popular thinking

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

WYNN LAS VEGAS: Lots of travel writers have not been kind to Steve Wynn and his new Vegas resort. But I'm not sure why they've been so tough on him. Then I remember two lessons I've kept in mind since high school: 1) context determines meaning (thank you, Mr. McKinley), and 2) expectations determine enjoyment. Some (ok, most) journalists forget this. They forget about writing for Everyman and instead write for their peers (whomever they are!). That said, here is my travel story from the Wynn. I'm already itching to go back...

LAS VEGAS - Flying into Vegas in the morning just doesn't feel right.
Maybe it's too early for sinning in Sin City. Maybe Las Vegas isn't truly Las Vegas until the natural sunlight gives way to all of the glitter, neon and over-the-top spectacles that dot the desert landscape after dark.
Then again, Steve Wynn didn't mind standing atop the roof of his namesake resort in TV spots this spring, beckoning us across the wild blue yonder to visit his latest, greatest offering along the Strip - the 50-story-tall Wynn Las Vegas.
Wynn's imprint is all over the joint. He speaks to visitors from the slot machines, from within his own art gallery (he narrates the audio tour), the stores and even from the resort's Web site.
Because Wynn reportedly lives on the resort's top floor, some of this is understandable. Not necessarily less creepy. Just understandable.
More striking is how Wynn has created a resort unlike both his past Strip offerings as well as anything else you'll find in Vegas.
For The Mirage, Treasure Island and Bellagio, Wynn included a spectacular centerpiece attraction that stopped pedestrians in their tracks - whether they wanted to watch an artificial volcano erupt, a pirate ship battle (since converted to seductive sirens) or a choreographed dancing water fountain. So much of Wynn Las Vegas, by contrast, focuses inward exclusively for resort guests.

Read the full story: In his posh new resort, Vegas big picks Wynn-er
Official resort site: Wynn Las Vegas

THE STATE OF THE DIRTY JOKE: Dom Irrera and Patton Oswalt talk about taboos in the wake of the new movie, The Aristocrats, which had its official premiere this weekend in New York and L.A., with more screens and cities coming Aug. 12. Dom performed in Boston Friday and Saturday at the Comedy Connection. Patton performs Wednesday at the Paradise.

My story: Comics come clean about dirty jokes (Boston Herald)
Official movie site: The Aristocrats

TWO VIEWS ON LOCAL PAYOLA: I ran into former colleague Dean Johnson the other night, and both of us were both a bit perturbed at what's happened to Boston media coverage in the past couple of months. Dean has left. Our own Greg Gatlin got a promotion, and subsequently, we don't have anyone devoted full-time to media criticism. Mark Jurkowitz left the Globe, or did he (judging from his stuff in the Phoenix, he hasn't completely figured out where his loyalties lie just yet). So when the latest radio payola lawsuit settlement news came out of New York City, I wondered how we'd get at the local angles. Thankfully, my pals in the Inside Track read the memos and tracked down the locals. But the Globe, a couple of days later, interestingly published a story that pretended that none of that happened. Very, very odd. Read the two stories and commence the head-shaking.

Boston Herald's Inside Track on Thursday: Payola scandal no music to local stations' ears
Boston Globe on Saturday: Local stations avoid 'pay for play' scandal

PUTTING THE COOL IN COOLIDGE CORNER: Brookline's Coolidge Corner Theatre puts the "independent'' in independent cinema and the "art'' in arthouse.
That has become an increasingly rare combination to find, not just here in the Hub, but anywhere.
Most metropolitan areas have at least one cinema that screens the latest indie films such as Murderball or March of the Penguins. But where else can you find live wrestling, a concert performance by Thor, author readings, video game tournaments, puppetry, Buffy, the Vampire Slayer sing-alongs and transsexual singing nuns?
"There are very few independent theaters anymore,'' said Clinton McClung, the Coolidge's program director. "A lot of the cinema nowadays seems like it's programmed by a committee in California somewhere. This is what a movie theater should be like.''
In his five years at the Coolidge, McClung has introduced more eclectic events to the Brookline cinema's two screens. Meanwhile, other Boston venues have shut down and nationwide consolidation has put more screens into fewer hands.
Having a place like the Coolidge "is such a good, good thing,'' said Garen Daly, who serves on the board for the Museum of Bad Art and used to own and book the Dedham Community Theater.
Daly praised past and current owners with keeping the Coolidge afloat during lean years when many other small cinemas closed. "Within the industry, they are one of the premium theaters in the country,'' he said.
George Mansour, a longtime Boston movie booker, concurred.
"I think they were always in the center of doing unusual things,'' Mansour said. "They're possibly doing more now, because there's so little leeway in programming movie houses.''
For his part, McClung said it requires a lot of work and imagination to keep audiences intrigued.
"You can't just show a cool movie and expect people to show up,'' he said. That might bring in 50-60 people, but with rooms seating 250 and 600, respectively, that won't pay the bills.
"With the Brattle, the Harvard Film Archive, the MFA and all the mainstream theaters, there's a lot to do in this town, too,'' McClung said. His focus: "A you'll-only-see-it-here kind of thing.''
In the next week, the Coolidge wraps up its Monday Summertime Blues series with a performance by the Keigo Hirakawa Quartet and a Louis Prima documentary, and a live concert by Thor with his new film, The Intercessor.
For August and September, highlights include offensive animation, insane puppetry, a series of 1970s cult films and a naughty Catholic night that includes a troupe of singing transsexual nuns called Systyr Act.
"I think that's much more exciting than just showing a film,'' McClung said.
McClung has yet to figure out the money and logistics to throw a midnight horror show that would include hypnotists and mayhem.
"We want to squirt blood on the audience, and have skeletons falling from the ceiling,'' he said. "I'm going to do it someday. I promise.''

