popular thinking

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

THE 2004-LETTER WORD, HYPE: Well, well, this year that wasn't all it was cracked up to be is almost, finally, thankfully over. And that brings us to the alternate selection for word that sums up the year -- for those of you who prefer a word suitable for chanting by large and small gatherings alike, that word would be overrated. Say it with me now: Overrated.

When you peruse all of these year-in-review craptaculars in print or over the airwaves, aren't you struck by how much this year didn't live up to expectations? From beginning (Britney Spears got married, then didn't, then oops, she did it again/and then there was Bennifer, which wasn't, until it was again but in a different form) to end (What will Kobe and Shaq do when they see each other on Christmas? Short answer: No one really cares.), 2004 really didn't live up to its own hype. It was perhaps the most overrated year since 1999, which still carries the top ranking in our modern history, thanks to that whole Y2K hysteria.

But back to summarizing 2004.

Sports: That whole Super Bowl halftime thing, as you may recall, was heavily hyped beforehand. Good thing, too, otherwise we might have missed something big. Before Shaq left Kobe, we had to endure endless Shaq vs. Kobe stories and Laker drama. Steroids in sports? Who knew? Who didn't is more like it. We had an Olympics, so we had to hear way too much hype about way too few athletes. Tiger Woods slumped, if you call winning $7 million on the course a slump.

Politics: We found WMD. No wait. Sorry. No WMD. Remember all of those people who were going to change the election? Howard Stern, P. Diddy, Vote for Change, Michael Moore, Ben Affleck. Nice going, fellas. Remember when Florida was going to be the next Florida, until Ohio took its place, only it wasn't Florida at all. And remember when the exit polls said Kerry would win, until he didn't. Then everyone pooh-poohed the exit polls, until a few hours later, when everyone said the election was decided by moral values, since those same exit polls said that, until people figured out that moral values didn't decide the election. Remember when Abu Ghraib was going to change U.S. policy, except nothing really changed, did it.

TV: This was the year everyone realized that to get everything you ever wanted in life, all you need to do is get on a TV show, or if that doesn't work, get yourself in the studio audience of a daytime talk show, because those people get free gifts, too. We stayed tuned for the "biggest boardroom yet!" which wasn't really that big, come to think of it. Actually, come to think of it, everything Donald Trump touches turns to hype. But other shows did it to us, like Survivor, which promises to shatter all of the rules in the first 10 minutes of its next edition. You won't believe the next Survivor, they promise. I'm betting I believe it. Some people thought it was a super big deal that a computer geek could keep winning on Jeopardy. The NBC and CBS anchors retired, which would be a big deal if the network news mattered to anyone, or if the anchors did more than stand in front of the news and read it to us. VH1 gave us Best Week Ever, which manages to show us just how much drivel we watched that week in the name of hype. Friends, Frasier and Sex and the City bowed out, and yet somehow, we managed to have something to talk about the next morning. SNL produced an all-female Weekend Update team, as if that's groundbreaking in some way for gender roles. Whoop-de-doo, people. Whoop-de-doo. How about some jokes? That would have been groundbreaking. We also had to watch Nick and Jessica and her little sis Ashlee all of the time, as if they had talent. Which would explain why their various other TV deals keep fading away from lack of interest. Paris Hilton was everywhere and still had nothing to offer the world except her oral skills. That's hot. And by hot, I mean, not really. Jay Leno gave 5 years notice of his retirement. Thanks, Jay. Appreciate that.

18-year-olds: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen turned 18. So did Lindsay Lohan. That means perverts can think about having sex with them without getting arrested for statutory rape. Instead, they'll get arrested for stalking. Good. I get it. And the Olsen girls' talent is what, again?

Movies: See Alexander, Troy, Shark Tale, I, Robot, The Day After Tomorrow, Fahrenheit 9/11, The Passion of the Christ, The Stepford Wives, Van Helsing and Catwoman. Then again, don't. You wasted your time.

Music: Jay-Z retired. Or did he? Just playing, playa. I can't believe I just typed that. Sorry. Want to know what to do with Eminem's new CD: Just lose it. No, really. Lose it. Listen to his other raps.

I could go on and on and on some more, but really, I'd much rather just get on with it and bring on 2005. I'm ready for a fresh start. How about you?

