popular thinking

hopelessly devoted to deconstructing popular culture and conventional wisdom, one blog at a time

"Oh, if these cameras weren't on us, all it'd take is just a little push," John McCain muttered, recalling what could have been his "Showgirls" moment. Posted by Hello

Vote or die? Tough call

They're so not rocking the vote right now Posted by Hello

Once upon a time, MTV rocked the vote. And rocking the vote was cool. Not anymore. Not after the 2004 Video Music Awards, where the Kerry daughters got all preachy and condescending, only to be followed by more preachiness from Sean Puffy Puff Daddy P. Diddy Combs and John Cougar Mellencamp and even more musicians who haven't flip-flopped on their own names. The whole affair made the Bush daughters (wonder twin powers activate!) look surprisingly smart for making their appeal via videotape, where they couldn't be booed or ashamed of themselves.

Day one at the RNC in NYC

If only the Republican Party were more like McCain-Giuliani and less like Bush-Cheney, then perhaps we'd be more united than divided.

File under: Only in America
Only in America can an African immigrant from Ethiopia not be considered an "African-American." That's what happened to one man in suburban D.C. Only in America, where people from Central and South America are lumped together as Hispanic or Latino, where all Asians are alike and same goes for the Arabs. And anyone else is white. Only in America, the land where my friend Freddie can be called an Indian, American Indian or Native American, when none of them apply. Freddie is a Navajo. But I call him simply Freddie. He likes it that way. I like it that way, too.

Should libraries filter Internet porn?

The city of Phoenix is wrestling with the issue many other cities have faced in the past decade -- can they and should they put Internet filters in their libraries to keep porn away from the kiddies and the pervs? Unfortunately, Sunday's Arizona Republic story continues to propagate the same old myth that Internet filters are unreliable and block out safe sites for people wanting to research breast cancer or Congressman Norm Dicks. Reporters everywhere continue to fall for this argument without ever getting themselves to a library and surfing the filtered Web for themselves. That's what I did in January 2001, when I wrote a column for the Bremerton Sun on the topic. Then again, did I really look like that just three years ago? Yowza. Maybe they should put the filters on me.

Culture in Phoenix? Get out of town...

No, really. How else to explain the Arizona Republic's "Fall" Arts Preview? Print readers of my metro paper got to see the following "fall" arts events trumpeted on the A&E section's front page Sunday:

"The Lion King," Jan. 21 to March 6, Gammage Auditorium
"Thoroughly Modern Millie," May 3-8, Gammage Auditorium
Olga Kern, May 12-13, Orpheum Theatre
"Coppelia," March 31 to April 3, Orpheum Theatre
"In Monet's Light: Theodore Robinson at Giverny," Feb. 6 to May 8, Phoenix Art Museum
"Il Tabarro"/"I Pagliacci," Arizona Opera, Oct. 29-31, Gammage Auditorium

And no, I did not make that up. Those were the front-page story subjects for the Arizona Republic's Fall Arts Preview. I know the weather in the Valley of the Sun sometimes makes seasonal changes difficult to discern, but please.

MTV Video Music Awards 2004

Ho hum. Turns out you can teach a crowd to hold up signs, turn cards and carry aloft rafts and bubble boys, but you cannot make the crowd musically literate. When a VJ has to implore the audience into applauding the onstage collaboration of Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder and Lenny Kravitz, well...it just proves once again that you cannot manufacture true fandom, even on TV.

Olympians chase fame and fortune, too

Nothing says representing the United States like leaving the Olympics early to see and be seen on the telly. Paul Hamm, the gymnast who will keep his gold medal no matter what anyone else thinks or says, already is back and talking to anyone who'll listen. Hamm and golden girl gymnast Carly Patterson would rather be on MTV in Miami than be with their fellow competitors and countrymen in Athens. Oh well. We can still pretend the Olympics are special, can't we?

