popular thinking

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

HEART-FELT CONFESSION: Mark Felt was Deep Throat. Why he decided to go to Vanity Fair, and not with the Washington Post, well that is a good question, idn't it? The Post scrambled to get an official response online, with more to come.

THE RUN-OVER RAP: The guy who got run over by a road-rager last week has announced during a TV interview that he already plans to release a rap single about his experience. So that's what happened to Ron Artest.

WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH DOCKERS? Two print ads today caught my eye. If you buy $50 worth of Dockers pants at Filene's, you get a free Blackberry (though you must sign on for a two-year contract). Or, if you buy $150 worth of Dockers at Macy's, you get a free iPod shuffle. Is this what it takes in the summer of 2005 to sell a pair of Dockers? Wither poor yuppies, they who must be pandered to with the allure of free high-tech merch...

THE LONGEST YARD: The remake opened and the original warden (actor Eddie Albert) died. Coincidence? Not if you believe all the critics, who have savaged the way Adam Sandler and Co. interpreted the prison football classic for the 21st century. Read what Bill Simmons (ESPN.com's Page 2 columnist) has to say on the matter. Or read what James Verniere (the guy who sits next to me and has to deal with my outrageous workplace behavior) has to say about the remake.

LOVING LAND OF THE LOST: As much as I ensured my spot in front of the TV for 24, American Idol and most episodes of The O.C., I am so so so so glad that I watched Lost this season. First impressions from the first season finale...

1. When the French lady said "the others" wanted "the boy," she didn't know they meant the mutant Walt.
2. The people in the power boat -- strangely similar to the hicks from Deliverance. We want the boy. He sure got a purty mouth.
3. Sawyer is shot and in the water. Never a good sign. Unless he's a Pisces. Walt and Jin might have an outside chance at survival as long as there is enough of the raft to hold onto for days on end.
4. That hatch/hole/ladder leads down to wherever "the others" live. Are they part of a renegade scientific/government experiment? It'd explain why no one knows or cares to know about the island formerly known as Oahu.
4a. Although it was nice to see several theories bounded about or questioned: Arzt (who we all knew was a goner) pondering how Hugo/Hurley hadn't lost any weight in 40 days, Locke questioning Jack as to why they're all there (a test of faith?).
5. They made a basic continuity error when Hurley raced through the airport's "two" terminals, each time passing the same passengers.
6. One of "the others" is listed in IMDB as Bearded Man (actor M.C. Gainey), who also portrays Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane in the new movie remake of Dukes of Hazzard. He was also the naked man in Sideways. So there.
7. Another casting oddity to keep an eye out for next season: Actor John Dixon was listed as a flight attendant in the pilot episodes, but returned as "JD" in the finale. Is he among the rumored second group of survivors elsewhere on the island, along with the "widow's" husband and Michelle Rodriguez?
8. The numbers. It's all about the numbers. Check out this site for obsessive references to 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42.

WHAT DID I EVER DO TO YOU, DEAR BLOGGER? No posting Tuesday, since Blogger was experiencing technical difficulties that temporarily erased my entire site. Well, erase is perhaps too strong a word for it -- vanished was more like it. But we're back. Which means I have to remember what I wanted to write about yesterday whilst reminding myself to get back to work. OK, kiddies...

GEORGE LUCAS, GENIUS OR FOOL? An actual quote from Lucas in Flick, the fan zine for Revenge of the Sith published by Loews Cineplex...

"When I actually see things lay out on the screen," Lucas noted, "I'm going to come up with the other ideas about how do we tell the story of where the blank spots are."

DATING ON DEMAND, ON COMCAST: One of the simple, not-so-guilty pleasures of subscribing to Comcast -- access to the cable system's relatively new Dating On Demand service. It's a fun time-killer of a subsection of Comcast's On Demand channel devoted to televised personal ads. Yep, you can view single men and women sell themselves on-air for a few minutes. If you want to meet them, you have to write down their screen name and look them up via Dating On Demand and Comcast partner HurryDate. Comcast debuted the service nationwide for Valentine's Day, but only now can Boston-area singles take part, thanks to this past weekend's casting calls.

Related stories: Singles trying for cable connection (Boston Herald),
Comcast’s On Demand hooks up Hub singles (Boston Herald)

REVIEWING STAR WARS: Well, I finally saw the "final" installment of the George Lucas space opera sixology overnight (a 12:20 a.m. screening on the Boston Common digital screen with the fellow geeks, including a clearly anti-social guy who sat next to me and mumbled to himself throughout the film). But I won't let that taint my review of Revenge of the Sith.

