Sunday, December 31, 2006
- The sound of Christina Aguilera saying the word "Candyman." It means I'm destined to spend the next 30 seconds with my head in the oven.
- People who complain about their favorite show "jumping the shark" and demanding that it be canceled immediately. With their can't-do, Chicken-Little attitudes, I pray that none of these people is ever given "pull the plug" power over a loved one. (They also seem to forget that if the show is canceled, odds are it will be replaced by a really bad show.)
- News anchors who use the slang of those they cover in order to seem cooler. For instance, firefighters are allowed to call each other "smoke eaters"... Anchormen should just say "firefighter."
- Networks that cancel shows too quickly. In 1982 NBC introduced four ratings turkeys: Cheers, St. Elsewhere, Remington Steele and Family Ties. How lucky for them and us that those shows were given time to breathe. I challenge you to go back and watch the first seasons of The Mary Tyler Moore Show or Cheers or The Simpsons or Newhart or The Bob Newhart Show or The Dick Van Dyke Show or Green Acres or Get Smart or Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie or Larry Sanders or yes, even, Saturday Night Live and see if you can recognize them as the (arguably better) shows they later became.
(And a special scream for networks that cancel serialized shows without resolving them.)
- Pundits who say that this was the year "the voters spoke" and "made their voices heard about Iraq." The response to the voters' voices? We're "surging" in Iraq, sending more troops in for at least the next 12-24 months. Something supported by less than 15% of Americans. I wish someone would bring democracy to us.
- People who say that the problem with Studio 60 is either that it's set backstage at a TV show -- and who cares about that? -- or that it's too smug and sanctimonious. They forget that The Mary Tyler Moore Show was also set backstage at a TV show, and that the smuggest sanctimony in TV history never seemed to hurt M*A*S*H*.
- Cable channels that punish viewers for watching them by running the same promos over and over and over within the same show. Sci-Fi, USA, A&E, Bravo, G4, etc, all seem to hate their audiences with a passion. (And no one who watches even an hour of UHD can look at another Monk promo without weeping.)
- The way botox and plastic surgery are turning people's faces into death masks.
- Instant foods or detergents whose directions tell you to fill the package to "just below the line." Why not just move the fucking line? Is the line's location somehow sacred? What was it, placed there centuries ago by the Incas?
- Any local news promo that asks a question. "Is the star of one of TV's top shows calling it quits?" "Is your ________ actually making you sick?" "The investigation: Was ____________'s death not an accident?" You don't need to watch. The answer to these questions is always no.
- When Tim Russert is reading a quote, and we get to the third screen of text. You know what, Tim? Just email us the whole article on Saturday, and then we'll all be up to speed on Sunday.
- That every set of comments on Digg, no matter what the topic, devolves into either "red state vs. blue state" or "Macs vs. PC's." Sometimes, bafflingly, both.
- That the TV pundits who go on and on about what a strong candidate Hillary Clinton would be are all right-wing pundits. Apparently she's locked up the briar patch vote.
- That Barbara Walters is still lecturing us as if she were on "the high road."
- That Star Jones is still working.
- That Elisabeth Hasselbeck still draws breath.
- That Japan might be militarizing and developing nuclear weapons, and no one seems to be talking about it.
- That Howard Kurtz of Reliable Sources seems to sing every sentence to the same demented tune. As if every sentence were a question he was both asking and answering: "Morley Safer, Bob Schieffer and Byron Pitts? On Ed Bradley". "Dan Rather on why he believes Fox News? Is spouting the party line." "How to sell? A shrinking newspaper." (Howie, find another cadence? To use when you read.)
- That the news media breathlessly report every move Paris Hilton makes, and then snidely ask why we find her so fascinating. Answer? We don't.
- That everyone makes fun of Britney Spears for having married an unemployed, irresponsible, substance-abusing loser, but no one makes fun of Laura Bush for doing the same.
- Any RadioShack commercial.
- That Dick Cheney shot a man in the face, didn't report it for 24 hours, lied about it, and declined to be interviewed by the police... and no one seems to care. Seriously, if you ever injure someone while driving drunk, wait until you've sobered up before you report it. See how funny everyone finds it.
- Any discussion of expensive women's shoes.
- The thing that is ruining eBay: greedy sellers who counter low prices with ridiculous shipping charges. If, say, a DVD is selling for five dollars, but the shipping is fourteen dollars, why would anyone buy it?
- Email newsletters that make you jump through hoops to unsubscribe. If I click on the "unsubscribe" link I expect to get a screen that says something like, "We're sorry to see you go, thank you." I do not want to be asked for a username and password, or asked for my address, or anything else that takes more than two seconds.
- That Americans were so outraged by Mel Gibson's insulting Jews that they didn't have time to notice that Lebanon and Israel were at war... or that Iran was preparing for NoHolocaustiCom '06.
- That Americans are outraged by Michael Richards' insulting a table full of black people, and seem to have forgiven George Bush for negligently allowing hundreds of people in New Orleans to die, many of them black. Also, I would advise the millions of victims of famine and genocide in Darfur that we would probably care more about them if they were being slaughtered upstairs at the Laugh Factory.
