Saturday, March 10, 2007

2*F4: In one of the greatest nights in Amherst College sports history, not only did the Lord Jeffs men's basketball team advance to its second straight Div III Final Four with an 81-69 win over Rhode Island College, sending the Anchormen back to their home on Whore Island (said the RIC coach, "Boy, that escalated quickly ... I mean, that really got out of hand fast"), but the women's ice hockey team also advanced to its Final Four with a 2-1 road win over Rochester Institute of Technology. Mind you, this women's ice hockey team had never beaten rivals Middlebury or Williams before this season, nor had they won a NESCAC tournament game. And then, boom goes the dynamite, wow.

The ladies travel to Plattsburgh State for their national semifinals, while the men hit the familiar road to Salem, Va., where they will face the College of Wooster (OH) Scots on Friday.

For the other Tournament, we've got a group on ESPN for your free pool entries. Group name is ALOTT5MA; neither password nor aptitude are needed.
IMAGINE MY SURPRISE WHEN I FINALLY FIGURED OUT IT WASN'T A MOVIE ABOUT A BOWLING PRODIGY: I saw 300 last night, the first time I think since the Battle of Thermopylae that I had seen a film on its opening night. And just like the majority of the reviews, my thoughts are mixed. Ultimately, though, the film is nothing short of visually stunning. It's an excellent translation of the graphic novel form to the big screen. Sure the story is goofy and the politics questionable, but if like Joey, you too like movies about gladiators (and don't mind a beheading or two or three or four) this is a must-see on the big screen. (And a note to the new parents out there, unlike the couple at the theater last night who chose to bring their three-month-old to the show, you might want to leave junior at home for this film.)

Update: Apparently the packed theater where I saw 300 was hardly an anomaly.

Back to School - New York Times

I-N-E-L-U-C-T-A-B-L-E: I wasn't planning to begin our coverage of the 2007 Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee quite yet, but a few items about this year's spellers have come across my desk worth sharing:
May 30-31 isn't that far away.

Friday, March 9, 2007

MY JUNK IS YOU: A topic we hit on from time to time here is the current disjoint between Broadway and current pop music. I'm pleased to report that there's now a rickety bridge at least at one point on that river in the form of the much-acclaimed Spring Awakening. No, you won't be hearing any of the songs shooting up the pop charts anytime soon, I expect, but most of the songs in the show wouldn't be out of place as album cuts from folks like John Mayer, Ben Folds, Dashboard Confessional, or Sufjan Stevens. Indeed, one could argue that Spring Awakening is the first emo musical, given its themes of adolescents wanting to find relationships and feeling guilty about finding relationships. And "Totally F**ked!" may be one of the best show-stoppers on Broadway right now--too bad that for obvious reasons, it won't be performed on TV or elsewhere anytime soon. It's a crowded year at the Tonys in the top acting categories (Raul Esparza is a virtual cinch for lead actor at this point, and lead actress features the battle of Tony-beloved divas Donna Murphy, Audra McDonald, and Kristin Chenoweth), but I hope John Gallagher, Jr. is recognized as a Featured Actor for his fine work. The show's not perfect--the last 15 minutes are rather rushed, as though the creative team said "well, we've got two hours of show now, let's wrap it up quick!," and chopped a book scene or two that would have given us a fuller understanding and resolution of a few dangling subplots, but this is still well worth your time if you care about musical theatre and can handle the "edgy" content (on-stage nudity from both genders, a number of sex acts depicted on stage, and some salty language).
UFOLOGISTS EVERYWHERE ARE MOURNING: Quick, what rock band holds the record for biggest selling debut album? The Beatles? Pearl Jam? The Power Company? Wrong. Wrong. And Wrong.

That distinction still belongs to Boston, which sold over 17 million copies of its 1976 debut album. Boston lead singer Brad Delp, a name I am guessing is familiar to very few of you, was found dead today in his Atkinson, N.H., home at the age of 55.

As my pre-teen musical tastes were evolving from stuff my parents blasted into the back of the station wagon like Peter, Paul & Mary, Neil Diamond, and Barry Manilow to artists my friends' older brothers thought were cool like Rush, Springsteen, Kansas, and Seger, Boston was inescapable. By the time the band emerged from its bitter lawsuit with CBS records to release its third album in 1986, I had long since moved on the REM, U2, The Replacements, The Smiths, etc. And when the definitive history of 20th Century pop music is written, Boston may deserve little more than a blurb, it's possible the band may have had more of an influence than most give it credit for. (Judge for yourself.)


