Pop Culture Junkette
Addicted to pop culture.
Friday, June 30, 2006
Now That's More Like It
There was another state dinner last night, this time for Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, and this one was a lot better than the one I posted about last month.
First, there's the entertainment: Brian Setzer and his 17-piece band, and also Japanese country-western fiddle player Shoji Tabuchi. I did not even know there was such a thing.
Second, the random celebrities: Hank Aaron, Ben Crenshaw, figure skaters Rena Inoue and John Baldwin, Iron Chef Masahura Morimoto (that's his actual title), Apolo Ohno and his date, the somewhat puzzlingly named Maria John Nicholas Kelly, and Kristi Yamaguchi and her husband Bret Hedican who plays for the Hurricanes. That's a lot of different kinds of ice skaters.
And then there are the Washington types. Poor Harriet Miers didn't bring a date. Was Nathan Hecht busy? Karen Hughes' date was Anne Mulcahy, the CEO of Xerox. Hmm.
Today, they're off to Graceland, where they're meeting with Lisa Marie and Priscilla Presley. Just like the American Idol finalists! I wonder if Tommy Mottola will be there too.
Here's another picture of Koizumi at Graceland. I think I sort of love him.
The Devil Wears Prada
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Is anyone else a little obsessed with the Shakira/Wyclef song? I totally am. Enjoy.
In fact, I happen to be enjoying most of the Top 20 songs these days. That Nelly Furtado duet "Promiscuous" is pretty awesome. And "Over My Head" by The Fray always makes me turn up the radio and sing like a dork. I even have to admit that I really like that Rihanna "SOS" song.
Perhaps ever since Howard went to Sirius, I spend a little too much time with the dial on D.C.'s Hot 99.5 . . . . Artie would not be impressed.
So You Think You Can Dance? (Dance? Dance?)
I started watching last night's episode pretty late, and told myself I'd just watch one routine, and then I'd go to bed, and then I'd think "just one more" and you can see where this is going, I watched the whole two hour shebang, and it was awesome. Just a few thoughts.
Why were the judges so nice to Musa's quick-step routine? I know he tried, but he was HORRIBLE! It was more of a slow trot than a quick step. I think it's great that they gave him credit for trying so hard at something that was so far out of his expertise (he's a breakdancer or something? sorry, didn't watch the auditions), but where was this consideration for the poor contemporary dancers stuck doing hip-hop last week? Or with Aleksandra's waltz? They brutalized that poor girl and her waltz was about a 1000 times better than Musa's quick-step (which shows just how bad Musa's quick-step was). The contemporary dancers really seem to bring out the meanness in these judges.
On a more positive note, Heidi really pulled off that Cuban rhumba routine. It really was fantastic, and I wished Mia was on the judging panel to tell her that whatever groundedness she lacked during her pop routine last week, was more than there during the sexy, wild, rhumba. And, of course, the choreography was amazing.
Mysteries of the Universe Revealed
My walk home from work takes me past the intersection of Connecticut and N, which is home to many bars, including the 18th Street Lounge and Dragonfly. I have often seen a long line of people waiting to get into MCCXXIII (pronounced "1223") and wondered why. Today, the Washington Post provides the answer: they have a free happy hour on Wednesday nights.
Those Ribbons of Highway
Today is the 50th anniversary of the federal law that created the interstate highway system. I know what you're thinking: "Are interstates really pop culture?" Of course they are.
First of all, without interstates would we have such masterpieces as National Lampoon's Vacation and "Freeway of Love"? Probably not. But, more importantly, interstates fostered the growth of the car culture and the development of suburbia. I think it's fair to say that a reaction to what is perceived as the bland conformity of suburbia is one of the major themes of late 20th century music, literature, film, and TV.
What is less obvious is the role that the building of interstates played in the creation of the urban planning movement and -- in turn -- the modern environmental movement.
I have always been fascinated by maps, and in particular by roads and thinking about where they go and how they came to be where they were. In this respect, the older U.S. highway system is much more interesting, because a lot of those roads date back to the colonial period, and even earlier to Native American trading routes. They also respect the natural landscape more and go through a lot of older towns. Indeed, in most cases, the towns were built around the roads, rather than vice versa. I remember when I was little coming across an explanation of the numbering of the highway system and feeling like I had stumbled across the Rosetta Stone or something. (Yeah, I was sort of nerdy that way.)
Anyway, Happy Birthday interstate highways!
A Couple of Songs for You
Hello my little chickadees. Here are a couple of songs for your listening pleasure.
First, "Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Hearbroken," by Camera Obscura. Your enjoyment of this song will depend on your taste for twee pop music from Scotland. For the full dose of cuteness, check out the video.
Interestingly, the song is a response to "Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?" by Lloyd Cole. (Well, I thought it was interesting.)
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
I was happy to see that the Senate yesterday did not pass a Constitutional amendment that would allow Congress to outlaw the desecration of the American flag. As the Washington Post points out, the voting lines were a bit unusual, with some unlikely Democrats supporting the amendment. Apart from, I don't know, being just fine with people burning flags if they want, I always get a bit queasy when Congress threatens to amend the Constitution. Flag-burning this week, banning gay marriage next . . . the lawmakers who want to use the Constitution to advance their very exclusive social agenda should just, well, stop. Sigh.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
While summer officially begins some time between June 20 and 22 each year, the unofficial start has seemingly always been Memorial Day (although I am aware that at least in Kentucky, you can wear white as of Derby Day). But thanks to Hollywood, the start of summer keeps getting earlier and earlier with the commencement of the blockbuster season. (I am a much bigger fan of the December "quality" releases, but I enjoy my share of blockbusters.) The Star Wars movies were always released on the Wednesday before Memorial Day, but, as of late, the start of the summer movie season keeps moving up. This year, M:I-III came out on May 5, and Spiderman 3 is coming on May 4, 2007. Pretty soon, the whole year will be summer time. (Of course, I guess that's the premise of An Inconvenient Truth, which I really have to see.)
More importantly, the Spidey 3 trailer is up here, and hopefully it is close to as good as the first two which were fantastic movies for the genre. I don't see a ton of superhero films, but I really enjoyed both installments of this series, and, for what it's worth, it is a damn good trailer.