Visit the Coolidge Corner Theatre: official site.
Read my story in the Herald: Crazy flicks and wacky happenings? Coolidge has it cornered

ANOTHER VIEW ON PAYOLA: Daniel Gross points out in Slate that the record companies and their slow dance with radio isn't really all that different than a lot of other industry marketing schemes.

MORE ON PAYOLA: Having reviewed the e-mail evidence from Sony Music, I'm heartened to know that my few friends in the radio busines have not been implicated by these recent shenangians. At the same time, however, Sony did engage in some sketchy practices with stations in Seattle, Phoenix and Boston -- all places I've lived. Funny to think, though, that record labels really worried about getting airplay for Franz Ferdinand and Modest Mouse last year. Their songs rocked. Couldn't we just let that speak for itself? Apparently not.

BEST OF THE WEB? Forbes.com, the same online journos who claim that Boston is the second-best city for singles, also updated its overview of its so-called "Best of the Web." Don't worry. I'm not on there. Not that I think I should be. Perhaps this is a good chance to remind myself -- and all of you other bloggers out there -- that people do pay attention to the Internet. So if you start acting like more than 20 people read you every day, perhaps someday, more like 20,000 people will read your daily musings. It's a thought, anyway.

MUST LOVE DOGS: I held off on this posting because I knew that my story had gotten cut for space and wanted to include some of Claire Cook's other quotes, but I've been unable to find them. In the meantime, enjoy the brief fruits from my interview with Cook about how her book got adapted into a big Hollywood date movie.

Romantic comedies are so by the book.
In the case of Must Love Dogs, however, the film starring Diane Lane and John Cusack strays significantly from the bestseller by Scituate author Claire Cook.
Cook couldn't be happier.
"It's great,'' the 50-year-old said yesterday from her South Shore home. "How lucky am I? Every single novelist I know would be thrilled to be having this experience.''
Cook said she and director Gary David Goldberg, who wrote the adapted screenplay, "became writer buddies very early'' in the process. He shared various drafts of the script. She visited the set twice and watched the collaborative process add new layers to her story. And Cook learned to separate herself from it all.
"I came at it from a place where books and movies are such different forms. I don't think a good adaptation is necessarily the most literal one.''
When she saw the finished film for the first time last week in Los Angeles with a packed premiere audience, "halfway through, I completely forgot it was my book or his movie. I completely got into it. Then I realized, 'Hey! That's mine!'''
There will be a touch of Hollywood on the South Shore this weekend. The Scituate Playhouse and Front Street Book Shop host a sold-out premiere party Friday. Similar bashes follow Saturday in New Bedford and next week in Osterville and Dennis.
"I think our dog (Daisy Mei, a shar-pei/lab cross) is starting to get a swelled head, but the rest of us are doing fine,'' Cook said.

Cook particularly loved seeing Jordana Spiro's portrayal of Sherry as well as seeing Christopher Plummer recite the poem, "Brown Penny." She didn't mind having "Marshbury" (fictional combo of Marshfield and Duxbury) swapped out for Southern California, or any of the other changes, such as making her newspaper personals into online ads. Most of all, Cook is grateful for all of the renewed exposure the film gives not only this novel, but also her upcoming works.

Read the story online: Scituate author unleashes praise for adaptation (Boston Herald)
Claire Cook's online home is here.
Must Love Dogs: The official movie site.

PAYOLA, SAME AS IT EVER WAS: New York's attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, has kept his eye on this issue for a while, finally getting the major record labels to fess up earlier this week that they continue to pay radio stations to get airtime for their "musicians." I'd have more to say on this, but I want to look at all the documents meself before doing so. Why don't you kids read along with me, then we can discuss later and share our best J. Lo. jokes? Alrighty then.

New York Times coverage here.
Los Angeles Times coverage here.

SINGLE IN BOSTON: According to Forbes.com, I made a wise decision leaving Phoenix for Boston this year, as I now live in that mag's No. 2 city in the nation for singles. Of course, my own personal experience these past six months tells quite a different story -- one, that, thankfully continues to unfold in wild, mystical ways. Still a lot of room for improvement, but knowing that Forbes.com is so optimistic about the prospects gives me reason to remain hopeful. That, and remembering the Seattle experience. It took me a miserable year alone there before everything and everyone there ultimately opened up to me (or did it take a year for me to open up to others? ah, the joys of philosophic self-reflection). But enough about me. How's your social life?

