Saturday, October 31, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
All that being said, and even with everything Simmons does to get fans excited about this NBA season, there's remarkable consensus about five of the six divisions, with only five teams out of 30 perceived as having a realistic chance of making the Finals. Neither of the other two major professional sports leagues are so predictable, nor are college football or basketball, and it leads to a regular season which now constantly fails to engage me. The league's current combination of guaranteed contracts, weighted lottery and salary cap have led to a situation where to become great you must seek awfulness first, and being in the middle just stinks. Annually. I don't know whether Simmons' book will address this, but I look forward to the next 500 pages of finding out.
On the other hand, when traveling, it is never embarrassing to accommodate whomever is continuously laying documents atop you. Which sucks. (Eh, not as good.) But Matt, Abby G, Mary, Marsha, Maret, Carmichael Harold and especially Emily W, you have nothing to be humiliated about. We share your shame.
Claiming perfect scores this time around: KCosmo, kt, The Other Kate, Ali, KR, Philomena and Joan H. (Interesting pattern.) Average: 32.4; median 33.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
I'm fairly certain that one fact explains this hiring decision (as well as McCarver's continued employment): Fox lacks the money to send armies of trained monkeys to your homes to ring the doorbell and fling poo in your eyes when you answer, so the far cheaper alternative, no less poo-flingier, is to inflict the maximum amount of Ozzie Guillen.
I may be unqualified to say this, since I only caught the last half-inning, and therefore saw no more of Guillen than that he was there. That alone was jarring. For him to be standing on the field in a suit, somebody at Fox presumably had to take the official position that Guillen's presence had at least a theoretical possibility of enhancing one's enjoyment or understanding of the World Series. This is inconceivable.
What evidence is there that Ozzie Guillen understands baseball? Well, he played it. Of course, he played it incredibly badly. In 16 years, Guillen posted an OPS of .626 (never exceeding the appropriate .666 for a full season). He had twelve seasons with an on base percentage under .300. In his best offensive season, Guillen was 15% worse than average; over his full 16 seasons, he was 32% worse than the average offensive player. Those numbers are very, very bad. They could reflect either a lack of talent or an inability to understand that getting on base -- and not making an out -- is a positive thing. Whether the former had anything to do with his offensive failures, Guillen has adopted the latter as his fundamental managing philosophy. He has not been the worst manager in baseball over his tenure (ahem: Hargrove), but he is certainly among those most hostile to any understanding of the game that feeds him. And before anybody says "but he managed a team to a World Series title," if he made any positive contributions to that team -- that is, if they won because of him rather than despite him -- it must have been in the chemistry/intangible department (and therefore not helpful to a broadcast team), because he is openly and adamantly committed to counterproductive in-game strategies.
So, okay, sometimes it's nice to have these lovable ex-player doofuses on the broadcasts, not to explain the game but just to give some of the flavor and color, right? Well, Ozzie Guillen is the guy who banished a guy to the minors for refusing to throw at an opposing player, and the one who called someone a "fag" and then explained that he couldn't be homophobic because he had tickets to a Madonna concert. Cuddly!
To sum up: Fox hired a jerk who doesn't understand baseball to stand around bantering with a bunch of like-minded ignoramuses. Is there any possible way that that was a rational business decision?
