popular thinking

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

THE GREAT SI COVERUP COVERUP: Gawker followed the lead of many a blog by pointing out how foolish Sports Illustrated's editors were to publish photos of swimsuit models with their padding showing. You know the blogs are onto something because SI.com has removed both photos from the site. Thank goodness we still have caches! I wonder whether any of these offending photos were in the actual mag??? Suddenly, after all these years, I have new reason to saerch out the SI swimsuit issue. Next stop: Adolescent nostalgia.

Related: Gawker reveals the hamburger helper for Michelle Alves; Gawker on the real world inside Mallory Snyder's bikini top, first spotted by my eyes via the Golden Fiddle.

OFFICIAL OSCARS REVIEW: Oh. What was that? Did I miss something? Nope. The telecast was just as I had predicted it in my Sunday story. In a word: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. I think the problem is one of oversaturation. We saw so much of this already, and in such more comfortable surroundings, whether it was the gleeful Golden Globes or the dignified Screen Actors Guild awards -- so by the time we made it to the Academy, all the fun was gone. And Chris Rock tried so hard to be something he's not, instead of embracing his Chris Rockness. Oh well. If we're lucky, Rock's opening lines may have proven to be all too astute when he announced he was hosting the 77th and last Academy Awards.

GREAT MOMENTS IN 2005 ADVERTISING: I was going to make this post all about the Burger King ad for its chicken bacon ranch sandwich, simply because Darius Rucker is a hoot (or should I say, Hootie and the Blowfish) in his cowboy get-up, and the Brooke Burke "C'mon get it" kicker kicks Hootie Booty. But whilst watching the Oscars, I think the world just got its first glimpse of the guy who has provided the voiceover for years of "priceless" MasterCard commercials. Say it ain't so.

SEAT PRESENTATIONS: So unnecessary. Memo to Gil Cates: Don't do that again.

ROBIN WILLIAMS, SAME AS HE EVER WAS: Write some new material, please.

BREAKING NEWS: I type faster and with less typos than Defamer! Just saying...if you're going to liveblog, remember to take an extra second to check the spelling. We can wait for it. Promise.

OSCAR NOMINEES ONSTAGE TOGETHER: First off, I already lost one of my newsroom "contest" tiebreaker categories, so let's say an early goodbye to my $2. I wanted my $2. I wanted my $2. Not that I'm Better Off Dead. Back on point ...

The art direction nominees arrived onstage in their altogether, which I guess was supposed to save time and show us people we wouldn't otherwise get to see in person. At least they didn't pan them for their looks of humiliation in losing to the Aviator duo. And how about that quick cut to Chris Rock after the acceptance speeches? That was quick!

In more important news, Morgan Freeman wins best supporting actor! I'm 1-for-1 in my Oscar "contest." He was humble, modest, dignified. And he gets played off with the theme to Superman!????!!!! Intriguing.

CHRIS ROCK'S MONOLOGUE: What was everyone worried about exactly? He even told the same jokes from his rehearsals earlier last week (and revealed online in spoiler fashion).

OSCAR SPEECHES: At the water cooler (or over the instant-messaging service) tomorrow, you'll likely dish about tonight's Academy Awards and debate who looked fabulous, who looked fabulously awful and whether Chris Rock hit the mark with his monologue.
Years from now, however, your biggest Oscar memories won't be about who wore what, who hosted or even who won - they'll be about what the winners said in their 60 seconds of live prime-time glory.
Don't believe me?
Name the year and movie that won Roberto Benigni the Best Actor Oscar. Roberto who? Oh, you mean the guy who climbed over A-listers and their chairs, then said he'd "like to be Jupiter and kidnap everybody and lie down in the ground making love to everybody.''
Yes, that guy.
Try this in a public place. Ask everyone who has seen The Pianist to raise their hands. Now ask how many of them remember seeing Adrien Brody lip-lock Halle Berry when he won an Oscar for that film. Note the difference.
Oscar telecasts are such droll, drawn-out, meticulously planned affairs that it's the acceptance speeches - often the only unpredictable part of the show - we remember most.

Continue reading my story here ... (Boston Herald)
Sidebar with advice from a local Toastmaster winner ... (Boston Herald)

DURST TALKS TO MTV: Feeding speculation that he wasn't just in it for the nookie, but also for the publicity...
"Everyone, probably everyone in this building, has done something similar to what I did, and nobody cares about it," he added during a break from recording the next Limp Bizkit album in Interscope Records' studio. "But if you're high-profile, or on someone's radar ... then it matters. What happens to me happens to me, and I have to live with it and go on."

