Saturday, November 18, 2006

YOU KNOW MY NAME: It's easier to discuss Casino Royale by noting what it doesn't have:
  • Ludicrous gadgets. Cell phones and laptops are used frequently, a couple of small GPS devices play a major role, and Bond's car has a hiding place for medical supplies and a gun, but no missiles that pop out of headlights, tuxedos with built in parachutes, or laser watches. No Q or R at all. Marshall J. Flinkman would be disappointed.
  • Ludicrous deathtraps. No cages suspended over shark tanks or laser beams that are positioned to slowly slice Bond in half. Sure, there's a nasty little bit involving a chair with the seat cut out and a large rope with knots in it.
  • A villain with bizarre and/or incomprehensible motivation and bizarre physical tic. Yes, Le Chiffre has a condition in which he cries tears of blood, but no "former Korean general who's had plastic surgery to look like a British aristocrat" or "man with bullet lodged in his head so he feels no pain" here. And what does he want? Money. And not in a "I'll start World War III for the ratings!" sense, but just he wants his money.
  • A lengthy pre-credits action sequence. We get about five minutes of black and white before the credits, and you have to wait for the ludicrous (and brilliant) action sequence until after the credits (a foot chase involving a construction site and "free running" that's astounding to watch).
  • The traditional Bond movie ending. No "Christmas comes but once a year" here.

It's brutal, effective, and jarring. Well worth your time. Be forewarned that the comments are a spoiler zone, since I expect some people will have comments on the third act of the film, which serves as a pretty big departure from traditional Bondism.

BIG BLUE TRIUMPHS OVER RED IN HISTORIC FOOTBALL RIVALRY; CLAIMS RIGHT TO SAY 'WE'RE NUMBER ONE': For the first time since 2000, Yale beat Harvard -- this time, convincingly -- for a share of the Ivy title. That's what you thought the headline was about, right?
THE POLICE ARE HERE TO PRESERVE THE GREATEST HITS OF THE '80s: Chicago police, not a group usually known for their sense of humor, today wrapped up a three-month infiltration of an open-air crack cocaine market located on the city's southwest side at 63rd Street and Mozart Ave. Not generally the kind of news we mention in these parts, except the police called their investigation "Operation Rock Me Amadeus."

Friday, November 17, 2006

I GUARANTEE THAT LOVE WILL FIND YOU: The Broadway adaptation of The Wedding Singer has a couple of big problems. The first stems from how the adaptation is structured. The show opens with an incredibly fun and high energy number for the whole company called "It's Your Wedding Day," built around a simple hook and beat, and we don't reach that height again in songwriting. There are a number of fun production numbers later on ("Casualty of Love," "Saturday Night In The City," "All About The Green") and a decent ballad ("If I Told You"), but none are particularly memorable from a musical or lyrical standard. By shooting the production's wad early (indeed, a reprise of "Wedding Day" is the finale), it hurts.

The second problem is endemic to the source material. Heroine Julia Sullivan is given a sum total of one personality trait--"adorable." Perhaps this was exacerbated by the fact that the standby for Julia went on tonight rather than the ordinary performer, but while the actress sings nicely and gazes wistfully a lot, there's no "there" there, which makes it difficult to get attached to the character and the relationship. If you're going to make changes to the film script (and changes are made, including a reworked finale and the dropping of many well-known bits, including both "Things that could have been brought to my attention YESTERDAY!" and "I have a microphone, and you don't, so you will listen to every damn word I have to say!"), it should address this structural problem. This problem is made worse by the fact that the wonderful Amy Spanger is relegated to the role of Holly, Julia's slutty buddy, and imbues her role with spark and sass throughout (why hasn't this woman gotten to originate a lead on Broadway yet?). Hell, the show itself recognizes that Julia is kind of boring, giving the big Act I finale number to Holly.

Not all is bad. In addition to Spanger, Stephen Lynch, as Robbie, makes the smart choice and makes Robbie his own rather than trying to play Adam Sandler playing Robbie. Rather than a rageaholic, Lynch's Robbie is more affable and authentic, which could have made the Robbie-Julia relationship more tender if Julia had been given a personality. Felicia Finley, as Robbie's ex, knocks her two numbers (both written as 80s hair metal) out of the park, and the most pleasant surprise is Constantine Maroulis, who plays Robbie's buddy and bassist with just the right amount of winking and sleaze without reaching the point of being loathsome. It's not a perfect musical, but it got my toes tapping and left me smiling, and for those of us who've already seen Hairspray, it's good fun. Expect to see it as a fairly common high school musical choice in 5-6 years--opportunity for big ensemble, no particularly complicated sets needed, and lots of featured roles for guys and girls alike.
'YOU LIKE?' IS THE NEW 'I'M RICK JAMES, BITCH' IS THE NEW 'ISN'T THAT SPECIAL' IS THE NEW 'YOU LOOK MAHVELOUS' IS THE NEW 'AMAZING CINDERELLA STORY': I've seen a bunch of these on the YouTubes and the Defamers and what not, so let's just get to the point quickly. If you're not waking up every morning next to Isla Fisher, your Borat is NOT FUNNY.
MR. WHEAT? The notoriously press-shy Eddie Murphy will be appearing on Inside the Actors Studio next month. If you had the opportunity to interview him, what would you ask?
THE LIGHTS OF L.A. COUNTY LOOK LIKE DIAMONDS IN THE SKY: I've been meaning to blog this for days now, but there's good news and bad news from up above Los Angeles. The good news is that the Griffith Observatory has finally, at long last, reopened, and it looks fantastic. In a city whose most prominent architectural landmarks are frequently shiny, empty shells, confrontational one-liners, decaying and figuratively buried treasures*, and grotesque kitsch, the Observatory stands alone. It is an elegant, period-appropriate piece of WPA-era (but privately-funded) deco work that perfectly embodies both its function and its aspiration. It's nice to see it all gussied up.

The bad news is that in fixing and expanding the building, the city made some unfortunate choices. First, you can't just drive there. You have to make a reservation to take a shuttle from several miles away. This is a disaster. The Observatory was a great place to go on a whim with kids or out-of-town guests, even if you weren't going in. Nice grassy lawn, unparalleled views of the city. Plus, how am I supposed to play chicken for Natalie Wood's affections now?