In thinking about tonight, the anticipation level about Pedro Martinez returning to the Bronx is just ridiculous, and I'm trying to figure out what other visting-athlete-at-venue matchups have this level of tension and drama attached to them. Reggie Miller at Madison Square Garden comes to mind first, and this Sunday conveniently features the return of That Fun-Loving Gunslinger Who's Just Having Fun Out There to Lambeau Field. I suppose Bill Simmons would want me to highlight Wayne Gretzky's return to Edmonton, but it's hard to think of other combinations which are on this level -- which is why I have y'all. Time to visit Daddy.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
So I'm writing to talk about what I think is the third-best* thing about Glee, a show that, as I've said, frustrates me endlessly. That would be Brittany, who, as played by Heather Elizabeth Morris, is the mostly-mute, near moodless (except in musical numbers), almost crosseyed cheerleader with the blonde bangs and topknot. Morris's role on the show is principally "featured dancer," and she throws herself into the production numbers with hair-whipping, leg-snapping abandon, commanding notice even though she often appears only as a yellow blur behind the steppier (to borrow an SYTYCD term) leads. That's a nice contrast to the gum-snapping, affectless Brittany in non-musical scenes. I have no idea whether that juxtaposition is intentional or just another continuity error in a show that makes no effort at continuity, but I choose to interpret it as signaling a rich inner life coaxed out only by suitably jubilant music (a thought that nicely dovetails with Morris's YouTube channel, which alternates between choreographed clip-reel fare, goofy digicam lip-synchs, and general dancer tomfoolery; please note that as stalkery as it may seem that I know of that channel, I found it only via IMDB while researching this post). Since, for me, Glee works dramatically only when it is centered around the joy -- not the craft or metaphorical significance -- of music, I'd much rather catch a glimpse of Morris and Chris Colfer cracking up in the background as an overexuberant Morris stumbles than a dozen production numbers where Lea Michele leans forward, hands clasped, enunciating depressingly about her unrequited love.
*The best, of course, is Jane Lynch. The second-best is J. Bowman's studious chronology of the happenings at William McKinley.
BSG's The Plan came out on Blu-Ray/DVD/8-track hi-fi yesterday, and FNL's fourth season begins tonight on DirecTV. My understanding is that Coach Taylor leads the Base Star High Toasters to State, but I may be getting that wrong.
Let's start with Cat Deeley, all Veronica Laked up à la Kim Basinger in L.A. Confidential. I am actually a little concerned about Cat. In both the Monday night Ice Capades episode and last night's two-fer, she came across as decidedly more self-conscious than usual -- as if she's playing the role of Cat Deeley, Warm Fuzzy SYTYCD Host and Den Mother, instead of just being Cat Deeley, Warm Fuzzy SYTYCD Host and Den Mother. The beauty of this show, as I have said approximately three kabillion times, is that it's the reality equivalent of Cheers -- you walk in, and everybody knows your name, pours you a beer, and offers you a stool at the bar. We don't need Cat to wink at the camera or to remind us that the cue to shout "jidges" is coming in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, go!
Offsetting all of Cat's unusual non-geek-goddess-style awkwardness last night was the supreme fabulosity of brand-new permanent judge Adam Shankman. Nigel, please put away the Paula chair and focus on the guy sitting two seats to your left, for he is solid SYTYCD gold. We here at ALOTT5MA SYTYCD HQ have always worshipped Shankman. He's knowledgeable, he's funny, he can dance his ass off, he brought the film version of Hairspray to Cosmo Girl, and he's just so darned cute! Between the aooga and the similarity of the musicality -- I'm charmed. (Can you tell??)
So that's it for today. Oh wait, darn it, I knew I forgot something. There was dancing, too!
Channing and Phillip (Jason Gilkerson / jive). Jive must be a lot harder than I think it is, because the jidges always complain a lot about the quality of the jiving. I thought this was cute but not terribly noteworthy. Phillip was better than Channing, although I may just have been distracted by the fact that her outfit did nothing to help her thighs. (N.B. Phillip is our favorite babysitter's good friend.)
Ashleigh and Jakob (Tyce Diorio / sultry Broadway). I am oddly intrigued by what kind of four-year-long illness Ashleigh had. I also thought she danced this well. Yes, Jakob is a miles better dancer than Ashleigh is, but (a) I was annoyed by the weight of the sledgehammer the judges used to beat Jakob's talent into our heads, and (b) I found all of his leaps and spins, gorgeous though they were, to be too light and airy for the supposed "sultriness" of the number. The jidges like to tell people to get down and dirty, and this seemed to be a situation where that comment would have been appropriate.
Ariana and Peter (Tabitha and Napoleon / robot hip hop). I enjoyed this, although I have to admit that I was so busy realizing that Peter is the tap guy who vanished without a trace in Vegas in Season 5 that I wasn't watching as closely as I should have been. I thought it was fun, and pleasantly non-literal for T&N, who I refuse to call NappyTabs.