Some random thoughts...

Loews turned down the lights at 12:13 a.m., clearly misleading us into thinking the movie would start on time. Instead, we got 25 minutes of coming attractions. No ads, just lots and lots of previews. Dizzying and fatiguing. Spielberg's tease for War of the Worlds seemed especially short compared to the ads before and after it, although that also made it seem tasteful and more appealing. Also, no Willy Wonka trailer? Foreboding, to say the least. And the Star Wars geeks only heckled one trailer -- Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Poor Brad and Angelina. Their honeymoon is almost over, and it hasn't nearly begun.

As for the film, well, it's better than Episode I (The Phantom Menace) and Episode II (Attack of the Clones) put together. But what does that really tell you? Methinks Lucas never really had a full grasp of the backstory to his original trilogy, no matter what he has tried to make us believe over the past quarter-century. Episode III comes closest to the "originals" because it is, in time and fact, closest to the original story. Here, at least, Lucas knew where he was going. In I and II, he seemingly had no clue what to write for his characters, and it showed. Glaringly so. For all of the plot holes and nonsense, just head to any fan discussion board. Lucas did manage to keep things moving fast and furious to the conclusion, and when the credits roll, you find yourself wanting to rush home to watch the original Star Wars trilogy -- or hoping the cineplex would just go ahead and screen it for you right there. In other words, it doesn't completely suck. And I'll likely see it again. So there it is. Now back to our regularly scheduled blogging.

STAR WARS, NOTHING BUT STAR WARS: Well, the countdown is in its final hours until Revenge of the Sith opens nationwide at 12:01 a.m. Alas, I don't yet have plans, despite having gone to the so-called midnight screenings of Episodes I and II, and my story today reveals that even my options are limited. That's what I get for not abusing my press privileges, eh? No matter. I'd rather see it with the rabid fans, somewhere, and perhaps on the special digital screen, too. Which means if I have to wait another day or two, that's fine by me. After all, we've waited how many years for a good Lucas film?

Read my story on Boston-area ticket sales: ‘Sith’ seats hard to come by (Boston Herald)

FUZZY LOGIC: Friday the 13th was either an unlucky day for CBS4 WBZ-TV sports anchor Bob Lobel, or for nationally syndicated cartoonist Darby Conley, depending upon how you look at life. Conley's strip, Get Fuzzy, took a direct jab at Lobel in the strip, essentially calling him out as an on-air drunk. Interestingly, the Boston Globe, which promotes Lobel as host of one its various Red Sox shows, decided to edit out Lobel's name from the strip (see below). Most other papers left it alone. But the syndicate, United Features, had wiped the whole thing clear off the archives by Monday, replacing it entirely with a simple knock-knock joke. Look for yourself. Conley is a local -- with a most recently known address in Boston -- so would have reason to know the local TV news scene. Lobel's attorney says he is reviewing their options.

Related: Bob Lobel's TV bio.
Earlier: Off-air problems reflected in on-air behavoir (Boston Herald)

The nationwide version of "Get Fuzzy" for Friday, May 13, 2005. Posted by Hello

The Boston Globe's version of "Get Fuzzy" for Friday, May 13, 2005. Posted by Hello

Richie Talieri, head chef at Giacomo's Ristorante in Boston's South End, holds up his winning Kentucky Derby ticket. Posted by Hello

WHAT'S IN A NAME, GIACOMO EDITION: Getting a table at Giacomo's Ristorante can be a longshot.
The Kentucky Derby-winning horse of same name, however, made big winners out of customers, employees and neighbors of both Giacomo's in Boston and Giacomo & Rondi Salon.
"I'd like to e-mail the owner and thank him,'' said Giacomo waiter Chris Iacozza, who went to Foxwoods to place a $25 bet for himself and a $40 bet on behalf of co-worker Rosemarie Talieri.
"We really bet it just for the name, just for laughs,'' Iacozza said.
Of course, now they're literally laughing all the way to the bank.
At 50-1 odds, the horse paid $1,250 to Iacozza and $2,000 to Talieri. Talieri said at least six to eight regulars at the popular Hanover Street eatery claimed winning tickets, although they wouldn't disclose how much they won.
She called her jackpot "a nice Mother's Day present.''
Her son, chef Richie Talieri, heard the race last Saturday on the kitchen radio at the Columbus Avenue Giacomo's.
"We were jumping up and down. Everyone's looking at us,'' he said.
At Giacomo & Rondi Salon in Kenmore Square, at least two clients reported winning $15,000 on Giacomo.
"My dentist called me. He said, `I hope you bet on your husband's namesake,' '' Rondi DiRado said.
Nope. They forgot. But they'll be prepared for the Preakness.
"We're going to have signs in the window: 'Go Giacomo!' '' she said.
On the other hand, the Derby hurt anyone with a soft spot for Buzzards Bay or Bandini, which finished out of the money.
"We heard about it and were excited,'' said Michelle Frey, spokeswoman for the nonprofit Coalition for Buzzards Bay. "I think a couple of people watched it who normally wouldn't, hoping (Buzzards Bay) would win.''
At least the nonprofit didn't bank its donations on the horse.
WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) anchor Caterina Bandini had her sister, who rides race horses in Dallas, bet $10 for her on the Derby.
Alas, Bandini the horse finished 19th - next to last.
"Fortunately, we didn't bet the trailer on it,'' she said.

