these qualities were another form of inherited wealth. These character traits were rarely spelled out in dialogue, but they were there, and if you paid attention to Carter, you saw and appreciated them. "
AND I AM TELLING YOU I AM NOT FORGETTING: has its list today of the Top Ten All-Time American Idol Performances. They seem to have limited themselves to one per competitor, and here goes:
  1. Fantasia, "Summertime"
  2. Kelly Clarkson, "Stuff Like That There"
  3. Bo Bice, "Whipping Post"
  4. Jennifer Hudson, "Circle of Life"
  5. Ruben Studdard, "Superstar"
  6. Tamyra Gray, "A House Is Not A Home"
  7. Clay Aiken, "Unchained Melody"
  8. John Stevens, "Crocodile Rock" ("brilliant in its awfulness")
  9. Constantine Maroulis, "Bohemian Rhapsody"
  10. Trenyce, "Proud Mary"

My take: if you want to pick a perfectly awful performance, I'll still go for Corey Clark's "Against All Odds" or Josh Gracin's angry "Pie-Yannah Man".

As for the rest, I prefered Trenyce's "I Have Nothing" to "Proud Mary", Clay's Immigrant Mouse Song to "Unchained Melody", and Connie's "I Think I Love You" to his Queen.

And even sticking within the one-per-singer (otherwise, Ruben's "Kiss And Say Goodbye" and Fantasia's "I Believe" make the cut), I'll trade out Bo and Hudson for Frenchie's "And I Am Tellling You I Am Not Going" from the auditions and Kimberly Caldwell's "Come To My Window". Finally, there's no room for a bad song here, so axe that slot for George Huff's "Lean On Me" from the wildcards.

(You know who I miss from season three? Briana Ramirez-Rial. I thought she had real promise. You know who no one misses? Dunkleman.)

Overall, not a bad list, actually.
I AM SO NOT EATING THOSE WORDS: Back when the Wendy's chili digit debacle hit the papers I was heard to proclaim that "until they figure out whose finger it is, I'm assuming s/he went in whole." Well, as I'm sure many have already heard, they found stubby a while ago and the incident has devolved into a predictable if particularly macabre scam.

I don't bring this up because it's funny or because I can think of anything amusing or entertaining to riff off of it, but in the interest of providing equal time to the vindication of Wendy and her noble franchisees, steadfast employees and discriminating customers in keeping with the high standards set forth in the ALOTT5MA Macaroon Book of Journalistic(ish) Ethics.

Dine on, Biggie lovers! Dine on!
"IF HE'S RIGHT, I NEED NOT DIE A SLAVE": On this joyous day for the inner nerd in all of us, I offer you The Darth Side: Memoirs of a Monster, Lord Vader's weblog. It's quite good:
My name is Anakin Skywalker, and I am responsible for the death of my mother, because I broke our bond to pursue my ambition. I am responsible for the death of my wife, the mother of my child, the only woman strong enough and smart enough to win my faith. I am responsible for the death of Jedi Master Obi-wan Kenobi, who once tried to show me the real meaning of friendship and loyalty. And then there was Qui-gon Jinn who could have been like the father I never had, but Palpatine stole him from me.


I think I have always hated him, channeling my jealousy at his power and dignity into a sick kind of devotion. I wanted him to love me, but he is not really a man with a heart -- whatever daemon rules him has its tonsils deep in the darkest layers of this galaxy.

I know now that my master, Darth Sidious the Emperor Palpatine, means to betray the Sith and subvert the prophecy. He means to replace me with my son as his prodigal servant. So armed he means to rule the stars himself, forever.

This job has a glass ceiling.

His resume notes that his current job responsibilities include "quelling armed uprisings, advancing Imperial weapons research, and improving internal efficiency through a regimented programme of strangulation."

