Pop Culture Junkette

Addicted to pop culture.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Spelling Bee 2007: Another Running Diary

Since my Spelling Bee running diary was such a hit last year, I couldn't deny my fans the pleasure of a second one.

Setting the stage: 15 spellers in the televised finals, nine boys and six girls. Oops! I thought Isaac told me Mike and the Mad Dog would be doing the commentary, but it's actually Mike and Mike in the Morning. Although it doesn't really seem like they are doing much commentary at all. There are two other people doing all of the talking.

Ironically, my DVR's informational blurb on the Bee tells us that "Katherine Close" won the Bee last year. Um, no. Katharine Close won it. And I learned from last year's tragic mistake and have not only taped the Bee this year, but also taped the show after the Bee, so that if it runs overtime I won't miss the thrilling conclusion.

First up: Jonathan C. Horton. Did he make them use his middle initial? I went to school with a kid who made us call him Benjamin T. Lynard. He even wrote it on all of his folders. Smart kid, but not smart enough to realize that you get your ass kicked if you go by Benjamin T. Lynard. I wonder what he's doing now. We're off to a fascinating start with Jonathan trying to pronounce the word "girolle" literally 22 times (I rewound to count, and the pronouncer said it 18 times, meaning I got to hear it 40 times, total). And he gets it wrong, leaving off the last two letters.

Next up, Evan O'Dorney. He has to spell "rascacio." I didn't look at the screen and spelled it myself and got it right! And so did Evan.

Tia Thomas is third, and she was already profiled before the spelling began. And now she gets a special human interest clip. She's 12 and has been in the Bee four times. She's adopted! Her mother says that Tia is "not a nerd." Phew. She plays the flute, makes hats for premature babies and wrote a paper about global warming. The most interesting thing about Tia? She goes to a charter school. As in, she isn't homeschooled. It's a good thing they put the piece on Tia early, because she's out--couldn't spell "zacate," thinking the first vowel was an "o."

For those following, I Googled Benjamin T. Lynard and all I found were Lynard Skynard mishits. Oh well.

Cody Wang is our next speller, it's his first time in the finals. And his experience didn't last long. He misspelled "apozem" as "apizem." Which is okay, because I thought it was "apazam."

Nate Gartke, another first-timer. And he's staying in, correctly spelling "partitur."

Anqui Dong. He has to spell "bouleuterion"which is an ancient Greek counsel chamber. Since I'm Greek I should be able to spell this one. Oops. I guessed "voulouterion," which was obviously very, very wrong. Anqui was also wrong, although not quite as bad, guessing "bouluterion."

Interview with the ousted Jonathan C. Horton, who is tearing up. Poor Jonathan. He's totally going to get ripped on at school.

Joseph Hanares. Apparently he is a comedian. When he hears the word, "punaise," he says "Oh my god." Which maybe might be funny, except that according to the commentators, he does this with every word. Apparently "punaise," means "bed bug," and Joseph says he would rather just spell "bed bug." Yup, he's a regular Jerry Seinfeld. And he moves on to the next round.

Claire Zhang is next. She has to spell "urgrund," which is a primal cause or ultimate cosmic principle. Poor Claire was so close, but she stuck a "t" on the end of the word.

Next is Kavya Shivashankar. I'm sure you can imagine I had to pause the recording to get her last name right. A little piece on Kavya. Apparently her parents wanted her to have activies in addition to her studies, so she...plays the violin. Wow, that's not a typical activity for a brainy kid. (To be fair, she also practices Indian dance, so that's something a little different.) She is the youngest in the competition at 11 years old. She has to spell "cilice," which is a rough shirt worn as a penance. Kavya didn't get it right, spelling it "cilis." So far the two kids profiled have been eliminated. Coincidence?

Next up is Nithya Vijayakumar. She has to spell a word that sounds like "paloris" to me. Nithya's father doesn't look that...normal. He's sitting in his seat with his eyes closed, his head bobbing and his mouth making small movements. Nithya spells the word just like I would have! Yay! Unfortunately for her, the actual spelling is "pelorus." Boo.

Next up is Connor Spencer, who is 14. The age range of the Bee makes for some interesting contrasts in size between the older and younger kids. Connor looks like he could eat some of his competitors for breakfast. He has to spell "helzel." Oh, and he's one of those kids who holds his placard over his mouth while spelling the word. He's still no Rebecca Sealfon. He got it right.

Matthew Evans is up, and his intro segment features him saying "to b-e-e or not to b-e-e, that is the question." His word is "genizah," which is a storeroom in a synagogue. I wonder if Matthew Evans is Jewish. I don't think so. Regardless, he spelled it correctly. He's 12 years old and this is his fourth trip to the spelling bee. Which...kind of creeps me out a little.

Prateek Kohli is our next speller. He's the thirteenth speller we have seen today, which means that we still have two more before we are out of the first round. Fortunately, we are halfway through the bee, so maybe things will speed up from here. Prateek has to spell "rigaree." And he gets it right. Disturbingly, we learn that Prateek's grandfather, with whom he was very close, died this week. It seems really sad that he isn't with his dad at the funeral, but I guess the Bee important.

Amy Chyao is next and apparently is "one to watch," according to our commentators. Her word is what I think should be spelled "gronyare," which is an old soldier. Of course, I would be wrong: it's grognard, and Amy got it wrong, spelling it "groniare." The commentator (a former spelling bee contestant, all grown up) says that Amy's guess was a "plausible" French spelling of the word she heard. I wonder what he would say about my take on the word.

Our last speller of round one is Isabel Jacobson. She's wearing makeup. I think this might be a spelling bee first. Her word is another Greek one, which I will guess is spelled "helodis." Luckily for Isabel, I was wrong and she was right, spelling it "helodes." Damn. I even used a Greek accent when sounding it out to try to come up with the spelling. I really suck this year.

Beginning round two, only seven spellers are left: six male, one female. According to the commentator, the "odds-on favorite right now has to be Matt Evans." I wonder if there are really bets being laid on this in Vegas right now. Probably.

Oh my god. Evan O'Dorney is singing for us. He is apparently very mathematical and very musical. Except his singing...not so much. It's all squeaky and strange. But he also plays a composition of his own on the piano, which is pretty impressive. And he's speaking lovingly of numbers and math, and I can't be that mean here, because I kind of understand what he's saying. I loved numbers when I was a kid too.

Evan has to spell a word that sounds so ridiculous I have to guess its spelling. The word, as I would spell it, is "schuplappler" and it is "a Bavarian courtship dance in which before the couple dances together the woman calmly does steps resembling those of a waltz, while the man dances around her swinging his arms and slapping his thighs and the soles of his feet." Evan gets it right, spelling it as "schuhplattler." No surprise that I was wrong, yet again.

Nate Gartke is back up. Oh, Nate has to spell what I will guess is "opsile," and is so convinced of his knowledge that he asks the pronouncer "is that German?" Of course, it is. And of course, Nate gets it right, spelling it "abseil." The commentator says that "you have to know your German phoenetic elements," to get this word. Obviously, I don't know mine.

Our commentator has now compared the Spelling Bee trophy to the Stanley Cup.

Joseph is back up and the commentator tells us to "get ready for a surprised look" before the word is even read. But Joseph surprises us and acts normal. Well, for a minute at least, because he can't resist throwing in an "oh my gosh," when he asks a question about the root of the word he has to spell: "triticale." And he's shocked that he got it right. I'm sure we're all shocked that he was shocked.