MITIGATED BY THE FACT THAT SHE BROUGHT ME TO THE CRITICS' SCREENING FOR "CHILL FACTOR", ABOUT WHICH THE LESS SAID, THE BETTER: Even if I wasn't eternally in her debt because she decided one day in 1999, "Hey, Adam, I know a reporter at the paper who might be a good match for you," I would still recommend that you check out Inquirer film critic Carrie Rickey's new blog, Flickgrrl, just because it's off to quite a promising start. Join in the conversation.
IN EVERY GENERATION, THERE IS A SLAYER: This article from TV Tattle indicates that tomorrow marks the tenth anniversary of the debut of Buffy of The Vampire Slayer on the WB. I am not the biggest of Buffy/Whedon fans, but I know many of our readers are, and this strikes me as a point worthy of discussion--what was Buffy's biggest impact on the pop cultural universe? A few suggestions:
  • The writing/producing staff, which included, in addition to Whedon, included Marti Noxon (currently on Grey's), Jane Espenson (who's freelanced at Gilmore Girls and Battlestar Galactica in recent years), David Fury (who's now at 24, but wrote "Walkabout" for Lost), and Drew Greenberg (who's at Dexter).
  • The actors, many of whom have gone on to successful careers in other realms, including Gellar, Hannigan, Boreanaz, and Dushku.
  • Making the television landscape safe for smart, strong women who don't hesitate to speak their mind. There almost certainly wouldn't be Gilmore Girls without the success of Buffy, for instance. Also, making the television landscape safe for sci-fi/fantasy that didn't have the words "Star Trek" in the title--aren't Heroes and Lost plainly the Slayer's progeny?
I NEVER KNEW ME A BETTER TIME, AND I GUESS I NEVER WILL: Sanjaya Malakar's ascendance into the Idol final twelve raises the prospect that he might join a club of dubious distinction: the Worst Idols Ever.

If the Idol's score for anti-talent is plotted along the horizontal of a graph, and his tenure on the show is plotted on the vertical, then calculating the total area of the Idol yields the overall measure of his awfulness. Matthew Rogers (S2), for example, has extremely high anti-talent, but thankfully little tenure. Final-three entrants Nikki McKibbin (S1) and Jasmine Trias (S3) each lasted way longer than she should have, but I don't think either was that bad compared to some of the others.

So, who ends up the worst under such a metric? RJ Helton (S1) and Anthony Fedorov (S4) made it to to the final five and final four, respectively, but Helton gets a pass because they didn't recruit any decent guys that season, and Fedorov gets a pass because otherwise his fans will descend on this site like locusts.

Really, there's only two contenders: Kevin Covais (S5) may have only made it two weeks into the finals, but he so had no business making it out of his Boston audition. But our winner, I think, is reedy-voiced redhead John Stevens (S3), who made it to the final six in what can only be described as a mercy killing, so petrified did he seem each week when he found out he was safe and would have to sing again another week. Remember: he outlasted Jennifer Hudson because Conan O'Sinatra's "Mandy" was deemed better than J-Hud's "Weekend in New England". That's enough to win this even without remembering his "King of the Road".

Sanjaya, you've got a big mountain to climb, but it may only take him a few weeks to get there. Can he do it?

e.t.a. D'oh! Total brain-fart, noted in the comments, that I had blotted from my memory like Amalek one Scott Savol (S4), who made it to his season's final five past Constantine Maroulis, Nadia Turner and Anwar Robinson despite an almost complete lack of talent and character, especially the latter. If he's the standard Sanjaya has to meet, he may have to reach final two to dethrone him. America, it's up to you.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Cops: Blues Traveler Frontman Had Guns, Taser | John Popper :

BUT DID HE OFFER THE COP, "WE WALK AWAY, MAYBE THEN SHAKE HANDS"? Blues Traveler frontman John Popper was arrested in Washington on Tuesday doing 111 mph in his Mercedes SUV. (As it turns out, he wasn't the driver, but anyway.)

