Saturday, November 24, 2007

HAPPY WORKING SONG: I don't have a lot to say about Enchanted. It's cute-but-not-great, though Amy Adams is just as good as they say. If you're up for That Kind Of Movie, it delivers, but only rarely (the Central Park sequence) does it soar. It's a movie that aspires to be Splash but never develops that level of depth of feeling, though I suspect drag queens will be riffing off Susan Sarandon's evil Narissa for decades to come. It is good seeing Idina Menzel working, though she's not given much to do.

Two character actors worth noting: Timothy Spall (Wormtail!) in the kind of sniveling role he's born to play, and do look out for (and listen to) Jodi Benson, who voiced Ariel, as Lawyer McDreamy's assistant.
AND BOULDER HAS A LOT OF HIPPIES: For ABC, Eric Cartman introduces the Colorado Buffaloes starting lineups.
YOU PROBABLY THINK THE SONG IS ABOUT YOU: So, as it turns out, Neil Diamond's inspiration for "Sweet Caroline" was Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, who was not yet twelve years old at the time when Diamond started thinking about hands touching hands, reaching out, touching him, touching her. Of course, that's probably less creepy than the last explanation I heard (video).

For more, see this 2004 Rolling Stone list of songs and their inspirations, to which we can also add Alice Brock, an artist and gallery owner in Provincetown, Mass., but who used to own a restaurant in Great Barrington, just a half-a-mile from the railroad track ....

Friday, November 23, 2007

ELBOW DEEP IN NAZI GUT: It is Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, for crying out loud! Is it too much to ask that my Grey's Anatomy have a little uplift and maybe a smidge of thankful mixed in? Sheesh.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I STRONGLY DISLIKED THIS MOVIE: The A.V. Club's take on Rob Reiner's film North, part of its My Year of Flops series, is of course very much based on seeing the film through the prism of Roger Ebert's legendary 0-star review, but Nathan Rabin also raises two fine thoughts worthy of your input:
1. "Watching the film, I was reminded of my late, great Movie Club colleague Anderson Jones’ comment that he hated kids films, hated kids in films, and hated children in general. I don’t hate children, but I do hate the way children are deified in films. I’m sickened by the endless deluge of parenthood redemption comedies about hard-working parents who learn, through some manner of metaphysical magic or bizarre quirk of fate, that the only way to be a good parent is to devote every waking moment to catering to their child’s every need. These films coldly exploit both the innate narcissism of children and the guilt of dual-income couples worried that their professional success is coming at the expense of their children’s happiness. Most parents try their best under challenging circumstances. They don’t deserve to have cynical kiddie fare propagating the message that if you miss little Timmy’s softball game even once he’ll end up a serial killer all because of your terrible parenting."

2. " Ebert expresses hope that North represents a mere 'lapse from which Reiner will soon recover'. Yet Reiner never really did recover. North marked the turning point where people stopped saying, 'Oh wow, a new Rob Reiner movie!' to 'Oh shit, another fucking Rob Reiner movie.' Reiner’s impressive string of triumphs was in the past (All in The Family, the aforementioned directorial hits, fucking Penny Marshall) while The Story Of Us, Alec & Emma, and Rumor Has It loomed ominously in his future. Reiner and Barry Levinson have strangely similar career arcs. Each triumphed throughout the ‘80s with critics and audiences then wiped out with a deeply personal labor of love early in the early 90s. Reiner and Levinson obviously put a lot of themselves into North and Toys, respectively. Reiner and Levinson clearly thought they were giving the world another Wizard Of Oz. So it must have been traumatic to have the world treat their gift-wrapped whimsy like a vial of the bubonic plague. They expected to be greeted as liberators of the world’s collective inner child. Instead they were treated like a guy who comes to the family Christmas party high on crack and hand-cuffed to a dead hooker."
Indeed, after a run including Spinal Tap, Princess Bride, Stand By Me, Misery, When Harry Met Sally and A Few Good Men, Reiner hasn't had a good film since 1995's The American President; Levinson has directed one solid film (Wag the Dog) since 1991's Bugsy, though he has a lifetime pass thanks to helming "Homicide: Life on the Streets". What happened? Thanksgiving: THE best time to make stock

HOPEFULLY, THIS WARNING DOES NOT COME TOO LATE: If you don't turn your turkey carcass into a stock, Michael Ruhlman will be disappointed in you.