A red-headed white boy walks up and the female commentator tells us that Nithya Vijayakumar is going to spell. Actually, it's Connor Spencer. Connor gets "cachalot" and is very excited, asking if the word is French, which it is, and asking something about the root that apparently isn't indicated on the pronouncer's sheet. He spells it quickly and confidently, but he's wrong by one letter (replacing the second "a" with an "e").

Matt Evans is back, and he has to spell a word I am going to guess is spelled "pouchard." Damn! I was so close. It's actually "fauchard," which really just means I can't hear. Matt gets it wrong too, dropping the "d," and so our "odds-on favorite" at the beginning of the round is now gone.

Prateek is back up, immediately asking if the word is German (it is). I'm not even going to attempt to spell this one. A chasm formed when ice recedes from a mountainside: "randkluft." The commentator "not even his moustache could hide his smile when he heard that word." Okay, Prateek has the wispy moustache of a 13 year old boy who hasn't yet learned to shave but will probably start in two or three months. That 'stache isn't hiding a zit, let alone a smile. Why would the commentator even mention it? Weird.

Amy has to spell "epaulement," and she gets it right.

Oh, after the break, we get to see the finalists' visit to the White House and the "special guest" they met. Oh, the special guest is Laura Bush. Boo. I don't know what I was really expecting. And she's giving them a "government themed" spelling bee, with words way too easy for these kids. Although I'm sure the President wouldn't be able to come close to knowing the definition of "suffragist," let alone how to spell it.

Mike and Mike in the Morning are doing a tiny bit of commentary. I think this is the first we got have heard from them since the opening. They didn't add anything.

Evan's back up, and correctly spells "laquear."

Nate the Canadian is up. Last time they mentioned his love of hockey, maybe this time they will talk about how he loves curling. He spells "rognon," with no hesitation. They actually hadn't put the word up on the screen because he was so fast, so I had to rewind him to learn how to spell it for purposes of the blog.

Mr. Shocked is back up. He has to spell "aniseikonia," and seems really nervous, but again, who knows whether he really is? Ouch, I guess he really was nervous, because he slaughters it, guessing "aniciconia." Of course, I didn't even bother to try on that one. Poor Joseph was trying to become the first from Connecticut to win the Bee. I'm sure the entire state cries.

Prateek and the Moustache are back. He misspells "oberek," putting an "o" where the second "e" should have been. Aw, after losing he held his sister's hand. My brother would have run in the other direction when we were that age and pretended he had never heard of me. Then again, my brother would have never been in the spelling bee. Although he does like to watch.

Little Miss Makeup is up, and she needs to spell a doozy. I'm going to guess it is "cynophision," but there is no way I am right. She asks if it comes from the Greek word "cyan" meaning blue, and it is. So I guess that tells us I'm already wrong in my spelling. The commentator tells us that the last few letters will be what makes or breaks it, that everything else is easy. For some of us, maybe. Oh, and he was right. She spelled it "cyanophytion," and now we're down to two.

Evan gets "zoalous," which is actually spelled "zoilus," and Evan gets it right.

Nate gets "vicheline," which is actually spelled "vituline." The commentator says that if Nate studied his Latin roots, that would give it to him here. Clearly, I haven't studied my Latin roots. Nate seems to be very concerned about the word, but he gets it right, and seems pretty relieved.

Uh-oh, Gobo is home and wants to watch the Cavs. No way. Got to wait for the end of the bee.

Commercial break. I can't believe that American Inventor is back. Did anyone (other than me, with Gobo watching every once in awhile when really bored) watch that show last time?

Evan is back up, and is asked to spell "paparadelle." I KNOW THIS ONE!!! IT IS FOOD!!!!! Oh, no. I don't know it. It's "papparadelle." I couldn't even get food right. Food I order pretty often. I really suck.

Nate has to spell "videlicet." I'm too upset about papparadelle to even try to spell this one.

Evan gets "yosenabe," which he spells correctly. It didn't actually seem all that difficult.

Back to Nate. He gets "coryza," which he spells incorrectly.

Evan needs to spell the next word correctly in order to win. He gets "serrefine." He gets it right and wins. One note on Evan that I'm sure will surprise everyone. He's homeschooled.

This was a relatively boring bee. I'm a little disappointed. Oh, well, we'll always have girolle.

It's b-a-c-k

That's right! Tonight ABC will air the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee! My hope was to get some type of press credentials (perhaps by showing them last year's live blogging of the Bee) to attend in person, but I wasn't even aware that the Bee was today until Isaac told me this morning.

And it looks like it would have been a good one to attend. There has already been a spelling controversy, as favorite Samir Patel was ousted after misspelling "clevis" as "clevice." Apparently his mother lodged an appeal, because "clevice" is a real word and she claimed was pronounced similarly enough to "clevis" that Samir could have been spelling the word correctly. Denied.

I'm a little confused as to why Samir was the favorite. He didn't make it to the final six last year. Are none of those spellers back to compete? Were they all aged out? Were they just flashes in the pan?

Hopefully Mike and the Mad Dog (this year's commentators) will address these questions at 8 p.m.!

Good night, sweet panda

Sad news from China today: Giant panda Xiang Xiang, the first and only captive-born panda to be released into the wild, died after only ten months out of captivity. Although Xiang Xiang spent three years in training for the wild, investigators think he fell out of a tree, possibly after being chased by other pandas. Officials at China's Wolong Giant Panda Research Center are guessing that male pandas were resistent to Xiang Xiang, who they saw as a threat, and are going to try again with a female panda.

This is sad news for pandas in general. It shows how difficult introducing captive pandas into the wild can be, and it depletes the already-scarce population of pandas (about 1600 in the world) by one.

Xiang Xiang was a definite cutie. Poor guy.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Magic Is Gone

Charles Nelson Reilly, 1931-2007. For one of the best SNL skits ever and a fitting tribute to Reilly, see here.

Friday, May 25, 2007


So You Think You Can Dance is back! WOOHOO! I've really missed this show. Dancing with the Stars was a good lead in this year (even though they're on different networks, in the age of the Tivo Season Pass what difference does that make?) since it actually had GOOD dancers on it, but it's not the same. I watched the first audition episode last night and remembered why I don't watch audition episodes. That shit is painful! Is there anyone out there who actually LIKES to watch emotionally fragile people make fools of themselves on national television? There are two more audition episodes to get through until we're free to watch only the good dancers. Let the dancing begin.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007


I just realized I haven't posted on Lost yet this season, but if there were ever an episode to post about, last night's would be the one. Spoilers, of course.

The obvious place to start is at the end of the episode, which was really quite shocking to me. I think I said something like "Kate? What? Shit, this is the future?!" when she walked out of the car. So should I be taking this for what it appears to be? A flash forward? (Isaac pointed out that the funeral parlor Future Jack went to was called "Hoffs Drawlar," which is an anagram for "Flash Forward.") But is it truly the future in a linear sense? Or are we dealing with some alternate universe/story Ben has told Jack about the future that we haven't seen happen yet/fear dream of Jack's related to his decision?

Throwing me off of the theory that it is a linear flash forward were Jack's allusions to his father being alive. Sure, saying that the prescription was from Dr. Christian Shepherd and not Dr. Jack Shepherd wasn't an indication that Christian was alive, but Jack also told the Chief of Surgery (Mike Cannon from Las Vegas, played by James Lesure--of course, I didn't realize that 31 year olds made Chief of Surgery at large LA hospitals) that he should track down Jack's dad to see who was drunker. One would think the Chief would be aware of whether Jack's dad was dead. Or was this just drunken, angry rambling on Jack's part?