Noelle Melanie and Russell (Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin foxtrot). I adore Russell. I thought he was amazing in Vegas, and have been looking forward to seeing him in the top 20. There's a certain star quality in his performance level that's unusual in the show's hiphoppers. I want him to be great, and so I was a little concerned when he and Noelle drew foxtrot. I have to assume that switching partners at the last minute didn't help him, but getting one of the pros in the eleventh hour sure beats getting some kid who didn't make the top 20 initially airlifted in with a day-and-a-half to rehearse. I agree with . . . Mary? . . . that he got a little steppy in parts, but the parts that were great were great.
Bianca and Victor (Travis Wall contemporary). Last season we saw Travis choreograph one amazing partner dance and one jazzercizey group number. This dance proved that the Jeanine / Jason necklace number from last season wasn't a fluke. It was lovely, and Bianca and Victor danced it beautifully and connectedly. I get Adam's comments about Bianca's shoulders and toes, but of all the tappers, Bianca's the one I'm hoping manages to stick around for the long haul.
Karen and Kevin (Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin cha cha). Two useless comments: (1) is there a difference between a cha cha and a cha cha cha? (2) Dancers named Karen and Kevin sound much more suburban married couple than the usual names on this show. More substantively: I hated the music, hated the costuming (if you actually want anyone to pay attention to the male half of a partnership, you can't dress a black guy in all-black while peacocking up his partner), and had trouble paying attention to the dancing because of the things I hated. Maybe I'll watch it again tonight on mute. Shankman obviously liked it, though. Aooga!
Ellenore and Ryan (Sonya Tayeh contemporary jazz). I have a big huge soft spot in my heart for Sonya because of Season 4's "The Garden," but I am the first to admit that she is wildly inconsistent. The top 3 girls superheroes dance from last season, for example, was just terrible. This dance was more of the Sonya I like, although I felt like it didn't go as far as it could have. (I did like Nigel's comment about how it's hard to critique a Sonya dance because you have no idea what she told the dancers to do.) As for the dancers: I have high, high hopes for Ryan. I didn't get a single whiff of ballroom from him. Ellenore, who incidentally has a beautiful speaking voice, initially gave me pause with her "this might be one of the best dances ever on SYTYCD" thing and so I spent the whole time waiting for her to fall on her head or something.
Billy Bell Brandon and Pauline (Jason Gilkerson smooth waltz). I think this was handled poorly. I would have had Pauline dance with Gilkerson (cf. Melanie and Russell) and then brought in Brandon immediately thereafter so that he could have the same amount of time as everyone else to get up to speed for the following week. That being said, it was a charming enough waltz, especially given that Brandon was told "hey, you're now in the top 20 and you have a day and a half to get your head around the situation and get your smooth waltz into gear with a brand-new partner."
Kathryn and Legacy (Dave Scott caveman hip hop). Loved this. Especially the eating of the fleas. I did not have high hopes for Legacy (and still don't), but he danced the hell out of this one. And I had no idea until I reread Isaac's preview post that this cave chick was the cryer from Vegas. We've seen a lot of contemporary dancers struggle with hip hop over the last couple of seasons, and this felt a lot more like seasons 2 and 3 when people actually managed to pull it off successfully.
Molleeeee and Nathan (Doriana Sanchez disco). I don't care if Doriana sets her choreography to Gloria Estefan and calls it Mexican wrestling disco, I don't care if she sets it to klezmer music and calls it hora disco. It's the same high-impact aerobics that she's been doing on the show for years now, and it must go. And not only that, but Janette and Brandon have done what can be done with Doriana's stylings and to see Molleee and Nathan do it at about 50% of the tempo and energy just didn't do anything for me. They're cute as buttons, though, as Shankman appropriately noted, and their average age is approximately 12. Giving these two moppets disco was the equivalent of getting a first-round bye.
As for the results: I almost don't want to talk about them because I'm angry at the jidges for threatening to take krumpy boy away from me. And Russell was obviously angry too, and danced his solo angry. Which is sort of the point of krumping, right? And it was awesome. So maybe the jidges do know what they're doing -- if they knew they were going to send Brandon back home again after his day and a half in the sun, then why not remind America why Russell's here? I didn't really care about the girls' outcome one way or the other, except to say that they probably got it right.