Whose radar was Durst on, anyhow? Exactly.
Related story and vid clip: Fred Durst Says Sex Video Was Stolen From His Computer (MTV.com)

THE DIRT ON DURST: You don't really want to watch the three-minute sex video that Fred Durst made of himself and an unidentified woman. Trust me. I had to watch it before filing my story in today's Boston Herald. Not. Erotic. At. All. And it brings up many questions, among them: Why would Britney Spears ever have wanted anything to do with this man? Is that really a two-hole punch? How about that hairy belly? How could anyone believe this came from a T-Mobile Sidekick II, when Sidekicks can't produce motion pictures? Who let this guy direct music videos? How did he con Halle Berry into making out with him in a music video? Ah, so many questions. I was taken aback more by the fact that I might have a two-degrees-of-separation-connection to the guy claiming to have worked on the deal to release the tapes in a more "legit" fashion. Weird, eh? Read on...

Paris Hilton's cellphone hackers allegedly are at it again, this time dumping a three-minute sex video by Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst onto the Internet. But the stunt by the so-called "T-Mobile Terrorists'' may backfire. Phoenix publicist David Hans Schmidt, who brokered deals to publish nude photos of Paula Jones and Tonya Harding, said he had been helping the hackers negotiate the release and sale of Durst's sexcapade with an unidentified female since October.

I'm at least proud that in my official story, I didn't use the phrases "he did it all for the nookie" or "you can see his limp biscuit."
Related story: Hackers dig up dirt on Durst (Boston Herald)
Related video: Definitely NSFW 0r for anyone's healthy conscience anywhere else.

HARGO DAY IN SOMERVILLE: It's a topsy-turvy world we live in when the Boston Globe puts the Somerville Gates on A1 whilst my bosses bury my story about same on page 16. Go figure. My story still beats the competition, although I had to bite my lip yesterday when people I interviewed talked about how wonderful it was to see the parody project spotlighted in the New York Times. The only reason the Times got the story (same day as my exclusive interview) was because I talked Hargadon into going home the day before so he could e-mail me hi-res jpgs of his cat with his gates. Oh well. Live and learn. Read my story and learn how to write tight.

Related: `Gates' cut Christo short (Boston Herald)

STARS WITHOUT MAKEUP: When did the E! network start selling its shows to Fox? Just saying it took less than 60 seconds to see that this show resembled every single Celebrities Uncensored show ever shown on E!, right down to the silly music and voiceover narration. Hmmm...

QUARTER POUNDER WITH MOUSE? I don't know what is more frightening -- eating at McDonald's regularly even after reading Fast Food Nation and watching Super Size Me, or finding out that someone allegedly ate into a mouse/rat at a McDonald's within a mile and an hour of my own most recent Golden Arches fix. But that's what happened yesterday. I ate lunch at the Chinatown McDonald's in Boston. Last night, the local TV news showed that a man at the Downtown Crossing McD's supposedly bit a rat that somehow got wedged into his Quarter Pounder with cheese. Royale Deluxe indeed. Only I don't believe it entirely. McD's employees assemble the sammiches upon ordering, grabbing a burger patty then slapping on the bun and condiments. So you'd have to not even be paying attention to notice meat that has an entire rodent attached to it. Then again, we are talking about McDonald's employees. And remember this story from O Canada? Shudder.

THE TOP GADGETS EVER? Mobile PC unveiled its list over the weekend of the top 100 gadgets of all time. Lists and rankings always spur debates. This one is no different. I break down the list in today's Boston Herald. Instead of giving you the lede, let's jump right to the end of my story, in which we discuss what's NOT on the Mobile PC gadget list.
For instance, why didn't the answering machine make the cut? Didn't they have the heart to include the pacemaker? Perhaps they forgot about how vital eight-track recordings once were?
Also spurned by Mobile PC's rankings: microwave ovens, the TelePrompTer, the IFB earpiece allowing TV anchors and reporters to get instructions from the booth, karaoke machines, the first alarm clock equipped with a snooze button and vibrators.
Obviously, this list was man-made.

Related: Mobile PC's top 100 gadgets story.