And if this is a linear flash forward, or even some alternate universe, will we be seeing more in the future? I guess we know that Jack and Kate make it off of the island, and so does the person in the coffin, assuming that s/he was also an island dweller (a reasonable assumption). Two people I spoke with have guessed it was Michael, which may make particular sense given the race of the funeral director and the fact that Michael never had much money off-island and the funeral parlor was in a poorer area. However, Michael was a NYC inhabitant, so I'm not so sure (although I found this enhanced blow-up of the article and it appears to say the person was from New York in it, which would definitely bolster the case of it being Michael, although it also appears that the person's name starts with a "J."). And I would think Walt would attend his father's funeral, assuming he made it out. My initial thought when I saw Kate was that the person in the coffin was Sawyer, but when Kate said that she should go home because "he" was going to wonder where she was, I assumed that "he" was actually Sawyer.

What does the flash forward mean? That Ben and Locke are right and they never should have left the island? (Although Ben couldn't totally be right, if he said that Jack would be responsible for killing all of his people.) That Jack just can't handle life when he gets back? I know he isn't that popular among viewers, but I like Jack, and I don't want our hero to end up a broken man. He actually had quite a few Charlie Salinger moments in there, particularly when he told the Chief that he couldn't be helped. Just like when Charlie had cancer. Poor Jack/Charlie.

And speaking of Charlies, there is, of course, Charlie Pace. Poor, poor Charlie. We knew it was going to happen, and I have to admit to shedding a few tears. But why did it have to happen in that way? The entire time he was locked in the room, Gobo kept saying "why doesn't he just swim out of the window?" Which would have made sense, particularly because drowning is apparently a really bad way to go. It doesn't make sense that he wouldn't at least try to do what he could to escape. Of course, he did use up precious time by giving Desmond his final message, although one would have hoped he could have provided a little more information for Desmond--particularly, from whom he learned that it wasn't Penny's boat.

But Isaac had an even better point, which was that Charlie could have actually left the little room he was in before the Russian blew it open and instead closed the door from the outside, where there was SCUBA equipment. I write this off as Charlie never being the brightest bulb.

A ton more happened. Walt (who apparently is taking the antidote to the drugs Eyeliner Guy must be taking) talking to Locke. In...real life? A vision? Using his special powers? Naomi not being sent by Penny, meaning her people could be exactly what Ben says they are, or something else entirely. Bernard totally caving in, which pissed me off to no end. First off, they should have never let Bernard--an unproven guy who isn't physically fit (remember the trouble he had trekking from the Tailies' area to the beach?) and hasn't been in a fighting situation before, or even gone on a "mission" with the other Losties--be one of the three shooters. But even once they did, would he really give up his wife and everyone else to save Jin? I didn't think he would have done that to Rose. Sure, I believed it when he ran, but not when he gave the information so readily. And why did Ben order his people not to kill Jin, Sayid and Bernard? I have to admit, one of my happiest moments during the episode was when Hurley saved the day. I was so proud of him. (The other was when Rousseau elbowed Ben.)

This doesn't even address all of the other questions that have arisen during this season, most prominently who/what is Jacob, who can see or hear him, why is he in that shack, and what is his power?

And so we now have to wait eight more months until the next episode and maybe get some answers. I looked back at my post from last season's finale, and although a lot of those questions still haven't been answered, we really did learn a lot. I guess I'll wait to see how much is resolved next season.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Working Hard or Hardly Working?

So May sweeps -- and therefore the 2006-07 TV season -- officially ends tomorrow. Is anyone else sort of looking forward to it? Keeping up with all of this TV is a lot of work!

That being said, there are all of the summer TV shows. The only new show that interests me is John from Cincinnati, the show that doomed Deadwood. But I'm looking forward to the return of Big Love, Rescue Me, The 4400, The Closer . . . .


Tony's Families

More spoilers! Just to prove that you can't stop thinking about The Sopranos, there was one other issue I meant to discuss in my prior post but did not. As much as Tony's two families create risks, stresses, and threats, there is a difference between them and, in the end, it seems, Tony prefers his biological one. There was a clear parallel drawn between Tony's reaction when confronted with life threatening situations involving Christopher, his mafia "son," and AJ, his biological son. In the former, Tony became hyper-rational, recognizing that he could remove a threat at no risk to himself; in the latter, as much as he is frustrated with AJ and would, in some ways, be better off without him, he did what almost any father would do, saving him. He could have quite easily had AJ suffocate with no one knowing, but he did the right thing. Just shows there is still a little bit of humanity in him.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Reunited: Real World Las Vegas

I just found out that MTV is hosting a Real World: Las Vegas reunion. But this is unlike an ordinary MTV reunion where the host spends an hour asking stupid questions and we have to watch a lot of clips from the season. No, instead the cast will be reunited for two weeks, back in their old suite at the Palms (premiering May 30 at 10 p.m.).

Of course, there is something somewhat sad about the fact that all seven housemates were willing to do this, five years after their time in the spotlight. But when you consider all of the Real World/Road Rules Challenges they have competed in, it isn't all that surprising.

I'm hoping we get some information on the Alton/Irulan breakup. It appears that Brynn is now a married mother of two, so it will be interesting to see how she has changed. And I don't think Trishelle has changed at all. Obviously, this means I'll be watching. Because I'm just as pathetic as the returning castmates.


This Is The Way The World Will End

If last night's Sopranos can be named after and focus on a wonderful poem by Yeats (for the complete Second Coming, see here although almost the entire poem was recited during the episode), I can title my blog post with a quote from Eliot although I'm still not sure whether the show will, in fact, end with a bang or a whimper. Probably a little bit of both.

The poem is about--among other things--the destruction of World War I and the Irish Revolution (perhaps also the Russian Revolution). If nothing else, the war about to break out between NY and NJ is encapsulated here:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity

Is Tony the "best" and Phil the "worst"? Or is Tony a little bit of both? And the harbingers of death (and to be sure rebirth) fill the poem as well as last night's episode.

Enough literary criticism. Last night featured two of the most disturbing scenes ever on television. AJ's suicide attempt was--in its horror and realism--more powerful than any similar scene I have seen. And did he survive because, once again as his father pointed out, he simply screwed up and made the rope too long? And for him to try to kill himself in the pool--Tony's one refuge where he (long ago) tried to raise the ducks (was he trying to be their mother and did they get off the bus?)--besmirched forever this one place of peace. Will the series end in that pool? It wouldn't surprise me.

As for the other scene, Tony's beating of Coco was simply vicious. I don't know how Coco survived after that beating. (Finding the tooth while with AJ, Carm, and AJ's shrink was a particularly gruesome touch.) The tag line for the first season was "if one family doesn't kill him, the other one will," but now we see once again that it is the intersection of the two families and, in fact, the inability to separate the two that is the most dangerous. (This was seen as far back as Tony's relationship with his mother.) Coco's bringing Meadow into the NY/NJ feud was idiotic and Tony's reaction was predictable. Carmella clearly knew what would happen once Tony found out and wanted it to happen. Contrast that with Dr. Melfi's ultimately not telling Tony about her rape several season ago even though she wanted to. And while AJ keeps demonstrating that he is unfit for mob life (Even as he has been dragged into it), Meadow seems headed in that direction albeit in a way like her mother--seriously dating Patsy's son. And I am skeptical that Patsy's kid is simply a do good attorney. The intersection of family and mob family is very dangerous and at the roots of the NY/NJ bad blood, namely Phil still not getting over his brother's killing by Tony B.

