Saturday, April 5, 2008

INDEED, SHAWN CARTER MAY BE HAVING THE BEST WEEK EVER: The $150M deal with Live Nation was just the appetizer; now Jay-Z's married to longtime girlfriend Beyoncé Knowles. Just two crazy kids in love.
"I'M A REAL GOOD SEX PERSON. I DO IT ALL THE DIFFERENT WAYS": 30 Rock returns to new episodes this week, and as a harbinger the NYT profiles Jack McBrayer, the Second City veteran behind Kenneth the Page. And yes, I do own the bobblehead. And yes, I will let you watch him get all freaky with Mariah Carey.
WE PRAY FOR ONE LAST LANDING / ON THE GLOBE THAT GAVE US BIRTH / LET US REST OUR EYES ON THE FRIENDLY SKIES / AND THE COOL, GREEN HILLS OF EARTH: I nearly wet myself twice watching the season premier of BSG. I do so love this show.

This thread is open to spoilers. Consider yourself warned.

Friday, April 4, 2008

COMBINING FRIDAY'S DUAL THEMES OF CHEAP GAGS AND BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: Because you can find everything on the web, here's the classic Mad Magazine treatment of the original Battlestar Galactica. Of all the many, many things I read in Mad Magazine, the ones I remember most vividly are the not-appropriate-for-children parody of The Eyes of Laura Mars (The Eyes of Lurid Mess, and holy crap, Tommy Lee Jones, Doc Cochran, and Clayton Endicott the Third were in that?); two vignettes in "The Lighter Side Of ..." (one where a guy gets mugged for his expensive $50 designer running shoes and another where a guy tells his girlfriend he has a surprise for her and she comes out of the bedroom naked to see him with his parents), the dopey parody of Heaven Can Wait, a Don Martin Rime of the Ancient Mariner (I think) spoof with a cursed skateboarder who searches for the perfect half-pipe to skate, and this Battlestar Galactica piece.
NO REASON TO GET EXCITED, THE THIEF, HE KINDLY SPOKE: Season 4 of Battlestar Galatica starts tonight. I only just caught up with the tail end of Season 3 this past weekend and -- Thank the Gods -- I had actually managed to get this far along without learning who the last four Cylons were. Wow.

Consider this an open thread for comment and speculation.

N.B.: Please don't discuss tonight's premier in this thread. I'll put a new one up tomorrow which will be open to spoilers.

For 50 Years This Has Been the Symbol Of Peace. Far Out. -

NOW I'VE BEEN HAPPY LATELY, THINKING ABOUT THE GOOD THINGS TO COME: Unveiled at a British ban-the-bomb rally on April 4, 1958, the peace sign turns 50 years old today.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

YouTube - Just For Laughs

BECAUSE SOME DAY HE'LL BE ALL ALONE: Today's entries got me thinking -- could I do a single post combining a performer who truly enjoyed his craft with nostalgia for a simple time and even the prospect of mild offense done for a good cause? Could I add in kick-ass puppetry too? The answer lies in three simple words that readers who enjoyed their fair share of sporting events or variety shows during the 1980s should remember fondly: The Amazing Christopher.
IMAGINE THERE’S NO ARCHULETA: Long ago I promised a post on why I hate Young David Archuleta, and recently some unsavory elements have been bugging me to finish it. I can’t, though. Actually, I don’t hate David Archuleta. I just hate the idea that he is going to win American Idol.

It’s not because I dislike his performances, though I do. It’s not because I dislike his antiseptic approach to song selection, arrangement, and delivery, though I do. It’s not that I think his voice is not as great as all the hype – weak and breathy in the lower register; clearer but nothing special in the glory-note range – though I do. It’s not exactly because I dislike the calculated collection of tics in which he wraps himself (the pursed singing lips that connote sensitivity and depth; the furrowed brow that signals sympathy for the homeless or solemn acceptance of criticism; the rehearsed shrug-slump-grin that shouts “I’m so relieved to be safe” at the same time it whispers “is there anybody out there who fucking believed I wasn’t? Bitches” – though I really do hate those as well.

No, the reason that a win for Archuleta would be so thoroughly depressing is this: He, David Archuleta, hates this shit.