ROLLERDERBY IN BOSTON: On a quiet rink in a not-so-quiet part of Boston, a handful of women skate until sunset.
Welcome to the future of roller derby.
What, you say? Roller derby is passe? No, no, my friends.
The novelty sport that has evolved into a full-contact coed game has bounced on and off the national radar since the 1950s. But this latest comeback is different.
This time, the sport is more sporting and usually all-female. The scores matter. The hits are for real. And women are flocking to the rinks, with leagues sprouting up across the country.

Read the rest of my story here: Rock 'n' rollers: Boston Derby Dames prove there's nothing rinky-dink about retro sport (Boston Herald)

Related: Boston Derby Dames

HOWIE DAY, GREAT NIGHT: Howie Day said tonight's show in Boston was the biggest show he has played, and he played as if he deserved even bigger gigs. It was that good. Maybe being from Maine helped. More likely than not, Mr. Day has learned more than a thing or two from opening up for the Dave Matthews Band. He certainly didn't feel intimidated by headlining the Bank of America Pavilion, letting loose, allowing his bandmates to kick out the solo jams, and playing with the vocal effects throughout his 80-minute set. By the way, kudos to the sound guy for making Howie's vocals so amazing. His second song was Ghost, and he had the crowd on his side even before that. Worked in two new songs, Tell Me Something and Be There. Also on the setlist: Sunday Morning Song, Numbness for Sound, Secret, Trouble In Here, and he ended the regular set with a beautiful version of Collide. When Howie came back onstage solo to begin his encore with Sorry So Sorry (the other encores were She Says and Morning After) it was the most rewarding encore I'd heard since Damien Rice in 2003 (when his cellist went wild on The White Stripes' Seven Nation Army). For more on Howie, check out this fansite. Or check out his latest release here. From the fansite, it appears as though Howie had Gavin DeGraw as an opening act earlier this month -- which would've been divine to catch. Not that Anna Nalick was bad. Rather, she was incredibly giddy and incredibly cute, and if it weren't for the fact that she was flirting with a guy in the front row (making me question my ticket selection), I'd have an even higher opinion of her show. Good stuff nonetheless.

TIME TO MAKE THE DOUGHNUT BOXES: Now comes a nice, heartwarming story about an 8-year-old Jimmy Fund patient and her designs on a special, limited-edition, Dunkin Donuts box.

You're lucky if your drawing ends up on Mom's refrigerator.
Starting tomorrow, Lilly Brown's drawing will roll out on 300,000 Dunkin' Donuts boxes in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Southern New Hampshire shops.
Brown, an 8-year-old from New Hampshire, won a contest held by the Canton-based doughnut company through the Jimmy Fund Clinic at Boston's Dana-Farber Institute. Dunkin' Donuts picked her picture, Sunset on the Summer Sea, over a few dozen other drawings painted by Jimmy Fund patients.
"It's very exciting,'' Brown said Friday. "It's an excuse for me to get many doughnuts - heaven!''

Meet Lilly Brown: Young artist leaves mark on box of Dunkin' (Boston Herald)

THE PERFECT ORGASM? Before we get ahead of ourselves, let me just remind you that this is the title of Joan Elizabeth Lloyd's new book. Men, don't jump to conclusions -- the perfect orgasm is not any orgasm, otherwise, we wouldn't see so many sex guidebooks, now, would we? And women, don't you jump to any conclusions, either, just because a man wrote this blog post. And don't everyone else get all confused, since this 60-something grandmother from New York is not Dr. Elisabeth Lloyd, who got people talking this spring with her theory that female orgasms are just for fun -- nothing more, nothing less. The New York Times even wrote an extensive article about the latter Lloyd's book. Anyhoo. When the Joan E. Lloyd book showed up in our newsroom, after the giggling subsided, questions remained. What could we possibly learn about sex that we didn't already know? Are there new discoveries? The answers, I guess, depend upon how much you know about the proverbial birds and bees bidness.

Related: Pleasure principles: How sexy authors stack up (Boston Herald)

The Pussycat Dolls, in action with Busta Rhymes, at their Pussycat Dolls Lounge inside the Pure nightclub, Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Posted by Picasa

THE PUSSYCAT DOLLS: Burlesque is back.
An HBO documentary out this past week, Pretty Things, looks back on the dancers of the 1940s through 1960s. A multi-city revue of contemporary acts performs Sunday night at the Milky Way in Jamaica Plain.
But the biggest, hottest news in burlesque comes from the West Coast, where Robin Antin's Pussycat Dolls have busted out of the clubs and the hipster scene to become a nationwide mainstream phenomenon. The Dolls have a No. 4 hit song in Don't Cha - quite possibly the song of this summer, with its catchy come-on, "Don't cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?''

I recently hit Sin City, where I not only saw the newly-recruited Vegas troupe in action, but also met creator Robin Antin. Read my interview with her here: What's new, Pussycat? (Boston Herald)

FUNNY IN PRINT VS. FUNNY IN PERSON: Jimmy Tingle, who had a commentary slot for a while back on 60 Minutes II, told me he is funnier onstage than he is in print. You be the judge. Read what he has to say when I try to chat him up.