REMEMBERING HUNTER S. THOMPSON: Doesn't anyone else find it an odd reflection on the state of today's media to find Tom Wolfe appreciating Hunter in the Wall Street Journal??? Watch as the major media outlets spin their wheels on how much they suck in comparison to the self-defined originator of gonzo journalism. Also, this plays up how Jann Wenner does not qualify for "Best Week Ever" -- first Britney Spears (the woman who helped put the nail in the coffin for Rolling Stone's cred as a journalistic effort with six covers) called Wenner a fat, old man, and now Hunter's death only causes more people to remember how Rolling Stone used to matter. No matter.

MSNBC/Washington Post
Los Angeles Times
Rolling Stone
The New York Times
Note: The WSJ decided not to make Wolfe's appreciation available as a free online feature. So don't blame me.

HUNTER S. THOMPSON: Two initial questions upon hearing of his apparent suicide. 1) Why hasn't anyone written a truly gonzo obit/appreciation on him? The initial reports and appreciation-style stories all are written straight, just the sort of thing that wouldn't make any sense at all. 2) Why do writers want to write their own endings?

I'll update in the morning with related stories as I find them.

I FEEL LIKE CHICKEN SELECTS: If people climb Everest because it's there, then why do people try to take advantage of corporate giveaways? Remember the guy who bought a lot of crap for the free frequent flier miles? I'm not that guy. But I am apt to do something silly when presented with the opportunity...

McDonald’s planned to give away four million free Chicken Selects over the weekend as part of a four-day nationwide promotion for the fast-food giant’s chicken strips.
How many could I eat?
The promotion began Thursday at the 13,700 Golden Arches, with anyone entitled to one free Chicken Select strip and dipping sauce between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., one per day per location. I couldn’t visit all 13,700 locations, but McDonald’s online map showed that hitting up the nine McD’s between the Herald and City Hall was plausible. So, on behalf of college students, the Hub’s homeless and anyone on the hunt for cheap eats, I sacrificed my diet to test the promotion.
Don’t try this at home, because you couldn’t.
You had to go inside a McDonalds to get the free Chicken Select. Drive-thru patrons received a coupon for free fries and drink with a Chicken Select purchase.
The chain launched its seasoned, breaded chicken breast strips last summer with a big ad campaign during the Summer Olympics. McDonald’s -- current slogan of choice, “I’m loving it” -- claims Americans feel just that way about the new menu item.
But then, if everyone is all Wade Boggs about the Chicken Selects, why would Ronald McDonald and Co. feel the need to give it way, give it away, give it away now?
Thursdays test drive of the promotion found few Bostonians clamoring for chicken, and as the chain is wont to say, participation did vary among individual franchises.
A banner outside the Chinatown location (702 Washington St.) shows a Chicken Select with the words, become a believer. Inside, however, no signage promotes the freebie, and I have to ask twice to let them know I’m just there for my sample. It’s delivered on a napkin, without dipping sauce.
It tastes, well, pretty good, actually.
At 146 Tremont St. across from Boston Common, I also had to ask twice for my sample. The first time, the woman at the register wanted me to buy something with my chicken, she then asked her manager, who let me have my sample. But he also noticed my Herald ID, asking, “Are you going to write a review?” Note to self: Remove Herald ID.
He recommends trying the new chipotle BBQ sauce. A wise choice. The other sauces -- ranch, buffalo and honey mustard -- are OK but not as tantalizing as the chipotle BBQ. Did I just use the word tantalizing in relation to a Mickey D’s sauce?
Inside The Corner food court at Washington and Winter streets, the manager, apologized for not having Chicken Selects on his menu. He wishes he did.
A block north at 327 Washington St., the woman hands over the chicken but won’t share the sauce. “You want the whole thing?” she asks. “Just dip it in.” Sorry, not into communal dipping sauce at McDonald’s.
Things improve at One Union Street across from City Hall and Fanueil Hall. This location not only has its own table with freebies that include chicken and Powerade, but also has sisters Tafawni and Taneshia (yes, they are sisters and they are Sisters, but no, you don’t get their last name) hawking the goods. Over at South Station’s train terminal food court, they’ve also got extra help on hand walking around with trays of chicken and Powerade.
The locations at Boston Children’s Museum and South Station’s bus terminal food court don’t have Powerade samples but do have people eager to offer chicken without making you go to the counter.
That’s not the case at 58 Summer St., where the woman at the register rings up my non-purchase for reasons beyond comprehension.
The tally on my own one-day attempt to super size me: two miles round-trip, nine McDonalds stops, eight Chicken Selects for about 1,016 calories (oh my), two Powerade drinks, zero dollars.

