Monday, April 30, 2007

"It's all about the moonbounce."

Even for a recovering coulrophobic like myself, I found Bill Goodwin's "On Being a Clown" to be pure enjoyment and right up there with the Great Zucchini. Unless you have kids, you easily forget that clowning around is, for many, still a way to pay the bills. And, no surprise, it can seem like a thankless job, considering the amount of work and energy required. You can find Goodwin's essay in the current issue of Doublethink.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Ireland Returns Dad's Call

This has been going around.

"I'm not going to call you 'The Shadow' anymore, dad."

Bad News Friday

First comes word that Jack Valenti, the man who made the modern MPAA, has died.

Valenti was a character--a former aide to LBJ who made it big in Hollywood. In Washington, you would see him from time to time--very short, very thin, with ram-rod posture and a mane of hair that was actually silver. He looked like a bit like a retired--and very rich--jockey.

My one brush with Valenti came about a year after 9/11. I was working on a story about Hollywood's aversion to movies about the war on terror and I called the MPAA to talk to him. The PR flak there told me that Valenti was in LA, but would call me in the morning, around 9:00 a.m., East coast time.

My phone rang the next morning at 9:00 a.m., sharp, and I talked with Valenti while he was at the gym. In the background, I could hear the squeaking of pulleys and odd putt-uptt noises and in my mind's eye, I pictured him in some sort of 1930s Mandlebaum-Mandlebaum-Mandlebaum gym with medicine balls and those machines that looped a giant rubberband around your mid-section and vibrated.

Whatever the case, Valenti was gracious, smart, generous with his time, and (what every reporter appreciates most) completely candid. I'm sad to see him go and, in an odd way, kind of surprised he's gone. Guys like Valenti--and there aren't many of them--seem like they'll be around for forever.

The other, more minor, bit of bad news is that Tim Minear's very promising series Drive has been yanked by the geniuses at Fox. I hope that, unlike The Inside, we get the chance to follow the story on DVD.

On the one hand, Fox is to be applauded for letting Minear create such interesting shows, such as Wonderfalls, The Inside, and Drive. But on the other hand, it makes no sense why they let him create these projects, and then give them minimal ad support and virtually no time to grow an audience.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Picoult on Wonder Woman

CNN has a little story on novelist Jodi Picoult's run writing the re-launched Wonder Woman comic book.

The interview is short, but interesting. But to be honest, I didn't think much of Picoult's first two issues--the writing isn't terribly crisp and the focus on Diana Prince doesn't seem all that compelling. To me at least.

I don't think this is a knock on Picoult, though. Wonder Woman is a hard character, probably the least interesting of DC's Big Three. She's the most difficult to do well and probably the least rewarding when she is done the right way.

All of which is a long-way around to saying how fantastic it is that Picoult even bothered to try her hand at comic books. Having writers like Picoult and Joss Whedon and Brad Meltzer working in the comics world is great for the industry and really great for readers. Here's hoping she does more after her Wonder Woman run.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Final Word on The Condemned

From AICN, in the course of a surprsingly rave review:

Anyone who enjoys action films is gonna have fun with this. You’ll laugh at intentional moments and unintentional moments alike. And overall you’ll have a good, popcorn chomping time. But the guys who are looking forward to this? The folks who watched the trailer and had ZERO fucking apprehension about this? The guys who are going to wear their AUSTIN 3:16 shirts to the theatre Friday morning? This is their Citizen fucking Kane. These guys are gonna lose their minds at how awesome this is. It’s gonna play on TNT for like, a million, zillion years.

Pajiba Love

In the course of reviewing Vacancy, the geniuses at Pajiba make a piercing observation:

[O]f course, they can’t call for help, because they are out of cell-phone range (the day that cell phone companies fix the goddamn out of range issue in this country is the day that modern horror movies die).

So true.

Kryptonite Discovered

If Jerry Seinfeld doesn't buy this, then he's rich for no reason.
So I'm halfway through the first sentence of this Slate piece:

If Apple, Amazon, Google, Yahoo!, eBay, Facebook, and Satan were forming a mega-portal that would satisfy all my Web needs (and in return I'd have to sell my soul and get a Bluetooth-enabled "slave chip" embedded in my eyeball) . . .

And I think to myself, Frack this! Someone is ripping off Reihan Salam. That's not cool.

And then I look up at the byline.

Hollywood Patriotism!

Well, not exactly. Galley Friend J.E. sends us this report from the Russian MTV awards:

Scandal hit MTV Russia's movie awards ceremony Thursday when a presenter refused to announce the viewer-voted award for best movie after realizing which film had won.