- That Gerald Ford's pardoning of Richard Nixon is being portrayed as having "saved a nation from an ordeal." In fact, it birthed the idea that you can flagrantly violate the law and your public trust and still live a nice life writing books and giving speeches and walking on the beach. If Richard Nixon had been tried and imprisoned, people like Tom Delay and George W. Bush might not behave the way they do.
- That Gerald Ford was against the war in Iraq, but didn't say so publicly while he was alive. When we could have used his help.
- The Head-On commercials complaining about how obnoxious the other Head-On commercials were. It's one thing to unknowingly make commercials that make viewers want to eat revolvers... It's quite another to know you're doing it and not stop.
- The computer guy who came to my parents' house to set up their wireless network, and told my Mom that she doesn't have to use Firefox or worry about security or spyware or viruses because "Vista is going to get rid of all that."
- And, finally, the thing that most made me want to scream in 2006:
Whenever I see him on TV, I feel as if I'm a high school student who's missing my prom because I've been cornered outside by the least popular kid on the A.V. Squad and he's babbling away about something I don't care about or understand and he's not taking any of my polite hints to let me go. Thank God in Musto's case I can change the channel.
Unfortunately, what I'll probably hear when I change the channel is Christina Aguilera saying "Candyman"...
Despite all this, I hope you and everyone you love have a happy and scream-free 2007.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Yahoo has them broken down by different categories, but the Top Ten Overall Searches were:
1. Britney Spears
4. Jessica Simpson
5. Paris Hilton
6. American Idol
7. Beyonce Knowles
8. Chris Brown
9. Pamela Anderson
10. Lindsay Lohan
Some have bemoaned the state of our culture, given that Britney was number one, but I'm not bothered by that at all. What dismays me is that so many people searched for "WWE" instead of surmising that it might just be at "wwe.com."
Meanwhile, I congratulate Britney Spears, for proving in 2006 that sometimes, even without a post-war strategy, "cutting and running" is the only path to victory.
Miss Nevada Stripped of Crown for Explicit Photos of Her Exposing Her Breasts and Kissing Other Women"
In a cringe-inducing L.A. Times article called "Comedy writers aren't laughing about '60'" one quote out-queased all the others:
One comedy show runner, who asked that her name be withheld, said: "The New Orleans crisis or the war has never touched my life in television."
Friday, December 22, 2006
As you may have noticed -- because it's usually quoted in this blog's header -- I have adopted a new credo, a new cornerstone for my personal philosophy, courtesy of Homer Simpson:
"Well, excuse me for having enormous flaws that I don't work on!!
So I have to give kudos to the band Places To Live for naming their new EP Well Excuse Me For Having Enormous Flaws That I Don't Work On. Though this does mean I'll have to come up with a new title for my memoirs.
You can order the EP at their MySpace page, and you can go to their website to download the song that's been monopolizing my iPod all day, "Yo Nadine! Let Me Walk Witchoo!"
By the way, seeing Oprah in this montage reminds me of how gracious and respectful she was to O'Reilly when he was on her show, even though he told lie after lie.
This was also the year that Oprah defended Bush's phony reassurances during Katrina by saying "But I didn't think that was lying. I thought he just had not been informed. There's a difference."
This was also yet another year where Oprah didn't use her forum to call out the Administration, in no uncertain terms, for lying us into the war.
But when it came to James Frey? Oprah mercilessly flayed him this year. For lying. (In a book which, to be honest, I'd never heard of.) She even assembled a distinguished panel of journalists and literary figures to help her rake him over the coals.
In that broadcast, she switched into "sanctimony mode" (as opposed to her other, equally-phony "girlfriend-under-the-hairdryer-next to yours" mode), and intoned the following:
I read this quote in The New York Times from Michiko Kakutani, who said it best, I think. She says, "This is not about truth in labeling or the misrepresentation of one author. … It is a case about how much value contemporary culture places on the very idea of truth."
And I believe that the truth matters.
If only Oprah thought the truth mattered when it's about stuff that matters.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
The Gutmacher Report, a comprehensive sex study published in Public Health Reports, has been getting a lot of media attention. The 25-year-long study proves what every thinking person already knew: 95% of the 38,000 respondents -- including 33,000 women -- had sex before marriage.
Even among those who remained abstinent into their 20's, 80% had premarital sex before they were 44. And apparently the numbers have been roughly the same since 1950.
Naturally, this news doesn't go down easy with the Bible-thumpers and the right-wingers. Especially after their recent triumph: extending abstinence-only programs to include people between the ages of 20 and 29. Yes, that's right. The Bush Administration is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to get people in their 20's not to have sex. It would be funny if it weren't so hilarious.
Until you remember that's hundreds of millions of our tax dollars, frittered away for nothing.
But, as always when these knuckleheads "solve" a problem, they end up making it worse.
The real purpose of abstinence-only programs is not to promote abstinence, but to build a 700-mile wall between young people and information about safe sex. To keep sexually-active teens from hearing, for instance, that condoms can prevent pregnancy and STD's. Little stuff like that.
Because, the morons reason, if young people hear that birth control exists, they'll take it as permission to have sex. (Like they ever needed permission.)