Related: Find your nearest McDonald's.
Official press release from McDonald's about the promotion.

PARIS HILTON HACKED: For a limited time (or perhaps not so limited), the hacking support network has posted the T-Mobile Sidekick phone book, notebook and camera phone photos of one Paris Hilton. For now, you can find it all right here. Thanks, GorillaMask.net. While you're trying to figure out who hacked Paris and how, the more curious question I want answered is who changes his/her number and e-mail last. I'm guessing Eminem is pretty quick to ditch his number, while Pauly Shore welcomes your phone calls. But that's just my guess. NOTE: Not that you would be surprised, but I should warn you that Paris did allow herself to pose for NSFW camera phone shots. Go figure.

Check back with this blog and the Boston Herald for the latest news on the Somerville Gates! Posted by Hello

BEHIND THE SOMERVILLE GATES: You've likely seen this e-mail link already, but only I had the exclusive -- and I do mean exclusive -- interview with the artist who created the world-famous Somerville Gates, as well as official reaction from the mayor. Read the story here. If only my paper had included pictures. Oh well. For that, follow the link here. Or see the related links below, if you so choose. I'm temporarily away from my computer with Picasa, so bear with me until I post the photos here. Alrighty then. Enjoy!

My Boston Herald story: It's Somerville's first`Gated' community
The Somerville Gates: http://www.not-rocket-science.com/gates.htm

A double dose of dissection for you kids today...

LOONEY TUNES TAKE A WRONG TURN AT ALBUQUERQUE? The WB introduced a new, futuristic superhero version of its veritable Looney Tunes franchise. Pourquoi? The "Loonatics" will debut this fall as part of the Saturday morning Kids WB! lineup. Choice line from my story, describing the new-look Looney Tunes: "Let's just say the new Road Runner looks even more like a literal speed freak." My college buddy Javi also will appreciate my "Tiny Toons" lyrical homage. Read the whole story here in today's Boston Herald.

Full Story: They’re bugging out: Rad makeovers for classic 'toons

GREAT MOMENTS IN PR INFAMY/PRODUCT MISPLACEMENT: Fans of The Apprentice saw how horribly dumb the supposed Book Smarts and Street Smarts teams were at promoting Dove's body wash. But how does that compare to how Timex felt when they saw Osama bin Laden sporting an Ironman watch in his video messages (he takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'?). Or how about when Segway saw W. fall off its foolproof human transporter? Continue reading my insightful look back at great moments in product misplacement here in today's Boston Herald.

Full story: Dove scrubs `Apprentice' ads, happy for option

GASTINEAU GIRLS GONE WILD: We never get to see the celebreality shows we want to see because those celebrities -- Lindsay Lohan, Brad and Jen, even Britney and her Federdud -- already have all the attention they could ever want. So instead, we're left with the people who dearly crave our attention. We get Nick and Jessica, her sister Ashlee (who dared to say in a recent episode of her Ashlee Simpson Show that she hoped her SNL flub wouldn't doom her career because, and I'm quoting her, "I've worked so hard to get where I'm at." Indeed.) and a cavalcade of celebs on the comeback trail. What, then, to make of the Gastineau Girls? I viewed an advance copy DVD of the debut tonight on E! and shared my findings with readers in today's Boston Herald. Our advance copy didn't include audio, which as I suggest, might be a proper way to watch the show. Look for my "all in the family" lineage link from the Gastineau Girls to Brigitte Nielsen to Rocky and even the Gottis. Here is my lede...
E! Entertainment Television hypes its newest pseudo-celeb reality docudrama as "Gilmore Girls'' meets "Sex and the City.''
Don't get your hopes up.
The "Gastineau Girls'' arrives tonight (at 10 on E!) without the witty banter and sexual situations that marked the show's supposed predecessors, although mother and daughter Gastineau attempt to make up for that oversight with lots and lots of cleavage.
Continue reading my preview here.
Related: Gastineau Girls show site.

GRAMMY HIGHS, LOWS: Well, the awards turned out to be all too predictable. The telecast, too, bored for the most part. For the most part, I say. Here were my highlights and lowlights from Sunday night's awards...

HIGHS: Kanye West's performance with the Blind Boys of Alabama and company; Loretta Lynn's acceptance speech with Jack White; Bono showing a bit of humility by acknowledging The Killers and Franz Ferdinand (compared to his "we're the biggest band in the world" acceptance a couple of years ago, this qualifies as humble); Alicia Keys singing "If I Ain't Got You."

