Saturday, October 21, 2006

IT STARTS OUT WITH A VISION: I could not be happier to announce that I've finally found a new working link to the Barack Obama theme song, which we haven't had for some time. Enjoy, because there aren't any new campaign theme songs I know of this term -- not even from former Orleans lead singer John Hall (NY-19).

Yes, I'm sure I'll read the book, but first I need to get through my just-delivered Spy: The Funny Years, a hardcover compilation of the best that the snark-eriffic publication had to offer, including the complete Philip Weiss article "Inside Bohemian Grove", unavailable online and previously hailed on these pages as My Favorite Magazine Article Ever.
ALSO, ALBERT PUJOLS NEEDS A NICKNAME: Official baseball predictions and analysis thread. I'll take Cardinals in six, just because it's so illogical to think that the Tigers won't just continue this momentum.
I'M EMMY WINNER CHEVY CHASE AND YOU'RE NOT: Since 1998, it's been commonplace to refer to Academy Award Winners Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in press materials even though neither has won for acting, so I was curious what allowed Law and Order to promote the upcoming appearance of "Emmy-winner Chevy Chase!" as notMelGibsonreallysirpleasedon'tsue us. The answer? Mr. Chase has three Emmys, one for co-writing this episode of SNL, one for his performance in this episode of SNL, and one for co-writing the 1977 Paul Simon Special. Sadly, The Chevy Chase Show was snubbed when it came to the Emmys.

Friday, October 20, 2006

HEY HIRO, WANT TO TRY SOME SNOW CRASH? Adam has pointed me to an article from that puts some flesh on the bones of the vitual-economy question some of us were turning over the other day with respect to trade within gameworlds and its all-too-frequent translation into profit in the real world. It's about the Second Life game/service/space/thing and a man who's suing the company that runs it for confiscating his virtual holdings.

I don't play around in Second Life, mostly because it doesn't -- from what I gather, anyway -- offer significantly more swordplay, explosions or space battles than my average afternoon at the office. It's conceptually interesting to me as a creative community and social space, but what I really want from virtual recreation is the chance to blow stuff up, or hack it to bits, without real world consequences. The comparative tedium of chatting with a guy who prefers to present himself as a blue-haired leather goddess... that, I can get on the subway.

But the article and the lawsuit beg the same question as the proposed Congressional economic analysis of in-game transactions: when should your virtual "property" be assessed, assigned (or otherwise legally recognized as having) a real world value? "The second somebody pays you for it," is my answer, and no sooner.

I think the Second Life Terms of Service make this abundantly clear, at least as a practical matter:
5.2 All data on Linden Lab's servers are subject to deletion, alteration or transfer.

When using the Service, you may accumulate Content, Currency, objects, items, scripts, equipment, or other value or status indicators that reside as data on Linden Lab's servers. THESE DATA, AND ANY OTHER DATA, ACCOUNT HISTORY AND ACCOUNT NAMES RESIDING ON LINDEN LAB'S SERVERS, MAY BE DELETED, ALTERED, MOVED OR TRANSFERRED AT ANY TIME FOR ANY REASON IN LINDEN LAB'S SOLE DISCRETION.

Similar provisions are in the EULA and/or terms of service for every persistent world on-line game I've ever played.
OLD RED EYES IS BACK: Many out there probably had better things to do with a fine Friday night in early autumn, and are saving their Battlestar Galactica on the Tivo (or similar) for viewing on a lazy weekend afternoon when there's nothing good on.

For those of us who (a) stayed in, and (b) can't wait, however, here is an open thread.
IN ITS FAVOR, I DO NOT BELIEVE ANY OBNOXIOUS REALITY COMPETITOR HAS EVER TATTOOED 'ST. LOUIS' ON HIS THROAT: Eminem v. Nelly. Faygo v. Anheuser-Busch. Windsor v. East Saint Louis. Chuck Berry v. Bob Seger. Stan Musial v. Hank Greenberg. Leon Spinks v. Joe Louis. . . .

