Friday, June 29, 2007

The New Nancy Drew

In the WSJ Jennifer Graham gives us a wonderful observation about the problems posed by the new Nancy Drew's age:

In the classic series of books that peaked during the Eisenhower administration, Miss Drew was a young woman, either 16 or 18 years old, depending on the driving laws of the time. She had already stepped out of the pimply pool of seething neuroses that we call high school, and dwelled, unencumbered by a day job, in an orderly world where your housekeeper prepared the meals and tweedy new clothes were charged to your father's account at the local department store. The old Nancy was so mature that the actress who portrayed her on television in the 1970s posed for Playboy. If the new Nancy Drew did that, child pornography laws would have been broken.

The 56 mysteries that made up the original Nancy Drew series, published by Grosset & Dunlap, were sparsely illustrated. But the covers and crude sketches within showed a smartly dressed young woman with classic clothes and a demure, almost matronly, hair style. The reader is told that she is a teenager, but given her demeanor and skill set (Nancy can handle a gun, change a tire, fly a plane, sew a dress and perform water ballet), she transcended the indignities of adolescence and always seemed old enough to drink (not that our heroine ever would).

The Nancy in the Warner Bros. movie, disappointingly, is just a girl. She attends high school and hangs with a puerile, wisecracking 12-year-old. She bribes thieves and clerks with homemade baked goods and carries a "sleuthing kit," no doubt coming soon to a Wal-Mart near you. Approaching cheesiness, she is a caricature of the adolescent overachiever, a girl who outruns her peers on the high-school track with a Peter Pan collar and exaggerated steps; who builds the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in shop class, saying "I only had time for 12 flying buttresses--in actuality there are 26."

Baby boomer mothers who take their daughters to the film expecting the classy heroine of their youth will find instead a 99-minute mockumentary of what Martha Stewart must have been like as a tweener.

Read the rest. Graham has a deep insight into why the filmmakers had to do it this way.

Sixers News. Sigh.

Big night last night. Great draft. Couple of franchise players in the mix. And the Philadelphia '76ers were wheeling and dealing!

The 7-foot, 240-pound Smith played three years for the Rams, and is also known as a good athlete. . . .

With the 30th overall pick, the Sixers selected 19-year-old Finnish guard Petteri Koponen. They later traded Koponen to Portland for the 42nd overall pick and cash.

The Sixers already had the 38th overall pick, and used it on Ukranian center Kyrylo Fesenko. Right at the end of the night, though, the Sixers traded Fesenko to Utah for the rights to the 55th overall pick, Providence center Herbert Hill. . . .

When the 42nd pick came around, Portland took 6-foot-7, 220-pound Vanderbilt guard Derrick Byars on the Sixers' behalf.

Forget movement for movement's sake--that's how you build a dynasty!

Watchmen Watch

Okay, go ahead and get your geek on.

Benoit and the Future of Wrestling

I haven't written much else on the Benoit murder-suicide this week because I'm writing about it elsewhere, but simply looking at the progress of the story, a few things are striking:

* The WWE has been incredibly aggressive in their public posture, which is unexpected. They initially released a statement attacking the media for suspecting steroids might have been involved. They then released, of their own accord, a detailed timeline of the affair and the Benoit text messages, which now seems to have disappeared from their website. (Or maybe they've just moved it?) Vince McMahon then went on the Today show and walked away from the earlier statement on steroids. As an organization, the company is acting oddly. Why were they so defensive about steroids? Why were they trying to build a timeline proving what they knew and when they knew it?

* Then there's the Wikipedia story:

Benoit's Wikipedia entry was altered early Monday to say that the wrestler had missed a match two days earlier because of his wife's death.

A Wikipedia official, Cary Bass, said Thursday that the entry was made by someone using an Internet protocol address registered in Stamford, Conn., where World Wrestling Entertainment is based. . . .

WWE attorney Jerry McDevitt said that to his knowledge, no one at the WWE knew Nancy Benoit was dead before her body was found Monday afternoon.

(A slightly scary footnote to this is that it was reporters who noticed the Wikipedia change, not the police.)