GEE WHIZ: Amazing but true. The sad story of another former colleague, the now exiled sportswriter Michael Gee, is given the full treatment online via the Washington Post. Not surprised that the Globe mentioned Gee's double downfall on Wednesday. But very surprised that Mark Jurkowitz, the city's only current full-time media critic (at least in print, since there are many of us willing to take on the fourth estate online), failed to weigh in on his site. Even more curious is his excuse: Jurkowitz claims that he didn't want to write about Gee publicly ogling his first j-school students because he's "not a big schadenfreude guy," then reveals the real reason he failed to fulfill his media criticism duties -- Jurkowitz vouched for Gee to get the BU job that he has now lost. So schadenfruede has nothing to do with it, unless you're talking about the rest of us reveling in the fact that a media critic got burned. In the interest of my own disclosure, let me say that I didn't know Gee very well before he left the Herald. If I had known him, I would've told him to keep his sexual impulses to himself. And I'm not just saying that because I attended a "libel lunch." It was as appetizing as it sounds, people. Although in the interest of full disclosure, once again, I must acknowledge this: The roast beef sandwiches, quite good!

Related: Weekly Dig's thoughts; Editor and Publisher gives the industry a reason to make this a national alert!

TV DINNER INVENTOR DIES: A lot of people late Thursday and early Friday talked about the death of Star Trek's Scotty (James Doohan), but for lasting impact on pop culture, the real death knell tolled for Gerry Thomas, inventor of the "TV dinner." My friend and former colleague, Peter Corbett (miss those lunches at Flo's!), wrote the local obit, since Thomas spent his final days in Paradise Valley -- my old stomping grounds. Peter and I -- well, mostly Peter -- also wrote many of the stories surrounding Teddy Ballgame (that's Ted Williams, one of the greatest baseball players of all time) and his final resting place at Scottsdale's Alcor center. Funny to think that was two years ago. Still no progress on the bringing folks back from the dead, so Ted remains on ice, so to speak. Just wait 'til next year, right?

A 3-D SMURFS MOVIE? If you think fatal bestiality makes you spit out your iced coffee, then what to make of Paramount's announcement that the studio, along with Nickelodeon, is planning a 3-D Smurfs trilogy to debut in 2008 for the 50th anniversary of the little blue cartoon people. Isn't that the smurfiest news you've heard all day? Well, considering the voice of Gargamel died recently, it's odd timing. But those Belgians are pesky. You did know the Smurfs were Belgian, didn't you? I'll have to see if I saved anything from my visit to the comics museum in Brussels a few years back, which showcased Papa Smurf, Smurfette and all the other Smurfs. Until then, have a Smurfy Day! Ugh.

WHEN A MAN DIES IN A SEX ACT WITH A HORSE, WHAT'S A REPORTER TO DO? I'm sorry. I thought that was a rhetorical question. E&P explores the real-life scenario that unfolded in Enumclaw, which as funny as that sounds, is a real-life rural town southeast of Seattle -- and the butt of many a joke by Seattle's stand-up comics. Even more so now, it would seem.

UPDATED LINKS: Every once in a while, I try to make sure I've put up links to other sites that either a) I check on a daily basis, b) think you should check on a daily basis, or c) wish I'd remember to check on a daily basis. On that note, hit a link or two. One recent find: Former Herald colleague Joel Brown has resurfaced with regular arts and culture commentary and links at HubArts.com.

I'd put my new Darth Tater atop my computer or elsewhere on my desk, but he'd likely disappear overnight via the dreaded newsroom thieves. Posted by Picasa

SUMMER MOVIE TOY SMACKDOWN: The always inspiring Wm. Steven Humphrey, whose I Love Television columns have provided amusement and knowledge to the people since even before I first discovered the Stranger in Seattle a decade ago, provided more inspiration last week with his rant against the Human Torch ATV.

So here today is a more in-depth look at some of the other craptacular toys the movie studios greenlit (or is it green-lighted?) to see if suckers like us would buy anything.

My story in the Boston Herald recaps the nonsense that is the Human Torch ATV, plus these other hot items! Buyer beware!

Retail price: $9.99
Diagnosis: Misleading. Once you take it home, the arm neither stretches or grabs effectively. You have to use your left hand both to extend the arm and keep it in place for grabbing. What fun is that? Its only practical purpose appears to be back scratching.
Kid-appropriateness: None.
Office-appropriateness: Start the sexual harassment paperwork immediately.

Retail price: $29.99
Diagnosis: Night vision is sweet. But really, it's the walkie-talkies that impress, with a talking range of up to 2,000 feet and no need to press talk or listen buttons. Not so sure how helpful the tiny flashlight is.
Kid-appropriateness: Good for all ages, not just the 4 and up listed on the box.
Office-appropriateness: Could replace or back up electronic instant messaging systems (although if someone else buys a pair of headsets, they could easily eavesdrop, so keep that in mind).