Evaluate the relative merits of Detroit and St. Louis on any metric you want -- except, of course, the relative merits of their current baseball teams, which we'll save for another thread.
McFILTHYRICHLINGERIEMODELANDSMARTTOBOOT: I don't recall whether there was a Grey's post before the blogout started stealing things, but if not, here's a thought: Doesn't Izzy have to cash that check in time to pay her taxes?
RRRAAAHRRR! Me Blogger! Me eat posts! Yum.
AN ATTITUDE SO NASTY THAT HE ACTUALLY MADE SOMEBODY'S MAMA CRY: Pulitzer Prize-winning WaPo fashion writer Robin Givhan says the right person won Project Runway:
The Los Angeles-based designer won because the collection he showed in Bryant Park during New York's fashion week in September was creative, surprising and unique. It had a distinctive point of view that set it apart from the other contestants' collections. It did not ape the sensibility of a more established brand. It was not aimed at filling a niche in the marketplace or some hole in a woman's wardrobe. Its goal was to spark desire in a customer for something she never dreamed she wanted. Sebelia did not do that with every garment. In fact, he really only accomplished it with one dress -- perhaps two. His spiraling zippers were dazzling, and they made his point. (Besides, if he'd been able to do that consistently, he wouldn't be on "Project Runway," he'd be working for Gucci Group.)

Laura Bennett's collection was elegant and safe. Her cocktail dresses and gowns are sound answers for a woman who is seeking sophisticated evening clothes with a blend of glamour and sex appeal. But Bennett doesn't offer new ideas, just nicely modulated and tweaked versions of pre-existing aesthetics.

Uli Herzner's clothes delight the eye but they can be redundant. Her skill is not based on silhouettes or proportions but on her adeptness with colors and prints. Herzner makes what could be cacophonous into something harmonious. . . .

Knight had an aesthetic meltdown as he worked on his collection. He has said that his design hero is Gianni Versace. But Versace's sexy, just-this-side-of-sleazy style requires enormous skill. The late designer's body-revealing clothes were feats of engineering, giving the impression that they were hanging precariously off the body while providing modesty precisely where it was needed. The key to Versace style was not submitting to wild abandon but making calculated use of restraint.

Knight's youth and inexperience were his undoing. At 28, he was the youngest of the finalists and needed an objective eye to keep him on track, to tell him when he'd gone overboard. He needed "Project Runway's" resident consigliere, Tim Gunn. Knight's reliable good taste turned bad.
The final line might provoke an argument or two: "Sebelia was kept on because he provided more than just wicked entertainment. He was talented and creative. And more than any other contestant, he was a fashion designer and not just a guy trying to make nice clothes."

edited to add: The Trib's Maureen Ryan has a lengthy interview with Tim Gunn.
THE GIRL WHO CAME OUT JUST IN TIME FOR A FORTUITOUS PHOTO ASSIGNMENT: Not much to say about this week's Top Model, except that the makeup artists and hair stylists for the "look like a star" challenge deserve some serious props. Melrose remains at least as old as Jenascia was short, even if the judges haven't called her on it yet, and the best improvement to the show remains the increasing wackiness of the judges' deliberations, though nothing yet tops Miss J's rousing gospel number, "She Don't Want To Be Here, Send Her Home". Caridee's still my pick to win.

Eight models remain, but I have reading this blog maybe seven readers who will proceed to post in the comments section. If Jaeda can still hang around, maybe you will too.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

FOOL ME, FOOL ME, GO ON AND FOOL ME: Was I expecting tonight's Office to end up being as affecting as the awkward ending of "Valentine's Day"? Not exactly. But the squeaky Aeron often gets the love, and everyone in Scranton is still trying to figure out how everything fits together without Jim.

