Pop Culture Junkette

Addicted to pop culture.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

It's been so long...an Amazing Race post!

I can't believe I haven't posted about the Amazing Race this entire season. My only excuse is that I have been busy. Sorry (and spoilers ahead).

I have been enjoying this season, although it lacks some of the big personalities of years past. Even the couple everyone hates, Jen and Nate (at least, I assume they are the couple everyone hates) isn't quite as hate-worthy as some couples past (Jonathan and Victoria, anyone?). Of course, that's not to say they aren't annoying. Jen seems incredibly jealous whenever Nate mentions other women, which is understandable considering we know he cheated on her. Regardless, at some point they are going to have to get past the cheating and she is going to need to be more trusting. I wonder how long ago the cheating happened. They really aren't very nice to each other, and I wonder whether they even like each other at all anymore, or if they are just in their relationship out of habit.

I am a big fan of TK and Rachel, mainly because they are so nice to each other. When Rachel messed up, forgetting to take the clue with her, it was obvious T.K. was frustrated. But he didn't scream at her or call her names. They put their annoyance aside and moved on with the race. What a concept! I'm definitely pushing for them as the ultimate victors.

As for our other pairs, I'm not the biggest fan of Nick and Don. Don just annoys me and can you believe that Nick is actually two years older than T.K.? He looks like he's 16! As for Christina and Ron (who sounds exactly like Mr. Wasanasan from King of the Hill), I doubt my opinion that Ron treats his daughter poorly and she seems like a nice person who has been putting up with his behavior for years is a novel one.

Which leaves us with the now-departed Kynt and Vyxsin. First off, I wonder if they have something against vowels. Or maybe a particular affinity to the letter y? Is this a goth thing about which I am unaware? Is the only reason the female half of the team doesn't spell her name "Vyxsyn" is the fact that with an i she can have the word "sin" in her name? And am I the only one out there who doesn't believe they are an actual romantic couple? I know many have questioned Kynt's sexuality, but I wouldn't be surprised if he were straight. Rather, they just don't seem like they are anything but platonic friends to me. I don't think we ever saw them kiss and even when they hugged it was usually a squeeze around the shoulders. It could just be that they aren't into PDA (I'm with them on that), but they really seemed to lack chemistry.

Unfortunately, they also lacked brains in the last leg of the race. I like the new speedbump addition to the race--it seems to be the best punishment for coming in last in a non-elimination leg that they have come up with. It gives the team a bit more control of their own destiny than the 30 minute time charge if you don't come in first, and taking their clothes and money always seemed pretty ineffective. And Kynt and Vyxsin managed to complete their speedbump quickly and even got ahead of Nate and Jen after the speedbump, beating them to the yield.

Which is where the stupidity came in. When Kynt and Vyxsin caught up to Nate and Jen after completing their speedbump they were shocked that they weren't way behind all of the other teams. So when they got to the yield they chose to yield...Don and Nick? Huh? I just don't understand why they thought Don and Nick were behind them. And even if they thought there was a chance that was the case, they acknowledged that they didn't know for certain. So why not yield the team they knew was trailing them?

Of course, Nate and Jen ended up passing them and Kynt and Vyxsin came in last. They were a good team and rarely got annoyed with each other. I thought Kynt leaned on Vyxsin a bit much, but the dynamic worked for them and they didn't seem dysfunctional. But they made a really dumb mistake, and so they deserved to go home.

I can't believe the season has gone by so quickly. Phil mentioned there were two non-elimination legs this race, so I am guessing the next one comes next week. We'll see!

Labels: ,

Friday, December 28, 2007

Another celebrity breakup

Robin Wright and Sean Penn.

They have really been together a long time. Almost 20 years.


Monday, December 24, 2007

Tell Me You Love Me

This gets my vote for favorite TV show of the year.

So . . . . I'm back. Did anyone miss me? I didn't think so.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

100 Greatest Songs of the '90s

I have been working a lot lately, and one way I am making it slightly bearable is by leaving the office at night and working from home into the late night. Working from home has some real advantages, with the most obvious being that you can wear your pajamas and you can have the television on in the background.

