Saturday, April 26, 2008

"WHERE'S THE HOMINY?" Prince Fielder, the 270-pound slugging first baseman of the Milwaukee Brewers, has gone vegetarian this year:
Fielder, 23, decided to make the switch over the winter after reading how cattle and chickens were treated and “was totally grossed out,” he said. His wife, Chanel, preferred a no-meat diet as it was, so he embraced a new approach.

Fielder had been as carnivorous as your average puma — pushing 200 pounds since he was 12, he scarfed down a 48-ounce porterhouse as a teenager and had barely slowed down since.
The article's worth reading if only for its tale of Fielder's trip through a chic Milwaukee restaurant's vegan offerings (The server heartily recommended the beet pasta salad, as in pasta fashioned from beets. “Ew — I’m not good on beets,” Fielder said. She kept raving about the dish, so not wanting to hurt her feelings, Fielder conceded, “All right, I’ll try it.”)
SQUID PLATE PLEASE, EXTRA TENTACLES: Extra long tentacles, that is.

It would be unnatural in the extreme if I neglected to mention that the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa will, this weekend, first carefully thaw out the recently recovered Colossal Squid carcass they've been storing and, then, much to the excitement of cephalopod enthusiasts everywhere, dissect the big beastie live on the interwebs.

Friday, April 25, 2008

MORE THAN JUST HIS THUMBS: Still lacking vocal capacity after his recent cancer surgeries and laid up in bed with a broken hip, unable to attend this weekend's festival of overlooked films which he curates each year, Roger Ebert has decided to blog.

He is, fortunately, now cancer-free.

Why is this bite different... ? (Food and Drinq)

YES, BUT WHAT IF YOU'RE SHOMER SHABBAS? That free pretzel promotion in Philadelphia tomorrow? Those observing Passover can still show up at a store and obtain a voucher tomorrow, good for three free pretzels on Monday. And this time, I will quote Stanley Hudson:
I wake up every morning in a bed that’s too small, drive my daughter to a school that’s too expensive, and then I go to work to a job for which I get paid too little, but on Pretzel Day ... well, I like Pretzel Day.
ALL STEAK, NO SIZZLE: Had a very nice dinner at Craftsteak last night--exquisitely prepared roasted steak, roasted carrots, and a chocolate souffle. However, it reiterated my prior concerns that pan roasting steaks removes "sizzle" from a steak. That leads us, in a somewhat circuitous fashion, to Top Chef. As Alan expressed in a thread on this week's episode, this season has come off a bit bland. To draw an analogy to my meal, all the ingredients are there (solid chefs, good challenges--particularly this week's elimination challenge, which did a nice job of piling twist after twist on both the Cheftestants and the audience) and the ingredients are well-prepared, but it's just not crackling--maybe because there haven't been many (if any) spectacular failures or bizarre successes, and maybe because for all the bleeping and trash-talking, few of our Cheftestants have shown a distinctive personality thus far, or maybe just because of a lack of Bourdain.
BUSINESS DRUNK AND PARTY HIGH: I liked last night's 30 Rock even though the A-story was a little old-timey for me. Not as in "traditional 80s-90s sit-com," but as in a Hudsucker Proxy-ish riff on antiquated notions of business politics. I blow hot and cold on Idiot Liz, but I liked this version, especially the ease with which she slipped into the back-slapping and sexual innuendo, a joke that works particularly well because it allows us to laugh both at the ridiculous conduct and Tina Fey's own weird fantasy of executive living, which seems to parallel Liz's. But Rip Torn -- geez, it's both great and difficult to see him now.

As for our other favorite office, Sepinwall mentioned that Kaling's episodes are more straightforward comedy than the ones written by the other writer-actors, and the New York half of the show was no exception. What was unexpected was the way that Kaling revisited a theme that has popped up occasionally since Jim returned to Scranton: there is a reason that Jim is stuck somewhere below middle management -- he is neither the perfect boss he imagines he would be nor the beloved goof that we saw for the first two seasons (remember how annoyed Toby and Oscar were at his antics during the Angela's Ashes book group?).