Second, the Observatory has turned its back on its historic role as the birthplace of the laser rock show. I saw my first Laser Floyd show in Seattle when I was in the seventh or eighth grade, and I saw many thereafter -- and Laser Rock, and Laser Zeppelin, and even Laser Billy Squier too -- and have good memories, bad memories, and lack of memories of those nights. I guess I'm just sad that there wasn't room halfway between the Sunset Strip and the Milky Way for a fewscore teens looking for the right visual and musical accompaniment (chemical accompaniment sold separately) to a listless Friday night.

*This one's getting an expensive restoration too -- apparently paid for in part, and in true Hollywood fashion, by roles as Jack Rudolph's dining room in the S60 pilot and as Ellen DeGeneres's yoga studio in the Amex commercials.
KIM LIKES THE GRAND ROMANTIC GESTURE: Why am I not surprised that Chandra Wilson has a lovely singing voice? My money's on the pipes of Sara Ramirez for the Very Special Christmas episode. Four things I especially liked about last night's GA:
  • Callie as the sole doctor able to get through to George's rockhead brothers
  • Every minute of the Frank and his pecs storyline, including but not limited to the Alex/Izzie pre-grand romantic gesture bonding
  • Burke and Christina's brightly empty smiles whenever confronted by George
  • The chief leaving Ellis -- again

And then there's GA's attempt to weigh in on the plight of the working mother. My thoughts on such matters usually don't find their way onto this particular blog, but I did find it interesting that of the various relationships presented, we had (a) the obsessive lawyer mom who couldn't interact with her daughter, (b) the single mom who ignored her daughter in favor of her work even during her submersion into an Alzheimer's fog, (c) the woman who chose never to have kids in light of her work, and (d) the mom who never thought to sing to her baby over the phone until she encountered a child who only wanted her nanny. Not a functional working mother-child relationship among them, although Bailey's coming closest.


WHAT IS THE PHILLIE PHANATIC? The question is why are so many people coming here today to find out which mascot Lonnie Smith once attacked?
I FORGET, WHAT IS THE MAIN INGREDIENT IN SOYLENT GREEN? With Fast Food Nation opening today, VH1 takes a look at the 10 Movie Meals That Won't Make You Go 'Mmm,' including Ally Sheedy's Pixie Stick and Cap'n Crunch sammie in Breakfast Club and a certain meal that ended with just a wafer-thin mint.

Link via Pop Candy.
BECAUSE TOMORROW'S GAME LACKS DRAMA: Bo Schembechler has gone to that great sideline in the sky.

One of my favorite quotes about Bo came from a friend of mine who I worked with at the Michigan Daily in 1989 when Bo retired as coach:
"Bo is to Michigan what macaroni is to cheese."
PAGING DR. MCSEABORN: Rob Lowe claims that turning down the part of Dr. McDreamy on Grey's was "the first time in all of my career that I picked wrong." Leaving aside the question of whether Lowe pulled a David Caruso when he left West Wing or got out while the getting was good, can't we agree that there's at least one prior bad choice in Lowe's past? (And that doesn't even include The Lyon's Den, Dr. Vegas, or View From The Top.)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

DOTTING THE 'I': Yes, Saturday is The Most Important Regular Season College Football Game Ever In The History Of Evers In The Most Important Rivalry That Ever Existed, so the floor is open for your comparisons of the University of Michigan to The Ohio State University on any metric you want . . . including, if you're into that sort of thing, the quality of their respective football programs.

So, Hail to the Victors or Script Ohio? Eddie George or Tshimanga Biakabatuka? Gerald Ford and Branch Rickey or Jack Nicklaus and Jesse Owens? Ann Arbor or Columbus?

edited to add: Legendary Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler died this morning after suffering a massive heart attack.
SAVE THE VICODIN ADDICT, SAVE THE WORLD: As a recurring public service, DVR users should be aware that Fox's new "rerun House on Mondays" can throw a kink into your DVR setup. If you'd prefer a new Heroes to a repeat of House on your TiVo Monday night, make sure your House season pass is of lower priority than your Heroes season pass. Also, for some reason, my TiVo wanted to ignore that there was an episode of Brothers and Sisters Sunday night, choosing to record Without A Trace instead. Make sure to check your "to do" list to avoid heartache.
YOU HAVE A LOT TO LEARN ABOUT THIS TOWN, SWEETIE: And with that, Scranton and Stamford are merged in another plotterrific Office, in which all sorts of new tensions are introduced. Grumpy Stanley is back, thank goodness, and everyone's got someone new to be annoyed by. Especially Dwight. So put on your Team Pam or Team Not-Pam t-shirts, talk about bringing the sexy back to Scranton, and, above all, confirm for us that you know who Bob Vance is by now, because he's important.
YOU KNOW I'M BORN TO LOSE, BUT JUST NOT AT SOCCER: In the greatest story I've read this week, and as part of my effort to shore up my stake to the ALOTT5MA pre-1990s heavy metal bureau chair, I hereby giddily report to you that Motorhead is sponsoring a youth soccer team. Great story; encourage you to read it. Let's go to my 14-year old self for a quote:
This team has the AWESOMEST theme music and the AWESOMEST jerseys.
Actually, 36-year old self, who still gets goosepimply at some of the early stuff and who remains reverent about the iconic logo, agrees. Equally awesome: a kids' soccer team is now named after a band that named itself for a slang term for "amphetamine addict."

In other news, Milton Friedman died. I'm not smart enough to eulogize him properly, but if we're posting up Gerald Levert then Uncle Milty (the monetary theorist, not the cross-dresser) deserves a mention.
YOU DIDN'T COOK ANYTHING: A valid criticism. One for which a no-longer aspiring Top Chef can offer little rebuttal. I didn't post anything, but that was totally justified.

A bunch of us went to see the Woyczek that's running at St. Anne's Warehouse (though December 3). Then we went for udon and gyoza (and shochu), and argued the director's use of selected works by Dolly Parton and Elvis Presley. Arriving home too wound-up to sleep I watched the Top Chefisode waiting for me on Ye Olde DVR -- a dire error that left me dreaming of knives and peas in a challenge-and-elimination format. Betty got the Dolly role and Colicchio was the Drum Major. The horror... The Horror.

