Saturday, May 15, 2010

FRED PALOWAKSKI: A montage, via HuffPo. Slightly NSFW, and definitely NSFDND (not safe for dorks, nerds and dweebs).

DID YOU KNOW THAT "THE ONION" USED TO BE CALLED "BASEBALL DIGEST"? Hall of Famer pitcher Kid Nichols (361 wins in a career stretching from 1890-1906), in January 1948, published a column in Baseball Digest titled "Pitchers Are Sissies Now."
A big league pitcher who wins twenty games today becomes the toast of the baseball world and is given a fat raise in pay. In my day—the Nineties—if you won only twenty games the club owner would say, ‘You didn’t do so good this year—we are going to cut your salary next season....

And did you ever hear of Amos Rusie, Cy Young, Radbourne or Mathewson having an elbow operation for the removal of chipped bone? Such operations were unheard of until recent years. If the arm got sore, we went out and pitched until the soreness left -- we had to, or we would have been dropped from the team. Nothing short of a broken leg could have kept us out of uniform.
(HT: Jonathan Chait.)

Friday, May 14, 2010

BABY, WON'T YOU HELP ME UNDERSTAND: Idol judges' choice selections, spoiled via MJsBigBlog:
GOOD, GUYS. IT'S A NINE. TO SAVE THE RAIN FORESTS WE NEED A TEN. LADY GAGA, YOU NEED TO HIT THE ONES AND FIVES. BRUCE, IT THINK IF WE WORKED ON IT, YOU COULD HIT A HIGH B: Elton John, Sting, Lady Gaga, Debbie Harry, Bruce Springsteen, and Shirley Bassey cover Journey for the benefit of the rain forests.

Among the other covers not captured on video at the benefit last night at Carnegie Hall, Bruce doing "Cuts Like a Knife," Sting singing "She Drives Me Crazy," Gaga taking on "Stand By Me," and Sir Elton tackling "Like a Virgin" and "Material Girl." Sounds like the greatest episode of Glee, yet.
BLACK AND WHITE TITLE CARD: In honor of the end of Law & Order: Original Recipe, Alan is asking readers to come up with a L&O "dream cast." Your rules--have to be characters who appeared at some point in the role you have put them in (no Det. van Buren or ADA Schiff), and Wiki has a helpful chart--other than that, be creative. There are a few selections that no one's going to fight over--anyone want to argue for Cragen over van Buren as Lieutenant, or for Lenny Briscoe not to be Senior Detective? That second cop slot is a hard one (Ed Green? Rey Curtis? Mike Logan?), and while I expect general consensus on Claire Kincaid as one of the two ADA's, and that Jack McCoy fits into pretty much everyone's lawyer list somewhere, the third wheel is tough.

Personally, I went with van Buren, Briscoe, Green, DA McCoy, and ADA's Cutter and Kincaid, but I'm willing to be persuaded differently.
IF THEY DIDN'T GIVE UP THEY CERTAINLY GAVE OUT: Michael Wilbon on LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers:
It's possible no athlete has ever come into the professional ranks with so much expected of him. In this case, the assignment was essentially to save his home town, to win with a team that had never won, in a city whose teams haven't won in decades. Elway, as smothered as he was in Denver in the early years, didn't grow up in the Rockies feeling obliged. Chicagoans paid attention to Michael Jordan only after he started winning.
At least Wayne Gretzky won four Stanley Cups in Edmonton before leaving.

added: Bill Simmons. "I always thought his ceiling looked like this: Jordan's DNA crossed with Magic's DNA crossed with Bo Jackson. Nope. Take the Jordan DNA out. Have to. Jordan was a ruthless mother******. Jordan was a killer. Jordan didn't care if his teammates despised him. Jordan never, ever, not in a million years, would have allowed his team to quit in the final two minutes of last night's game like LeBron did. His teammates feared him, loathed him, revered him and played accordingly.... [L]ast night, LeBron's DNA finally made sense to me. Throw Jordan out. Throw Magic out, too, except for the 'controls sections of a game with passing/rebounding' part. Keep Bo. Now, add this guy ... Julius Erving. I will explain."
LISA, ANGELA, PAMELA, RENEE: The annual release of the Popular Baby Names list is always a cause for much navel-gazing both the media and ourselves, with much of the attention focused on the ascendance of Twilight names including Isabella, Jacob and Cullen.

I have a feeling we can crowdsource this data in more interesting ways. I noticed, for example, that Katrina has continued its rapid descent, from #246 in 2005 to #600 in 2007 to #815 last year, while Brooklyn keeps climbing from #182 in the year of Brooklyn Beckham's birth (1999) to #101 in 2004 to #37 last year. The top five girl's names all end with schwas, and it's only until a little later where you hit the strong-e run (Natalie, Lily, Ashley, Hailey, Kaylee, Riley, Aubrey ...). Also, Madelyn > Madeline > Madeleine and Skylar > Skyler > Sky > Skyla (the Will Hunting pronunciation), and the kids who will hate their parents most upon learning the real genesis of their names (other than the 3,640 girls named Genesis) are likely the 2,155 girls and 283 boys named after Marley, a dead dog.

