Pop Culture Junkette

Addicted to pop culture.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Things One Doesn't Forget

According to Scott McClellan's new book, What Happened, President Bush told a political supporter in response to a question of whether Bush had ever tried cocaine, "We had some pretty wild parties back in the day, and I just don't remember." I guess that was some pretty good coke.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Guess who will be attending this year's Spelling Bee?

That's right: me! Thanks to Isaac, I learned that bloggers can get press credentials to attend the Spelling Bee. I'm sure you all fondly remember my running diary of the Bee for the past two years. Now I will be live blogging from the actual event. I already told Gobo to make other plans for Friday night, because I'm not going to be available.

After realizing I could attend the Bee I began to fear that it wouldn't be as exciting without the television commentary, but then I realized that was crazy talk. Of course it will be exciting. I'll be in the middle of the action!

Tune in on Friday!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Indy and Al

Two movie reviews--Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Recount. No surprise: the HBO movie was the superior one.

The latest installment of Indy certainly has some fun moments albeit many are simply invoking nostalgia for the earlier pictures. On the plus side, Harrison Ford is thankfully not too old for the role as it is now written and there are some over the top action scenes that fit in with the over the top nature of the series. For example--SPOILERS--there is a scene that is completely unrealistic involving a refrigerator but that works within the framework of these films. It is absurd but funny and logical within the universe of Indy. In fact, the first third of the movie, in the desert and then at Yale (although it is not called Yale) is somewhat coherent and a pretty good time. I also enjoyed the tribute to the late Denholm Elliott, who played Marcus Brody in the earlier pictures, and the retired but still living Sean Connery.

With the appearance of Mutt (Shia LaBeouf), however, things get way too crazy, and the remainder of the plot makes absolutely no sense. I have no problem suspending disbelief in a movie such as Raiders, but I want the film to at least be logical. Raiders did just that: The Nazis want the Ark, they think it will make them invincible, and when they get it, they do an initial opening of it so they won't have to do it in front of Hitler. Bad idea. Here, nothing makes sense. Why, for example, did one of the 13 alien skeletons lose its head when they merged once the head was replaced? Wouldn't they have merged before the skull was stolen? How are the monkeys able to differentiate between good and bad guys. (I mean monkeys are smart, but come on.) Am I glad I saw it? Sure. But is it a great or even a good movie? Nope.

Recount, however, is both excellent and depressing. Starting with the first rate cast--and it is great to finally see Kevin Spacey in a terrific role and to compare John Hurt in his role in Indy to his role here as Warren Christopher shows his amazing range--and continuing with a fantastic ability to distill the events of 7 1/2 years ago--in which we all know the ending--, the movie still is fascinating. Yes, the movie abridges certain events and omits others, but, in general, it recounts (har har) pretty good history. Of course, it brought back the anger and disgust of what occurred in 2000 depressing me to no end of (1) the inability of Florida (and probably many other states) to have some system in place to address a virtual electoral tie, (2) the incompetence and blatant conflict of interest that is Katherine Harris, and (3) the desire of so many to do whatever it took to ensure that their candidate won regardless of who got more votes. The Gore team certainly took a knife to a gun fight.

Of course, did Gore win by losing and Bush lose by winning? Gore is clearly the leading statesman in the Democratic party today. The two former Democratic Presidents carry a lot of baggage--Carter and his failed presidency and his controversial forays into Middle East policy (although he has his humanitarian work as well) and Clinton is now a partisan for his wife. And as for Bush, well, we all know what happened. Of course, the US is, I would argue, much worse off.

So if you have HBO and have the stomach to relive these events, watch this movie.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Things I Am Excited For

1. Indiana Jones. Reviews are pretty good, and I'm going at 7:30.

2. Watching the Law & Order season finale on my DVR. Yes, it's the Eliot Sptizer episode. How many minutes after the news broke that Spitzer was involved in a prostitution ring did Dick Wolf et al. determine that an episode would be ripped from that headline? Two minutes? One?