All that aside, it was a good set of challenges and a good elimination. Why did so many contestants chose to do sweetbreads in the quickfire? We had teams of two but not a lot of backstabbing, which the judges rewarded by giving everyone at the losers' table the incentive Stab Harder, in the future, if they want to save their skins. Under the circumstances, following last week's non-elimination, however, it's not surprising that the judges would stoop to using a little bit of ... wait for it... That's right:

ketchup. (Sorry.)

Sam's looking stronger and stronger, but this is maybe the third time interview footage of Elia's has been put on the air where she's essentially throwing up her hands and saying "what was I supposed to do?" when others obviously had an answer. No more "Brother Bluto" drama from Michael, though we're given the impression that Ilan's serious Spanish Cuisine Kung-Fu could have carried him (and did).
AT LEAST, FINALLY, SOMEONE MENTIONED THAT MELROSE WAS DAMN-NEAR FORTY YEARS OLD: It's hard to pick a favorite from the three Top Model challenges which tend to return around this time every season -- Bad Acting Theatre (though nothing beats the Taye Diggs iteration for comedy), TV Commercials In Foreign Language and the TAR-esque Go-Sees In Confusing Foreign City. They're all good, and there's a reason they all come back, cycle after cycle, even though they may have little to do with the qualifications for becoming America's next top model.

Five girls remain, but you only have in your brain one name, and that one name must represent the girl who you believe will be the winner of this cycle of America's. Next. Top. Model. You can only call one name. (Mine remains CariDee.)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

YES, BUT WHAT IS THE REFLEX? I decided to turn over our Keltnerization of Duran Duran (first time eligible, not nominated) to The Countess Anna, a friend of several of the bloggers here, because not only is the the biggest DD fan we know, but her fandom of DD is one of the more intense fandoms I know for any of my friends with one band. Could she be objective? Do you want her to be? The Keltner Test shows all . . .

1. Was Duran Duran ever regarded as the best band in rock music? Did anybody, while they were active, ever suggest that Duran Duran was the best band in rock music?

As Moby blogged in 2003, Duran Duran “were cursed by what we can call the ‘bee gees‘ curse, which is: 'write amazing songs, sell tons of records, and consequently incur the wrath or disinterest of the rock obsessed critical establishment'."

In 1982, music critic Steve Sutherland wrote the following about the album Rio in the magazine Melody Maker: “Rio is the true culmination of the much misunderstood New Romanticism – energetic, proud, enthusiastic, joyous; something to escape fully into. It cultivates the class that makes Roxy great, it encompasses almost every trend and rhythm going, embraces everything from funk to Thin Lizzy and still sounds unmistakably like Duran Duran; an unashamed new breed of rock band, the unrivalled masters of melody. If there’s a catch, it’s that – honest to God – Rio is so good and defines such an exuberant majesty, where the hell do they go from here?”

More recently, even Rolling Stone recognized Duran Duran’s “demented genius” in its review of 1995’s much maligned Thank You album of cover songs: “As tempting as it may be to snicker at their shamelessness, think about the daring that goes with it. How many other bands would have the guts to try to update Sly and the Family Stone’s ‘I Wanna Take You Higher,’ much less work in an allusion to Queen’s ‘Another One Bites the Dust’? … Admittedly, some of the ideas at play here are stunningly wrongheaded, but it takes a certain demented genius to recognize Iggy Pop’s ‘Success’ as the Gary Glitter tune it was meant to be or to redo ‘911 is a Joke’ so it sounds more like Beck than like Public Enemy.”

2. Was Duran Duran ever the best band in rock music in its genre?

If one treats their genre as pop-rock music (and especially that distinctive brand that emerged from the British Isles in the early 80s), Duran Duran arguably offers the most impressive combination of success and longevity after U2; they compare favorably to American genre contemporaries as well. (More on that in Question 9.) There are also few bands who so perfectly capture the spirit of a whole decade, although as I posit below, they are far from just an 80s band.

3. Was any individual member of Duran Duran ever considered the best at his instrument/role?

D'Arcy of Smashing Pumpkins: “Duran Duran: I don't know if I should admit this. I wasn't a groupie or anything - I wanted to be them. John Taylor had the best bass lines. Fucking rock solid, man. He uses some stupid guitars, but he's good.”

Brandon Flowers of the Killers: “Nick Rhodes is an absolute hero of mine - their records still sound fresh, which is no mean feat as far as synths are concerned."

Grandmaster Flash, who guested on Duran Duran’s “White Lines” in 1995: “the funkiest bunch of cats since the Average White Band.”

4. Did Duran Duran have an impact on a number of other bands?

Duran Duran have been cited as an influence by the Dandy Warhols, Gwen Stefani, the Killers, Scissor Sisters (“the reason we got into music”), the Bravery, the Faint, Jonathan Davis of Korn, Garbage, Franz Ferdinand (who listen to Duran Duran’s first album to get pumped before live shows), Smashing Pumpkins, Goldfinger, Reel Big Fish, Deftones, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Justin Timberlake, Dido, Panic at the Disco, Hole, Barenaked Ladies, Beck, Gavin Rossdale, Goldfrapp, Wyclef Jean, Lostprophets, Marilyn Manson, Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit, The Orb, OutKast, Coldplay, the Strokes, and Pink. Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray has called himself one of their biggest fans, and he said he "wanted to be John Taylor." In concert, Nirvana has covered “Rio,” and Hole has covered “Hungry Like the Wolf.” Moby has called “Save a Prayer” a “perfect hybrid of electronic, conventional, and pop elements.”

5. Was Duran Duran good enough that the band could play regularly after passing its prime?

They are recording albums and playing live concerts to this day. Twenty years after their prime and almost thirty years after they first formed the band, they sold out Wembley in 2004 (breaking the house record) and Madison Square Garden in 2005 in support of their Astronaut album, and performed at the 2004 Super Bowl with a worldwide broadcast audience of over a billion people. They have continued to play through several lineup changes, producing Billboard top 10 songs in each of the last three decades.