It's like saying that once teens hear there is such a thing as fire extinguishers, they'll run around splashing gasoline and lighting matches.
Wait... some teens do start fires... I saw a story like that on the news a couple of months ago, so it must be a national epidemic. (Remember: everything you see on the news is happening everywhere all the time.)
So should we eliminate fire extinguishers from the public schools, and spend all that money on Smokey the Bear posters instead? Should we fire teachers who mention the word "hydrant" in the classroom? Block all phones in public schools from calling 911? Because all this talk of "firemen" and "rescue" only makes kids want to start fires.
By denying people access to information about safe sex, Bush is literally paying to cause disease and unwanted pregnancy. (If he's so determined to waste a fortune ruining the lives of young people, why not just "bring them democracy"? But I digress.)
Anyhoo, typical of the right-wing response to the Gutmacher Report is this tidbit, from the Christian Broadcasting News. The article has the headline "Premarital Sex Study Questioned." Well, you see a headline like that, the story must be filled with quotes from scientists and other experts, right?
The article quotes only one person who questions the sex study.
Has CBN somehow merged with The Onion? I mean, come on: "Premarital Sex Study Questioned"???
If we're going to do news stories based on interviews with only one person, what's next? "Newspaper Stolen From Porch"? "Supermarket Manager Mean"? "Those Sons of Bitches: This is How They Get You"?
Next time I'm sick, will the headline be "Flu on the Rampage"?
But in fairness to CBN, that one person is not just any person... She's a concerned person:
Speaking for Concerned Women for America, Janice Crouse, who strongly supports abstinence-only education, views the results of the survey with much skepticism, "Any time I see numbers that high, I'm a little suspicious."
Well, it's hard to argue with the science behind that.
She strongly believes, "The numbers are too pat."
Yes, don't you just hate numbers? Always so pat. They think they're so smart and exact, being numbers and all. Why can't they be baseless and iffy, like beliefs? Or, even better, strong beliefs!
(This, ladies and gentlemen, is why Stephen Colbert's "truthiness" is the Word of the Century.)
Then the article parachutes into the drop zone:
Regardless of the affects [sic] of such surveys, many conservatives realize that there is much work ahead of them in the battle promoting abstinence before marriage.
Affects, many and much? This is some article! If I were Bill O'Reilly, I'd give CBN one of the Peabodies I don't have.
The point is this: Any time someone claims that this study is a load of liberal propaganda, and that our grandmas and grandpas weren't having sex, that life was so much more innocent back in the day, you can shut them down with just one sentence.
One simple sentence that no one ever says, but that can come in so handy so often:
When Ronald Reagan married Nancy, she was in her third month of pregnancy.
End of story.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
For years, SRS has been working miracles, creating Virtual Surround Sound from ordinary speakers. Now SRS technology is available as a Mac iTunes plug-in called iWow, which you can try for free. (There's a PC program available, too.)
Once I tried iWow on one of my Macs, I immediately bought it for all of them. It may be all in my head (literally), but it truly does make the sound richer and more satisfying. It was also the answer to a prayer: one of the recent OS X updates rendered my Macbook speakers practically inaudible. This simple plug-in solved the problem... at least for iTunes.
If this is indeed the year of the uploaded video, then I say that this is the real Person of the Year:
Last week Defamer was kind enough to give a shout-out to one of my projects, referring to "upcoming prestige project Boob Job."
Unfortunately, a long time ago I made a bet that no one would ever mention something I wrote in the same sentence as the words "prestige project." I now owe my mother ten bucks.
I love my Converse Chucks, so it only seems natural that my favorite Macbook case would be the Speck Canvas Sport, with its Converse-inspired design. It ordinarily sells for $39.95, but until December 21st, Speck has it for 40% off with coupon code HOLIDAY40.
Sucks for me since I paid full price, but it works out for you. They have other products on sale, though unfortunately not the Specktone Retro (below), an iPod speaker system that I have and love. (Even so, at $99 it's a good deal.)
Now if only Speck would make a Canvas Sport for the 17" Macbook Pro.
Its name was Donald Rumsfeld.
Monday, December 18, 2006
Thursday, December 14, 2006
I am in the throes of a dilemma: My brown sugar is always harder than AP Physics.
I needed help, so I hit the tubes and went to the websites of two sugar behemoths, figuring they'd know.
From the Domino Sugar website: "Brown sugar should be stored in an airtight container in a cool spot or in the refrigerator."
From the C&H Sugar website: "Store it in a cool, moist area in a covered container... Don’t store brown sugar in the refrigerator."
Airtight and cold? Covered and room temp? My oatmeal awaits your expertise, Nation.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
People are forever bemoaning violence in movies. I happen to like the kind of movies that are characterized as "violent." Not mindlessly so, and not because of the violence. It's just that some degree of violence is essential to telling some kinds of stories... and those are among the kinds of stories I like.
Let me put it this way: I'll take a Tarantino or a Die Hard over a powdered-wigs-and-corsets movie any day of the week. Does that make me a bad guy? I'll leave that to others to decide.
But as someone who seeks out such movies, I am always amazed when people say there are so many of them. If there are, how come when I'm in the mood, action movies are like cops: there's never one around when I need one?