[Also a possible form of child abuse: naming your kid Aryanna, Aryana or Aryan. Yeah, they made the list.]

As Kim noted in 2006, "Of course, the real entertainment value of the list lies less in monitoring the top 10-20 names than in watching the trajectory of individual names over time and assessing whether a particular name has jumped the shark or will have jumped the shark by the time one's wee offspring hits the first grade. Have fun."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I DON'T KNOW IF IT'S INCREDIBLE COCKINESS OR COMPLETE STUPIDITY. I'M LEANING MORE TOWARDS STUPIDITY: Among the things Survivor fans know by now -- so, presumably, the players know this too -- is that who you choose to take on a reward challenge (and who gets left behind) should be decided on strategy, not sympathy. The disgruntled left-behind can organize (Sandra/Lill/Darrah v. Fairplay/Burton), and leaving behind someone as paranoid and narcissistic as Russell ... sheesh. So things were going to get spun around this episode no matter what, but certainly the way this three-on-three played out.

We were also reminded, of course, that loose lips sink ships and that the only way two people can keep a secret on Survivor is if one of them has already been voted out, so way to go, Person Who Actually Managed To Keep A Secret On Survivor.

Also, this episode was about "experiencing the blowhole." Well, Russell: referring to your fellow competitors as "a bunch of unappreciative little bitches" makes you not a "Survivor villain," but a real-life one. Congratulations, asshole.

Added: Probst: "If I had told you at the beginning of the season that the biggest letdown would come from our most celebrated hero, nobody would have believed me. Yet, as mentioned earlier… Colby is still in the game and if he makes it to the final is probably the odds on favorite to win the money. Crazy."
RIPPED FROM THE SCHEDULE: Deadline Hollywood is reporting that due to high costs and an uncommonly strong drama development slate, Law & Order will have to remain tied with Gunsmoke as the longest running TV drama, ending its 20 year run in just a few weeks. SVU will return, CI will stay on USA, and L&O: Los Angeles will likely launch in the fall, while Law & Order: UK (Britishized versions of older scripts) runs in the UK.

ETA: Other sources (EW and Futon Critic) say there's still a chance for a pickup.
YOUR MOST DISCERNING GLASS EYE IS REQUIRED: Interesting question raised on this week's Firewall and Iceberg podcast, re: Bill Lawrence's desire to rename "Cougar Town" because, as Lawrence noted, "they find too many instances of testing of people saying they would never watch a show called 'Cougar Town' - I don't want to see some show about a 40-year-old woman nailing younger guys."

But then the question was, okay, what shows have successfully rebranded? "Sep" and Dan pointed to "These Friends of Mine" becoming "Ellen" and the rebootings of "Dragnet". To that list I can add the whole "Valerie" -> "Valerie's Family: The Hogans" -> "The Hogan Family" ado, and you can argue that "Mayberry R.F.D." was just a rebranded "The Andy Griffifth Show" without Andy Griffith, but surely there are other examples.

Related: what would you title "Cougar Town," and what other shows could use a different name?
22 DAYS REMAIN IN KAVYA'S REIGN: Today's Spelling Bee note: this will be as un-top-heavy a Bee as we've seen -- only one four-time repeater and ten three-year repeaters. No five-timers like Katharine Close, Tia Thomas, Matthew Evans or John Tamplin, and the only four-timer is the only one of last year's finalists whom no one chose in the 2009 pool.

(In each of the last four years, by way of comparison, we had at least 4-5 four-timers make it to the second day of the competition, from what I can tell. Paging the Gladwells among us for an explanation for this statistical blip.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"WOMEN HAVE NOT FORGIVEN CLAY, THEY HAVE SIMPLY FORGOTTEN HIM, AS HAVE MOST DENIZENS OF POPULAR CULTURE. THERE IS NO WORSE FATE IN SHOW BUSINESS": Twenty years ago at this very moment, Andrew Dice Clay hosted Saturday Night Live. As you may recall, cast member Nora Dunn boycotted the episode (and never returned to the show), as did scheduled musical guest Sinead O'Connor who ended up making her rescheduled appearance memorable in its own right.

(Your replacement musical guests: Twin Peaks chanteuse Julee Cruise and "Spanic Boys.")

added: Would you like to know more? Because the Shales/Miller book is mostly online. (Dunn: "To me, Andrew Dice Clay hosting was the pinnacle of everything that upset me about the show. I still feel that it's a black mark that they endorsed him and let him walk through that door.")