Waking up the "Dream" Team

Sure, we all knew that a group of SportsCenter-highlights-obsessed pick-up players could never really compete with an actual basketball team. And sure, we all knew that you couldn't call the USA mens' squad a "dream team" if the lineup didn't include half of the ballers you dreamed it would. No wonder so many people are actually delighted to see the guys get bronzed in Athens.

Here is my solution: For world competitions, have the defending NBA champs represent the USA. Send the Detroit Pistons to Athens, and at least you'd have had a team that could work together and play defense. The USOC could institute a sub policy for any foreign-born players on the NBA championship team for world play. If Kobe, Shaq and others don't want to play in the Olympics or World Championships, then just tell them not to win the NBA title that year. Just like this year.

Ain't technology great?

Dear loyal readers of Popular Thinking (and other passers-by, too):

If things look odd or out of sorts, I apologize. The past few days, I've been dealing with computer issues as I try to improve the blog whilst getting rid of hacking interlopers who want to download their spyware and assorted madness on the down-low into my hard drive. Argh! If you've found your computer hijacked by the makers of EliteBar, you've felt my pain. If you have guidance or answers, bring it on. Thanks for your patience and support.

Replacing Craig Kilborn: Part II

Why don't the series finales for TV shows have the same pizzazz and panache that we get to see when talk shows bow out? Does anyone really care how Friends or Frasier turned out in the end? Really? It doesn't take six-figure screenwriters to figure out that it'll be somewhat sappy and sentimental, does it? Nope. But when Craig Kilborn called it quits late Friday night/early Saturday morning with The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, he went out having as much fun as he could on network television. But if you read my previous post, you'd have read between the lines when finale guest Vince Vaughn said this to Craiggers: "Perhaps we'll get to do this again sometime soon." Perhaps indeed. After three weeks of reruns, stay tuned to see if Vaughn gets the gig.

Will the real safe sugar please stand up?

Another strange week in food/health news. It seems the medical journals and dieticians always give us conflicting advice, and this week's reports on sugar are no different. On Tuesday, the Journal of the American Medical Association said more of us are becoming diabetic from drinking too much sugary soda pop. But on Friday, a national panel of nutritionists commissioned by the Bushies merely suggested that cutting back on sugar might help your health. Might help. Then again, what are we to make of all the fake sugars out there?

First came Sweet'n Low, which people loved (and still do) until some folks worried about the safety of saccharin. Even the website for saccharin supporters notes the controversy over its safety record.

Then came Equal, which contains aspartame. Again, the company's website goes to great lengths to calm fears over its safety. But my rule of thumb remains thusly: If your product has to bold-face one of its ingredients -- say, oh, I don't know..."Phenylketonurics: Contains Phenylalanine" as many "diet" products do -- that can never be a good thing.

And now the new wonder kid on the block is Splenda, made of sucralose. Which apparently, is sugar without the sugar. And that, we're told, is a good thing.

Republican ketchup?

File this under stupid yet shrewd...

Stupid: Only the delusional dolts of ignorance and intolerance who brought you "Freedom Fries" could dream up W. Ketchup or Bush Country Ketchup.

Yet Shrewd: Give the dolts credit for knowing the maxim, timing is everything. With the media looking for time to fill in this highest-stakes political season, and not wanting to fill it with -- egad, in-depth examinations of the candidates or the issues -- the TV stations love this craptacular kind of crap. At least the St. Petersburg Times covered all the angles earlier this month. Although one question remains unanswered: Is Hunt's Ketchup really that piss-poor that the Bushies couldn't simply embrace that brand as the Heinz alternative?

John Kerry and The Daily Show's hoo-ha

Pop culture quiz time. Why did the media go cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs over John Kerry's appearance Tuesday on Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart?

a) Because the media loves the Democratic presidential nominee
b) Because the media loves Jon Stewart
c) Because Kerry almost kissed Stewart on TV but did not, while Stewart did kiss Kerry's ass, at least figuratively, showing yet again that The Daily Show is a fake news show with a real agenda
d) Because Kerry proved he stands when he pees

The answer, of course, is D -- although you get partial credit if you chose any of the other options.

