Saturday, January 30, 2010

ALL THE PEOPLE WHO DIED, DIED: Want another reason to watch the Grammys with us Sunday night? Prince Michael, Paris and "Blanket" Jackson are scheduled to speak.

In terms of the race for second place in this year's Necrology Applause-O-Meter, the NYT has a helpful pregame show, after the break:
IF YOU CAN DODGE A WRENCH, YOU CAN DODGE A FELONY CONVICTION: Academy Award-nominated actor (really!) Rip Torn was arrested attempting to rob a bank last night.
HA HA! YOUR MEDIUM IS DYING!: We've beaten up on EW a fair amount over the past few years for dumbing down stuff and sometimes seeming as though it's more interested in being Tiger Beat than a magazine about entertainment for grown-ups, but all credit for this week's issue--a nice cover package on Lost, an interesting anniversary package on how EW has featured in movies and TV shows, a decent (though picture-heavy) career retrospective on LL Cool J, a nice profile of Jeff Bridges' stand-in, and, best of all, an article surveying the travails of the Fletch franchise (John Krasinski as Fletch? That'd be interesting.). More issues like this one, please, and less 20 page photo spreads of Robert Pattinson.

Friday, January 29, 2010

SHOULDN'T ONE OF THE GREAT BOOKS TEACH THIS? From The University of Chicago events calendar:
Flirting for Nerds
When: Thursday, February 11, 2010 8:00 pm - 9:30 pm
Where: Reynolds Club, McCormick Tribune Lounge, 5706 South University, Chicago, IL
Description: Having trouble shaking your nerdy image and attracting the apple of your eye? Well, push those glasses up on your nose, take a puff off your inhaler and learn to flirt like a pro. Instructor Rebecca Steinmetz will teach you fun, noncheesy ways to break the ice and brush up on fundamentals such as reading body language.
Not to be overly harsh on my graduate school alma mater, but when that same educator was invited to give a presentation at Northwestern this fall, her topics deemed appropriate for Evanston included "a frank and informative discussion of women’s sexuality ... anything and everything a guy would need to know to make his girl happy. In 'Men Below the Belt', she explained how to please a man in the area between his hips and knees. Steinmetz provided helpful hints on how to improve the region’s smell and taste (what you eat, drink or smoke is key) and gave step-by-step instructions on how to put on a condom with no hands."

Down in Hyde Park, however, it's more like that Marty McFly line after his Van Halen-esque guitar solo at the Enchantment Under The Sea dance -- I guess you guys aren't ready for that.
THE MANATEES ARE WORKING OVERTIME WITH THE IDEA BALLS: In today's "bizarre thing I discovered because of Twitter Trending Topics," I give you Selleck Waterfall Sandwich.
AMERICA'S GREAT DEBATES:Better (or at least more legendarily bad) subtitle for an unnecessary and awful part ii--"Electric Boogaloo" or "The Squeakquel?"

ETA: I misspelled "Squeakquel" originally. I am uncertain whether to be proud or ashamed of this fact.
ELTON + GAGA = ? As this table-setter from the Times explains (and we've long believed), the actual awards given out at the Grammys are meaningless; what makes it worth watching are the live performances and spectacle, and hopefully most of these clips we compiled last year are still online for your amusement. Currently scheduled to perform, in whatever random permutations, are the following artists, per the press release:
Jamie Foxx and T-Pain with Slash and Doug E. Fresh; Drake, Eminem, and Lil Wayne with Travis Barker; a special tribute to guitar virtuoso Les Paul featuring Jeff Beck and Imelda May; the cast of "American Idiot" appearing with Green Day; Roberta Flack; Elton John; Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland; Beyoncé; the Black Eyed Peas; Bon Jovi; the Dave Matthews Band; Green Day; Lady Antebellum; Lady Gaga; Maxwell; Pink; Taylor Swift; the Zac Brown Band; Celine Dion, Jennifer Hudson, Smokey Robinson, Carrie Underwood, and Usher in a special 3-D GRAMMY tribute to Michael Jackson; and Mary J. Blige and Andrea Bocelli in a special fund-raising segment for Haitian relief.
We Covered It Live last year, and we'll try again on Sunday. Please join us; snark abhors a vacuum.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