So things continue to build as there seems no way both Tony and Phil can survive and the terrorism subplot continues to slowly bubble. And that's the 800 pound elephant in the room. (It's a pygmy elephant!)


Friday, May 18, 2007


I've been binging on mystery novels for the last few months, and I thought I'd share some of my new favorite authors. None of them are technically "new" since they've been dead and buried for ages, but I hadn't gotten around to reading them until recently. I'm a huge fan of the classic English murder mystery and finished reading all the Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and Dorothy Sayers books in existence long ago. (Though if you're fond of Agatha Christie but have never read either Sayers or Marsh, read them, they're fabulous.)

My first discovery is Margery Allingham. She, like all the authors I'm going to mention, was a contemporary of Christie and her books cover some of the same ground - espionage, classic country house murders etc. - but with a lovely twist in the form of her detective Albert Campion. Campion would be right at home in a Dorothy Sayers mystery actually, as he's often compared to her detective Lord Peter Wimsey. Campion is brilliant, athletic and brave, but manages to hide it all behind an inoffensive, silly ass demeanor and a trick of looking shorter and weaker than he actually is. There's some mystery about who Campion actually is, and there are some hints in the early books that he's the (possibly impoverished?) younger son of a famous aristocratic family, and Campion is just one of his many aliases used to keep the family name unsullied by his more unsavory exploits. Highly recommended.

And then there's Gladys Mitchell, whose books, unfortunately, were never widely published in this country and are therfore damned difficult to find and expensive when you do come across them. If I could afford it, I can think of few trips I'd enjoy more than a used book store tour of England to stock up on her entire catalog. She's that sublimely good. Mitchell's detecive is Beatrice Adela Lestrange Bradley, an independently wealthy psychologist with some shocking opinions. Mitchell's books take all the conventions of the English murder mystery and pull and tweak them in fabulously ridiculous ways so that they're almost parodies of the genre. (I just finished one in which an old lady is murdered with grated carrot. Seriously.) But her characterizations are fantastic, and her plots intricate and amusing. Like all the members of the Detection Club, Mitchell plays fair with her readers but the plots are so outrageous that even with all the clues, the solutions are a surprise. Very highly recommend.

Crossing the pond to America, I present for your reading enjoyment Elizabeth Daly. Her detective is New York antiquarian book dealer Henry Gamadge. I've only read two of her books, but from what I can tell the series is quite good. They're urbane, well plotted, well characterized, and feature some really creepy post-war New York high society settings. Recommended.


Yes, Virginia, There Is A Creed Blog

I have been telling you to watch The Office for months now, and last night ended one of the funniest seasons in TV history. If you were fortunate enough to watch last night, you briefly saw Creed's "blog." While it's no Pop Culture Junkette, you can read it for yourself here. In fact, the show's home page is chock full of great stuff including some hysterical deleted scenes. I suggest you check it out.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

And then there were two

I know I haven't posted about American Idol in awhile, but now that we are down to the finals, I figured I should say something.

I was surprised, but not shocked, by Melinda's ouster last night. Sure, Melinda was the best singer and most consistent performer in the competition, and she actually seemed to understand the lyrics of her songs, which is a rarity on AI. But she also sang a lot of very old songs, and on Tuesday had the misfortune of being saddled with two unfortunate songs: Randy Jackson's choice of Whitney Houston's "I Believe in You and Me" (which is just not a very good Whitney song) and some Ike and Tina Turner song I have never heard of (and I have to imagine much of the audience hadn't heard of).

But at this point, does it even matter? Clearly Taylor Hicks has not hit the big time. By the time one is in the final three, I think their chances of success are going to depend on their talent, marketability and songwriting team. But I think the chances they have are all about equal. So it will be interesting to see how Melinda's album is received.

As for the two who are left, I think I'm rooting for Blake. He's not the best singer to grace the Idol stage, but I really loved his rendition of "You Give Love a Bad Name," and I am impressed that he was the only one of the final three to choose a song he hadn't sung before as his third song of the night on Tuesday (having said that, it's hard to quibble with Jordin singing "I Who Have Nothing" twice because it was really, really good). And yeah, he'll probably sound just like Blink 182 or Maroon 5 for the rest of his career, but maybe he'll do something more interesting. I'm not sure if that means I should root for him to lose--will he have more creative freedom if he doesn't win? How do the contracts for the losers work? Does Simon Fuller get a first crack at everyone?--but I'll jump on the Blake bandwagon regardless.

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We Won't Always Have Paris

Paris Hilton is dropping her appeal. It seems she'll end up serving about 23 days assuming she can maintain good behavior. So sad. Actually, she should have been sentenced to 5 years of no one paying attention to her--talk about punishment.

Veronica Mars is Dead

Let the mourning commence. I was actually really looking forward to the prospect of Veronica as an FBI trainee. At least we got three seasons, which in this era and with those ratings is a damned miracle.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Shake it up, baby

Do you ever wonder who comes up with the ideas for the entertainment that plays on the Jumbotron during breaks in play at sporting events? Last night I went to the Washington Nationals-Atlanta Braves game, primarily to see my favorite player, Tim Hudson, pitch. (As a Mets fan, it is quite sad that my favorite player is a Brave, but I have loved Hudson since his days on the A's and I can't turn my back on him now.)

While at the game (in DC), in between innings, the Jumbotron started playing the "Twist and Shout" montage from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. And the fans were dancing around to the song while watching the clips of Matthew Broderick. But all I could wonder is why a sports team in Washington, DC would play a clip from a movie that is so closely associated with the city of Chicago? Ferris actually goes to a Cubs game during the movie! There are millions of songs out there, many of which are quite popular and catchy. They had to choose one from Bueller? Hell, they could even play "Twist and Shout"--but why show those movie clips? And if you are truly wedded to that song and you must show a movie clip with it, can't you show Rodney Dangerfield dancing drunkenly in Back To School? Actually, you should play Dangerfield's version of the song as well. Much better idea.


The Walls Fell Down

on Jericho. CBS has pulled the plug. Sorry, Holt.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Is it time for season two? Celebrity fantasy league revival!

I'm thinking it might be time to resurrect the Celebrity Fantasy League and give season two a go. For those who don't know or have blocked it out of their minds, last year we ran a 15 week celebrity fantasy league, featuring 16 teams. Each team picked a roster of 14 celebrities--seven men and seven women--and got points each week based on how many photos the celebs had in the current issue of Us Weekly. There were more points for photos on the cover and winners of "who wore it best" and negative points for photos in fashion police and losers of "who wore it best."

And that was about it. I think there will need to be some tweaking, but first I'm interested to see how many people want to play again. So leave a comment here or send me an e-mail if you know how to reach me off-blog.

And for those interested, here is the link to last year's blog. If you go back to the first few posts you will get all of the rules.


Can this photo safely put to rest any questions regarding the authenticity of (the currently pregnant) Salma Hayek's breasts?

Come on Down

In the next few months, Bob Barker will end his run as the host of The Price is Right and retire after 50 years on tv. Tomorrow and Thursday night, CBS is running 1 hour prime time specials, the first being a big dollar show and the second, a tribute to Bob. While I can't say I'm a big fan (although I know Red Fraggle is), I, like most Americans, have watched from time to time. He is an institution although, as the picture on the CBS website indicates, it looks like he died several years ago. America has still barely gotten over the trauma of when he seemed to go gray in a single evening, and now he is going for good. But just to remind you of the classic show, here is a clip of one of the dumbest people of all time.