What Law Professors Do
I'm sure you really don't care, but because it's relevant to this post, I'm going to let you know that Isaac is an alumnus of the Yale Law School of Bartending. Why am I telling you this? Well, it seems that the faculty there has more important things to do than teaching. Three years ago, my contracts/mixed drinks professor, Stephen Carter, published this well received mystery novel. Last night, I was reading the Yale Law Journal . . . er, Entertainment Weekly, only to stumble upon an item that my criminal law/tropical drinks prof, Jed Rubenfeld, has his own murder mystery coming out. Egad, it's true, and it's available on September 5, 2006. Having heard Jed pontificate on justice and asking the deep ethical question of "do you eat the boy" (see Regina v. Dudley and Stephens (a case where they actually eat the cabin boy, and if you are interested, you can read about it here)), I fear what this novel will bring. It does, however, make me want to become a professor of law/mixology, seeing how much free time one seems to have.
Libby Lu vs. Legos
I was in the mall this weekend (big shock) and passed a store called "Libby Lu." For the uninitiated, Libby Lu is a store aimed toward 7-12 year olds that pops up in malls across America, decorated in fushia with some purple thrown in for good measure, with the tag line "It's a girl thing."
The store markets itself as (and I swear I'm using their own words) "a special secret club for [sic] super fabulous girls can get makeovers parties, play games, get advice, and find really cool princess paraphernalia." One of the most popular words on its website is "sassy." Not surprisingly, the website also features many, many exclamation points ("Our fun, funky Club Counselors will create the perfect look for you!!! A sassy celebration!!!") and deliberately poor spelling ("shop 4 cool stuff;" a haircut called a "Libby du"). A peek into the store reveals young girls--never older than 10--trying on make-up, wearing crop tops, doing their hair, and trying on more makeup. There isn't a boy in sight. The store even has different types of makeovers: "rocker," "tween idol," "priceless princess," "super star" and "royal heiress." So even the makeover itself contains all of the creativity of a multiple choice.
I guess this is what women have decided to tell their daughters is important: make-up, all things pink and "princess paraphernalia." The mothers who allow their daughters to paint their faces and run around the mall with their bellies bared invariably say that the store is just "fun" and "harmless." Yeah, it's harmless to encourage your pre-pubescent to care about looks; it's harmless to encourage "shopping" as one their favorite activities; it's harmless to tell them that there are "girl" things like having makeover parties that boys aren't a part of; it's harmless to tell your daughters that they should get a makeover, but only if it is in one of five predetermined acceptable categories, so that you look just like everyone else.
Right next door to the Libby Lu store in the mall was the Lego store. A store where kids can use their imagination to create buildings, towns, and whatever else they can conceive. How many boys were in the Lego store when I walked by? At least 20. How many girls? One. I guess the sisters of all those boys playing with Legos were next door, applying mascara and asking their friends if they liked the sparkly blue eyeshadow better than the sparkly pink eyeshadow (actually, maybe that's too much choice--perhaps the more relevant question is whether they want to be "priceless princess" or "royal heiress").
Harmless? I don't think so.
According to Access Hollywood, Star Jones will be announcing that she's leaving The View this week. Poor thing. Apparently she's been shopping for a show of her own, but no bites yet.
I have to say I'm really disappointed to not get that Rosie-Star face-off we've all been looking forward to. I really wanted to see Star get her comeuppance. You know Rosie would not have held back from confronting Star on her mysterious weight loss to her face.
Monday, June 26, 2006
The Ride to the Top
SPOILER ALERT. So Vince, E, Drama, Turtle, and Ari have ascended to new heights. Vince is the biggest star in the country, and the boys are celebrating at Mastro's in Beverly Hills in fine form. (Mastro's is perhaps the best steakhouse in LA, and I happened to run into E dining there last year. He was not, however, with Sloane (who has disappeared from the face of the earth). Very subtle placement for Mastro's as you could see the name on a menu as the boys walked out and on Turtle's doggy bag.) And, now, the Aquaman roller coaster at Magic Mountain. But as the boys literally and figuratively reach new heights, will they come crashing down and will Ari puke everywhere? Two likely causes for a downfall.
The minor one--the Dominator. Another "friend" from the hood who makes Turtle seem like Mr. Rogers. A petty criminal (if not more), a pig, and a leech (too bad Kato Kaelin couldn't play him). He is amazingly Vince's new security director even though the other 3 recognize that he is nothing but bad news.
Which leads into the major one--Vince himself. That Vince can't see what a problem Dom is is emblematic of how much he needs E and Ari to guide his career. He certainly knows how to schmooze and his speech before the opening of the Aquaman ride was perfect, but it could quickly get screwed up. I don't see him jumping up and down on Oprah's couch (although if he and Mandy got back together, who knows), but there is definitely the chance for a mighty fall. And what is drama without trials and tribulations. (Heck, Drama himself offers lots of that.)
So as opposed to last week, we actually had some serious plot development, but we also had those great touches that make the show work so well. Young 21 Jump Street! (I can still hear Dennis Miller on SNL just saying "Depp! Grieco! Grieco! Depp!" over and over when the "original" was in its prime.) And don't you want Ari just to crush the young punk.
FYI, Isaac will be on vacation next week, so his thoughts on Entourage will be delayed. Probably a two-fer early the following week. Hope y'all can handle the wait.
Selling Your Baby to the Highest Bidder
The first Suri v. Shiloh grudge match: according to this story the reason we've seen no pictures of baby Suri is that Tom Cruise was insulted that the top offer from the tabs (reportedly $3 million) was less than what the Jolie-Pitt clan raked in for pictures of Shiloh. I cannot stop laughing about this, but part of me thinks that I should be crying instead. Can Tom Cruise get any wackier? It seems to me like he's just a step away from buying Neverland ranch.
A man who gave so much
I haven't posted on Aaron Spelling's death yet because I really didn't know what to say. How can one eulogize a man who gave us Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place? (And a lot of other shows, but 90210 and Melrose are really the defining shows of my generation.)
