Saturday, November 3, 2007
Mr. Michaels noted one small adjustment made for Mr. Williams’s sake. A planned sketch about edited-out parts of the Harry Potter films featuring the recently outed Dumbledore will not star Mr. Williams as Dumbledore. And the show will surround Mr. Williams with high-quality support, including two big-name surprise guests, one from politics and the other from music.I'll go with Al Gore and Paul McCartney, both veterans of SNL cameos, and especially given that yesterday was the deadline for filing for the New Hampshire primary ballot. Anyone else want to wager a guess?
e.t.a. Wrong on both accounts. You can view the primary cameo here, though the title spoils the surprise.
TILDA: Last night, at long last, I saw Michael Clayton. Tilda Swinton does such an excellent job in this film that I was inspired to think about the other notable roles she has played.
I first became aware of her in 1993 in Sally Potter’s
In 1997 Swinton played an attorney in Female Perversions. Interestingly, in both that film and in Michael Clayton, the role is that of a fiercely ambitious warrior on the verge of a key promotion. Also, in both of these movies, she portrays her character in a manner that makes us keenly aware of her gender.
Perhaps her breakthrough role was in The Deep End in 2001, when Swinton starred as a mother of three who lives in a beautiful house on
Swinton had a small role as Nicholas Cage’s impatient producer in Spike Jonze's film Adaptation in 2002. She also had a small role in Broken Flowers in 2005, where she played one of Bill Murray’s ex-lovers (she’s the one who has a front yard full of motorcycles and a menacing partner).
Finally, in a role that echoed aspects of her character in Michael Clayton, Swinton played the (evil) White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which was released late in 2005. All told, she has been in over 50 films, but the vast majority of them are not well known.
Friday, November 2, 2007
Here's a line we never heard from Walter Cronkite: "It’s been a long time since I’ve pulled an all-nighter, but the SNL gang hasn’t forgotten the rule we all learned in college for how to do it: consume mass quantities of snacks. To that end, dinner consisted of Tostitos and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups."
Sports Illustrated has plenty of competitors besides ESPN and the New York Times. The increase in sports television coverage, and partly the popularity of SI itself, created a huge demand for comprehensive, sophisticated sports journalism. Traditional beat reporters, Web writers, enterprising bloggers, brainy statisticians, and YouTube videographers are now producing plenty of smart, funny, indiscreet, insidery material every day. Sports Illustrated used to distinguish itself by writing better, and securing better access to its subjects, than anyone who wrote faster. Now, with a few exceptions—Ian Thomsen's recent story on the Celtics' maneuverings to corral Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, Tom Verducci on how the Red Sox saved Jonathan Papelbon's shoulder—the magazine's reported pieces don't offer original details. They just come out three days later than everybody else's.Levin offers a handful of interesting possibilities: (1) use its influence to push bolder opinion journalism; (2) beef up the investigative reporting and (3) open up the archives and put more materials from the magazine's glorious past online.
In re last night, because I've been watching this season, I just feel like I'm seeing a group of amateurs playing Survivor. Many of the competitors are advancing what they think is "strategy," but seems wholly untethered to the needs of other castaways or reality (and, Jean-Robert, I'm looking at you first.) Someone like Danni Boatwright, Rob C. or Boston Rob would eat these kids for lunch, and the real question is how wisely Gravedigger James will employ the gifts that fell into his lap. [Side question: would it violate the rules of the game to just steal another competitor's property?] I did love that expected moment of d'oh! at Council, however.
Douglas's central argument revolves around the ways in which post-WWII popular culture promoted both rebellion against and conformity to traditional gender roles: "the news media, TV shows, magazines, and films of the past four decades may have turned feminism into a dirty word, but they also made feminism inevitable." Douglas traces this ambiguity and contradiction through a wide range of pop-culture productions. Her earliest chapters examine the conflicting ideals of narcissism and masochism, presented in popular culture as essential elements of female identity. In Disney's Peter Pan (1953), Tinker Bell is a "scheming, overly possessive, vain ... no-good little bitch," while Wendy is "a kind-hearted, servile ... wimp who only wants to wait on boys." From melodramas like Douglas Sirk's Imitation of Life (1959), boomer girls learned that selfish young women who rejected parental authority would reap only misery and unhappiness, while self-sacrificing mothers who slaved for these ungrateful wretches would die saintly deaths (though at least Mahalia Jackson would sing at your funeral).