Just like Adriana

There are some actors who, when you see them in a candid magazine shot, look nothing like their television alter egos. America Ferrera is probably the most obvious example of this, but The Sopranos has given us some good examples as well, notably Edie Falco as Carmela Soprano and Steve van Zandt as Silvio Dante.

I always assumed Drea de Matteo, who played Adriana La Cerva (the fiancee of Christopher Moltisanti) on The Sopranos would be like her co-stars. After all, Adriana's hair was huge, her make-up was overdone and her clothing was sparse. And yet de Matteo just announced her pregnancy, and all the photos of her that I have seen look like she is still playing Adriana. Okay, maybe the cleavage isn't as exposed, but it's the same general look. Kind of like if Adriana had escaped and went into the Witness Protection Program and was found pumping gas at some station on New Mexico. I mean, what's with the fur tail by her elbow? It looks like she just picked up some roadkill and decided it would be a great makeshift purse.
Maybe it's her way of making sure that Adriana will never truly die.


The day I have been waiting for is almost upon us! That's right, Dynasty: Season Two will be released on August 14. As longtime readers know, a few months ago I watched season one, realizing I would never again see a new Aaron Spelling series and figuring I should watch one of his classics (which I didn't catch the first time around). Season two features the debut of Joan Collins and, if the cover art on the DVD is any indication, Heather Locklear! And Fallon will be back, and I really do love Fallon.

On a sadder note, it appears Linda Evans and Joan Collins are feuding in real life. Holt and I saw them in Legends which, although certainly not Tony-award worthy, was kind of fun. But apparently all was not happy backstage.


Hanging up on all friends

ABC has released its fall schedule for next year, and What About Brian has not been renewed. I can't say I'm surprised, as the show really wasn't very good. But it was an easy, mindless watch when there was nothing else on the DVR, and so I will miss that. I won't, of course, miss the inane theme song.

In looking at the fall lineup, it does look like ABC has at least one promising new shows coming up. Dirty Sexy Money is described by the AP as a "trashy primetime soap" (I really don't need to know anymore, that's enough to get me to watch) starring Peter Krause as a lawyer who represents an ultra-rich family. Although Big Shots, "a drama about four hard-charging friends and CEOs who are less successful with women," sounds like a dud, it stars Michael Vartan (and Dylan McDermott, Christopher Titus and Joshua Malina) so I may watch the first few episodes. Women's Murder Club, about four friends (a cop, a lawyer, a medical examiner and a reporter) who solve mysteries, sounds like it might be right up my alley, what with my love of Murder, She Wrote, Columbo and Matlock, but it is based on a James Patterson novel, which tend to be a little graphic for my whodunit tastes. Another one I might try out. I can't imagine I'm going to watch Cashmere Mafia, another show about attractive women "working" and living in New York City, but it is getting a good amount of buzz. (NBC has a similar show starring Brooke Sheilds called Lipstick Jungle, after the Candace Bushnell book, and I can't imagine I will watch that one either, but for the fact that Lindsay Price, also known as Steve Sanders' wife Janet on 90210 is also starring in it. So maybe I'll tune in.)

And of course there is Private Practice, the new Grey's Anatomy spin-off, which looked aboslutely horrible as part of the two-hour Grey's episode a couple of weeks ago. I hated it so much (and I actually like Addison Montgomery) that I fast-forwarded all scenes from the spin-off at about the halfway point of the episode. No way I'm tuning in for that.


A great year for television

As the 2006-07 television season draws to a close, I'm really impressed with how many good shows debuted this season. Not only did we get the best show on television, Friday Night Lights, but we also got Heroes, Ugly Betty, The Riches and The Tudors. In addition, I have heard so many good things about 30 Rock that I am going to rent the DVDs this summer so I can begin watching season two.

Did I waste an inordinate amount of time with shows like Studio 60, Justice and The Wedding Bells (yes, I actually did watch the last show--I'm not proud of it)? Obviously. They were all bad and were all deservedly cancelled. But I can't remember another season when I have added five new shows to my viewing schedule. And when you consider that FNL, Heroes and Ugly Betty are three out of my four favorite non-reality shows right now (Lost being the other), 2006 was a very, very good year.

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My Name is . . . Sam?

This is the description from cnn.com of one of ABC's new shows this fall: "'Sam I Am,' a comedy with Christina Applegate about a woman who awakes from a coma with no memory, only to find out she was a creep before." I guess TV has never been a font of originality. "Okay, so here's my idea; instead of being hit by a car and seeing Carson Daley discuss karma and deciding to turn his life around, this time the creep won't even remember his past! And instead of Jason Lee, we'll find a hot chick!" I'm sure it will be wonderful.

Not Really Buried With A Donkey

This weekend, Mrs. Bartender, Isaac, Jr., and I celebrated Mother's Day by visiting the City of Brotherly (Motherly?) Love. As it is just over 2 hours from DC and conveniently located between Isaac, Jr., and his paternal grandparents, it has been a frequent meeting point for get togethers. This latest overnight visit was chock full of fun:

1. We started to Longwood Gardens in the Brandywine Valley, about 45 minutes south of Philly. Most of the Brandywine Valley is in Delaware but the Gardens are just over the state line in PA. They were created by Pierre DuPont, the former chairman of GM and, shockingly, DuPont. (He died in 1954, so this is not the same Pierre DuPont that ran for President in 1988; come on, you remember that campaign.) Mrs. Bartender and I were there last December, and she (understandably) wanted to go back when things were in bloom. The gardens, albeit not my cup of tea, are quite beautiful and among the most expansive in the US. Needless to say, Mrs. Bartender loved it and so did Isaac, Jr, particularly playing in the fountains.

2. For dinner, we went to Alma de Cuba, one of Stephen Starr's restaurants. Starr runs a number of Philadelphia's best restaurants (Budakon, Striped Bass, Morimoto, etc.), and we have thoroughly enjoyed our visits to several of them. We had a great meal, and the wait staff was terrific with Isaac, Jr. (who spent most of the night flirting with a woman at the table next to us). Mrs. Bartender commented about why DC couldn't get more restaurants like Starr's--hip, very good food and drinks, and each with an ethnic flair that neither becomes too showy or completely loses it roots. Don't get me wrong, DC has some top notch restaurants, but none with the same type of verve as Starr's. (I'm sure someone will try to prove me wrong.)

3. The next day, we went to see the latest Tutankhamen exhibition at the Franklin Institute. Both Mrs. Bartender and I went to see the famous show that was in the US between 1976 and 1979. I was 8 when I saw it in New York; Mrs. Bartender, 6 in New Orleans. I then saw it at its most impressive a few years later in Cairo. If I had been to the Egyptian Museum more recently than 1983, I would not have bothered to see only a small selection of what they have there, but considering how long ago it was, I was enthused to go.