Retail price: $29.99
Diagnosis: In the movie, the converted military prototype vehicle is indestructible. Barely out of the box, this Batmobile already suffers serious scratches along its exterior. Includes secret weapons that shoot out the sides. Also includes batteries, but Batman sold separately.
Kid-appropriateness: What kid doesn't want to own a Batmobile? The secret weapons are hazardous, though, both for choking or poking.
Office-appropriateness: Not applicable, unless you want to trump your cubicle mate's Hot Wheels set.

Retail price: $7.99
Diagnosis: Hasbro's Mr. Potato Head goes to the Dark Side of the Force, gains a mask, helmet, lightsaber and enormous powers. OK, maybe two out of three, which ain't bad. Comes equipped with other interchangeable parts - big black orthopedic-looking sneakers, ears, teeth and other parts in case Darth Tater returns to his spudly roots.
Kid-appropriateness: Absolutely.
Office-appropriateness: Absolutely. But watch out: Co-workers might take your tater when you're not looking.

Retail price: $14.99
Diagnosis: It's a Super Soaker with a twist - that it's based on the Wookiee weapons used on their home planet (Kashyyyk, as if you care to know) - with a capacity of 13.5 ounces and shooting range of 35 feet. Firing sounds accompany your shots.
Kid-appropriateness: Mom says take it outside, please.
Office-appropriateness: Our photographers immediately took to it, which isn't necessarily a good sign for productivity.

Retail price: $6.99
Diagnosis: Think Johnny Depp looked creepy in the film? His likeness - seven inches tall including hat - doesn't look like Depp or even Michael Jackson so much as it resembles Marilyn Manson. Yes, that creepy. Plus, his leg broke off within the first day. Figure comes with base and candy tree.
Kid-appropriateness: Kids will want to pair Wonka figure with others in collection (Charlie Bucket, Oompa Loompas, Augustus Gloop, Violet Beauregarde, Veruca Salt, Mike Teavee).
Office-appropriateness: Only if you want to creep out co-workers.

Retail price: $14.99
Diagnosis: Take that, EZ Bake Oven! The mini-factory takes eight AA batteries to power the melting chamber. Preheat eight minutes, pour chocolate chips (not included) and presto, chango, instant chocolate candies in one of 16 molds.
Kid-appropriateness: If they're patient enough to figure it out.
Office-appropriateness: Did someone say snack time?

SHELBY LYNNE/RAUL MIDON: What a show at the Paradise in Boston on Sunday night. Ms. Shelby Lynne performed a devastating set that included two encores and veered back and forth between upbeat roadhouse rockers to poignant heartbreaking acoustic ballads. Particularly touching songs that I remembered long enough to check online when I got home included "If I Were Smart" and "Iced Tea." Did it really take a decade for the Grammys to name Shelby the best new artist?
Raul Midon opened, and Wow. Great stuff. Smooth customer, Mr. Midon is. And how did I miss the fact that he was blind before? I saw him on Mr. David Letterman's program a few weeks ago. Midon mentioned that CBS cameras were filming the Boston show, so be on the lookout for that (possible 60 Minutes profile in the offing? or something else?). He also offered to sign copies of his CD, State of Mind, which even he mentioned was an interesting prospect, considering he can't see his handiwork.

Official sites: Shelby Lynne (includes an audio player for a few of her new songs); Raul Midon

WILLY WONKA VS. WILLY WONKA: So you want to know whether or not you should see Tim Burton's cinematic reimagining of Roald Dahl's novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or whether you should stick with the 1971 classic that starred Gene Wilder. I'll tell you this much: Burton's version is good, but very different in a very Burton way. If you like that, then you'll enjoy the film. I'll stick with the Wilder. Here is an official tale of the tape, as it were, breaking down the differences in today's Boston Herald...