Yet by the early 1960s, pop-culture heroines were moving out of these traditional roles, becoming more assertive, and acknowledging the broader social changes going on around them, particularly the sexual revolution. In "pregnancy melodramas" like A Summer Place (1959) and Love with the Proper Stranger (1963), girls who got "knocked up" weren't automatically condemned as whores, and even wound up snagging Troy Donahue or Steve McQueen. The Shirelles' #1 hit "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" (1960) wondered whether a boyfriend would stay faithful after "the first time," implicitly condemning the sexual double standard that encouraged male wild-oat-sowing but demanded female chastity. In Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), the character of Holly Golightly (played by Audrey Hepburn) took this sexual liberation to a startling extreme, displaying a glamorous nonconformity and a brilliance for reinventing herself. Other 1960s heroines -- Sally Field's Gidget, Patty Duke's identical cousins -- lived far more conventional lives, but Douglas claims that they still captured the era's gender contradictions through the complicated quality of "perkiness," or assertiveness disguised as cuteness. Even the Beatles, Douglas argues, can be interpreted through the lens of gender ambiguity, because they "so perfectly fused the 'masculine' and 'feminine' strains of rock 'n' roll in their music, their appearance, and their style of performing."
While we'll follow Douglas's narrative into the late 'sixties, 'seventies and 'eighties next week, let's use today's discussion to talk about our own pop-culture educations in gender roles. When you were growing up, what did popular culture teach you about being a girl (or a boy)? In what ways was your gender identity shaped by the mass media?
Also next week: the counterculture, the counter-revolution, and the Hollywood revival of the '70s.
Woodruff, the last surviving gold medalist from that U.S. team that included the legendary runner Jesse Owens, died Tuesday at an assisted living center near Phoenix, said Rose Woodruff, his wife of 37 years.
Nicknamed "Long John" for his nearly 10-foot stride, Woodruff was a lanky 21-year-old freshman at the University of Pittsburgh with just three years of competitive running under his belt when he sailed to the racially charged scene in Berlin.
On Aug. 4, 1936, he won the 800 meters using one of the most astonishing tactics in Olympic history. Boxed in by the pack of runners, he literally stopped in his tracks, then moved to the third lane and passed everyone to win the race in 1:52.9.
"I didn't panic," Woodruff told the New York Times in 2005. "I just figured if I had only one opportunity to win, this was it. I've heard people say that I slowed down and almost stopped. I didn't almost stop. I stopped, and everyone else went around me."
(Noted via commenter Mr. Heger)
Thursday, November 1, 2007
It tickles me a little that people are now saying that Easterbrook is batshit-insane because, like many of us, he says that the Patriots are evil, but unlike almost all of us, he actually means it literally. Yes, that position is batshit-insane, but folks, where have you been all these years? To wit: (1) he is a political scientist who thinks he is a football genius, based on his interesting theories that one should always run in short-yardage situations and never blitz -- two theories incontrovertibly proven, I suppose, by an anecdote per week; (2) his columns are Unabomberish in length, focus, and tone; and (3) despite being the brother of a prominent legal economist with a deep knowledge of antitrust law, he trots out his pet rant every year that the decision of one entity (the NFL) to distribute one product (the ability to view all games, instead of regionally-selected ones) through one distributor (DirecTV) violates the antitrust laws (and, presumably, is economically inefficient).
Which reminds me -- I used to read Easterbrook faithfully, but now I read him only occasionally, if ever. I still read most Simmons stuff, but not as enthusiastically. On the other hand, I look forward to Big Daddy Drew's Dick Joke Jambaroo and Potes's ANTM recap every week. What columnists have you dropped, and which ones do you look forward to now?
- What's the best fast food burger? I've never sampled In & Out or Five Guys, both of which I know have their defenders, but Fatburger and the McD's Angus Burger but put in strong contentions.
- Defend your regional fast food chain. Where do you stand in the great Krystal v. White Castle war? Do we have any champions of Mrs. Winners? Any firm backers of Jack in The Box or Sonic?
The last I heard, the Patriots were favored by 4-1/2 points even though the game is being played in Indianapolis. I wonder if this is the first time in history that a 7-0 Super Bowl champ playing at home has been an underdog?