Yesterday on The View, the viewlociraptors were scrawing and screeching about Apocalypto. And Barbara Walters said one of those Barbara-Waltersy things she likes to say:
"But people love violent movies. Look at all the movies that have opened up now before Christmas. Almost every one of them is a violent movie!"
Then one of the other Flying Monkeys said something about how movies just pander to teenage boys, and I turned the TV off.
Let's look at the top ten movies at the box office this past weekend:
2. The Holiday
3. Happy Feet
4. Casino Royale
5. Blood Diamond
6. Unaccompanied Minors
7. Deja Vu
8. The Nativity Story
9. Deck the Halls
10. The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause
12. Stranger Than Fiction
14. The Queen
15. Van Wilder II
16. Flushed Away
18. The Fountain
20. The Departed
Now to be honest, for a number of reasons I haven't been to a movie in a very long time, so I haven't seen any of these. So my opinion is spectacularly uninformed, being limited to what I've read and heard about them. Still, it seems to me that once you get past Apocalypto, you've got to go all the way to lucky 13 and Turistas to find a movie that would shock and offend someone for its brutality.
Sure, Blood Diamond and Deja Vu may be more violent than I thought, but neither seems like it would have the kind of gratuitous gore that sets Barbara's wig aloft. And perhaps there's something in Casino Royale that makes it somehow more emotionally scarring than the other 20 Bond films, but I doubt it. I mean even at the age of 115, Barbara Walters must have seen a James Bond movie in her life.
And, yeah, The Departed -- which I'm eager to see -- has a lot of violence in it, but WTF? It's Scorsese, ferchrissake. Let the man do that voodoo that he do so well!
But let's give Barbara all of the above. Let's say that those 6 movies are a scourge. Unless I've seriously misjudged The Queen or The Nativity Story, and assuming that Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz aren't spending their Holiday with the Yakuza, I don't see a lot of offenders here.
But out of respect for the sulfurous, let's be fair to Barbara: It's not Christmas yet. So let's see what's opening up in the next two weeks:
Arthur & The Invisibles
The Pursuit of Happyness
We Are Marshall
Night at the Museum
Talking farm animals, Beyonce, and triumphing over adversity? In the words of Count Floyd, "Very scary, kids!"
Breaking and Entering
Perhaps violent, but classy violent.
Matthew Barney: No Restraint
A documentary about a sculptor working with Bjork and 23 tons of Vaseline may be many things, but I doubt "violent" is one of them.
The Painted Veil
Peter O' Toole and Edward Norton fall in love. The kind of movies the bloodthirsty flock to.
The Good German
The Good Shepherd
They're both good, so why the hate? Whether they're violent or not, I doubt A-list movies about the Potsdam Conference and the birth of the CIA are splatterfests aimed at teens.
Probably violent, but does violence against dragons count?
Curse of the Golden Flower
Violence or ballet? Who cares? By all accounts, this is one of the most sumptuous and glorious epics any of us will ever see. Besides, if you're telling the story of one of the most violent periods in human history, it's hard to do it without some lopped heads.
Which brings us to:
Home of the Brave
Letters From Iwo Jima
War is violent, and it should be depicted that way. Perhaps the reason we're in a war now is that our leaders grew up watching movies where, if a soldier got shot, he would clutch his chest, go "Unnnnnh" and fall over... then do a five-minute speech about telling his Mom and his girl he loves them. Let's hope future leaders, having seen realistic violence, will remember that violence is real.
By the way, I didn't forget Rocky Balboa. It's just that the idea of a 60-year-old man climbing into a boxing ring so confuses me that I have to lie down with a wet towel on my forehead. Besides, if someone old has to get punched over and over, why oh why couldn't it be Barbara Walters?
He's a smugger, less likeable version of Nathan Thurm!
Monday, December 11, 2006
Also, it would help if I lived in a cold climate. From the amazing store SpoonSisters.com
Tony Snow appeared on CNN's Reliable Sources yesterday. Just a few choice passages:
On David Gregory quoting the ISG Report: "He used words that were in the report, but actually did not quote from the report."
Hooo-kay. I'm sure that distinction is key to Snow, even if it's nonsense to the rest of us. You can judge for yourself whether Gregory characterized the report inaccurately:
From the press briefing:
GREGORY: The co-chairs say the following: "'Stay the course' is no longer viable." "The current approach is not working." "The situation is grave and deteriorating."
From the ISG Report:
Page 6 (the first sentence of the report):
The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating.
2. Staying the Course: Current U.S. policy is not working, as the level of violence in Iraq is rising and the government is not advancing national reconciliation. Making no changes in policy would simply delay the day of reckoning at a high cost. Nearly 100 Americans are dying every month. The United States is spending $2 billion a week. Our ability to respond to other international crises is constrained. A majority of the American people are soured on the war. This level of expense is not sustainable over an extended period, especially when progress is not being made. The longer the United States remains in Iraq without progress, the more resentment will grow among Iraqis who believe they are subjects of a repressive American occupation. As one U.S. official said to us, “Our leaving would make it worse. . . . The current approach without modification will not make it better.”