Read my story: Name game players cash in on Derby winner (Boston Herald)

SCI-FI CROSSROADS: The two titans of Hollywood science-fiction - Star Wars and Star Trek - are leaving us.
Well, sort of.
George Lucas will reconfigure his six Star Wars movies in 3-D, plus helm two TV series (one animated, one live-action) set after Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (opening Thursday).
Star Trek reached the final frontier Friday with the finale of Star Trek: Enterprise - unless Paramount decides, as rumored, to pursue another film (or series) with a new cast and crew.
So what should the devotees make of this crossroads?
Will they boldly go wherever Trek leads them? Will the Force stay with them in perpetuity?
"I'm a little sad about it,'' said Howard Cronson. "I grew up with both of these franchises.''
Cronson, 41, even served as president of a Boston-based Star Trek fan association known as the USS Christa McAuliffe. He, like many fans, believes the franchises are never-ending.
"I think as long as there are people who watch these things and get excited about them, there'll be new 'Star Trek' and 'Star Wars' things, whether it's novels or more films,'' he said.
Certainly, Star Wars fans know Lucas cannot stop tinkering with his galaxy from far, far away.
Even Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) understands that, telling the Associated Press this month: "It just goes on and on and on and on. I mean, it's going to be in 3-D, then it's going to be smellivision, then it's going to be a ride in an amusement park, then they'll come to your house and perform it with puppets on your lawn.''

Read the rest of my story: Sci-fi's black hole: Fans ponder life after `Star Wars,' `St...

I'm not pictured here, thankfully! :) Posted by Hello

SHERIFF JOE, STILL CRAZY: Just read the story and read the quotes from good ol' wicked queer Sheriff Joe, and that's all you need to know about the "law and order" situation in Phoenix, Ariz. Always thinking, that guy is. Always thinking. I don't miss it at all.

Related: Enemies List (Phoenix New Times)

ED HARDING GAVE ME PROPS: I caught some of the 11 p.m. newscasts last night, and was delighted toward the end of WCVB's broadcast when co-anchor Ed Harding asked if we had read the Herald, grabbed a copy, put it on the desk and began reading my story back to meteorologist Harvey Leonard. A small victory -- considering it was too late for people to go out and buy a copy and help my publisher -- but still enough to bring a smile to my face. Every little bit helps, too, in getting people to realize that there is a reason to read the Boston Herald.

RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY: It hasn't rained for 40 days and 40 nights, but four straight weekends of rain, wind and cold has everyone in the Hub praying to Ra, the sun god.
Imagine how our TV meteorologists feel, having to deliver the bad news yet again.
"We have mass depression settling in among the population,'' said Harvey Leonard of WCVB-TV (Ch. 5), half joking. "It's a little tough. As soon as I get my words out, the anchors are just like the public. They don't want to hear it.''
Nevertheless, Eastern Massachusetts should expect dark skies with possible showers tomorrow and Sunday - though nothing like last weekend's nor'easter.

Read the quotes I got from Boston's other TV weathercasters, in today's Boston Herald: Forecast is all wet: Bearers of bad news feel the heat

AMAZING BETTING: I decided to follow up on The Amazing Race betting scandal.

Uchenna and Joyce Agu's Tuesday night victory on The Amazing Race shouldn't surprise anyone.
After all, offshore gambling site Sportsbook.com suspended online wagering for the CBS "reality'' hit back in March when unidentified Boston and Los Angeles bettors flooded the site with $500 maximum bets overnight on the Houston couple.
"We know precisely who placed those bets,'' said Sportsbook.com's marketing director, Alex Czajkowski, by phone yesterday. "But when a customer makes a bet with us, it's entirely confidential.''