Also: most obscure musical guests in SNL history.
AMERICA VOTED: And Alan and I may have seen this one coming.
OUTRIGGER SHOOTOUT: Hey, Losties: run, don't walk, to Alan Sepinwall's exclusive interview with Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse regarding (among many things) fan disappointment from last night. In briefest part:
You've said many times that when people find out who Adam and Eve are, we'll all realize just how long you've been planning the mythology. Well, I went back and watched the "House of the Rising Sun" scene, and Jack says that the clothing looks like it's 50 years old. Is he just not very good at calculating the rate of decay on fabric?

CC: Jack is not really an expert in carbon dating.

DL: He's not really a forensic anthropologist. We need to bring in Bones.

CC: Or Charlotte. She's an anthropolgist.

DL: The other theory that I would like to throw out there is that Jacob and his mother were just expert craftsmen. They made those clothes on that loom so well, it would appear that they were only 50 years old in decomposition, when in fact it's several thousand.

CC: Or perhaps the fabric is magic. A lot of theories there, Alan.
IT'S AN OLD LADY! IT'S A YOUNG LADY TURNING AWAY! Scientific American will blow your mind with ten of the coolest optical illusions you'll ever see, plus 159 more in the print edition. In particular, number 7, heh.
SHOOT FIRST, ASK QUESTIONS LATER: Since it's almost time to wrap things up for the season, I wanted to say a few words for two of the three shows (along with Parks & Recreation) to which I most look forward each week.

First, The Pacific. I freely admit that it's not as moving or as good as Band of Brothers, but maybe that's an impossibly high bar. I also think that the structure, with the rotating leads and the shore leave and hospital stay plunked right into the middle, made it impossible to build much momentum. Yet I still look forward to watching every week. Most of all, I think it's admirable that Spielberg and Hanks, who tend toward the overly sentimental, have essentially made a diptych that splits World War II culturally into two pieces: the European part, which inherits the tradition of war as a theater of picturesque horror enacted by stout men; and the Pacific part, which adopts a harsher view of war as a place where dehmumanized boys, disconcerted by complete unfamiliarity with their situation or surroundings and distrust of their superiors, treat victory as only the least bad of a set of unpromising strategies for survival. The European Theater is Hemingway and oil paint; the Pacific Theater is Vietnam and Norman Mailer and the grainy footage on the CBS Evening News.

Second, Justified is just bad-ass. It's not just that Marshal Givens is a crack shot and likes to tell his adversaries exactly what he's going to do (though I do like that). It's that despite all the gunplay, the show really revolves around its dialogue. Some of the characters speak plainly but entertainingly (like Givens, whose confident, matter-of-fact "it's going to take me a day or so to figure this all out" made me laugh last night), some colorfully (Chief Mullen), and some in layers upon layers of meaning (Boyd Crowder). Almost all of the dialogue, though, is crisp and intentioned. The talking is so central to the action that when the guns are used, they're often just in service of the talking -- holstering and brandishing as inflection. Olyphant is perfectly cast, of course -- I can't think of a more obvious choice for this role -- but the supporting cast, especially Nick Searcy as the beleaguered chief, Natalie Zea as Givens's equally capable ex-wife (Givens acknowledges her instincts and allows himself an appreciative chuckle when she absentmindedly loads a clip in the car), and Rick Gomez (BoB's Luz) as Givens's reciprocally respected D.A., are excellent. I'm not wild about the romance with Ava, who is far less interesting than Winona, but otherwise I have a hard time finding anything to fault with this show.
THE FOOD SPEAKS FOR ITSELF: Current Top Chef Masters champion Rick Bayless is cooking for 200 at next week's state dinner honoring the President of Mexico, and talks to the Times about the special difficulties of cooking for POTUS, including the inability to pre-prepare sauces and order/bring ingredients on your own. Bayless' salsas (available at your local Whole Foods) are top-notch, and I suspect dinner guests (and any crashers) are in for a most-excellent meal.
HALLADAY TRAVEL: Globalization has its benefits -- and we're not just talking Tom Friedman-style. (Officially, this blog takes no position on whether David Ricardo was right, but, c'mon.) Anyway, predicted protests and congestion caused by the upcoming G20 summit in Toronto has forced a shift of the scheduled late June Phillies @ Blue Jays three-game series from Skydome to Citizens Bank Park. Yes, for the first time since the 1940s, the Blue Jays are the home team in Philadelphia -- Toronto will bat second, and the designated hitter rule will be employed, so while the Phillies will have 84 games at home this season, only 81 will advantage them with the final at-bat.
EVERY QUESTION I ANSWER WILL ONLY LEAD TO ANOTHER QUESTION: You got that right, Claudia Jean. How came the chicken? From the egg. And from whence the egg? From the chicken prior, moron. Mild spoilers probably will follow, I should warn you.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