The exhibit in Philly reminded me of why so many of us find Ancient Egypt so fascinating. The show has received some criticism--a number of the rooms have non-Tut artifacts and the famous mask that toured in the 1970s is not part of the show but the only one that struck home is the outrageously high ticket price--$32.5o on weekends. Even at that price, the work, which is over 3400 years old, is truly amazing from a chair that remains in near perfect condition to perhaps the show's highlight, a coffinette for Tut's liver. (The Egyptians removed and buried several of the internal organs but interestingly not the heart and brain which were discarded.) Yes, I've heard the story before--the boy king, restores the old religious order which his possible father had abolished, dies at 19 but how, the mummification process, and the discovery of the tomb by Howard Carter in 1922. But when you see the material that was found you understand why Tut, a somewhat minor Pharaoh, has fascinated the world for more than 80 years. (I note that when one is in Egypt, the more important Pharaohs, such as Cheops (the builder of the Great Pyramid, and Ramses II are understandably seen as much more important.)

4. Finally, we had lunch at the White Dog Cafe, another Philadelphia institution. Fine food with a focus on small farmers and local products. Just a great meal and a terrific weekend.

A belated happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Making the case for satellite television

On Saturday I called my dad and he was clearly distracted. He asked me to guess what he was watching on television, and after I had gone through all of the usual suspects (Friday, European soccer, Good Will Hunting, Three Ninjas, Greek soap operas) and struck out, I gave up. He then informed me he was in the middle of watching the Eurovision Song Contest, but that unfortunately Greece was in seventh place and only the top five acts would advance* (or something like that, I was too shocked that he thought I would guess he was watching the Eurovision Song Contest to really pay a lot of attention).

And then I go to Go Fug Yourself today and I see this post about the contest. The costumes are head and shoulders above anything an Olympic ice dancing team has put together. And yet my dad failed to mention any of this to me. This all leaves me a little confused, but I'm just going to decide that I'm proud of my dad for being so cutting edge.

*Just a note, Greece won the contest in 2005 with a song called "My Number One," that played on at least one radio station in the country every minute of every day when I was there in the summer of 2005. My cousins in the country expressed true shock when I told them I had never heard of the Eurovision Song Contest or "My Number One" until stepping off the airplane that August. We're obviously missing out here in the U.S., unless you are like my dad and have satellite television for this very reason.

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I Did It!

SPOILERS APLENTY! As I predicted last week, last night saw the demise of Christopher Moltisanti. (Note: I didn't predict he would die last night, only that he wouldn't make it through the next 4 weeks.) But he went via the hand of Tony in a manner much quieter than anyone would have expected. Why did Tony whack him? Was it out of disgust for Christopher's latest relapse? His fear that Christopher would finally rat him out (as Christopher had been tempted to do repeatedly for several seasons)? His disgust over the portrayal of "Tony" in Cleaver? His recognition that Christopher was incapable of succeeding him some day? A little bit of each of these things, I would say. Tony is a man who won't blow an opportunity, and here one was presented to remove Christopher with no one even suspecting foul play. He only had to justify what he did to himself--which he tried to do in conversations with Carm, Dr. Melfi, and, of course, Sonia (Christopher's old stripper friend in Vegas). And for the most part, he failed.

Yet the great irony of the episode--and here, once again, is the genius of the show--is that after killing Christopher, Tony adopts many of his "son's" vices. Not only does he shack up with Sonia in Vegas, but he too starts using drugs, not to Christopher's level, but still. And perhaps worst of all, he shows his weakness by confessing. Okay, his confession is to the mountains outside of Vegas and in front a stripper who has no idea what he is talking about when he yells, "I did it," but still it shows that in order to live the lives that Tony, Christopher, Paulie, and others do, one has two choices. You are either so stupid, that you don't fully comprehend what you are doing. See Paulie Walnuts. Or you are forced to rely upon drugs (whether prescription or otherwise) to numb oneself of the actions you have taken. (And, I note, that Comfortably Numb was playing as Christopher sideswiped Kennedy and Heidi's car--if you saw the title of the episode, Kennedy and Heidi, and had no idea to what it was referring, now you know (although it also refers to Tony's comparing Chris' widow to Jackie Kennedy, but I'm not sure how the little Swiss girl has any relevance.)

I note that there is some debate in the blogosphere and elsewhere about whether Tony said "I did it" or "I get it." I heard the former, Mrs. Bartender the latter, and supposedly the closed captioning agreed with her although I have seen both quotes on various websites. I like my interpretation better, but "I get it" still works as far as Tony's supposed sudden comprehension of the randomness of life. It does, however, take away his own confession and the parallelism with Christopher. Thus, I will believe what I heard.

Of course, Tony's declaration of "I did it," was not simply a confession. (Anyone else notice the similarity of the Sopranos ending last night with Tony yelling in the desert, and Drama yelling "Victory" in front of the Grand Canyon?) It was also a recognition of his winnings at the roulette table and, through the use of peyote, a (temporary, I'm sure) understanding of life. This understanding seems to simply reflect, however, the randomness (and ultimately meaninglessness) of it--his winning big at roulette--whatever other game so clearly demonstrates luck--epitomized the randomness of fate and led to this epiphany. What happens when he comes down from his high remains to be seen.

Finally, a note on two of Tony's "subjects." As for Paulie, he can't beat Christopher even in the death department, and his disgust how everyone is at Chris's wake instead of his "ma's" is typical, shallow Paulie. As for AJ, he appears headed for either a severe breakdown or gangster work or both. For AJ, however, to pursue this line of work, he will, like his dad and Christopher, need some serious mind altering substances. And he lacks the strengths of these other characters, so this cannot end well. Just as Tony's "son" is now dead, I fear for his biological child.

I can hardly wait for the final 3 episodes.


Friday, May 11, 2007

I Can't Resist

As an avowed Red Sox hater who really wishes that Curt Schilling would finally just shut his yap, I can't resist posting this photograph of him from 1989. The goofy look with the awesome porn 'stache is a sight to behold. And Orioles fans, just a reminder that Schilling was once yours.

Well, That Wasn't So Great While It Lasted

It seems that NBC has decided to pull the plug on Studio 60. As Red Fraggle and I frequently commented (more frequently on her part), it really wasn't that good--and it certainly wasn't very funny--but we watched anyway. If you care, NBC will be showing the final episodes on Thursdays at 10pm starting on May 24. Frighteningly, I may actually watch. However, I do now plan to watch Heroes and, perhaps, Friday Night Lights this fall. Get me the DVDs now!

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Friday Night Lights renewed: time to watch season one on DVD

This is the best television news I have heard in a very long time. The best show on television was renewed, despite low ratings.

So to those of you who haven't watched before: get the season one DVDs as soon as they are released and catch up! I think one of FNL's problems was potential viewers didn't watch the first few episodes, thinking it was just a football show (it's not!) and then decided they would just wait until the DVDs came out to catch up before season 2.

Of course, because no one was watching, whether there would even be a season 2 became a major question. But it has been renewed, so get those DVDs. You really won't regret it.
As someone who watched season 1, I am interested to see where season 2 will pick up. During the off-season (where we left off)? That would be an easy choice because we still have all of our characters in one place. At the beginning of next football season? If so, what happens to Riggins (picture included with this post, of course)? He's a senior, after all. Although I'm not that worried: there is no way this show is going to drop one of its most popular characters.
Happy Friday!

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Unlucky number four

In previous seasons of American Idol, the week the final four sing has resulted in some very surprising eliminations: Tamyra Gray from season one, Latoya London from season three and Chris Daughtry from season five were all contestants many thought would win the entire competition, but went home early. So this season I was wondering whether we would have a Melinda elimination shocker.

Alas, I guess the surprises are limited to odd-numbered season, because LaKisha, who everyone assumed was going home, was voted off.