I’m not saying that he doesn’t want to win. Clearly, he wants to win, the same way that I want somebody at Best Buy to approach me at a store and ask me if I need help getting a box of something that is locked in the storeroom. Yes, I want some help getting that box. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the way this works is that if you (the audience) are wearing a blue polo shirt and khakis (have access to a voting apparatus) it is your job (your moral obligation) to get me the box for which I want to pay (to make me your American Idol). But that doesn’t mean I’m going to enjoy parking, walking into the store, standing in front of the display of the thing I want with my head set to “max swivel”, stage-whispering “jeebus criminy can I get some help here,” debating whether to walk out, or waiting while the blue shirt finally gets to my order. I do those things not because I like them, but because if I don’t do them, I can’t have the box that’s in the storeroom.

Well, Archuleta is not enjoying himself. I think – and you may disagree, but hear me out – that he just doesn’t like music. Exhibit A: his taste in music is terrible. Given a choice of any 25 songs from the 1980s of which Nigel Lythgoe has heard, is there any music lover who would pick in his top 12 some obscure Australopop filler that sounds like dreck that got cut from a Mister Mister album? To choose that song and reject any 13 others, you cannot have a musically-discriminating bone in your body. And that’s not to mention the Phil Collins, Bryan Adams, and “Shop Around” that he also used. Exhibit B: he knows nothing about the Beatles. I like the Beatles, but obviously there’s nothing wrong with not liking them, especially if you’re only 17. But to be an aspiring professional pop musician – somebody whose most embarrassing moment involved performing professionally before thousands of people, for crying out loud – and not know the Beatles? And not “what exactly is the difference between ‘Meet the Beatles’ and ‘With the Beatles’” or “who buried Paul what?” Beatle-ignorance, but rather “I didn’t recognize any of these 25 Beatles songs, including ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and ‘Let it Be,’ but there was one song that I remember Stevie Wonder performed” ignorance. That’s like being an abortion litigator and saying, “gosh, that Roe v. Wade, remind me again?” And then it even gets worse, because everybody knows there’s Good Stevie (“Superstition”) and Bad Stevie (“I Just Called”), and most of Stevie’s covers are Bad Stevie, including the exact one that YDA chose to sing, which really brings us back to Exhibit A.

Exhibit C, though, is the smoking gun. Look at Archuleta’s eyes when he performs. There is nothing there. The happiest he looks is when he’s scurrying off the stage. The look in his eyes when he’s singing – separated from the rest of the constipated love-me face that he works so hard to put on – is the same look as the guy who’s reviewing due diligence documents or dishing pad thai into a plastic container or sorting mail by zip codes. He might be good at what he’s doing, but he’s just punching a clock. If you’re only 17 years old and you can’t find the joy – not satisfaction or contentment, but joy – in singing right in front of a few hundred screaming teens and into literally tens of millions of television sets where millions upon millions of people will pay money to shower you with adulation, man, you are in the wrong line of work.
THE FUTURE IS OPEN WIDE IF YOU CALL 1-800-DENTIST: As someone who can chart his marriage back to a high-school kiss that occurred after watching "Valley Girl," I am asking the marketers and ad execs of the world to please institute a moratorium on the use of Modern English's "Melt With You" in commercials. I have come to terms with pop songs beings bastardized for commercial purposes and even see the occasional benefit of a lesser know artist receiving recognition (Feist) or being rediscovered (Nick Drake) or even getting some justified recognition (Wilco). But with"Melt With You" being used in two high-profile campaigns right now (Taco Bell and GMC), not to mention previous campaigns for M & M's and Ritz Crackers, I am saying enough--throw the guys in Icicle Works a bone, won't ya?

Meanwhile, while looking for something else this morning, I happened upon this Pringles commercial, which is just plain awesome.
YOU ARE LESS FREE TO MOVE ABOUT THE COUNTRY: The one bright spot of ATA's bankruptcy and immediate cessation of operations (aside from the massive bankruptcy fees likely to ensue for lawyers), is that I believe ATA has certain gates and landing rights at LaGuardia. Hmmm...I wonder if someone else might be interested in those assets.
ZOMBIFY: Scrabble/personal ethics question -- are there words that are permitted for play in Scrabble (or its online variants, the legality of which are not at issue here) which you nevertheless refuse to employ on morals grounds because they're too offensive? Or put another way, should I not have put down a 'J' on a triple-letter, double-wording "jewed" for 62 points, if I believed it was the highest-playing use of my tiles?

[N.B. There are indeed ~200 such words (NSFW) which have been excised from the published Official Scrabble Players Dictionary on the grounds of offensiveness, but which nevertheless appear on the Official Word List for tournament play. More info here.]