I'm reading Ruhlman's new book now, The Elements of Cooking, and I feel like I'm being humbled by Dick Helmholz, page-by-page -- energized by all the new ideas and insights, but worn down by the berating over the fact that I don't yet know how important veal stock is to, apparently, everything.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO LOCATE THE NEAREST EXIT: Last November, our friend Mike Ward graced us with the Pre-Meal Thanksgiving Safety Demonstration. For 2007, Mike has recorded an audio version, but I have no idea how to upload it to a site where we can share it. If you can let me know how, I'll do it. In the meantime:
The Pre-Meal Thanksgiving Safety Demonstration

Welcome to this Thanksgiving meal, with non-stop service from passive aggression to outright yelling. This afternoon's meal will last approximately two hours and 14 minutes. At this time, please direct your attention to the head of the table for the pre-meal safety demonstration.

Emergency exits are located at the door into the kitchen and through the living room into the front hall. Please take a moment to locate the exit nearest you.

When the meal begins to take off, you must fasten your lips shut. To do so, insert an alcoholic beverage into a glass, and pull it to your lips for a long swig. We suggest that you keep your beverage glass full throughout the meal, as we may experience turbulence.

In the event of a sudden pressurization of the dining room's atmosphere, various members of the family may drop insults that they don't actually mean. Remain calm. Pull the defensive psychological mask that you have constructed over your face and breathe normally. Insults will continue to flow even after the mask is in place.

In the event of water flowing from eyelids, please remember that your Walgreen's Thanksgiving print paper napkin can be used as a tear-soaking device.

This is a non-smoking meal. Tampering with, disabling, or destroying the smoke detectors located in the bathroom is an offense punishable by substantial yelling and cursing.

At this time we ask that you turn off all cell phones, pagers, and other electronic devices. Please make sure that you have stowed away all painful memories and disappointments in preparation for the meal.

For complete information on meal safety procedures, please review the email provided to you by your cousin Joe detailing which family members are not talking to which other family members and which subjects are prohibited.

Thank you for choosing this side of the family for your Thanksgiving meal. At this time, you may sit back, relax, and enjoy the fight.
And if you've got eighteen minutes or so to fill, and you'd like to see a guy perform a song about the littering laws of Stockbridge, Mass., and the Army induction process, click here.
THE SMALL BOYS CAME EARLY TO THE HANGING: Since comments appear to be down, I will dedicate an entire post to my excitement that Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth appears on Oprah's Favorite Things of 2007 list and is her most recent book club selection. Not that Ken Follett personally needs Oprah's stamp of approval to sell books or anything, but the Oprah thing makes it inevitable that many, many more people will read this incredible book.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Butcher’s Method Takes Carving Off the Table - New York Times

DEPARTMENT OF THE OBVIOUS: The NYT has realized that you're better off disarticulating the turkey, then carving it, rather than carving straight off the carcass. There's even a diagram. (Did folks not know this?)

In other holiday news, Carrie Rickey reviews the best Thanksgiving films.

Welcome to FoodieBytes - eat something new - Boston, MA

BEEF RAGOUT! CHEESE SOUFFLE! PIE AND PUDDING "EN FLAMBE"! Our friend Cagey passed along word that her husband has set up a new site, FoodieBytes, that allows users to search across restaurant menus by item to figure out where to satisfy a particular craving. So far only operational in NYC, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago and D.C., but it seems like a solid idea.
NOT INCLUDING JULIA ROBERTS' FAVORITE TURKEY: Oprah's Favorite Things for 2007 were distributed to an audience in Macon, Georgia today, a list highlighted by this $3800 LG refrigerator/freezer with a built-in 15" HDTV.

(Oprah also loves the Scrabble premier edition, though you can challenge several of this site's users for free on Facebook.)

Yes, I'm going to link to the Maya Rudolph parody.
WILL HE LOSE HIS DIGNITY? WILL SOMEONE CARE? You may have your own theory of actual reality, but it better include the fact that American Idol's Anwar Robinson (of whom I was a fan) has joined the national touring company of Rent. He's playing Tom Collins, and the tour is coming to Philadelphia in January. Robinson blogged about the rehearsals on MySpace.

Paging Clay Aiken: we're still waiting.

Monday, November 19, 2007

PERHAPS THE VERY BEST FIRST DANCE AT A WEDDING OF ALL TIME? Let this video (now linked to youtube) play for about 30-40 seconds. You will not be disappointed. (via Reddit)

Edit: updated link.
GENERAL AMUSEMENT: Tonight's HIMYM offers much to be slap-ful for, including a reminder of how difficult being friends with an ex can be (and did anyone not see Ted and Robin's plotline coming from a mile away?), the always-amusing spectacle of "old man talking young," and yes, wholly gratuitous musical sequence (and, yes, there is a music video). Give thanks, or slaps, as appropriate, in the comments.