(blogger's note/confession: I probably will go on just a little bit more about the year that was 2004 with some positivity in the form of my favorites in music, movies and the like, so if you're curious about what didn't completely annoy me this year, stay tuned. Thanks for your patience. Happy New Year!)

REMEMBERING SUSAN SONTAG: We should remember Susan Sontag. Which reminds me of the need to remember the cultural critics who came before us (and by us, I mean you and I). Which makes me wonder if Sontag had an opinion on blogs. Which reminds me, too, of an intriguing piece last month in The New Yorker about plagiarism, and how the arts differentiate between writing "inspired by" previous material and writing that "is stolen from" previous material, and how we place an entirely different set of standards on journalists and authors than we do on musicians, playwrights and screenwriters.

HOW DARE YOU, LENNY KRAVITZ: How dare you, Lenny Kravitz. For years -- nay, for more than a decade -- I have defended your music against the criticisms of friends, foes and those foreign to your retro rock ways. Then you turn on me. How dare you. You and your little lady song. I saw you with the lady song first on a Gap ad. Then I heard you perform it live twice on separate awards shows, and thought to meself: Wow, that's not much of a song, is it? Jingle? Yes. Song? No. But the Gap ad showed up again, followed by even more frequency by ads teasing the new season of Alias (Why must we wait until January for Alias? Oh, right. JJ Abrams had to work on the debut for Lost, which is quite good. You should watch it.). Even radio is playing this ditty. Why? Oh, God, why? And now it's stuck in my head. Thank you, Lenny Kravitz. No. Change that. How dare you, Lenny Kravitz. How...dare...you.

ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE GATHERS MORE MOSS: Pity the aging music tabloid. Please, someone, somewhere, show pity for this sagging mag. The holidays presented much free time to reflect, spend time with the fam, then spend time escaping the relatives and cozying up with that pile of unread magazines and newspapers. Which brings me to Rolling Stone. In the 20th century, this magazine was must-read material, not only for its coverage of rock 'n' roll but also for its bold, brash journalism (bringing us fresh reads from mad minds like that of Hunter S. Thompson). But in the 21st century? Rolling Stone cannot go cover to cover without resorting to stale copy. Its front of book wit makes Maxim seem clever, if you can believe that. Its "people of the year" interviews? Insipid, at best. Eminem is among the "records of the year." The Rolling Stones, too (figures). And in the movie wrapup, Peter Travers manages to go from boxing image in his paragraph to describe his #2 movie, "watch out -- it sneaks up on you and knocks you flat," all the way to boxing image in his paragraph for his #3 movie, "the film hits your like a surprise left hook." Watch out! Surprise! Hello! Is there a copy editor in the house? Then wait, because Travers begins his paragraphs for both the #5 and #6 movies with the phrase "Red-staters." Argh.

Then it hit me. I'm not the target audience for Rolling Stone magazine; old and hermit-like musicians are. That's the sense I got in turning the pages to find advertisement after advertisment asking me if I'm missing out on music royalties:
"Could you be missing royalties?" Warner Music Group asks on a full-page 99,
"Could you be missing royalties?" Sony/BMG asks on a full-page 133,
"Attention songwriters, could you be missing royalties?" asks Sony/ATV Music publishing on a quarter-page 163.
Well, am I missing out? I know I've hummed more than my fair share of hit melodies. Perhaps one of them got coopted by The Matrix (and I'm talking about those "pop music hitmaker" machine songwriters, not the Keanu Reaves movie trilogy). Perhaps they're getting me confused with McCartney. Happens all the time.

I wondered more after seeing a full-page ad toward the back of the mag for Ringtopia, with all of the latest, greatest ringtones for your mobile phone. Are any of the musicians seeing any money out of this jackpot?

Well, yes. Sort of. Turns out the ringtone recordings are part of the reason (along with the expansion of Internet and satellite radio airplay) that music companies are trying to track down musicians for royalties. This story in the New York Times describes how these new forms of music broadcasting are spreading the wealth, so to speak, to more and more performers. If only Rolling Stone had devoted some space in its year-in-review to report on the changing landscape of broadcasting. Then again, that would require Rolling Stone to be relevant. One can dream. Maybe in 2005, folks?