Upon being pulled over, he could not humor the police and tell them lies -- found in the SUV were "four rifles, nine handguns and a switchblade knife in hidden compartments, as well as a Taser, night vision goggles and a small amount of marijuana." What's more surprising -- the amount of weaponry, or that the amount of marijuana was "small"? (Link contains photo of weapons cache.)
INDUCTION JUNCTION: It's time again for the blogosphere's favorite (and only, to my knowledge) look at all things Hall of Fame. With the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony coming up on Monday, news from that institution seems to be dominating the Hall news this week. I have a bunch of other nuggets from other Halls that I will try to add tomorrow, but for now, let's rock.
  • Still it wouldn't be an Induction Junction without news from the Van Halen camp. Earlier this week I reported that all five main members of the band would be in attendance Monday at the Waldorf, but now it looks like only Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony will be in attendance. Eddie Van Halen checked himself into rehab today, which confirms the rumors that it was Eddie's drinking and not Diamond Dave's grating personality that torpedoed this summer's reunion tour. Alex is expected to skip the ceremony out of loyalty to Eddie and David Lee Roth is making noise about not attending because he is not being allowed to perform (organizers probably saw this or maybe this).
  • Meanwhile, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and some music retailers, in an effort to boost album sales, but together a list of the 200 greatest albums of all time they are calling the Definitive 200. The usual suspects dominate the top 20 (Beatles, Dylan, Floyd, etc.), but things get very odd after that with Shania Twain, Alanis Morissette, Norah Jones among the notables placing albums above The Beatles' White Album (No. 39) and Revolver (42).
  • The Ronnettes also are being inducted on Monday (deservedly so just for "Be My Baby," which is to singles what Joe DiMaggio's hit streak is to baseball records). They wouldn't be, though, if waiting-for-trial Phil Spector had his way.
  • Here's a reminder that with the induction of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, rap and hip-hop have finally made their way to the Hall. It will be interesting to see which rappers and bands will get the nod over the years. Some like Public Enemy, Run-DMC, The Beastie Boys, and Outkast would seem to be slam-dunks, but what about NWA, Snoop Dog, LL Cool J, Tribe Called Quest, etc.? Feel free to speculate in the comments.
  • The performance by all four original members of REM is sure to be a highlight Monday (don't forget the ceremony airs live on VH1 Classic). Michael Stipe says the band is excited to be inducted on the same night as one of its influences, Patti Smith. And Mike Mills, REM's bassist, diplomatically says he is, in fact, a big fan of all the performers being inducted Monday.
  • And as for Smith, she says the honor would have made her parents very happy.
AMERICA VOTED . . . And America got it horribly wrong in at least one of tonight's Idol eliminations, knocking out a contender who I believed that had at least a chance of winning this competition, something I can't say about some of the others surviving until next week. But who? Won't spoil here.

Also, big announcement of a nebulous Idol program to alleviate poverty in Africa and America this season. A very noble move by a show that's been all too crass at times, and I look forward to learning more.
SHUT UP AND GO BACK TO TALKING ABOUT YOUR SPECTACLES: Self-important college kids always need something to whine about, and Columbia's are no exception. Their topic du jour: Matthew Fox has been named their Class Day speaker. Oh, the horror. Wah.
OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, OH YOUR GOD, OH HIS GOD, OVER GOD*: I have good news and bad news for 30 Rock fans. The good news is that at least one of the two best sit-coms on TV has a new episode tonight. The bad news is that it guest-stars Robin Williams Martin Short Billy Crystal Nathan Lane. (Sorry -- I have a hell of a time keeping straight my hammy-funnymen-of-a-certain-age-who-have-Ethel-Merman-impressions.)

I HAPPEN TO LIKE 1978 A LOT: The Onion's AV Club brings you a list of songs about particular years. Among the songs listed I like #5, #7, #10, #15, #18, #20, and #24. In the right mood I even like #8, but please don't tell anyone.

I could think of only five other examples and they are generally mighty obscure:
  • 1849 by Lighthouse (best known for "Pretty Lady", a pop hit from the early 1970's)
  • 1900 Yesterday by Liz Damon's Orient Express (this hit #33 in 1971)

  • The Last Day of June 1934 by Al Stewart (best known for "Year of the Cat")

  • The Summer of ’42 by Peter Nero

  • Energy Crisis 1974 by Dickie Goodman

Philadelphia Daily News | 03/08/2007 | Phillies coach Vukovich dies at 59

VUKE: Popular longtime Phillies coach John Vukovich, who spent 31 of his 41 years in baseball with the organization, has lost his battle with brain cancer at the age of 59.
ALL PURPOSE LOST POST: I am not usually the one to post about Lost, but I figured last night's episode was sufficiently good that we should have an opportunity to discuss it here.
STILL, YOU WOULD HAVE TO SAY THAT BOTH OF THEM ARE MORE IMPRESSIVE THAN BILLY CARTER OR ROGER CLINTON: People who are fans of both "24" and pro football will enjoy this site, which compares Wayne Palmer to Eli Manning.

Sniff, sniff ... 7 movies that make guys cry - Today Entertainment -

I'D LIKE TO TELL YOU ABOUT A GUY I KNOW, A FRIEND OF MINE. HIS NAME IS BRIAN PICCOLO: MSNBC's list of seven "movies that make guys cry" is woefully incomplete. Philadelphia, anyone? Glory? If nothing comes immediately to mind, it's not your fault.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

THE YO FACTOR: So here's the problem with AI this year -- it's not even remotely a competition. Is it really going to be that interesting to watch one inferior singer after another blow himself or herself up during whichever theme week it is while waiting for Melinda the equal opportunity hand chiller to be anointed this year's American Idol? There is no one who can touch her. No one. I guess it's possible that she gets booted somewhere around the 4-or-5-contestants-remaining stage because people get bored of voting for her, assume that she's got plenty of voters, and spend their time hitting redial for some more marginal candidate who they hope will end up as #4 instead of #5 -- always a danger on this show. But seriously, can anyone even make the argument that there's a better singer out there?