6. Is Duran Duran the very best band in history that is not in the Hall of Fame?

It’s hard to compare Duran Duran to every other band not in the Hall of Fame, but one could argue that their longevity, innovation, and impact on the music business are comparable to that of the Beatles, Elvis, the Rolling Stones, Genesis, Aerosmith, and David Bowie. That R.E.M. has been nominated this year and not Duran Duran is a bit of a travesty.

7. Are most bands who have a comparable recording history and impact in the Hall of Fame?

If Blondie is in the Hall of Fame, Duran Duran has every right to be. Duran Duran’s track record also compares favorably to U2 and the Police, who have already been inducted.

8. Is there any evidence to suggest that the band was significantly better or worse than is suggested by its records?

Duran Duran has always taken risks in its music and album production, and with risk-taking come both great successes and great flops. Even their much-derided flops, though, have garnered respect from other musicians, the critics be damned. They have also collaborated with some of the best in the business, including Nile Rodgers, Tony Thompson, Bernard Edwards, Robert Palmer, Sting, Grace Jones, Carlos Alomar, Dave Gilmour, and Herbie Hancock. On the production side, they have worked with Dallas Austin (Gwen Stefani), Timbaland (Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z, Nelly Furtado), and Don Gilmore (Linkin Park).

Furthermore, Duran Duran almost always sound better live than they do on their records/CDs (which tend to be grossly overproduced and suck the life out of certain songs, as the band themselves acknowledge.)

9. Is it the best band in its genre who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?

If one defines Duran Duran’s biggest genre competitors in their prime years as U2, the Police, Culture Club, Cyndi Lauper, Spandau Ballet, Wham!, Tears for Fears, and Blondie, only the first two (U2 and the Police) have earned more Grammys, and Duran Duran have more songs in the Billboard Hot 100 than all of those bands. U2, the Police, and Blondie (who have zero Grammys and zero songs in the Hot 100) have already been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

10. How many #1 singles/gold records did Duran Duran have? Did Duran Duran ever win a Grammy award? If not, how many times was Duran Duran nominated?

Platinum Albums –Rio, Seven & the Ragged Tiger, Arena, Notorious, Duran Duran.

#1 singles: "The Reflex", "View to a Kill". Also hitting the top ten are "Girls on Film", "Hungry Like The Wolf", "Is There Something I Should Know?", "Union of the Snake", "New Moon on Monday", "Wild Boys", "Notorious", "I Don't Want Your Love", "Come Undone" and "Ordinary World".

1983 – Best Video, Short Form – Girls on Film/Hungry Like the Wolf
1983 – Best Video Album – Duran Duran

11. How many Grammy-level songs/albums did Duran Duran have? For how long of a period did the band dominate the music scene? How many Rolling Stone covers did they appear on? Did most of the bands with this sort of impact go into the Hall of Fame?

Lowly music peasant that I am, I would not dare suggest which Duran Duran songs are Grammy-level (not least because the Grammys don’t have the best track record in predicting transcendent music talent). The song "Ordinary World" did win an Ivor Novello Award for songwriting and is considered one of their best (and not from the 80s, incidentally).

One cover of Rolling Stone Magazine – “The Fab Five?” ( Vol. 414, February 2, 1984).

Length of domination could be measured in different ways, but Duran Duran had top-ten songs in Billboard’s Hot 100, Modern Rock, Mainstream Rock, or Club Play charts in each of the last three decades (13 in the 80’s, 3 in the 90s, and 2 in the 00’s), and their touring success endures as well.

12. If this band was the best band at a concert, would it be likely that the concert would rock?

Duran Duran are best appreciated live, because they sound more rock and funk-like in concert where bass and guitar dominate acoustically in a way they do not on Duran Duran’s overproduced albums. The difference is perhaps most startling when one compares the recorded versions of the songs “Notorious” and “New Religion” with their live performance counterparts.

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?

Although bands like Japan, Roxy Music, Ultravox, and Simple Minds were already experimenting with different fusions of funk, rock, disco, and electronica, Duran Duran were arguably the first to fuse all of them with such great commercial success and transcend so many decades, particularly when their side projects Arcadia and Power Station are thrown into the mix.

Duran Duran are the first truly multimedia band: first to use video cameras and screens in concert, first to use flash animation in a video, first to offer a song for sale as download, one of the first (if not the first) to use 35mm film for music videos, first to use a unique 360-degree panoramic video and 10.2 channel audio recording system working with Dr. Tom Holman (famous for creating Lucasfilm's THX audio standard), first to film in exotic locations and prevail in court in the UK to deduct video production expenses against revenues, and one of first (if not the first) to create an avatar band in the Second Life virtual world.

Their influence also endures in popular culture, with their songs having been featured in numerous movies and TV shows, including A View to a Kill (the only Bond song to reach #1), Monster, The Saint, Tequila Sunrise, Donnie Darko, American Pie 3, Heist (TV), Las Vegas (TV), and – in what is perhaps the greatest use of a song in film -- Layer Cake.

And finally, Duran Duran can rightly take credit for the initial success of MTV. Theirs was one of the first videos to go into rotation when MTV was airing only in New Jersey, Texas, and Florida. According to Les Garland, senior executive VP at MTV in 1982: “We had our weekly meeting to hear new music on Tuesdays – back then it was a fledgling industry and we’d get maybe ten videos a week and everyone would gather and sit through them all. I remember our director of talent and artist relations came running and said, ‘You have got to see this video that’s come in.’ MTV wanted to break new music and ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ was the greatest video I had ever seen.” It later became one of the 15 most played videos ever. In 2003, the band were awarded an MTV Lifetime Achievement Award.

14. Did the band uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

Strikes against them: one could argue that they were one of the first to coarsen the culture of a whole generation with its video for “Girls on Film,” which MTV refused to air until they created a tamer (though still raunchy) version. (Throwing a bone to the Cultural Studies crowd: note that the video as well as the song lyrics are rather woman-affirming by questioning and subverting the paradigm of the porn film.) Assorted substance abuse problems have plagued some members of the band, although they are rather clean-living these days. They are active participants in charity events (two-time appearances at Live Aid/Live 8, Amnesty International, Fashion Rocks, Gland Slam for Children, etc.), and most recently donated $25,000 to a local elementary school in New Orleans during their trip there for Voodoo Music Fest 2006.

