Saturday, June 19, 2010

MAYOR FAIL? I'm disappointed in this picture of Mayor Nutter at the opening yesterday of one of the City's public pools, because back in the day Philadelphia's mayor knew how to open a pool properly.
LARGER THAN LIFE: Woody Allen once said of him, “Manute Bol is so skinny they save money on road trips. They just fax him from city to city.”

The only player in NBA history to average more blocks than points per game, the 7'7" Dinka dunker went from a life minding cattle in a remote corner of his native Sudan to the University of Bridgeport to the NBA, from which he sent millions back to his homeland and towards which he devoted his years in retirement, brokering a peace treaty to end the civil war. After his NBA career ended, he'd move onto the CBA and whatever else would pay him -- a stint as a jockey, as a hockey goalie, boxing William "the Refrigerator" Perry, whatever: "There’s no way I can put the money in my pocket while my people are getting beat up,” he once said. “Whatever I can do to help my people I will do. I feel whatever I make here I make for my people.”

Sadly, he died today in Virginia at the age of 47 of acute kidney and skin disease.

[Added WaPo obit, with this awesome quote: "You know, a lot of people feel sorry for him, because he's so tall and awkward," Charles Barkley, a former 76ers teammate, once said. "But I'll tell you this -- if everyone in the world was a Manute Bol, it's a world I'd want to live in."]

[Added again: Bol may have been responsible for inventing or popularizing the phrase "my bad."]

The NYT's Nick Kristof just tweeted that Bol was "a moral giant" for his work with the nonprofit Sudan Sunrise, and Kansas City's Sam Mellinger has more on his life and works. Sports Illustrated has a photo gallery, Matt reminds me of his SNL appearance, Dan McQuade locates Kenn Kweder's tribute in song, and below the fold, perhaps my favorite Bol memory:

Friday, June 18, 2010

THE GIRLY-MAN DILEMMA: Ever wonder why we've never seen film adaptations starring SNL characters Hans and Franz, Da Bears Superfans, Dieter, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, or an Ambiguously Gay Duo film (co-written with Stephen Colbert)? Robert Smigel discusses what was proposed for each film, and why none of them were made.
SUNNYSIDES: Allow me to be Wikipedia for a moment, so that I can disambiguate. Sunnyside is a wonderful book by Glen David Gould, which, as I mentioned a few threads back, is both riotously funny and occasionally heartbreaking. It takes its title from Sunnyside, the Chaplin two-reeler, which in Gould's telling is a schizophrenically ambitious and distracted piece that Chaplin finished in a rush for reasons I won't spoil, should you make the wise choice to read the book. Chaplin's film, in turn, half-accidentally appropriates the name Sunnyside from the estate where Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford first fell in love.

Toy Story 3 is out today. I hope to see it soon (Rotten Tomatoes gives it the rare 100% rating), but haven't yet. That means that all I know of the plot is what I've read in the papers. If you've been avoiding the papers, stop now, because I'm going to mention the broad outline.

WELL, JAY-Z WAS AT THE TONYS: Apparently, in contention for Kanye West's new album? A track that prominently samples "Popular" from Wicked. Well, at least we know Chenoweth doesn't need any autotune.
KAZOO, THE NEXT GENERATION: How do you make Big Brother even more annoying? Easy! Just add vuvuzela.
SEINFELD, 4? I will confess to being OpenTable-dependent when it comes to making restaurant reservations -- I love the grid and the ready, efficient comparison of options. Why sit around and wait? Why bother with those bistros which seat on a first-come, first-served policy? Well, the NYT recently explained the economics of dinner reservations, and it's an eye-opener:
The easy button for many restaurateurs is, which allows diners to make reservations 24/7 online. “The average restaurant spends $1,500 to $2,000 a month on OpenTable,” said Mr. Brown, of Ed’s Chowder House, adding that restaurants like his pay a setup fee, monthly fees and a fee for every reservation.