Vladimir Menshov, one of Russia's leading directors, was onstage at Moscow's Pushkin Theater when he opened the envelope with details of the winning film -- the World War II drama "Svolochi," in which a group of teenage criminals is sent on a suicide mission behind German lines.

Menshov gasped as he read the contents of the envelope, looked up and said: "I'm not going to hand over an award to a film that discredits my country, let Pamela Anderson (another of the evening's presenters) do it instead."

He then turned, dropped the envelope and stalked offstage, refusing to comment further.

J.E. sums it up perfectly:

It's something absolutely unthinkable in this country. Can you possibly imagine someone at the MTV Awards here refusing to give the best pic award to a film that portrayed the U.S. as criminally unethical on grounds that it made our country look bad? Impossible. And yet, it happens in Russia, a country with far fewer reasons to be proud.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Sony Watch

Why? Because I may never be this clearly, or prescienty, right again. Here's the full story:

The company had said it would sell 6 million machines by the end of its financial year (three weeks ago), but the global level of sales is currently believed to be less than 4 million.

A report in the Financial Times has suggested that the company is rethinking its pricing strategy. PS3 is the most expensive machine on the market, offering a Blu-ray disk drive.

However, the company has released a statement refuting this notion. “PS3 prices and shipment plans for the future should be determined by market trends and competition. Sony currently doesn't have any specific plan to cut the PlayStation 3's price.”

Analysts believe a price cut is inevitable, as the company struggles to catch Microsoft’s early lead with Xbox 360, and the $250 Wii continues to sell s many as can be produced. However, Sony’s plan has generally been to hold tight and hope that demand for Blu-ray drives will increase, by the end of this year.

The company already subsidizes its hardware sales, and has reported disappointing financials for its games division. A price cut would be financially difficult and would send a message that confidence in its Blu-ray strategy is low.

You think?

Friday, April 20, 2007

The End of a Beautiful Friendship?

Galley Friend B.W. sends us this piece speculating that the good times may be over between QT and the Weinsteins because of Grindhouse.

I have trouble believing that's true, no matter how much I wish it were so. As QT reminded Peter Biskind over and over, he built Miramax, man. He made that studio. Further, while I don't think the Weinsteins the geniuses people make them out to be, I can't imagine they saw Grindhouse as a real commercial prospect. It's a weird, self-involved genre movie--from a genre that only a handful of people have any affection for. Surely they must have seen the project as a reward for QT, a big enough plum to keep him working for them now that they're out on their own again.

Baldwin Family Values

Drudge has linked to the TMZ story with the voicemail Alec Baldwin left for his 11-year-old daughter, Ireland. Treat yourself to the entire audio. Highlights include Baldwin yelling at her for "humiliating" him and calling her "a thoughtless little pig" and claiming that she doesn't have "the brains or the decency as a human being."

But my personal favorite is when he says that he doesn't "give a damn that you're 12-years-old, or 11-years-old . . ." Father of the year!

Just out of curiosity, do you think Baldwin is going to be welcome at all the swanky Democratic fundraisers in 2008? Does this tirade maybe put into context some of his public statements about how terrible conservatives and Republicans are as human beings?

Ghost Ship

A very, very creepy story.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Old Age Watch

It's 25th anniversary of Porky's, Fast Times, and Last American Virgin. Ouch.

AICN has a great essay on the trio of immortal films (including trailer for all three). A sample of the introduction:

I was positively Machiavellian as a kid when it came to seeing a film I wanted to see that was rated R. I found that it was easiest to get permission to see a violent film that was rated R, while anything that dealt with sex was a much harder sell. In the case of PORKY’S, I was visiting my grandmother in Memphis when the film was gearing up for release. It was spring break, and Fox was doing sneak previews of the film for a few weeks before the actual release. I didn’t know much about it, but that poster was enough to pique my interest . . .

Talk about promising. That poster was practically a dare for a 12 year old. . . .

Monday, April 16, 2007

Apple's I-Rack

Is it funnier than the iSomething? Not quite; but it's funny nonetheless.

Greatest Class Ever

An MIT lecture on the pro wrestling. With special guest expert . . . wait for it . . . Mick Foley.

Dept. of Arrested Development

At least he didn't bite off her hand.
The Washington Post recently conducted a sociological experiment of sorts, in which premier concert violinist Joshua Bell would play for 43 minutes on a Stradivarius at the L'Enfant metro during rush hour. Would anyone notice? The results, as reported by Gene Weingarten, are fascinating.

Great News from PS3 Land!

In a brilliant move, Sony has pulled the plug on their cheaper 20-gig PS3 model. All the better to concentrate on what consumers really want!