Is Toby really moving to Costa Rica?
PERHAPS IT'S TIME TO START BETTING AGAINST HIM: Despite glowing testimonials submitted to the Court by former co-stars Denzel Washington and Woody Harrelson, actor Wesley Snipes has been sentenced to three years in federal prison on tax evasion charges. Snipes' final line in Jungle Fever (NSFW) comes to mind.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

THE RULES HAVE CHANGED: I'm not sure that I have anything competent to say about Lost without dipping heavily into spoiler turf, whether I phrase it in terms of "why is this Lost different from all other Losts?" (and it starts with a two word answer) or structured in the form of the Dayenu. (Had Lindelof and Cuse only given us ...., but not also shown us .... dayenu.) A very fast-moving hour, and we have much to discuss.
MAVIS BEACON IS A JEALOUS MISTRESS: I am finding Typeracer, the game in which you compete against other players to see who can type a movie or song quote fastest, frightfully addictive.
ANOTHER ELEGY, AND YES, IT’S BEEN A BAD WEEK: I just got the unpublished copy of Richard Rushfield’s recap of last night’s ANTM:
Shock, grief, anger, betrayal. Those, of course, were only the most immediate reactions of the audience to the premature departure of tall, fair, be-extensioned, impeccably-jawed Lauren from America’s Next Top Model. Other emotions following somewhat later, though not attributable with scientific certainty to the ouster, were melancholy, reverie, discontent, panic, arousal, that delicious combination of panic and arousal, ennui, mishegas, and discomfort at Yiddish proficiency. Lauren herself remained indifferent to the end, proudly overmedicated and possibly incapable of understanding the injustice visited upon her, but we, the audience, felt an additional emotion omitted from the above list: unbridled jubilation in knowing that for Lauren, whose illimitable talent in being tall and fair and impeccably-jawed has now – or at least after sequesterville – been loosed to the world, the journey is just beginning.

I am deeply sad (there’s another one!) that Lauren is dead. That death makes us reflect upon our own lives – our successes; our failures to reach the lofty goals we set; our tendency to lament the deaths of people who are still alive. And yet, this death is a call to arms. Other people should have died first – fake Whitney and Jerseyish Dominique, SLEEP WITH ONE EYE OPEN – and every minute that they remain alive is a minute that Lauren is not stomping clumsily around in our hearts, a more artfully-composed Frankenstein. “BLOOD,” the audience seemed to scream, at least in my house where I live alone, “WE DEMAND BLOOD.”

In the sleepless hours following this monstrous unfairness, my thoughts turned to who, aside from the other contestants, must be blamed, confronted, and killed. Covergirl, yes, for demanding that their spokesmodels be capable of speech and movement. The fashion industry, for demanding unrealistic levels of “ambulatory stability” from its catwalk-walkers. And Dr. Tyvorkian, the Angel of Death, for spreading her bat-wings and casting a shadow on our dead-eyed angel. We may debate for years who else is to blame, but for now, let us rejoice in our time with Lauren, however bitter and threatening our particular type of rejoicing may seem.

The narrative I constructed for myself of Lauren out of nothing but a handful of confessionals and my beauty-struck febrile imagination went something like this: Born, grew tall, liked punk rock, knew nothing of fashion, grew impeccable jaw, learned rudimentary communications skills sufficiently to express basic food and hygiene needs, developed “signature walk” so unique that it, coupled with Italianish dialogue, caused second-nicest girl in house to double over in laughter, and then, poof, snuffed out, like a flame or an elderly person with a fully-vested insurance policy. No other contestant’s story could match the depth and poignancy of this brave woman’s poetic (but Ginsburg- or maybe Plath-poetic, not like Frost or anything like that) struggle against punk-rock-affiliation – and I don’t want to hear it, miss female circumcision, you shut your yap. No one could match her intensity, diffused though it was, but we take comfort in knowing that the Lauren juggernaut will not be slowed, and like many before her who came to this show, even if they did not make it to the final-two ghost-themed fierce-off, her career will undoubtedly continue and we will see its fire again and again in the years ahead whenever Tyra brings models back to talk about their nonexistent success. And then Lauren will be elected the first weirdo punk-rocker President of the United States, and she will invent a car that runs on air and excretes clean drinking water, and she will win the Nobel Prize for modeling and politics.

Surely, this is not the greatest injustice from which our nation has had to heal. It is not even the third-greatest, because of the Dred Scott decision, the Carly Smithson debacle, and the estate tax. But we have survived each of those, except technically for the estate tax, and we will survive this. And so I close tonight with the following by the great poet Richard Rushfield: “The following things are awesome about you/Your courage/Height/Fairness/Impeccable jawline/And courage/Fly away, flightless bird.”
I JUST WANT TO TELL YOU HOW I'M FEELING -- GOTTA MAKE YOU UNDERSTAND: Aaaaargh. I got rickrolled today (by these guys, and who wouldn't follow a YouTube link featuring Beaker the Muppet?). Because I'm old, I didn't know about the rickrolling phenomenon -- links embedded in stories or emails that promise to take you to valuable pop-cultural content, but instead bring you Rick Astley singing "Never Going to Give You Up," or Beaker singing it, or Adolf Hitler singing it -- although I did know that the Mets reneged on their promise to let online voters pick their new 8th-inning song because Astley won as a write-in. For what it's worth, though, Rick Astley is a good sport about it.
BECAUSE GLUTTONY IS ONLY ONE OF THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS: I'm in Vegas for the next couple of days on business. I'll be hitting the Bellagio buffet for a suitably massive brunch before leaving on Saturday afternoon, but have a couple of chances for dinners. As usual, I expect the ThingThrowers to be a suitable font of suggestions. Please provide.
HURLEY BIRD? So tonight's the night that Lindelof & Cuse (do click: great interview) and our friend Shonda bring back Lost and Grey's Anatomy for the first of five post-strike episodes. What answers are you hoping to have answered in the final hours of each season?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