The folks at Slate gave Kerry a poor review, but otherwise, the newspapers were all a-titter over the "interview" that managed to produce less news than even a Larry King "interview," and that's saying a lot. We did learn that people have access to the potential president in the bathroom (where are the Secret Service agents when you need them?). And we almost saw a human side to Kerry in the process. Almost. It's been 44 years since the Kennedy-Nixon debates proved the power television had on politics, and still -- and still, politicians go on late-night talk shows and refuse to go "off message." Then again, some comedians do the same thing. Argh. But we were reminded of an important lesson: Never bring up politics or religion at the dinner table or the urinal. Save that crap for the crapper.

Extending last call for alcohol

Across Arizona tonight, the big to-do is 2 a.m., as in that'll be the new time for bartenders to yelp "last call for alky-hol" thanks to a new state law extending the hours for booze sales from 1 a.m. -- which finally puts the Phoenix/Scottsdale/Tempe area in line with other metro nightlife scenes. Sort of. Most critics (Mormon or not) allege the time change will increase crime, DUIs and assorted mayhem. Supporters say it'll bring in boffo business from tourists and locals alike.

What do I say?

I think it'll simply make an absurd social scene that much more inane and insane. As it is, the party people weren't going out until after 11 p.m., then pounding drinks whilst looking ridiculous and/or ridiculously buffed and bronzed (this is the home of all stock good-looking "reality TV" characters, don't you know). Perhaps now, the party people will pace themselves a little better with the extra time to stick around on the dance floors and lounges. They'll still be ridiculous, though.

Olympic-sized questions

Past the midway point of the Athens Summer Olympics, and still, more questions than answers...

Did I just see the fans boo so much they prompted the judges to revise scoring in gymnastics? Egad. I just did.

So really, which sport is sillier because of the political nature of judging: Gymnastics, figure skating, or diving?

If all we heard about Athens before the games was that the city would not be ready, then how come we haven't heard about how the Greeks managed to put on their rally caps? No, really. How did they do it?

Are there too many empty seats? Or are there too many events?

Myth vs. reality, from one JFK to another

I visited the John F. Kennedy Library today on the south shores of Boston and couldn't help but be struck by many things; among them, the late president speaking on camera about truth, lies -- and myth superseding both when it comes to politics. You can listen between the lines when rethinking the Kennedys, to be sure. But Kennedy also made me take another look at the sordid "swift boats" debate swirling around John F. Kerry -- the little Kennedy who could, or could not. The electoral jury is still out on that. What remains amazing about politics is how opponents can derail you with lies, repetitive spin and so-called dirty tricks. In 1972, the public shockingly learned too late about how the Nixon re-election crew dismantled the Democrats. In 2004, the tricks have not come clean, though the tricksters are out in the open for all to see. Has the public, or the media, learned anything? Methinks not.

Replacing Craig Kilborn

As the final week begins for Kilborn's hosting "chores" on the Late Late Show, pundits are filling the void with their thoughts for his possible late-night replacement. The New York Daily News reported over the weekend that CBS and production co. Worldwide Pants will take their time in doing so, which is better than rushing the transition. Some of the hopefuls bandied about in the media: Jon Stewart (who replaced Kilborn and then some on The Daily Show), Amy Sedaris, Bonnie Hunt, Chris Rock, George Lopez, Jon Cryer, Jeffery Ross, Jimmy Fallon and Vince Vaughn. Some of these names are tossed around much like other news "leaks," designed to test the credibility waters, while other names are simply on TV critics' wish-lists. Other speculation centers on friends of David Letterman.
But in reality, who watches TV at 12:30 a.m. Eastern/Pacific, 11:30 p.m. Central/Mountain? College kids and 20-somethings on the go. So who appeals to them and can pull off a talker? Chris Rock (obviously) and Vince Vaughn (obvious to anyone who watched him guest host for Letterman).
Unless Viacom wanted to do something really crazy and move The Daily Show from Comedy Central to CBS. Before you say that is really crazy, remember that Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect made the jump from cable to network in the 1990s. OK. You're right. That was really crazy.