Read the full story: ‘Amazing’ but true: Bettors knew who’d win the ‘Race’ (Boston Herald)

FEEDBURNER (AND OTHER CHANGES): To answer my many fans, I think I figured out how to make Popular Thinking available via RSS, Atom and whatever else kind of feed you'd like in your delivery box by signing up for Feedburner (see the logo at left). Also finally put up some more local links. More to come.

ATARI....WHOA-OH-OH-OH: File this one under your past always comes back for a visit. For one thing, who knew that having my original Video Computer System by Atari, Model CX-2600, (still in the box in my apartment) would come in handy? But when you write about pop culture and one of the local cinemas decides to hold an Atari 2600 Festival, well, you're ready for it. And then, when you find out that the largest online retailer of old Atari products just happens to be in Chandler, Ariz., back in the hood you just left, then you start thinking about kismet.

Herewith, then, comes my story in today's Boston Herald:

The original Atari 2600 was neither the first nor the best video game console to hit the market.
And yet, 28 years later, after the Intellivision, ColecoVision and Ataris 5200 and 7800 have come and gone - replaced by Nintendo and Sega, then by Sony's PlayStation-2, Microsoft's XBox and Nintendo's GameCube - it all comes back to the Atari 2600.
Visit any major retailer and amid the latest, greatest games you'll find new plug-and-play gadgets such as the Atari Flashback or Namco's 5-in-1 systems that whisk you back to simpler days and simpler graphics. This week's episode of CSI: Miami featured the Atari 2600 as part of a high school reunion murder. And the Atari symbol and name pop up on T-shirts and in band names.
What is it about the Atari?
"Atari was the first home game that most people have,'' said Clinton McClung, program director of the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline. "That's the one I remember kids down the block had before anyone else.''
McClung, 34, fits the old-school video game demographic.
So when he saw his employees holding gaming parties, the nostalgia took hold and begat the Atari 2600 Video Game Festival, which begins at midnight Saturday at his cinema.
The auditoriums will become big-screen Atari tournament sites, with players facing off in timed contests. A year of free Blockbuster Video rentals goes to the grand champion.
A screening of The Wizard, the 1989 video game movie starring Fred Savage, follows at 1 a.m. (although really, The Last Starfighter or Tron would've been more apt choices).

Read the rest of my story here: Keeper of the game (Boston Herald)
Related: Weekly Dig contest
Related: Atari2600.com

A POST ABOUT THE HUFFINGTON POST: I'd like to say something witty about The Huffington Post. Really, I would. But nothing springs to mind. Except for the fact that I need to update my own blog template.

PAT O'BRIEN MEETS DR. PHIL: OK, so I'm a few days late on this posting. But even so, my initial impressions haven't changed on the Insider host's heavily orchestrated return from rehab. Pat simply didn't seem sincere about his rehabilitation from alcohol and drug abuse. Instead, his answers were defensive, pre-planned and designed specifically to get him back in the anchor's desk with as little hassle as possible. Dr. Phil made it seem like he'd be tough on Pat in the first half-hour, but by the end of the show, Phil got soft. And filming Pat's first trip back to the office and talk with the crew -- that really took the proverbial cake. Why, if you want to make amends, would you even agree to have TV cameras on hand? Viacom has gone mad, I tells ya.

Related parody: I'm Stuck in Rehab with Pat O'Brien Blog

UCHENNA AND JOYCE WIN: Who woulda thunk it? Oh, yes, that's right -- anyone who noticed the early Internet gambling money put on the nice couple to win The Amazing Race. Since the accounts came from California and Massachusetts, one might think that good ol' Boston Rob and Amber were in on the insider trading scheme. But watching the finale, you also could say that the several people approached for money by Uchenna and Joyce outside the Ft. Lauderdale finish line could be possible suspects. After all, they didn't know what was going on at the time, other than a nice couple was nearing the end of a race, and cameras were involved. Then seeing the couple on TV, they might have done the math and thought they'd make a little money themselves. Or it's something else entirely. Just saying.

A REALLY AMAZING RACE: I see that the finale of another installment of The Amazing Race is on tonight (right now, in fact). Have to say I haven't followed it as closely as the season before, which featured Jon, one of the bartenders from one of my former haunts. But how convenient for CBS that two of its "celebrity" couples made it to the final leg of the race. Stay tuned to see if "Boston Rob" does it again.