I am a Patriots fan, although I have an undercurrent of unease about the arguably unsportsmanlike manner that the team has been playing lately. Were I a betting man, I would pick the Patriots against the spread.
Who do you like?
The song bidding "Goodbye, England's rose" became the biggest selling single of all time, with the proceeds donated to Diana's favorite charities.
The artist got her start via an innovative promotion: her record company sent Tiffany on a tour of shopping malls in 14 different cities. The gimmick worked. The song "I Think We're Alone Now" zoomed all the way up the charts, hitting #1 for 2 weeks. I love the part where the couple in the song is "running just as fast" as they can while the drums pound out a rhythm depicting a romantic notion of two hearts beating together powerfully.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Well, I laughed. Also, Colbert just referred to trick-or-treaters as "pre-hoboes." How are the pre-hoboes by you? -- ours were pretty quiet tonight.
In other TDS/Colbert news, with the site now online, you can finally watch My Favorite Clip Ever whenever you want, as well as thousands of others. Any you feel like locating and recommending?
The thriller Arlington Road has a lot of fans here. The less you know about it coming in, the better, but the more you know, the more we have to discuss in the comments.
Memphis played a crucial role in Elvis's social and musical development, providing not only the studio where he recorded his first hits but also a cultural atmosphere in which white youths were increasingly adopting black singing, speaking, and clothing styles. As with early rock 'n' roll in general, Elvis's music would blend black and white influences, drawing on country and western, rhythm and blues, even gospel. Peter Guralnick notes that even Elvis's earliest nicknames -- "The Hillbilly Cat," "The King of Western Bop" -- revealed this "cultural schizophrenia." He cut his first sides for Sun in July 1954; by November 1955, he'd been signed by RCA; and in 1956, he began his unmatched string of #1 hits, helped by sensational television appearances on the Milton Berle, Steve Allen, and Ed Sullivan shows.
As Guralnick admits, though, this mass-marketed Elvis became less a pioneer and more a "product": "a pop singer of real talent, catholic interests, negligent ease, and magnificent aplomb, but a pop singer nonetheless." His greatest commercial successes still lay ahead in the 1960s and early 1970s, and he even enjoyed a brief critical revival with his 1968 "comeback special." But by the time of his death in 1977, he'd become a sequined, bloated caricature of himself. It was hard (especially for 9-year-olds like me) to understand how he'd ever led a cultural revolution.
Critical reassessments and exhaustive biographies have helped to restore some of Elvis's pre-Vegas stature. Yet 21st-century observers are also more likely to see Elvis as an expropriator of "authentic" black idioms. In Public Enemy's "Fight the Power," Chuck D put it bluntly: "Elvis was a hero to most/But he never meant shit to me." Let's turn that statement back into question form: What is Elvis to you? What does he mean to you, and why?
- TV Guide. TV Guide's biggest problem is convincing people that it exists. Back in the pre-Internet/pre-digital days, TV Guide -- like telexes, record-cleaning spray, video rewinders, and The Club -- served a valuable purpose. As broadcast channels proliferated, it saved people from having to kneel in front of the TV, spinning the dial in the hope of finding something worth watching. Just when remote-control threatened to obsolete that advantage, the rise of cable, and newspapers' curious decision to relegate cable listings to the fine print, enabled TV Guide's comprehensive listings to maintain their utility, with such added bonuses as informative interviews with Anson Williams and glossy promotional photos of Dick Van Patten. Now, after the advent of the TV Guide Channel, digital programming guides, title-searchable DVR listings, and Internet schedules, it may be hard to imagine why on earth someone would buy TV Guide. The answer to this is obvious: some people are senile. If you cannot dial a non-rotary phone, you cannot cancel your subscription. So the next time you ask "why the hell do we need a TV-Guide-sponsored mid-FNL recap of what just happened in the first half-hour," please remember that TV Guide's sole audience at this point is people with mid-stage dementia.