* And then there's the not-unexpected steroid subplot, by which we learned that Benoit's doctor has had his license suspended. Federal officials raided his office on Wednesday night. But I haven't seen many remarks on this obscure detail about Daniel Benoit:

Needle marks were found in Daniel's arm, said Fayette County District Attorney Scott Ballard. He said authorities suspect "that the boy had been taking growth hormones for quite some time," and are hoping to prove that with toxicology. The boy, Ballard said, was diagnosed with a form of dwarfism.

Daniel was found face down on his bed, but authorities said they do not know whether he was sleeping when he was killed. Ballard said authorities believe the child was asphyxiated using a choke hold.

So there you have a wrestler who may have had his 7-year-old son on the juice and who may have used a wrestling move to kill him.

What does this all add up to? This may be wrestling's perfect storm. If all of these facts bear out as the investigation continues--and maybe they won't--then I think we may be looking at the end of professional wrestling as we know it.

The logic of this investigation may well propel us to a point where (1) Lawmakers get involved and attempt to clean up the industry and/or the publicly-held WWE comes under enormous pressure to get rid of its majority owners (the McMahon family). At this point, I'd say that both outcomes are possible, and maybe even likely. And judging from the WWE's behavior in recent days, I suspect that they have a similar read of the situation.

Update: Bruce Hart obviously has bad feelings toward the WWE (and rightly so), but here's his assessment of Benoit:

"The last time I saw him he was in pretty rough shape mentally," said Bruce Hart, son of the legendary Stu Hart. "I didn't know all the details but I knew it wasn't good. I was not at all shocked (by what happened).

"If I could see and determine that in a few visits, how the hell could they (World Wrestling Entertainment) not have known something was wrong? (In my opinion) I think the WWE needs to re-evaluate what it is doing here."

Update 2: An anonymous person claiming to be the mystery poster from Stamford, CT, now says that he/she was just speculating about Nancy Benoit's death and was just passing on rumors he/she had heard/read elsewhere and that it was all just a huge and terrible coincidence.

Maybe this is true. I imagine this is why police have TARU departments.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Don't Forget About Sony

It's been hours--days, even--since we've visited the ongoing Sony PS3 debacle. So have a look at this:

Namco Bandai, Sega of Japan and Capcom are all shifting their development support to Nintendo's Wii and DS, according to a report on Variety Asia.

Leading the change in priorities is Namco Bandai, which intends to up its Nintendo output by 109 per cent with a massive 115 titles scheduled for fiscal 2007.

Also backing Nintendo is Sega, which has 49 titles due on the two formats, an increase of 96 per cent. Capcom has 20 titles in development, an increase of 5 per cent, says the survey.

It also clams that the three major publishers are slashing shipments for Sony's consoles by 30-40 per cent over the coming year.

But Blockbuster is only renting Blu-Ray!

(Too bad Blockbuster is on the fast-track to extinction.)

Update: QED: Blockbuster announces plans to close 282 stores.

Advantage: Cleverness!

Say what you will about Slate, they're always clever--and this Keith Phipps piece on the blockbusters of 2008 is a perfect example of Slate at its clever best.

Well played!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Wimbledon Notes

Did you catch the Tim Henman-Carlos Moya match yesterday? Unbelievable. They don't play tie breaks in the fifth set at the All England Club, and after blowing four match points at 5-4, Henman found himself deadlocked with Moya at 5-5 in the fifth on Monday night. They called the match on account of darkness and emerged ready to decide matters on Tuesday, which is when the action really began.

After a match filled with breaks, Moya and Henman held serve over and over again. Finally, in the 23rd game of the fifth set, Henman faced break point. It might as well have been match point. He dug out an ace. Then, facing another breaker a few moments later, he conjured a second-serve ace. He held.

Henman won the next two points on Moya's serve, and eventually found himself with a fifth match point. Moya fought it off. Same with the sixth. Then, after his seventh match point and 4 hours and 11 minutes, Tim Henman, 32-years-old, advanced to the second round of his 14th Wimbledon. The score read:

6-3, 1-6, 5-7, 6-2, 13-11

It might have been the match of his life.

Henman is one of those semi-tragic figures in sports. He's on the short-list of best players of his generation never to win a major and in the four chances where he's gotten closest--his four semi-final berths at Wimbledon--he seemed overwhelmed by the burden placed on him by his countrymen. Had he been from Finland, he might well have won one of those championships. (Probably in 2001 when he beat Federer in the quarters--Federer having just taken out Sampras in the previous round.)