So fill out your time sheets and join us in the comments -- the next Pretzel Day is only 364 days away!
CONTINUING OUR ROUND-THE-CLOCK COVERAGE OF JEFF ZUCKER'S AGITA: As Matt mentioned below, NBC has announced that it will no longer air scripted entertainment in the 8:00 hour. I heard Marisa Guthrie from the NY Daily News say on the pictureless television I have in my car that Earl and The Office are being grandfathered, but it sounds as if FNL, 30 Rock, and 20 Good Years are either moving or dead. The rationale is that the stagnant ad revenues for the 8:00 hour (with the possible exception of Thursdays) can't match the skyrocketing costs of scripted programming. FNL, for example, costs $1.5MM more to produce per episode than Pick A Briefcase, Any Briefcase: Don't Touch The Host.

Of course, this begs the question: in a TiVo world, who cares?
THEY SEE ME ROLLIN' ON MY SEGWAY: And not just any Segway. GOB Bluth's Segway is available for you to buy for a mere $3,550 on EBay. Yeah, I'm white and nerdy.
FED LVL SUBCOMMITTEE WTB CLUE, PST ASAP: According to the BBC, the Congressional Joint Economic Committee is taking the time to study the in-game economics of MMOGs. It seems that, like all noobs, they can't help worrying that maybe they're getting pwnd at the AH.
"There is a concern that the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) might step forward with regulations that start taxing transactions that occur within virtual economies," said Mr Saxton. "This, I believe, would be a mistake."
Or at least silly. It would be like insisting that checkers enthusiasts cough up a nickel every time they cry "king me!" But whatever, no doubt the effort to make things clear to the powers that be will provide a few more amusing moments of grappling between the old and the new. No doubt, as well, that the RL interest of IRS and other well-intentioned, non-comprehending public servants was piqued by the revelation that:
"Studies of game activity suggest the time and effort put into these online worlds has an economic impact equivalent to the GDP of Namibia."
I doubt that's accurate. These are bad studies, or at least incomplete. Italy is probably more like it.
AND SUDDENLY THERE ARE MORE PEOPLE ON THE BEACH WHO ACT LIKE THEY'VE BEEN THERE ALL ALONG: I have a love/hate relationship with Lost's Lockecentric episodes. On the one hand, I adore Terry O'Quinn as well as the Locke character (Locke's season 2 wussosity notwithstanding), but every time we go to a Locke flashback, I get tense in anticipation. Which new terrible isolating things will happen to him this time? (And for a necessary followup: will this be the episode in which we find out the story with his legs?) This episode did nothing to alleviate my melancholy -- I just feel so sad for the poor guy, trying to find his place in the world. Which is a testament to the character and the actor, of course, but it doesn't make me any less sad.

And then there's Desmond. What is this, Heroes?
GIVING JEFF ZUCKER ADDITIONAL AGITA: Well, it seems that with the exception of Ugly Betty, Heroes, and Jericho, all of this fall's new series are, at best, commercial disappointments, and, at worst, disasters. That leads us to a second question--what's been the biggest miss among returning shows from a commercial and/or creative perspective? Some risky and unexpected moves have come off well (What About Brian? has not completely tanked, the move of Grey's has been enormously successful, and Criminal Minds has emerged as a bona fide hit), but others have proven less effective (the massively expensive and much-maligned renewal of 7th Heaven is a complete bust for the CW, Law and Order has failed to provide a boost to NBC on Fridays, and Without A Trace has gone from beating ER on Thursday to kind of quietly whimpering on Sundays), and none of the shows that went through substantial creative changes over the summer (Prison Break, Gilmore Girls, Boston Legal, Close To Home) seem to be experiencing commercial or critical upticks as a result. Perhaps the better question is what's gone right for the networks this year?
AND THE WINNER IS... THE FROG LEG LOLLIPOP: The second season of Top Chef got underway tonight in the "please don't change the channel" ratings-fluffer spot behind the PR Bryant Park broadcast. Anybody down? We're watching here, because we're creatures of habit quite accustomed to Wednesday nights on the couch with the cats thank you and because Philomena lives in eternal hope of my learning to cook something other than pasta, chicken and fish.

After only one episode we don't really know anybody. At first blush, however, they seem a little more mature and reserved than last year's generally out-sized cast of personalities. I've given Marcel (with the French name and the please-hate-me edit) the temporary moniker "Teen Wolf", but can't decide if he more closely resembles Michael J. or Jason B. And why does Fox only want to show me that page in Spanish??