And I have determined there really is no way to do the man justice, other than to say thank you. So thank you, Aaron Spelling, for giving us Brenda vs. Kelly; Dylan's "nooooooooo!!!!!!!" when his father was (supposedly) blown up; David Silver's "Keep It Together;" the idea that Donna could be a model; the idea that men found Donna beautiful; every crazy scheme planned by Michael Mancini; Andrew Shue's acting; Amanda Woodward's skirts; Jack Wagner on nighttime television; Tori Spelling's cleavage (I'm sure Aaron paid for it); Ian Ziering's 'fro; the vague homoerotic tension between Dylan McKay and Brandon Walsh; Brenda pretending to be French; Sydney's outfits; Kimberly at boot camp; Kimberly blowing up Melrose Place; and, of course:
Kimberly flipping her wig.
You will be missed.
This Could Waste Your Entire Day
Bill Simmons lists his 33 favorite YouTube clips right here. Nothing more needs to be said.
Friday, June 23, 2006
The End is Nigh!
Not to be alarmist or anything, but according to the NY Times it's finally here - dum dum dum - human-to-human transmission of bird flu.
(I was kidding about the end is nigh thing. Hopefully.)
Olbermann spanks O'Reilly
Ever since I first started watching SportsCenter back in college, I have thought that Keith Olbermann was the best. Whenever SportsCenter was not hosted by the A Team--Olbermann and Dan Patrick--it just wasn't the same. Keith didn't just know sports, he was quite erudite and his references and catch phrases were hysterical. (Much more thought out than lines like "Boo-yah.") He coined phrases such as "for those of you scoring at home or even if you're by yourself" and "premature jocularity." A particular favorite was after a particular pass was just out of reach of Bucs tight end Burt Emmanuel, Olbermann commented, "And Emmanuel . . . Can't [pronouned Kant for those who don't get it]."
When Olbermann left the Worldwide Leader after a dispute with the ESPN brass, I was quite disppointed. Over the past decade, he has jumped from job to job, focusing more on real news (or too often the scandal du jour (see Lewinsky, Monica)) than sports. I have watched him from time to time including when I am able, the hour he spends each week with Dan Patrick on Patrick's radio show.
While I have missed much of what he is currently doing, one thing in particular I have enjoyed is his skewering of Bill O'Reilly. Easy game, to be sure, but someone has to do it. And this clip shows Keith (and Bill) at their best. Hat tip, Andrew.
The United States: Bad at Sports?
After the U.S. lost to Ghana in the World Cup yesterday (on which more later), one theme running through the commentary was that our lack of World Cup success should not be a surprise because the U.S. just does not care that much about soccer. But is it really true that the U.S. does well in sports that it actually cares about? Let’s look at the evidence:
First, there are the sports that other countries care passionately about, that we don’t care about at all -- cricket, rugby, Formula One racing. We suck at all of these.
Second, the sports that no one cares about except us -- American football and NASCAR. I’m not aware of any international competitions in these sports, but let’s concede that we would dominate them if they existed.
Third, the sports that no one cares all that much about except during the Olympics. Here, our record is a mixed bag:
- Track and Field -- good at sprinting, bad at distance running.
- Swimming -- pretty good.
- Gymnastics -- competitive, but getting worse.
- Ice Skating -- good at women’s, bad at men’s and pairs.
- Skiing -- good at snowboarding and freestyle, mediocre at downhill, bad at Nordic.
Finally, sports that we care about that other countries also care about:
- Basketball -- 6th in the World Championships in 2002, 3rd at the Olympics in 2004. (The U.S. Women still seem to be dominant.)
- Baseball -- did not make the Olympics in 2004; did not make the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic in 2006. (The U.S. Women still seem to be dominant in softball.)
- Hockey -- did not make the semifinals of the 2005 World Hockey Championship or the 2006 Winter Olympics. U.S. Women won bronze in 2006.
- Golf -- We have some of the best players in the world, but only 3 of the top 10 men and 4 of the top 10 women in the world rankings. We haven’t won the Ryder cup since 1999.
- Tennis -- We have 2 of the top 10 men (Roddick and Blake), and 1 of the top 10 women (Davenport). The last male U.S. player to win a major was Andy Roddick in 2003. The U.S. women who have played well in recent years are fading, with no clear replacements on the horizon.
In conclusion, despite our image of ourselves as an athletic powerhouse, we are actually net importers of sporting excellence. Also, Australia kicks ass.
Cry me a river
Looks like we have another celebrity break-up:
Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake. They were actually together for three years. It was reported two days ago by Janice Charlton and yesterday by Page Six and Perez Hilton. I haven't seen any confirmation from either party that it has happened (other than something from an anonymous friend of Justin's that Perez got), but my bets are it has.
Maybe this paves the way for Britney to have baby number two, dump K-Fed, wear shoes when using the gas station restroom, beg Justin for forgiveness and live happily ever after.
Labels: Britney Spears
So . . . Kate and Orlando were together at the Superman premiere (I guess it's OK by her that he was making out with Claire Danes last week) . . . but more notable is how frakkin' emaciated she looks.
Not Celebrating Good Times
Friday Break Up: Selma and Ahmet
Now that I follow celebrity gossip with a sense of purpose (find something to post, who should be on my celeb fantasy team) instead of just idle interest, I'm starting to see all sorts of patterns emerge. Like the Friday Break-Up (sorry, too lazy to find the links to past Friday Break-Up posts). This week: Selma Blair and Ahmet Zappa. I can't say this one is rocking my world, mostly because I don't think I even knew they were married, but apparently they've been married for two whole years! (After what US Weekly describes as a "whirlwind 6 month romance." Best of luck to them both.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Does Paris Really Know That A Flush Beats A Straight?
I doubt it. But it would be awesome if she took professional poker player Clonnie Gowen up on her offer.
I was reading the Washington Post's review of Douglas Coupland's new book, JPod, and found this sentence of the review hit a little close to home:
Sometimes the Web feels like nothing more than an online strip mall, littered with advertisements, corporate home pages, porn, celebrity gossip and day-trading portals.Gulp. Sometimes I feel bad about contributing to the celebrity gossip glut, but then I wonder how else I'd spend my day. And I get depressed, so I squelch the thought and check my RSS reader again.
The book does sound interesting and entertaining. I haven't read any of Coupland's recent works, so maybe it's time to try again.
In thinking about Henry Rollins, it occurred to me that this song would be the perfect theme song for our blog. Except it wouldn't be satirical.