WELL, AS A MATTER OF FACT, YES, I HAVE LOVED A WOMAN: Movie night on Idol. Could we avoid "Against All Odds"? Yes. But nevertheless, Massive Suck was not avoided. From the top to the bottom:
Lee and Crystal, "Falling Slowly". I know this opinion is not universal, but this was the best performance since Crystal's "People Get Ready." Maybe I've just got a soft spot for this song (and the swirlycam), but this just hit my sweet spot.
Big Mike, "Will You Be There". The inspirational theme from Free Willy. Of course. There wasn't anything special or different about it, but it worked.
The Outlaw Casey James, "Mrs. Robinson." Well, he's no Evan Dando, and there wasn't much singing involved, but it was a lovely little performance.
Crystal Bowersox, "I'm Alright." Of all the Kenny Loggins film songs to chose, I could imagine her taking on "Footloose," "I'm Free (Heaven Helps The Man)," "Playing With The Boys" or even "Danger Zone." This was ... alright, I guess, but indulgent, more of a showcase for the percussionist than the singer.
TOCJ and Big Mike, "Have You Every Really, Truly, Madly, Deeply Loved A Woman?" There were some bad notes in there. Also, no song that Bryan Adams has touched should appear on this show.
Lee DeWyze, "Kiss From A Rose." Chock full o'bad notes and laziness. Constantine's version was much better. Just, just ... yuck.
Thing I noticed: during Jamie Foxx's intro, they mentioned The Soloist this time. They didn't last year, even though it was right around the film's release date. Odd.
  • Iron Man
  • Spartacus
  • Sam
  • The Only One (Who'd Walk Across The Fire For You)
  • What I Yam, And That's All I Yam
  • Superman (And I Know What's Happening)
  • Here, The One That You Love
  • The Walrus
  • A Man Of Constant Sorrow
  • Strong, invincible, woman
  • A rock, an island
  • Sasha Fierce
SAY GOODBYE TO HOLLYWOOD (VIDEO): Because the chain is closing its remaining ~1900 franchises, raising all sorts of questions -- not the ones about the demise of the video store given the new methods of distribution -- but more (to me) about the potential reuses for this much real estate. Meanwhile, Slate's Farhad Manjoo explores whether Blockbuster can still be saved through its new 28-day exclusive window (against Netflix and Redbox) on renting new releases and by closing enough stores so that the remaining ones remaining profitable.

The way of the world, in a nutshell: our neighborhood Blockbuster Video was converted from a Boston Market; it's now a branch for a national banking/financial services company.
EVERYBODY HURTS (SOMETIMES): And sometimes teams ask athletes to invent injuries for roster management purposes, raising suspicions.

Monday, May 10, 2010

I THOUGHT THAT'S WHAT THE INTERNET WAS FOR: In these trying economic times, how do premium cable networks stay in business? Porn! (And seriously, isn't True Blood basically Twilight + porn?)
GOT THE WEIGHT OF THE WORLD -- I SUMMON YOU HERE, MY LOVE: Hey, I was just wondering, how exactly does someone nominate a person for an office that requires confirmation? I don't mean how is the candidate vetted -- there's a lot of information about that. I mean, ministerially, how is a person nominated? For a position like Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, does Obama just have a press conference and say, "I nominate Elena Kagan; ball's in your court, Senate"? Or is there some sort of form he has to fill out, like an executive order or a designation of beneficiaries of his life insurance policy? On the one hand, the government loves its paper, and getting a cc of that memo would be a nice framable memento for the nominee (how much would you pay for an original of the Harrold Carswell memo?). On the other hand, it seems like a bit of unnecessary paperwork. And assuming that paperwork is required, how is it transmitted to the Senate? Does it go by messenger to the Sergeant at Arms, by .pdf to HReid@Senate.Gov, or by U.S. Mail to some clerk?

Just curious.

Incidentally, in the interest of heading off any discussion whatsoever about today's nominee -- including not just political discussion but also "I knew her when" talk -- commenters are instructed to pretend that today's nominee was Brigadier General Amos T. Halftrack of the long-running syndicated comic strip Beetle Bailey. Commenters who fail to observe this fiction will be met with sternly disapproving facial expressions.
LET'S GO TO THE VIDEO TAPE: Life imitates Sports Night. (And here's the clip.)
RANDY ADDS ENTERTAINMENT VALUE TO THE SHOW -- STRONGLY DISAGREE, DISAGREE .... American Idol is conducting an online survey of its viewers which suggests interesting directions in which next season might go.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

THE UPGRADE: So after all that -- 23 (that's it?) days -- whatever faults the rest of this season of The Amazing Race had, at least we had a worthy winner. [Rest is spoilers below the fold.]
9 IP 0 H 0 BB 6 K; 27 UP, 27 DOWN: Congratulations, Dallas Braden.

It's all here. Really.