1971: Actual candy-making process, accompanied by instrumental of ``Pure Imagination.''
2005: CGI of candy-making process, accompanied by industrial theme by Danny Elfman.
1971: Has to work as a paperboy to support the family since his father died. Gets a hand-knitted scarf for his birthday.
2005: Doesn't do much of anything. His father is alive but laid off from a toothpaste factory.
1971: Bedridden for 20 years. Loves a wee bit o' the fizzy lifting drink. Humbled to accompany Charlie, and sticks up for him when Wonka apparently turns mean.
2005: Not-so bedridden, he leaps out of bed and is a little too eager to go with Charlie to Wonka's factory, because he used to work there?! But he says practically nothing once there.
1971: Evil competitor of Wonka, he approaches each of the five Golden Ticket winners and offers them big cash prizes to steal an Everlasting Gobstopper.
2005: Appears only in an early cameo as a Wonka competitor, never resurfaces.
1971: Slugworth, the potential drowning of Augustus Gloop and the tunnel ride into psychedelia all scare the bejesus out of kid viewers.
2005: None of those scenes have tension here, although the new book-loyal demise of Veruca Salt will make you look twice at your local squirrels.
1971: Gum-chewer from Miles City, Mont., overshadowed by her pushy used-car salesman father.
2005: Gum-chewer from Atlanta, now has gymnastic and martial arts skills (and trophies) which help her stay out from the shadow of her pushy Botoxed mother.
Both movies feature the immortal line, "Violet, you're turning Violet!''
1971: From Marble Falls, Ariz., where he spends all day watching TV westerns and playing with his cap gun. Brings his mom to the factory. Father is proud of his boy. Named Teevee in credits.
2005: From Denver, where he spends all day playing violent video games and playing with his video game gun. Brings his beleaguered, balding dad to the factory. Named Teavee in credits.
1971: From Paraguay
2005: From Russia
1971: Saved for the finale.
2005: Gets a full workout, and thanks to some nice CGI, we're treated to the WonkaVator's total capabilities, zipping around both the factory and London.
1971: One kind, all sport crazy green hair, orange skin, brown shirts and white overalls. They're refugees from war rescued by Wonka. Demise songs are catchy - "Oompa Loompa, doopadee doo'' - but simple.
2005: Several outfits and cameo appearances, but all the same actor (Deep Roy). Wonka lures them from LoompaLand because they worship cocoa beans. Demise songs are elaborate numbers with different musical themes, putting American Idol group singalongs to shame.
1971: Witty, dripping with sarcasm and non sequiturs, he holds the crowd's attention from his first public reappearance at the factory gate. Hates fake people, but loves honesty, loyalty and pure childhood.
2005: Used to be strong, now an insecure spectator to the sideshow circus that surrounds him. Aloof. Has daddy issues. Seems not to like anyone, even children.
1971: Musical numbers, including "Cheer Up, Charlie,'' "The Candy Man'' and "Pure Imagination,'' stretch the running time to 100 minutes.
2005: Songs replaced by lots of backstory for both Wonka and the Oompa Loompas.
1971: "If the good Lord had intended us to walk, he wouldn't have invented roller skates.''
2005: "Candy doesn't need to have a point. That's why it's candy.''

WSOP POSTSCRIPT: Bernard Lee of Wayland could relax yesterday in Las Vegas, "just reflecting on a great week'' that saw the 35-year-old parlay a free pass from PokerStars.com into $400,000 in the main event of the World Series of Poker.
Lee placed 13th among the record 5,619 players who entered the tournament July 7. The $7.5 million grand prize was expected to be awarded to the final gambler holding chips early this morning at Binion's Gambling Hall & Hotel.
Lee, 35, came just a few chips shy of reaching the final table of nine players, which would have guaranteed him at least $1 million. But his pair of kings did not hold up when chip leader Aaron Kanter picked up a third six on the river, or final card, in the Texas Hold'em contest.
"I'm at peace with myself because I did the right thing,'' Lee said yesterday, hours after his bad beat. "The only way to win it was to get to the next day, and you needed chips to do that.''

Read the rest of the story: Local ace holds his own with poker studs (Boston Herald)

BERNARD LEE'S WORLD SERIES: Well, Bernie had to go and get a bad beat at 1:45 a.m. Eastern this morning, just minutes before the paper went to press for its final final edition. Good thing I stayed up, since I got in touch with Bernie, phoned in fresh quotes and the Herald was good to go on newsstands this morning.

Read the updated version: Wayland poker ace earns $400G at World Series (Boston Herald)
Compare to the earlier story: Local man plays right cards at poker tourney

Stay tuned Saturday for my folo with Bernard Lee, friends and family as they put a wrap on his (400) grand Vegas adventure.

2005 WORLD SERIES OF POKER: OK. If you're going to Vegas for a travel story and find out you're there for the start of the main event of the World Series of Poker, do you cover it? Silly question. Of course you do. Here, several hours late, is my feature story on the event. I talked quite a bit today with Bernard Lee, who hails from the Boston suburbs and at this moment, is still one of 21 players in the tourney. Look for that story tomorrow.

Read it: It's in the cards: Poker craze in spotlight as World Series explodes in glitzy Vegas (Boston Herald)

No. Really. Read it. I've got quotes from Daniel Negreanu, Annie Duke, Phil Hellmuth, Greg Raymer and Norman Chad. So what are you waiting for? Click the link!

NO HOOTERS FOR COOTER? From the I-cannot-make-this-up files comes word from Ben "Cooter" Jones urging fans of the 1970s show The Dukes of Hazzard to boycott the upcoming summer film remake. Plenty of good reasons to avoid the film, to be sure. But Cooter suggests that Dukes was "a classic family show with positive values" -- as in, running moonshine and having your cousin use her sexy short shorts to break the boys out of jail? Seriously? And he wonders why people still use the same stereotypical punchlines about the South...

IT'S A SMALL WORLD: My colleague Lauren adores author Jennifer Weiner and interviewed her before her appearance in Wellesley tonight. Ms. Weiner and I have followed similar yet quite different paths, having both grown up in Simsbury, Conn. (I was two years behind her in school, along with her sister, Molly), then gone to Princeton, then onto newspaper gigs. Of course, I haven't gone the chick-lit route yet. Maybe that's what I've been doing wrong all these years!

Related: For writer Weiner, birth of daughter causes `Earthquakes'
Official Jennifer Weiner site.

POPPING UP IN THE BURBS: My paper and its related companies sometimes don't put all of the print stories up on the Web. I can understand the thinking behind that -- we still want you to buy a paper. But my Sunday story on Harbor Sweets, a Salem chocolate factory that gives public tours a la Wonka, showed up online not with the Herald site, but a couple of days later from one of the suburban paper sites. Weird.