That said, he's a fighter and a striver and an old man facing the end of his career. He deserved a win like this.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Another Wrestling Death—Updated

After noting the fake death of Vince McMahon yesterday, I now see that wrestling great Chris Benoit has died for real. The story is highly disturbing:

Details of the deaths of pro wrestler Chris Benoit, his wife and their 7-year-old son may seem "a little bizarre" when released to the public, a prosecutor said.

Authorities were investigating the deaths at a secluded Fayette County home as a murder-suicide and were not seeking any suspects outside the home. . . .

Investigators believe Benoit, (pronounced ben-WAH,) killed his wife and son over the weekend and then himself sometime Monday. The bodies were found Monday afternoon in three different rooms of the house on Green Meadow Lane, in a subdivision off a gravel road about two miles from Whitewater Country Club. . . .

Ballard told The Associated Press a gun was not used in any of the deaths. But he declined to say how the three died.

"We're pretty sure we know, but we want to confirm it with the crime lab," Ballard said early Tuesday. . . .

World Wrestling Entertainment said on its Web site that it asked authorities to check on Benoit and his family after being alerted by friends who received "several curious text messages sent by Benoit early Sunday morning."

I wonder if, having a real murder in their family will shame the WWE out of continuing with the storyline of the fake murder of Vince McMahon.

Update: I've been thinking a little more about how strange the WWE's decision was to pull Raw last night and run a Chris Benoit "tribute" show instead. I was watching that last night and listening to the announcers lamenting the death of the Benoit family and remembering what a great guy Benoit was, but even as that was happening, it seemed clear from the wire reports that the Man of a Thousand Holds had murdered his wife and child.

I suspect last night's "tribute" show will disappear down the WWE memory hole pretty quickly--the tape may have been burned right after it aired. But there's something grotesque about it nonetheless.

Update II: The airbrushing has begun! Less than 12 hours after lionizing Chris Benoit on a Very Special Episode of Raw, the WWE is disappearing him:

In light of the Benoit family tragedy, WWE's Shopzone merchandise website has pulled all merchandise related to Chris Benoit. Searches for Benoit's name in the website's search engine are returned "discontinued."

Benoit's name has been removed to the degree that the listing for the DVD of Wrestlemania XX now reads, "Triple H defends his World Heavyweight Championship against Shawn Michaels."

In case you're wondering, that Wrestlemania XX match is what they closed the show with last night, calling it Benoit's greatest moment.

Update III: TMZ now has more details on the murder-suicide.

Make a Simpsons Cartoon of Yourself

Totally brilliant.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Is Vince McMahon Dead?

Of course not. But this is a pretty interesting discussion of what his "death" could mean, financially speaking, for the WWE.

What interests me more is what his death could mean for wrestling creatively. Yes, I know that real wrestling fans watch TNA these days. But the problem with the WWE for the last several years has been the combination of giving up the pretense to realism while at the same time letting the McMahons dominate the storylines. They can't ever go back from becoming pure "entertainment," but maybe getting rid of the McMahons (or at least Vince) could liberate the writers. Of course, the McMahons write much of the copy, too, so they probably aren't going anywhere and this stunt will probably be short-lived. It's Crash TV all over again.

The Celebrity-Industrial Complex

Ron Rosenbaum has a great dissection of the pseudo-literate celebrity profile. Well worth your time.

If you read enough of these magazines you will, once in a blue moon, run across a celeb profile that's pure hit-piece. The infamous GQ cover on Mira Sorvino comes to mind, as does the first Vanity Fair piece on the Hilton sisters many years ago. Those things are always quickly flushed down the memory hole, but when they happen, they're beautiful to behold.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

How Many Takes?

The studs at Pajiba found this fantastic, mesmerizing video:

I can't quite figure out what's going on here. Is this a start-up? A graduate seminar? A very experimental theater group? Whatever the case, it makes me want to be young again.

And the camera work is pretty impressive.

(Yes, I know that this is a recruitment video from the Connected Ventures people. Still, I prefer to think of College Humor and Busted Tees as advanced performance art.)

P.S.: I could swear I spotted both Warren and Andrew in there. No Jonathan, though. Or bitchin' Death Star van.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

My name is Judge!