- Sleep Train Mattress Center. I know I've already featured Sleep Train, but it's having a Halloween blowout. Accordingly, in addition to its usual promise to knock you into peaceful rest with all the force of a runaway sleep train, Sleep Train will, for a limited time only, haunt your slumber with Hieronymous-Bosch-inspired nightmarish visions of tortured ghouls, masked serial-killers, predatory manimals, and sexy nurses. Sleep Train: Official Mattress Center of Concussed Terror-Sleep.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
[Do such things really count as spinoffs? For example, there's no connection between Mork and Mindy and Happy Days other than the set-up episode and the trippy return visit. Here's a good review of other such "stealth pilots," including the aborted Brady Bunch spinoff called Kelly's Kids.]
In other Cal Bear news: there was a play last weekend that involved more laterals, but sadly fewer Stanford trombone players, than The Play.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Guilty Pleasure Monday:: Politicians, Athletes and Musicians Hosting Saturday Night Live | The A.V. Club
Rock 'n' roll drew on several musical styles that had enjoyed success outside of the musical mainstream. Rhythm and blues (or "race music") furnished danceable beats, suggestive lyrics, and doo-wop harmonies, as in the Dominoes' "Sixty Minute Man" (1951). From country and western (or "hillbilly music") came chugging guitars, reedy vocals, and a prominent backbeat, heard in Hank Williams' "Hey Good Lookin'" (1951). Through the early 'fifties, performers, producers, and disc jockeys helped to spread these musical influences from city to city, from South to North, and across the color line, gradually creating a musical genre beholden to its predecessors yet unmistakably new.
Between 1955 and 1957, the dam burst, as a whole slew of first-ballot Hall of Famers launched their careers: Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, and of course Elvis Presley (who'll get a post of his own on Wednesday). Rather than blather on about these artists, I'd urge you to follow some of those links and check out the performance clips. The energy, exuberance, and wit of those singers still leaps off the screen, over fifty years later. Now just imagine how revolutionary those performances must have felt at a time when songs like this ruled the pop charts.
And yet almost as soon as rock 'n' roll made its raucous entrance, it was transformed into something different. Like ragtime and jazz, rock 'n' roll was gradually softened for middle-class white audiences. Within just a couple of years, the stage belonged to teen idols like Neil Sedaka and Fabian and dance fads like the Twist, all promoted in more corporate and polished settings, like Dick Clark's American Bandstand. A series of unfortunate events also pulled several leading rockers away from the spotlight in the late '50s and early '60s. To be sure, plenty of fabulous music appeared during those post-Buddy-pre-Beatles years -- but it wasn't rock 'n' roll.
To many of today's listeners, raised on punk, grunge, hip hop, and hair bands, early rock 'n' roll sounds quaint and innocent, hardly the stuff of cultural and musical revolt. How about you? Do you listen to early rock 'n' roll? Why or why not?
The multi-media celebration consisted of giant projected images created by photographer/historian Susan Wilson, illuminating traditional dancing skulls, marigold bouquets, bustling marketplaces and the faces of families in celebration, taking you to the heart of Michoacán, one of
Immediately outside the concert space, there was an astonishingly beautiful altar featuring a Christian cross, a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, marigolds and other flowers, pictures of deceased relatives, and hundreds of candles. Traditionally, families spend time around the altar praying and telling anecdotes about the deceased. Without any prompting, Liam, my 8-year old son, dropped to his knees and started to pray. “I’m praying for Grandpa David (my father) and Uncle Murray” he explained when he finished. Then we all kneeled down and I led the family in another prayer in their honor.
We rushed home in time to see Jon Lester, the Red Sox pitcher, retire the
Suddenly I was seven. I saw my father pitching whiffle balls to me on Cambridge Common when we lived in
During the 2004 ALCS when the Sox were down 3 games to none against the Yankees, I needed something to take my mind off what I figured might be the sting of another painful loss and the lingering pain of my father’s recent death. So while watching Game 4 I prepared handwritten notes for the people who had sent us condolence cards concerning my father’s death. You probably know what happened on the field. Dave Roberts stole second, the Sox won Game 4 and the next three games against the Yankees, and later the Red Sox defeated the Cardinals in the World Series. During every game, I continued to write these notes expressing my gratitude to the people who offered their support when my dad died.
Following my father’s death, the issue of cancer weighed heavily upon me. I’m the type who likes to solve problems, but I knew that there was no way that I could make a major contribution to our battle with cancer. But I couldn’t stand to do nothing. So despite having not touched a bike for a decade or so, I signed up for the Pan-Mass Challenge a very long bike ride across Massachusetts that raises money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, a leading cancer research center in Boston. My father was treated there about 4 weeks before he passed away.