[I would be remiss if I did not also point you towards The Lotion And The Basket, Jame Gumb's weblog.]
HOPEFULLY, THEY'LL BE BETTER THAN HALLE BERRY: The film version of X-Men 3 has gained two new cast members. Kelsey Grammer is not who I would have initially thought of for the role of Hank "Beast" McCoy, but the article correctly notes that his personality, voice, and demeanor are dead on, even if the physique isn't. It'll be interesting to see how they handle the character--it could be a CG creation. More interestingly, Maggie Grace, better known as Shannon from "Lost," will play Kitty Pryde ("Shadowcat"). The shooting of X3 would seem to conflict with "Lost" shooting, so this may indicate something about the size of Grace's role either in X3 or on "Lost" next season. The casting's interesting, even if I have substantial doubts about new director Matthew Vaughn.
RIDDLE ME...DEAD: Frank "The Riddler" Gorshin will puzzle the Caped Crusader and Boy Wonder no more.

At least Catwoman still has a little fight left in her.
SO WILL DENNY START PRACTICING IN A BOWLING ALLEY: In Dennycrane related news, cast changes are afoot for season 2 of "Boston Legal." Out are Monica Potter and Rhona Mitra (thus scrapping the entire female cast which started with the show last season). In is "Ed" alum Julie Bowen. Given that Bowen's typical role has been much more sunshine-y than the tone "Boston Legal" has taken, will be interesting to see how she fits into the equation.
CSI: OMAHA IS FOR NEXT SEASON: And here's CBS's fall schedule. No real surprises, other than the insistence on retaining Crimetime Saturday (repeats of the various Bruckheimer crime dramas). TAR keeps its Tuesday at 9 berth. New shows are decidedly "eh," and are led by a bunch more crime dramas, a Jennifer Love Hewitt-led ripoff of Medium, and a show with a generic premise, but an interesting cast (Alyson Hannigan, Neil Patrick Harris, and Bob Saget). The strongest show appears to be mid-season entry The Unit, with Dennis Haysbert, Robert Patrick, Regina Taylor, Scott Foley, and Amy Acker leading a cast in a military action drama from David Mamet and the guy who came up with The Shield.

Also, any bets on whether Kornheiser makes mention of the fact that Listen Up is no more on PTI this evening?
"BECAUSE THEY'RE MADE OF METAL:" Our friends over at Fametracker today ask a pressing question--would you rather live in a world without Orlando Bloom, or a world without Roomba(TM). Despite their worries about the potential for world domination by Roombas (which may be well founded), they opt for Roomba over the pretty boy actor who's chosen lucky roles, and it's worth a moment of your time.
A STORY THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN MUCH MORE INTERESTING TWENTY YEARS AGO: Aging Philadelphia comic David Brenner is now engaged to former Olympic figure skater Tai Babilonia.

One noteworthy thing about the DN's coverage: it accurately reports Brenner's age as being 69. He's been trying to shave it for years, as this December 2002 Inq article explains. So, of course, the Inq wouldn't fall for the "he's 60" lie again, would they? D'oh!.
HOLD ME LIKE YOU DID BY THE LAKE ON NABOO: Alright, it's time for our geekdom stand-and-deliver moment -- when do you plan on seeing Revenge of the Sith? In case you were wondering what it's about, the WaPo's Stephen Hunter explains today that "it chronicles Anakin's earlier transformation, by which the righteous pilgrim, so handsome, so brave, so noble, so committed, lost his way and became Ahab or Macbeth or Raskolnikov or Faust, or John Wayne in "The Searchers," a figure of power and strength and charisma and intellect, all of it invested in madness and destruction," and if that doesn't scream popcorn!, I don't know what does.

I have no interest in braving the zoos of the first few days, but I'm tentatively planning on seeing it Monday night. You?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

BY RESIDENT ALOTT5MA MUSICOLOGIST BOB ELWOOD: As some of you may recall, a few weeks ago I discussed whether the O’Jays belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame using the Keltner Test from the 1985 Bill James Baseball Abstract. I had several requests to do the same analysis for other bands.