3. Going to the Nationals game on Sunday--perfect weather and going with the entire family. Best of all, Isaac, Jr., is most excited about the metro ride to and from the stadium. It's not hard to entertain a 2 year old.

4. The Scripps Howard Spelling Bee next week. We know Red Fraggle is on top of it.

5. The summer is starting!

Have a good long weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

American Idol: The Winner is Revealed

I haven't been the best blogger recently, but I have managed to be pretty consistent about American Idol. So I figure I can do one last live blog for the season. Here we go:

Starting off the night is the Top 12, along with the dancers from So You Think You Can Dance, "Get Ready." There isn't much to say about the song, except that the camera people barely let us see the dancers. What is the point of having them on the screen if we aren't going to watch them? I couldn't even tell if they were the dancers from last season or from the new season (I cannot wait for the season to begin--the summer would be so boring without it). I do have to take some exception with the commercial describing the show as "the original and best dance competition." Did they not watch America's Next Dance Crew? JabbaWockeeZ!

David Archuleta and David Cook. "Hero." I didn't know it would be possible for me to compliment Archuleta, but he and Cook sounded really good together. I would not have guessed that would be the case.

A "funny" bit on the Guru Pitka. I'm not saying that the Mike Myers character wouldn't be funny in a movie or as a bit on SNL, but it just did not work here.

Syesha Mercado and Heidi Klum's husband. I thought they did a good job together. Syesha really loosened up a lot during the season, and now that she isn't competing for anything she seems most at ease.

Jason Cook, with an encore of "Hallelujah." There isn't much to add to what I said the first time about this performance, but now that the season is over it is clear that this is where Jason peaked in the competition.

The Davids (Cook and Archuleta, not Hernandez) are given new Ford Hybrids. Did anyone else notice that the toes of David Cook's boots are really turned up? They are Wicked Witch of the East-worthy.

Donna Summer medley. Amanda is just awful. It is impossible to understand the lyrics through her growl. I am so happy she was eliminated so early so we didn't have to suffer through her for more of the season. She looks like she can't remember her dance moves, doesn't care, and would rather be anywhere else. Excellent!

And a special performance by...Donna Summer. I'm a big fan of Donna and she still sounds pretty good! Her new song wasn't very exciting, but she sounded good on "Last Dance." And if it weren't for "Last Dance," how would we know when a wedding is over? We all owe Donna a debt of gratitude.

Carly Smithson and Michael Johns, "The Letter." Why does the stylist always want to put Carly in black tights? She was wearing black tights earlier with her red dress and now with her black dress (at least it looks more appropriate with the latter). The devotion to the black tights seems a bit odd. Does she have tattoos all over her legs that they are trying to hide? I didn't love this performance from Carly. On the higher notes I felt that she was straining, which is how I felt often during her performances throughout the competition. Michael sounded pretty good (although Carly had to do the heavier lifting with the song).

Jimmy Kimmel did another performance, but the only notable part of it was that Simon was holding a little kitten during an early audition episode. Speaking of kittens, the foster and resident cat have fought three days in a row. Bad times.

The top six guys singing "Summer of '69." CHIKEZE! God, I missed Chikeze. I also love "Summer of '69." I know it's not cool to like Bryan Adams. I know it's not even campy-cool. But I can't help it. "Summer of '69" is a great song. It's all nostalgic, which I'm a complete sucker for. The harmonizing on "Heaven" was pretty bad, though--I couldn't identify the singer who was singing the low part, but he really did an awful job. I'm going to guess David Hernandez, who was really over-performing. Poor David probably feels like he had to make up for his early departure.

David Cook and ZZ Top. David sounded really good. But what was up with Mikayla Gordon's the post-song interview of David Cook's music teacher? It wasn't the teacher that sucked, it was Mikayla, with her screaming and shrieking and inappropriately fancy dress. I thought she had gone away.