The Henry Rollins Show
It recently came to my attention that Henry Rollins has a talk show on the Independent Film Channel. I watched it for the first time last night, and it was . . . odd.
I know that Henry Rollins is described as a "spoken word artist," but I mostly know him as the lead singer of Black Flag and the Rollins Band and as a figure from the 80s DC punk music scene. To be honest, I'm not exactly sure what a spoken word artist is. Is it just someone who talks but is not necessarily funny? If so, that pretty much described the first part of the show, which consisted of him talking about corporations or advertising or something while the camera moved around to different "arty" angles.
The next segment was the "celebrity interview" segment. Unfortunately, the celebrity in question was Adam Carolla, whose claim to fame is a mystery to me. This was actually not too bad -- it was rather long (about 10 minutes) and it didn't seem rehearsed or like he was just there to plug some new project -- even if it did rest on the fundamentally unsound premise that Adam Carolla is an "artist." I think that with a more interesting guest, this format would be great. There was sort of an odd vibe to it though, because the lighting was really bright and Henry was unnaturally smiley.
Then there was a little cartoon consisting of Henry talking about how all he does is work and he has no friends except his agent's two little kids, one of whom is in the habit of punching him in his, um, private parts. That was the strange part.
Then Dashboard Confessional sang a song, which was quite good.
It's nice to see someone try something different with a talk show, in this case longer form interviews and no studio audience, but the final product had a weird amateurish air to it. That being said, he has some interesting guests coming up -- like Dinosaur Jr., Peaches, and Thom Yorke -- so I'll probably check it out again.
America's Got Hoff
I have got to start watching America's Got Talent. It premiered last night, and sounds like a combination of American Idol, Star Search (hopefully the quality is more like the original and not that Arsenio retread) and The Gong Show. So already, it has a lot going for it.
The structure seems much like American Idol. People who think they "got talent" go to an audition. The viewer gets to see some talent people and some very, very untalented people. Three judges determine whether the contestant will proceed to the next round. Eventually fans will vote for the winner. The Gong Show atmosphere comes in not only because the contestants can have any type of talent at all (it's not just a singing show), but also because each judge will give the contestant an "X" if they decide s/he shouldn't proceed.
But this show is more than mere imitation. I realize I say this having never watched the show, but I simply know it to be the case. Why? The celebrity judges. Okay, sure, the host is Regis. No one's too excited about that. And one of the judges is a British newspaper man, Piers Morgan, who I am sure is very famous in his homeland. But they do not excite me. No, it is the other two judges for whom I will tune into this show faithfully.
First up: Brandy. How can you not want to watch her? This is a woman who faked her own marriage. She told people she was married, but she wasn't. She had an entire reality show centered around the birth of her baby and her happy marriage to her husband. Who was not, in fact, her husband. I had never really cared much about Brandy one way or another before, but the fake marriage endeared her to me for life. And she suffered almost no reprecussions for it! Amazing.
And the other: The Hoff. Need I say more? The Hoff giving his opinion about the talent of others on a weekly basis? This spells certain success. What happens when a contestant comes on and bites a live fish while snowboarding and wearing a furry coat? Will the Hoff regale us with stories of how he did the same in a German music video for "Hooked on a Feeling?" Will the Hoff insist that person go through to the next round?
Most definitely going to watch this show.
So You Think You Can Dance
I'm really surprised that none of the American Idol fanatics on this blog have posted on this (admittedly stupidly titled) show. It seems right up their alley, and I think it's a bit strange that the only Junkette who doesn't watch Idol is the first to post about it. I'd watched part of the first season, and really enjoyed it, but somehow forgot that I'd liked it until I tuned in last night. People, it's soooo entertaining. The contestants are serious, devoted dancers who come from all sorts of styles, who are then partnered up with people who may come from an entirely different dance background, and are assigned different dance styles to compete in each week. Last night a pop-locker had to dance the jive, a hip-hop dancer had to do modern dance, and a jazz dancer had to do old-school hip-hop. And, despite some weaknesses, they were ALL good. They rose to the challenge, pulled themselves out of their comfort zones, and worked really hard with their partners to perform mesmerizing routines.
Some of the partnerships are obviously more successful than others, and it's really interesting to watch. One of the pairings, Dmitry (a latin specialist) and Joy (a jazz/lyrical specialist) had to perform a latin dance. Now you'd think that Dmitry's experience in this area would help Joy, but it didn't. At all. Because Dmitry wasn't able to tone down his own perfection to make Joy look less hopelessly outmatched. He was too into his own world to recognize that his over-the-top latin-ness just made Joy seem lost. In comparison, Jason (a hip-hop specialist) was really unselfish in the old-school hip-hop routine he performed with Aleksandra (a contemporary/lyrical specialist). During rehearsal it became clear that Aleksandra just would not be able to completely overcome her training to make movements smooth and really get the flavor of the old-school, bopping, sharp movements of the hip-hop routine the choreographers had given them. And Jason, who could have KILLED that routine with his sharpness, softened his movements just enough to make it look like he and Aleksandra weren't performing entirely different routines.
And the judges are great. They say more than "pitchy" and "DAWG!". At one point one of the judges, Mia, told Heidi, a latin/swing dance specialist who'd performed a "pop" routine, that her movements weren't substantial enough, that she was too light and needed to be more grounded and the audience, of course, booed. But when Heidi had a chance to respond she really sincerely thanked Mia for the criticism, because she came on this show to become a better dancer! And I believed her. It was AWESOME!
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
World Series of Pop Culture
As long as we're giving shout outs to other blogs, I think that this is one of the funniest blog posts I've run across in a long, long time.
Yesterday's NY Times had an article on Language Log, a blog run by linguists talking about, well, language. I was perusing through some recent posts, and saw one titled "Goram Motherfrakker" which I think might be the best blog post title ever. And, since the post itself is about made-up cusswords, and the two in the title come from TV shows, I thought it gave me an excuse to share this very interesting site. Enjoy.
The 80s strike back! Variety is reporting (found via Defamer) that Corey Haim and Corey Feldman (stars of such 80s classics as License to Drive) are going to be starring as fictional versions of themselves in a series akin to Curb Your Enthusiasm. Oh my. This could be fascinating - assuming it gets picked up.