BLOGGING RULE 1a: Don't bitch about your current employer. And don't think that using an anonymous blog will cover your arse. That should be the lesson learned from the case of Daniel P. Finney, whose newspaper -- the St. Louis Post-Dispatch -- suspended him after learning of his blog that took potshots at his bosses, his co-workers and even his own newspaper stories. The story came about after the city's alt-weekly highlighted the blog a week ago as St. Louis local blog o' the week. In short order, the paper ID'd the culprit and suspended him. Based on sample posts cited in this week's update, along with related comments and posts found using cache versions of "crazyrolandthompson" (the blog itself has disappeared), I don't blame the paper. Reporters should be able to blog in their off-time, or even whilst on the clock so long as it's approved/promoted by the paper. But when you bring down the reputation of your company as well as your own credibility as a reporter, that's a boo-boo you cannot simply kiss and make better.

Related story in Editor & Publisher.

MTV's Real World visits Austin

Hey, MTV! You're only at least a year too late on Austin. If you're going to set the ruffians loose in Texas, then you should have done so when you had a Bush twin there for the embarrassing!

Related story via E! online.

Stand-up for unionization!?

The true "hacks" of New York City aren't the taxi drivers, but the stand-up comedians, who now have announced their plans to form a union and have threatened a work stoppage. In other words, they'd be less funny than usual, because the "striking" comics would open the stage for even less experienced wannabe comics. They want $120 for 10-20 minutes work onstage. Listen to the whine on a related NPR report.

I demand a recount of the recounts!

If the Washington state gubernatorial contest offers us any lessons, 'tis this one: Shouldn't all of the politicians agree to the ground rules before the election?

The latest results this afternoon put Democrat Christine Gregoire up by 10 votes, after losing the initial vote count and the first two recounts. Of course, the Republicans aren't about to let that stand. Electoral reform is on the way. What gets me about all of this, though, is that Washington's voters have been through this before, as recently as, oh, 2000, when the U.S. Senate race came down to a statewide recount. So why didn't the Democrats and Republicans agree to recount ground rules before this go-around? Ugh. No, make that a double-ugh for the state that is home to the big U-Dub. I could also mention that I looked into the myriad of reasons that voters have their votes disqualified, both reasonably and unreasonably, in that aftermath. I can't find the story online anymore, but can find its third-place reward in that year's government reporting category among Northwest dailies (page 15 of the program). I demand a recount of that award! Third place?! What do they say about hindsight?

Casting the Wonder Woman movie

I posit some suggestions in today's Boston Herald story, We wonder: Who will play super woman?

Addenda: Fans of the TV show may recall that Lynda Carter was 24 and 5-foot-9 when the show first aired in the mid-1970s. Not that Warner Bros. would cast accordingly, but keep it in mind when thinking of your own dream Wonder Woman.

Here is some fodder to help your thought process along...
-- Actresses aged 20-30 and at least 5' 8" include... Charlize Theron, Angelina Jolie, Rosario Dawson, Liv Tyler, Adriana Lima, Katie Holmes, Estella Warren, Mandy Moore, Gisele Bundchen, Jessica Biel, Laura Prepon, Kristanna Loken
-- Actresses aged 30-40 and at least 5' 10" include... Tyra Banks, Daisy Fuentes, Jules Asner, Angie Harmon, Famke Janssen, Nicole Kidman, Catherine Bell, Minnie Driver, Shannon Elizabeth, Monica Bellucci, Uma Thurman, Lucy Lawless, Aisha Tyler, Peta Wilson, Elizabeth Berkley, Laura Dern, Brooke Shields, Rebecca Romijn (Stamos)

Vital stats for other notables mentioned in my story...
Sarah Michelle Gellar: 27, 5' 3"
Charisma Carpenter: 34, 5' 7.5"
Catherine Zeta-Jones: 35, 5' 8"
Rachel Bilson: 23, 5' 4"
Salma Hayek: 38, 5' 2"
Halle Berry: 38, 5' 7"
Laura Harring: 40, 5' 6"
Ali Landry: 31, 5' 8"
Susie Castillo: 24, 5' 8"
Lindsay Lohan: 18, 5' 5"
Heather Graham: 34, 5' 8"
Misty May: 27, 5' 10"

FYI, Venus Williams is 6-foot-1. Just saying.

