Friday, December 30, 2011

EARL GRAY IS THE GREATEST TEA I'VE EVER KNOWN: Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan is transforming what was my neighborhood post office branch into a 1930s style Chinese tea house.
THERE IS NOTHING LIKE A DAME:  Congratulations to Helena Bonham Carter, who after having portrayed the Queen Mother and suffered death at the hands of Molly Weasley has been named a Commander of Order of the British Empire as part of Her Majesty's annual New Years Honours list. Also so honoured is music producer Steve Lillywhite, while golfer Darren Clarke is now an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, with Rory McIlroy a Member of the Order of the British Empire.

Hierarchy of honours explained here, which means we don't actually get to call her Dame Bonham Carter. What does it take to earn a knighthood these days? Be Jonathan Ive. The London native designed the iMac, iPod, iPhone, MacBook Air, and iPad, and is now a Knight Commander (KBE). He's 44.

In what will surely become fodder from some future Encyclopedia Polamalu teaser, the nation decided to just go directly from Thursday to Saturday this week to flip to the other side of the International Date Line to better align with its regional trading partners.
THE YEAR IN FUNNY:  As part of Splitsider's annual retrospective, do enjoy The 10 Biggest Comedy News Stories of 2011, the gloriously time-filling The Year's Best Humor Writing 2011, The Year In Comedy Podcasts, The Top 10 Moments Comedians Made Us Think, and 49 Funny Things To Look Forward To in 2012
PALEOFITNESS, HOWEVER, WAS NOT: Last year, they correctly predicted the rise of hactivism, Robyn, Rooney Mara, and silent films, though they may have erred on the Jayson Werth thing. For 2012, the Washington Post's Hot or Not gurus predict big things for Michael Fassbender (duh), Kate Middleton's uterus (their words, not mine), District 12, Jessica Chastain, and Belgian malinois dogs; while suggesting that the era of hoarding, Ryan Gosling, Etsy, quinoa, Portland, and Adele is over.

More interesting, perhaps?  Their Hot/Not archive going back to 1978 is online, and predictions like 1985's "Out: Culture Club; In: Frankie Goes To Hollywood" and 1996's "Out: Drew Barrymore; In: Alicia Silverstone" ... well, it's a lot like that.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

FROM THE ALOTT5MA PREVIOUSLY AIRED CONTENT DIVISION, BECAUSE IT'S NOT A SWEEPS MONTH:  Today is Ronald Coase's 101st birthday. If you haven't read it lately, do review Isaac's October 2007 post, "The One Where Rachel Wins The Nobel Prize."  (Our centenary post is here.)
COMMENCE CLUTCHING OF PEARLS: A number of you confirmed to me last night that it was perfectly acceptable for me to post, via Buzzfeed, a link to excerpts from 1948’s “You And Your Sex Life: An Illustrated Guide Book For Women.” Warning: not safe for modernity, or the easily embarrassed.

[Also via Buzzfeed: as a counter to the previous Best Fails of 2011 video, how about the Best Wins/Luck of the Year?]
THE YEAR OF GANGS AND SADNESS:  Last night, about eight of us got together on Twitter and agreed that, okay, finally, we're going to watch The Wire in 2012.  (What do you mean you haven't watched The Wire already? Shut up. We know.)

To support each other, we've agreed that Wednesdays will be Wire Wednesdays on the blog.  Episodes are available via HBO GO, or on iTunes (as well as DVD), so by next Wednesday, January 3, please watch "The Target" for our discussion.