All sarcasm aside, there was never any reason to have the $500 20-gig system except to help muddy the price-point waters at the time of launch. It's a rump system with no wi-fi, limited connectivity, and, if memory serves, limited backward compatibility, too. If you were going to spend $500 on a PS3, you might as well shell out the extra $100 for the full system.

The Writerly Life

The great Andrew Ferguson perfectly captures what life is like as a young writer in Washington:

Not long after I came to Wash ington to work as a junior editorial flunky, I went to a cocktail party at a think tank. (Attending cocktail parties at think tanks, I thought then, was one of the great perks of my job, which tells you all you need to know about the life of a junior editorial flunky.) There I met a fellow flunky--a flunkiette, you might call her, since she was even greener than I was, and much, much blonder. Her thankless job was to write speeches, op-eds, position papers, and other encyclicals under the name of the think tank's president. She was a ghost, in other words. A flunkiette ghost.

Comparing notes, we both mentioned our admiration for the wit, prose style, and intellectual range of a well-known newspaper columnist.

"He's the best," I said.

"Fabulous," she agreed.

Then, after a brief pause and a puzzled look, she said: "I wonder who writes his stuff."

Friday, April 13, 2007

According to AP, a California woman has given birth to the first baby conceived with a frozen sperm and frozen egg. The process was complex and the event marks a medical milestone. Doctors and scientists are said to be eagerly monitoring the male infant's development. Understandably, most of the information surrounding the birth remains confidential though we do know the name of the baby, Bobby Drake, and the presiding physician, Dr. Victor Fries.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

More Great News from Sony!

Facing the PS3 debacle, Sony is casting about for alternate revenue streams from the $600 game console. And they may have found one: Pimping out your PS3's Cell processor to do networked computing aps for other companies while you're not using it Awesome!

Galley Friend K.N. sends us the dirt from the FT:

Sony PlayStation 3 users may soon be asked to share the supercomputer power of their video game consoles with companies that lack their own technology to run complex research projects, the Financial Times was told.

Sony Computer Entertainment is in discussions with a number of companies about possible commercial applications for the PlayStation 3. This comes in the wake of its non-profit partnership with Stanford University in March that harnesses the spare computing capacity of registered PS3s for the analysis of protein cells.

However, because this would be a commercial proposition that would benefit profit-making organisations, Sony is studying whether it would need to offer incentives, such as free products, to persuade PS3 owners to participate.

Another PR coup for Sony!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Poor Arthur Batchelor. Not only did the British seaman get teased by the Iranians, who called him Mr. Bean, but now he is being criticized by his fellow Brits for everything from selling his story to crying after suffering all those "Mr. Bean" taunts. None of this would have happened had the Iranians ever heard of Giovanni Ribisi.

Kimmel v. Gawker

I'm no fan of the Denton blogpire and I hate New York City. So I don't particularly care for Gawker since it is both (a) part of the Dentonverse and (b) about New York. Also, I kind of like Jimmy Kimmel, who can make with the funny. But Kimmel's recent ambush> of Gawker editrix Emily Gould is positively retarded. Evil Beet has an excellent retort:

I lost a lot of respect for Kimmel after watching this. He was in a bad mood, and I suppose he was trying to prove he could do “serious” television, and he really ought to have picked on someone his own size. His points don’t hold up. Celebrities these days know what celebrity means. You went to those auditions, Jimmy. Walked there with your own damn feet. You pitched those shows. You wanted to be a big star. You wanted people to write about you. People write about you now, Jimmy. Take the good with the bad, asshole. The Man Show did those candid segments that fucked with real people’s lives. I bet they didn’t all think it was as funny as you did. Oh, and remember how you left your wife of 14 years, with whom you had two children, for Sarah Silverman? Just checking, Mister Morality. Stick to sports and drinking beer and ogling women, Jimmy.

Whatever. The real shame here is that CNN is letting a game-show host anchor what's supposed to be a news show. (Not for the first times.) Several years back, when some other TV head moved from sports casting to "serious news," a friend journalist friend noted that the medium of television supercedes all of the imaginary subcategories we invent for it: In other words, TV news and TV gameshows have more in common than do, say, TV news and newspapers.

We can't expect someone like Jimmy Kimmel to remember that; but we should.

Fun with Google Maps

Galley Sis MAL sends us this hilarious set of directions from Google Maps on how to get from New York, NY to Paris, France.

Scroll down to #23 for the punchline. Someone at Google has a sense of humor.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


If you're trying to get off the WoW pipe, CNET has this bit of virtual oxycodone.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Get Your Fresh CulturePulp!

Mike Russell is back! With The Lords of Breakfast. It's what would happen if Capt. Cruch went to war with Count Chocula and the rest of the sugar cereal characters. Don't miss it.