Blogging the 'Perfect Orgy' | The A.V. Club

IF I FREAK, I AM CONDEMNED: Among the tidbits gleaned from The A.V. Club's recap of the DVD "Nina Hartley’s Guide To The Perfect Orgy" (don't ask) is that there is a French adult film star who works in the States under the name of Jean Val Jean, whose works include "Britney Rears 2," "Lascivious Liaisons" and "Apprentass 3". (Text of all these links NSFW. Very.).

There is a wealth of rude puns and jokes that have occurred to me in the Les Mis/porn intersection; "And so Javert, you see it's true/That man is no more built than you!" is just the start. To the barricades!
THE LAW OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES: The Broadway stagehands' strike is affecting everyone. No one is immune.

(My next potential risk: The Farnsworth Invention on December 1.)
NOW WHAT YOU HEAR IS NOT A TEST: In 1979, an independent record producer named Sylvia Robinson released "Rapper's Delight," by the Sugarhill Gang. Although hip hop culture -- rapping, DJ'ing, beatboxing, breakdancing, graffiti -- had been germinating in the Bronx throughout the 1970s, "Rapper's Delight" marked the mainstream debut of hip hop and the beginning of a chapter in pop-culture history that would transform American music, television, fashion, language, and racial attitudes. (For compelling scholarly studies of hip hop's history, see Tricia Rose's Black Noise and the essay collection Droppin' Science.)

Although early hip hop drew on a wide range of African-American, Afro-Caribbean, and European-American cultural influences, it pulled much of its power from its deep connections to particular places, its authentic representation of black urban experiences. This power of place was vividly captured in Wild Style, a quirky 1982 film that blends a modest narrative story with striking documentary clips of MCs, DJs, graffiti artists, and breakdancers. That clip from Wild Style includes a mesmerizing sequence in which Grandmaster Flash demonstrates the turntable techniques that would help make "The Message" a breakout hit for him, Melle Mel, and the Furious Five in 1982. Over the next few years, rap continued to build an audience beyond the African-American community. Run-D.M.C. registered the first gold rap album in 1984, then achieved phenomenal "crossover" success with their 1986 remake of Aerosmith's "Walk This Way." By the late '80s and early '90s, rap had its own Grammy category, its own MTV program, and a series of platinum-selling hit records.

With hip hop's mainstream success, though, came a number of controversies. Some were creative: critics argued that rap wasn't "really music" and that its central hooks and beats were sampled from other artists, sometimes without permission or royalty payments. Other debates focused on the content of rap lyrics, with opponents (now including hip hop pioneer Russell Simmons) bemoaning what they saw as excessive glorification of misogyny, violence, and substance abuse. The most challenging arguments have dealt with hip hop's racial identity: to what extent could hip hop remain "black" when so many of its consumers (and even a handful of top artists) were white? Whatever one's opinions in these debates, it's clear that hip hop has generated more argument and analysis about its social and cultural effects than any musical genre since early rock 'n' roll.

Yet in the early 21st century, hip hop has become utterly respectable, spawning numerous prize-winning histories, a cover story in Time, and major exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum and (eventually) the Smithsonian Institution. It also dominates the Billboard Hot 100 and what remains of the playlist at MTV. Over the years, this blog has occasionally mentioned rap and hip hop, but they haven't been regular topics of conversation. So let's throw it open to a general discussion of your histories, experiences, and opinions of hip hop, as well as your predictions for its future place in American popular culture. Decades from now, how will pop-culture historians view today's "hip hop generation"?

Next week: ratings systems and content controversies, media consolidation and corporatization, and the blurring of entertainment and reality. Hope you all have a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat.
LE FREAK, C'EST CHIC: The Wall Street Journal has a front page article today on freaking and how the dance has affected a town in Texas. If you are wondering what the dance looks like, look here and here.