One last last thing, since I didn't post about Monday's show. The small-group routines were fine, except that they suffered from suboptimal filming. (They filmed them like results-show group numbers, with lots of wide angles that didn't give the viewer much chance to see what the dancers were actually doing.) But the full top-20 dance was one of Wade Robson's best. No zombies, but just enough of Wade's signature moves to make it obviously and undeniably his. (As Mr. Cosmo put it: just like we say that a dance is very Fosse now, before long we'll be talking about how Robson a dance was.)
This week, we take Lou W.'s suggestion and go to a realm which occupies this blog for a week every spring: words. Specifically, a word you have trouble remembering how to spell correctly, a phrase or idiom you often employ improperly, or some grammar rule you still haven't mastered. The more embarrassing your battle with the English language, the better. We'll take your best responses for all intensive purposes and vote starting this afternoon.
added: Voting time! Top 39 answers on the board, because I'm interested in how this data shakes out.
You will remember.
And you shall hear.
All shall love them and despair!
Please, if you have a laugh over this as well as a spare moment, do whatever you can to see that the funny these folks are neglecting their day jobs to provide to us is carried virally to the very ends of the internet. If they win another Webby I promise to extend my reality-show posting moratorium into 2010.
Thanks. Lo siento por todo.
ETA: Some vids are NSFW in a casual potty mouth / bit map quality genital graffiti sort of way.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
As I suggested last year, there was something weird and a little unsatisfying about the Phillies road to the title -- Milwaukee, Los Angeles ... Tampa Bay?
162 + 4 + 5 games later, here we are, and we've got what we wanted. Thhhhuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhh Yankees. Twenty-six titles, at least three first ballot Hall-of-Famers, but I don't think anyone in this town is scared. It's not like the Sixers entering the 2001 Finals against the Lakers and just knowing it was a matter of time before we were overwhelmed by superior talent. This Phillies team has proven too much over the past three years, scored so many runs, and done it with joy. It has been a hell of a ride. As one reader of The700Level.com put it, "You follow sports hoping that one day you'll be rewarded and get to root for a team like these Phillies."
I have long resisted efforts to assign character too much weight in evaluating sports teams, because it really is about talent v. talent, not narrative v. narrative, and deserve's got nothing to do with it. So let's leave issues of payroll, Mystique and Aura to the side. I believe our offense can score runs against anyone. I believe in Charlie Manuel and his authentic prairie gibberism. And I believe in Cliff Lee and Pedro Martinez, who has a visit scheduled with Daddy on Thursday. The rest is detail.
I love this team, and I am hopeful for and confident about the games to come. I am left with three words which guided us last year, and which give us hope anew: why can't us? Indeed, why can't us again? Phillies in 5.
When I enjoy a character, I find it hard to single out acting versus writing versus directing -- I'm more of a holistic experience TV viewer. But not this time. Taking away nothing from either the writing (great as always) or the direction (I'll offer up kudos for the business with dropping the cigarette, even if it turns out that it was Hamm's idea), all I can say is this: great balls of fire, the man from St. Louis can act. There's no overarching physicality in the difference between Don and Dick, but one moment you're watching Don, and then all of a sudden it's Dick. I can't put my finger on exactly why I know who's who, but there can be no doubt, and it was a joy to watch, subject matter notwithstanding.
Oh, and p.s., did anyone besides me do a little oh, that's how they're going to get rid of the character! victory dance when Vietnam was mentioned?
- New Permanent Judge Adam Shankman: Yay, enthusiasm without shrieking.
- Open Invitation to Paula Abdul: Boo, incoherence.
- Absent Contestant Paula von Oeffen: Yay, absence; boo malcontentedness. Do not invite her back next season, please.
- Dropout Billy Bell: Left the show because of illness. Shankman's heart is a lonely hunter.
- Replacement Brandon Dumlao: A hip-hopper with no pimpage at all. BuddyTV just has a picture of Russell Ferguson next to his name. When you can't tell the crew-cutted Filipino from the black guy with dredlocks, you need to get out of the cul-de-sac more often.
- Russell Ferguson: Krumper with suspicious flexibility and ability to point toes. The stylists don't seem to know what to do with his dreds.