THAT'S ADVERTAINMENT: Look, we've made more than enough fun of NBC over the past few weeks, but I want to note something that they're doing that's smart and workable, and that's some of the semi-integrated ads they've been running in recent weeks--I've only noticed them on Chuck, where there's been a serialized set of Honda ads chronicling Ellie, Awesome, and Morgan's journey to Vancouver for the Olympics, and on Community, which has Ken Jeong and Jim Rash shilling for TurboTax. The ads are smartly written enough that, even though I timeshift, I won't start fastforwarding till they're over, and that's credit. Not sure if it makes me more likely to buy a Honda or use TurboTax (I'm not likely to be buying a car in the immediate future, and I already use TurboTax), but it's at least a step in the right direction for advertisers.
MAYBE THEY'LL ADD A FIFTH JUDGE TO FILL THE TIME: In a totally expected move guaranteed to make us more thankful for the existence of TiVo, Idol's competition rounds will be two hours long at least through the Final 8.

Has anything happened yet during the auditions of positive merit? Any real "yes, this is The Next American Idol" vibes?
STUPEFY! As a service to our readers, we occasionally retweet your more salient updates during the day. This one, at least, from @AmyWatts, who credits @JosephFinn for the find:
Am I the last one to find out that Neville Longbottom got really, really hot: http://bit.ly/b9RZEU
The other great Twitter find of the day: the Nooooooooooooooo! button.
EVANGELINE LILLY PHONE SEX AD: Fifteen clips of Lost stars, before the Island.

Related: surprising voiceover work by 2010 Grammy nominees.
PERHAPS NOW WE'LL FINALLY GET THE ZANY ANIMATED 3-D ADAPTATION OF CATCHER IN THE RYE WITH SHIA LABEOUF VOICING HOLDEN CAULFIELD: J.D. Salinger is dead at the age of 91. A friend of mine on Facebook may have said it best: "Let's hope there are no phonies in heaven."
"I JUST HAPPENED TO PLAY IN AN ARENA WHERE THERE WERE BIGGER CHIPS": Does this blog believe in bringing Lenny Dykstra down, and then repeatedly kicking the frequent ALOTT5MA bĂȘte noire once he gets there? Yes, when there's still more bad news. Excerpt below the fold:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"IT'S AMAZING WHAT YOU CAN PUT ON A STICK. IT TASTES THAT MUCH BETTER, I THINK": The Minnesota Twins' new (outdoor) baseball park will be serving pork chops on a stick, fried walleye on a stick and cheese curds among its food concessions, as well as a cheese-on-the-inside burger which carries an unfortunate local appellation which I hope is not visited upon my daughter.
SHE WENT INTO THE LIGHT: Zelda Rubinstein, best known as the pint-sized ghost buster in 1982's Poltergeist, has transitioned over to a different sphere of consciousness at the age of 76, which incredibly means she around my age when the film was made (as a teen I would have guessed she was no younger than 100). Rubinstein, who also memorably played the church organist in Sixteen Candles, will presumably be buried in a cemetery and not in an sacred Indian burial ground beneath a suburban Southern California swimming pool.

And in case you missed it while you anxiously toggled between Gizmodo and EndGadget for iPad rumors, Trapper John left the Bonanza Ranch earlier this week.
I ALWAYS THOUGHT THAT ACTUALLY BEING SMART WAS INCOMPATIBLE WITH KNOWING YOUR IQ: At the risk of drawing criticism for the laziness inherent in posting fluffy lists two days in a row, here's a ranking of the paid talent on last night's American Idol, from least stupid to most appallingly stupid:

6. Simon Cowell
5. Ryan Seacrest
[extremely large gap]
4. Randy Jackson
[gap]
2. Kara DioGuardi [tie]
2. Katy Perry [tie]
[large gap]
1. Avril Lavigne