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

AND THE MESSAGE IS CLEAR, THIS COULD BE THE YEAR FOR THE REAL THING: With Ramiele's ouster, this is where I think we are:
Can't win: Kristy Lee

Won't win because there's no magic, but could go in any random week, or could last until final 3 because the competence is there: Syesha, Carly

Can't win if they can't expand beyond the limited range in which they're pretty damn good, and even then probably still won't win, but could be final 2-3: Clifford the Crunchy Muppet, Brooke

Can make it to final 2-3, but aren't going to win unless Young David Archuleta screws up or gets hit with something like Punk Rock week:
David C, Michael

Young David Archuleta, the Anointed:
Young David Archuleta.
Essentially, as far as the tier system goes, that means that those first five could really go in any order at this point without grave injustice occurring -- none of them have had the kind of sustained excellence that would merit a free pass for any bad weeks which are to come. And Kristy Lee Cook hasn't been that much worse such that she has to go during the next ouster, whether it's during next week's Idols Give Back performances or a double-elimination the following week, though she probably should.

And to David Cook and Michael Johns: you can also screw up badly enough to get eliminated prematurely, which would be unjust but not unsurprising. Ask Tamyra Gray ("New Attitude") or Chris Daughtry (Elvis week).

YDA will be in the finals. He still should win it all.

[Post updated Thursday morning now that the West Coast knows.]
"I'VE BECOME THE ROLLING STONES OF HIP-HOP": The dimensions of Jay-Z's $150 million deal with Live Nation (plus $204M for Rocawear last year) are truly extraordinary and worth your study. As to why he did it, I can only quote the man himself. From "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" (as he self-edited for the Unplugged disc):
I do this for my culture
To let 'em know what a boy look like, when a boy in a roaster
Show 'em how to move in a room full of vultures
Industry shady, it need to be taken over
Label owners hate me I'm raisin' the status quo up
I'm overchargin' labels for what they did to the Cold Crush
Pay us like you owe us for all the years that you hoed us
We can talk, but money talks -- so talk mo' bucks
DWIGHT: THE SCHRUTE FARMS CHRONICLES: Office spinoff? I'm not quite convinced it's such a good idea, as removing more characters from the almost perfectly balanced ensemble could throw things out of whack. (Though if Rashida Jones is free, following her branch is certainly a tenable option.) Any suggestions for how to make the spinoff work? Also of note from NBC's early upfront schedule:

  • Scrubs not on the schedule, likely moving to ABC.
  • Chuck keeps its Monday leadoff slot.
  • Thursday Night Live, a half hour of new SNL political comedy bits, airs at 9:30 for three weeks shortly before the November elections.
  • Friday Night Lights returns, but not until "winter 2009."
  • New shows include Crusoe (a modern revision of Robinson Crusoe), Knight Rider, Kath & Kim (Molly Shannon/Selma Blair sitcom), My Own Worst Enemy (which I assume is the Christian Slater series), Kings (modernized King David story/soap starring Ian McShane), and, apparently, yet another Paris Hilton reality show.

Edit: Here's NBC's press release--I was wrong--The Philanthropist is not Paris Hilton-based, but a drama about "the world's first vigilante philanthropist -- a renegade billionaire who uses his wealth, connections and power to help people in need." Also of interest--Monk and Nashville Star will jump from cable to NBC next summer, Donal Logue joins the cast of Life, and absolute confirmation that ER is done after this season.

In FNL news--structure is as follows: only 13 episodes, DirecTV Channel 101 gets them starting October 1, returning to NBC in February.

THE CAKE IS A LIE: The geekiest song of all time? Ladies and Gentlemen, GLaDOS! (Yes, we're behind, but for those who haven't heard it, still worth your time.)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

EVEN MICHAEL KORS APPLAUDED: I am so not well-versed in the Dolly Parton songbook, so my comments on Idol are limited tonight.

I know enough to know, Brooke, that when you're singing "Jolene" you're supposed to sound like you care about losing your man to a woman with with flaming locks of auburn hair, ivory skin and eyes of emerald green. And I know enough to know, Syesha, that if you're going to try to scale Whitney's Everest, you have to try to take a different route than she did.

Tops of the night: Young David Archuleta, Michael Johns. Most at risk: Ramiele, Clifford the Crunchy Muppet.