Anyway: currently scheduled for Wednesdays at 10. Blogging will be random and light.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

THERE CAN BEAD ONLY ONE: The Project Runway season three finale is now final. At the Throckmorton Manse, we loved pretty much everything Uli sent down the runway, 11/12ths of Jeffrey's effort, 3/4ths of Laura's and more than half of Michael's.

Michael, faulted for "turning the volume up" perhaps too far, admittedly had a few outfits that would have looked about right on Princess Ardala of Ye Olde Buck Rogers TV Show. Nonetheless it was a good finale all around with some really beautiful and innovative concoctions that, frankly, compared to last year, left us well and properly amazed.

In the interest of remaining spoiler-free, let's save the rest for the comments. Strong opinions, as always, are more than welcome.
REPRESENTATION WITHOUT INTELLECTUALIZATION: We don't wade into the political morass too often here, but as we near the midterm elections, I wanted to point to Radar's amusing and frightening list of America's 10 Dumbest Congressmen. Both sides of the aisle are represented, but its hard to believe there wasn't room to include Sens. Ted "Tubes" Stevens (R-AK), Sam "Charts" Brownback (R-KS), and Rick "Man on Dog" Santorum (R-PA).

Meanwhile, while other presidential candidates quibble about whether they once shared a quiet after dinner drink or played a marathon game Estonian Vodka Pong , Time Magazine is beating the Obama in '08 drum loudly this week, with the junior senator from Illinois peering out with those dreamy, yet earnest eyes from newsstands coast to coast.
SMOKE THIS, PROMETHEUS: Sure, you stole fire from the Gods and paid for it by having your liver picked at by a bird every day, but when it comes to having an influence on us, you pale in comparison to Godzilla, Archie Bunker, and the Marlboro Man. The smoking cowboy just so happens to top the the list of The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived. The authors of the book explain just what the hell their list and book mean here.

And Prometheus, cheer up. At least you finished 32 spots above Joe Camel.
I SENSE THE MAKINGS OF ANOTHER HBO MOVIE: Now, I think everyone can agree that from a creative and comedy aspect, NBC handing off The Tonight Show to Conan come 2009 is the right call, but according to Variety, some folks at NBC are questioning whether it's the right business decision. So you're NBC--your primetime schedule is largely in shambles and late night and the news division are your main bulwarks--what do you do? And if you're Conan O'Brien or Jon Stewart, what do you do? I assume Conan takes the money and runs over to CBS or FOX (assuming Stewart hasn't been given the chair at CBS by that point).
DOES THIS REMIND ANYONE ELSE OF TRACK 9 ON BNL'S "GORDON"? Years ago, I remember coming across a box set for Wang Chung. "Wang Chung has a box set?" I thought to myself, marveling that a band with a scant handful of hits, only one of which is sublime, could be the subject of a box set. Of course, since then any number of minor bands have had box sets. This site has a funny but scathing review of the "pre-Christmas Greatest Hits S***-Shoveling Season."
LIFE IS SHORT -- EAT DESSERT FIRST: Not that I think anyone ever needs an excuse to eat a cupcake, but in case you need motivation, here it is.

I'm partial to the Buttercup Bake Shop's cupcakes, myself, although Crumbs has lately been taking a run at the title. Anyone else have a preferred cupcakerie?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

YOU LEARN SOMETHING NEW EVERY DAY: Apparently, when you tell a three-and-a-half year-old that there once was a cat named Toonces who knew how to drive a car, if she goes on a pre-school field trip to the Art Museum and sees a painting with a kitten in it, she may well explain to the teacher "maybe the cat is driving a car -- like Toonces!" Just saying, is all, though I think I'm going to hold off on telling her that Tonto, Frankenstein and Tarzan used to sing together.
SO DID GOB BLUTH HAVE SUPERPOWERS? It's worth noting that by virtue of its silent crossover with Las Vegas (the casino in this week's episode was the Montecito from Las Vegas, apparently to conserve set money and save a location shoot), Heroes has officially become the first new show of the 2006 TV season to join the Tommy Westphal multiverse.