Roy Pearson is suing his dry cleaner for losing a pair of his pants. He's seeking $54 million in damages. But that's not the best part.

The kicker is that Roy Pearson is a judge.

Why I'm Skeptical about The Sopranos, Part 2

Part 1 here. Here's Slate's Stephen Metcalf talking about the show: "For me, the show had, in its recent iterations, become like church, an every-Sunday obligation long on piety and atmospherics, short on actual belief."

"Triumph of the Wii"

Galley Friend P.S. sends us this Wired story on the Wii, which is worth its weight in gold just for the headline. Here's the killer graph:

The simpler-games philosophy has proven to be a lucrative one. Nintendo recently reported operating income of 226 billion yen ($1.9 billion) for fiscal 2007, up 150 percent from 2006. Meanwhile, Sony's games division experienced a drop in operating income of more than 80 percent. Analyst firm iSuppli reported in November that Sony is taking a $250 loss on every PS3 sold.

It's a Good News/Bad News Situation

Ronnie Mars is dead. That's the bad news. The good, or at least promising, news is that the comic-book version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 has sold so well that DC has approached Rob Thomas about doing a comic version of Veronica Mars: Season 4.

Which actually could be pretty great, seeing as how much fun the Buffy comics have been.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Greatest Punch-Out Video Ever

Remember the kids doing stop-motion, people-pixel versions of classic videogames? This isn't quite at that level. But it's very, very close.

Check out Mike Tyson's Punch-Out: The Movie. You won't be sorry.

The Michael Jordan of Women's Basketball Retires

It's a sad, sad day. Incidentally, does anyone remember how many "Michael Jordans of women's basketball" have been pushed on us by the Four Letter Network in recent years. I'm thinking there's been four of them (Staley, Lobo, Holdsclaw, and Taurasi), but there may have been others.

I think that's more than the "next Michael Jordans" in the mens game.

Monday, June 11, 2007

More Sopranos! Updated!

Note: I've moved this back to the top because the stuff from Andy Ferguson is so perfect.

I don't mean to be a spoilsport, but again, I just don't get this media elite obsession with The Sopranos. Let's grant that it's a great show. A truly great show. Let's put it up on the shelf with Buffy, Homicide, and the other great hour-long dramas. Heck, if you want to, put it at the top of the list. The amount of attention being given over to the series finale seems slightly turbo. Driving to work this morning, both of my sports-talk radio stations were dissecting it; it was the cover of the New Yorker last week; in addition to VLM's entry below, Dean Barnett has a highly intelligent analysis of it, too.

But when we see the numbers on the broadcast tomorrow, I suspect we'll be looking at a show with around (maybe) 15 million viewers, probably fewer. At its peak, The Sopranos was doing 13.4 million viewers. This season, using a new-and-improved Nielsen system, the show has averaged between 10 million and 11 million per episode, including people who watch it on DVR and using On Demand.

That puts The Sopranos in the same neighborhood as CSI: New York and Two and a Half Men. Yet for some reason, The Sopranos got a send-off to rival the ends of M*A*S*H and Seinfeld, shows with bona fide mass-appeal.

If this is all about saluting quality television, then I'm all for it. I can't wait for the BSG New Yorker cover next year. And I'm eagerly anticipating the massive coverage of the soon-to-be-departed Veronica Mars.

But something tells me that the Soprano-mania is about something more. There's a certain clubby-ness to the Sopranos coverage. A Bos-Was axis of elitism, if you will.

Enough sourness. Even if it is getting obnoxiously disproportionate treatment, David Chase, the writers, cast, and crew are to be congratulated for putting together such great television. And HBO is to be congratulated for backing the series. Programming executives at other networks could learn a thing or two from them.

Update: I'm a nitwit, of course, because Andrew Ferguson made this argument, only better and funnier, a long time ago. Have a taste:

THE SOPRANOS airs the fourth, or maybe the fifth, episode of its television season this Sunday. Or is it the sixth? It's very hard to keep track. In any case, the show is still sailing along on an updraft of favorable publicity that is extraordinary even by the standards of television, where hallucinatory embellishment and repetition are basic communication strategies. The coverage and critical notices that swarmed over the show's season premiere, when it debuted on the cable channel HBO four or five or six weeks ago, read more like advertising than journalism. And there's no sign of a trailing off.