I did the nearly 200-mile long ride again this year. During the dark moments of this year’s ALCS, when the Sox were down 3-1 against the Indians, I decided to prepare handwritten notes for the people (including many of you) who had contributed to the Pan-Mass Challenge on my behalf this summer. I did the same thing during the next three games against the Indians and the next four games against the
Did expressing my appreciation to the people who supported my efforts to raise money for cancer research, to the people who gave money because they had loved my father, and to the people who had given money because their lives had been touched by cancer, improve the mojo favoring the Red Sox? Who knows? Either way, though, you can understand that the Sox success thus far is inexorably tied up for me with the loss of my dad, my determination to make even a small difference in our battle against cancer, and my appreciation for the kindness, generosity, and sympathy of all those people.
As the game ended and pandemonium ensued on the field, I hugged Aidan, my 10-year old son, and told him that he would always remember this moment (Liam had already fallen asleep). I then put Aidan to bed (it was a school night!) and returned to the post-game coverage. When Mike Lowell, another cancer survivor, was named World Series MVP, I figured that some sort of cosmic karma was being made manifest.
I flashed back to Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, the famous “Carlton Fisk home run game”, which my father took me to. I remember Bernie Carbo’s home run that night. I remember Dwight Evans’ great catch that night. But what I remember most vividly about that night is my father putting his arm around my slender shoulders as we left the game, drawing me close to him. Keeping me safe as we made our way through the thicket of the crowd to the subway in
Noche de Muertos celebrates the continuation of life. The belief is not that death is the end, but rather the beginning of a new stage in life. Fathers, sons, and baseball. It’s a never-ending story.
- The Flash, directed by David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers, Fred Claus).
- Green Lantern, co-written and directed by Greg Berlanti (Everwood, Dawson's Creek, Jack & Bobby, Brothers and Sisters).
The Berlanti one is interesting, since there hasn't been a single Berlanti-led project I haven't enjoyed, but it's certainly a risky choice to give him the reins of a big-budget, effects heavy, film given his background in small, character-centric dramas. Gregory Smith for Hal Jordan? And I suppose this means we're going to have a "comic" Flash, possibly even with Vince Vaughn as the World's Fastest Man.
It's a pretty good list, though I'd have included the season two taxi-plus-run finale in San Francisco ahead of the Lincoln Tunnel v. George Washington Bridge battle of the first; plus Rob Mariano's all-you-can't-eat feast (which showed just how much he'd affect the season); maybe the Caviar Challenge; and certainly season two's Australia episode with the Sydney Harbor bridge walk, opal mining, boomerangs and the most random game of golf you've ever seen.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
- Pretty much any of the mid-90s Aerosmith--Janie's Got A Gun, Cryin', Livin' On The Edge. (Exclude I Don't Want To Miss A Thing, please.)
- Some Bruce (Born In The USA, Born To Run)
- I Want You To Want Me
- Totally F**ked (from Spring Awakening).
I'll be buying Rock Band for sure, if just because of the announced content--the entirety of Who's Next will be well worth the purchase price.
Forget about the idiotic post-9/11 remarks, because lots of law students do stupid things. And let's even put aside her weird explanation as to why she went to law school -- that post-9/11, “I really had the feeling that the whole world had gone crazy. I felt very powerless. If I’d been a lawyer, I would have known what to do," because as a lawyer post-9/11, I can assure you that it was an unsettling period for everyone else as well.
No, instead, let's talk about the fact that with a 160 on the LSATs, Wurtzel was much better suited for Northeastern than Northwestern, let alone YLS, which raises serious questions as to their admissions standards. And, more importantly, can she pass the character and fitness portion of the Bar, what with the being fired from the Dallas Morning News for plagiarism and then the going on book tour and having her friends FedEx her cocaine while on book tour (and using her publisher's shipping number).
Stephen Glass didn't pass the New York Bar's character and fitness review, though his substitution of fiction for fact was certainly more pervasive than Wurtzel's decade-old plagiarism. Still, adding the plagiarism to the drugs ... anyone here willing to exclude her from the profession?