Today’s task is to evaluate whether Rush belongs in the Hall. I would like to thank Alan Promer, who was kind enough to look this over for me. Alan is a huge Rush fan (I am not) and I suspect that had he written this, it might well have had a different approach:

1. Was Rush ever regarded as the best band in rock music? Did anybody, while they were active, ever suggest that Rush was the best band in rock music?
I think you have to answer this one no. Be cool or be cast out.

2. Was Rush ever the best band in rock music in its genre?
This is an intriguing question since Rush does not fit neatly into a clearly defined genre. Hard rock? Progressive rock? “Album-oriented rock”? Rock sung by guys with really high-pitched voices?

Evaluating Rush also calls to mind the “peak value” vs. “career value” debate that dominates the discussion of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Rush has had an extraordinarily long and productive career, but has had limited “peak” success. For example, while many of its albums have hit the Top Ten, none has topped the album charts.

The Keltner list is designed to assess whether a given band deserves to be in the Hall, not whether a band is likely to be inducted. It’s an important distinction. My sense is that Rush has not garnered a great deal of support among the Hall voters, which suggests to me that the odds are that the band will not be inducted soon.

Rush started out as a hard rock band and quickly morphed from that proto-metal sound to a progressive rock approach. In the 1980s Rush was still thought of as a progressive rock band, but they were no longer writing long songs with science fiction themes. More recently, Rush has returned to hard rock/album rock. I would say, in general, the band’s genre is “album-oriented rock.”

There are really no directly comparable bands, but Yes is probably the closest thing in that both were progressive in the long-artsy-song-that-is-still “rock” sense, and both bands went to a more pop sound in the 1980s (Yes had “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” Rush had “Time Stand Still”).

Rush fans make an important and often overlooked point when they observe that the band has a virtuosity seldom achieved by other bands. Rush’s drummer Neil Peart won the Best Rock Drummer polls of Modern Drummer magazine no less than six years in a row (along with other awards for percussion), and was eventually given Hall of Fame status to give other drummers a chance. Geddy Lee has been voted Best Rock Bassist more than 6 times by readers of Guitar magazine, and is in that magazine’s Hall of Fame.

I will review Rush’s status within three musical genres below, but I truly think that this approach shortchanges the band. Meaning this as a compliment, Rush is the rare band that transcends easy categorization.

2(a) Hard Rock
The term “hard rock” is loosely defined, and is used most commonly to define radio station formats. Here is a great summary. The term overlaps somewhat with the term “heavy metal”, but among other differences, hard rock typically features the use of major keys, whereas heavy metal frequently uses minor keys.

Rush’s self-titled debut album resembles the work of Led Zeppelin. Led Zeppelin did a far better job at being Led Zeppelin than Rush did. Even Rush fans would have to admit that Rush’s hard rock albums are inferior to those of Led Zeppelin. Although Led Zeppelin had a much shorter career, their albums sold much better than Rush’s did and, unlike Rush, Led Zeppelin had 6 Top 40 songs and many other songs that got significant airplay.

Among other hard rock bands of that era, I think you would have to say that Deep Purple had more success in its short career than Rush has had. Deep Purple had 4 Top 40 hits, including “Smoke on the Water”, which virtually every guitar player knows. Rush has had better success on the album charts than Deep Purple has had.

Finally, each of AC/DC, Van Halen, Aerosmith, The Who, and Black Sabbath would also seem to warrant the nod over Rush based on each band’s hard rock body of work.

The “100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock” was a special on VH1 in 2002. It was a list of what a panel of experts considered to be the one hundred best acts of hard rock. While I don’t love the list, it is noteworthy that Rush ranked #28 on the list behind many bands that are not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The band’s poor showing may be a manifestation of its poor status among rock critics. For example, Robert Christgau, often referred to as the dean of rock music critics, often referred to as the dean of rock music critics, has only bothered to review one Rush album (and that album received an unfavorable review).