What is difficult is finding the right show to watch. It can't be something that requires too much attention, otherwise work won't get done. So last night I was thrilled to flip the channels and find VH1's "100 Greatest Songs of the '90s." It's almost the ideal work-from-home show because it features music that makes you happy (or at least it makes me happy, most probably because it reminds me of my otherwise long-forgotten youth), but because the music is so familiar you don't have to pay any real attention to what's going on (and who wants to listen to the talking heads anyway?).

I didn't think there was any question about which song would be number 1, and I was right: "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was the Obvious Choice. I love the song, but even 13 years after Cobain's death (I actually had to stop typing for a few minutes after I did that math--it does not seem that long ago; perhaps more disturbing than the time that has passed is that I am beginning to say things like "it does not seem that long ago," which used to be the type of thing my mom said) I still have mixed feelings when I hear it. I'm taken back to my 16 year old self, so sad over Cobain's death and blaming his fame, and therefore the song, for his fate.

But there were also moments of joy during "100 Greatest Songs of the '90s." Like when I realized song number 14 was "Vision of Love." I honestly cannot remember the last time I heard that song. And you know what? It's pretty great! Actually, vintage Mariah is one of my guilty pleasures. A few months ago I was in CVS when "Without You" came on their music/speaker system thing, and then was interrupted (right at the really emotional "can't leeeeeeeeeeeeiiiiiiiiive," part), prompting me to stand in line, impatiently muttering "shut up, shut up, shut up, put Mariah back on."

Or when they played song number seven came on: "Hit Me Baby One More Time," because it allowed me to feel vindicated yet again. She was always so trashy! Really, the pigtails and white button-down tied just beneath her chest and the above-the-knee socks...there are people out there who are surprised that she doesn't have a quiet, normal life?

And then, song number 3. I wasn't expecting this one to make it so high on the list, but it is a classic. Yes, that's right: "I Want It That Way." How can one resist bopping around when this song comes on? I got so into watching the 45 second clip on VH1 that when the "don't wanna hear you say" part came on I actually shouted the words out loud. And my fist may have been pumped in the air. At 1:30 a.m. In my living room. While I'm supposed to be working.

So if I'm fist-pumping and rewinding to watch Mariah a second time and so inspired that I had to blog, I guess that means I am not getting as much work done as originally anticipated. But really, completely worth it.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Not About the Capital of Alaska

Mrs. Bartender and I saw Juno last night, and I hate to use the word delightful, but it works here. It is an excellent film without any pretensions that is extremely funny and still touching. If I am making it sound like a chick flick, it's not. The cast is outstanding--Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jason Bateman (yes, both Michael Bluth and George-Michael are in the film but not in any scenes together), Jennifer Garner, J.K. Simmons, and Alison Janney all deserve a lot of praise. I have seen the film compared to Knocked Up, but that is not fair. Although both are about single women who get pregnant after a single sexual encounter, this is the much more mature film (even if the pregnant female in it is 16). Its humor is in a much different vein than the Apatow flick, and it is much more real. I highly recommend it.

I also note that a number of interesting films have come out of late. (No surprise as it is the holiday season.) I hope to see at lesat two in the next week, but we will see. I assure you that Walk Hard will be one of them, but I also want to see some of the (somewhat) more serious fare, e.g., Charlie Wilson's War, Sweeney Todd, The Savages, and American Gangster. (Already saw the outstanding No Country for Old Men.)

And happy holidays to all. See you in 2008 although I may make a cameo over the next 10 days.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I Still Think I Should Have Won Again This Year

As you may recall, last year Time magazine named "you" the person of the year. Many of us were quite annoyed by this development. This year, Time has decided to go back to news and has named Vladimir Putin this year's "winner." As the magazine makes clear, this is not an endorsement of the man, but instead a recognition of his influence on Russia and the world.

Of course, some who are running for president are very upset that General Petraeus did not win and are declaring that "the mainstream media I think has just shown its hand." Yes, Governor Romney, the editors of Time are enthralled with President Putin and want a president who imprisons and tortures people and does not support free speech or dissent. Heck, I guess they only picked Putin over Bush because the former is more efficient at it. Next week, Time endorses Giuliani.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Why am I surprised?