Bonus: Here's more Ferguson, putting his finger on exactly what bothers me:

A very large majority of Americans don't even have access to HBO and therefore, of course, to The Sopranos. It costs money to watch The Sopranos -- an extra 200 dollars or more a year for people who already get cable, and much more than that for people who would have to initiate cable service and then add the premium channels to boot. Difficult as it is for some of us to believe, most people in the United States have chosen not to spend the extra money. What this means is that, relative to the universe of TV watchers, The Sopranos isn't being seen by very many people. On any given night in prime time, 80 million Americans or more will be staring at the television in a futile attempt to obliterate the piled-up frustrations and petty resentments and failed dreams that constitute their pathetic little lives. Or maybe they're just watching TV to pass the time. Whichever. The important point is, not many of them are watching The Sopranos, which on a typical Sunday will be seen by roughly 8 million viewers -- or one out of ten of the total.

This makes it a great triumph for HBO, but only a middling success measured against the standards of network commercial television. For network TV, a smash superboffo megahit -- excuse the technical terminology -- would be Survivor, the sadistic reality show that will sometimes snag
40 million viewers or more. On its face, then, The Sopranos's 8 million looks like small potatoes.

But what potatoes! Among the couch spuds will be (it's safe to say) the entire combined editorial and business staffs of GQ, Newsweek, the New Yorker, and so on, and the staffs, excluding paperboys, of every sizable newspaper from the New York Times down to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. And all of them (likewise safe to say) seem oblivious to the possibility that anyone else is not watching. They continue to write their stories about their particular entertainment obsession, all of which assume that The Sopranos is a mass phenomenon on the order of, say, the televised Olympics or a runaway hit movie like Titanic. But of course it isn't.

The saturation coverage of The Sopranos is another instance of a cultural development that has become increasingly un-ignorable, though still stubbornly ignored. Along with the rest of the American elite -- "the top one percent," to borrow a useful figure of speech -- the mainstream organs of opinion and news have detached themselves from the common life to a degree we haven't seen in many years. It should go without saying that just about every subject television touches it renders idiotic -- think of politics brought to you by Hardball, high finance brought to you by CNBC, even weather brought to you by the hysterics on the Weather Channel -- but once upon a time you could say this in its defense: TV created a kind of shared experience for the country at large. We all trusted Walter Cronkite, we all laughed at Laugh-In, we all accepted Ed Sullivan's taste. The wealthy and the working class, the banker and the baker: They all watched the same crap.

Not any more. The Sopranos is the entertainment equivalent of the gated community. The well-to-do now retreat to their own corner of the television world, with the obliviousness that has always been a hallmark of the rich and privileged.
It seems we've barely begun to scrape the surface of last night's episode of The Sopranos. I've been receiving multiple emails regarding the significance of every single detail in the diner scene--particularly the other patrons. The man at the counter is supposedly Nikki Leotardo, Phil's nephew who made an appearance last season (technically the first half of the season)--we can assume why he went to the bathroom, a la The Godfather. The two African Americans are apparently the same men who tried to kill Tony in the "car-jacking" in Season One (and by order of Uncle Junior). The boy scouts were all at the train store when Bobby was gunned down. The trucker in the back booth once had to identify his brother's body in some truck heist gone bad (one that involved Christopher).

What this means is that Tony gets it. The sudden blackness of the screen is how he would have experienced the hit in his own eyes (so to speak). Remember his talk with Bobby about how a hit happens? That you probably don't even know it?

And I thought I was clever for realizing Patsy Parisi's wife was played by the same woman from Saturday Night Fever and the short-lived sitcom Angie (Donna Pescow).

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Now What?

"That was fucking weird." At the very end of the read-through for the final episode of The Sopranos, that was supposedly all James Gandolfini could say while Edie Falco started to cry. Now that the series has finally ended, the sentiment makes much more sense.