2(b) Progressive Rock
Many people think of Rush as a progressive rock band. Many people also think of progressive rock as excessively grandiose and more than a little precious. Rush fans observe (correctly) that Rush was a progressive rock band only from 1975 through 1979, a small segment of the band’s long life.

I think a decent number of progressive rock bands, such as Yes, Pink Floyd, Genesis, and, possibly Jethro Tull, achieved greater success than Rush did (particularly if you just consider Rush’s five years as a progressive rock band).

With some measure of sadness, I think you would have to conclude that Rush was never the best band in rock music in the progressive rock genre.

2(c) Album-Oriented Rock
Album-oriented rock, abbreviated AOR, is a broadly defined term, originally an American FM radio format focusing on album tracks by rock music artists rather than singles releases. Due to the broad definition, it’s hard to compare Rush to other AOR bands.

Wikipedia lists the following bands as examples of AOR:

Pink Floyd
REO Speedwagon

With the exception of Pink Floyd, a band that has obviously achieved more popular success than Rush, none of these bands really resemble Rush. Few of these bands have been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and I think the odds are long that any of them will ever be inducted.

2(d) Conclusion
Although I am sympathetic to the views of Rush fans, I don’t think you can say that Rush was ever the best band in rock music in its genre. Rush gets a “no” on this important question #2 in my opinion.

3. Did Rush have an impact on a number of other bands?
The All Music Guide lists 18 bands as “followers” of Rush, a relatively high number. That list includes Primus, a band that has achieved a fair measure of success. Metallica is not on the list, nor are The Smashing Pumpkins, but both probably should be there considering that the members of both bands have expressed their admiration for Rush and have cited Rush as an important influence. That being said, I am comfortable in saying that few of those 18 bands have enjoyed substantial commercial or critical success and only Metallica among the “follower” bands has any real chance of ever being elected to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

I think Rush deserves a yes on #3.

4. Was Rush good enough that the band could play regularly after passing its prime?
Rush deserves an emphatic yes on #4. The band’s last studio album peaked at # 6. That was in 2002, 28 years after the band began. Also, according to a fan website, "Rush has 22 consecutive gold records, and is fourth behind The Beatles, The Stones, and Kiss in all-time gold record acquisitions for a band. Fourteen of those albums have gone platinum."

5. Is Rush the very best band in history that is not in the Hall of Fame?
No. I am not going to do this systematically, but Rush is clearly not the very best band in history that is not in the Hall.

6. Are most bands who have comparable records in the Hall of Fame?
As discussed above in question #2, this is a hard question to answer in Rush’s case because there are few bands that are truly similar.

If, for example, you focus on albums that have been designated gold or platinum albums, then Rush is right up there with two “first ballot” Hall of Fame inductees -- the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. On the other hand, Rush has had only one single hit the pop charts. I suspect that just about every band that has been elected to the Hall has had considerably greater success in that regard.

I am going to score #6 as a “no”, but I acknowledge that reasonable minds could differ on this.

7. Do the band's records meet Hall of Fame standards?
See #6 and #2. I think this has to be a “no.”

8. Is there any evidence to suggest that the band was significantly better or worse than is suggested by its records?
Yes. See 2 above. The virtuosity of Neil Peart and Geddy Lee are a major factor in favor of Rush.

See also #3 above. Rush has been an influential band.

9. Is it the best band in its genre who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?
Probably not. See #2.

10. How many #1 singles/gold records did Rush have? Did Rush ever win a Grammy award? If not, how many times was Rush nominated?
No #1 singles. No gold singles.

22 gold albums, which is a very high number. Few members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame can even come close to that.

No Grammy awards, but Rush has received 3 Grammy nominations for “Best Rock Instrumental Performance.”

11. How many Grammy-level songs/albums did Rush have? How many Rolling Stone covers did they appear on? Did most of the bands who played in this many Rolling Stone covers go into the Hall of Fame?
I don’t know.