What is the secret McDonald's ingredient?

You don't have to have seen Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me or have read Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation to know that McDonald's has changed the way we eat -- and thusly how we are, since we are what we eat. That said, I must admit that I succumbed to the onslaught of Olympics advertising to try to the fast-food chain's new Chicken Selects, which are more traditional chicken "finger" things as opposed to the still-mysterious-after-all-these-years McNuggets. Like its other menu items, there is nothing all that special about the chicken, and yet...it's tasty enough to leave me wanting more. And that's the real issue that needs exploring. I can happily go a year without eating at Mickey D's, but if I eat there once, I find myself wanting to eat there again the next day, and the next day. My theory: McDonald's food includes an addictive secret ingredient. What's your theory?

History is in the eye of the textbook holder

Word from Russia says the new high-school history textbooks, History of Russia and the World in the 20th Century, fail to mention gulags, anti-Semitism and Stalin's somewhat repressive rule -- that is, if you consider the torture and death of millions of your own people as repressive. Hey, how come the U.S. never invaded the Soviet Union to get rid of that guy? Oh, right. Stalin did have weapons of mass destruction. At any rate, it's discomforting to know that ours t'aint the only country that tries to forget its past. Or haven't you heard everybody describing the 9/11 attacks and the Oklahoma City bombings as the only terrorist acts on U.S. soil? How quickly people forget about the Weather Underground bombings of the late 1960s/early 1970s. Are we trying desperately to forget things like that happened, or do we really suffer as a nation from historical memory loss?

Prince in concert/haiku review

little man, big sound
old school funk, new soul rhythms
purple reigns again

Bebel Gilberto in concert/haiku review

heiress to the throne
of bossa nova romance
nighttime seductress

Why is it news that celebs serve on juries?

What is the big deal about celebrities serving on juries? No offense to my man Stefano Esposito (glad to see Twin Falls cannot hold us back!), but the media really goes overboard whenever someone big (such as say, Oprah) gets picked for a jury -- or even gets the jury duty notice in the mail. As if it were something that doesn't happen to all of us. You don't see the media getting worked up every time a celeb gets a parking ticket (well, that's because celebs don't drive) or gets married in Vegas (um, bad example) or gets into or out of a relationship. Oh, wait. My bad. The celebs are so supposed to be on trial, not serve on the juries. That's why it must be news.

Who is to blame for violent kids?

It took a week for this Washington Post story to make it into the Boston Globe that I held in my hands Sunday night. Still, this story about Japanese pre-teens and teens allowing rage to foster heinous acts brings back that well-worn topic for debate: Are kids becoming more violent at a younger age because of pop culture? Or are the kids lacking parental guidance? My guess continues to be...it's both. Parents fail their kids by leaving them alone to their high-tech, non-social, self-involved worlds where the kids never learn how to deal with human emotions in a humane way.

Economic break for evildoers

The so-called "evildoers" and mass murderers of the world soon will be able to save money on their genocides, ethnic cleansings and international raping and pillaging...Costco is selling caskets. Of course, W. will be quick to pounce on this cost-saving casket maneuver as, well, um, unpatriotic? He can't very well support it, since as Slate pointed out last week, Costco is blue-state Democratic, while Wal-Mart is for Bushy Republicans. Then again, W. calls Kerry a flip-flopper and doesn't see the hypocrisy in that, does he?

Why do newspapers love The Onion?

Trick question. Us media types fawn over The Onion and Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, in part because they are mocking us and we love the attention, and in part because when they mock the news, they're saying things mainstream journalists wish they could put into print or on the air. But someone from the business side of the newspaper (typically avoided by the news side like the proverbial plague) should remind the journalists that when The Onion comes to Minneapolis, Chicago and your market, it'll be another reason for young readers and the advertisers who love them to avoid picking up your two-bit rag -- which may, in fact, cost four bits. Check your local listings.