Can we agree that the guest judge thing just isn't adding anything?
IF A TREE IS FELLED IN THE WOODS TO MAKE A BOOK THAT NOBODY READS: A few questions and observations I had after reading the iPad comments, which moved quickly from the tablet itself to a discussion of e-books (or ebooks, see below) and the future of that industry:
  1. Should it be e-books or ebooks? I know that the dictionaries have adopted email, but ebooks looks weird to me. I need a ruling from the style manual.
  2. Multimedia content seems incompatible with paper-screen and the cheaper processors that I assume Kindle uses. If iBook becomes a real competitor to Amazon, we're looking at VHS vs. Beta or Blu-ray vs. whatever the other standard was called, I've forgotten already.
  3. There is a wide range of what people make available as add-on content for DVDs, but most of it seems either low-cost (commentary tracks, maybe a cheap "making of") or sunk-cost (deleted scenes, bloopers, audition footage, storyboarding). The multimedia content you would have to add to a book seems both high-cost and outside what you ordinarily expect would be within a traditional publisher's competence. It seems like a very risky move to try to add that content just to move an e[-]book from a $10 price point to a $20 price point.
  4. What is the unit manufacturing cost and shipping cost of a book, anyway? I always assumed that the available unit profit margin from an electronic book (i.e., price) is greater than the available profit from a physical book (price minus manufacturing, distribution, and remaindering), leaving aside the issue of how profits are divided up between the publishers and retailers.
  5. Which leads me to this observation: as long as most consumers buy and read physical books, the threat of e[-]book piracy is relatively minor. If the publishing industry were to move to principally electronic distribution, wouldn't we expect the same seismic changes we've seen in the music industry? Huge loss of revenue to piracy, meaning that content costs have to be spread over fewer units, creating pressure to pay most authors [even] less and to cut costs [even] more? Lowered barriers to entry leading to market-share loss by traditional giants, counterbalanced by rise of smaller independent publishers and some successful self-publishers, which translates into publishers losing power to critics as the principal mediator between artist and audience?
  6. And will (not would) that be a good thing or a bad thing? Do you prefer the current music industry model or the old one?
  7. Incidentally, in an e[-]book world, what happens to children's publishing?
ICARE? OK--The Apple iPad--revolutionary new computing device? The next Apple Newton (or, god forbid, Microsoft Bob)? Overly easily breakable toy? Kindle without a real keyboard? An oversized iPhone? (As yet an unanswered question--do I get a discount by adding an iPad on to my iPhone contract or an ability to use my iPhone tethered with an iPad?) Discuss.
HURLEY'S INDEX: Some statistics, courtesy of the fine folks who gathered everything Hurley said in Season 5 and (ab)use of the MS Word find and replace feature:
  • Number of "dude"s--46
  • Number of "awesome"s--5
  • Number of "Yeah"s--11
  • Number of "Cool"s--5
  • Movies or TV shows expressly referenced--Back To The Future, Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Happy Days
  • Number of "Ewoks"--2
  • Hurley's longest monologue:
    OK. You see, we did crash, but it was on this crazy island. And we waited for rescue, but there wasn’t any rescue. And then there was a smoke monster. And then there were other people on the island. We called them, the others. And they started attacking us. And we found some hatches and there was a button you had to push every 108 minutes or, well, I was never really clear on that. But, the others didn’t have anything to do with the hatches, that was the Dharma Initiative. They were all dead, the others killed them. And now they were trying to kill us. Then we teamed up with the others because some worse people were coming on a freighter. Desmond’s girlfriend’s father sent them to kill us. So we stole their helicopter and we flew it to their freighter, but it blew up. And we couldn’t go back to the island, because it disappeared. So then we crashed into the ocean, and we floated there for a while ’til a boat came and picked us up. And by then, there were 6 of us. That part was true. But the rest, but the rest of the people who were on the plane, they’re still on that island.
APPARENTLY HE'S BEEN DRINKING REGULAR AND NOT DIET ALL THESE YEARS: If there is an overused meme I love more than Hitler ranting and raving about every injustice (the latest? The Buffalo Bills' hiring of Chan Gailey. By the way, Mein Fuhrer, you're wrong, the Bears are the NFL's laughingstock), it's the Flash Mob. Here's a new one featuring original Pepper David Naughton (he of "Makin' It" fame for us senior citizens) celebrating Dr Pepper's 125th anniversary on the floor of the NYSE.
HOLDING OUT FOR A SCHRUTE FARMS ALL-ACCESS PASS: Our Friend Mo Ryan is raising money for Haiti relief by auctioning off all sorts of cool TV memorabilia. This week's batch includes Dexter, Idol, and It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia swag, and next week promises such goodies as a signed set of Battlestar Galactica DVD's. It's cool stuff and for a good cause. Take a look, and if something tickles your fancy, give.
HAS IT OCCURRED TO ANY OF YOU THAT YOUR BUDDY IS ACTUALLY GOING TO CAUSE THE THING HE SAYS HE'S TRYING TO PREVENT? PERHAPS THAT LITTLE NUKE IS THE INCIDENT? SO MAYBE THE BEST THING TO DO ... IS NOTHING? [PAUSE] I'M GLAD YOU ALL THOUGHT THIS THROUGH: I have nothing profound to say about Lost -- I try to leave that to the others here. I'm just exceptionally excited after having rewatched The Incident, Parts 1 & 2 last night (now with alternately condescending and enlightening pop-ups!) and read Maureen Ryan's lengthy interview with Lindelof/Cuse, and February 2 can't come soon enough.
OOBI MESS UP. THAT'S OKAY: Okay, but seriously, is he really shilling for GEICO? Because it sure looks like him in these ads ...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