And here's part of why she's so good: most of the women who make the semifinals can hit the big notes. You make the semis because you belted out that big note at the end of whatever Celine/Whitney/Mariah song somewhere along the line, and Randy waved his hands around and shouted about how you can blow. But it is not every semifinalist who can bring those buttery low notes that the other singers swallow in preparation for their big BIG notes during the second chorus. Melinda's got the butter.

There isn't really anything to say about anyone else's singing (except Gina, who I liked and who should stick around for a while), so I'd just like to offer up a few observations made while snoozing my way through everyone else's performances:
  • I'd like Sabrina's hair stylist to come deal with my curls every morning. Thank you.
  • Whatever one thinks of Antonella, she is not an unattractive girl.
  • Stephanie's big thing that no one knows about her is that she was a little shy about singing in front of strangers when she was three? Wuss. Tell us about your OCD, girl!
  • Who told Lakisha that Lee Press-On Nails were part of a classy AI look? And I hate that tongue-through-the-teeth thing she does all the time. The dress looked nice, though.
  • I am so glad that Gina stopped trying to wear cocktail dresses. The fishnet stockings on the hands were a little much, but I liked her outfit otherwise.
J-HUD TO TOPLINE J-ROB? Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Hudson now has a next project in mind -- playing Rachel Robinson in an upcoming Jackie Robinson biopic being produced by Robert Redford, who may play Branch Rickey. Who would you like to see wearing number 42? Hopefully, it'll be a better actor than the last guy to play him on film.

Thomas Carter (Coach Carter, Save the Last Dance, Swing Kids) to direct.
I CAN ONLY IMAGINE WHAT HE'D SAY ABOUT TACO BELL: In attempting to find an old Gallery Furniture commercial to add to Alex's posting below, I found several YouTube clips of Marvin Zindler. For those who have not been so lucky as to experience Zindler's fixation on the "Big S," the introduction of the "Slime Choir," and Zindler's distinctive "shouting" style of journalism, I urge you to check this one out. The fact that Zindler has a lifetime contract on Houston's most-popular local news may say more about Houston than anything else.
WAVE FOR CATFISH; SCREAM FOR RIBS: You have to admire the blogger over at Phat Phree who combed YouTube to compile what he is calling the 50 Greatest Local TV Commercials (I would argue No. 50 belongs in the top 5, at least), but speaking from a strictly Chicago standpoint, he missed some classics including easily the greatest local spot ever filmed. And while Chicago does get some deserving mentions for Empire Carpets (go ahead, I'll wait, 5-8-8 2-300...Empiiiire. Here's some background on the Empire Carpet guy) and Victory Auto Wreckers, but where is Aronson Furniture (Home of the Credit Connection), Bert Weinman Ford (Linn Burton, for certain), Lincoln Carpet (sadly you don't get the whole jingle, but kudos to the parodying Dragnet all the way to the end credit and was Lincoln the last company in America using the two-letter telephone prefix, in its case NAtional 2-9000?), Shelley Long's pre-Diane roll as the Homemaker's Furniture spokeswoman ("not low-priced furniture, but good furniture at low prices"), the Long Subaru (nee Chevrolet) newsboy, Harry Schmerler (Your Singing Ford Dealer), and Celozzi-Ettleson ("Where you always save more money").
WE GONNA BREAK THIS THING DOWN IN JUST A FEW SECONDS: In our recent discussions about workout songs, Gretchen asked about the meter of Outkast's song "Hey Ya". I had originally said was in 4:4 time, but later recanted upon the advice of a musically sophisticated friend. It turns out that the topic is discussed here. I was not totally wrong the first time, but the true analysis is both intriguing and provides further evidence that the guys in Outkast are musical geniuses. My thanks go out to someone who knows who he is.
ONLY ONE "MAGIC WAND" JOKE IN ARTICLE: There are plenty of sites that truth-squad the NYT news and editorial sections. However, we're here to truth-squad the Arts and Leisure section. Today's article about Daniel Radcliffe in the West End production of Equus provides us with ample truth-squadding opportunities. The NYT does ask why exactly parents are taking 12 and 14 year olds to a play featuring extensive nudity and sexual violence, but what particularly drew my attention was this comparison:
It is as jarring as if, say, Anne Hathaway suddenly announced that instead of playing sweet-natured princesses and fashion-world ingénues, she wanted to appear onstage as a nude, murderous prostitute.
Two issues immediately surged to mind with the comparison:

1. Radcliffe is 17. Hathaway is 24. Obviously, the age makes a difference here, at least under U.S. law and standards.
2. While Hathaway has not played a "nude, murderous prostitute" on stage, she's doffed her clothes on screen at least twice (here and here), so her doing so again would be less than shocking.

Isn't a better comparison Hilary Duff or one of the stars of High School Musical?
JUST BE WRONG. JUST STAND THERE IN YOUR WRONGNESS AND BE WRONG. AND GET USED TO IT: The good news is that the Library of Congress has added 25 new recordings to the National Recordings Registry, of "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" sound recordings, including Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come", The Velvet Underground and Nico, "We Shall Overcome" as performed by Pete Seeger at Carnegie Hall, "Be My Baby" and The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart.