Here it is. Read it! Who wouldn't want to be Willy Wonka?
Tour of good taste: Visit these real chocolate factories

TRANSITIONS AREN'T ALWAYS QUICK: Compare Dan Kennedy's first impressions of the Globe's Sidekick section with those of his predecessor/replacement at the alt-weekly Boston Phoenix, former Glober Mark Jurkowitz. Oh, Mark. You'll learn. We hope it's sooner rather than later, but you'll learn.

SIDEKICKS AND SUDOKU: Have you checked out the Boston Globe's new Sidekick section yet? An interesting move by The Hub's other daily (we call it the Boring Broadsheet) that began Monday, it's a Mon-Sat tabloid that packages daily TV listings and comics with that paper's daily picks and other odds and ends that used to appear in the daily features section (called Living/Arts there). Not sure what they're trying to do, since they still have a daily features section. But the more curious play is the Globe's introduction of Sudoku as if it's a new thing. We've been running the numbers puzzles for a few weeks already. And USA Today jumped on the bandwagon this week, too, with an explanation.

BOSTON ROB, NO POKER SURVIVOR: Yes, in my many hours viewing the 2005 World Series of Poker main event last weekend, I did catch Rob Mariano, his newlywed bride, Amber, and her parents. Some of the resulting conversation appeared in Monday's Boston Herald, with the requisite "outwit, outlast, outplay" reference.

Read it: Boston Rob gambles with Sox mojo and loses in Pokerfest

DID YOU GET YOUR FREE SLURPEE? Alas, I did not. But today was July 11, or 7/11, and so it was that the convience store giant decided today was the most appropriate day to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Slurpee. Never you mind that 7-Eleven didn't even come up with the name Slurpee until 1967, or that the patent inventor first started serving slushy drinks in 1959. No, no. Don't let facts get in the way of a good promotion.

Herewith, an appreciation in today's Boston Herald: The big chill - Ice-cold Slurpees a hot ticket in summertime

Imagine a world without Slurpees.
What, you don't drink Slurpees?
Alrighty then - imagine a world without Coolattas, Frappuccinos, ICEEs, Liquid Ice or Slush Puppies. Think about that as summer temperatures and humidity return to oppressive levels, and when you do, think about thanking a Kansan named Omar Knedlik.
When Knedlik, a Dairy Queen franchisee in Coffeyville, Kan., lost use of his soda fountain in the late 1950s (reports differ on whether the fountain was broken or didn't exist), he started serving soft drinks from his freezer. Turns out his customers enjoyed the slushy sodas, and after a few years of tinkering, Knedlik patented a machine that could produce frozen carbonated beverages on demand.
Here, the story takes a turn, depending upon whether you want to believe the ICEE Corp., 7-Eleven or a host of other brain-frozen fans on the Internet.
But most stories agree that Knedlik's machines caught on with both ICEE and 7-Eleven in 1965.
Forty years later, the frozen concoctions are sold everywhere, from the local movie theater to Target, Wal-Mart, Burger King and just about every convenience store on Earth - and they've inspired other companies, such as Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks, to adapt the technology to coffee and fruit-based beverages.
In Houston, Roger Clemens hawks his own brand of ICEE, the Rocket Fuel Energy Drink, available in red-cherry and pineapple-orange flavors across Texas, Colorado, Arizona and parts of California through gas stations and convenience stores.
The most Slurpees, ICEEs and other frozen carbonated drinks are sold during the heat of July.
But here's a surprise: Winnipeg, not far from the frozen tundras of northern Canada, seems to love Slurpees more than anyone else.
7-Eleven, which sells more than 11 million Slurpees each month, is celebrating the frozen soda's 40th anniversary as only a convenience store giant could, with free Slurpees today at participating stores.
So slurp it up - but go slowly. Frozen drinks are chilled to 26-28 degrees Fahrenheit. When you send too much to the back of your soft palate too quickly, you overload the sensory circuits to your brain, causing that immediate stinging sensation known as brain freeze.

BACK FROM VEGAS: I'm not a rock star. Nor did I party like one in Sin City, though I did have much fun, not all of which can be described here. Not yet, anyhow. But the rock star motif provides a segue to tonight's debut of Rock Star: INXS, on CBS, which mercifully does not spotlight my audition from Boston this spring (nor anyone else's tryout). Rather, it skips right past a couple of shots outside clubs to the 15 finalists and their first performances. Guess I won't be this year's William Hung, after all. And that's not a bad thing.

NEW WEEKLY FEATURE! It's called Joker's Wild, and it appears every Friday in the Boston Herald as I chat it up with a local or national stand-up comic, letting loose on events in the news or whatever we feel like chatting about. First up: Adam Ferrara.