LOWS: The opening medley; Maroon5 winning best new artist (and thanking Kanye?); the tsunami benefit rendition of "Across the Universe" (which, if you're going to hype it that much, could you make sure the kids rehearse the song first? talk about your unnatural disasters -- the Sacramento Bee made the point well this morning comparing it to an SNL skit, which it could very well be this coming weekend); Modest Mouse getting shut out; having most of the awards relegated to pre-show and scrolling them across the bottom of the screen.

Related: Full list of Grammy winners.
Related: Boston Herald's telecast review and awards overview.

MY GRAMMY PICKS: I don't have a vote tonight, but if I did, these would be the nominees I'd pick. Not the folks I think will win, nor even necessarily who I think should win (since my nominations list might look slightly different), but those I'd vote for given this list. You cannot underestimate the Grammy voters' tendencies toward honoring the same musicians over and over, honoring musicians based on past (not present) performance and honoring the dead. The Grammys also tend to reward the same folks who perform on the show, so watch out for that, too. All of that said, here is my list of selected categories.

Record of the year? Yeah! -- Usher Featuring Lil Jon & Ludacris
Album of the year? The College Dropout -- Kanye West
Song of the year? Jesus Walks -- Miri Ben Ari, C. Smith & Kanye West, songwriters (Kanye West)
Best new artist? Kanye West
Best rock song? Float On -- Isaac Brock, Dann Gallucci, Eric Judy & Benjamin Weikel, songwriters (Modest Mouse)
Best rock album? American Idiot -- Green Day
Best alternative music album? Good News For People Who Love Bad News -- Modest Mouse (*as much as I loved the Franz Ferdinand disc, I'd have moved it to the rock category)
Best female R&B vocal performance? If I Ain't Got You -- Alicia Keys
Best traditional R&B vocal performance? Musicology -- Prince
Best urban/alternative performance? Star -- The Roots
Best R&B song? You Don't Know My Name -- Alicia Keys, Harold Lilly & Kanye West, songwriters (Alicia Keys)
Best R&B album? Musicology -- Prince
Best contemporary R&B album? Confessions -- Usher
Best rap solo performance? 99 Problems -- Jay-Z
Best rap performance by a duo or group? Ch-Check it Out -- Beastie Boys (*as much as I love The Roots, I'd have picked another song from their disc)
Best rap/sung collaboration? All Falls Down -- Kanye West & Syleena Johnson
Best rap song? Jesus Walks -- Miri Ben Ari, C. Smith & Kanye West, songwriters (Kanye West)
Best rap album? The Black Album -- Jay-Z
Best female country vocal performance? In My Daughter's Eyes -- Martina McBride
Best male country vocal performance? Live Like You Were Dying -- Tim McGraw
Best country performance by a duo or group with vocal? Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy) -- Big & Rich
Best country collaboration with vocals? Portland, Oregon -- Loretta Lynn & Jack White
Best country album? Van Lear Rose -- Loretta Lynn

See the full list of Grammy nominees. And check back tonight to see if I end up blogging the awards in real-time or wait until the show is over to give my astute analysis.

REPORTING ABOUT REPORTERS: I didn't have anything in the paper today, but the media world still gives us plenty to ponder. Such as...

1) Do reporters still find ways to blog themselves out of their actual jobs? Yes. As the Washington Post reported Friday, a woman who attempted to blog anonymously as the Sarcastic Journalist got sacked by her bosses at the Durham Herald-Sun. But this is a case of the reporter getting what she wished for, since the day before her firing, she wrote for all the World Wide Web to see, "I really hate my place of employment. Seriously." Guess her editors took her seriously. Two points I should make here. First, I'm more than a bit surprised that the WP story didn't mention the St. Louis reporter who also got into trouble for belittling his story assignments. Secondly, we journalists have a difficult enough time as it is maintaining credibility with the masses. Why would you want to take down your employer? Sounds like you're a character on 24 -- now them's some people who put their personal gain ahead of national security. Anyhow. I digressed. Journalists should be using the Web to extend their reach and promote their good work, not for evil. OK. Sounding a bit cinematic. Next topic.
Related story: Free Expression Can Be Costly When Bloggers Bad-Mouth Jobs (WP)