Brooke White and Graham Nash, "Teach Your Children." This was such a perfect song and partner for Brooke. Yay Brooke!

Okay, so I am guessing the people who are on stage are the Jonas Brothers, because they are all young and curly haired and cheerful-looking. Oh, and I think I saw Justin Guarini in the audience. I don't know if Gobo has ever hated a pseudo-celebrity more.

Now it is the time where they make fun of people who can't sing, bringing one back for more...hilarity? I can't be the only one who wonders whether some of these people are borderline mentally handicapped, right? It's all very disturbing, with the USC band and cheerleaders and the pathetically bad singing performing so that everyone can point and laugh. Disturbing.

David Archuleta actually doesn't sound bad singing with One Republic. There, I said something good about him. And he didn't sound bad on his earlier duet with David Cook. Perhaps I like him more when he's singing with someone else? Strange.

Jordin Sparks is back and singing a song while wearing an unfortunate gold lame-looking dress. Will Jordin ever learn how to dress?

Old video of Gladys Knight! Singing one of my all-time favorites, "Midnight Train to Georgia." Along with Jack Black, Ben Stiller and...some other guy? Thanks to Ryan, I now realize that was Robert Downey Jr. I had no idea.

Speaking of unfortunate dresses, Carrie Underwood is singing. I get that Carrie has lost a LOT of weight since she was on Idol, but this isn't even a dress. It's a blazer. The fact that she isn't wearing pants underneath it does not elevate it dress status. I actually spent the entire song staring at her crotch to see if she was wearing some kind of hot pants underneath.

I'll interrupt my Carrie crotch-staring with a little Idol trivia. Did you know that two American Idol winners are vegetarians? Yup, Carrie and Ruben. Pull that one out at the next cocktail party you go to and you're sure to impress.

The top 12, one last time. Hopefully this means a few more shots of Amanda looking absolutely miserable. Oh, a George Michael medley! I don't think I need to share my feelings on George Michael yet again. There is a bit of irony in the top 12, who will be the property of the Idol enterprise for the entire summer tour, singing "Freedom."

George Michael! George Michael! George Micheal! Singing "Praying for Time." George's facial expressions are a little...odd. I wish he had sung the song a little straighter (no pun intended, really), without some of the embellishments. But it is his song, after all. It's just such a beautiful song on its own that it really doesn't need help. This version sounds a little like what Archuleta might have done with it had he thought to sing it during the performance. But he's still George Michael and he still sounded pretty good. A little odd how George brought up his cold (was he embarrassed of his performance?) and Ryan's little laugh dismissing him--did Ryan even hear or understand what George had said? And does Ryan have to call him "GM?"

It appears all of the Idol contestants' individual performances are over. Davids Cook and Archuleta, Syesha, Jason, Brooke, Carly and Michael all got to do solo songs or, in the case of Carly and Michael, a duet. Do you think Kristy, who was eliminated after Michael, was annoyed that she didn't get a featured role?

And now, for the reveal...well first, the judges speak. And Simon surprisingly apologizes to David Cook for being borderline disrespectful last night. Wow. And the winner is [spoiler spoiler spoiler]

David Cook. And then my DVR went out. At the very second that Ryan said "Cook." I just spent about a half hour looking for the final clip on youtube, and finally found it (it is scary to remember what life was like before DVRs and youtube). I'm really happy that Cook won, and I'm happy that he seemed so happy. He genuinely comes across as a really nice guy. When he put his arm around David Archuleta during his performance I really felt that he was being big brotherly toward him and that it wasn't all a big act. The AI victory song was, of course, pretty crappy, although it didn't sound as bad as it usually does. I credit that to David singing it, since the lyrics mentioned rainbows, a beating heart, and this being the time of his life.

So tonight we had Donna Summer, Chikeze, Gladys Knight, Amanda looking absolutely miserable, George Michael and David Cook winning. An all-around great night!