IF THE RUMORS FLOATING IN YOUR HEAD TURN INTO FACTS, CLOSE YOUR EYES AND THINK OF THIS: Thank you, Pete Townsend, for ruining our annual Super Bowl pool:
"We're kinda doing a mashup of stuff," the guitarist tells Billboard. "A bit of 'Baba O'Riley,' a bit of 'Pinball Wizard,' a bit of the close of 'Tommy,' a bit of 'Who Are You,' and a bit of 'Won't Get Fooled Again.' It works -- it's quite a saga. A lot of the stuff that we do has that kind of celebratory vibe about it -- we've always tried to make music that allows the audience to go a bit wild if they want to. Hopefully it will hit the spot."
Crap. Do we have to start asking more questions about ... football?
A PARTIAL LIST OF SHADOWY ORGANIZATIONS WHOSE NAMES BEGIN WITH "THE" AND THEIR OBJECTIVES:
  • The Alliance of Twelve: World domination through profitable arms distribution
  • The Army of the One: World domination through monotheism
  • The Army of the Twelve Monkeys: (1) World destruction; (2) (alt.) zoological freedom
  • The Champions: World domination through Kenny and Johnny Bananas making fun of people
  • The Comet Empire: Galactic domination through collision
  • The Company: World domination through viral contamination, mutant superpowers
  • The Covenant: World domination through profitable arms distribution
  • The Dharma Initiative: World domination through science experiments
  • The Dollhouse: World domination through method acting
  • The Legion of Doom: World domination through trying to blow shit up
  • The Others: Peaceful separatism through armed self-preservation
  • The Ring: World domination through software
  • The Sopranos: Northern New Jersey domination through intimidation
  • The Syndicate: World domination through superannuation
  • The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics: World domination through failed ideology
YOU WANT A REVIVAL? YOU CAN'T HANDLE THIS REVIVAL! Allegedly, plans are afoot for a revival of A Few Good Men to make its way to the Great White Way next season, and they're looking for a star to assay the Lt. Kaffee role (played by Cruise on film, and played by, inter alia, Bradley Whitford, Timothy Busfield, and Tom Hulce on Broadway). Any suggestions of folks who'd work for the principal roles?

ETA: The NYT says producers have expressed interest in James Franco and Justin Timberlake for the Kaffee role, and a commenter there notes that Rob Lowe recently did the role in London.
PRISON OF ELEMENTAL EVIL: A prison ban on all Dungeons & Dragons-related materials has been upheld, and the rationale "that playing the game promoted gang-related activity and was a threat to security" was upheld as reasonable. As someone who has played D&D in the past, as a general rule, D&D players and gang members are mutually exclusive circles in the great Venn Diagram of life.
WHAT, NO SABBATH? In an effort to increase synergy, the Iron Man 2 soundtrack will apparently be all AC/DC, basically a greatest hits album.
I AM OLD: The fact that there is a Runaways movie (authorized, with Joan Jett as executive producer) has been kicking around in my brain for a while now, but I just read this very morning that Dakota Fanning is playing Cherie Currie. Ick. I do not want to see this playing this. So I'm taking myself -- erstwhile and occasionally nostalgic fan of '70s and '80s hard rock -- out of the movie's target audience.

Incidentally, I take issue with the casting of the band. By using fresh-faced Kristen Stewart, Fanning, and Scout Taylor-Compton as Jett, Currie, and Lita Ford, they're missing the thoroughly discomforting truth at the heart of the Runaways. This was a band that actually looked and seemed like runaways* -- reckless, feral, ragged, dead-eyed, more Larry Clark than Malcolm McLaren. I just hope the movie won't gloss over the seediness of the whole enterprise, not just the standard music-industry stuff, but the particular and peculiar image this band's management built.