Bill, however, sent over a link to a blogger, "Callimachus", whose post regarding the most recent addition to the list has finally reached the mark of uttering the dumbest thing that ever will be posted on the Internet:
Graceland. Paul Simon. (1986) Worst choice on the list. Big American fading folk star who's out of fresh ideas vampirizes the world music catalogue to stave off career death for another decade. Bonus points off for including Linda Ronstadt.

Let the pile-on begin. The full registry is here.

NOVELS INTO FILMS: Last night I happened to see in quick succession ads for three upcoming films based upon novels or short stories I had already read. The movies are:
Although I loved the book, I am somewhat skeptical about the film version of The Namesake simply because the novel does not seem like a promising basis for a movie. I will note that the director Mira Nair has an excellent track record (Monsoon Wedding, Mississippi Masala).

I believe Shooter will be an excellent action film. It stars Mark Wahlberg in a role that seems suited to him. I thought the book was first rate.

I am intrigued by The Last Mimzy. I LOVED the short story upon which it is based. The story (and the film, as far as I can tell) focus upon two siblings who begin to develop special talents after they find a mysterious box of toys from the future. The film includes blog favorite Rainn Wilson in a lead role.

Over the long run, I have often been disappointed when books I have read have been adapted into movies. We shall see how these three fare.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

LUKE N. LAURA, #020406, OR "THEY SAVED DAVE MATTHEWS' BRAIN!": Oh, Dr. Hizzy, with your mad Boomtown piano skillz. If that's the only new House M.D. episode between February 13 and March 27, well, March 27 can't come soon enough. I almost missed Tritter this week -- until the twist, anyway.
DON'T CHA WISH THEY WERE AIRING VERONICA MARS INSTEAD? Sure, in addition to Idol, we have Gilmore Girls, House, and Boston Legal tonight, but it's going to be tough to beat in the bizarre/inexplicable/funny contest this comment from Search For The Next Doll contestant Asia:

"I want to be a Pussycat Doll because the Pussycat Dolls stand for female empowerment and I express that."

Wha to the wha?
WAITING ON SANJAYA'S PRETTY HAIR TO CHANGE: Well, finally Chris Sligh wins a night of Idol, but I hated to see it happen like this.

Basically, in a night when each of the guys was resting his starter vocals for the playoffs, Sligh's "Wanna Be Loved" by the Christian pop-rock band DC Talk was the only six inning quality start of a mediocre night from the worst set of guys we've seen since season one. Pretty boys Brandon and Jared ought to advance based on sheer competence (Fienberg captures Jared perfectly), Beatbox Blake on the novelty of a ten-year-old 311 song, and Chris Richardson on residual good will, based on an unremarkable rendition of a boring-ass Keith Urban song that has a fan in Alan Sepinwall.

The bottom: well, Sundance, one of the things you need if you're singing "Jeremy" is authenticity -- we have to believe you're in that classroom, and since you're neither Daughtry nor Bo Bice, it came off as pointless yelling. Phil Stacey was just plain off-tune, and with that hat he's looking more and more like Jude Law as Dickie Greenleaf, The Untalented Mr. Ripley. And Sanjaya . . . okay, I miss RJ Helton now. Is that what you wanted? I retroactively appreciate the borderline charm of Anthony Federov. That's how painful it's going to be until he's gone.
I FIND YOUR LACK OF FAITH DISTURBING: More Star Wars geekery from the Yavin IV Truth Movement: Was the Death Star Attack an Inside Job?

("Why would Lord Vader, one of the highest ranking members of the Imperial Government, suddenly decide to fly away from the Death Star in the middle of a battle? Did he know something that the rest of the Imperial Navy didn’t?")
OTHER MILEUX IN WHICH THE QUARRELS ARE SO VICIOUS BECAUSE THE STAKES ARE SO SMALL: As Deadspin has chronicled, the Boston Globe's Ron Borges slapped his own byline on a story with sizeable chunks cut-and-pasted from a Tacoma News-Tribune story about wide receiver Darryl Jackson's trade value. It got him suspended, but as it turns out it may have been just an extreme example of a very lazy, but accepted, practice.

Baseball Prospectus took a swipe (post deleted by USSM) at Derek Zumsteg, co-author of USS Mariner (the world's smartest single-team baseball blog) and a former BP writer, dismissing one of his earlier projections by saying "the guy who wrote that isn't with us anymore." Except maybe it wasn't meant to be critical of DMZ at all (thread deleted by USSM). Whatever it was, it drew a sharp defense from DMZ's friend, which in turn drew a threat of legal action by BP.