And last but not least, of all the glam-rock bands to emerge from the UK in the early eighties, Duran Duran are unique in their celebration of America. Indeed, their song “Rio” is its tribute song. According to Simon LeBon, “American can be colorful, open and honest. So instead of calling her America, we called her ‘Rio.’” And as British music critic Steve Sutherland wrote in 1984 when Duran Duran sold out Madison Square Garden in three hours: “If Madison proved one thing… it’s that Duran are now unashamedly an American band working to American standards.”

Conclusion: Even if their success and contribution to pop/rock had ended in the 80s, Duran Duran could justly take credit for having launched and defined a whole era in music. Detractors will continue to treat them like musical lightweights and a flash in the 80s pan, but the band's track record, history of innovation, continuing influence on other musicians, staying power, and collaboration with some of the industry's finest suggest quite the opposite. They have proven themselves to be in a completely different league from the vast majority of their 80's contemporaries, most of whom have landed in the "Where Are They Now" bin. Given that U2 and the Police have already been inducted, Duran Duran deserve to be next in line in representing the best of the genre.
THAT'S IT? The AP has broken the shocking news that the Internet is 1% porn. I'm pretty sure the methodology went like this: get 1000 minimum-wage researchers, tell them to surf the web randomly for a few days, and ask them how many of the sites they saw were NSFW. The result is actually a weighted average of "1%" and "um, let's call it 1%."

The study also finds that the Internet is:
  • 6% videos of Mentos/Diet Coke experiments
  • 43% copyright infringement
  • 2% the SEC's Edgar database
  • 7% Drudge-induced epileptic seizures
  • 5% the Clay Aiken Anti-Defamation league
  • 0.001% Marmaduke Explained
  • 1% that awesome Korean dude on YouTube shredding up Pachelbel's Canon
  • 9.3% lawyers obsessively blogging about pop culture
  • 59% more porn mistakenly omitted from initial tally
There's a little overlap in those numbers.
WHO NEEDS BEYONCE AND EVA? WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE C.J. AND ABBY: While it seems like the initial reports of Beyonce Knowles and Eva Longoria starring as lesbian lovers in an upcoming film are false, we're in the middle of sweeps month, which reminds us is prime Sapphic season on TV with this countdown of the Top 10 Moments in Sweeps Lesbianism.

Link via Pop Candy.
AGAIN, I SEEM TO HAVE BEEN SADLY OVERLOOKED: George Clooney joins Brad Pitt (and Richard Gere) as a two-time winner of the coveted "Sexiest Man Alive" title bestowed by People. Others making People's finalist list include the unsurprising (Patrick Dempsey, Taye Diggs) to a little off-the-wall (John Krasinski, John Cho).
RUN FREEDOM RUN: In competition for the oddest promotional stunt for the holiday season, I give you Procter and Gamble, which will operate a specially designed public restroom in Times Square this holiday season (known as the "Potty Palooza") to promote its Charmin brand. No word on if Officer Lockstock and Little Sally will be dropping by.
IN WHICH I REPORT ON AN HOUR AND A HALF OF TV VIEWED IN FIFTEEN MINUTES: According to Isaac's favorite news source, the Captivate Network, Yahoo's search engine is logging six times as many searches for Mario Lopez as for Emmitt Smith. To me, this just means that more people are scratching their head wondering who Mario Lopez is than who Emmitt Smith is. (Just in case anyone who might possibly consider voting for Lopez turns up on the Dallas Cowboys' website, an article there refers to him as "former teen-heartthrob/talk-show host/B-list actor Mario Lopez" while discussing Smith's "football celebrity and icon status." Hee.) It does, however, provide as good a segue as any into discussion of last night's penultimate episode of Dancing with the Stars.

DwtS is, of course, one of those shows that was made for the DVR -- see Tom Bergeron's face, be-doop be-doop be-doop until he's gone and the dancing begins. I've generally not been particularly interested in this season, except for Emmitt Smith, who I find to be quite cuddly, charming, and fun to watch. And even though I fast-forward through his performances about half the time, Mario Lopez is quite a good dancer of the swivelly-hips genre. But even these two finalists (who were undoubtedly the correct ones to make the final two -- I couldn't stomach another minute of Joey Lawrence) could not overcome last night's major obstacle: those darned freestyle routines.

After weeks and weeks of flowy waltzes and foxtrots, and an assortment of Latin dances that I can now distinguish among on sight (Samba? check. Rhumba? Check. Paso Doble? Check.), now we need to see an oddly lumbering Emmitt Smith channeling MC Hammer and Mario Lopez looking like an eighth grade boy at a 1984 bar mitzvah? Oh, and the lifts, the lifts -- they can't do lifts all season and then suddenly have to learn five of them for the finale? Note to producers: ballroom dancers should stick to ballroom choreography. If you're gonna try to bring the hip hop for the finale, at least bring Shane Sparks or Dan Karaty to the party so that the choreography doesn't suck. Not that any of the judges seemed to care -- all three of them were inexplicably bubbling over with the 10s.

And so tonight we shall be-doop through 57 minutes of filler before the winner is announced. I am unlikely to post again on this topic, so feel free to assume a post whose content may be summarized as "Yay!" if Smith adds this championship to his burgeoning trophy case.
NOW BOARDING, ALL ROWS, ALL SEATS: I found this article about airplane boarding fascinating. For a long time, I've observed that airplane boarding takes far longer than it really needs to for various reasons. Probably the top two are that people invariably try to stuff ridiculous amounts of stuff in the overhead bin and manage to block the entire aisle while doing so, and the frequent backups that occur when the aisle passenger boards first, with window and middle passengers coming later, forcing everyone to get up and shuffle around. The various solutions used by some airlines (open boarding, the "reverse pyramid," and the "rotating zone") attempt to solve this, but can you improve upon it?
HOW LONG TO SING THIS SONG? Today's Philadelphia Daily News has a thirty-two page supplement titled "23 Years of Tears", a series of articles on our professional sports teams' collective failure to win a title since 1983. Among other great features, the package includes articles on the 10 moves that backfired (Jeff Ruland! Doug Moe!), blueprints as to what each team needs and articles from the archives on what might-have-been, including Bill Conlin's 10-26-93 piece, filed in Toronto, as to whether crying exists in baseball.