In addition, a serious fine-dining experience requires reservationists “12 hours a day, seven days a week,” Mr. Brown said, “a minimum of three people making $30,000 apiece per year plus benefits.”

“Add to that yearly payments of $20,000 in OpenTable fees,” he said. “So by having no reservations, that restaurant saves $125,000 a year.”

Furthermore, while no-reservations restaurants can reach as many as four table turns a night,two may be the maximum for restaurants that take reservations, Mr. Brown said. “So for them, often the only way to cope with increasing costs is to keep charging more money.” That, in turn, can price a restaurant out of its market.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

SO PUT YOUR HAND ... SOMEPLACE ELSE: BeyoncĂ© is reportedly retiring her “Single Ladies” dance routine. "She doesn’t want to be part of a long-term joke. That’s not to say she doesn’t get a big kick out of watching other people do it.”
NOT THAT THIS BLOG CONDONES SPORTING SHENANIGANS: But, given Mexico's 2-0 win over France today ...
Mexico next plays Uruguay, which also needs a draw to advance. France has only one point and has to beat South Africa and hope Mexico and Uruguay don't tie their match in Tuesday's final group games.
My understanding is that because Uruguay leads in goal differential, it's Mexico which has the incentive to win here -- next round, group winner will face Greece or South Korea, group runner-up faces Argentina, and I'd say that might matter a little. Still, doesn't everyone want to screw over the cheese eating surrender monkeys who stole Ireland's slot?
HE WILL ROCK YOUR WORLD: Is your day perilously short on Brazilian baby dancing? Then you've come to the right place, because: Brazilian baby dancing.
YOUR SHOULDERS ARE FROZEN, AS COLD AS THE NIGHT, BUT YOU'RE AN EXPLOSION, YOU'RE DYNAMITE: I'm going out on a limb and guessing that Kim isn't in for a recap of last night's So You Think You Can Dance. Please allow me to fill in like Melanie any time one of the women blows out a knee during ballroom week.

Let's deal with the show's changes before getting to the dancers. First, there's a new director here (Cat introduced her last week). Normally I wouldn't notice, but she really butchered the shots. She seemed to want to focus on faces, so she went in for really tight shots, which don't work at all when people are spinning or running around. It seemed like half of the dancer introductions were just heads and shoulders whirring into and out of the frame, and she cropped the legs out of a number of shots in the long dances as well. This is a dance show. All the judges' talk about lines and extension won't make much sense if you don't show us the legs. I assume we'll solve this by next week, but it really was a problem.

Second, in an effort to make the show a bit more like the other wildly lucrative dancing show, SYTYCD halved the number of contestants and paired them up with "all-stars," meaning, essentially, professionals, each of whom will dance only in his or her specialty style (greatest beneficiary of this: Komfort). The all-stars are pretty well-chosen -- most of the people you'd expect, minus past winners, past standouts who now work for DWTS, and a couple of others who hopefully are busy working (Kayla, Will, Katee, Kherington). For the most part, the all-stars have charisma to spare, and they certainly won't let down their partners. And therein lies the problem -- the trick for the contestants this year will not only be to achieve basic competency in a new dance; it also will be to avoid being overshadowed by a partner already fluent in the style. So who did it?
IF THEY'D KEPT THE ORIGINAL TITLE, I SUSPECT IT WOULD NOT HAVE SOLD AS WELL: I have to give EW credit this week--rather than going with a Toy Story 3 cover or an Eclipse cover (likely in part because they did "sexy vampires" last week), but with a cover that features (in its main photo) nothing but the cover of Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. It's the first purely book-centric (J.K. Rowling had the cover in November 2007 as Entertainer of the Year, in part off film versions of the books) EW cover since September 2002 (Stephen King claims he's quitting, and featuring a music review of Kelly Clarkson's "A Moment Like This"). Of course, we're going to get a massive sparklevamp cover package next week, I expect (and it makes sense, since Eclipse will dominate the 4th of July weekend), but credit where credit's due. Consider this an open thread to discuss what you're reading now and what the rest of us should be.
THIS IS A.C. ... YOU KNOW WHO I AM: I cannot say enough things about how great ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary was in depicting the craziness of June 17, 1994 -- the low-speed white Bronco chase-slash-suicide watch, the NBA Finals, the World Cup opening in Chicago, Arnold Palmer's final US Open round and the New York Rangers victory parade -- yes, all in one day. Watch it, folks, and especially for the behind the scenes footage of folks like Bob Costas and Chris Berman trying to make sense of how to cover all of this at once. (Plus, you get to see a mustachioed Keith Olbermann and an employed Craig Kilborn.)