PARTYING LIKE IT'S 2999: If you're reading this from the future, and want to have a blast in the past, then circle Saturday (that's May 7, 2005) on your calendar.
Amal K. Dorai is throwing a party for you.
He'll host the first and only Time Traveler Convention - you don't need more than one - from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday in the East Campus Courtyard of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
For readers from a future without street signs, head for these coordinates: 42:21:36.025 degrees North, 71:05:16.332 degrees West.
Dorai, wrapping up a combined bachelor's-master's program in electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, didn't think his convention would attract much interest. ``I was thinking we were going to get five or 10 people from the Boston area who are interested in time travel to come to our dorm and hang out with us,'' he said.
Instead, Internet linking by heavily viewed sites such as Slashdot and BoingBoing has prompted hundreds of e-mails his way.
"I think it's a paradoxtastic plan!'' wrote BoingBoing's David Pescovitz.
Dorai admits that all his partiers are likely to come from the present day. "They shouldn't expect a time traveler, because the chances of that are very small,'' he said. "But I don't think it's zero.''
All it would take is one initial visitor from, say 2525. Then, he or she could spread the word and soon the time machine would be packed with folks who want a look at Cambridge, circa 2005. Dorai hopes any time travelers bring proof - "things like a cure for AIDS or cancer, a solution for global poverty would be particularly convincing as well as greatly appreciated.''
Events include lectures and bands whose repertoire includes time-related songs (The Hong Kong Regulars, Offwhite Noise, Quick Like Fox).
Still, what if this convention turns out to be a waste of time?
"It's just one day,'' Dorai said.
Only that's time you can't get back. Or can you?

My story: Time travelers ready to party: That was fun this Saturday (Boston Herald)
Time Travelers Convention: Dorai's home page.

AMERICAN IDOL PETITION: Upward of 36,000 American Idol fans have signed an online petition demanding a recount of Fox's top-rated nationwide singing contest. Kristie Layne Womick, a 20-year-old sophomore at the University of South Carolina, submitted the petition last week after her favorite contestant, Constantine Maroulis, got the boot.
Womick said yesterday she tried e-mailing and calling Fox directly.
"I don't really think they're going to do anything,'' Womick said. "It's just getting our voice out there that matters.''
The Herald has received e-mails from across North America (yes, we heard you in Winnipeg!) demanding accountability and complete voting results from Fox. Maureen Halasovski wrote that power dialers are stuffing the ballot boxes for false Idols.
One Web site, votefortheworst.com, has encouraged everyone to vote early and often for Scott Savol: "Why bother voting for someone talented when this show can be so much more fun to watch?''
Fox has yet to respond to the petition, the worst-vote movement or the call to release individual vote counts.
The final five contestants perform at 8 tonight on WFXT-TV (Ch. 25). A results show airs tomorrow on Fox, followed by ABC's special Primetime Live investigation into the show.

Related: Hotline: Voting strikes sour note with `American Idol' fans (Boston Herald)

THE CONSTANTINE CONSPIRACY: A big week for the American Idol, idn't it? Huge outcry last week upon the departure of Constantine "call me" Maroulis. I wrote a little bit about it in Friday's editions of the Boston Herald, along with the news of Harold Bice, Jr., and his criminal past. Then you have a South Carolina college student starting an online petition, another guy rallying people to "vote for the worst," and well, a little tease from ABC about behind-the-scenes antics. I'll have more on this in Tuesday's paper. But here is some resource material to hold you over for a few hours until my story goes live.

My story on Constantine and the lack of individual vote results: How could they let this Idol go?
My story on Bo: Bo No!
The American Idol recount petition.
Vote for the worst.

FAMILY GUY RETURNS: And the worth was wait it...wait a second...the curious saga of Seth MacFarlane's subervisive animated sitcom reaches its zenith (unless you're like me, and you watch it on your fancy flat-screen Sony plasma HDTV -- say yahey, everyone, yahey!) tonight with the relaunch of Family Guy on Fox. Yes, it's as patently offensive yet as freakin' hi-larious as ever. The relaunch of MacFarlane's American Dad? Well, not as much. What? You're surprised by that? You shouldn't be, if you've paid attention to the other trends in animated network sitcoms. Futurama could never duplicate the success of The Simpsons, and similarly, King of The Hill is no Beavis and Butt-Head. Not that any of these second efforts were (or are) bad. Just not the same. So I wonder, do animated gurus have a sophomore slump, too? Discuss.

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