2) Can anyone get press credentials with access to the White House? Again, the surprising answer is yes, as the media world buzzes about the saga of "Jeff Gannon." The 'journalist' formerly known as Gannon resigned after bloggers (bloggers? what are they?) revealed that Gannon wasn't Gannon at all. More curious, however, is the fact that the guy worked for an outfit called Talon News, which essentially is a GOP activist Web site. Not Salon, an online magazine. Talon, a political activist Web site. Some journos and politicos who side with the other side of the political spectrum have gone so far as to suggest that even terrorists (come on, W's crew prefers the term "evildoers" and you know that) could fake their way into the West Wing. Perhaps they've already infiltrated The West Wing. Again, I've gone tangential.
Related stories: 'Gannon' Interview: No Plame Subpoena, No Tie to White House, He Says (E&P)
WH's Scott McClellan Says He Knew 'Gannon' Was Guckert (E&P)
White House correspondent exposed as pseudo-journalist (Globe & Mail, Toronto)
Online Reporter Quits After Liberals' Expose (WP)

3) Do reporters care about their bylines? Did you guess yes again? Of course you did. We're as vain as anyone else. Perhaps more so. The L.A. Times prefers to write brite about the subject. For me, I've always insisted on using my middle initial in bylines -- not only to separate myself from the other Sean McCarthys of the world, but also to acknowledge the fact that I have a middle name, too. And no, it's not Leon. But it's better than making my middle initial the number 8 -- which means one thing in Chinese, but in journalese, it means you need to take to the Web to find sources, unless you decide to use the same source for two different stories in two days. Don't ask me. If you're an avid Gawker reader, you know what I'm talking about. And yes, for those keeping track, I did manage to stray from the point once again. Hooray for me.
Related story: You bet!: News people take their bylines very seriously (LAT)

AUDITIONING FOR INXS: Try it, you'll like it. Take it from me. I auditioned Wednesday for the lead singer slot in Australia's hit rock band from the late 1980s. Not that I thought I actually could be the band's new sensation (sorry, but the pun had to show up sometime), but my new bosses thought it'd be fun to see me try, anyhow. Read my first-person account here.

Read the related straight news coverage by my colleague Sarah Rodman here.

CHANGES PLANNED FOR OSCAR PRESENTATIONS: Actors find it tough enough to put on brave faces from their seats when they don't win an Oscar. Imagine how they'll feel if they lose while standing onstage for the world to see. That's one of several changes planned for the 77th Academy Awards, airing nationwide on ABC -- locally, WCVB (Ch. 5) -- on Feb. 27. Continue reading my story in today's Boston Herald here.

FOR THE FAN OF MANY HATS: Is the Patriots official Super Bowl hat stylish, or simply fit for a UPS driver? Discuss. Or read my pithy piece. Then discuss.

TALKING ABOUT CONVERSATION HEARTS: Remember those little candy hearts with the two-word messages you spread around your schoolroom? Oh, wait, you still buy and share conversation hearts? All the better, because I get to the bottom of this wafer-thin tale. We compare NECCO's originals to the new competition from Starburst, Nestle/Wonka and Brach's. There are others in regional markets, I know. But these are the biggest challengers to NECCO's throne. You want questions. You want scientific analysis. Hey, I've got some of that right here.
"There's something incredibly cool and sexy about being able to send a message with candy,'' says Steve Almond of Somerville, who teaches creative writing at Boston College and wrote Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America.

Bonus item: I "persuaded" my new colleagues at the Boston Herald to taste-test the candies. They liked the Nestle/Wonka SweetTart Hearts the best. What does that say about them? Me? I prefer the NECCO originals, but then again, I'm a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to conversation heart candies.

VIEW THE SUPER BOWL ADS: USA Today gives us a handy link to them.

SPOILING MILLION DOLLAR BABY: Millions of Americans have yet to see the Oscar-nominated film "Million Dollar Baby.'' Yet some advocacy groups wish critics would talk more about the movie's ending. Should they?
Dr. Jane Shattuc, who teaches film studies and media criticism at Emerson College, said it depends upon how you define the role of a movie critic.
"Are you to turn the viewers on to seeing the film, which I think you are, but are you also to have an intellectual function which makes people think about the work, therefore, not to talk about the conclusion when it has a twist seems almost irresponsible,'' Shattuc said.

Read more of my story in today's Boston Herald here.
Read commentary from the L.A. Times here.