Douthat on The Sopranos

Heresy time: I liked the first season of The Sopranos quite a lot. It was good stuff. But it didn't capture my interest enough to stick around for the second season--and if the first season is a fair measure of the show's quality, then it may be the most over-praised series of our time. (Of course, maybe the the show got a lot better after I stopped watching, which is totally possible.)

The Sopranos seemed to me like a really great show, but the best thing ever to grace the small screen? I liked Homicide better. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, too. Ditto my latest TV crushes, Veronica Mars and Battlestar Galactica. But these shows don't get giant billboards and Vanity Fair covers like The Sopranos does. Don't get me wrong, I'm not hating on David Chase's show--I just wish people would save a few plaudits for some of the other great TV being produced.

All of which is a long wind-up to this interesting bit from Ross Douthat:

I would actually go a little further than this (and I do, in a forthcoming piece), and argue that The Sopranos is implicitly - and sometimes explicitly - a show about damnation, and how ordinary, often-sympathetic people can willingly choose to go to hell.

Department of Bigger Boats

From Discovery's Channel's Planet Earth series, in super-duper slow-mo:

PLANET EARTH - Great White Shark Jump - Watch the top videos of the week here

Riddle me this: Who do you take in a fight, Bruce here, or a giant squid?

Where are Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Sue?

Galley Friend M.C. sends us this priceless quote from Peter King's MMQB column:

"I have made horrible decisions about who I am with or who I am going places with ... Two of my friends who had never driven a Bentley, I let them drive my Bentley one night just because. Not just to show them the upside, but I never had anyone do that for me. It's always the little things that get me in trouble."
--Pacman Jones to Deion Sanders on the NFL Network.

Lesbian Vampires!

Starring Lucy Liu and Carla Gugino. Happy Monday!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Thursday night I was lucky enough to attend the Washington screening of The Sopranos, featuring the first two episodes, "Soprano Home Movies" and "Stage Five" (which I had previously reviewed for The Daily Standard). This was followed by a dinner and Q&A with writer/creator David Chase. Sadly, we were all informed this would be off the record and so I am unable to share any insights about Tony's death at the hands of his nephew Christopher. Kidding.

Chase directed this season's first and last episodes (they just finished the read-through for the latter). During the Q&A, he was very soft-spoken, mild-mannered, and weary-looking. The questions (I was not picked) were fairly explicit about details from as far back as season one but Chase didn't miss a beat. (I wondered if he would react the way William Shatner did in the SNL Star Trek convention skit.) And no, he did not even hint about how it will end. I think the guests genuinely enjoyed the screening, particularly the first episode, which one veteran Washington pundit told me was already "much better than last season." Perhaps it was the whole coma sequence. Or maybe he didn't like Johnny Cakes. Best of all, we went home with a goody bag that included last season on DVD.

For my fellow Sopranos fans, you will definitely enjoy the next two episodes. And keep an eye out for Phil Leotardo's right-hand man, Butch Deconcini, played by actor Greg Antonacci. For some reason, he terrifies me (probably has to do with his crooked eye) and I am betting he will do something very bad before all is said and done. (Also be sure to enjoy Phil's lecture about the bastardization of his family name in episode two. I don't know how Frank Vincent does this with a straight face.)

Friday, April 06, 2007

Geek Alert

First, the obligatory Sony news: The PS3's Australian launch is a bust. Oops.

Now the good stuff. The Wii port of the new Spider-Man 3 game sounds kind of dreamy:

Flick forward with the nunchuk and Spidey will shoot his webbing forward. Flick all the way to the right and you can send the superhero swinging at a near-90-degree angle. You can also dual-swing by motioning with both controllers . . .

That's basically the Holy Grail of videogaming right there. The Wii will pass the xBox 360 in sales later this year and by 2008 might be tripled-up on the PS3. And it shouldn't surprise anyone.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

And the Actual Retail Price Is . . .

Mario Lopez?

Seriously, if this happens I might just move to Russia. Still, the story sent along by Galley Sis MAL is kind of fascinating--imagine making a Price Is Right audition tape:

The field of candidates to succeed Bob Barker as host of CBS' venerable game show "The Price Is Right" might be narrowing.

Sources indicated that Mark Steines, George Hamilton and Mario Lopez have emerged as top contenders, with Steines, co-host of "Entertainment Tonight," getting the strongest buzz at the moment. Tapes of "Price" auditions have been sent out and are being shown to test audiences around the country, sources said.

The list also includes Todd Newton, John O'Hurley and former "Beauty and the Geek" host Mike Richards.