And with good reason. She never listened to the advice of the American Idol mentors. And sure, perhaps one can argue a good singer shouldn't really listen to J.Lo, but she didn't listen to Tony Bennett or Barry Gibb or really anyone all season. Despite the "fact" that she has no formal singing training (although how can someone who majored in music in college have no training?). And she hasn't sung all that well since she sang her Dreamgirls tune, which must be a song she has worked very, very hard on, since she sang it in auditions and then again in the first week of the semifinals.

So I bid LaKisha a fond farewell. Any ideas what next week's theme is?

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Late and Not To Be Lamented German Democratic Republic

Last Friday, Mrs. Bartender and I saw The Lives of Others. I cannot stress enough what an excellent film this is. The acting is superb across the board, the story is very tight, and just when you worry at the end that the movie is about to try to do too much, it ends perfectly. That the movie was directed by a 33 year old who was only 16 when the Wall fell is both extremely impressive and yet understandable. As he, for the most part, did not live with a divided Germany, he was able to give a fresh and appropriate look to the horror that was East Germany. Instead of trying to write too much about this film, I will make two suggestions: (1) see it if you haven't and (2) read Anthony Lane's spot on review in the New Yorker.


Happy Anniversary!

It has been 50 years since Arthur Frommer's first travel book, Europe on Five Dollars a Day, was published. In recent years, I have found his guides and website to be a wonderful resource during my many travels, a number of which I have recounted on this blog. Frommer and I share much in common, specifically, a love of travel and degrees from the Yale Law School of Bartending. Now, if only I could get paid for all of my traveling!


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

I Don't Think I Can Handle the Wait

Season 3 (part B) of Entourage ends on June 3. Season 4 (consisting of12 episodes) begins on June 17. Why couldn't The Sopranos have been so efficient?


The Death of Christopher Moltisanti

SPOILERS. Okay, if you watched the show and are still reading, you know that Christopher, at least physically, is not dead. Yet. But his crash and burn on what was a great episode is a sign not only of his likely actual demise but provides added fodder to my point last week that everyone is out to get Tony. I don't think Christopher will be able to pull a Sammy the Bull, but the threat is there and is growing.

Christopher's biggest problem is that he can't accept who he is. (Okay, it's also the alcohol and drugs.) He thinks he is a screenwriter/film producer but the only reason Cleaver was made was because he was able to strong arm J.T. into writing it. (On a complete side note, Mrs. Bartender and I were at a Cinco de Mayo party on May 5, and I commented that Tim Daly (who plays J.T.) and Tyne Daly are siblings; there was much doubt, but your faithful bartender was proven correct. Considering their disparate looks, they are the Randy and Dennis Quaids of different gender siblings. Now back to our story.) By killing J.T., Christopher has destroyed "his" ability to be a movie writer--supposedly the thing he wants to do. And it is J.T. telling Chris that Chris "is in the mafia" that leads to the killing. By refusing to face what he is, Christopher acts like who he is. He may have the child and the suburban home, but he IS in the mafia and he is a killer and an alcoholic, and he is going to die.

Other characters were stuck also with who they are, whether trapped by their pasts or, perhaps, their genes. The genius that is Tony once again was questioning what his purpose is and why has he condemned his son to depression. Yet in his attempts to help AJ by reuniting him with some old friends, he has possibly condemned him to something worse--the life of a hood. AJ may no longer be moping around the house, but he is now helping a bookmaking operation as muscle and still freaking out. The poignant scene at the end of the episode with the seemingly happy Soprano family having a midnight supper while trouble lurks under the table may be a final moment of family happiness for this clan. (Btw, having Carm reading Fred Barnes' love letter to President Bush was classic.)

Finally, I don't think it's a red herring, but Tony's providing of the FBI with help regarding the "Arabs" or "maybe Arabians" may provide an interesting ending to the show. Remember that many top mobsters have gotten away with murder due to helping the FBI. We'll see where this leads.

Next week--things heat up with New York. I think.


Monday, May 07, 2007

Lost for 3 More Years

ABC has announced that Lost will continue for 3 more seasons. Each season, however, will only be 16 episodes, and they will run uninterrupted. Very pleased with this as the show now knows when it has to get to wherever it is headed, and, heck, I enjoy the show and am glad to have it to kick around until 2010.


Friday, May 04, 2007

More Good News

There are few better e-mail subject lines than the one I just received: Don't Miss Poison.

If you are interested, they will be at the Nissan Pavillion on July 29. Don't waste your time looking for me at the concert.

I Don't Believe It!

Headline on CNN.com:

Convicted killer fears his last moments

If You Watched Last Night's Office

Be sure to call 1-800-984-3672. You can thank me later.


And Now For Something Completely Different

So last night I watched maybe 30 minutes of the GOP debate. First, any debate with 10 candidate, the majority of whom are just enjoying their 15 minutes in the (sort of) national spotlight is not going to be super enlightening. (Heck, the only thing I learned from the Democratic debate is that Dennis Kucinich is not the craziest Democrat running; come on down, Senator Mike Gravel.) I will say that Sam Brownback truly scares me--I thought he was about to start discussing fire and brimstone at several points. I actually like Huckabee (insert I [heart] Huckabee joke here). If nothing else, he lost 100 pounds, ran a marathon, told a few good jokes, seemed quite comfortable on the stage, and he usually doesn't come of as completely crazy (although he has his moments).

Yet the thing most people are talking about (if they are talking at all) is the answer of Rudy Giuliani to a question about Roe v. Wade. For those who missed it, here is the full exchange:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Would the day that Roe v. Wade is repealed be a good day for Americans?

[All the other candidates say yes with, my favorite, Sen. Brownback stating "Be a glorious day of human liberty and freedom."]

MR. GIULIANI: It would be okay.

MR. MATTHEWS: Okay to repeal?

MR. GIULIANI: It would be okay to repeal. Or it would be okay also if a strict constructionist judge viewed it as precedent, and I think a judge has to make that decision.

MR. MATTHEWS: Would it be okay if they didn’t repeal it?

MR. GIULIANI: I think that -- I think the court has to make that decision, and then the country can deal with it. We’re a federalist system of government, and states could make their own decisions.

The obvious flack Giuliani is getting is that in the GOP primary anything less than absolute fealty to the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the banning of abortion seems to be a big problem. And Giuliani has a problem with the GOP base not only with his abortion views but also with his views on other hot bottom [n.b.: that should read button, but it is too funny just to correct; thanks, A.J.] social issues.

But let's look at this answer and how inane it is. The first part indicates he doesn't really care one way or another what happens. This seems like he's just saying that he doesn't think it should be overturned but knows his audience does. He then says to himself, throw in the line about strict constructionist but he again tries to have it both ways. Okay, maybe there is something here about how a judge can be a strict constructionist but also give strong deference to precedent but I can't imagine there are many potential justices who call themselves strict constructionists and think Roe should be affirmed.

Even more bizarre is the second part of his answer. He says that the Court can do what it wants but we live in a federalist system and states can do what they want. But a central criticism of Roe is that the states (or the federal government) can't regulate abortion (or can only in limited ways). In other words, by constitutionalizing the issue, the political branches can't legislate about them. As long as Roe remains good law, the states can't make their own decisions, so Giuliani's answer makes no sense. (I'm not saying that this is a good or bad thing; only pointing out that his answer is ridiculous. I guess this is what happens when you're not good at pandering.)