JUST A LITTLE TOUCH OF STAR QUALITY: Remember how I broke down Idol's final eight two weeks ago? After tonight's result show, yeah, I'm feeling pretty good about it. Still three more weeks until we can use "Welcome To The Boomtown" as the headline for the final two.

In the meantime, next week? Neil Diamond. Oh, predicting the song choices is going to be fun.

e.t.a. The LA Times' Ann Powers, on the other hand, is pissed:

Seriously, what is the “American Idol” constituency seeking? Another pop moppet prepped to fill the pages of gossip magazines and make adorable viral videos? Simpering Brooke White and half-baked Jason Castro (I like him, but come on, it’s a shtick) are sailing through because their images are cute; they’re more like sitcom stars than musical powerhouses.

Brooke’s particularly puzzling success, given her repeated flops in the spotlight, may be attributable to the 8-year-old girl market. For tween voters too young to fully crush out on the Davids, she plays the princess role, her deluxe locks and befuddled manner recall Amy Adams’ turn as Giselle in “Enchanted,” last year’s Disney hit. Brooke’s obvious discomfort at the end of tonight’s episode suggests that she knows she’s living on borrowed time. But heck, if I were to sponge a few extra weeks off anybody, I’d take it from pre-teens too. They have a lot to spare.

e.t.a.2. Can you top that, Richard Rushfield?
Every night she went up on the "Idol" stage, Carly projected both the sure hand of someone who had spent her life working for this moment, and the gratitude of one who has learned that life doesn’t owe her anything. Hers was the joy, not of a dream that she felt the world had an obligation to fulfill, but of a dream that had been forced to hide away until its flame was so tiny, it was this close to being blown out. And finally, when it seemed just about to disappear forever, to be allowed to shine once again! No other contestant’s story could match depth and poignancy to Carly’s euphoria at being given this chance once again, to paraphrase her countryman, W.B. Yeats, a lonely impulse of delight drove her to this tumult among the clouds, which is why I called her the most electrifying performer ever to take the "Idol" stage.

No one could match that intensity, but we take comfort in knowing that that flame now burning so, so brightly can no longer be extinguished, and like many before her who came to this stage, even if they did not make it to the final rung of this competition, her career will undoubtedly continue and we will see its fire again and again in the years ahead.
DO YOU WANT THE GOOD NEWS, THE OTHER GOOD NEWS, OR THE BAD NEWS FIRST? We here at ALOTT5MA have the best Spelling Bee coverage in the world -- a product of the enthusiasm of a great group of commenters (some of whom are Bee alums or parents of Bee alums), high-wattage guest posters, and regular contributors who are unafraid to spell words frequently and usually correctly throughout the year.

I believe that the consensus here at ALOTT5MA was that the worst thing about the spelling bee last year was the condescending, anti-intellectual commentary by ESPN's Mike & Mike. So the first good news here is that Mike & Mike have been fired. That will probably give us an extra hour, cumulatively, of time when Mike Golic won't be telling us a story about how he can't spell.

The other good news is that Erin Andrews is joining the coverage. I think Andrews is a good pick -- she's smart and professional, won't seem condescending to the kids, and has enough ESPN star power that she'll probably make a few kids feel like rock stars just because she's interviewing them. The boys in the Bee may have to work extra hard on their concentration, though. Focus, Gartke, FOCUS!