At the same time, as far as great television show finales go, this one was in many appropriate. We couldn't get enough of New Jersey's mob family and as such we are left dying for more. And while much remains unresolved, several plotlines have been concluded: Tony has finally made peace with Uncle Junior, who will spend his dying days in a decrepit mental institution (Tony is all the more sad when he reminds his senile uncle that their family "once" ran New Jersey). Paulie Walnuts was, is, and always will be the good soldier, leaving us where he's always been, in front of Satriale's, catching some rays (though soon to be heading the cursed Cifaretto crew). Anthony Jr. will continue to struggle while seeing his therapist, sounding more and more like his father (including his last line about remembering the good times--a touching reference to the end of Season One). Phil Leotardo's reign finally came to an end--thanks to an FBI tip--getting shot and inadvertently having his head crushed by his own tire (and thereby no open casket, the ultimate insult). As I long suspected, Butchie Deconcini would play a crucial role til the end, though I didn't think as a peacemaker. We can assume he rises in the ranks as well, maybe even heading that family.

Or maybe not. Could an ambush have been in the works? Fans will be talking about the final scene at the diner for a long time. It could easily have been family coming together, just like the end of the first season, but there was barely a second you actually felt comfortable watching. Was Tony going to be arrested? (We know he was probably going to be indicted. What did the FBI agent say? "We're gonna win this thing.") What was the deal with the guy at the counter who goes to use the bathroom? (Notice as Tony flips through the jukebox selections, the first song we see is "This Magic Moment," played in the first episode of this season.) Who were the two African Americans who walk in at the very end? Why did we have to watch Meadow make several attempts to parallel park, then run across the street looking frazzled? Tony looks up and ... The End?

The darkness on my screen, lasting for maybe ten seconds or more, made me think the set went out (there would have been riots at Comcast). But instead, that was how David Chase wanted to leave it: Their lives and their stories will continue to go on--it was just our stop and we had to get off (forced off, really).

No doubt Chase will have lots of explaining to do. Will there ever be a followup? How about a Christmas Special? One thing I do know is I am passing on "John From Cincinnati," canceling my Platinum Package with Comcast (yes, I know, that means goodbye to "Passion Cove," "Hotel Erotica," and "Sex Games Cancun") and getting on with my life. Who knows, I might actually get something done.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Disney, Pirates, Destruction of Childhood, et al

From Galley Brother B.J.:

First, Pirates of the Carribean is remade from a classic ride with a timeless story to a crappy movie tie in, that will have to get changed in 5 years when everyone forgets who Captain Jack Sparrow is. And, now they’re putting pirates on Tom Sawyer Island (an attraction designed by Walt Disney).

Have You Hugged a Realtor Today?

I have not historically been kind to realtors, but this awesome post on NAR's former chief economist is the meanest, awesomest thing ever. EVER.

Check out the graphic. All hail The Big Picture!

French Open Notes

Not really, because this has nothing to do with the open, but here's a rad Agassi story from back in the day:

Q. There's a story that you were in a batting cage once and ran at the machine and hit line drives. Is that true?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, it is.

Q. When was that?

ANDRE AGASSI: I don't remember. A year, couple years ago. Time moves quick. It was a long time ago, I think. Probably longer than that even now.

I'm used to moving forward and hitting, and hitting moving objects so...

Q. How hard were the pitches coming?

ANDRE AGASSI: It was cranked up. I don't know. They said 90, but I don't know.

Q. Little easier with a racquet than a bat.

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, but it's a pitching machine. The thing's coming ‑‑ 90 miles an hour looks slow if it's not moving. That thing was just coming straight ahead, so I could hit it with a toothpick.

Keeping Score with the Commies

Ever wonder what arcade games were like in the Soviet Union? Thanks to Wired, now we know: A Soviet military manual explained that the game, mostly knock-offs of early Japanese games, were meant for "entertainment and active leisure, as well as the development of visual-estimation abilities."

Also, none of them kept high scores.

What's in a Name

Courtesy of Galley Brother B.J., the Long Beach Armada now have the longest name in professional sports: the Long Beach Armada of Los Angeles of California of the United States of North America Including Barrow, Alaska.

For reals.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Hard Core Pornography

Sure, this is all perfectly safe for work, but let us not play games. We are not children. This video of the SU-37 is pure porn. And it's awesome.

(Link courtesy of Galley Friend M.G., who also has posted similar video of the F-22.)

The Best $1.79 You'll Ever Spend

Send a Mars Bars; save Veronica Mars.

It worked for Roswell.