Here's a question which you can answer whether or not you've seen the documentary yet: suppose O.J. Simpson did kill himself along or at the end of the drive as his Robert Kardashian-read letter and conversation with police during their pursuit strongly suggested he would. Tell us how today's world is different. Do we ever learn who Greta van Susteren or Jeffrey Toobin are? Does it change media coverage of car chases going forward? Does Leno still beat Letterman in the ratings? Do Kardashian's daughters still end up having a thing for star athletes? What replaces the Chewbacca Defense and Jackie Chiles? Your wild speculations are welcome.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

HOT OR NOT: New sitcom Hot In Cleveland has gotten press because it's TV Land's first original scripted show and because it features Betty White (in full-on "smutty old lady" mode, who's in maybe 3 minutes of the episode). What's remarkable about it is that it feels like the script was written in 1987, and then pulled out of a drawer, had a few "contemporary" jokes added to it (references to Google and internet porn, for instance, and an oddly untimely Megan Fox joke), and then filmed. Admittedly, the material is stedfastly mediocre, but the cast is made up of consummate pros (Peri GilpinJane Leeves in particular knows how to sell a joke, and has the one character that's got more than one dimension), and while it's not going to join the ranks of any of the leading ladies' prior sitcoms (not even Just Shoot Me!), it's diverting enough for a half hour in the programming-light summer.
IT IS ALWAYS GOOD TO SEE ROSALIND SHAYS GET THE SHAFT: I'm kinda impressed that the list of 30 Most Surprising Moments In TV History contains two different Mark Harmon roles within the top four ... and yet still didn't pick the right show. I'll explain why below the fold.

Nuclear wars can start under at least the following situations:

US First Strike
USSR First Strike
US USSR Escalation
Taiwan Escalation
India Pakistan War
Mediterranean War
Hong Kong Variant
Seato Decapitating
EVERYTHING U DO IS SUCCESS: You know my whole maxim that any event is improved by the addition of Prince (or, in a pinch, Morris Day and the Time)? On June 27, the BET Awards will honor Prince with a Lifetime Achievement Award. (Also, they've nominated The Bieber for Best New Artist, which amuses me. But not The Other Justin Bieber, a Philadelphia attorney.)

Three tv notes for tonight:
"From Bobby Ewing's shower scene in Dallas to Dr. George O'Malley's shocking death on Grey's Anatomy, from American Idol to Saturday Night Live, from NCIS to The West Wing, from Dancing with the Stars to Deal or No Deal, this special will feature the most talked-about moments from comedy, drama, reality, variety, and game shows, and will include some of TV's biggest personalities, such as Tina Fey, Ellen DeGeneres, Howie Mandel, Chris Harrison, Arsenio Hall, Paul McCrane, Tom Bergeron, Aida Tuturro, Whoopi Goldberg, Paul Shaffer, Julie Chen, Regis Philbin, Patricia Heaton, Michael Weatherly, and David E. Kelley revealing what went on behind those surprising moments."
Yeah, I'd say that array of personalities suggests at least one of the list items. But which surprising SNL moment did a viewer survey select -- Charles Rocket's twelve-letter mistake (or Jenny Slate's more recent four-letter transgression?) Sinead O'Connor's photo mutilation? Ashley Simpson's "acid reflux"? The banned-after-one-showing Conspiracy Theory Rock cartoon? "Radio Radio"?
NOTHIN' BUT AN AUTO-TUNE: For those interested in masochism, yes, Miley Cyrus's (It's Miley!) cover of "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" has leaked.
GO TO JAIL, GO DIRECTLY TO JAIL, DO NOT PASS GO, DO NOT COLLECT $200: One of the most common complaints about Monopoly is how long it takes to play a game. But it turns out you can play a full game in 4 turns and 21 seconds.
A BRAND NEW LIFE AROUND THE BEND: Via Forbes, an interactive map you'll enjoy playing with: a visual exploration of 2008 IRS data indicating, on a county-by-county basis, where Americans are moving to and from. Just don't click on Wayne Co., Michigan (Detroit), because that's depressing.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