It looks like Jamie Lynn Spears is pregnant. Yes, 16 year old Jamie Lynn Spears, sister of Britney.

So I have to admit I was really shocked to read this. And immediately thought it was fake. But then I looked at Nickelodean's website and they are saying ""We respect Jamie Lynn's decision to take responsibility in this sensitive and personal situation. We know this is a very difficult time for her and her family, and our primary concern right now is for Jamie Lynn's well being." Which really sounds to me like she's pregnant.

My second thought was "I totally shouldn't be surprised. Look at Britney. They have horrible parents."

But then I started feeling kind of hypocritcal. I mean, there are lots of kids who are sexually active at the age of 16. It doesn't mean they are trashy or immoral or stupid or bad in some way. I don't judge them. And oftentimes the only thing that separates the pregnant ones from the non-pregnant ones is luck (birth control isn't 100% effective, as the abstinence proponents like to tell us) or the willingness to have an abortion. How is it fair to judge Jamie Lynn and her family because she is going to be a teenage mom?

But then I went to Perez Hilton, and he is reporting that Jamie Lynn and her boyfriend have been living together. Remember, she's 16. So now I'm definitely back to judging her parents.

Labels: ,

Monday, December 17, 2007

Dumb Coach, Smart Player, and A Little Probability Theory

In the span of about 3 hours yesterday afternoon, I saw one individual, a head coach, do something that ensured that his team was more likely to lose and another individual, a running back, do something that gave up a small amount of glory in return for a guaranteed victory.

First, the coach. And, yes, I mean you Ravens head coach Brian Billick. The situation, the 0-13 Dolphins lead the Ravens by 3 in the final seconds. The Ravens have a fourth down, 18 inches from the end zone. If they elect for the FG, they have less than a 50% of winning. Why? Well, the odds of winning in OT are 50/50 (or probably 49/49 with about a 2% chance of a tie) and there is also the slight risk that the FG is missed (say 1%). So a team that attempts the FG will win slightly less than half the time. What are the odds, however, of scoring from a yard and a half out. I guarantee you that they are better than 50/50. Of course, what does Billick do? Kick the FG and, thank you statistical gods, lose in OT. He took the "safe" approach which is actually more high risk. But at least the Ravens are 4-9.

Contrast that with Brian Westbrook. With the Eagles ahead 10-6 against the Cowboys, Dallas out of time outs, and about 2:20 left in the game, Westbrook breaks free from the Dallas 25 and is about to score a TD to put the Eagles up 17-6. But instead, Westbrook falls at the 1 yard line, enabling the Eagles to simply take three knees to end the game. By stopping at the 1, Westbrook ensured the Eagles would win. (Unless they decided to run a play, and I was at the Joe Pisarcik game.) If he scored, however, Dallas would have had a chance, albeit a slim one to come back with a TD, two point conversion, onside kick, and FG to tie. Sure, the odds would have been long, but I'll take a 100% chance of victory over 99.8% any day of the week. I have commented on this situation for years, and once, in a college game, I saw a team lose because they scored a TD that they didn't need. So my heroes of the weekend: Brian Westbrook and Jon Runyon, the Eagles tackle who told him what he should do if he broke into the clear. And I am pleased that the press ultimately realized how smart a move it was although many were at first confused.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

More Random Musings

The question was raised if we were observing the writers' strike. While that would be a good excuse for the paucity of posts, sadly it is just a combination of work and laziness of late. (My brother, should I call him Ishmael?, is, however on strike and none too happy about it.) So, once again, here are some random thoughts from your bartender.

1. Saw the excellent No Country for Old Men. So much has been written about it that I don't have a lot to add. Quite simply, the Coen brothers' cinematography was stunning, the acting impeccable, the film was literary in its ambitions (no shock), and it succeeded. We can discuss the last 20 or so minutes, but that we won't resolve anything is actually a plus.

2. Last week's 30 Rock was comic gold. The episode the week before was slightly off, but the number of lines that absolutely killed this week could not be counted. I'm telling you for the 10th time, if you're not watching 30 Rock and The Office, something is seriously wrong with you. (Of course, with the The Office on hiatus pending the end of the strike and 30 Rock about to be . . . .)