NOTE: Both the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Chicago Tribune require registration for online readers. But one of my favorite sites, bugmenot.com, "liberates" sites like these for you. Some of you may need to click there first. Some of you may want to click there first, though, just for the sheer enjoyment of liberation. Is this how the Iraqis were supposed to feel when we "liberated" them? We have liberated them, right?

And then again, there's NBC-HD

Popular Thinking is on the road, and can report that the Olympics, Red Sox games, sperm whales and anything else outdoors indeed looks spectacularific in high-definition television. Thank you, Mom and Dad. But Popular Thinking also realized two more things: 1) NBC-HD uses different anchors, so I got to see the opening ceremonies again, this time with Al Trautwig and Mary Carillo, and 2) NBC-HD is looping its coverage a la CNN Headline News, so if you miss the tape-delayed events the first time around, just wait for them to (as W. likes to say) "turn the corner."

Then again, perhaps it's all a big marketing ploy by NBC

There may be another reason why the Olympics coverage on NBC is so craptacular. Perhaps NBC realizes that the only way to get people to watch CBNC, MSNBC (when Hardball's not on) and Bravo (when Queer Eye's not on) is to put all the live sports coverage there, so when viewers go berserkers, the minor NBC networks get some actual ratings. That doesn't explain why I stayed up all night watching rowing heats, though.

Ah, yes, the 2004 Summer Olympics have begun in Athens, Greece, and already I'm hard-pressed to keep my fingers off of the mute button. We've been living in a 24-7, insta-news world for more than a little while, but NBC continues to employ tape-delay for no apparent reason whatsoever. I mean, if you're going to delay the opening ceremonies broadcast, then shouldn't the anchors (Bob Costas and Katie Couric) have plenty of said time to prepare, um, I don't know, things to say and times when they need not say anything? Instead we see that the Olympics is much more important than a political convention in the most tumultuous time of our generation, yet about as important as the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. No offense intended to Macy's.
Within the first 45 minutes, we've heard more than enough intoning intros by James Earl Jones, several commercial breaks, and heard Couric compare a floating model of the Parthenon to the Wicked Witch of the West's house. Which, of course, prompted Costas to try scatting music from The Wizard of Oz. About a minute later, Costas is wondering aloud about the dry cleaning bill for the Greek costumes. Swell. Just swell. Don't broadcasters of worldwide events know that they're not allowed to mock the proceedings? That's our job. Until then, hit mute.

I know the Last Comic Standing...and more

Well, what do you know? I know John Heffron, the winner of NBC's second edition of Last Comic Standing. John is a fine fellow and great comic who has been in my car, and whom I've driven to the hotel after some crazy times in the Valley of the Sun. If he's in or near your town, go see him perform.

In unrelated musings not worthy of their own posts, I've come to reflect on my past day's blogging and wonder if I was only slightly delusional, in a haze, or suffering from Thursday the 12th syndrome. Egads! Hope I made some sense to someone yesterday. Upon further reflection and postscript editing, I wonder what would happen if every adulterer who worked in a high-profile gig were to resign said gig. It sure would bolster the classified ads segment of our sagging newspaper bidness! Kobe and Bubba, take note, would ya?

What is Toys 'R' Us without the toys?

Toys 'R' Us is getting out of the toys business? That'd be like Coca-Cola getting out of the cocaine business! Oh, wait. Nevermind.
I guess the 'R' in Toys 'R' Us may stand for real estate.

New Jersey's governor is gay? Fuggedaboutit!