Bonus: T.R., you should send about 50 of them.

Well no one's going to top that.

I don't quite know why, but I think that 90 percent of the time, bleeped out swearing is funnier than hearing the actual dirty words. (The notable exception to this being certain South Park cursing sprees.)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Czabe, Wie

Steve Czaban is the best sports talk-radio guy in America. Or at least the one whose own personal obsessions align most closely with mine. I can't get enough of him. You can catch his Fox Sports Radio show during morning drive time in many markets or on XM.

He's been following Michelle Wie's implosion pretty closely because (a) he's a golf nerd and (b) he's a Wie hater. (Aside: If she does manage to salvage her career, Nintendo needs to have Wie Wii Golf, no?)

Czabe has a column up on Wie that's pretty hot:

Even if you want to believe the convenient "Look At My Wrist, It's Bandaged!" excuse, it doesn't explain what a train wreck she was last week. A bum wrist doesn't explain total ineptitude.

Playing partner Alena Sharp said she thought Wie would withdraw at the turn. "She didn't look like she was there," Sharp said. "She didn't focus like usual."

Chris Baldwin of makes an excellent point: "If your wrist is so hurt that you cannot play two more holes, do you immediately start talking about playing 72 the very next week?"

Robert Thompson of noted Wie's cryptic -- if not dishonest -- answer to a legitimate question at that week's press conference about the comeback from her injury. When asked when she had recovered sufficiently to resume playing, Wie claimed not to remember. "I don't really want to go back into the past and talk about the injuries," she said.

Except when you need that injury to avoid a one-year ban from the LPGA Tour; then, she'll be happy to tell you all about it.

There hasn't been an injury this convenient since Al Czervik in the big money match at Bushwood: "Oooh, my arm! I think it's broken!" . . .

The choice not to dominate junior ranks first, amateur ranks second, college ranks third, the LPGA next and then -- only then -- take a stab at making a PGA Tour cut is a disastrous decision the full effects of which are just now beginning to be felt.

Great golfers at some point learn to hit the shots that are easy on the range, in the furnace of competition. They learn how to close.

Wie skipped all of that. And there's no turning back. It would be like building a house with tainted cement, and sub-grade lumber. From the outside, it'll look like a nice house. But, nothing will be right inside. Nothing.

Meet the Stokkes

Remember Allison Stokke? Of course you do.

She recently vaulted to national fame when the Washington Post ran a front-page story on her pernicious internet celebrity. Here's a snippet from the piece:

Stokke read on message boards that dozens of anonymous strangers had turned her picture into the background image on their computers. She felt violated. It was like becoming the victim of a crime, Stokke said.

Stokke's family, including her father, Al, seemed to agree with her and be concerned about how terrible her new-found celebrity was.

With Leather gently hints at the irony here: Al Stokke is a noted defense attorney in Orange County and has tried a number of high-profile cases:

* In early 2007, Al Stokke represented a cop who pulled over a female motorist. During the course of the traffic stop, he somehow ejaculated onto her sweater. Said Stokke, "She got what she wanted. She's an overtly sexual person." Stokke won the case.

* In 2005/2006 Stokke represented a female teacher who was charged with molesting three of her male students, one of whom was 11 years old. "Where was she when I was 13?" Stokke asked the jury. Stokke lost that case.

Charming. But With Leather does not mention what is probably Stokke's best-known case, the Haidl gang rape. In 2002 three young men raped an unconscious minor. They videotaped the assault. Stokke represented the lead rapist, Gregory Haidl. Here's the OC Weekly's account:

Defense lawyer Al Stokke, who replaced lead trial attorney Joseph G. Cavallo, questioned any link between the rape and the victim’s claim of mental anguish. Stokke also mocked the girl’s physical injuries, finally conceding she was unconscious but then trying to use that against her. “There’s [no pain] that is felt,” he said, “because she was unconscious.”

Stokke "conceded" the girl's unconsciousness because the defense had originally insisted that she was just faking it.

This is the concerned father who was so upset by his 18-year-old daughter's picture being posted on the internet. Which is just like becoming the victim of a crime, right?

Michael Bay Speaks!

You don't have to wait for the Criterion version of The Transformers because The Bay took time out from banging starlets to talk with Yahoo. Explaining why there are flames on Optimus Prime, Bay says, "Why flames? Because I wanted flames."