The bad news: Tom Bergeron. He's kind of the anti-Erin Andrews. Not that I have anything against Tom Bergeron (I have an irrationally deep love for home video clip shows), but if you're trying to make a Spelling Bee kid feel cool, get a restraining order on Tom Bergeron. Tom Bergeron is right between Chuck E. Cheese birthday parties and writing your name on your underwear in the list of things that are cool to a young adolescent.
STILL NO WAFFLE POTATO FRIES: With Mickey D's in NYC recently having launched the "Southern Style Chicken Sandwich" and "Mickey D's Sweet Tea," they're clearly trying to replicate ALOTT5MA fave Chick-Fil-A. Midtown Lunch assesses whether they've succeeded.
INCONCIEVABLE! When Scrubs gets all experimental and wonky, it tends to be even more fun than usual--the musical, the Wizard of Oz homage, the "My Life In Three Cameras" episode--so how does a Scrubs tribute to The Princess Bride with Janitor as Fezzik, Elliot as Buttercup, and (one must presume) J.D. as Westley, sound? Provide your casting suggestions (Dr. Cox as Vizzini? Turk and Carla as Miracle Max and his wife?) in the comments.
[CHUNG CHUNG] With Jesse Martin leaving L&O: Original Recipe tonight, Alan Sepinwall reviews memorable (and unmemorable) cast exits in the show's history.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

HE KIND OF UNDERSTOOD IT, I THINK . . . I THINK: I am surprised indeed. Tonight there was a clear divide between the can-dos and the cannot-dos-and-shouldn't-even tries, and I could not possibly have predicted two of the residents of my top three. Syesha and Carly? Seriously? I have never seen Carly Smithson actually have fun with a song before -- bless Andrew Lloyd Webber's beknighted little heart for making her ditch the Phantom treacle and pull a Laura Osness. When Carly isn't ripping her own heart out of her chest for dramatic flair, she sounds quite good. And Syesha: the part on the piano was a little dicey, but once she hopped down (and kudos, by the way, for pulling that off in a tight dress without showing us which day of the week was printed on her panties), she was terrific, singing a song I have never heard in my life.

Oh, and David Cook. David Cook! I am actually starting to get angry that the Mormon Tabernacle Fan Club may prevent him from winning. So happy that he sang the song straight, and so happy that he can hit the note. I know that the judges like to haul out that old saw about a good singer being able to sing the telephone book, but in this case it happens to be true. I just really enjoy hearing him sing, no matter what he sings. (And, just to make the point: can you imagine Chris Daughtry trying to sing Music of the Night?)

And then there's everyone else. Brookie, you get one false start per season, not two, and if you're going to declare a mulligan, you need to not spend the entire performance sitting there petrified that you're doing to drop another lyric. I personally enjoyed the muppet's version of the world's most overplayed and underinterpreted Broadway song, but his lower range couldn't handle it, and at this point I think we all know the full alphabet of what he's capable of, from A to B. (I was amused to hear ALW confirm my view that this is one dumb-as-a-brick muppet.)

Oh, and YDA. YDA. I think you all know how much I haaaaate him, but I really was all set to enjoy him tonight. The sweetness of his voice is just right for some of the nicer tenor ballads Webber has written, and so I was expecting him to do what Cook did. And instead, we got this weirdass non-melodic muzaked up rendering of a Sarah Brightman song? He might as well have sung Another Suitcase in Another Hall. In drag. (And I am irate at Randy for being unable or unwilling to recognize any of this.)
MMMMMM COROLLE DE NOIX DE SAINT-JACQUES A LA CROQUE AU SEL: The World's 50 Best Restaurants. Alas, I have only dined at one, No. 38, but I really have to get to Alinea (No. 15, with a bullet).

Monday, April 21, 2008 - Robin Sparkles - 29 - Female - Vancouver, British Columbia -

ROBIN, DID HE TAKE YOUR MAPLE LEAF? Okay, after everyone watches the new Robin Sparkles video, we can talk about the rest of tonight's HIMYM, and I think there's only word that can legitimately describe it.

Of course, I have to go to the Comments to tell you what that word is.
DAMN YOU, MICHAEL MCDONALD, DAMN YOU AND YOUR SMOOTH SMOOTH SOUNDS: While no ThingThrowers apart from myself attended tonight's installment of the Big Quiz Thing, we were well on pace for a Top 5 finish that would earn us fabulous prizes until the audio round, which was devoted entirely to identifying Yacht Rock songs by title and artist, ran us over like a Mack truck. We did earn big points from the Quizmaster by being one of the few teams to fill in the blank of 1979 musical T-shirt slogan Knuke The ________ correctly, and wound up with a 9th place finish. (Also, on the special Passover questions about content of the seder plate, we went 3/4 on, missing the "recent feminist addition" to the seder plate.)
SANDY KOUFAX WOULD KNOW WHAT TO DO: The Philly Pretzel Factory is celebrating "National Pretzel Day" by giving three free warm, salty soft pretzels to every customer at its 90 stores this Saturday, the seventh day of Passover.
THE ROCK SAYS, KNOW YOUR DAMN VOTE: Allegedly, Sens. Clinton, Obama, and McCain will all appear on tonight's broadcast of WWE Raw in pretaped messages. Notably, none of the candidates' websites confirm the appearance, so take it with a grain of salt. Please also offer your suggested finishing moves for each candidate to perform, and discuss what match stipulations are most appropriate.
THIS YDA MUST DIE: I am often teased for having a spreadsheet for every purpose. But even I have got nothing on the fabulous people over at What Not to Sing, who have undertaken a statistical analysis of the AI leadoff and pimp slots. Their conclusions: (1) Yup, going first sucks. (2) The pimp slot comes by its name honestly. (3) Seven has bona fide lucky number cred.