Of course, I've got a theory on all this.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

TOO MUCH TIME ON MY HANDS: I was curious how Time's list of the 100 all-time albums stacked up against the first 100 albums on Rolling Stone's list of the top 500 albums, so I did a little comparison.

My findings:
  • The two lists have 62 albums in common. A few are cosmetic, as in Time listing a recent collection of Elvis Presley's No. 1 hits and "Sunrise" and Rolling Stone going with "Sun Sessions" and "Elvis Presley." Also the two magazines agree in essence about Al Green and Sly and the Family Stone. So, essentially the number is closer to 66 or so in common.
  • Time's list is not ranked, but the highest ranked album on RS's list to miss the cut in Bob Dylan's "Blood on the Tracks" (16). The highest ranked album on Rolling Stone's list by an artist that doesn't even appear on the Time list is "Forever Changes" by Love (40). Other Rolling Stone artists who whiffed on the Time list include The Doors, Pink Floyd, Allman Brothers, Captain Beefheart, Billy Joel, Guns n Roses, The Zombies, Dusty Springfield, and Elvis Costello.
  • Of the 28 albums Time picked from the '00s and '90s, only four are in Rolling Stone's top 100 and only two of those, "Nevermind" and "Achtung Baby," are not anthologies.
  • Other decades: Nine of 18 in the '80s; 22 of 29 in the '70s; 20 of 22 in the '60s; three of four in the 50s.
  • The Beatles are the most represented artist on both lists with five on Time's list and eight on RS's. "Please, Please Me," "Meet the Beatles," and "Let It Be" failed to make Time's list.
  • Other artists who had multiple albums that made RS's list but failed to make Time's cut: Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones.
  • Nine of the albums on Time's list that failed to crack the Rolling Stone list are considered hip-hop. Public Enemy's "It Takes a Nation..." is the only hip-hop album on RS's list.
If anyone knows how I can link to a spreadsheet, leave the instructions in the comments and I will try and post my raw data. Otherwise, yes, I am a huge geek.
LEFT UNANSWERED IS THE PRESSING DEBATE ABOUT WHETHER SOFT "TACOS" ARE WORTHY OF THE NAME "TACO:" On the off chance you haven't seen it already--this is a case about contract interpretation, which resolves the crucial issue for all Americans of whether or not a burrito constitutes a "sandwich."
FOX NETWORK SINKS TO NEW LOW: Yes, really. Lower than Who Wants To Marry A Guy Who's Not Really A Millionaire And Has Restraining Orders Against Him; lower than the game show where they tortured people while asking them trivia. How low? O.J. low.

In other Fox news, Dr. Hizzy was bad tonight -- there's never been an episode that unrealistic, medically or legally, that I can remember. Seriously, Cuddy lets the Cottages talk to the police without counsel present?
MORRIS DAY IS SADLY UNDERREPRESENTED ON THIS LIST: Time Magazine, yes, Time Magazine, lists the All-Time 100 Albums.

I'll leave any discussion of omissions, methodology (greatest hits collections were included, the list includes some token jazz, country, etc. selections), and all that for the comments.

In the meantime (meantime, get it?), how about the all-time 10 time songs:
  1. Time of the Season--The Zombies
  2. The Times They Are a Changing--Bob Dylan
  3. Time After Time--Cyndi Lauper
  4. Time to Change--The Brady Six
  5. The Midnight Hour--Wilson Pickett
  6. Time Has Come Today--Chambers Brothers
  7. 5:15--The Who
  8. Rock Around the Clock--Bill Haley and The Comets
  9. Sixty Minute Man--Billy Ward and the Dominoes
  10. Time Won't Let Me--The Outsiders
DAMN YOU, BERLANTI! While other shows have gotten more press attention and attention around here, it's worth noting that (unlike Studio 60), Brothers and Sisters has finally found its footing. After cast changes (Sally Field in, Betty Buckley out) and creative changes (Jon Robin Baitz as solo showrunner, replaced by reviled Buffy scribe Marti Noxon, and now being run by Greg Berlanti), the show's finally firing on all cylinders. We have members of the Berlanti Family Players showing up (Keri Lynn Pratt and Treat Williams) and delivering fine performances, just enough intrigue to move the plot forward without turning it overly soap opera-y, a nice mix of comedy and drama, and one of the best written and performed monologues I've seen on TV this year (Flockhart's 9/11 memories monologue). It's worth checking out. Anyone else watching?
USING MY BETTER JUDGMENT, THE ONE-RAP-HIT WONDER MAD COBRA WILL NOT BE QUOTED IN THIS HEADLINE: I told everyone who would listen during Sunday's Eagles game that, if they won, their game in two weeks v. the Colts would be moved to Sunday night as a result of the new "flex scheduling", and I was right. (Obvs, Fox protected Chicago-New England.)

Looking at the rest of the schedule, as well as the rules for flex scheduling (only Sunday afternoon games can move, and each network can protect total five games from moving), I think we can join others in predicting the rest of the primetime matchups for Al and John, whom we don't hate quite as much:

Week 13: Assuming Fox protects Dallas-NYG, then I think it's Jets @ Packers as long as Favre keeps not-sucking; otherwise, Seattle-Denver, I guess, if Alexander is back.

Week 14: Well, NBC is already showing Denver-San Diego I, so they're not showing the sequel. There's a few good options, including Colts @ Jags and Giants @ Panthers, but I like Saints @ Cowboys, because Good @ Evil = Ratings.

Week 15:
Eagles-Giants is a no-brainer, which is why I'd assume Fox is protecting its rights to the game. How about going with Chiefs @ Chargers here?

No flex for week 16 (Christmas eve), so Week 17 is Green Bay @ Chicago if there's any inkling that it's Favre's Last Stand; otherwise, we'll know if Steelers-Bengals, Jaguars-Chiefs or Falcons-Eagles is the best game left. I'm thinking they may well stick Eagles fans in the Linc on a cold New Year's Eve, which will require a fan:security ratio heretofore unseen.

SERIOUSLY, THE ONLY OTHER EXAMPLE I COULD COME UP WITH WAS 'DAVID MELECH YISRAEL': Is Christina Aguilera's "Ain't No Other Man" -- the subject being her husband, Jordan Bratman -- the best song ever written about a Jewish man?