Anyone remember Feldman's craziness on the first season of the Surreal Life? He got married in Vegas, and I vaguely remember him crying all the time. I wonder if his easy tears will be worked into The Coreys.
New Show Review: Treasure Hunters
I finally watched the first episode of Treasure Hunters. Full disclosure: I had forgotten to DVR it, so I missed the first hour of the two-hour episode, but I quickly caught on.
The idea behind the show is good. Basically, it is The Amazing Race, but with three-person teams instead of two-person teams, and the clues are a bit harder--more like season one of TAR, where the teams actually had to think through some riddles. And at the "pit stop" the teams find "an artifact." There are seven artifacts throughout the race, and teams will need all seven to find the "treasure" at the end. The last team to arrive at the pit stop--eliminated.
Seems like a winning formula. Especially the fact that each team is a triad. As one sociologist once said (Hegel?), there is no such thing as a triad--each triad is really just three diads. Which basically means: when you have a group of three, someone is going to be the odd man out, and the reactions of any one person in the group to another is going to be influenced by their relationship with the third person. Three people groups have wonderful possibilities for a television show. But this show has two major problems:
1.) Editing. The editing is awful. As with TAR, teams end up doing things at different paces. And Treasure Hunters actually shows you how far behind teams are from leading teams (at least they did so at certain points). A welcome change from the Race. But that's about the only positive the editing crew has going for it. When teams are split up, they rerun the same exact footage of the host telling us what will happen next. So, for example, the first team gets to a point in the race and the host says "teams will now look for the clue on this hill, and will then have to decipher it to determine which way to proceed." Five minutes later, the next team gets there, and the identical clip of the host is shown. Totally unnecessary, ridiculously repetitive and just plain annoying.
2.) Laird Macintosh. He's the host, and he's horrid. His line delivery is robotic, and he totally lacks charm. Maybe he is trying to go with the show's "mysterious" vibe but it totally doesn't work. Hate him.
The best part of the show? A team called The Wild Hanlons. They are a father, his brother and his son. These guys sport mullets and are quite possibly the dumbest people on television. They are in a show that is all about clues and riddles, but Papa Hanlon has no time for that. Instead, he says things like "I think we're going to Colorado next, because we're close to there," even though the clue doesn't point that way at all, and, when trying to find the combination for a lock, instead of using the hints he has gotten so far, he just starts calling out random numbers.
Will I continue to watch? Probably--there just isn't much else out there right now to occupy my television viewing time. Will it be worth my time? Probably not.
It Ain't Japanese Japanese Safety Tips
but this clip of Connie Chung's torch song farewell to her latest ill fated TV venture is painful to watch. From what I understand, this was meant as a joke and she knows she is bad, but even as bad singing it isn't funny. (She's no William Hung, and that joke got thin fast once he realized he could make a buck by singing badly.) I'm sure people are knocking down her door to give her and Mr. Chung (aka Maury) a new gig.
Do, Dump, or Marry?
"Do, Dump, or Marry" is a game that my friends and I used to spend hours playing. The game is pretty self-explanatory . . . I'll pick three people - and everyone has to choose who they would do (i.e., sleep with), who they would dump, and who they would marry. Here are this week's selections:
I'll go first. I'd definitely do Billy, hate to dump Matt, and marry Jake.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
I Don't Understand Japanese TV
Is it a language tape or an exercise video?
The Most Attractive Pregnant Woman in the World
During the last season of Project Runway, I remember saying that Heidi Klum should just be pregnant all of the time, because she looks so very good when she is. There's no debating it--she is completely adorable when pregnant, and actually looks better than when she isn't (and she looks pretty good when she isn't)!
So I was thrilled to hear that according to US Weekly she is pregnant again and "just beginning to show." Yippee! Hopefully this will coincide enough with Project Runway filming that we get to see at least a little of her pregnant while the series is running. And remember, the season starts July 12!
The Lake House
I saw Keanu Reeves' and Sandra Bullock's first collaboration since Speed this weekend and, I'll admit it right upfront, I cried. For those of you who haven't read the reviews or seen the previews, the movie is about two people who fall in love even though one is living in 2004 and one in 2006 and the absurd, beautiful, impractical, titular house on the lake that brings them together.
Yes, as the Washington Post points out rather forcefully, the time-travel(?) plot made absolutely no sense, even internally. And if you're going to be nit-picky about it, don't bother going. Even I, who was ready and willing to be swept away, kept pausing to go, "Really?? Huh." but the good acting and realistic (yes, I said realistic) characterization let me be caught up again in the hopeless romance of two lonely souls separated by circumstance and waiting for time to bring them together. (The Jane Austen novel Persuasion was a major plot device.) It was so sweet and romantic, and, people, there was a stray dog that unites them! Tell me you're immune to that you stone-hearted cynics.
Like The Break Up, which I also liked, The Lake House was partly set in Chicago, one of the best looking cities in the US, and the city itself played a substantial supporting role. As I adore looking at Chicago on film, and think Sandra Bullock is my absolute favorite prickly romantic lead, take whatever grains of salt with this post you need to before deciding to see this movie. But I really liked it.
In happier sporting news
The Carolina Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup last night. It's too bad the hockey fan base has dropped so much in the U.S., and that the NHL didn't manage to do a better job of marketing this finals, because it was a great series. Had people tuned in, I think there would be a few more hockey fans today.
Despite Isaac's predictions, this was not a sweep. Rather, the series went the full seven games, essentially coming down to one goal between lifting the Cup and going home without. But Carolina scored on the empty net in the last few minutes, putting themselves two goals up and killing the very real possibility that Pisani or another Oiler would manage more late-game heroics.
The saddest part was seeing the dejected Oilers. I have the long-standing hatred for the Oilers of an Islanders fan who saw the Oilers dash her team's "Drive for Five" Stanley Cups in 1984. I hate that my first sports memory is a disappointing one. A harbringer of things to come. But I still felt for these Oilers. They made this a very close seven-game series, despite losing their starting goalie in game one, and they managed to come back from a three game to one defecit. The Oilers were a true Cinderella team: the first eighth-seed to make the Finals, and they almost won it all.
The best part? Seeing Rod Brind'amour (possibly the only non-bearded Hurricane) lift the Stanley Cup. A well-deserved cap to a solid hockey career.
Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of Lenny Bias' death. That shocks me--the memory seems so much sharper. I think that it was just so shocking when it happened that I haven't forgotten any of it.
I read this article by Bill Simmons (ESPN's Sports Guy) when it was first published five years ago and again today. Other than Simmons' musings about whether it was all some kind of anti-Celtics karma--I think that Bias deserves more than being the retribution of some sports-related diety--this is really effective writing. Both times I read it, I thought that it really captured a lot of the feeling of Bias' death. I was only eight at the time, so I'm sure for those who were even a few years older, it resonated even more. I always love Simmons' pop culture/sports hyrbids, but his more serious pieces seem to fall on either side of the line between maudlin and emotional. This article really comes in on the right side of that divide. I would recommend a read.
The Mike Utley Story
I just finished watching a profile featuring the most striking demonstration of determination. After a rerun of Survivor: All Stars, I wasn't paying attention and found myself watching Outdoor Life Network's Fearless, with an episode featuring former Detroit Lions offensive lineman Mike Utley.
I generally know a good bit about sports (much more about baseball and hockey, less about football and particularly basketball, but enough), and I was surprised by just how little I knew of Utley's story. Perhaps growing up in New York, the memory of Utley was overshadowed by that of former New York Jet Dennis Byrd, who suffered a similar injury and recovered. Regardless, it is a story worth knowing.
In 1991, Utley was injured in a game, crushing his 6th and 7th vertebra and being told he was a quadripalegic. In the 14 years since his injury he has regained almost full use of his arms and hands. He skis, scuba and sky dives. And after years of rehabilitation and working his body to its absolute limits, he has regained a limited use of his legs. He relishes his time standing tall, saying "the view at 6'6 is a lot different than the view at 5'2."
When watching the show, you realize that Utley's ability to come so far is a true combination of mental toughness, determination, physical ability and self-certitude. Utley's mind-set is still that of an athletic competitor, setting a series of goals for himself that he has accomplished. His ultimate goal: to return to Ford Field, the site of his injury, and walk off the field under his own power.
I am not one to get too sentimental, but to watch Utley in this piece is truly inspiring. This genre of show tends to veer toward hyperbole, but after watching Utley in action, his doctor's statement that Utley is one of the greatest success in spinal cord injuries seems anything but. Lucky for all of you, the profile re-airs on OLN this Friday from midnight to 1 a.m. So set your DVRs (and maybe bring a tissue or two).
Monday, June 19, 2006
Lara Flynn Boyle Finally Eats Some Pizza
Last summer v. this summer. Cheers to a much healthier LFB, and thanks to US Magazine for the refreshing pictures.
This post has nothing to do with pop culture, so if you are not interested, just don't read it. It is, however, not the first to go off topic.
On Saturday, I went with Mrs. Bartender, Isaac, Jr., and my parents (let's call them Abraham and Sarah) to Annapolis, my home state's capital. It is actually my second trip there in the past 3 weeks, and I cannot stress enough what a wonderful town it is. It takes me about 45 minutes to get there, but I feel like I am in a new world. The water, the gorgeous state capitol building and other historic buildings, the Academy, the charming shops. To top it off, we had a fantastic dinner at O'Leary's Seafood Restaurant--another plug--so if you want some great fish, you know where to go. It ain't cheap, but it is well worth it.
Of course, as someone who loves to travel, my recent trips to Annapolis got me thinking about visits to most of the nation's other state capitols, and Annapolis is clearly one of the best. There are some competitors--Boston, Austin, and Santa Fe spring to mind--but it is an amazingly charming city. If you live in the DC area, take advantage, and if you don't, you should visit. (This post is not sponsored by the Annapolis Visitors Bureau.)
SPOILER ALERTS! Entourage just keeps getting better. Vince is hitting it big, Drama is just nuts, and Ari is totally losing it. Even rolling blackouts can't stop Aquaman. (Having also watched Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room this weekend, I felt like I was reliving that documentary.) I have to admit that while Entourage does not lend itself to the detailed analysis that the Sopranos does, here were some outstanding moments last night worth mentioning:
--Drama in general but particularly in his discusion of what he lost to Michael Madsen. Perfect.
--Ari's continuing to lose it and the growing role of Mrs. Ari and her frustration.
--The girl's reaction when Turtle realizes that she is legal, and she just freaks out when he ogles her.
--the clip of Aquaman--perfect!
--And, finally, the kid from Freaks and Geeks, who seems to have perfected the geek role. He is his generation's Anthony Michael Hall.
Of course, we will don't know whether Aquaman will, in the end, beat Spidey. And we don't know whether the movie's seemed success will make Ari and his new venture (and of course LLOYD!). And how stardom will affect Vince. But we do know that I will tune in next week to find out. And so should you.
According to Us Weekly Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban announced today that they returned to Australia today to prepare for their upcoming wedding.
So it looks like it will actually happen, despite all of the rumors about problems in the relationship. Personally, I don't have much interest in them, but for the fact that I chose them for my fantasy league team this week (rosters had to be set before the news broke). I think this should get them a good amount of press coverage. So I'm actually quite excited.
There is a whole post to be written about World Cup hair, but right now I would like to focus on the special case of Alexi Lalas, the former national team player who is currently doing analysis for ESPN/ABC.
Here is the old Alexi, with his trademark goatee and long hair:
Not a great look, I think we can all agree. Here is Alexi now:
Whenever he's on TV, I can't stop staring at his hair and his gigantic jaw. I'm sure it must be hard for people with curly orange hair to look dignified, but surely he could do better than this.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Late to the Party: Weeds
While I'm addicted to television, I'm also kind of opposed to paying for it, and only broke down, gave up my rabbit ears, and submitted to the tyranny of cable two years ago. One week after finally getting cable, I bought my Tivo, and it's all been downhill from there. But, for some reason I still hold the line at the most basic cable package, which is how I missed the first season of Weeds when it originally aired. But I recently downloaded it from iTunes and thoroughly enjoyed (yes, enjoyed!) a very long plane trip stuck in coach purely because I had this excellent show playing on my iPod the whole time.