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

American Idol: Finale

It's American Idol finale night, and it appears the producers have decided to go with a Rocky-knockout theme. Trust me, it's dumb.

David Cook. "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." I thought David did a nice job with the song, but (sorry David) he was no Bono. And it lacked some of the passion that the song needs. But still a nice job.

David Archuleta. "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me." What a shock. Archuleta sings a ballad. Although this is a ballad that I really like--Elton John AND George Michael have sung it. Speaking of George Michael, I recently purchased his album 25 and I thought it was an interesting mix of great songs (the hits we know and love) and a lot of crap. I had expected to hear a lot of unknown gems, but not. Back to David, ugh. WHY must he add the unnecessary embellishments to these songs? It's tacky and cheesy all at once. I am so, so sick of him. And I'm so sick of Randy Jackson fawning over him.

David Cook. Rock song written for AI. I thought he sounded good, although the song sounded pretty stupid.

David Archuleta. Cheesy ballad written for AI. Does David have an anchor on the front of his blazer? He does. How odd. This song is really boring. Oh, wow. David also has an anchor on the back of his blazer. The blazer is definitely the most interesting thing about that performance.

David Cook. "The World I Know." I have never been a huge fan of this song either, but I liked David's version better than the original. Not that that really says much. But...why is David almost crying? Don't cry David! No!

David Archuleta. "Imagine." Gross. He's going to slaughter it a second time? This actually makes me want to vomit. How is what he is doing to this song, with the embellishments and runs a good thing? It is completely contrary to the entire idea of the song. Gobo just told one of the cats to cover her ears so she didn't have to subject herself to this.

Overall: obviously no one who reads this blog needs me to state who I think deserves to win. Archuleta saved his most gag-worthy performance until the very end. It was absolutely atrocious and is a perfect indication of how little he understands the songs he sings. As for David Cook, Simon was wrong when he told him he should have sung "Hello" or "Billie Jean" again. What made those songs so great, in large part, was that they were so surprising. What he should have done was sing at least one non-rock song that is known and loved in a rock style. That is what made people like him so much to begin with, and he has gotten away from that in the last few weeks. But he is by far the better contestant here. Obviously the judges have cast their vote for the puppet Archuleta, and so he will win. It's interesting that Paula was the only judge who didn't tell Archuleta he was the obvious winner. I haven't understood Simon's lack of criticism of Archuleta throughout this entire competition, and tonight was no different. Regardless, the producers, Clive Davis and company will get exactly what they deserve--an American Idol who will make a mediocre album for a market that doesn't exist.

On a happier note, I thought Ruben sounded good--better than the recording of the song they play at the end of every elimination episode. Go Ruben!



Wow, a lot happened on last night's season finales.

***Spoiler Alert***

On Bones, Zack turned out to be Gormagon's apprentice! What the heck? Where did that even come from? I'm pretty happy that it wasn't Sweets, but I have big (somewhat embarrassing crush) on John Francis Daley. Yes, the main geek from Freaks and Geeks.

The resolution of the Booth getting shot plot line was ridiculous. Putting aside the whole faked death thing, how was he even up and around within two weeks of getting shot in the chest? And why would he have been undercover at his own funeral? Is the FBI that short on agents?

The obvious question about the finale of How I Met Your Mother is whether Stella is the mother, given that Ted has now proposed to her and all of the hints about the umbrella and all of that. But even more exciting is that Barney is back and apparently in love with Robin. That should make next season pretty interesting.

Finally, House. Oy, that was sad. Poor Amber, poor Wilson, poor Thirteen, and most of all poor House. He has apparently finally crossed a line that he can't uncross with Wilson, and it's poignant that his infraction (calling Wilson for a ride when he was too drunk to drive) was pretty minor. Again, resolving that relationship should make next season pretty interesting.

It's also interesting that they have kept the old Cottages and the new Cottages too. I would have bet that the first few episodes of this season would have involved them finding their way back to the fold, but with the exception of Foreman, that hasn't happened. Can the show really find enough for all six of them to do? I love Kal Penn and I'm happy to see him on my tv every week (he's a big Obama supporter, by the way), but I don't think any of the new ones add much as characters.