COLLEGE CONFERENCE DOSEY-DOE UPDATE: Just to catch up: Texas, Texas A&M et al are staying in the Big (Ten Teams in the Plains States) Conference, with Texas retaining its own media rights. But why stop there with the money? Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, Iowa State and Missouri also agreed to cede their shares in the buyout penalties to be paid by Nebraska and Colorado for leaving the league (about $9M penalty each, from what I can tell) over to Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma.

The Pacific-And-Inland Teams Conference now has eleven teams, and folks are expecting it to raid the University of Utah from the Mountain West Conference for a twelfth. And then, we may be done -- with Notre Dame apparently staying put, the Big Midwest Land Grant University Conference With Twelve Teams isn't likely to grab more teams right now, though Maryland, Rutgers and Boston College are being considered. The era of four rival sixteen-team superconferences is not yet upon us.
HANS, HANS, HANS! WE'VE BEEN FREW THIS A DOZEN TIMES. I DON'T HAVE ANY WEAPONS OF MASS DESTWUCTION, OK, HANS?: Don't look now, but the top-ranked Brazilian World Cup team ("side") is tied zero-zero ("nil-nil") with the dead-last-ranked (among World Cup qualifiers) North Koreans after the half. I'm of two minds about this, because on the one hand it's North Korea, and on the other hand the soccer team appears to be representing not the North Korea of the real world and nuclear brinksmanship, but rather the North Korea of Team America. Witness these posts from ESPN's live blog:
The following is pasted directly from Soccernet's coach profile of Kim Jong-hun: "It has been suggested that North Korea leader Kim Jong-il gave the coach advice on how to reach the World Cup. Kim Jong-Su, the general secretary of the North Korean FA, has said the Dear Leader gave 'in-depth guidance' on how to develop the game in the country and the coach himself has claimed he received regular tactical advice during matches, apparently using mobile phones that are not visible to the naked eye."

[PRK Coach Kim on a striker bizarrely disqualified for being registered as a goalkeeper]: "He (Kim Myong-won) was a striker and now he's registered as a goalkeeper. He is really a goalkeeper but he's really fast, so we switched him to a striker. But this World Cup, he said he wanted to be a goalkeeper again."
So, to reiterate, on the one hand I'm not accustomed to rooting for the PRK. On the other hand, they're completely loony and 151-ranking-slot underdogs.

And while I'm in the process of posting this, Brazil goes up, 1-0 ("jibber-nil").
MAD MEN - BEYOND THUNDERDOME: AMC has released the first photo from the new season of Mad Men, and it's chock-full of spoilers. Stop reading if you don't want to know that:
  • Don Draper, Roger Sterling, and Pete Campbell do not die before the first episode of the new season;
  • A mystery person opposite the team will say something that irritates Roger, prompts a snide retort from Don, and sounds like a fart joke to Pete; and
  • If the new season is set in a post-apocalyptic future, wood, water, and oil-based Brylcream still exist.
WAIT A MINUTE, THEY KEEP USING THE SAME ACTOR IN EVERY MOVIE. WHAT SORT OF A CHEAPSKATE OUTFIT IS THIS? Toy Story 3 comes out this Friday and, as they do every year ahead of a new Pixar release, the Chronicle heads over to the Emeryville campus and writes pretty much the same article about what an oddball place it is to work. But every year, I read it.
EGOT WATCH: Now that Scarlett Johansson, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Denzel Washington have their Tony Awards (and the latter two with Oscars as well), New York magazine wonders whether any is likely to complete the set.