Monday, November 13, 2006

WHEN YOU SEE A *specific game event susceptible of spontaneous description before the next snap or commercial* IT REALLY JUST GOES TO SHOW HOW *inept or in-apt logically related but totally meaningless generalization* MATTERS TO A TEAM IN THIS POSITION, AND THAT'S WHY *involved player* IS/HAS THE *arbitrary superlative/random statistic* THAT HE IS/DOES: Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. Just maybe, then, intense aggravation might prove to be the mailman and/or failed contraception of innovation. Maybe right now.

Almost a month ago, Alex provided a link to a list of the eight worst sportscasters to which sports media consumers might be subjected. Not surprisingly, a lively discussion ensued, including many suggestions for expanding the list and many a story about watching games with the audio muted or with alternative sources of commentary playing over radio. Watching the Carolina/Tampa Bay game tonight -- a spectacle of mediocre ball made worse by the Theisman/Kornheiser tandem of inanity -- I keep coming back to it: why oh why can't I just turn them off?

I'll take Mike Tirico. I like Mike Tirico. Football moves fast and I don't know every old thing about it, so I need somebody to tell me what's going on play-by-proverbial-play. He's emphatic yet unintrusive and provides the odd smattering of reflections or insights to help me understand and appreciate what's going on. A color-guy who provided deeper understanding of coverages and matchups, scheme-by-scheme, game-by-game could teach me a lot during any given contest on any given weekend.

But we don't get that. Instead we get these two noise-makers in the booth with Tirico repeating the stats piped-up from the production truck and filling airtime with random observations. They add almost no value and perpetually manage to irritate. It's a net loss. When they're talking, nine times out of ten I'd rather just hear the crowd. A Speak'n Spell hooked-up to a stream of random, arguably pertinent statistics would be as useful to me. Or an aged Labrador Retriever overfed on turkey green chile and trained to fart The Stars And Stripes Forever. I would choose -- or at least try -- almost anything else.

So, in this ultra-modern age of intraweb tubes and Pay-Per-View On Demand programming, why can't I? Run the booth audio in three layers or channels and give me a "Theisman/No Theisman" option. License content from other media covering the game and provide a palette of feeds that I could choose instead of him. Assemble a number of coverage teams that provide different emphases or viewpoints and then compensate each according to how many viewers selected their feed. Something, anything, but stop cramming the dreck down my throat.

In the era of DVR's, the internet, rapidly diversifying content delivery options and increasingly customizable user interfaces for most media, an innovation like this may well be inevitable. I'd jump on it. I'd pay a premium for it, and I've never once used pay-per-view. I'd switch cable companies to use it. Purveyors of media, take heed: act now or react later, as Tony might say, even though it's so obvious that maybe he shouldn't bother to.

/rant off.
SWARLS BARKLEY PLAYS SOME PAI GOW: At the end of How I Met Your Mother tonight, there was an indication that Robin had a "deep, dark secret" that would be revealed next week. My original thought (based on Robin's bit about marriage tonight) was that Robin had a marriage in her past. However, what's apparently happening sounds seriously funny.
TO QUOTE THE CLOSEST COMP, DON'T COME AROUND HERE NO MORE: I'm shocked and amazed and a little bit rattled that I am in what appears to be a small minority in opposing John Cougar's election to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Frankly, if I were handed a comprehensive list of credible nominees (credible, meaning no Hooters or House of Pain, etc.) and given the right to veto only one, I think I'd exercise it on him. Of course, earlier this morning I emailed a John Cougar death threat to my fantasy football league, so this "my country" ad campaign may have something to do with that.

Anyway, if you had the right to torpedo (even retroactively) one hall of fame nomination -- and let's not limit this to rock and roll if you're more interested in baseball or football or economics or something else that has its own museum -- who would it be?
FIRST AND TEN! Two bits from TV Tattle that folks might want to discuss:
  • Friday Night Lights has gotten a full season order. (A question--if it gets a second season, are they really going to turn over almost the entire cast, at least on the "student" side?)
  • Julie Bowen is pregnant. No word on if they're writing it in to Boston Legal or who the father will be if they do. More amusingly, she's already asked Laura Bennett to design her maternity wear.
LITTLE DITTY 'BOUT THE HALL OF FAME: One of the surprising omissions from this year's Rock And Roll Hall of Fame is that, yet again, John Mellencamp has failed to make the short list for induction. Let's take a look at his Keltner-ization.

1. Was John Mellencamp ever regarded as the best artist in rock music? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that John Mellencamp was the best artist in rock music?

Mellencamp was never "The Top Guy." He probably would have made a lot of Top 10 artist lists in the 80s, behind Springsteen in particular, but was never a clearly cut #1 during his peak years.

2. Was John Mellencamp ever the best artist in rock music in his genre?

This depends on Mellencamp's genre. However, unless you super-tightly circumscribe the genre to "Midwestern Roots rock,"Mellencamp and Springsteen wind up in the same genre, a fight that Mellencamp invariably loses.

3. Was John Mellencamp ever considered the best at his instrument/role?

No. No particularly special guitar talent, solid, but unspectacular songwriting in the narrative tradition, and a series of sidemen.

4. Did John Mellencamp have an impact on a number of other bands?

Yes. From Wikipedia: "Mellencamp's sound is cited as a major influence by fellow midwesterns Sheryl Crow, Garth Brooks, Joan Osborne, Big and Rich, Kid Rock & Aussie Keith Urban." At least one of those (Crow) is at least a potential Hall of Famer herself.

5. Was John Mellencamp good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?

Mellencamp has continued to tour and put out albums since his mid-80s peak. He had two top 20 hits in the mid-90s ("Key West Intermezzo (I Saw Her First)" and "Wild Night"). I believe that makes this a "yes."

6. Is John Mellencamp the very best artist in history that is not in the Hall of Fame?

I think not. At minimum, Bob has made a compelling case for Patti Smith being above him on the list.