As for this week, we've got Andrew Lloyd Webber on tap. Here are my own thoughts and suggestions for the final six, but my ALW repertoire is limited. Feel free to go deep.

Carly. Should sing: Buenos Aires. Will sing: Don't Cry For Me Argentina. In any event, doesn't it have to be a Patti LuPone song?
Syesha. Will sing, although she should consider something else: Memory.
Clifford the Crunchy Muppet. Any Dream Will Do (unless he wrestles Memory from Syesha and gives ADWD to Brooke out of sympathy).
YDA. Should, maybe even must, sing: High Flying Adored. Will sing: Music of the Night.
Brooke. I Don't Know How to Love Him. (I guess. This might be a really bad week for Brookie.)
David Cook. Superstar. (But who knows with him at this point -- for all I know, he'll tackle Angel of Music.)
STILL HOLDING OUT FOR THE REVIVAL OF CARRIE: I have seen my share of Broadway flops--High Fidelity, Sweet Smell of Success, Seussical: The Musical, but the legend of flops really has its apex with Moose Murders, which was called a show that "would insult the intelligence of an audience consisting entirely of amoebas." What does that mean? The show gets an ironic second life, which the Times chronicles!
OMG! OMG! OMFG! With its return imminent tonight and its current ad campaign drawing a lot of media attention, New York devotes its cover to the scantily clad cast of Gossip Girl, and accompanies it with a lengthy story about the "greatest teen drama of all time." (Um, My So-Called Life? Issac's sure to be impassioned case for the TNBC oeuvre?) Interestingly, neither the adults or Kristen Bell's portrayal of the title voiceover role gets any substantial mention, but there's much to argue here--do so.

Objects on Your Plate May Be Smaller Than They Appear -

GOOD "PLATE COVERAGE": The WaPo's David Segal explores how restaurants are playing with portion sizes, prices and menu layout to squeeze more profit from each customer.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

FRAKKIN' A FRAKKIN' TOASTER: While I still haven't seen any pre-Season 4 episodes, I am now wholly caught up to current Battlestar Galactica viewing. My lack of background assuredly made the climactic moments of this episode less stirring for me than for longtime viewers, but still...damn. Kara's admissions raising more questions than they answered, Lee Adama's new political role, and Adama and Roslin's surprisingly tender bedside moment--this episode was just full of goodness to be discussed in the comments.

ETA: While I expect most discussion will be Galactica related, let's open this up to the other sci-fi programming of the weekend, including Doctor Who, which had a solid kickoff special for a new season, even if it's kinda awkward to see a Christmas-themed show several months later, and Torchwood, which wrapped up its series really well, with a penultimate episode borrowing the narrative structure from the beloved Firefly episode "Out of Gas" and a finale featuring not just major, and legitimate, "game changing" developments but also glorious scenery chewing from James Marsters.
IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT THE BURGERS: I finally got around to watching Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle last night, and while I'm not normally a fan of the "stoner comedy" genre, that's one funny movie, with some surprisingly smart things to say about racism mixed in with the comedy. Relatedly, the Times spends an evening with Neil Patrick Harris, noting that Harris is quite unlike his H&K character, but is reminiscent of Barney Stinson, "if Barney were gay and really into Disneyland." This comparison automatically scores the Times some sort of award nomination, but I'm not sure which one.
STRIKE THAT. REVERSE IT: As you can see, I'm experimenting with a flipped-over layout so we can better accommodate readers using mobile and other slower-loading devices. Let me know if it's working for you.

The only other things I anticipate changing are playing with the alignments in that right-hand column, cleaning up and updating the blogroll, and figuring out what to do with Isaac's insistent demands that I change the whole blog to the Futura font.
NO ONE'S GOING TO SAVE YOU FROM THE BEAST WITH FORTY EYES: Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard with your cover of the week -- YouTube, MP3. Apropos of nothing save the fact that I just heard it for the first time this week.