*Though, obviously, they weren't -- for example, I just read on Wikipedia that Jackie Fox, the bassist in the lineup for the first couple of albums, was a great student who ultimately graduated from Harvard Law.
THAT IS THE SOUND OF A THOUSAND TERRIBLE THINGS HEADED THIS WAY: During the weekend in the comments, Lou W. introduced us to the unit of measurement known as a "PM" -- "to measure the delta between level of anticipation and amount of suckitude," wherein 1.0 PM measures the degree of disappointment which the release of Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace presented upon its release in 1999.

Lou suggested that Prince's "fight song" for the Vikings represented 400 millPM (or, 0.4 PM, depending on which abbreviations you prefer). I think Aaron Sorkin's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" is at least at 0.6-0.7 PM, and Snakes on a Plane was closer to a 0.3 PM. (On the scale, 0.0 PM reflects a cultural work that exactly met expectations -- I Love You, Man perhaps -- with anything exceeding expectations like The Dark Knight going into negative territory.)

I've got nothing else this morning; let's fill out the scale.

Monday, January 25, 2010

(I GOT A MESSAGE FOR YOU): I'm not quite sure what the purpose is of a greatest hits collection in the era of iTunes, but that's not going to stop my from being a little bit happy about a 23-track Pavement compilation being released this March.

And very happy about a worldwide Pavement reunion tour in 2010, even if few of the dates are stateside.
TRIPLE LUTZ, TRI ... OH, THAT WASN'T GOOD: I'm subbing in for Gretchen on this one, but if you watched the US ladies' figure skating championship Saturday night and/or followed my tweets during same you know where I'm going with this: what Saturday night reminded us, more than anything, is that figure skating is really, really hard. To skate flawlessly for four minutes and pull off the jumps required at this level takes a remarkable amount of strength and balance, and there's a reason why I counted nine of the twelve athletes as having planted ass on ice or otherwise egregiously two-footed during their skates.

Points are what they are, so I understand why Mirai Nagasu took the second Olympic slot with champion Rachael Flatt. Still, the more-experienced Ashley Wagner performed more difficult elements in her long program, and did them better, and it's a damn shame that her screwed-up triple lutz in the short program (which she explains here) will keep her out of the Games.

As for Sasha Cohen, it just wasn't there, and for medals in Vancouver folks shouldn't be looking at our ladies at all. Instead, it's that flamboyant guy, that less flamboyant guy and our ice dancers ... though I'd first have to concede ice dancing to be a sport. (That's why I tend to focus on other disciplines, though, seriously, the Russian/aboriginal thing is going to be quite a fun controversy.)

While I have the floor -- I'm paying for this microphone, after all -- after a long dormancy look for a flurry of CoverItLive activity here for sweeps month. I'd expect us to resume that feature for the Grammys this Sunday, for the Oscar nomination reveal on February 2, and for the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies (indoors, a first!) -- because we've got way more interesting things to say about the marching countries of the world and the Children Uniting In Song than Bob Costas does.

After the jump, a special video from Johnny Weir:
I DON'T THINK THAT NAME MEANS WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS: Longstanding Canadian magazine The Beaver is changing its name to Canada's History, largely due to blocks that now happen when "The Beaver" sends e-mails or people attempt to access their website.
I'M NOT BEING DEFENSIVE YOU'RE THE ONE WHO'S BEING DEFENSIVE! WHY IS IT ALWAYS THE OTHER PERSON WHO'S BEING DEFENSIVE? HAVE YOU EVER ASKED YOURSELF THAT? So I'm guessing based on the reviews that it's about time I started watching Damages with the third-season premiere tonight.
MAY I INQUIRE DISCREETLY? ?uestlove explains the world of licensing fees for walk-on music.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

WHO DAT V. HOOSIERS: It's the ghost of Archie Manning past vs. Peyton Manning present in the big game, which this year, let's face it, will really be anticlimactic coming a week after the pageantry and passion of the Pro Bowl. So, who ya got in XLIV at Sun Life Stadium (perhaps better knows, according to Wikipedia, as Joe Robbie Stadium or Pro Player Park or Pro Player Stadium or Dolphins Stadium or Dolphin Stadium or Land Shark Stadium).
"AT LEAST 6 ASSES, 2 HELLS, 1 CRAP, 1 DAMN, 2 USES OF 'GOD' AND 1 USE OF 'OH MY GOD": Even though it's rated PG-13, is there really anything in School of Rock which renders it unsuitable for an almost-seven-year-old? Schneebly!
MEKKA LEKKA HI, MEKKA HINEY HO! Yes, I would pay a lot of money to see Pee Wee's Playhouse live on stage again.