My sidebar doesn't appear to be online. It includes a list of past movies-with-a-secret and pithy hints. I'll include my favorite citations here for your amusement:

  • The Sixth Sense (1999): When Haley Joel Osment says he sees dead people, he really means it.
  • Fight Club (1999): The first rule is don't talk about Fight Club.
  • The Usual Suspects (1995): Keyser Soze is sneaky.
  • The Crying Game (1992): Even Eddie Murphy was fooled.
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982): Not everyone lives and prospers, unless the studio wants another sequel.
  • Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980): Turns out Luke Skywalker really did have a lot to whine about.
  • Planet of the Apes (1968): We're all damned, dirty apes.
  • Psycho (1960): Literally a Freudian slip.

Discuss. Banter. Retort. Whatever.

BEST SUPER BOWL ADS, 2005 EDITION: Like my newspaper story predicted, the halftime show didn't provide much in the way of controversy, or much in the way of you-had-to-see-that either. Not that Sir Paul McCartney -- not McCarthy -- put on a bad show. His four-song set started with two odd choices in "Drive My Car" and "Get Back" before starting the fireworks of "Live and Let Die" and the singalong finale of "Hey Jude." Much better, though, than the pregame show concert, which followed the tired format of the hit medley that you're bound to see open the Grammies next Sunday. Who exactly is it who enjoys seeing and hearing a band play a minute and a half of a hit song before sending it to the next band, to the next band, to the next band, without ever hearing a full song? Ugh. At any rate. I've digressed from my post headline, which is designed to list my favorite ads from this year's Super Bowl interludes.

So here goes, in alphabetical order, my faves...
-- Ameriquest: Halftime show sponsor makes up for that with two fun ads playing off the classic "Three's Company" misunderstanding plot device. In one, a guy on his hands-free cell phone is confused for a convenience store robber. In the other, a guy trying to cook dinner for his honey is caught holding a knife and a cat over a pool of red liquid when honey walks in.
-- Careerbuilder.com: Everybody loves monkeys, or chimps in this case. Unless you're the only human working with them. Wonder if we'll see a "damned dirty apes" version of this ad soon.
-- Emerald: Dad won't share cashews with his daughter, until Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny enter the picture.
-- FedEx/Kinko's: Ad says there are 10 sure ways to have a good Super Bowl ad, then proves it.
-- McDonald's: Plays off the eBay wackiness involving food that looks like people with a series of ads documenting the "Lincoln Fry" that shares a profile of Honest Abe. Bonus points for the subtle double entendre in one ad involving a Chicken Select.
-- NFL Network: Joe Montana leads a chorus of non-champs in singing little orphan Annie's ode to "Tomorrow," as in wait 'til next year Big Ben.
-- Pepsi: Two good commercials and one not-so good. The good? Promoting its iTunes caps and a diet Pepsi ad featuring Cindy Crawford, gaggles of gals and a Queer Eyed Carson swooning over a male diet Pepsi drinker. The not-so good? P. Diddy still sets trends, this time getting other celebs driving diet Pepsi trucks after one truck driver gives the Diddle a lift.
-- SileStone: Who knew a quartz company could be funny? Spoofing the "I am Tiger Woods" campaign of Nike with its own "I am Diana Pearl" using da Bears stars from 1985 and Dennis Rodman.
-- Verizon: Mini versions of Kid Rock, Christina Aguilera, Shaq and Neon Deion promote the cell phone company's new broadcast capabilities.

Ads I liked that might not be effective...
-- Degree: The anti-persipirant says you should take risks, otherwise you deserve a "Mama's Boy" action figure?
-- GoDaddy.com: Scantily clad woman teases a Senate hearing with a faux wardrobe malfunction. You knew someone was going there.
-- Heineken: Brad Pitt tricks the press hounds.
-- MasterCard: Latest in the priceless series brings classic animated ad spokestoons around the dinner table. (Also see Visa, which uses Marvel superheroes and Underdog in one ad for its check card.)
-- Olympus: Its new M.Robe can store photos and music. At least that's what they say. All I noticed were the freaky breakdancers.

Ads I definitely didn't like...
-- "Be Cool": This is a sequel to "Get Shorty," correct? So why is John Travolta dancing with Uma Thurman? Egads.
-- Lay's: Ad for "classic" chips features other classics such as an Impala and MC Hammer. Why was this ad hyped before the Super Bowl exactly? Probably because the company knew it wasn't getting its $2.4 million worth, that's why.
-- MBNA: Pairing Gladys Knight and rugby?
-- Napster: Misleading ad says its $15/month subscription service beats paying $10,000 to fill your iPod with 10,000 songs. Ad assumes you don't have any CDs in your collection when you got your iPod.