Edited: I am informed that notwithstanding the statements on that site, Dr. Westphal's son is, in fact, Tommy Westphall. ALOTT5MA regrets the error.
A WORLD FULL OF OXEN AWAITS THEM: TVgasm is reporting that The Amazing Race: All Star Edition will begin filming next month, with Colin & Christie and Mirna & Schmirna the first two teams believed to have signed up.

Who else would I like to see again? The Guidos. Team Cha Cha Cha. Gus & Hera. Gary and Dave (even more than Kevin and Drew). John Vito and Jill. TerIan. Jon & Al (Best Friends/Clowns). Lori & Bolo. Chip & Kim. And Mrs. Paolo and one of her sons from The Season We Don't Talk About.

That's twelve teams. Who am I missing?
NOW SIT RIGHT BACK AND YOU'LL HEAR A TALE: Has anyone else noticed one trend that seems unescapable in almost every new show this year? It's the death of the theme song and opening titles. Heroes, Studio 60, The Nine, 30 Rock, Friday Night Lights, Brothers and Sisters, Six Degrees? The most any of theme have is a 2 second title card and musical cue. The Class does a little better, with its 15-20 second theme without credits (and scores points for apparently using real school photos of the performers). Even shows that used to have full title sequences, like Grey's Anatomy, have dropped them. I think Twenty Good Years had credits, but I'm trying to repress the entire broadcast, and Justice scores with "Lawyers, Guns, and Money," but am I the only one who misses the theme song? At least give us the haunting single note of Lost or the dah-dah-dah-dah! fanfare of How I Met Your Mother.
WHAT THE HELL LEAGUE YOU BEEN PLAYIN' IN? CALIFORNIA PENAL: Wesley Snipes can jump, but can't run from the IRS now that he's been indicted for not filing tax returns from 1999-2004. He could face sixteen years in prison.
BAD SPORTS: Giant lists the eight worst sportscasters and there's nary a mention of Lamar Thomas. And why limit it to eight when Joe Morgan, Stu Scott, and the entire Monday Night crew (sorry, Tony, but comparatively Dennis Miller was a font of insight).

And speaking of Monday 'bout them Bears? You have seen Dennis Green's unbleeped press conference, haven't you?

And speaking of coaching tirades, will Lou Piniella be bringing Lee Elia back to Chicago? Good thing the Cubs play night games now so the other 85 percent of people can see some baseball.
BUT DO THE RUSSIANS LOVE THEIR CHILDREN, TOO? Now, I enjoyed Sting's lute-driven version of Fields of Gold on S60 last night (which Sepinwall kind of liked), but the new album--I'm not buying--and I own copies of Mercury Falling and Brand New Day. I really have no desire to listen to tracks like "The Most High and Mighty Christianus the Fourth, King of Denmark" and "Fine knacks for ladies."
DON'T THEY HAVE LASER GUNS IN THE FUTURE? Somebody mentioned last week that Heroes is already in a pattern where it floats along for most of the episode and then really delivers with the cliffhanger. And then came this week, when there were actual reasons to watch the episode -- namely, gambling, stripping, ass-kicking, and revenge; but also a number of the characters starting to figure out how to use their powers to their advantage -- and then delivered the most exciting and out-of-the-blue cliffhanger since two weeks ago. Somebody has figured out that we're suckers for cliffhangers, that's for sure.
I SWEAR, THE BEST THING ABOUT THE EPISODE WAS AMANDA PEET'S SWEATSHIRT: Yes, Aaron, that's right -- quality television programming need not be the exclusive province of HBO. So when is Studio 60 going to start delivering some?

Oddly, I thought the comedy was actually the best part this time, between the Nic Cage and Nancy Grace impressions and Nate Cordry's slumbering Lobster Boy, which may or may not have been a Bob Roberts homage. But in terms of providing a drama about which I cared, I just wasn't feeling it last night. You?