Timeless holiday gifts

If you're depressed by all the news about prescription drugs...ask your doctor if Celebrex, Vioxx, Naproxen and all of the other pills you're taking are actually more hazardous to your health...

Here is a refreshing sight amid all of the TV clutter this holiday season -- the reappearance of classic ads for Chia pets and The Clapper. Only now, these ads include Web addresses. Visit www.chia.com or www.clapon.com if you need a last-minute gift idea, or if you just want to have some fun watching ads for these products and other gizmos by Joseph Enterprises. Did you know that Chia now comes in Shrek, Garfield, Simpsons, Looney Tunes and Scooby Doo versions? The product getting a lot of TV time here in Arizona is the Ove Glove. I have no idea why anyone would want a Chia Cat Grass Planter. "The perfect gift for cats?" Menothinkso. Then again, I'm allergic to cats. What do I know? The Chia Herb Garden sounds like Gardening For Dummies. The Chimney Sweeping Log features one of those ads that makes me question everything I knew about fireplaces. As for the VCR Co-Pilot, well, perhaps this gift ain't so timeless. If I were that worried about recording TV shows and movies, I'd get me a DVR. But that's just me.

Sideways/haiku review

If you liked Swingers,
sub in vineyards for Vegas
and age men like wine.

Comparing the Osama and Tupac recordings

How do Osama bin Laden and Tupac Shakur keep recording new lyrics? And why weren't they nominated for Grammys? We demand answers.

Thirsty for new new Coke?

In a conference call Thursday with stock analysts, the head of Coca-Cola promised the nationwide launch of three new branding trends from the soft-drink giant. The trio of new beverage brands includes 1) Full Throttle, Coke's latest entree into the burgeoning energy drink market, 2) new flavors of Dasani waters, and 3) "an unnamed innovation in regular soft drinks" according to the AP.

What, exactly, qualifies as a beverage innovation? The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in Coke's HQ, suggests that the new drink could be a lime Coke, a new diet cola called Coke Zero, or a Mountain Dew competitor called Vault.

But them thar ain't exactly what I'd call innovations. Coke already produces diet lime Coke, the zero-calorie Diet Coke and Mello Yello.

Meanwhile, competitors Dr. Pepper/7 Up introduced an innovative soft drink this year called 7 Up Plus -- sweetened with Splenda and injected with Vitamin C, calcium and fruit juice.

So what can Coke do?
a) Put the cocaine back in Coke
b) Reintroduce new Coke as new new Coke
c) Partner with Jack Daniels and Captain Morgan for pre-mixed "loaded sodas"
d) Remove the carbonation and the carbohydrates, leaving the syrup
e) One word: chocolate
f) None of the above

If you picked f), please add your suggestions in the comment box. Thanks.

Kelly wins the Apprenticeship

Yeah, yeah, so Kelly Perdew won the danged thing after what amounted to a coronation by the audience. How could Trump go against the crowd? But for every truly "live" moment, there were umpteen prescripted ones, from the "real voices" giving their opinion's to Kelly's fake victory limo ride. Another blogger saw them pre-taping that part earlier in the week, and if you think about it, do you think Kelly would really pump his fists like that -- twice! -- unless he were pretending to show excitement. Anyhow, get ready for the third round (sorry, that reference was implanted in my brain from the witless hype for The Contender) when "book smarts" faces off against "street smarts" for a job praying to the altar of Trump. Sorry to say, but the teaser promo for Apprentice 3 looks like a snoozer.

Play "Spot the Princetonian" on tonight's Apprentice 2 finale

We'll find out tonight if Jennifer Massey (Princeton '96) wins a gig with the Trump. Following that "boardroom" decision, we may also see another Tiger alum weigh in with analysis. Why do I say that? This e-mail arrived in my inbox last night from a producer/writer of The Apprentice who shall remain unnamed, for now...