Film criticism site GreenCine deleted all of critic N.P. Thompson's work for it after a dispute over payment dissolved into what GreenCine called "threatening and harassing emails." Is the deletion of past freelance work in retaliation for a dispute concerning an unrelated article overly punitive? Or do you cut the site some slack because Thompson, the Reeler article says, is a master bridge burner and a guy with some strange ego issues -- like when he claims that the editor of Seattle free weekly The Stranger was "obsess[ed]" with him but "suppress[ed his] voice" because the editor read his blog but didn't ask him to work for the paper?

All this just proves that the Seattle-Tacoma corridor is the wild wild west of leisure-journalism clusterf---s.

Sources, because everybody is so litigious: Deadspin, USS Mariner, Matt Zoller Seitz's The House Next Door, and all the places they cited too.
IT'S A FAMILY AFFAIR, A FAMILY AFFAIR: I've been down on Heroes for a while, but I actually liked the last two episodes. This one seemed particularly well-constructed, focusing on four (or so, depending upon how you're counting) different family dramas. And while Alan last week pointed out that Bluetooth Girl disappeared rather quickly, I think the exchange for new villain Candace is a trade up. Candace's superpower? She' ultrasassy, and she can STICK IT.
BODY LANGUAGE: Today's WSJ has a short article on finding workout music, which is a topic that has come up in some of our recent discussions about dance music. The article focuses upon a new free software product called "repacer", which "can change the pace of any song so that it will exactly match your preferred personal pace. This is done without changing the pitch of the song or damaging its quality." I plan to give it a try.

The article also notes that Nike has teamed up with various artists to make exercise playlists on iTunes. The Nike project is designed to promote the Nike+ shoe technology.

To me, workout songs need:

  • to be in a major key,
  • to be in 4:4 time (are there exceptions?),
  • to have a fast pace, ideally one that increases as the song proceeds,
  • to have an outstanding rhythm section,
  • to have positive lyrics,
  • to have a catchy chorus, and
  • to have a powerful lead vocal.

I would love to learn what you love in this regard. I'd be especially interested in songs that inspire you to work out particularly fast. Russ suggested that we all post the 10 songs we most often listen to while exercising (including any embarrassing selections). I will do so in the comments.

American Idol: Season 6 Contestants

DOG, YO, MAN, HOT ONE TONIGHT: This is the toughest week of American Idol until May -- the contestants go from having a one in four chance of getting booted this week (12 of 16 survive) to only a one in twelve chance next week, so to say song selection is critical would be an understatement.

So take this moment to advise a contestant of your choosing on the best way to ensure his or her survival. For Gina Glocksen, for instance, she needs something that takes advantage of her decently-big voice, but she needs to break out of the Idol Standards into something more contemporary. How about Evanescence's "Bring Me To Life" or the Cranberries' "Zombie"? (Or, basically, anything Storm Large sang on Rock Star.)

For Backup Brandon Rogers, is D'Angelo's "Untitled (How Does It Feel)" too cliche? Can John Legend's "Ordinary People" be reduced to ninety seconds? If not, it's been a long time since I've heard Terence Trent D'Arby's "Wishing Well". Your turn.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Booing at games may be banned

HUSKIES SUCK: The Washington (state) Interscholastic Activities Association may ban booing at all high school games. Wusses.
THIS SHOW IS NOT WELL BUILT! CBS sitcom The Class (aka--that show that you watch because you need something to watch between HIMYM and Heroes) had its season (and probably series) finale tonight. You would think that it had a recipe for success--likable Tony-nominated performers from Broadway (Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Heather Goldenhresh), TV actors who were usually playing better than their shows were (Jason Ritter, Andrea Anders, and Lizzy Caplan), one of the creators of Friends, and James Burrows directing every episode. Yet, we had utter mediocrity, though punctuated with one or two moments of brilliance, and the surprisingly sweet Ferguson-Goldenhersh relationship. What went wrong? Was it trying to serve too many characters and relationships (the show started with 8 regulars, plus multiple recurring characters)? Was it making the characters too unsympathetic (two of the show's major "couples" got together when one of the members of the couple was married)? Or was it something else?
YOU GOT ME STRAIGHT TRIPPIN', BOO: Longtime readers of this blog need no explanation for why I'd link to the AV Club's list of 13 favorite Magical Negro movies.
I'D A-HAMMER IN THE MORNIN': One of the interesting diversions in my Jefferson Airplane/Starship thread below is a discussion that's worthy of it's own thread--what's the first concert you ever went to? Now, I don't see a ton of live music, but I've had interesting experiences (the Fiona Apple Roseland meltdown and a shockingly great live set from Hootie and the Blowfish at Memphis in May back in my college days). That said, it's somewhat embarassing to admit that my first concert was (I believe) a show by Peter Paul & Mary at the then Starplex amphitheatre (now Smirnoff Music Centre) in Dallas. Top that.
SHAKE IT, SHAKE IT, SHAKE IT LIKE A POLAROID PICTURE: I was not a particularly gifted philosophy student. Eventually, I discovered that I preferred empirical analysis rather than theory. In keeping with that predilection, here is an almost wholly empirical report about which songs got people to dance at the dance party I mentioned earlier.