3. Speaking of unwatched comedy genius, more positive rumblings are out there about an Arrested Development movie (once the damned strike is over). Mitchell Hurwitz (the creator) and Jason Bateman released a joint statement last week saying as much. Please pray to the Bluths that this be so.

4. Send your thoughts to Alex Trebek who suffered a mild heart attack. As a former Jeopardy! contestant, I have to send my best to the host (even if he was a big weeny during the post-show conversation immortalized during the end credits).

5. As the political season is upon us with actual voting in a few weeks, some thoughts.

The GOP is a complete mess. I have said for months that McCain remains viable (and probably the only sane candidate on the Republican side), and I stick to that. If Huckabee wins Iowa (which is likely), McCain has a shot at beating a wounded Romney in NH. If he does, he will be the nominee; if he doesn't, he is toast.

Huckabee is Bush 2.0. He is a more affable version of our president (as, I believe, Andrew Sullivan said, proof that all far right conservatives are not a-holes), and his vision of compassionate conservatism--really conservative social policies with massive government spending--is what Bush has done for almost 7 years (plus a war!), but Huckabee is just more upfront about it.

Thompson never really got started and is toast; Guiliani was always too liberal to be nominated, and his national poll numbers are finally crashing; Romney is hated by his competitors although he remains the most likely to be the nominee. The question is could Huckabee be a la Carter in '76. The scenario in which this could happen is if he wins Iowa (likely, as I said) and McCain decides he can't win and just wants to crush Romney, whom he hates. If that happens, Huckabee can win in the south, and he certainly appeals to the GOP primary electorate (if not to the GOP elites). And he would get crushed in November.

The Democratic side is also getting interesting. The latest poll has, surprisingly, Edwards doing best against the leading GOP contenders, which I explain is simply due to people seeing less of him of late than Hillary or Obama. Perhaps it is something I just don't like about Edwards, but I don't see him the nominee, and in fact, unless things rapidly change, and he wins Iowa (where he has essentially lived since '04), he is done. As for Hillary, she has lost some of her discipline of late (ever since the Philly debate). I thought her answer on drivers licenses for illegals, the question that began her slippage, was quite weak, but if you watched most of that debate, she was by far the best performer (as she has been in virtually every debate). I don't get why she has started to make some unforced error. (That her husband has as well is not as shocking as he has always had the problem of talking too much.)

There is a part of me that really likes Obama, but he is surprisingly dull in debates, and I am not convinced he is ready to go toe-to-toe in November or whether he yet has the experience--this is not paid for by the Clinton campaign--to be president.

As for what will happen, if Hillary wins Iowa (unlikely, and it was always somewhat unlikely), there will be absolutely no suspense. If she loses in Iowa, but wins NH, she will likewise cruise to the nomination. Should Obama (or somehow Edwards) win both, they will be almost impossible to beat. So lots of fun is ahead.

6. The best line I heard about Sunday's Pats/Jets game is that they have installed an NBA scoreboard in Foxboro. I don't think this will be pretty although I doubt any of the Jets will be making guarantees of victory.

7. I just finished Neal Gabler's excellent biography of Walt Disney. It is amazing, when one actually thinks about it, of how much of our culture is due to Disney that we take for granted. When I was little, my grandmother took me to Radio City to see Snow White and Pinnochio, the first two Disney features, and the Disney version of these stories have become so ingrained in our conscience that they have superseded any other version of them. Realizing that Disney pioneered the talking cartoon (Steamboat Willie), the color cartoon, and the feature length cartoon (Snow White), it is no wonder that the studio thrived (although not until Disneyland opened in 1955 did it really thrive and went through numerous lean years in the 1930s (pre-Snow White and 1940s). He also revolutionized the theme park.

Not surprisingly, he was a strange and flawed man, and while some of what he has done to our culture has rightly been criticized, he was a revolutionary, and the book presents a balanced account of the man and what he wrought. In the end the book is pretty favorable to Walt, and I was surprised to learn that his daughter was furious about it (although I think much of the Disney Corporation liked it).

Sorry for the ADD nature of today's post, but it's better than nothing (I hope).