(Actually, in looking at this helfpul chart of those-missing-just-one, I'll take five-time Oscar nominee Marc Shaiman as most likely to be next.)

Monday, June 14, 2010

GAGE WHITNEY: The AV Club's Steve Heisler is doing a summer-long viewing of season two of The West Wing (having tackled season one last summer), beginning with "In The Shadow Of Two Gunmen, Parts I and II":
The stories are all flashbacks, and maybe it's because Lost just ended, but I immediately paralleled those segments to the flash-sideways of season six.... All this season, we watched the characters on Lost exist in this other world as they always have, but something was missing. They might not have known it at first; it's more of a nagging feeling that they couldn't quite qualify. Then suddenly, the catalyst occurs, and their eyes are open. They track down their friends, marvel in the beauty of having a shared purpose, and it's see you in another life, brutha. And in this case, Leo is the Desmond.
His recaps for the next two episodes are online as well: "I enjoyed these two episodes of The West Wing because they gave our characters a chance to work out their inner demons surrounding the shooting. The first two episodes this season demonstrated what they're doing consciously, now it was time to watch them tackle the subconscious effects."
YES, VEXILLOGISTS, WE WILL ACCEPT "FREAK FLAG" AS A LEGITIMATE RESPONSE: It's Flag Day, yo. Show the flag some respect, and name a favorite flag.

(Some of mine: Nepal, South Korea, Maryland, New Mexico.)
THIS COULD BE GRIST FOR A WHOLE NEW SERIES OF AGGIE JOKES: This college football realignment just keeps getting messier and more contradictory, with ESPN claiming that that Texas (and much of the rest of the Big 12 South) is headed for the Pac-10 immediately, while Orange Bloods is saying that if Texas A&M resists overtures from the SEC, the Big XII may still live, courtesy of a deal that makes Texas a lot of money.
ARE YOU READY FOR THE SUMMER? ARE YOU READY FOR THE GOOD TIMES? We really, truly enjoyed the 2008 ALOTT5MA Summer Cocktail series which TPE organized, the results of which you can revisit here (Dark and Stormy), here (the Combo Mah!), here (Maggie's Dad's Margaritas), here (Beer, served just so), here (Gins and Tonic), here (I Do Not Drink Beer), here (Pimm's Cup), and here (Improper Mint Julep) -- and so we're wondering: what can we do for 2010?

Suggest some warm-weather topic for which you'd like to contribute and on which see others in our community write as well. Summer camp memories? Things you can do with a grill? Be creative, and let us know.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

WELL, EXCEPT FOR THE YEAR IN THE HEIGHTS WON: It's hard to think of two major New York City events that have as different an audience as the annual Puerto Rican Day parade and the Tony Awards (appropriate dress at only one includes a flag worn as a cape), but today, we get that combination. Tonight's awards feature performances from currently running shows and those connected with them (including a number from Green Day), as well as some sort of number from Lea Michele and Matthew Morrison. Use this thread for your comments--we'll be around during the show, but since it appears the only particularly exciting question is whether Angela Lansbury or Katie Finneran wins and whether La Cage becomes a future trivia answer, no live coverage this year.

ETA: To warm you up, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Barrett Foa, both former Leaf Coneybears who've made it big on TV, do "All For The Best" from Godspell.
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SHAWN CARTER: I'm not going to link back to all the debates we had over whether Jay-Z was an appropriate headlining act for Bonnaroo this year -- the arguments were heated, and I'm sure we all regret some of the things we said back then. Anyway, here's the results, and if you drink every time H.O.V.A. plays lighting director, well ...

This is an open thread for ... whatever you fancy.