- Bianca Revels, Phillip Atmore, Peter Sabasino: They've got feet. Feet can dance. Do you want to see them dance? You do? All right, then they will dance for you. It would be funny, and tap-appropriate, if every time Atmore pulled a face either Revels or Sabasino yanked him off the stage with a cane.
- Pauline Mata: The Nancy Kerrigan of dance.
- Nathan Trasoros: He looks a little like my brother, which goes a long way. I can't help but think he's manipulating the judges with his aw-shucksness and his rosy cheeks.
- Kathryn McCormick: I cannot imagine a result from week to week -- safe, bottom three, elimination -- that will not cause her to cry. A digression: if you have the same reaction to every event, then what's the point of cultivating different experiences? I hasten to add that hers is a face made for TV.
- Channing Cooke, Kevin Huntley: She looks like Veronica Mars; when he smiles he's a dead ringer for Tupac. I wish they had paired them up so that she could solve his murder.
- Ashleigh and Ryan Di Lello. Ashleigh has a misspelled name, orange skin, and pink lipstick; she pulls giant faces with her giant face. Nigel will not stop attributing his own love of Ryan's arms to the nearest woman.
- Noelle Marsh and Mollee Gray. BFFs whose bond was forged over a surfeit of Ls. Gray was the star of Vegas Week, the TV producer's ideal of the sassy teen dance prodigy. Marsh was introduced in the cut-down episode as Gray's sidekick, a la Single White Female. I guess the way I would describe the differences between these two is that Gray is Cheer Camp and Marsh is Cheer Camp Instructor.
- Ariana DuBose, Ellenore Scott, Jakob Karr, Victor Smalley: So little pimpage here. Smalley seems dumb as a box of hammers.
- Karen Hauer: The Latin dancer not named Di Lello. That three-person Latin dance featuring a husband, a wife, and Hauer was excellently awkward. You could almost see Ryan saying "I will now dry hump Karen perfunctorily from a safe distance before I return to my angry-looking wife." And Hauer was like, "well, I'm going to gyrate out here by myself for a while, so when you get a chance, don't forget to drop by and rub the palms of your hands suggestively down my sides."
- Legacy Perez: I love his solos, but he really sucked all through Vegas Week, both in choreography and in attitude. I didn't see who he partnered with, but I'm guessing that when she made her ticket to LA, she didn't cancel her subscriptions.
Monday, October 26, 2009
We have seven starters whose OPS is greater than .850. Our shortstop is so beloved that our engineers are working on infecting him with a terrifying new degenerative disease so that it can be named after him.
Every Yankee team that has won a pennant has been underrated. Every Yankee team that has failed to win a pennant was robbed or cheated by the anti-Yankee establishment. Every Yankee deserves to win the MVP every year (except whiny choke-artist Alex Rodriguez, who has not done a single thing right during his entire Yankee career). Every fan of a team that is not the Yankees (or, we grudgingly admit, the hated Red Sox) is incapable of understanding what it is like to be a real baseball fan.
In some English dialects, our nickname means "person who is masturbated" (the Yankor is ESPN).
More young Asians wear our hats than wear clean underwear.
We built our right field fence to whiffle ball specs. Some think this was an accident, but in fact it was designed to be the greatest distance of which C.C. Sabathia is capable of walking without a meal break.
We are so successful that we plated our entire stadium with enough gold to make necklaces for every New Jersey auto detailer that we no longer want attending our games. Our stadium is so in demand that people pay us thousands of dollars for the privilege of not being able to afford seats. We use this to finance our unusual free-agent bidding strategy, in which we put two representatives into every auction to continue bidding against each other even after every other team has dropped out.
When we celebrate, we generally do not fall off of taxicabs. Perhaps we can just chalk that up to experience celebrating. We look forward to conquering the Philadelphia Philadelphies and their quaintly enthusiastic supporters.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Also, Miss Alli's recap of last week is now up: "It turns out that when you get to the 124th floor of the building, you walk out onto sort of a patio, and you get your clue. And THAT IS ALL. Seriously? I mean, I realize you can’t jump off of everything or rappel down everything, but 'walk out onto a balcony' is not a task."