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Thoughts on the finale of Heroes: Chapter 2

After watching Heroes last night, I have some thoughts. In no particular order (and definitely spoilers ahead):

* Wasn't the fate of Adam just a bit too much like the fate of Sloane on Alias? Surely the two shows have a lot of overlapping viewers. It seemed a bit too unoriginal considering Sloane was buried alive (and was fated to live forever) only a year and a half ago.

* Did you know that David Anders is only 24 years old? I learned this from reading People's Sexiest Man Alive issue. (Some might argue that's a crown Anders deserves to wear.) He definitely looks a lot older. Not that it makes him any less attractive. Additionally, he's from Oregon. Bailey told me that, and People confirmed.

* This entire season I have thought that actress who plays Maya, Dania Ramirez, might be the worst actress on television. All the whining and panic was very one-note. Then I did a search for her on IMDB and realized she played AJ's girlfriend Blanca on The Sopranos. I hadn't even realized it was the same actress. She was far better in The Sopranos.

* Speaking of Maya, what a complete waste of Claire's healing blood to use it on her. When Sylar shot her I looked at Gobo and said "he should have done that five episodes ago." Alas, we will have to deal with her more in the next season.

* As a fan of Veronica Mars it pains me to say this, but I am beginning to wonder whether fellow short person and vegetarian Kristen Bell can act. Because of the things we have in common (the aforementioned being short and being vegetarians) I really want to believe she can act. But every role I see her in she plays snarky. Granted, the only roles I have watched her in are Veronica, Elle, and the voice on Gossip Girl. Obviously, the Gossip Girl narrator is supposed to be snarky. And Veronica was supposed to be snarky...at times. Yes, most of the time, but not all of the time. Sometimes I thought her snark was overdone. And now on Heroes it's all snark all of the time as well. I don't think that the role of Elle is written particularly snarkily, but perhaps that's what the directors and writers wanted her to do with it. Regardless, there were moments in last night's episode where she wasn't supposed to be snarky (instead she was supposed to be hurt, lost, vulnerable, immature) and the snark permeated throughout. I haven't come to a decision on this one, but does anyone else feel the same way?

* What power of Peter's allowed him to clench the vial of Shanti virus in his fist and turn it into dust? His electric powers (from Elle)? His radioactive powers (from Ted)? I'm a little confused about that.

* Speaking of Peter's radioactivity, such a big part of the end of last season was about how if Peter (or Ted) got too excited about something, they would turn radioactive. It wasn't something either of them could control, except to calm down. But Peter got worked up during this season and the radioactivity was never an issue. Does this mean once he blew up himself and Nathan the radioactive powers went away? It didn't work that way for Ted. A little confusing.

* I was surprised that Nathan was one of the Heroes who kicked it in the last episode. My money was on Parkman.

* The actors who play Mama Petrelli and Nathan really resemble. It's like they have the same jaw. Great casting on that front.

* It seems like the superpowers the new heroes are getting are less and less exciting: having your eyes turn black and killing everyone around you; being able to copy anything you see. I wonder why we haven't seen anyone who is faster than the speed of light yet. (I guess Nathan is (was) when he was flying, but I'm talking more generally.) Or how about someone who can leap tall builings in a single bound?

* I'm hoping that the writers are able to do a little more with Chapter 3 than they did with Chapter 2. I know Chapter 2 was highly criticized, and rightly so (although the last few episodes were far better than the rest of the season). I liked the idea of learning about the older generation, but instead of delving into that the season became a sorry rehash of Chapter 1, with the heroes trying to save the public from a worldwide plague while evil others worked in the wings against them, trying to exploit their powers. Again, Peter's powers and Hiro's powers were most instrumental in saving the world. And now the teaser for Chapter 3 is that Sylar has his powers back. I really hope Chapter 3 is more than just "Sylar is trying to take everyone's powers, we have to stop him."

Labels: ,

What's the Dance-World Equivalent of "It was a little pitchy dawg"?

Yes, in the dreary days of the writer's strike, we do need another reality dance competition. And here comes American Idol's Randy Jackson to fill the void. Now, if Randy can only get Cat Deeley to emcee while waiting for the best reality dance competition to come back on the air, I am so there.