Or for you even more politically incorrect folks, faggotaboutit. Wow. That was politically incorrect, indeed. My bad. This was one of those good news, bad news days for gay politics.
Headline: He's here, he's queer, don't get used to it, because he's resigning. The announcement this afternoon that New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey was resigning and outing himself at the same time is crazy on so many levels, I'm not sure where to begin. Oh, yes. How about here? It turns out his decision was political, not personal. Who woulda thunk it? In his speech, McGreevey blames "the circumstances surrounding the affair and its likely impact upon my family and my ability to govern," which makes it sound like New Jersey could not handle a Queer Gov for the Straight Jackets. Truth is, McGreevey may be more concerned about the federal indictments on two of his fund-raisers for charges including extortion and using prostitutes to derail a tax fraud investigation. And a sexual misconduct lawsuit pending against him by the guy he had the affair with.
Now if the prostitutes were gay gigolos, well, then...that's a spicy meatball! Or not. WWTSD? (What would Tony Soprano do?)

That is the question after the Hollywood Reporter noted that John McEnroe's CNBC talk show has hit 0.0 in the ratings. That reveals the flaw in the ratings system, because certainly, at least someone has to be watching this? Right? Although that leads us to wonder, how many TV shows are in the digital cable/satellite universe that through sheer inertia, carry on with their own rock-bottom double-zero ratings? Inquiring mind wants to know.
At least online, we're able to quantify readership/viewership in a more exact way.
Of course, knowing how many folks read your blog should not prevent you from pretending that many more actually are surfing your way. A man can dream, can't he?

Steven Van Zandt is a lot of things. Guitarist. Sopranos actor. Guy with the bandanna (or bandana for you alternate spellers) who always lurks near Bruce Springsteen in concerts. What is Van Zandt hiding? But Little Steven's biggest contribution to the arts, perhaps, is his alternative rock crusade to bring garage rock back onto the radio. Little Steven's Big Crusade culminates this weekend in New York with a music festival featuring Iggy and the Stooges, the Strokes, New York Dolls, Bo Diddley, Big Star, the Raveonettes, the Mooney Suzuki and others.
While refreshing to see that one man can have an impact on radio for garage rock (which has been in style about once every decade since WWII), who will do the same for power pop and indie rock?
Why do The Shins, New Pornographers and longstanding greats like Matthew Sweet get critical acclaim -- the Shins and New Pornographers finished 6th and 7th in the Village Voice's 2003 Pazz & Jop nationwide critics poll -- but still get little radio or MTV airplay, which helps prompt most people into stores and online sites to buy the discs?
Why does it take years of consistently great music from Modest Mouse before MTV decides to get behind a video and catapult the band into the mainstream?
KEXP in Seattle and KCRW in Santa Monica both do a good job on the West Coast in promoting good pop and rock tunes, but we need a lot more where that came from.
Who will lead this revolution? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller....

The Village/haiku review

as his plot twists go
not exclamation point but
a period piece

My errors, my apologies

You'd think I'd know better by now.
But I don't.
So I must apologize for a few things.
First, my theory on M. Night Shyamalan failed to grasp that the director has helmed six (6) movies, not four (4), as any basic search on IMDB would have demonstrated. Sakes alive, bubba jive! That's what I get for trying to rush a blog posting. Although my theory might still hold true. And curiously, why hasn't anyone discussed the Major Plot Twist at the end of Stuart Little, for which Shyamalan wrote the screenplay? Hmmmm...
Second, I failed to realize before today that my blog was preventing many of you dear readers from posting comments. Sorry about that. I fixed the settings to allow anyone to comment. Bring it on, mastadons!
Third, I forgot to produce my haiku review on The Village. So I'll do that forthwith.

When will everyone get off of Bill Buckner's back?

Tonight ESPN aired its top 25 "biggest chokes" of the past 25 years, as part of the cable sports net's 25th anniversary. Makes sense. The No. 1 selection, likewise, makes sense: My beloved Boston Red Sox, failing to close the deal in 1986. I still carry the psychological and emotional scars from that weekend in October. But shouldn't relief pitcher Bob Stanley carry his share of the culpability? Sure, Billy Bucks -- bad ankles and all -- missed the grounder that allowed the Mets to win Game 6. But as any true baseball fan should know and remember, Buckner probably would not have gotten the final out even had the ball found his mitt. And it was Stanley who wild pitched the tying run in and screwed the pooch. ESPN even showed Stanley's failures in the broadcast tonight, but still squarely put the blame on Buckner. Someone needs to set the record straight.