I haven't watched Gossip Girl yet. I sort of love how fast-moving it is -- with major plot lines getting raised and resolved within a few episodes. That could get kind of old though.


1. What is up with Bill Simmons, aka The Sports Guy? His columns on espn.com are must read, but as of late, there are very few of them. I was sure we would get one yesterday after the Celtics Game 7 win and Paul Pierce's tour de force, but nothing. Is he getting too big to post as much as he used to? Come back, Bill!

Update: Moments after I posted this, Bill's column on the Celts appeared. However, it is his column for ESPN: The Magazine (I think I'm going to buy Isaac, Jr., ESPN: The Lunchbox) and not something written for the website.

2. Why does the NHL not (somewhat) follow the NBA's lead and adjust its schedule based upon how soon teams win. The Pens won the East on Sunday and the Red Wings last night. The Stanley Cup Finals, however, does not begin until Saturday. I understand wanting to give teams a little time to rest (and wish the NBA did not give some only 1 day off after a victory), but the Finals should start on Thursday. With such an exciting matchup--one of the best young players in the game vs. one of the marquee franchises, why let the excitement (such as it is) dissipate. Let's drop the puck!

3. Congrats to Jon Lester on his no-hitter last night. As much as I hate the Red Sox, you have to be excited for this kid who was diagnosed with lymphoma less than a year and a half ago. Now if the Sox lose all the rest of their games this year, I would be happy.

4. Mrs. Bartender and I went to see Iron-Man on Friday night, and it is a hoot. The plot, to the extent there is one, is pretty simple, but the acting, most notably Robert Downey, is fantastic and the movie is just a lot of fun. The big criticism: the constant and loud music made it hard at times to hear the dialogue (although I don't think I missed anything). Maybe I've just gotten old. Be aware that there is a final (short) scene after the credits with a special guest star. Don't expect too much of the scene, but it is a nice final touch to a very good summer action movie.

5. And continuing the movie theme, this Friday we are off to see the latest incarnation of Indiana Jones. I saw the third film on the day of my senior prom; boy time flies because that feels like yesterday. On Sunday night, the Mrs. and I watched Raiders to get in the mood, and talk about a great summer movie; it is, perhaps, the best. One unexpected surprise--Alfred Molina as Indy's local guide in the opening sequence. It is Molina's film debut, but I had no idea he was in this classic.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Department of Really Poorly Chosen Metaphors

From today's New York Times:

Cynthia Ruccia, 55, a sales director for Mary Kay cosmetics in Columbus, Ohio, is organizing a group, Clinton Supporters Count Too, of mostly women in swing states who plan to campaign against Mr. Obama in November. "We, the most loyal constituency, are being told to sit down, shut up and get to the back of the bus," she said.

Can someone please point out to Ms. Ruccia that Senator Clinton's opponent is an African-American? Question for Ms. Ruccia, "Was Rosa Parks ordered to go to the back of the bus because she was (a) a woman or (b) black?" Were women ever required to sit in the back of the bus? (Were they? I'm asking.) Yeah, Hillary is being denied the nomination because of her gender; it has nothing to do with her having fewer delegates or votes.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Something I Thought I'd Never Read in the Times

From Saturday's New York Times:

HBO has lined up another big Hollywood name for a new project. Alexander Payne, the director and Oscar-winning co-writer of “Sideways,” will direct and serve as an executive producer of “Hung,” a new dark comedy series about a former basketball coach with a large penis.

Is Dirk Diggler available to star?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

American Idol: Final Three

Sorry I haven't posted on American Idol the last few weeks. I have had to watch the episodes on Wednesday instead of Tuesday, and didn't get around to blogging. But I'm back for the final three (and still missing Brooke).