Veterans, we welcome your participation, but please protect us from spoilers. Obviously, there are elements of the show that many of us have absorbed through the culture ("You come at the king, you best not miss"; something about a nail gun), but let us try to be surprised.  Next year in Baltimore!
AMERICA VOTED: Forty votes have been cast, and I'm willing to call it over since no one's close enough to the border in either direction. The ALOTT5MA electorate has voted to induct the following players into the National Baseball Hall of Fame:
Barry Larkin (36 votes, 90%), Jeff Bagwell (36, 90%), Tim Raines (33, 82.5%)
We also would have inducted Bagwell on last year's ballot, when Larkin and Raines both fell just short. The rest of this year's tally looks like this:
Receiving Significant Support
Edgar Martinez (24, 60%)
Mark McGwire (21, 52.5%)
Alan Trammell (18, 45%)

We Haven't Entirely Forgotten
Jack Morris and Larry Walker (9, 22.5%)
Dale Murphy (8, 20%)
Fred McGriff (7, 17.5%), Lee Smith (6, 15%), Rafael Palmeiro (5, 12.5%), Bernie Williams (4, 10%), Juan Gonzalez (3, 7.5%), Don Mattingly (2, 5%)
Brad Radke received one vote; he and everyone else would fall off our ballot for next year. Given that next year's ballot includes Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, and Sammy Sosa, this year really is the last chance for a lot of Very Very Good players before the deluge.
I WENT HERE AFTER THE MISS BLACK AWARENESS PAGEANT AND THE FOOD WAS PRETTY GOOD:  Newly reviewed on Yelp: McDowell's, a restaurant in Queens, NY.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

OY, GEFILTE! Manischewitz—it's not just for Hebrews anymore.
PREMORSE. YOU JANE. In what may be my most glaring bout of premorse yet, I have learned that Cheetah the Chimpanzee, star of many a Tarzan movie and apparently the Darwin's tortoise and Churchill's parrot of the great ape world, died on Christmas Eve at the age of eighty. I am, of course, shocked that any chimpanzee could live so long as to only be dead now, not least one this famous.

A much more thorough treatment of Cheetah's life, times and career.

Also, for long-lived animals, check out Adwaita, a tortoise who lived to be perhaps 255 years old.
TOUCHING ME, TOUCHING YOUUUUUUU:  Three reactions to last night's Kennedy Center Honors:
  • It is rather odd, as someone on Twitter pointed out to me, that only two Hispanic/Latino artists have ever been so honored -- Plácido Domingo, 2000, and Chita Rivera, 2002. It has never been difficult to get Carlos Santana to show up at an awards ceremony. Or, perhaps, Rubén Blades? Do we need to wait 20-30 years for Gloria Estefan and John Leguizamo to win?
  • It is rather odd to have "Sweet Caroline" performed at a ceremony hosted by the woman who, as a nine-year-old, inspired it.
  • So the Neil Diamond tribute got Carrie and I to tweeting about The Jazz Singer, as one does, and she couldn't help but wonder: is there a more mismatched father-son on screen than Sir Laurence Olivier and Neil Diamond? I responded with William Daniels and Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate,** to which both Carrie and Adam C. countered with Family Business, with Sean Connery as Hoffman's dad and Hoffman as Matthew Broderick's. Surely you can add to the list.
** As Mike Nichols later recounted, "My unconscious was making this movie. It took me years before I got what I had been doing all along — that I had been turning Benjamin into a Jew. I didn't get it until I saw this hilarious issue of MAD magazine after the movie came out, in which the caricature of Dustin says to the caricature of Elizabeth Wilson, 'Mom, how come I'm Jewish and you and Dad aren't?' And I asked myself the same question, and the answer was fairly embarrassing and fairly obvious."
BIGGIE NEWS: Matthew Yglesias analyzes this week's WSJ report that Wendy's is about to pass Burger King in sales as America's #2 burger-centric fast food restaurant despite having significantly fewer locations. Basically, it seems, Wendy's successfully went slightly upmarket and fresher while Burger King remained stagnant.

In honor of this news, two entries from poet Joe Wenderoth's Letters to Wendy's:

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

JAW, DROPPED:  This Grantland anthology of the year's best moments in sports, thank goodness, captures the three that for me will linger for a long time.  Two positive ones -- the ecstasy of the Women's World Cup quarterfinal match against Brazil and the remarkable night which ended baseball's regular season, but also the one negative: the Los Angeles Lakers' classless exit from the NBA playoffs, a disgusting failure of leadership and character which too soon has been forgotten.