Hey all: I have a rather unique opportunity for anyone who is a big fan of thereality series "The Apprentice"... We're looking for a "regular person" to be part of our Live Finale (broadcast this Thursday from Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center) - someone who is comfortable on television and would be happy to share with our Host - Regis Philbin - who THEY think should be Trump's apprentice. The person I'm looking for must be NY-based, good on camera, and available to attend the live show on Thursday evening from 8pm-11pm. If you or someone you know would be interested, they should e-mail me immediately to let me know 1) who they think should win and 2) WHY. And sending a pic along would be helpful. Thought this would be a fun opportunity for an alum out there... (And by the way - you should all be watching to cheer on finalist Jennifer Massey - P'ton classof '96!)

So stay tuned.

Before dioxin (left), after dioxin (right) Posted by Hello

Ask your doctor if dioxin is right for you

I've been struggling, struggling with sluggishness this week. So sorry. Wish I could blame the whole thing on dioxin poisoning, but former KGB agents usually stay away from guys named McCarthy. And it's not a flu shot problem. Perhaps I am suffering from a rare parasite known as the red tapeworm, as bureaucratic paperwork (and the waiting for same to be received, then processed) takes its toll on my psyche, thereby rendering me delusionally depressed, which prompts the onset of severe fatigue. Or I could be hallucinating again. I need to get out of the house more often.

That said, it's time to catch up on all sorts of madness...

-- CBS has picked up two more installments of Survivor, which isn't at all surprising, although we'll actually see three more Survivors, since the pickups were for seasons 11 and 12 (season 10 forthcoming from Palau). Nor was it much of a shock to find that more viewers tuned into ABC's Desperate Housewives than to the final tribal council of Survivor: Vanuatu. How could the guy who shoulda coulda woulda been voted first off the island wind up winning? The show has gone from outwit to nitwit. But I'll probably still watch the Palau debut anyhow. What does that say about me?

-- Fake News Headline of the Week: Blockbuster Ends Late Fees
Don't any headline writers pay attention anymore? The video rental chain didn't end late fees. Rather, the chain hiked the fees by deciding to charge delinquent renters the entire cost of the video. Renters would have to bring the video back by a certain date to save face (and money). Even then, customers would be charged restocking fees, as the Boston Herald and others note.

-- The Golden Globe nominations are in, and everyone rushed to talk about what it means for Oscar buzz. Well, let me tell you what it means: Nothing. Nada. Zero. Unless the Academy Awards decide to split major film categories into comedies and dramas, and unless the Academy voters start having the same tastes as the foreign press, then you can just sit back and enjoy the Golden Globes for what they are -- a fun party where actors and actresses actually let their guards down. Although if you're Tom Cruise, you should be worried. If the foreign press doesn't love you anymore, then forget about wooing Oscar. He'll be a grouch. Oh, sorry. I didn't mean to type that out loud.

-- I was surprised by the ending to the third edition of America's Next Top Model on UPN. OK, so I played catch-up here, too, thanks to this weekend's marathon on VH1 (although I still think VH1 and MTV and MTV2 need to be flogged). Thought for sure that Yaya would win. Maybe Tyra Banks was too scared to anoint someone who looks just like her in certain photos. Oh well. What do I know about modeling? Hey, you in the peanut gallery with access to my personal history, you can stop your giggling right about now. Really. You can stop with the giggling. Thank you.

-- Hadn't we determined that we were tired of watching The Bachelor? So what gives with WB's college version, called Big Man on Campus? Everything is the same, simply transplanted to the campus of the University of Central Florida. Then again, my cynicism is warranted, since the show's executive producer is Mike Fleiss, the man behind The Bachelor.

-- Wal-Mart really has painted itself into a censorship corner. Proclaiming yourselves the mega-family-friendly department store chain will come around and bite you on your bippy. Case in point: The family in Maryland suing the chain for deception by selling an Evanesence disc that includes "bad words." I'll have more to say on this later. Not too much later. Don't worry, my pretties.

Good thing I'm moving out of Dodge

More evidence that marketers can persuade Arizona residents into believing just about anything...

This from today's New York Times: According to Nielsen/EDI, which tracks more than 50,000 theaters in North America, as of Monday "Christmas With the Kranks" performed best in St. John's, Newfoundland, and Phoenix, Ariz. - points decidedly remote from the usual tastemakers in New York and Los Angeles.