Fienberg: "Way to go, Jason! I wouldn't necessarily have thought the theme song from a movie about a transgender parent's pre-surgery odyssey could be transformed into something perfect for the next Muppet movie, but there it is."
MAKE IT HOME: Juliana Hatfield doesn't just blog about how The Hills is ruining America--she's also blogged about her experience writing a song for and acting on My So-Called Life, which should be of interest to folks around here.
IN WHICH CHRIS CORNELL WISHES HE'D BEEN ON AMERICAN IDOL: Chris Cornell is apparently a little miffed that David Cook didn't have big neon lights behind him last week flashing PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE MAN SINGING THIS SONG, THIS IS A CHRIS CORNELL ARRANGEMENT.

After Chris Daughtry's self-effacing-and-somewhat-disingenuous "hey, I just wanted to do something different with the arrangement" video clips last year before launching into X's rocked up version of Y's non-rocked up song Z, I think that both David Cook and the AI folks themselves have done a good job this year of being much more forthcoming about the provenance of non-customary arrangements. (It's not their fault if the TiVo crowd fast-forwards past the Ryan banter.)

As for Cornell, his own version of Billie Jean was #12 on the iTunes top alternative chart as of yesterday -- I'm guessing it wasn't there prior to Cook's performance on AI. So perhaps he should enjoy the free publicity and get cracking on an homage to Beat It.
IT WAS BOUND TO HAPPEN ANY DAY: I, for one, was waiting for someone to attempt a Clinton-Obama v. Silverman-Damon mashup. You won't be disappointed.

e.t.a. If that link doesn't work, try this one.
IS THAT A HOT DOG?: Spacewoman wanted me to post this old thing, a Magnadoodle-cum-Photoshop cheap knockoff of a Mo Willems book (from back when there were only two), born of just too many repeated readings of the Pigeon books to a somewhat OCD toddler.

Monday, March 31, 2008

MANAGEMENT OVERSIGHT BY MR. TOREY MALATIA: So, who's interested in This American Life: Live, playing for one night only in movie theatres? Or does the concept of watching Ira Glass for several hours kind of creep you out? And has TAL already accomplished its mission?


ONE SHINING MOMENT: Yes, Ted Mosby is a jerk, but my goodness that was a HIMYM end-credits joke worth the wait. Especially compared with some of the pre-strike dreck, this one was worth putting in your scrapbook.
SO IT DOESN'T TASTE LIKE CHICKEN, THEN? Tomorrow, at long last, we will know what the pigeon wants.

In related lines of questioning, is there anyone out there whose child has not been mad about Knuffle Bunny (link provided for benefit of the childless) at some point or another? It's like the pages have a thin coating of crack on them. And are you a knuffler or a k-nuffler? And what the heck does the pigeon want, anyway? Other than this, of course.
BATTER UP: Today, baseball truly begins anew, and as part of our ongoing Symposium on the National Pastime, our bloggers offer these hopes for the 2008 season:

Bob: Regarding this season, I do not share the wild optimism of many about the chances of the Red Sox. I have in mind perhaps 90 wins and a shot at the wild card. Injuries, heavy reliance on young players, and the toll of time on many of the team’s aging stars are the source of my concern. I fear the Yankees as always. If I had to bet on a team from the AL, it would be the Tigers, with the Angels a close second. I don’t think they are ready for a run at the World Series yet, but I would not be surprised to see the Rays have an excellent season.

I don’t follow the NL as closely as I do the AL. I am yearning for the Phillies to make it back to the playoffs, but I fear the Mets will be a better team this year. It is very hard for me to get excited about any of the NL Central or NL West teams simply because those divisions were so weak last year. I rather admire the style of baseball that the Rockies played last year. I also have a soft spot in my heart for the Brewers and I think they will be solid contenders in the Central.

TPE: This year I have no reason whatever to think the Giants can make a run at it, not with two NLCS teams and an improved Dodgers club in the way. The Giants stink. But that will let me worry about something much more important: getting Owen to a few games this year. The first time I went to a professional baseball game with my father was the day after I graduated from law school. Not that I wasn't loved and well provided for, but I've always envied my friends who can't remember not going to the ballpark with their Dad. With Owen turning four this August -- and where he's beginning to make some real long-term memories -- I'll want him (and in a few years, Natalie) to have some with his Old Man at a ball game.

Also, other than the occasional firm tickets -- I gave up my own Giants season ticket this year -- I think this year I'll hit a AA-Stockton Ports game or two. Cheaper and a damned sight more fun than the bigs.