Two quick notes. First. we brought along our disco ball (yes, we own a disco ball, doesn’t everyone?). That was clearly a step in the right direction.

Second, obviously this was a small sample. You might get totally different results with a different group of people:

  • Get Down Tonight (A-) (K.C. is a guru)
  • Super Freak (A) (this got an awesome response)
  • To Be Real (B+)
  • Everybody, Everybody (A-)
  • Always and Forever (A) (slow dances are a great way to get shy people to dance)
  • Gone Daddy Gone (A-) (this was the version by Gnarls Barkley, which is quite similar to the original)
  • Dancing With Myself (A) (probably the second most successful song all night)
  • Don’t You Want Me (A-) (everyone sang along with this)
  • Venus (B-)
  • Walking on Sunshine (B-/C+) (a much weaker reaction than I expected)
  • I Want You Back (A) (someone remarked that if you did not want to dance to this one you should check your pulse to see if you might be dead)
  • This Is How We Do It (B+) (Not as big as I thought it would be. Another minor problem is that the spoken word introduction and fadeout are momentum killers.)
  • Crazy in Love (B+) (I love this one. The crowd liked it.)
  • Love Rollercoaster (A-)
  • Hey Ya (A+) (I figured this would be a good, but this was outstanding. Clearly the most successful song of the night)
  • Another Night, Another Dream (A-) (two people asked me for a copy of this song)
  • I Wanna Be Your Lover (B+)
  • Disco Inferno (B+)
  • Shame (B)
  • Turn the Beat Around (A-) (the original, of course)
  • Off the Wall (A-)
  • Baby Got Back (B+)
  • Fight the Power (B+)
  • Move Ya Body (B)
  • Sexy Back (B+)
  • Boys Don’t Cry (B+)
  • Cut the Cake (A-)
  • Whip It (A-)
  • Crazy (B+)
  • Hungry Like the Wolf (C-) (it pains me to assign this grade, Jennifer J, but this song led to the biggest exodus from the dance floor all night)
  • Words (C)
  • Boogie Shoes (A-) (what TV show does this remind you of?)
  • Let the Music Play (B)
  • Tenderness (B+)
  • Bust a Move (B+)
  • Finally (A-)
  • Everybody’s Got Their Something (A-)
  • You Dropped a Bomb on Me (B)
  • Groove Is In The Heart (A-)
  • One More Time (B+)
  • September (A)
  • What I Like About You (A)
  • Gold Digger (B+)
KISS AND RIDE ON THE CTA: On a particularly frustrating commuting morning -- first to the office, then from the office downtown to the courthouse -- I had plenty of time to come up with my comprehensive rankings of every song ever written about commuting:
  • 1. Beastie Boys, "Mark on the Bus"
  • 2. Beatles, "A Day in the Life"
  • 3. Berlin, "The Metro" (can't say I like the song, but it gets bumped up from # 5 for this ridiculous video, with the crappy reception, the wooden lip-synching, and the overall 80sness)
  • 4. James Taylor, "Traffic Jam"
  • 5. Sheena Easton, "Morning Train"
I must be missing something. Am I missing anything?

Related note: somebody reserve a Nobel Prize for the genius who decided that during an alleged (but possibly apocryphal) renovation of the 10 east from downtown to west LA there would be no need for visible lane markers.

John Belushi, 25 years gone -

SEE IF YOU CAN GUESS WHAT I AM NOW: John Belushi passed away 25 years ago today at the age of 33, and beyond all the manic energy of a Blues Brother or Bluto was a gifted actor as well. His performance in Animal House is just as good if you ignore the dialogue and just focus on the gestures; Belushi could have thrived in the silent comedy era as well.

His tombstone in Martha's Vineyard reads, "I may be gone, but rock n roll lives on."
RED AND YELLOW AND PINK AND GREEN, PURPLE AND ORANGE AND BLUE: Debuting on Philadelphia's WHYY-TV tonight is a new documentary called Philly's Favorite Kids Show Hosts. Captain and Mrs. Noah, Sally Starr, Chief Halftown and the gang will all be represented at 8pm tonight. Video preview here.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

ATIA OF THE JULII, I COME FOR JUSTICE. ATIA OF THE JULII, I COME FOR JUSTICE. ATIA OF THE JULII, I COME FOR JUSTICE: We don't have threads after every Rome episode, but when you've got two weddings, multiple key deaths, multiple hearts broken, a sly wink, action on the slave front and Judean politics, well, yeah, that was a good one. A really good episode. Posca may have retaken the "smartest person in Rome" contest and, as always, Atia's not nearly as smart as she thinks she is. "Now that's an exit," indeed.
ONE ROCK IN A LANDSLIDE: A man with a career of public service like that of Sen. Thomas Eagleton (Amherst '50) shouldn't be reduced to the answer to one trivia question, and yet, all most of us know of the man is that he's the one who briefly served as George McGovern's running mate until . . .