Despite writing 19 paragraphs on the subject, the author of the WSJ piece fails to note that freaking has been around since at least 1978, when Chic's song "Le Freak" popularized the dance and hit #1 on the pop charts.
NOTHING EVER HAPPENS IN OUGADOUGOU: Other than noting that, for some, milking a camel may be easier than threading it through the eye of a needle, there's not too much to say about last night's Race of Amazement. Well structured -- albeit with a one-a-day flight to Burkina Faso, not much chance of anything but a bunch -- with a particularly cute detour of learning the native language or teaching English. Only Team So-That's-How-It-Is-In-Their-Family seemed to understand anything about the division of labor.
NOT AS COOL AS THE GLOWING PICKLE TRICK: If, at some point, your iPod (or, I assume, pretty much any portable electronic device) is running low on batteries, and you forgot your charger, you can, in fact, charge it with 2 cups of Gatorade and an onion. In related news, apparently, hipster bars in Brooklyn are now taking to "science experiment show nights," which actually sound kind of awesome.
I'M A CITIZEN ... I'M JOE BETHERSONTON. FARGO. MY STREET ADDRESS IS 11454 PRUDER STREET...: Let's talk menu planning for this week. We're hosting twenty, and while I ended up going with a non-heritage breed (given size availabilty) (but brined for us), I'll still be rocking world's greatest turkey recipe this year. For a second protein -- because a thirty-pound turkey would be unwieldy to cook -- I'll be pan-roasting some duck breasts using this five-spice glaze, which is remarkably simple as long as you make sure not to overcook the sauce, because it gets gunky. For stuffings, I'm definitely going to try this 2003 Sausage Stuffing With Caramelized Onions recipe from Tom Colicchio, and I've been looking at various wild-rice-and-cranberry stuffings as a second. Everything else for the meal is someone else's responsibility.

What's going on in your house? Any recipes to share? And the video for the title of this post is here.
I [HEART]: Skating towards the edge of our no-politics policy, but I couldn't not note that Chuck Norris has cut an ad endorsing Mike Huckabee in Iowa.

e.t.a. Whoo! The Nature Boy is endorsing Huckabee too.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

IN THE QUEUE FOR MY NEXT ILLNESS, SEASON ONE OF DEADWOOD: Being stuck at home with a cold for a couple days last week gave me a chance to watch the half-dozen Ugly Betty episodes that had built up on my DVR. Ugly Betty is one of those shows that falls right on the cusp for me -- I have no desire to watch it in anything vaguely resembling real time, yet I like it enough that I never delete all the back episodes from the DVR to make room for something else. (A fate to which every post-pilot episode of Pushing Daisies has recently been subjected -- see ya on DVD, Ned.)

Parts of Ugly Betty are so pitch-perfect that I want to cry, and others are so off-key that my head aches from all the eye-rolling. Into the latter category falls pretty much anyone with the word "Meade" in his or her (or, in one case, his and her) name. Bradford, Claire, Alexis, and especially Daniel -- cue the eyes for rampant rolling. It didn't hit me how terrible Daniel was as a character until I saw him interact with James van der Beek's vicariously homophobic fashionista advertiser guy -- if freaking Dawson Leery can out-sex-appeal the guy whose biggest talent is supposed to be seducing women, then there is something very very wrong with the Daniel Meade concept.

But then there are Amanda, who I can't tear my eyes away from whenever she's on screen; Marc, whose relationship with Cliff and "Mr. Gutley" has been done supremely well; and Justin, whose fabulousness has been chronicled far and wide. (He doesn't really warrant mention in the main list, but Henry's cubicle neighbor Kenny -- John Cho, whose existence I would probably be more excited about if I'd ever seen Harold and Kumar -- is pretty darned funny. Just as he was on HIMYM.) And in watching these last six episodes marathon style, I have suddenly come to realize why this show works as something more than a rambling telenovela parody of life as a taco-eating Queens girl at a fashion magazine. Ignacio Suarez is the beating heart of Ugly Betty, and his absence in Mexico left the Suarez family -- and the show itself -- without its center. Welcome back, Papi.
BUILDING A BRIDGE TO THE 21ST CENTURY: I don't anticipate doing so regularly, but I wanted to inform y'all that this branch of ALOTT5MA is no longer tied to a computer. I believe this is our first iPhone-based post, which seems worth commemorating.
TALKING "FOOTBALL": There is a team in Boston known for its heart-wrenching playoff losses, a team that always seemed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. No, it's not the Red Sox, it's the New England Revolution, who today play in the finals of the MLS Cup at noon EST (game is on ABC).

The Revolution suffered painful overtime defeats in 2002 and 2005 in the finals. Last year's loss, though, would rank pretty high on Bill Simmons' levels of losing list. The team lost in a penalty shootout to Houston, a game in which the Revolution were leading in overtime. Read here for more background.

Speaking of penalty kick shootouts, this rough footage on the Boston Globe's website displays quite a thrilling shootout that decided this year's Massachusetts Division 1 high school soccer championship in which St. John's of Shrewsbury beat Framingham. The footage called to mind a painful memory from my sophomore year in high school when my team (I call it my team although I played JV that year) lost in the quarterfinals of the same tournament in precisely the same manner.

Perhaps we could simply make this an "anything soccer" post. Do you (or did you) play? Do your kids play? Do you coach? Do you follow MLS? Do you follow international soccer?