My interview with Melana Scantlin

I talk with Melana Scantlin about her new job in Saturday's Boston Herald:

A serious player: TV bachelorette vows to get sports reporting ...

Jennifer Massey's Website

Thanks to an astute reader for pointing out that Jennifer Massey of The Apprentice finally joined the online community this week, launching her site at jenmassey.com (which, btw, was the site registered earlier this year under her hubby's name, as I pointed out in an earlier post). That puts a slight dent into my circumstantial evidence, but we'll have to see what happens in the finale on Thursday.

Apprentice 2: And then there were 2

Looks more and more like someone knew something about Jennifer Massey and Kelly Perdew getting the Trump treatment.

Chattanooga choo-choo, continued

The editor from Chattanooga defends his embed on the Rumsfeld gotcha!

Billboard Awards...yeah, so?

Anyone who covered the Billboard Awards as news should be ashamed of themselves. This is more of an annual banquet than a competition, since the awards are based solely on Billboard chart results. That's as if the Oscars were awarded based on box-office. Hey, there's an idea...that should go nowhere.

Behind Rumsfeld's gotcha!

Everyone has been trumpeting the "pep rally gone awry" story, that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld faced "tough questioning" from reservists Wednesday in Kuwait. But the tough questions were planted by a Chattanooga (choo-choo) newspaper reporter embedded with some of those reservists. In an e-mail back home, he boasts that he had "one of his best days as a journalist." If that's his best day, then, well, I guess he doesn't plan on asking any tough questions by himself. Choo choo!

Recapping the Grammy nominations

According to Google News, there were almost 1,000 related stories on this week's Grammy nominations. I'd venture that about 975 of those stories said the same thing. Most in the media played the tried-and-true storylines: Kanye West finds "redemption" by leading the way; Usher continues the Year of Usher; Ray Charles gets his due. But those are lazy stories that anyone with access to a Grammys press release could write. Some papers added sidebars or grafs for their local honorees. What about these storylines?

-- Here is a quick quiz. I'll give you a set of nominees. You tell me which groups are up for Best Rock Album and which groups are up for Best Alternative Album: Bjork, Elvis Costello and the Imposters, Franz Ferdinand, Green Day, Hoobastank, The Killers, Modest Mouse, PJ Harvey, Velvet Revolver, Wilco

-- What's the difference between Best R&B Album and Best Contemporary R&B Album?

-- When are the Grammys going to have an accurate definition of Best New Artist, other than the current one which tries to explain that it's the artist's "first recording which establishes the public identity of that artist." Were the earlier efforts too private? And how public do you have to be to considered public?

-- It's been 10 years since The Recording Academy created a "blue ribbon panel" to ensure that the Grammys are hip. And yet, have you taken a good look at this year's nominees? Where are The Shins or Jet under any of the Best Rock Album, Best Rock Song or Best Alternative categories? If U2's iPod song ("Vertigo') can be considered, why not Jet's equally compelling "Are You Gonna Be My Girl"? Or how about Ambulance LTD or Shortlist winners TV on the Radio, for that matter?

-- Why do the Grammys continue to make its top priority honoring the sick and the dead and making room for past-their-prime musicians under a better-late-than-never policy? For those keeping score, I would be referring to Ray Charles this year, as well as last year's winners Luther Vandross, Warren Zevon and Celia Cruz.

-- For being out of touch, the Grammys also have a way of making up for that by giving any previous winners a free pass into future nominations. Think of it as the Ivy League rule -- getting in is the tough part; once you're in, you're in for life.

-- If we're really keeping track, shouldn't someone in the press note that this year's crop of nominees pales in comparison hipness to the 2003 winners, which did include OutKast, Eminem, The White Stripes, Foo Fighters, Missy Elliott, Beyonce, Coldplay and The Neptunes.

The 47th Annual Grammy Awards nominees, full listing.

What Mike Tyson and I have in common

No, it's not banging our hands on someone else's car hood, although that's apparently what got Mike Tyson in trouble with the Scottsdale police a couple of weeks ago. Always amusing to read how the media figures out a way to incorporate the old news into the new news -- "In a heavyweight title fight, Tyson was disqualified for twice biting Evander Holyfield's ears, taking a chunk out of one." Oh yes, we almost forgot. Thanks for reminding us. As I wrote before (check my archives), when I met Tyson a couple of summers ago, he seemed shy and a bit vulnerable. And the traffic around the downtown Scottsdale clubs usually is worthy of a smackdown. Just in case you're from out of town and didn't know. Now you know.