12. If this band was the best band at a concert, would it be likely that the concert would rock?
Yes. Rush puts on good concerts.

13. What impact did the band have on rock history? Was it responsible for any stylistic changes? Did it introduce any new equipment? Did it change history in any way?
Rush deserves a positive answer on #13. See # 3. Rush was a big influence on about 20 bands. That counts for something.

14. Did the band uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?
No major scandals as far as I know.

Conclusion: Rush deserves positive answers on only 7 of the 14 “Keltner” list questions. I think you would have to conclude on that basis that Rush does not belong in the Hall. --Bob Elwood
LET HIM ENLIGHTEN THE LAND: For an small subset of this blog's readership, the fact that first-time novelist Peter Pouncey refers to himself as 'Pounce Dog' in today's Times will bring great joy, along with wondering about how Kipper feels about it.

The rest of you can move along; nothing to see here.
THAT'S IT, THAT'S THE SHOW: It's not 100% official yet, but USA Today is reporting that Joan of Arcadia will not return next season (at least to CBS). Also apparently not returning? Jason Alexander and Malcolm Jamal-Warner's Kornheiser/Wilbon sitcom Listen Up, warhorse Judging Amy, and much-maligned newsmagazine 60 Minutes Wednesday.
WITH A MOLE ON HIS NOSE? One of our readers alerted me to this happy news: Moonlighting, seasons 1 & 2, is out on DVD on May 31.

That's right -- the first two seasons. Before They Did It, and it all turned to crap. Man, this was a show that TWoP would have loved, had the Internet been hatched a decade sooner.
THEY GOT R DONE: And the WB announces its schedule for next year, inexplicably renewing Blue Collar TV and Living With Fran, and delaying Amanda Bynes' screen career for yet another year by picking up What I Like About You. Pickups include Just Legal, a Don Johnson/Jay Baruchel dramedy in the vein of Ally McBeal, Related, a family dramedy from Marta Kaufmann, co-creator of Friends, and Liz Tuccillo, author of He's Just Not That In To You. Most interesting is a midseason show from the people behind Oz and Homicide, based around a college human behavior and sexuality class. With Everwood moving off of Mondays and to Thursdays against CSI and The Apprentice, the WB finally frees up my Monday nights.
BA DUBA DOP BA DO BOP: Ah, the innocence of the '90s when we had time to contemplate questions such as "what if I was Heathcliff?", to "watch the world wake up from history," to "drink a whiskey drink," and best of all to think about you and touch ourselves.

Relive those days of bitches, 500 mile walks, and closing times with Glide's Top 25 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the '90s.

Link via Stereogum, where you have to download the Paul Anka covers of "Wonderwall" and "Jump."
STAMOS IS A HAPPY MAN: Much to my surprise, newly resurgent ABC's schedule announcement represents significant shakeup. Only one night remains the same as it currently is (Sundays), while shows reshuffle all over the darn place. Among the moves of note:
  • Alias moves to Thursdays at 8, where we'll find out if Jennifer Garner can kick Mischa Barton's ass, assuming The O.C. remains in its current timeslot. (And Greg Grunberg is likely to return, as ABC has apparently passed on his pilot).
  • Boston Legal (as predicted by Adam) gets the Tuesdays at 10 slot formerly occupied by NYPD Blue and the late, unlamented, Blind Justice.
  • Lost moves to Wednesdays at 9, with the bizarre lead-in pair of George Lopez and Freddie, a new sitcom starring whipping boy Freddie Prinze, Jr.
  • ABC's most interesting new show, the Geena Davis as POTUS Commander in Chief, created by Rod Lurie, gets a nasty timeslot on Tuesdays at 9, pitting it against TAR, The Office, and Veronica Mars.

My projections? Wednesday eventually returns to a similar form we currently see it in rather than the bizarre shifting currently present with the comedies leading in to Lost. Today's big winners have to be Miss Tyra and Martha Stewart, whose reality shows now have much less competition in their current slot.