Dreamcast, R.I.P.

And another part of my childhood dies.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Note to Dean Barnett (and other golf junkies)

This doesn't do much for me, but I suspect that for a certain segment of the population, this will be catnip:

Forty-seven years ago, on Masters Sunday, Arnold Palmer staged one of his classic, furious charges. He nearly made birdie on No. 16 at Augusta National, and he did make dramatic birdies on Nos. 17 and 18 to snatch the green jacket away from San Francisco native Ken Venturi. . . .

As a lead-in to its coverage of the final round, CBS will air a one-hour, colorized re-broadcast of the closing holes of the 1960 Masters. Not a documentary, pausing frequently for retrospective interviews. Not a highlights show, bouncing quickly from shot to shot. This will be a genuine re-broadcast, as if the events were unfolding live.

The project was the brainchild of CBS play-by-play man Jim Nantz. He unearthed the original footage and spearheaded an ambitious effort to have it colorized. Nantz and Palmer introduce the show and Nantz interviews Palmer afterward. In between, viewers will see the same coverage viewers did in 1960, except in color. . . .

The idea hatched when CBS agreed to give Nantz air time before the final round of each Masters. Last year, he put together a 20-year anniversary piece on Jack Nicklaus' landmark victory in 1986. This year, Nantz and producer Chris Svendsen went one step further.

They hooked up with Legend Films, a San Diego company specializing in colorization technology. Nantz described the process as long and tedious, involving 62,000 frames of film and 10,000 man hours.

But it sounds like the result was worth the time, effort and expense. The show not only features Palmer rallying past Venturi, but also 47-year-old Ben Hogan on the 18th hole, Nicklaus as a hotshot, 20-year-old amateur playing alongside Sam Snead, and tournament founder Bobby Jones hosting the post-round ceremony.

Enjoy! (If you're into that sort of thing.)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

PS3 Watch

The first week of PS3 sales where better than expected, if not great, in Europe. Now comes week 2:

Sales of the PlayStation 3 have dropped dramatically on the second week of release in the UK, with official Chart Track figures revealing a fall of 82 per cent.

Will someone who understands the stock market explain to me when the market will catch up to this disaster?

The Burghers Next Door

Galley Friend J.E. sends in this great item:

I got a tremendous laugh out of the first item in today's Page Six. It's about the blood-and-gore director Robert Rodriguez and his now estranged wife, who also happens to be his producer. She checked out after 18 years and five kids when she discovered that he was shtupping the star of his latest film. Here's the part that made me laugh: " Rodriguez and Avellan insist that their separation is amicable and that they plan to raise their four boys, Rebel, Rocket, Rogue and Racer, and daughter, Rhiannon, together and continue their partnership in Troublemaker Studios.

Let's see, they give their kids names that reflect a complete contempt for traditional mores, and even name their studio "Troublemaker." But a little extracurricular marital activity--that's beyond the pale. I guess they don't preach what they practice.

So bourgeois!

More Captain America

It's like The A-Team meets Roger Corman's Fantastic Four, with a dash of The Bionic Woman thrown in for good measure:

This is all courtesy of Popoholic. I have to admit that not only do I remember this, but I loved it. The '70s were a real golden era for superhero TV between this, Linda Carter's Wonder Woman, and the Bixby/Ferrigno Hulk.

Although some of us (I'm looking at you, B.J.) were always partial to the early '90s, John Wesley Shipp Flash.

Monday, April 02, 2007


Noting last week's post on the greatest Wrestlemania matches of all-time, Galley Friend A.W. sends this link to the worst Wrestlemania of all-time--Wrestlemania IX: Caesar's Palace.

Ugh. [shiver]

PS3 Notes

For those of you who might have gotten the impression that Sony didn't put a ton of thought into the PS3, there's this story on how the company was adamant about . . . the font used on the console:

CVG reports that Teiyu Goto, one the main creative minds behind the design of the PlayStation 3, has admitted that SCE’s chairman and chief executive Ken Kuturagi was the driving force behind Sony’s use of the Spider-Man movie font for the PS3 logo.

In an interview with Official PlayStation Magazine, Goto stated: “If you really look at the PS3 contour carefully, it is rounded when viewing the console in profile. Rather than creating a typography with all the risks that entails, it was wiser to use the one from Spider-Man, for which Sony has the rights.

“It was also the wish of then-president Kutaragi, who insisted that I use this typography. In fact, the logo was one of the first elements he decided on and the logo may have been the motivating force behind the shape of PS3.

That'll be a great footnote for whatever MBA student does the first study of the PS3.

Everybody Runs

I only link to this story so I can use that headline. Minority Report is totally under-rated.