David Archuleta. "And So It Goes." This was boring and not very good. The changes he made to the song didn't make it better or more interesting. And how many ballads can we possibly hear him sing? Who is going to buy David Archuleta's Album of Ballads?

Syesha Mercado. "If I Ain't Got You." Eh. It was okay.

David Cook. "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." What a crazy choice from Simon. David is definitely, by far, the best contestant on the show. I thought he did a great job with the song and I would actually buy his album.

David Archuleta. "My Boo." So he actually chose a non-ballad, and it wasn't very good. He just can't move on stage and I didn't think his voice sounded good.

Syesha Mercado. "Fever." Again, it was okay. Her voice sounded good, and I liked that she sang it in a restrained way, rather than doing it over-the-top. The judges seem surprised that she chose it, but I'm not--it's a Broadway-type song and that's who she really wants to be.

David Cook. "Dare You to Move." I have never really liked this song, and although I think that David sounded good singing it, he has been so much better on so many different songs.

David Archuleta. "Longer." Oh, a ballad! There really isn't anything more I can say about Archuleta. His songs are all the same. Generally good voice, often flat in places, earnest expression despite not understanding the songs he is singing, added embellishments that make the songs worse. I am so, so sick of him.

Syesha Mercado. "Hit Me Up." I feel like Syesha had a generally fine night, but it didn't really excite me. I know I sound like Randy, and I apologize.

David Cook. "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing." What a disappointing song choice from the producers. I think David did as good a job as he could with it, but that song just blows. Simon calling this "one of the great songs of all-time" really shocks me.

The best performance of the night was David Cook's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." I know there is no way that Syesha doesn't go home tomorrow, but...couldn't Archuleta go home? Please?


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Two More Random Political Observations

1. On MSNBC this morning, Pat Buchanan was talking about how Obama can now go to WV and try to make inroads with white working class voters. "Man of the people" Buchanan commented on how he needs to go to towns like White Sulphur Springs. It was interesting that this was the only WV town Pat mentioned, considering that it is the home of the very high end Greenrbrier resort. I'm sure it's a regular hang out of the Reagan Democrats and that Pat has only gone there as his base to speak with the little people.

2. From today's NY Times, Page 1: "In winning North Carolina . . ., Mr. Obama . . . recorded his first primary victory in nearly two months." Wow, he was really slumping. Until you realize that between his last primary win (in Mississippi) and yesterday, there had been exactly one primary, in Pennsylvania. You know, since winning the Super Bowl, the Giants have yet to win a game.


Does Obama Want Clinton to Stay in the Race for 2 More Weeks?

I think he does. Why? Because he is very unlikely to win or come close in WV or KY against her, and it would look really bad to lose after she had dropped out. (And if he loses these states by under 20 points, that is exceeding expections.) That being said, he wants her to run a pseudo-campaign--just accentuate her and the party's positives and how important it is for a Democrat to regain the White House. In that scenario, she can step back gracefully either after he clinches the majority of pledged delegates on May 20 or, at worst, after the final votes on June 3. But for all intents and purposes, this puppy is over.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Tonight on Letterman

Obama is doing the Top 10. Here, via Marc Ambinder, are the top ten surprising facts about Barack Obama:

10. My first act as President will be to stop the fighting between Lauren and Heidi on the Hills.

9. In the Illinois primary, I accidentally voted for Kucinich.

8. When I tell my kids to clean their room I finish with, "I'm Barack Obama and I approved this Message."

7. Throughout High School I was consistently voted "Barackiest"

6. Earlier today, I bowled a 39

5. I have canceled all my appearances the day the Sex and the City movie opens.

4. It's the birthplace of Fred Astaire (sorry that's a surprising fact about Omaha)

3. We are tirelessly working to get the endorsement of Kentucky Derby favorite, Colonel John

2. This has nothing to do with the Top Ten, but what the heck is up with Paula Abdul.

1. I have not slept since October.

I note that Letterman is from Indiana. Coincidence? I think not.