Monday, October 16, 2006

BUT WILL THEY BRING SEXYBACK? Because of the silly eligibility year, we missed the Grammy cutoff (September 30). Because of the oddball eligibility year, stuff winds up being eligible for awards in February 2007 that was big in the fall of 2005 (just one of many problems with the Awards). There are a few obvious front-runners and questions (Will the Dixie Chicks ride political sentiments out of the country categories and into Record/Album/Song of the Year? Can Christina Aguilera transcend mixed reviews for Back To Basics and score big nominations?). One of the more interesting categories in years is Best New Artist--The Fray and KT Tunstall seem like locks, and under the strange "prominence" standard, OK Go could get in, plus critical favorite Corinne Bailey Rae. Most interestingly, a person who was nominated for (and lost) the Best New Artist Grammy as a solo artist could be nominated for the same award this year as part of a group. For 10 points, name that artist, who is likely to lose most awards to the Dixie Chicks in their primary category.
THE BEST NAME IN POLITICS SINCE CASHMERE MCLEOD: Gavin Newsom, the recently-bachelored mayor of San Francisco, is dating a 20-year-old named Brittanie Mountz.

No, it is not a stage name. But it should be.
LA LA LA LA, KUH-BAHM-BUH: Under the terms of a wager established prior to the competition, you'll have to visit The Wife's blog for a report on the 2006 Wellfleet Oysterfest maritime-themed spelling bee for adults, in which we both competed. From AY-kwee-uhs to FOSS-furh-ESS-unss to the bird known as a GREEB, it was a good day, and a great read for you all.
LOOKING GOOD, BILLY RAY! GQ takes a look at the the 25 most stylish films of all time.
WHAT THE HELL IS GOOFY? Thanks to some employees at Paris Disney, we have the answer to that age-old question. He's a horndog.

Video is SFW, but NSFTWDWTCMODS (not safe for those who don't want their childhood memories of Disneyland shattered).
I ALWAYS THOUGHT THE TEACHERS LIVED IN THE SCHOOL: While Battlestar Galactica is getting all the praise, the other half of "Sci-Fridays," Doctor Who, was top-notch this week, featuring high school students being forced by bat-like aliens (led by Rupert Giles!) to crack the secrets to god-like power, apparent continuity porn for those who've been watching the show since the 60s that paid off for new viewers like me as well (the Sarah Jane plotline), robo-dogs, and chips (the British kind, not the computer kind) that make you smarter. I still miss Christopher Eccelston's gleefully mad Doctor, but David Tennant is a servicable replacement, and Billie Piper is certainly making a far better singing to acting transition than, say, Jessica Simpson.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

ALL THIS, AND EVIL SLOW-MOTION SNACKING! Yes, it's a pain in the ass to remember, but every-other week, including this one, CBS has a football doubleheader, and the Race is likely to run at leasdt half-hour late.

But what thrills from this TAR Classic leg: airport intrigue! India! Ugly Americanism! A classic reckless/chicken detour! Alli-crocodiles, homeless cows and sinister-looking monkeys! A truly awesome concept for a local roadblock, Madras shirts, and let's not forget, gang: don't drink and drive.

Oh, yeah, and a rules change we need to discuss in the Comments.

Oh, yeah, and robot camels are coming.

One strategery note: in flight situations like this, where you're being told there won't be flights until the next day in some cases, isn't the best bet always to Keep Moving, get in the main country as quickly as you can and figure that you can work the last local flights once you get there? Even if it takes one more flight to do it, idle time is wasted -- don't sit in the airport all day when you could be going . . . somewhere.
HD DVD OR BLU-RAY? There is an interesting article in this week's New Yorker about the battle between the two high definition DVD technologies -- Toshiba's HD DVD and Sony's Blu-ray. Have any of you bought a hi-res player yet?

I am planning to buy a Toshiba HD DVD player soon. The price for the Toshiba players has dropped a lot (under $400 at amazon). In contrast the Blu-ray players generally cost about twice as much.

More importantly, the reviews for the first Blu-ray player are weak, while those for the Toshiba are consistently positive.