The marionette sex scene the MPAA didn't want you (or your kids) to see

The uncut version of the marionette sex scene (because calling it puppet sex is simply wrong) from Team America: World Police that the MPAA decided was worth an NC-17 rating. You'll have to add your own soundtrack, or more likely, laugh track.

Martha's post-prison reality lacks drama

Turns out the hubbub over Martha Stewart's new TV deal could've done without the hubbub. The description from Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (and NBC/Mark Burnett) sounds like any old show on the Food Network. But knowing Burnett's shows, it'll at least have a catchphrase to rival "the tribe has spoken" and "you're fired." Then again, Martha already had a catchphrase. And that's not necessarily a good thing.

Department of Disinformation

An old city editor of mine used to say, mockingly so, that "you shouldn't let facts get in the way of a good story." The story behind Pat Tillman's death seems surprising to anyone who cannot recall the real story behind the "heroism" of a certain PFC named Lynch, Jessica. The Daytona Beach News-Journal connects dots, doesn't like what it sees.

What NBC (and Blogger?) doesn't want you to read

I don't know how to explain this, but when I looked at my blog today, a post was missing. Gone. Disappeared. Deleted. But not forgotten.

Perhaps it was the title of my post, Does Jennifer Massey win The Apprentice?
Or perhaps it was the content...which I shall repeat once again for those Web surfers who were confused the first time.

Consider this:
-- Four candidates remain from the second edition of "Who Wants to Work For Donald Trump."
-- In September, online betting tended toward two of those four candidates, Kelly Perdew and Jennifer Massey.
-- Fired contestant Andy Litinsky has links to all of the other contestants, except one.
-- Guess who is the only contestant without an individual online presence? That's right. Massey.
-- More circumstantial evidence? Massey's two most logical domain names are locked up but not displayed. One domain is registered to a guy in L.A., the other to a person in San Francisco (where Massey lives) and redirected to an e-mail address based on her husband's first name. Hmmmm....as they say, stay tuned.
Until then, you'll have to make do with Jennifer Massey's NBC profile.

Or maybe I'm just hallucinating. Menothinkso.

Clear Channel: Fair and balanced?

The Wall Street Journal headline tells you everything you need to know ... Fox Will Become Main News Source For Clear Channel.

Choice quote: "We don't have a political agenda; what we have is an agenda to get the greatest number of listeners for the longest period of time."
-- Clear Channel Radio Chief Executive John Hogan.

Who talks in semicolons?

Literally drunk with power(ball)

If I had $113 million (paid out from a $315 million Powerball jackpot), I'd have me my own personal round-the-clock driver so as to avoid the whole drinking-and-driving issue. Not Jack Whittaker. So he'll have to hire a personal round-the-clock lawyer so as to avoid him the whole personal round-the-clock cellmate and personal round-the-clock probation officer.

The oldest person alive?

Why do we only learn about the oldest American when he or she dies? There is a slight mention of the new title-holder. But really, we're so rankings-crazy and ratings-happy, you woulda coulda shoulda thought that by now, we already would have established a Top 25 Oldest People list. Or maybe we have. The media gets these names from the Gerontology Research Group, which lists the top 59 supercentenarians online. So I repeat the question: Why do we only learn about the oldest American when he or she dies?

Sharon Reed does Letterman

Was it something I said? More likely, 'twas something David Letterman said over and over this week that finally got Cleveland anchorwoman Sharon Reed to appear on Thursday's show. Fully clothed, of course. You can watch a video clip from the aforementioned link. Reed was composed but reserved. Letterman remained reluctant, remarking afterward to Paul that he didn't think the interview went well. All Paul could say: "She has a smokin' bod." For her part, Reed defended her actions, called out a New York Times reporter as "lazy and irresponsible" for writing about her without doing any actual reporting (big shocker) and called other TV journos boring for thinking there was only one way to cover a public nude photo op. The more interesting thing to watch on The Late Show tonight, however, was Tyra Banks giving her own opinion on public nudity. Banks said she appears almost naked all the time with Victoria's Secret, and she doesn't plan on ever revealing her all to the public. Go figure. I figure, if you want to see naked news, then change the channel and watch Naked News. I can understand Reed's point about first-person reporting, having covered more than a few events and issues that way, but she could have done so in this instance without actually showing her skin on camera. Then again, Paul is right. She does have a smokin' bod.