On whether it was inaccurate or unfair for Gregory to ask whether the report was a "rejection of the president's handling of the war" :
HOWARD KURTZ: [I]n fact, the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune called it a "rebuke of the administration policy" and the "Wall Street Journal" called it a "searing critique."
TONY SNOW: Is it "searing critique" that this report says at the beginning of its own segment on actions forward... that it says, and I quote, and this was not something I was asked about, "We agree with the goal of U.S. policy in Iraq as stated by the president."
KURTZ: The goal.
SNOW: "An Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself."
KURTZ: They also said the policy is not working.
SNOW: No, what they said is that you need a new policy.
Surprisingly, Kurtz did not do a spit take after this semantic triple axel. Also, refer to the ISG passage above, especially the "the policy is not working" part.
On whether the media is unfairly characterizing us as "losing the war": SNOW: ...the idea that you sort of do a snapshot of win/lose, rather than taking a look at broader metrics or broader things that are going on. To give you an example--
KURTZ: It was the president's nominee, Roberts Gates, for defense secretary who said, "We're not winning"
SNOW: Well, he also said we're not losing. And Pete Chiarelli, who's the general on the ground, said we are winning militarily.
I feel better already.
KURTZ: The day after the election, when Rumsfeld was out, the president said, "I didn't want to inject a major decision about this war in the final days of the campaign."
KURTZ: You were asked about this as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANN COMPTON (ABC): Why isn't it less than straightforward to say a week before the election that Secretary Rumsfeld would stay through the remainder of the administration when the president knew that wasn't the case?
SNOW: Well, he didn't "know" it was the case because he didn't have a suitable -- what he considered a suitable replacement, and hadn't had the final conversations with Don Rumsfeld.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: You talked about there'd been no final decision and no suitable replacement had been found.
KURTZ: But, can you now acknowledge that the president wanted to duck it and he gave a misleading answer?
SNOW: No. I'm not going to get into characterizing it.
I will. Bush said at the press conference,"And so the only way to answer that question and to get you on to another question was to give you that answer." That is the textbook definition of "ducking and misleading."
KURTZ: After the [Foley] scandal broke, you did an interview with CNN's Soledad O'Brien... Soledad O'Brien asked you, "Does the president and does the administration stand by Representative Hastert has far as he has led so far on this issue?"
KURTZ: And you said, "Again, we have to find out what's going on here. You're trying to create problems. What you are trying to do is pick fights here." It seems to be a recurring theme when journalists press you. You kind of accuse them of being troublemakers.
SNOW: No, I don't think so. I think that that was a fair characterization of what was going on.
KURTZ: But here's the question: "Do you stand by what Representative Hastert has done?"
KURTZ: How was that picking a fight?
SNOW: No, and then it's, you know, "do you, does the president," and the fact is, it's trying to get the president to render judgment on internal deliberations within the House office, where the president is, as is the normal course of business, is not going to be privy to the internal deliberations in the House office. The House of Representatives and members of Congress are very jealous of their prerogatives, as they ought to be, and what they say is, "White House, thank you very much, but butt out." So, therefore, to be called upon to render judgment on something that, under no circumstance, would we be privy is sort of an attempt to provoke.
This answer appears to have been formed from a random assortment of Refrigerator Poetry magnets. If our civilization is destroyed, and centuries from now aliens come to Earth and find this paragraph, they will conclude, "Ah, so they were only just beginning to form a rudimentary language."
Besides, no one gets in Soledad's lovely grill if I have anything to say about it.
KURTZ: Listen to this quote: "President Bush hates responding to the press, hates responding to political enemies. He thinks it's beneath him. He's got a stubborn streak." Who said that?
SNOW: I don't know.
KURTZ: You did, last March on Fox News.
SNOW: Did I? Yes, OK
KURTZ: Does he hate responding to the press?
SNOW: No... he actually likes it.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
The AFI has announced their top 10 movies and television programs of the year.
Films in alphabetical order:
Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan
The Devil Wears Prada
Letters From Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
Television programs in alphabetical order:
Friday Night Lights
The West Wing
Friday, December 08, 2006
A little more than halfway through Fergie's "Fergalicious" video, it becomes an extended commercial for Samsung's K5 MP3 player. I mean a naked, unabashed, who-cares-if-anyone-knows commercial.
The Pussycat Dolls also have a rendezvous with the K5 in their "Wait a Minute" video. And Jessica Simpson's "Public Affair" video had an HP placement (though it was much less intrusive than the K5 examples).
But Gwen Stefani is bucking the trend. In "Wind It Up" she sings about the lamb on her shirt, not-so-subtly hawking her L.A.M.B. clothing line. Priceless free plugola, and no one can stop her.
That is "sticking it to The Man," 2006-style.
I don't know how other networks covered the heartbreaking and heroic story of James Kim, because the only network news show I watch is The Today Show. But I've been struck by how Today has steadfastly refused to mention what James did for a living.
They referred to him only as "the father"... which I'm sure would not have bothered James one bit. But I never once saw them refer to him, as Keith Olbermann did, as a senior editor at CNET. Why the mystery?
