Saturday, December 30, 2006

AND SINCE I DON'T HAVE A BUTLER, I HAVE TO DO IT MYSELF: Past winners of the ALOTT5MA Award for Funniest Half-Hour of Television of the Year include 2004's The Daily Show -- "Night Two of the Democratic National Convention" ("son of a turd miner") and 2005's South Park -- "Best Friends Forever".

So, who's in the running this year? The list includes The Colbert Report's "Countdown to Guitarmageddon" and Colbert's "White House Correspondents Dinner" speech (our first C-SPAN nominee in this category); South Park's "Cartoon Wars Part II" and "The Return of Chef"; HIMYM's "Slap Bet"; and a long list of episodes of The Office -- including but not limited to "Booze Cruise", "Grief Counseling", "Conflict Resolution" and "Valentine's Day".

(**Notes: Glengarry Glen Claus fell just before the nomination period. And the Rules Committee doesn't know what to do with a super-sized Office episode like "Casino Night".)

The winner, however, is the episode of The Office which Steve Carell and Rainn Wilson submitted for their Emmy bids: "The Injury", written by Mindy Kaling (who plays Kelly). A Foreman Grill. A frantic drive for help. Country Crock. A squirt bottle. The rules of "shotgun". Something odd about Dwight. And an important lesson about respect for the disabled. It is not the best episode of The Office (that would be "Valentine's Day" or "Casino Night"), but I have no trouble calling it the funniest.

Friday, December 29, 2006

ALEXANDRIA'S LONG REAL ESTATE NIGHTMARE STILL NOT OVER: If you're in the market for a new home in the Virginia suburbs of D.C. in the million-dollar range, why not own one where a former president lived?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

AIMING FOR THE ALOTT5MA SWEET SPOT: So did anyone receive the new Trivial Pursuit: Totally 80s as a Chrismukkah gift? Mr. Cosmo and I (no slouches in the trivia realm and both decidedly children of the 80s) played our maiden game the other night and were quite impressed. Trivial Pursuit specialty games tend to fall into one of two categories: (a) annoyingly lowest-common-denominator (90s version) or (b) thoroughly arcane (all-star sports). But Totally 80s feels much more like a Genus version in terms of difficulty and is most tubularly focused on pop culture (three of the six categories are music, TV, and movies). Highly recommended and -- dare I say it -- awesome.

(Oh, and to answer the necessary followup: Me.)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A MEDIUM WOUNDED BY THE CD AND KILLED BY ITUNES: How well do you know your classic rock album covers? Me, let's just say that even after seeking wikihelp for a couple of titles that were eluding me, and after getting a little angry that I got bamboozled by the use of the bowdlerized cover for the Hendrix album and the inferior live Motorhead album, and after staring for too long at a couple that I just know I know but can't quite get, I'm still under 50%. And there's no answer key, so cheating will be difficult.

Feel free to post answers in the comments.
WHAT AM I THINKING? I was a big fan of Zoe Heller's novel What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal, so I am excited to see such solid reviews of the film adaptation with Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench and Bill Nighy -- though I'm intrigued, to say the least, to see how they handle what I'll call the "unreliable narrator" issue, which was central to the novel's thrills.
TO ME, THE PRESIDENCY AND THE VICE-PRESIDENCY WERE NOT PRIZES TO BE WON, BUT A DUTY TO BE DONE: Former President Gerald Ford, a man who never sought the highest offices in the land but served the nation when called upon to heal the wounds of Nixon and Vietnam, has passed away at the age of 93.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I KEEP TELLING MYSELF, HE DOESN'T KNOW WHAT MY PORCH LOOKS LIKE: Last week, at the mall, I found myself face to face with Robert Knepper, better known as the dapper T-Bag from Prison Break. Happy to report to the ladies that he looks exactly the same in person as he does on TV. I resisted the urge to call 911, run, warn all pubescent girls and fading beauties, or check his stump.
GOOD TIDINGS, AND RUDIMENTARY 80S-ERA BEATBOXING, WE BRING: Via the reliable, even when temp-staffed, Deadspin, something I believe the Re/Search people would call Incredibly Weird Holiday Music: Rasheed Wallace and teammates violently assaulting "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

Moments later a ref misinterpreted 'Sheed's jollity as sarcastic complaint and assessed him a technical.
SWIMMING UNOPPOSED: There can be little question as to the appropriate recipient for the 2006 ALLOT5MA-Y award for Most Compelling Cephalopod.