Darth meets ESPN

You read it here first. You know how I was asking about Star Wars and its new forays into advertising? Here is more of that story in today's Boston Herald...

Darth meets ESPN: Characters ‘Star’ in new promos

Clip and save

It's not all vacation and playtime for me in Boston. Read my clips from today's Boston Herald:

Domestic diva's reality show plans serve up feast of possibilities
Former nanny sues Imus

Blogger note: In the real journalism world, sometimes good copy gets cut for space, so Herald readers missed out on my other Martha TV ideas, including Mission: Commissary, Iron Chef, Elaine and Martha (a Seinfeld spinoff) and Meet My Celly, the prison dating game! Oh well. OK, back to work.

Speaking of Sharon Reed

David Letterman tonight groused openly about sexy news anchor Sharon Reed, who apparently won't be given the OK by her Cleveland CBS station to appear on his national CBS show. As he wondered aloud: She can be nude in Cleveland but not be fully clothed on my show...how does that work?

Even the New York Times found a way to get the story and a picture of a naked Reed onto its pages during the holiday weekend. Pass the turkey, please! Dave flashed the Times on air Monday before asking to get Reed on the program. Oh well. Maybe a groundswell of public opinion will help you out, Dave. Then again, he cannot seem to get Oprah on his show, either.

Jeopardy: News vs. Entertainment

My pet peeve with tape delay rears its ugly head and wags its tail behind it with the special half-hour Nightline devoted to Jeopardy and contestant Ken Jennings. Jennings lost on his 75th appearance on the game show, which aired today. But the episode was taped almost a full three months earlier. Yes, that's right. ABC had interviews, profiles and footage from the show taped in September, yet waited until the night it aired to broadcast. ABC News and its high-profile news program, bowing to KingWorld, the company (owned by CBS) that distributes Jeopardy. Of course, this is not shocking to anyone who pays attention to news about entertainment. From the recent Sharon Reed nudie show to any "entertainment news" profile of an upcoming film or TV episode, it's all taped and stored away. All of those "exclusives" from the set of Alexander or the latest CSI? Those were taped weeks -- nay, even months ago. But it's brought to you right before screening as if it were news.

And people wonder why bloggers are becoming more popular...they're actually delivering more news than the so-called news organs!

Here is all of the media already lined up to pay tribute to Jennings and his vanquisher, Nancy Zerg, according to Jeopardy's own Web site...

Dec. 1: 6:45 a.m. WABC live interview with Ken.
7-8 a.m. Good Morning America Ken appears with Nancy Zerg.
8-8:15 a.m. Ken interviewed on ABC Radio.
9-10 a.m. Live with Regis and Kelly featuring Ken.
9-10 a.m. Nancy Zerg appears on CBS Early Show.
7 p.m. Ken appears on CNN 360 degrees. (TBD?)
Biography hour-long special on Ken Jennings and JEOPARDY! contestants.
Dec. 2: CBS Early Show airs interview with Ken & Nancy.
Dec. 3: People Magazine feature runs.
Dec. 5: VH1 Big in 2004 Awards show broadcast including Ken as nominee in Big Entertainer category.
Dec. 8: Barbara Walters Special, “10 Most Fascinating People of 2004” with Ken Jennings.
Dec. 9: Vanity Fair “Best of 2004” issue includes Ken Jennings.

"America's favorite young married couple?"

Please, enough already with the Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson! Overexposing them on MTV is a pastime, but this display by all of the other networks, thinking they can simply plug in Nick + Jessica = ratings bonanza = you have gots to be kidding me. They were ruining NBC on Tuesday for Christmas in Rockefeller Center, then they show up on ABC Wednesday with their "family" Christmas. You know the saying, too much of a good thing? What about too much of a mediocre mess? Remind me to turn off the tube and get lost after Lost.

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