IT'S AUTOMATIC -- IT'S SYSTEMATIC -- IT'S HYDROMATIC: Want a quick smile? Read about the national championship West Philadelphia High eco-car design team that bested teams from car manufacturers and major universities in last week's Tour de Sol. Fifty mpg, 300 horsepower, and powered by soybean oil and electricity.

Monday, May 16, 2005

DON'T LOOK ETHEL! With Tiger Woods' streak of not missing the cut in 142 consecutive PGA tournaments coming to an end over the weekend, FOX Sports takes a look at The 10 Greatest Individual Streaks in Sports, starting with Joltin' Joe's 56-game hitting streak. Two current streaks make the list: Brett Favre's 225 straight starts at QB and Greg Maddux's 17 consecutive seasons of 15 or more wins.

Update: ESPN's Page 2 has its own list of the top sports streaks, with DiMaggio topping its list, too.
ONE WON BY THE GIPPER: Ronald Reagan tops CNN and Time's (you know the news magazine not causing rioting throughout the Muslim world) list of the 25 Most Fascinating People of the Last 25 Years, which apparently was leaked early to the Chinese press. Presidents Clinton and Bush the Younger make the list, while the older misses the cut. Otherwise you got your saints (the Pope, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, and Steve Jobs), sinnners (Osama, the Ayatollah, Saddam, Bill Gates, and Sam Walton) and even a pair of Chicagoans (MJ and Oprah).
DAMN YOU, BERLANTI! Greg Berlanti's had a good week. We start off with the (series) finale of "Jack & Bobby," which had a number of wonderful moments (and getting Tim Robbins and Norman Lear to play Republicans is no small achievement), and which really got back to the series' premise, opening up narrative paths while closing off others. But his greater achievement is "Everwood," which, after some rocky times late last season (Ephram and Madison, Amy and skeevy druggie guy) and early this season (Anne Heche), is now showing its stripes again as one of the best dramas on television, with this week featuring a surprise appearance from a star of a major hit show. Yes, I still miss Irv Voiceover (and lament the general disappearance of Irv and Sassy Nurse Edna), but the story never fails to surprise and never fails to evoke emotion. Put the first season on your Netflix queue over the summer--you won't be disappointed.
IT'S AWESOMTASTIC! From a reader who wished to remain coolnonymous comes this list of dictionary readers' top ten words not (yet) in the dictionary.

Rich Hall, call your lawyers. And Las Vegas Bee entrant Sue Yap, try to get this into your hopefully-not-immalleable head . . .
POWER SURGES, GOOD STROKES, BALLS FLYING ALL OVER THE PLACE: So how does the Phillies Bobby Abreu recover from having to see 'the sheets that move at great speed'?

By going 14 for 24 with six home runs in his last seven games, earning him NL Player of the Week honors.

I just wonder if they can get the other twenty-four Phillies' wives/fiancees onto reality tv. And soon.
SINGING, DANCING, AND SPELLING--A GOOD NIGHT AT THE RANCH: In decidedly non-Scripps Spelling Bee news, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, nominated for six Tony awards this year, will tour America, and you, too, could have the opportunity to spell live on stage, provided you do not behave like Hakapoo Man (not to be confused with Huckapoo, of course).
AD IS COMING BACK! Pardon my enthusiasm and lack of anything witty to say, but I am giddy about the fact that FOX has confirmed it is renewing Arrested Development. (Watch the James Dean thing and you can read the article.)