Weeds stars Mary Louise Parker (LOVE HER!) as Nancy Botwin, a suburban mom turned pot-dealer after the untimely heart attack of her husband. (I was shocked to see her dead husband, shown in flashbacks and old videos, was the same actor who played the late sorta-lamented Denny Duquette. What's with that actor that makes casting directors think: "He's perfect for the part of the lovable guy with a bad ticker!"?) Nancy's a deeply grieving, deeply flawed, woman who's just trying to keep her family together and make ends meet with a very illegal business plan. The season sees her family slowly getting more and more fucked up as her need to make the mortgage payment (and pay her live-in housekeeper and for other status symbols that make up life in an upper-middle-class community in Southern California) has her getting deeper and deeper into the business. (Nancy should read the article Wilder posted, a big chunk of her profits are supporting her huge iced-latte habit.) I was expecting a really funny show, and Kevin Nealon, Elizabeth Perkins, Mary Louise, and the rest of the excellent cast seriously bring the laughs in this half-hour show, but what I wasn't expecting, but probably should have, were the touching and serious moments. Watching the relationship between Nancy and her sons slowly deteriorate as Nancy barely keeps it together was kinda painful, but very well done. If like me, you don't get Showtime, please download or buy the DVDs. This show is wonderful. (I watched the entire season AGAIN on my return flight. I liked it that much.)
Friday, June 16, 2006
There's a documentary about crossword puzzles, and my beloved Will Shortz. And it features interviews with crossword puzzles fans Jon Stewart, Mike Mussina, and Bill Clinton!
It's like they're reading my mind.
I thought everyone, not just recent college grads, would enjoy this article from the Times. Busted, it's only tangentially pop-culture related, but what the hell it's summer and there's no American Idol to blog about, so just enjoy and stop buying those lattes.
Really Late to the Party: The Wire
One of the shows I'm most excited about this summer is the third season of The Wire, which HBO is airing Sunday nights at 8. (They might be re-runs, but they're new to me.) Over the past month or so, I have finally gotten around to watching the first 2 seasons on DVD. This show is so addictive that it's going to be hard to be limited to just one episode a week, rather than the marathon viewing sessions I've become used to.
The word you often see used to describe this show is "novelistic," and it really is apt. The show has layer after layer of plots and subplots. But more important (and unique) are the characters. Almost every character, including the minor ones, is fully realized and allowed to be both good and bad. Our hero -- Detective Jimmy McNulty -- is passionate about his work, loyal, a good cop (and crazy hot), but also self-destructive, petty, and manipulative.
The same is true of the bad guys. One of the best characters is Stringer Bell. In season one, he is the second in command, and sort of chief operating officer of the drug ring that is being targeted by the police. He wears business casual clothes and takes econ classes at the community college. In season two, he takes over when the ringleader, Avon Barksdale, goes to prison, and he espouses the desire to run the gang as business -- cutting deals with rival gangs rather than fighting over turf. At the same time, he is brutal -- ordering the murders of underlings who might pose a danger.
It is also heartbreaking. Case in point: Wallace, a teenage member of the drug crew. His mother is a drug addict, and he lives in an abandoned house with some of the little kids who act as lookouts, who he looks after and helps with their homework. He wants to quite the game after he sees the mutilated body of a guy who stole money from the gang -- someone who he turned in to Stringer Bell. In return, he is shot in the head by his two best friends.
Or D'Angelo Barksdale, the nephew of the ringleader. He has a chance to cut a deal by testifying against his uncle and to start a new life for himself. He clearly wants to take it, but his mother (who is supported by her brother) convinces him not to and he is sentenced to 20 years in prison. Stringer has him killed in prison because he questions his loyalty.
And that's just season one. Season two introduces a whole new cast of characters -- longshoremen who work at Baltimore's port.
The only drawback is that it is so complicated that it would be almost impossible to start in the middle and have any idea what's going on. And there's no exposition like in almost every other show -- like the scenes in 24 where Jack talks to Chloe and reiterates everything that happened in the last 5 minutes. And the dialogue itself is like actual conversation, with a lot of unstated assumptions, slang, and nonverbal communication, so it can be hard to follow.
Speaking of which, my one pet peeve is about the language. They constantly use the phrase "a police," as in the highest compliment you can give someone is that he's "a real police." Which, incidentally, was one of my pet peeves about Martin Amis's Night Train. I liked that book, but thought his constant use of term was an annoying affectation. So, either people in real life actually use that phrase, or Martin Amis and David Simon share the same affectation.
The bottom line is: you should be watching this show.
Long Live Michael Scott
I have watched The Office since it premiered in the Spring of 2005. Having thoroughly enjoyed the British version, I was skeptical (remember Coupling . . . wait, you probably don't). At first, I thought it was good but not as good as the original. But it just kept getting better and better. As good as Steve Carell is, and he's very good, it is the entire cast including the "minor" players that make this show have strong potential to enter the pantheon of great comedies. From Kevin ("I'm in a Steve Miller cover band") to the closeted Oscar to Phyllis (no disrespect to those not mentioned), the show is fantastic. And Dwight may be the funniest character currently on TV.
So what has inspired me to sing the praises of this show in the midst of the repeat season? Well, Mrs. Bartender decided it was time for her to finally join the party and learn what the fun was about. So having finally joined Netflix (long story), her first selection was season one. While only 6 episodes, she watched it in a few hours and fell in love. Luckily, I kept virtually all of season 2 on our DVR so she can get right back into it. I managed to watch some of the first season including deleted scenes, and it was even better the second time around.
And I note that as good as season 1 is, season 2 is much better. Among other things, we develop some understanding of how Michael could have become the boss. As awful as he is most of the time, he has moments that make you respect him as a salesman, see he has a decent side, and then develop some real sadness for him for the loneliness he has experienced since childhood. We never got such a complete picture of David Brent, and it remained unclear how he could ever have have become the head of that office (at least for a while). I mean no disrespect--Ricky Gervais is a genius, and I am thrilled to know he is writing an episode for this coming season--but I have grown to love the new version even more.
Finally, I point out that starting July 13 there will be new webisodes of the office featuring the "minor" players. According to Wikipedia, "[t]he plot will be a "whodunit" mystery, as the accounting staff (Angela, Kevin, and Oscar) discover that $3000 is missing from Dunder Mifflin Scranton and try to figure out who is responsible." I suggest you watch.