If he were an attorney or a doctor or a chef or a juggler, I'm certain NBC News would have found some moment to mention it. Hell, even JonBenet was referred to as "pageant contestant JonBenet" or "beauty queen JonBenet." Lindsay Lohan is "actress Lindsay Lohan" and Britney Spears is "singer Britney Spears" and Paris Hilton is "socialite Paris Hilton"... no doubt to distinguish her from the former Prime Minister of Ghana, also named Paris Hilton.
If the story were about, say, Paula Zahn, they would surely mention that she's a media personality... James is someone with a larger audience than Zahn's, but not a word about it. Isn't that weird?
I would have thought they'd mention it, even if only as an excuse for B-roll. Knowing how starved TV is for footage of the people involved in these stories, it's baffling that NBC wouldn't have drawn on the countless hours of footage of James in action on CNET (except for one three-second podcast clip that appeared, without explanation, in one of the stories and was never shown again). Instead they relied on three or four family photos, zoomed in to the point of graininess.
But this morning the dam broke. Another CNET editor was on for a gadget segment, and afterward Matt graciously offered his condolences on the loss of his colleague.
Whoever is responsible for NBC's odd veil of secrecy must have been furious.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
As I've discussed here before, I am a big fan of the iTunes capabilities of both the TiVo and the Xbox 360. Both make it easy to integrate your downloaded music into your home theater. But since they're MP3 only (as in they won't play iTunes Music Store purchases), sometimes an iPod dock is the way to go.
There are a lot of docks out there, but each has its own flaws. Some don't do video. Some have remotes that control audio, but not video; you have to physically use the iPod itself to select video content (more of a pain than you might think). Some put menus on your TV, but are useless if you're not in the room. The same is true for those with IR remotes.
The new TuneView from Keyspan seems to have solved many of those problems, and in an elegant and seamless way. You place your iPod in the A/V dock, and the remote itself displays iPod menus. Plus it's RF, so it works from anywhere in the house, even through walls.
At $179, it looks like a great way to make your iPod play nice with your house. And if, like me, you're addicted to the wonders of the Airport Express, you'll be pleased to know there's a USB version of the TuneView coming soon.
UPDATE: iLounge has posted a review. It gets a B+, despite a few quirks.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Friday, December 01, 2006
After years of his TV appearances, podcasts, reviews, and columns, James Kim has become like a friend to me, even though we're complete strangers. Like all his fans, I'm stunned to learn that he, his wife and their daughters have disappeared while driving through the Pacific Northwest, from San Francisco to Gold Beach.
The San Francisco Police are asking for the public's help, and at this time are focusing their search on Highway 38. More information is available at Crave:
"They were driving a 2005 silver Saab station wagon with the personalized California license plate 'DOESF.'
"Those with information about the Kim family's whereabouts are asked to contact San Francisco police immediately at 415-558-5508 during normal business hours and at 415-553-1071 after-hours. The Portland Police Bureau's Missing Persons Unit can be reached at 503-823-0446."
12/3 UPDATE: As of Friday, the focus of the search had moved north to Douglas County. Go to News.com for details.
12/4 UPDATE: James' wife and daughters found alive. The search continues for James, who left on foot two days ago to find help.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Show of hands: Is there any Jericho fan on Earth who awaits each episode eagerly because he can't wait to find out what's happening with Eric and April?!
Remember when I wrote about Thing-o-phobia? How networks hate it when their shows are about what they're supposed to be about? So Windfall isn't about the lottery, it's instead a long, boring study of a marriage breaking up.
Well, now we have a show about the end of the world. But to give it some zazz, they keep dwelling on... a long, boring study of a marriage breaking up.
(Rule of thumb: if your show's about the Apocalypse, you really don't need to "add drama." The movie Testament was fairly dramatic, don't you think?)
Beyond that, no offense, but the guy who plays Eric may be the least interesting and charismatic person I've ever seen on television. Whenever he's on screen, I see the color draining from my TV and feel the joy draining from my life.
Meanwhile, some genius decided it would be a good idea to hire Gerald McRaney, who was so mesmerizing on Deadwood... and then have him literally sleep through, like, five episodes. I'm not kidding: he was asleep!
I really want to like this show, and I keep watching because I keep hoping the good parts will start soon. But they keep making wrong choices. (IMHO)
For example, last night Chinese-labeled packages were parachuted in, full of food and water. So was a generator, which was stolen by bandits who live outside of town (don't ask). Immediately, Skeet Ulrich warns everyone that the food may be poisoned, and Mayor McRaney quarantines the stuff. An argument breaks out. Some people in town eat anyway.
Then (here come the bad decisions) the food turns out to be okay, the generator gets stolen back and gives the town Christmas lights, a couple kisses, and an absentee Dad makes it up to his kids. (Oh, and a character who is good one week and evil the next turned good again, just so we would feel bad about the character's death. I didn't.)
Now, here's what I would have done instead, and you tell me if it wouldn't be more interesting: A few defiant town members eat the food (as did one character we love, who didn't know about the ban). The generator gets stolen before they can use it.