Of course, it'd be better to be able to enjoy sports in a world in which you didn't have to wonder which institutions were covering up the rapes of children, and which exciting collisions were leading to lifelong brain trauma. But sports have never existed in a vacuum; this is just the latest iteration of the horrors which cannot be isolated from sports anymore so than they can be isolated from life itself.
FROM THE MOUTHS OF BABES: Good advice is good advice, especially when it is sung, and no matter who it comes from, and no matter whether it is dispensed in a diaper between two stuffed cars. And in the war of the puppies vs. the babies, the babies take a lead.
WATTS HAPPENING:  Congratulations to Amy Watts, whose Classic City Psycho Kitties rose from a 7-6 record and the #6 seed to defeat Ross, Dan Fienberg, and 2009 champion Alex Gordon en route to the third annual ALOTT5MA FFL Championship.

Amy largely won with the team she drafted in our $200 auction -- Rodgers ($41), Welker ($15!), Colston ($18), Fitzgerald ($43), and Finley ($14), with serviceable RBs (including free agent Darren Sproles) filling in the rest.  Congratulations, Amy!
SMALL HALL: As we did last year on a late December day when I didn't have anything else to blog about, I've created a Doodle poll for your votes for the 2012 National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. Vote for anywhere from 0-10 players; stats are here; hagiographies accumulating on the Hall site here.

My ballot is the same as last year's, minus Alomar's induction: Bagwell, Larkin, E Martinez, McGwire, Raines. I used to take Jack Morris more seriously, but in comparison with the starting pitchers who'll be inducted in the next five years -- Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, P Martinez, Clemens, Schilling, R Johnson and Mussina -- he just doesn't compare.

On McGwire, my answer remains constant: Induct, but Acknowledge. Just have the last sentence of his plaque read "Admitted to using steroids during his career," and let visitors put it all in context.

added: Joe Posnanski's ballot and reasoning.

Monday, December 26, 2011

TOP OF THE POPS: The Military Wives Choir, formed for a British reality series, crushed the UK X-Factor winners to claim this year's Christmas Number One Single with "Wherever You Are," with proceeds being donated to the Royal British Legion and the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association.

In third place, "Dominick the Donkey."  Below the fold, our perennial Christmas Number One:

INSTEAD OF A REPEAT OF LAST YEAR'S BOXING DAY BLIZZAPOCALYPSE COVERAGE:  From the location of [                      ]'s [             ] at the end of David Fincher's Seven to the magic one on Lost to the one in which Adrian Pasdar slept on Profit (which followed the Alice in Chains song), boxes have played an important role in our popular culture over the years.  (Maybe.)  Add to the list.
WHITHER THE PEACH PIT AFTER DARK, OR BALTIMORE'S WATERFRONT BAR?  Flavorwire ranks ten favorite tv show bars/nightclubs/lounges.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

HOLLYWOODLAND: I'm trying to figure out how to say this right, and I think Tasha Robinson leads me in the right direction: Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist is an homage to a wonderful era in film history, a demonstration of the charms which can be had without words. But in and of itself, it's just a nice film, but not a great one.

Look: Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo are totally charming and spot-on as the leads. But if I want to see a film about the change from silents to talkies, Singing in the Rain and Modern Times has it beat in spades. The Artist doesn't add anything new to this type of story; it just tells that sort of story with exactly the beats you'd expect -- plus, for some reason, an incredibly distracting swipe from the Vertigo (1958!) score which totally took me out of the movie (as it did Dana Stevens).

The movie is cute and winning, but way too derivative to be truly memorable. Slate's David Haglund is right: this shouldn't be a second straight year for Best Picture to go to a film about a guy who has trouble talking.