MARTHA STEWART AS PERFORMANCE ART: Some people want to free Martha Stewart. Some like to see her behind bars. Multimedia artist Mitchel Ahern has a performance art piece that would amuse and/or confuse both parties, along with hand-cut-block-printed T-shirts to please fan and foe alike. OK, so it's not my strongest lede, but if you want to read more of my review in today's Boston Herald, read on...here.

WE CAN BE LIED TO ENOUGH THAT WE'LL BELIEVE THE LIES: Whether or not you support the current administration, you'll have to admit that Karl Rove and the Bush team long-ago realized that perception is even more important than reality. Tell them Iraq has WMDs and many Americans will even think we've found them. The Wall Street Journal's science columnist weighed in Friday with reports on a study finding that other cultures can figure out when the facts are messed up, whilst us Americans ain't so clever. Sharon Begley writes, "The news media would do well to keep in mind that once we report something, some people will always believe it even if we try to stuff the genie back in the bottle." Um, Sharon, isn't that why we're supposed to do some actual reporting before we go to press/print/air? Wait. There's more in her radical conclusion: "The findings also offer Machiavellian possibilities for politicians. They can make a false claim that helps their cause, contritely retract it -- and rest assured that some people will nevertheless keep thinking of it as true." As if that hasn't happened already.

THE SLIPPERY SLOPE OF BRITNEY'S SO-CALLED NIPPLE: Photos circulating on the Web purport to show Britney Spears with her kibbles and bits for all the world to see. Alas, 'tis not what 'tit appears. After careful analysis, I've concluded her thumb has given some of you the slip. Even Fleshbot had to concur in its updated post.

WORSHIPING FALSE AMERICAN IDOLS: I'll be repeating myself, but at least more people have begun to join in my chorus of oohs and boos over the sham of a mockery of a sham that is FOX's American Idol. What must've seen like a good idea at the time -- extending the audition episodes to three weeks and six hours -- only helped expose the show as something other than a nationwide singing contest. Some of us already knew that AI producers don't let everyone audition in front of Simon, Paula and Randy, that producers handpick the best and the worst from the line and send everyone else packing. That's why the held two-day auditions. But what makes it crazier is how AI covered some of the worst in profile fashion, going to their homes and interviewing their friends and family before the audition, setting their egos up for massive attack (literally -- not a band reference). And as I've mentioned more than once, the William Hung effect is in full effect. From producers and host Ryan Seacrest, who actively search out the next Hung Please Don't Solo, to the contestants, who now know that they don't necessarily have to be able to sing to be a star. And then you have the contestants who merely seek their 15 seconds of fame and are more than happy with that. I could go on and on. But Andy Denhart, he of the joyous reality TV blog, reality blurred, had plenty to offer on this subject himself earlier today in an MSNBC essay. So click the link and read that, too.

SOX-YANKS POKER CHALLENGE: Stay tuned for the latest televised version of baseball's liveliest rivalry, as six Red Sox fans play poker with six Bronx player-haters, courtesy of NESN and YES. Read more here.

A MALE BIRTH CONTROL PILL? I'll believe it when I see it, which might be another decade from now. And yet, the news from UMass that their scientists have isolated the protein that wags the spermy tail -- that allows the boys to swim -- that, oh, just read my story to learn more. At any rate. The question I have isn't whether men would take a daily pill or remember to take one, but whether that would result in a new wave of STDs since these men won't be wearing condoms. I suppose that question is moot (say it with me, Rev. Jesse Jackson) in committed relationships or married couples, but still.

WHAT HAPPENED TO MONDAY? Ah, yes. Monday. I didn't have to wish it were a manic Monday, because indeed it was manic enough for me to blog my first day at work on my new laptop computer, only to find out that the post had disappeared. The wonders of wireless technology. So as I was typing...careful readers already may have noticed that my commentary and analysis on pop culture has been showing up more regularly in the pages of the Boston Herald. That'll happen even more often now that the paper is paying me full-time to do so. I'll let you know if this affects my dear ol' blog. For one thing, it means getting linked by some of my fellow bloggers, such as Thighs Wide Shut. Who knows what else the future holds? In the meantime, if you'd like to holler at my office e-mail with tips and scoops you'd like to see in print, you can find me at slmccarthy@bostonherald.com. See you in the funny pages!

JACKO AS A WHITE CHICK: No, strike that. Michael Jackson is a "White Chick," as my careful non-bylined analysis shows in today's Boston Herald.

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