After posing for photographs in late 2005, the once Elusive Architeuthis recently took the bait and came aboard a Japanese research vessel for a detailed post mortem. For 2007, we'll definitely have to update its heretofore standard adjectival modifier. Effusive... collusive... obtrusive... hmm... As with most things tentacled, compelling coverage has been available throughout from Brokentype.

Watch out Bigfoot. We're coming for you next.

Monday, December 25, 2006

THE JON CARROLL XMAS QUIZ: Even better than the SF Chronicle's annual geography quiz is the Jon Carroll Xmas quiz, with such goodies as these:

10. In 1999, Atlanta's Chipper Jones won the National League MVP, becoming the most recent switch hitter to win the award. Who is the last switch hitter to win the American League MVP?

11. These are all quotes from Shakespeare. What plays are they from? (a) "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse," (b) "True hope is swift, and flies with swallow's wings." (c) "An honest tale speeds best being plainly told." (d) "I am not in the giving vein today." (e) "Conscience is but a word that cowards use."

12. Who is Tracy Marrow? Who is O'Shea Jackson? Who is Noel Paul Stokey? Who is John Veliotes? Who is Calvin Broadus?

This was cooler when Googling wasn't even an option and this stuff would stump you all day, but cool it remains (answers tomorrow).

Anyway, Merry Christmas, all.


Sunday, December 24, 2006

ON BEYOND "CHESTNUTS" AND ALL THAT: Today (the 24th) from 11 AM to 11 PM (EST), WXPN's sublime and soulful Robert Drake will be hosting the 13th annual "The Night Before" show, an awesome mix of seasonal music, from versions of classics you’ve never heard to songs simply celebrating the winter season. Believe me, you will enjoy this show.

Recent show have featured songs of the season by Citizen Cope, Ruth Brown, Ottmar Liebert, El Vez, Bare Naked Ladies, Madeleine Peyroux, Winton Marsalis, They Might Be Giants and more... See here for more information and for a stream of last year's show.

Here are ten holiday songs that I love.

1. This Christmas - Donny Hathaway. Pure exuberance from the immensely talented soul singer. “And this Christmas will be/ A very special Christmas, for me.”

2. Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow! - Joe Pass. From the excellent CD Six String Santa by the renowned jazz guitarist. Pass has a wonderful tone and technique, but what makes this version of the familiar tune really come alive is the sparkling way that he and his quartet play with the rhythm. The disc is on sale for the princely sum of $4.99 at, a small price to pay for a disc that will make you smile.

3. Linus and Lucy - Vince Guaraldi. This is the most up-tempo track from the transcendent A Charlie Brown Christmas, which is often regarded as the best Christmas CD of all time. My sons dance around the living room every time we play this. Listen to the clever changes in meter, the lively percussion, and the swooping piano lines.

4. May Christmas Bring You Happiness - Luther Vandross. “May the happiness that you’ve been looking for/ Finally find its way to your front door.”

5. Step Into Christmas - Elton John. Released in 1973 when Elton John was at the very peak of his amazing career, this song is a pure pop confection that never fails to bring a smile to my lips and a bounce to my hips.

6. Who Took the Merry Out of Christmas? - The Staples Singers. If you love the infectious groove of the Staples Singers big hit “I'll Take You There,” then you will almost certainly love this song. The lyrics begin with a list of things that have caused people to forget about the true meaning of Christmas (“too busy fighting wars,” “too busy buying toys”) and then turn things around with a powerful chorus urging everyone to put the “merry” back in Christmas. The words and music make you believe that this is a truly attainable goal, and, more profoundly, a meaningful chance for peace, racial harmony, and prosperity for all. Good stuff.

7. O Little Town of Bethlehem - Sister Rosetta Tharpe. As you can tell, I generally prefer secular songs, but this sacred song is simply stunning.

8. Some Day at Christmas - Stevie Wonder. Released during the Viet Nam War, this song, sadly, is pointedly relevant once more.

9. It Doesn’t Have to be That WayJim Croce. Loneliness during the holidays is a common theme among Christmas songs. Croce's tender tale gets all of the nuances just right. If you have ever been lonely at this time of year (and who hasn't), give this song a listen. I think you will find that it rings true.

10. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Shawn Colvin. Possibly my favorite version of this Christmas classic, Colvin’s song simply touches my heart.