Isaac: What I’m hoping for this baseball season: 1. For poltergeists to continue bewitching (is that a mixed metaphor? Beghosting?) the Anaheim roster, such that the offense- and defense- (but not pitching-) deprived Mariners continue to benefit through no fault of their idiot management, all the way to a drawn-out playoff format where Bedard and Felix could start most of the games. 2. For Adam Jones to prove in Baltimore that he is better offensively (no proof necessary defensively) than Raul Ibanez, Richie Sexson, Jose Vidro, and Willie Bloomquist, and for Chris Snelling to find his way somehow to a major-league roster that can use his talents. 3. For Felix Hernandez to be the player he was the first two (pre-injury) games last year.

4. For somebody to provide a cogent explanation for why an ostensibly professionally-run organization would simultaneously adopt the following philosophies: (a) short-relief pitchers must almost always be pulled to avoid pitching against opposite-handed batters, even if they are murder on those batters; and (b) position players must never be platooned, even if their statistics demonstrate a measurable or even preposterous platoon split. 5. For an end to the trend of pine-tar-blackened batting helmets. The only acceptable cause for pine tar on the front of a batting helmet is “running headlong into a pine tree.”

I would also hope that we could go a year without anybody saying or writing anything about ERA, pitchers’ W-L records, “statheads” or “computer geeks” or similarly willfully ignorant epithets, chemistry, or Derek Jeter’s clutchiness and stellar defense.

Adam: For me, it's simple -- I want Phillies-Mets to be elevated to a rivalry of Sawks-Yanks, Cubs-Cards and Dodgers-Giants proportions. I want that intensity in the park and throughout the city whenever they're playing. I want more games like August 30, 2007. And, yes, I want to be back in the World Series for the first time in fifteen years, because I still believe in the audacity of Phillies' hope.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

4 * #1 = FINAL FOUR: Every year it's something new, but I never saw that coming, though in retrospect it feels a bit inevitable. I will miss Stephen Curry, but time will tell whether he's just the next Randolph Childress or whether this is going somewhere long-term. These two weeks, though, we'll remember.

P. Rodenburg, you're leading our group, but three very important games remain ...
MY SCORE THUS FAR IS 4,815,162,342 POINTS: I haven't finished Lost: Via Domus yet, but I generally agree with the reviews which praise the storytelling and the general "feel" of the game (the graphics and immersion are also pretty darn awesome) but observe that there's not much of a game there. It's mostly just walking from place to place watching cinematics. But the biggest complaint? While the writing is darn solid, the non-cast member voiceovers are just godawful--particularly whoever they got to voice Locke, who inexplicably has a Southern accent. (On the other hand, Rock Band remains totally awesome, especially with added downloadable content.)

The Associated Press: Egg McMuffin Inventor Dies at 89

"HE WAS VERY PARTIAL TO EGGS BENEDICT": Herb Peterson, inventor of the Egg McMuffin, has passed away at the age of 89. It opened the way for McDonald's to serve breakfast, giving its restaurants 5+ more profitable hours in the day, and no fast food chain has come close in creating as good a morning product since. (Though, okay, I'm more partial to the Sausage McMuffin.)
A LIMOUSINE RIDIN', JET FLYIN', KISS STEALIN', WHEELIN' DEALIN' SON OF A GUN: Given the amount of attention I tend to devote to untimely and tragic deaths in the world of sports entertainment, simple fairness and my intense respect for the man require me to note that tonight, 16-time world champion "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair will lace up his boots for the final time at WrestleMania 24 in Orlando, at the age of 59, facing Shawn Michaels.

If professional wrestling were to have a Mt. Rushmore, Ric Flair would be on it. No one has played the bad guy better -- the arrogant heel wearing the fanciest robes, employing unmatched technical skills and every dirty trick in the book to create compelling stories both in and out of the ring -- and he did so without resort to the aerial risk or extreme violence which characterized later eras.

Flair was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame last night, and this tribute video covers a lot of ground well. What struck me during the induction ceremony (what -- you weren't watching last night?) was that during his speech, Flair apologized to his first two wives for the wild life he led, thanking them for raising his four children essentially by themselves, saying "you were right to leave me" -- which takes a level of self-awareness and emotional maturity one doesn't expect from a professional wrestler.

To be The Man, Ric Flair often said, you have to beat The Man, and lord knows, Ric Flair has been The Man for quite a long time. May he enjoy a retirement that keeps him healthy and outside the ring. It looks like he's already started on his next endeavor ...