Rick James, meet Bruce Lee...

At first I was not sure, then I was reluctant to add to the cliche, but now I am most certain...the death of Rick James? Superfreaky.

Related story: MTV.com - Cause Of Rick James' Death Still Uncertain After Autopsy

A fundus among us

Well, well, little Miss Fundus reports that she is the first official commentator to post to Popular Thinking. Methinks she is correct. For that, she wants a prize. Methinks she is entitled. But what award would be reward enough? A link? Perchance. Or is there something more, or something else? Comment if you'd like on the merits of her merit. Or not.

Don Johnson. That's who. The link will make you work for it, but if you read the full story from the Aug. 7 edition of the Aspen Daily News, you'll learn the ugly truth. I've taken the liberty of reordering the following sentences from said article, because any good editor should have done so previously.
To wit...italics also are added...

Clark's Market had given Johnson a line of credit since 1989, but last year his bill went unpaid, and he had been in default since September, according to court papers.
"We're dealing with somebody who at one time was very creditworthy and obviously a very successful actor and a very successful businessman, and really, it's sad," said Tom Clark, president of the valley-based, nine-store chain. "It's sad for anybody who's successful but can no longer pay their bills. This was not a fun thing to do, and hopefully I'll never have to do it again."
Clark said it's doubtful he'll extend the former "Miami Vice" star a line of credit in the future, even if he satisfies his tab.

To recap, then: Who gets to run up a $5,470 tab at a grocery store? In Aspen? What a Crockett of Shiite, so to speak.

Can anyone provide pop punditry for VH1?

Apparently, all you need to do is 1) be in New York City, 2) have free time, and 3) have appeared at an open mic somewhere. VH1 has lots of new instant-analysis pop culture shows to produce, and not enough unknown, unfunny people to fill them thar airwaves. Or have you not watched an episode of Best Week Ever or A2Z? Ugh. My bitterness is preventing me from even providing you with the hyperlink.

M. Night Shyamalan: A theory

Some would have you think that Shyamalan movies follow the inverse Star Trek Formula. If every odd Star Trek movie sucks and every even-numbered Trek cinema is indeed verite, then for Shyamalan, the inverse it true: The Sixth Sense and Signs are good; Unbreakable and The Village suck.
I'd suggest another view.
In his odd-numbered films, M. Night offers true suspense. No matter how helter-skelter the plot, we love the movie and fall for the plot twist. But in the even-numbered films, M. Night must work hard for his money. So hard for his money. And while the movies may not shock us completely or truly, we better treat him right, for his efforts are sincere and well-made.

Collateral/haiku review

one night in L.A.
men crusin' for a bruisin'

Is satellite radio at its tipping point?

The tipping point is not just a great new CD by The Roots. It's also the term that describes when a trend or other noun (which Schoolhouse Rock reminds us can be a person, place or thing) becomes life-changing rather than simply quirky or faddish. Such may be the case with satelitte radio. First, Bob Edwards leaves NPR for XM Radio. Now comes word that "shock jocks" (now that's a term that's overused and poorly defined) Opie and Anthony will resume their careers on XM.
The oddest thing about this development: one of XM's investors is Clear Channel, which a) controls much of the mainstream radio dial, and b) has been the biggest pro-Bush, anti-free-speech, run-from-the-FCC media company.

Media mention for Popular Thinking

The Arizona Republic cites one of my blogging posts in its localization of how Scottsdale ranks among the nation's so-called most literate cities. Does that make me credible? Well, no. But it still counts.