Posh, Jenny

Jenny Vegas has the funniest Posh Spice line maybe ever.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Saddest Thing You've Ever Seen on the Internet

AICN, one of my favorite sites, has devolved into a bizarre, non-stop promotional tour for Eli Roth's new torture-porn movie, Hostel 2. Roth is buddies with AICN's proprietor, Harry Knowles. Lots of readers at AICN have revolted and the comment boards are filled with criticism of Roth, Hostel, and, in particular, Knowles. Here's Knowles defending himself against one ill-tempered talk-backer:

And who are you? I'm well over 7,000 friends on Myspace...

Well that's an argument ender.

"You're only hurting yourself, baby."

I'll always think of Clueless when I see Jeremy Sisto, but I'm kind of thrilled by his hiring for Law & Order, not least of which because I kind of liked Kidnapped (Ricky Jay on primetime network TV!) and was bummed that it got yanked so quickly.

Sisto will replace Milena Govich, the under-written WWE diva/detective from last season, whose character was the least interesting cop ever to appear on the show. I include here John Fiore's Detective Tony Profaci.

The real question is what happens to Jack McCoy. One of these days I'm going to get around to arguing that Sam Waterston's work with him is the finest example of sustained character work in the history of television. He never mails it in; he's always finding interesting angles; he gives all sorts of generous room to the actors around him onscreen; and somehow, after 13 years, he has never become a caricature. What a stud.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Vermont and The Empire

So I was a dorkofascist for pointing out that the complaints we hear about the Galactic Republic in Star Wars weren't particularly beyond the pale: Namely that the Republic had grown too big and sclerotic to be governable and responsive to the needs of individual planets.

Here's a hippie Vermonster talking about why Vermont should secede from the United States: "The argument for secession is that the U.S. has become an empire that is essentially ungovernable--it's too big, it's too corrupt and it no longer serves the needs of its citizens."

Sounds like someone is channeling Count Dooku and/or Senator Palpatine.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

All Hail Ana Ivanovic

Not only does Ana Ivanovic look like a young Catherine Zeta-Jones, but during the second set of her round of 16 match this morning, her opponent hit a ball deep into the baseline, which the line judge called out. Ivanovic was right on top of the ball and she whiffed on it when it took at odd bounce. She immediately gestured to the chair umpire that the ball had been good.

She's like the anti-Henin.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Law & Order Deathwatch

Now that Fred Dalton Thompson has left the show, let's pause to give a huge round of applause for David Slack and Richard Sweren, who wrote #17.22, which may prove to be the final episode of modern era of Law & Order.

It's been a rough season, but the season finale, "The Family Hour," was unlike any episode I've ever seen from the show--it was fourth-wall busting absurdist theater with the writers taking two of the best TV characters from recent years--Oscar Bluth and Aaron Echolls--and dropping them into the Wolfiverse. Watching Sam Waterston's Jack McCoy try to make sense of this weird What If . . . crossover was beautiful. It was Law & Order's Jose Cheung moment.

And if that's the way the show goes out, I won't feel cheated.

Good Times with '70s Horror

Galley Reader M.B. sends us this awesome link to the DVD re-release of the Karen Black Trilogy of Terror movies starring . . . the Zuni doll!

Surely this is right up Lileks's alley, no?

Teen Titans to the Big Screen?

Warner Bros. has started movement on a Teen Titans movie with Akiva Goldsman producing and BSG stud Mark Verheiden writing. The Hollywood Reporter says:

Goldsman said the tone will be consistent with such recent Warners' comic book fare as "Batman Begins," "Superman Returns" and the upcoming "Watchmen."

That could be good news, I suppose.

Bonus: This is a shout-out to the conservative superstar intellectual who, after seeing me mention TT #36 in this essay emailed in saying, "Oh, the cover with Lightning and Thunder in the rain? I loved that cover." So hot.

Double Bonus: Remember how coveted the Teen Titans books were back in the '80s? Turns out you can buy the entire run for something like $200 now. Seriously. The 1980 New Teen Titans #1 is $24. The fancy, Baxter-paper line has #1 for $3.75 I paid $10 for that in 1985 dollars!

Despite what you may have heard, comic books are not a great financial investment.