As they plot to get it back, there is a massive explosion outside of town. The generator wasn't a generator at all: It was a huge bomb that blew when it was switched on, and half the outlaws are dead and the others need help, but most of the town doesn't want to help them; a moral crisis ensues, and on Thanksgiving no less. Meanwhile, those who ate the food put on their "uh oh!" faces. Was the food poisoned? Will they die next week? Will they save the injured outlaws? Will the outlaws, injured and without food or water, go all Mad Max on the town? If the Chinese are hostile and have unlimited air power, how will the Jerichonians survive? Will it lead to a dozen interesting cliffhangers for next week's season finale?
I would watch that show, what about you?
(By the way, it must have been infectious, because The Nine and Day Break, both shows I like a lot, also seemed to be playing a game of "What would be the least interesting choice?" at every turn last night. And the only thing that consistently bothers me about Day Break is that Taye Diggs keeps trying to find a way to explain his predicament, in roundabout sentences, and finally gives up when the other person doesn't get it. You or I or anyone in the world would simply say, "It's like I'm living in Groundhog Day!" and the other person would instantly understand the concept.)
One more Jericho quibble, and this isn't Jericho's fault, it's CBS's. Has anyone else noticed that CBS shows just look... well... crappier than the other networks' shows? Not the writing, I mean the physical look of the shows.
I mean, compare Lost to Jericho. The former is stunning and lush and rich-looking, and the latter is washed out and looks like six extras standing around some empty land in Bakersfield.
Matthew Fox... or Skeet Ulrich? Naveen Andrews... or the guy who plays Eric? Terry O'Quinn... or the guy who plays the other guy running for mayor? It's all just so bland and cut-rate.
Even compare, say, the rich look of the Law & Order shows to the bland Hardcastle & McCormick look of Numb3rs. Or compare Medium and Heroes to Ghost Whisperer. Or House to 3 lbs.
(The exception is, of course, the CSI shows, but I credit that to the look of those shows having been established by Touchstone.)
I mean, you could put a show in front of me and not tell me what network it's on, and I know I could probably tell you whether it is or isn't a CBS show. Think about it: Does Justice look like a CBS show? The O.C.? The Nine? No. But Close to Home sure does.
Even compare the look of Conan's show to the look of Craig Ferguson's. It's like an entire network is being shot with camcorders.
I hope a cinematographer or someone else with the technical savvy I lack can explain if I'm seeing things, or if there truly is a stylistic difference between a lot of CBS shows and better-looking shows on other networks.
By the way, I've been awfully rough on CBS, but it's only fair with all the CSI and Criminal Minds plugging I've been doing. And I hope all the networks -- and all of you -- have a very happy Thanksgiving. Everyone should. Even that guy who plays Eric.
Sonic weapons have been around for a few years, but one is finally making it into the hands of the U.S. Marines in Iraq, according to the Daily Mail (via Gizmodo). The Secret Scream is a vehicle-mounted stun gun that fires two sonic waves at a specific person, up to 300 yards away. The 110-145 decibel sound of a screaming baby played backwards causes the skull to vibrate and cause permanent deafness, and an excruciating migraine.
(I would suggest the same effect could be achieved by playing Lady Sovereign's "Love Me or Hate Me" and Gwen Stefani's "Wind It Up" at the same time. Just at regular volume. But that's me.)
Right now The Silent Scream is being touted as a weapon, but I say let's rejigger it into a motivational tool for the Iraqi army. Clearly they need some kind of kick in the pants: it's been three years of training and they're still not ready. Three years, and they can't "stand up" yet?! American troops are trained in two months!
After three years of training, these Iraqi knuckleheads should be ready to hit the Crucible or Victory Forge backwards and blindfolded. And if you're going to tell me, "Well, it's not the same guys for three years, dumbass. We teach a bunch of them, then we teach another bunch, and so on."
Well, in that case, can't the classes of 2004 and 2005 teach the classes of 2006 and 2007?! WTF?!
Monday, November 20, 2006
In a burst of sanity, News Corp. has canceled the Simpson wallow. You know something's deplorable when O'Reilly and Geraldo sneer at it. "I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project," said Rupert Murdoch.
Meanwhile, look for Judith Regan's upcoming book, "If I Made Myself a National Joke, Here's How I Did It."
And no, it's not bitches or assholes... though those are certainly fitting.
No, I suggest: "Cho-dependent."
I am still recovering from last week's Show Me the Money. It's hypnotic, intoxicating... Shat-Tastic!
It's as though Iron Chef, Deal or No Deal, and Sabado Gigante had a three-way, and Paddy Chayefsky was the matchmaker. I hate it, I love it, I can't not look at it. If you think you know what kind of show it is, I guarantee you're wrong.
And what can I say? Even after watching this show, I still love William Shatner. There has to be a 12-step program for people like me.
Keith Olbermann asked, quite reasonably, why the majority leader race between Jack Murtha and Stenny Hoyer was depicted by the press as "Dems in Disarray" or "A Party in Crisis Mode" or "Coming Apart At the Seams"...
Meanwhile, the day before, Trent Lott had been elected minority whip by one vote. But the press angle on that story was "The Comeback Kid."
You would think that, once Keith asked that question, it would be a good question for CNN's Reliable Sources to address. Instead, the tease on Reliable Sources was "Too little too late? How did Jack Murtha become a symbol of Capitol Hill corruption, and why didn't journalists cover that story until after the election?"