The return o' Letourneau

Insert "hot for teacher" joke here.
Mary K. Letourneau finished her prison term early this morning, more than seven years after getting caught having an affair (and baby) with her then-12-year-old student-turned-paramour, Vili Fualaau. She then had a second child with Vili -- now that's what you call a probation violation! But Vili, after making the media rounds yesterday and today, is asking the court to drop its parole no-contact order keeping them apart. Not like that'll make a difference.
I worked for the neighborhood paper where it all hit the fan back in February 1997. Couldn't believe the love story then. Still cannot believe it now.

Hello, Cleveland! An estimated 15,000 wannabe singers showed up in Cleveland before dawn Tuesday to begin tryouts for the fourth season of American Idol. But what they don't know, and what the media will never tell you or them, is that American Idol is as much a talent contest as much as the "Defense of Marriage Act" is about defending the honor of marriage. Go ahead. Watch Entertainment Tonight this evening. They won't tell you the truth: American Idol is a mega-slick, mega-successful marketing machine.
Of the 15,000 who show up in each city, only a few will be chosen to sing before Simon, Randy and Paula -- the 21st Century Pep Squad.
How are those "lucky" few chosen? By TV producers.
It's all about casting.
Imagine 15,000 auditions, each taking at least a few minutes to get one person in and out of the door. Do the math. No one could withstand that kind of cattle call. So the only people to audition on-camera are not necessarily the best singers, but they are the most likely candidates to make for good TV, or to garner maximum viewer loyalty, which will translate later into record sales, concert tickets and advertising deals. And that's what American Idol is really about. Making money for 19 Entertainment, the company that owns the show.
So now you know. Hope I didn't burst your bubble.

Related AP story from Cleveland.

In which city do you least want to drive? Over and over again, national surveys say it's L.A., but anyone who knows the truth knows the answer is Boston. Take a city with street layouts that predate the automobile, add countless rotaries (also known as roundabouts or traffic circles), screw around with the entire system with the biggest road-construction headache ever, and mix with the nation's worst drivers. That be Boston. Read more about the study here.

Why are there typos in the Most Literate Cities study?

The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater's "Most Literate Cities" study is interesting for many things; among them, misspelling Tucson and Glendale, Ariz., in rankings charts for newspaper circulation. Local media, of course, are quick to add the study to news broadcasts because they love to trumpet or bemoan any city ranking report.

Some flaws the media won't be quick to point out: 1) the study uses 2000 Census figures in mid-2004, which, well, hardly paints an accurate picture of any metro area in the rapidly growing West (and parts of the South), 2) the study uses local newspaper circulation, which fails to include how many folks are reading national papers such as the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and the New York Times, and 3) that mixing data from 2003-2004 with Census data from 2000 is a no-no.

Or didn't you notice the discrepancy that has tony suburbs Plano, Texas, and Scottsdale, Ariz., as tops in education but tied for dead last in newspaper circulation? Hmmmm...

John Kerry: Snob or man of the people?

For every person who calls the Democratic presidential nominee an elitist, there should be another who points out that this Bostonian still misplaces his R's when sounding out words. Ask Kerry about the recent Red Sox trade, and you'll hear him say "No-mah" sted of Nomar, and "idear" sted of idea. So there.

Um, that would be...nobody. Fifteen years ago, Iron Mike was the scariest man in the ring. Five years ago, he may have been the scariest man in or out of the ring. Now, Tyson is the man who looks scared. And that is scary.
I met the boxing man, myth and legend one summer's night(though not this summer) at a nightclub soiree in Scottsdale. Tyson seemed shy and slightly vulnerable. After everything that's happened in his personal and professional life, Mike Tyson looks like the kind of guy who never knew what hit him. Literally or figuratively.

Harold & Kumar go to White Castle/haiku review

road trip on a high
well-worn tale in new jerseys
yet still amusing

The Manchurian Candidate/haiku review

denzel gone daffy?
can you say halliburton?
creepy thoughts provoked

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