Sorry, Jack and Bobby fans.
DICK WOLF IS PISSED: NBC's fall schedule arrived today. Despite the general malaise, the biggest surprise is how little actually is changing. Thursdays (where NBC has shown significant slippage) remain as is. The biggest changes come on Wednesdays, where Martha Stewart is being sent on a suicide mission against the fictional castaways of "Lost," and Jerry Bruckheimer gets "The West Wing" slot with his new Benjamin Bratt/Dennis Hopper Pentagon drama "E-Ring." "West Wing" is the only returning show with a timeslot switch, moving to Sundays at 8, placing it against "Cold Case," "The Simpsons," and "Ty Pennington Takes Off His Shirt And People Cry." Casualties include "Medical Investigation," "Law & Order: Trial By Jury," and "Committed." Discuss.
SANDFORD AND SONGS: I've never read any John Sandford thrillers and I don't think I'll be picking up any soon after reviewing this list of his stock protagonist Lucas Davenport's top 100 rock songs, a good half of which are ones that make me lunge to change the radio station should they come on.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

BUOYED: I didn't believe we could ever see a final immunity challenge on Survivor as good as Lill v. Johnny Fairplay on the rafts.

This one may have been better. Wow. A fitting end to a great season. Let's talk.
THE ANSWER IS YETH: A.O. Scott has seen Revenge of the Sith:
This is by far the best film in the more recent trilogy, and also the best of the four episodes Mr. Lucas has directed. That's right (and my inner 11-year-old shudders as I type this): it's better than 'Star Wars.' . . .

But of course the rise of the Empire and the perdition of Anakin Skywalker are not the end of the story, and the inverted chronology turns out to be the most profound thing about the "Star Wars" epic. Taken together, and watched in the order they were made, the films reveal the cyclical nature of history, which seems to repeat itself even as it moves forward. Democracies swell into empires, empires are toppled by revolutions, fathers abandon their sons and sons find their fathers.

I believe that's enough to release the inner twelve-year-old in all of us.
"I'M NOT CRAZY": A lengthy, compelling piece in Time Magazine online by Christopher John Farley on Dave Chappelle, including an interview from South Africa. (id/pw here).

Fans should be comforted. Says Chappelle: "My personal feeling is I didn't like the direction of the show. I was trying to explain it to people, and no one was feeling me. There's a lot of resistance to my opinions, so I decided, Let me remove myself from this situation. You hear so many voices jockeying for position in your mind that you want to make sure that you hear your own voice. So I figured, Let me just cut myself off from everybody, take a minute and pull a Flintstone —stop a speeding car by using my bare feet as the brakes."
THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT IT FREES WILL FERRELL FOR 'ZOOLANDER 2: MUGATU'S REVENGE': And the bad news is that Roger Ebert reports today on the off-again film adaptation of A Confederacy of Dunces, beloved by many here.
S-P-E-L-L-E-R OF THE DAY: Today, we highlight Calvin Lau, who will be representing the U.S. Military stationed in Europe at the National Spelling Bee next month.

Calvin is based at the Schweinfurt American Middle School in Schweinfurt, Germany, where his father Frederic Lau is Sgt. 1st Class, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry, a unit whose alumni include Robert E. Lee and George McClellan, and whose forces captured fugitive Confederate Presidnet Jefferson Davis.

What advice did Sgt. Lau give his son?
“One of the tips I always give him is know the origin (of the word) because lots of different languages spell it different ways. At some point you’re going to meet a word you’ve never heard of before. That’s going to happen. The best advice I gave him before he went was make sure you understand exactly what you have to spell before you start spelling … you have to know the word before you start.”

If you think Calvin's the speller coming from the farthest away, oh, wait and see . . .
HE CROSSED THE LINE: Despite the frequent admonitions around these parts, I have never been a regular watcher of "America's Next Top Model." However, last night, my family was sitting around (I'm at a family gathering deep in Texas) and came across the marathon on VH1 and were oddly captivated by super-crazy contestant Keenyah (did you know she's black?), contestant Kahlen, who doesn't look all that pretty on TV, but nonetheless takes gorgeous photos, and of course, Janice Dickinson, the psycho hose beast. That said, couldn't they come up with a better catchphrase for the conclusion? Things like "The Tribe Has Spoken" and "You're Fired!" are much clearer, cleaner and snappier than "I'm pleased to tell you you're still in the running toward becoming America's Next Top Model."