7. Are most bands who have a comparable recording history and impact in the Hall of Fame?

There's a good argument that Mellencamp is to the Midwest/Indiana what Springsteen is to New Jersey, and that "Scarecrow":Mellencamp::"Nebraska":Springsteen. I think this would mean the answer to this is "yes." In the "roots rock" genre of the 80s, Mellencamp was pretty clearly Springsteen's #2.

8. Is there any evidence to suggest that John Mellencamp was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistical records?

Not particularly. If anything, the record sales and airplay numbers below overstate the quality of Mellencamp's albums (which often have 1-2 great singles and a lot of filler), but understate the quality of the singles.

9. Is John Mellencamp the best artist in his genre who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?

Again, this raises the question of Mellencamp's "genre." If he is placed in the broad "rock" genre, probably not. If placed in the narrower "midwestern roots rock" category, he probably has it to himself. In "roots rock," the answer is probably "yes" as well, as Springsteen, CCR, and the Allmans are already in.

10. How many #1 singles/gold records did John Mellencamp have? Did John Mellencamp ever win a Grammy award? If not, how many times was John Mellencamp nominated?

1 #1 Single ("Jack and Diane"), 7 additional singles hit #1 on the "Mainsteam Rock" chart. 11 Platinum Albums (American Fool, Uh-Huh, Scarecrow, Lonesome Jubilee, Big Daddy, Whenever We Wanted, Dance Naked, Nothin' Matters and What If It Did?, Mr. Happy Go Lucky, The Best That I Could Do, Words and Music), 3 Gold Albums (John Cougar, John Mellencamp, Cuttin' Heads). 1 Grammy (Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male, for "Hurts So Good"), 9 other nominations. Weak on the #1 singles (somewhat surprisingly), but very strong on the album sales, especially over time, though it should be noted that two of those platinum albums are slightly different "Greatest Hits" collections with a lot of overlap.

11. How many Grammy-level songs/albums did John Mellencamp have? For how long of a period did John Mellencamp dominate the music scene? How many Rolling Stone covers did John Mellencamp appear on? Did most of the bands with this sort of impact go into the Hall of Fame?

OK--"Hurts So Good," "Pink Houses," "Authority Song," "Small Town," "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.," "Human Wheels," "Wild Night," "Key West Intermezzo," "Just Another Day," "Your Life Is Now," and "I'm Not Running Anymore" are all solid singles. While Mellencamp was never the biggest artist in the world, he's been a force in both roots rock and as an "adult rock" artist since the mid-80s, with a continuing career.

12. If John Mellencamp was the best band at a concert, would it be likely that the concert would rock?

In a relatively low-key, rootsy way, I expect it would.

13. What impact did John Mellencamp have on rock history? Was he responsible for any stylistic changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change history in any way?

Not particularly, though the list of followers is impressive and diverse, and some of his video work (particularly "Jack and Diane") was somewhat groundbreaking.

14. Did the band uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

Mellencamp's charitable and political work is well-chronicled and substantial. Depending on how this metric weighs, the fact that Mellencamp lives a "normal life" in Bloomington, IN (albeit being married to a former supermodel), rather than (for example) snorting blow off a hooker's abs in L.A. may be deemed a positive or a negative.


Mellencamp is the paradigm of a "bubble" artist. A decent, if unspectacular, statistical case, solid longevity. He's the equivalent of a guy who had an extraordinarily long career with a solid (if not spectacular) batting average and a well-regarded "regular guy" personality. In addition, he faces the difficulty of being a fairly distant #2 in his time period and genre to an unquestioned legend who was inducted in his first year of eligibility. The charitable work and longevity probably tip the scale in favor of "induct." At a minimum, he's worthy of making the short list for consideration, and I wonder why he hasn't.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE DREAM WE ALL DREAM OF: Prince sets up shop in Vegas. Yes, you can comment on that and on how much it's worth $125 to see Prince in a stripped-down show in a small venue when you know he's actually going to show up more-or-less on time, but why this post really exists is to encourage you to come up with better titles for this post. My other early thoughts were:

But you can do better.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

THEIR MOTHERS MUST BE KVELLING: The Jewish Daily Forward picks its annual list of the fifty most influential American Jews, those mensches and maidels "doing and saying things that are making a difference in the way American Jews, for better or worse, view the world and themselves."

Plus a bonus selection, but I have a feeling he'll decline the honor.
LET IT RAIN, CLEAR IT OUT: Now, the DJ Webstar hit "Chicken Noodle Soup" is incomprehensible enough on its own, but even more incomprehensible is The Wiggles (appearing to) dance along to the song. (NSFW, due to certain lyrics in song, as opposed to the content of the video.)
IT'S GOING TO LOOK LIKE I POOPED MY PANTS. BOO! Yes, we're all happy that A Certain Internet Service Provider allowed all the Racers to have a cry session, but what was perhaps most exciting about this leg of the race was Phil's anticipatory squint while reciting the Detour choices in the mucky-muck. That, and the HoYay: between the Ace-and-Gary carry, the conspicious use of moisturizer and the line "Is it hard down there?", the DrugModels brought all the whimsy you'd need for one episode.

As far as everything else was concerned, two things were clearly missing in this episode: Kentucky, and, um . . . well, you'll have to see the whole hour to find out.
READING REVIEWS IS IMPORTANT: Far more entertaining than Running With Scissors, which attempts to substitute a few nice performances (Alec Baldwin, Jill Clayburgh, and Evan Rachel Wood in particular) and a sold gold 70's KTEL soundtrack for narrative coherence or really any semblance of a plot, was the reaction of the middle aged woman in front of me, who had brought her 8-10 year old daughter to see the film. In particular, she loudly took umbrage at the gay content in the film, shouting her disapproval after a post-coital shot of Joseph Cross and Joseph Fiennes as well as during the Chenoweth/Bening makeout scene, and loudly walking out after a later Cross/Fiennes scene, calling it "smut." I can only imagine what she would have thought of Borat, which was playing down the hall.

Another thing that bugged? Why, in all the publicity for the film and in the film itself, is it stated that it is "based on the personal memoir of Augusten Burroughs?" Are they trying to avoid an "inspired by/based on a true story" tag as a result of litigation? If so, why not just use "Based on the book by Augusten Burroughs?" Or are they trying to avoid a James Frey tag, since i'm fairly confident elements of the film are exaggerated in at least some ways from reality? It confused me.