This headline was accompanied by the 26-year-old ABSCAM clip of Murtha. Not once in the show was it mentioned that he refused the bribe. Why bother, when you have grainy surveillance footage that makes someone look corrupt? (I'm not saying Murtha is snow-pure, but this was a cheap shot by any definition.)
All this came a week after Reliable Sources' lead story was how "journalists are rejoicing" over the Democratic wins, and whether the media will bend over backwards to favor Pelosi and Reid.
Increasingly-bizarre host Howard Kurtz actually asked, "Did the media make Rummy a scapegoat for an unpopular war?"
Ah, the liberal media...
One of the biggest thrills in my professional life was working with Joe Walsh on two episodes of Duckman. He appeared in two episodes I wrote and produced, and I am not ashamed to say that the only reason I wrote him into them was the hope that I could meet him. (I even thought of bringing my guitar for him to autograph, but it seemed such a lame thing to do so I chickened out.)
He was (and is) someone I always admired. And he didn't disappoint.
He was warm and funny and did a great job for us. And in the second show we did, I asked him to sing a version of "Life's Been Good" with new lyrics I'd written for the episode. I thought he would just do it then and there, with his acoustic guitar, in the studio. Instead he asked if he could work on it at home.
We were stunned to receive a DAT a few days later with a fully-produced version of the song, which Joe had done especially for us. It was very generous of him, and I will always be grateful that he took the time.
Today is Joe's birthday, and I just wanted to wish him a happy one, and to remind everyone that sometimes you meet celebrities and they are even nicer than you expect.
Anyone surprised? Anyone? Bueller?
Every news outlet covered the "stampede" or "riot" in Fresno among PS3 hopefuls. They showed some later part of the footage below, or another angle thereof.
None that I saw told the whole story:
After waiting on line for 3 or 4 days, the crowd was suddenly informed that there weren't enough units to go around... so forget the line you've been camping out in. Now we'll have a new line. First 34 people to get over there. GO!
So the store makes an idiotic decision to throw panic juice on a cranky mob at their emotional peak... and then start a footrace??
That's what I call a recipe for disaster.
Sure, these people could have behaved better. But news operations covered it as though the crowd spontaneously decided to surge. They are after all, gamers. Thugs. Lowlife. Should've expected it, America seemed to cluck.
Believe me, if a new BMW came out with only six cars at each dealer, there'd be lines aplenty.
And while I myself would never, ever camp out for a console, I was still dismayed by the lack of respect shown these folks by media types. I heard a lot of anchors say things like "Get a life, people." I have never once heard any anchors say that after the annual Filene's wedding dress stampedes... which are, by contrast, completely self-generated.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Last night at the end of Jericho, we were warned that there were only two episodes left... and I realized that I had no unanswered questions whatsoever. I watch the show every week, and I enjoy it... and I am absolutely certain it makes no difference to me if the show ends tonight or next week or whenever. Everyone who complains that Lost is too frustrating should be forced to watch Jericho.
On The Amazing Race, the loathsome hags from Alabama claim to be very devout, but have you ever noticed they never ever do what Jesus would have done? Meanwhile, for the first time in the show's history, the Barbie team is genuinely sweet and adorable! Their relentless optimism and good cheer is infectious. For me, it's them or the Cho Brothers.
Speaking of The Amazing Race, I have developed a new improv game based on the skin-crawling Rob and Kimberly. The audience suggests a random line of dialogue, and you have to find a way to turn it into an argument. Extra points if you can work the word "dude" into every sentence at least twice.
If you didn't find CSI:NY heartbreaking this week you are made of stone.
Bravo to CSI: Miami. It's long been a tradition on the show that every murder must occur at, near, or after a rave or pool party full of beautiful women. It's why I watch. You would think this week's episode, about someone murdering models, would have a high enough babe quotient... but you misunderestimate them. The show opened with three insanely hot women in Hooters-esque outfits... working in toll booths! I have got to move to Florida!
Best argument against racial quotas: the dullest Survivor cast ever.
Criminal Minds keeps getting better.
House is an incredible show, and I am completely addicted... but the enormity of Cuddy's head scares me.
I am so glad that Prison Break might run non-stop this season. It's gone from good show to great show.
The Lost hiatus has already affected my quality of life.
If the poem doesn't scare you, the performance will. If the performance doesn't scare you, the dress will. If the dress doesn't scare you, the ring will. If the ring doesn't--
Oh, who am I kidding? The poem will scare you.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
From Men.Style.com's article about things available abroad but not here in the U.S... including this cute little fella, the Ortolan:
Few illicit delicacies offer such culinary sensation mixed with ethical dubiousness. That's thanks to the way Ortolan is prepared: Before they're cooked, the little birds are drowned in Armagnac—right after they've had their eyes poked out. A minor quibble to some. "They're magnificently gamy, succulent, mildly alcoholic, and even a little painful to eat—the bones and organs all burst in your mouth," says Anthony Bourdain. Or at least that's what it sounded like he said over all the crunching.
Am I the only one who feels like poking Anthony Bourdain's eyes out?