What Happened To Britney?
I watched a few minutes of Matt Lauer's interview with Britney Spears on Dateline last night. Britney looked worse than I've seen her in years. In particular, her hair extensions were gnarly, she was chomping on gum the entire time, her eye makeup was running, and her boobs were so enormous they were inappropriately hanging out of her trashy shirt. It was BAD.
This picture doesn't do justice to just how very disgusting she looked and sounded last night. It does, however, show that Matt Lauer looks really funny in jeans.
Labels: Britney Spears
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Making The Band 3
I just got so excited to learn that tonight is the season premiere of Making the Band 3 on MTV. This season will be about the all-girl band that Diddy picked last season: Aubrey, Aundrea, Shannon, Dawn, and Wanita. I can't remember most of these people, but Aubrey sticks out in my mind as particularly likeable for whatever reason. I do think it's lame that she has her own website, but still. Besides, some people think we're lame for having a blog.
Speaking of MTV, though, has anyone watched Cheyenne? Every time it's on, I'm confused. Apparently she is trying to make it in the music industry. Sounds totally up my American-Idol-obsessed alley, but I haven't been able to stand more than a few minutes of it at a time. Maybe I'll give it another try to erase my summertime TV blues.
Another one wastes away
Remember when Hilary Duff was chunky? Okay, never chunky, but normal-looking? Back in the day when she was a Nickelodeon star and she and Lindsay Lohan were having a feud over Aaron Carter?
In both of these photos, Hilary is on the right (sister Haylie is on the left), circa summer 2004. Sure, she's not fat. But look at her upper arm. There's a little something there, right? And her thigh doesn't look like it might snap in two.
And look at her now:
Is anyone else worried about her?
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
David Wright: He's Just Like Us!
David Wright has a blog! So do Danny Haren and Jorge Cantu! Who knew?
I knew blogs were ubiquitious, but I was surprised that these professional baseball players have them. As a Mets fan, this just makes me love Wright even more.
I wonder how these blogs work. Does MLB clear all content? Do they have ghostwriters? It actually appears that the players themselves might have written these. Am I naive to think so?
It would be great to see one of these guys trashing opposing players and/or teammates in the blog, but somehow I doubt that is going to happen. Interestingly, Wright blogged about Barry Bonds, but didn't mention a word about the 'roids. Rather, he just said some stuff about how Bonds is a great hitter and that hitting that many homers is a real accomplishment. I have to imagine he is actually writing this thing, or at least working closely with those who do--I don't think MLB would just attribute thoughts about a player as controversial as Barry Bonds to someone like Wright out of the blue. He also blogged about teammate Lastings Milledge, but again, no controversy. Although as a Mets fan, that makes me happy.
For a minute I thought Haren had the potential to be a little daring when he wrote "I don't mean to sound cocky, but I'm probably the best hitter on the A's pitching staff." Then I realized he hadn't said he was the best pitcher on the staff, as I had thought, but rather that he was the best hitter. As a pitcher for an AL team, his teammates probably won't get too offended.
And I love that Cantu blogs about the World Cup! I'm going to have to add these three to my list of websites I visit regularly. Now if only they can get some reputed jerks, like A.J. Pierzynski or Jeff Kent, to write. Then we would have some good reading material.
Our President at His Finest
It ain't pop culture, but it's worth posting:
From The Plank (who got it from Kos):
Today, at a presser, this exchange happened with Peter Wallsten of the Los Angeles Times:
Bush: You gonna ask your question with shades on?Wallsten is blind.
Wallsten: Yes. . . .
Bush: But there's no sun out here.
Wallsten: It depends on your perspective.
Updates: First, you can watch the video of the exchange here and to give our president a little bit of credit, he called to apologize as reported here.
Word to the Wise
The latest rumor out of Hollywood is that Orlando Bloom and Claire Danes were getting it on at some bar in London. A few questions come to mind:
1. What is it about Claire Danes that makes otherwise-committed men swoon?
2. How cute is Billy Crudup (if you forget about the whole leaving his 7-mos. pregnant wife thing and focus on how awesome he was in Almost Famous)?
3. How pissed is Kate Bosworth right now that everyone is talking about her so-called boyfriend nibbling on the so-called neck of Ms. Danes?
4. What are the chances this rumor has any basis in fact?
Wilder asked the other day who she should root for in the World Cup. I just ran across this Web site that calculates which team you should root for based on various factors, like foreign aid contributions, carbon emissions, etc. Guess what? We're last! We're one spot behind Saudi Arabia and way behind Iran. (Togo and Serbia could not be ranked because there was not enough data about them. I have some hope that Serbia might have been worse than us.)
So, to answer Wilder's question, she should root for Ghana (No. 1) or Sweden (No. 2).
Apparently, I Am Deaf
This story is freaking me out. There's a new ring tone that only teenagers are supposed to be able to hear, because adults gradually lose the ability to hear high-pitched sounds. And, sure enough, I can't hear it unless I turn my speakers way up. I totally blame my speakers and not my actual ears. Here's the mp3. Try it yourself.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Another Saved by the Bell post?!
Looks like Lark Voorhies isn't the only Saved by the Bell alum who is having problems these days. Dustin Diamond has set up a website selling tee-shirts so he can raise money to stop a foreclosure on his home. (He also calls himself a "famous celebrity" and "the DMan.")
What could have gone so wrong to make Screech Powers resort to such tactics? I'm happy to report neither Zack nor Slater had anything to do with this. Rather, Dustin says that after finishing Saved by the Bell he moved to the midwest and wanted to buy a house. Because he had "shitty credit" he could only purchase a home through a land contract. Okay, let's back up for a second. Why did Screech have bad credit in the first place? He doesn't tell us. I'm going to guess he spent everything buying gifts in a futile attempt to impress Lisa Turtle.
So he got this land contract, things didn't work out so well, the owner of the land wants either $250,000 or the land back, and Dustin doesn't have the money to make that happen. He went to an "expert in land contracts" who was supposed to make everything better, but instead the guy just ignored Dustin's calls and now Dustin is in dire straights indeed. So he's selling tee-shirts--an extra $5 for an autograph!
Somehow I have a feeling that this is all just a prank designed to get Mr. Belding out of his office.