Well, let's not get into that. We know more about mental illness now than we did then, and with his passing today, we can learn more about Eagleton than that to which history books have reduced him. [ALOTT5MA hook: he helped lure the Rams from Los Angeles to St. Louis.]
SEE, THERE'S AN EGYPTIAN CURSE, AND SHE WOUND UP IN A DEPARTMENT STORE! Few would contest that Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane are worthy members of the Rock Hall of Fame. However, maybe you'll rethink that after realizing that they had a sum total of 2 #1 hits--this one and this one.

(Interesting--"Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" was Oscar nominated in 1988, along with "Storybook Love" from Princess Bride, "Shakedown" from Beverly Hills Cop II, and the winner, "I've Had The Time of My Life." T'was the only Oscar nomination for both Mannequin and Princess Bride.)
WELCOME TO CHARLA AND MIRNA'S WORLD: TARstars started on time and ended with a thrill -- just a solid overall episode. Airport intrigue, a great roadblock, missed clues and missed directions, and holy crap am I sick of Charla and Mirna. Like you wouldn't believe -- girlfriends now have a sense of entitlement like a Yankee fan wanting to know why he can't buy World Series tickets in April.

Romber does what Romber does, but Uchenna and Joyce also did some nice things. The thing we'll want to discuss, I imagine, was the lame-ass penalty assessment. I'd have figured on a half-hour standing at the mat, minimum, rather than the self-remedy Phil requested. You?
YOU KNOW IT'S NOT A DOUBT WE'LL BE REALLY MAKIN' OUT: I am a mere 2 minutes and 14 seconds into Danny night on Project Broadway, but just had to run to the computer to gush over my love for this show's production numbers. The ALOTT5MA field trip is going to happen.

Based solely on "Greased Lightning" -- and thus without yet having seen any of the individual Danny performances -- I was surprised at the extent to which Chad faded into the background. It felt like a Derek / Austin final two to me, unless the Slacker Danny fan base (which I have a sneaking suspicion is large) manages to get one of them booted.

Edited to add: Tonight's outcome was really irrelevant, as the Sandy competition has become a one-woman show. Unless Laura blows herself up (or the judges for whatever reason elect to blow her up by giving her a rotten song), it'll be her Maidenform whose quilting is doing the wilting.

As for the guys, this round really cast their strengths and weaknesses into high relief. Austin apparently decided to make himself more fun fun fun by portraying Big Gay Danny. Fortunately, he settled down about halfway through the song, but the damage was done. Derek's vocal weaknesses are what they are, but he's the most obviously Dannyish of the bunch. Chad continues to fade away, and his flaws were further magnified by the transformative wonder that is Max. I found Max's performance to be 100% convincing. (I do wonder, though, whether he can play opposite Laura or alongside a bona fide flock of Broadway T-Birds.) All of a sudden, we don't seem to have a frontrunner.

All of this raises an interesting question: I wonder whether the forthcoming production is the proper theatrical version, or whether they are going to incorporate the songs that were added to the movie ("Hopelessly Devoted" and "Sandy," not to mention "You're the One That I Want") to give John Travolta and Olivia Newton John some more singing to do. If the former, then Derek's lack of a really big voice is less troubling than it might otherwise be.
DISTANT EARLY WARNING LINE: UNC-Duke is running late on CBS; Amazing Race fans will need to extend their recording time by 15-30 minutes.
LIVING WITH JUST ONE MIND, AND I STILL THINK IT'S PHIL'S: Words fail sometimes: YouTube presents Phil Collins wrestling against The Ultimate Warrior. Also, the Solid Gold Dancers interpret the top ten songs from some random autumn week in 1985.

Any random YouTube links you feel like sharing?
RIGHT NEXT TO THE CHANUKAH BLOWTORCHES: While at Bed, Bath, and Beyond this afternoon, I noticed that they have a small Passover section out already. Among the things stocked? Ten Plagues Finger Puppets--one itty-bitty puppet for each plague from "Blood" to "Death of Firstborn." I'm all for using toys to teach, but am I the only one skeeved out by "Boils" and "Death of The Firstborn" being represented in finger puppet form?


PERFECT ATTENDANCE AWARD (AN INDUCTION JUNCTION EXTRA): All five of the real members of Van Halen (Eddie, Alex, Diamond Dave, Michael Anthony, and Sammy Hagar) will attend the band's induction ceremony for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Be on the lookout for Gary Cherone trying to crash the ceremony dressed as a Waldorf Astoria banquet waiter. Even with all five in attendance, Van Halen will still not perform. Velvet Revolver will play a tribute to the band instead, just as Metallica did for Black Sabbath last year.

Link courtesy the Future Rock Hall Blog.