Perhaps what the Mayor was trying to get at--and perhaps what he should have said--is that he thinks Roe should be overturned returning the abortion question to the states. And, if he wanted to look like he wasn't flip flopping (or at least only in a minor way), he could say (although he would have no need to in response to the question) that he thinks states should make abortion legal at least in certain circumstances . (This is actually what Jim Gilmour said (kind of).) This is a perfectly respectable position to take but unfortunately today's politics make such a position difficult to take--if you are pro-choice, you basically have to support Roe and visa versa; you can't argue that it is a bad decision but abortion should be legal.

As a guy who practiced law for years and is supposed to be pretty smart, it was a very weak answer, appealing to no one and tying himself in knots. In general, I thought he was very unimpressive (and having lived in NYC during his mayorality, there is a lot I like about him although the idea of him as President with his views of executive power and dealing with those who disagree with scare me to no end). He hurt himself with the GOP base with the abortion issue but, moreover, seemed very unimpressive (and not just with this answer) and not the heroic figure for the hours and days after 9/11.

Finally, I enjoyed the setting of the debate--under Air Force One at the Reagan Library. The last time I was at the library (don't get me started on presidential libraries; I've hit 'em all), the complex was almost complete, and it is a fascinating addition that offers visitors something available nowhere else.

And now we return to our regularly scheduled pop culture programming.


Grey's Anatomy Spinoff

I watched the special two hour Grey's Anatomy last night that was written as sort of a back-door pilot for the proposed spinoff for Addison, and I'm hoping that it gets picked up, because I liked it. Addison is one of the few characters on Grey's that I really love anymore (Addison, take Karev with you, I'm begging!) so for that reason alone I'd follow her. But the new show has a lovely cast. There's Francie from Alias, and Piz from Veronica Mars (playing office eye candy and a possible much younger love interest for Francie), Taye Diggs, that lady from Judging Amy (in a much less annoying character) and one of the guys from Wings. The show is set in L.A., in a wholistic medical center - a sort of co-op for doctors. I'm not sure I buy the premise that the fancy pants super doctor who is Addison would give up her fancy complicated super specialized hospital-based practice to be a plain old Ob-Gyn, but . . . I do really like that they've set up the environment to be so totally different from Seattle Grace - but did they have to bring in an elevator? It's LA! I don't understand why they need an elevator. Anyway, this is my tentative hope that it gets picked up. Although if Addison leaves Seattle Grace and the new show fails I'll be totally heartbroken and expect her to come back to the fold.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Ahead of the Curve (As Usual)

The Post's home section had an article today claiming that lavender is "the new neutral" or, alternatively, "the crazy aunt of gray." Anyway, apparently it is the hot color in home decor this year. It just so happens that I painted my bedroom lavender more than a year ago, so I am clearly in touch with the zeitgeist. In fact, I used Benjamin Moore's "Lavender Ice," the very color chosen by two of the Post's four "experts."

Unfortunately, I am already getting sort of sick of it and am not finding it to be all that neutral at all. I'm thinking my next color will be gray -- a.k.a. the sane niece of lavender -- or maybe green. Look for those colors to be hot next year.

(Yes, this is probably the lamest post ever. Sorry.)

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in

No, this is neither a Sopranos (I'm one week behind) nor a Godfather post. Rather, it's about my old friend Veronica Mars.

I haven't loved this season, and I wasn't thrilled with the idea that the show was going to do one-episode mysteries for its last few episodes without a larger mystery arc. But I really enjoyed Tuesday's episode. Or really, I really enjoyed the last few minutes.

Do I think it's great that Logan is in a healthy, happy relationship? Yes. Do I think that (if this were the real world, of course) both Logan and Veronica would be better off in relationships with people who don't judge each other as much and are more compatible? Sure. When Logan saw Veronica kissing Piz did I feel horrible for both Logan and Veronica and want them to get back together immediately? Of course.

Still waiting for word on whether the show continues into next season and, if so, who will join Kristen Bell as a member of the cast.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Band

This short Salon interview with Robbie Robertson reminds me that the Martin Scorsese-directed The Last Waltz is one of the best documentaries I've ever seen. It's a film of the Band's last concert and features interviews with band members interspersed with a bunch of performances by musical guests, including Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Joni Mitchell, the alarmingly dressed Van Morrison, the Staples Singers, and Neil Diamond (!). Seriously, if you haven't seen it, I highly recommend that you add it to your NetFlix queue. I saw it with a friend when it was rereleased in theaters a few years ago and we were both sort of skeptical, but thought "What the heck?". We could not stop raving about it.

Both the Salon interview and the movie leave the unmistakable impression that Robbie Robertson is sort of an ass.

On the subject of documentaries, I also recommend: Standing in the Shadows of Motown, about the Funk Brothers, who were the backing band for a lot of the Motown singles of the 1960s and early 1970s; and When We Were Kings, about the 1974 fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, better know as "The Rumble in the Jungle." Probably everyone has seen that one by now, right?

Reality TV Notes

The Amazing Race

Not much to say about this week's Amazing Race, except that it was sad to see Danny and Oswald go, although they do seem to have been suffering from killer fatigue and they ran two pretty bad legs in a row.

What I'm more concerned about is next week:

First, I will be really upset if Charla and Mirna win. I can't stand them, and it worries me that the producers seem to be setting them up as the good guys. I don't really like Eric and Danielle either, but it's pretty impressive that they've been able to come back from all of those flight problems (that weren't really their fault) and being Yielded twice and marked for elimination once.

Second, I can't imagine the Beauty Queens fighting! What are they going to fight about?

Third, according to Televisionary, the show hasn't been picked up for another season yet. Oh no! It just cannot end with Charla and Mirna winning.

American Idol

I don't think anyone commented on last week's American Idol Gives Back, but I found it disturbingly exploitive. I know it was for a good cause, but the barely disguised glee with which they came across telegenic Africans who were suffering was, um, off-putting.

Anyway, last night's Bon Jovi night was back to the pop culture fluff that we know and love. I was disappointed that no one sang "Runaway" -- clearly one of the top two Bon Jovi songs of all time. My love for Blake continues to grow. And for Melinda; she really needs to dress in jeans every week -- no more matronly dresses please. I hope that Phil and LaKisha go home tonight, but I'm worried for my boy Chris.

Mystery Solved

My walk to work takes me past the corner of 17th and Rhode Island, and yesterday the 1700 block of Rhode Island was blocked. There were presidential levels of guys in suits with earpieces, but way more than presidential numbers of limousines. Like, seriously, I've never seen that many limos in one place. (Also, none of those creepy guys with machine guns or the armored ambulance that comprise the presidential motorcade.)

I was puzzled over what it could have been until I opened this morning's paper and learned that it was Jack Valenti's funeral at St. Matthew's cathedral. To think, I missed my chance to see Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, but I guess celebrity stalking at a funeral is pretty gauche.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Veronica Mars is back tonight!

Just Like Honey

So, I was a little confused (and envious) when I opened the NYT today and found out that Scarlett Johansson got to sing with the Jesus and Mary Chain at Coachella this weekend. My main question being: what the heck is she wearing?

A review of the video reveals that (1) she is wearing shorts underneath that thing and (2) she's not a very good singer. I have renewed doubts about the wisdom of her Tom Waits cover album.


Wow. Last night's Heroes was action-packed and awesome. Two observations/questions:

1. Why can't future Hiro just go back to before Sylar had any powers (or at least before he was virtually indestructible) and kill him? Something about the space-time continuum no doubt.

2. Did anyone else find it disturbing how much hotter bad-ass future Peter is than wimpy current Peter?