Read it here: Joker's Wild: Adam Ferrara (Boston Herald)

NO, I DIDN'T TEST IT: Just about anything can be turned into a sex toy.
Even the ubiquitous iPod.
If you don't believe it, just ask Kim Airs, who has sold hundreds of iPod-compatible vibrators from her Brookline boutique, Grand Opening.
"Boston is such a great place with iPods, CD players, that it's kind of a no-brainer to kick (the advertising tie-in) up. Look at how many iPod accessories there are,'' Airs said.
But sound docks, remote controls and slipcovers don't enhance the personal portable listening experience in quite the same way as the Audi-Oh. AOC Corporation in Raleigh, N.C., markets the Audi-Oh as "the sound-responsive pleasure system.'' No larger than a thumb, the device plugs into an iPod or any other music player and translates the music into vibrations - a separate ambient mode allows the Audi-Oh to translate atmospheric sounds, too.
The Audi-Oh allows buses, car alarms, tractor-trailer trucks in reverse and construction sites to prompt altogether different reactions from female listeners.
"You get this grin on your face while you're walking down the street,'' Airs said. "But it looks real tame.''

Right. Anyhoo...the rest of my story is here: Audi-Oh promises good vibrations (Boston Herald)

RESTING BETWEEN PARTIES: OK. So after working at least 13 days without a full day off, I got to kick back, catch up on sleep, hang out with the parents and their friends for the Fourth (Lake Pearl was cool but not cold, and watching your own city's fireworks a few blocks away on your home TV, then hearing the echoes out your window, is even cooler). But then it was back to work, and now onto a working vacation in Vegas. Wish me luck. In the meantime, enjoy these other people's party pictures...unless you're at work, in which case, you might want to wait, since you never know when a photo is going to be NSFW!

The Cobra Snake (Los Angeles)
Last Night's Party (NYC)
6one7 Productions (Boston)

LIVE 8, 24 HOURS LATER: Curious to note that none of the major metros attempted to blog Live 8. USA Today had something resembling a blog from multiple venues, but upon further reflection, their coverage appeared to be as much AP-filled as USA Today-filled. So that all makes me feel better for having done something different. Anyhoo...

Thinking back on the actual performances, I'm struck by how solid the London show was, from top to bottom, compared to all the other sites. In Philadelphia, only the Linkin Park-Jay Z set, the Kaiser Chiefs intro and Kanye West still hold as memorable. In Toronto, only Neil Young's re-emergence from severe health issues for a poignant two songs near the end remain worth noting. In Berlin, Green Day pulled off one of the great sets anywhere, while Audioslave and Brian Wilson were at least amusing, if nothing else. In Rome, eh. In Paris, Muse won me over again (The Cure were alright, too). But in London, Pink Floyd's reunion, the Killers one song, Razorlight, Stereophonics, Robbie Williams and his ego, U2, Snoop Dogg, Scissor Sisters, Snow Patrol (and that's not counting Keane, Coldplay, Joss Stone and others who were solid) -- there was so much good stuff, that not even Madonna's silliness and Mariah Carey's diva routine could spoil it. Although I wish Sir Paul McCartney could come up with a different close than "Hey Jude." Seen it too many times before for it to hold special meaning anymore.

SUNDAY SPLASH: I'd be remiss if I didn't also link to the other stories I have in Sunday's Boston Herald.

This front-page story, headlined Dirty Dancing, began as a feature about teens taking advantage of one of the few entertainment options available to them this summer -- The Palace in Saugus turns its massive dance club over to the under-21 set on Sunday nights -- and turned into something else altogether, all because of what I saw there and reported back to my editors. Your initial reaction will fall into one of two categories: 1) Where were girls like this when you were 15? or 2) If you have a 15-year-old daughter, you're never letting her leave the house without a chaperone.

The other non-Live 8 story was a team consumer report on Boston-area taxicabs. Read the report here: Hail the mighty cabs: Visitors to Hub: Get in and hang on

SPIELBERG CAN'T CUT IT: Now that I have achieved some distance from Live 8, I can go back to some of the stories I failed to link earlier. Like this one from Friday, in which I talked about how much the ending of War of the Worlds really threw my whole opinion of the movie into peril. Because I did enjoy Steven Spielberg's version of the 1898 H.G. Wells sci-fi book. I could even put the whole TomKat saga out of mind temporarily because the action sequences are that good. So are some of the subtle things, such as the scene with the fiery train. But the ending? Horrible. Anyhow. My story reflected on a few movies from Spielberg's resume that also would gain four out of four stars, except for the final scenes...

Director Steven Spielberg may win applause from local audiences for ending his version of War of the Worlds in Boston.
But that applause quickly turns to head-shaking and giggles as the penultimate scene becomes more out of place than a Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes wedding.
Ever since the influential filmmaker reshot the ending of 1977's Close Encounters of the Third Kind for a "special edition'' (Really, it took three years to show that the inside of the spaceship looks like a pinball machine?), Spielberg has believed quantity equals quality.
The word is "cut.'' Use it.
Clunkers such as Hook and The Lost World: Jurassic Park (Dinos in San Diego?) don't count because no ending could've saved them.
But some of Spielberg's otherwise stellar efforts have left audiences reeling in the end. Just when you thought it was safe to see the credits roll . . .

Read the rest of the story: Spielberg can't cut it (Boston Herald)
Review by my neighbor, James Verniere: `War' crime: Spielberg goes dark in sci-fi remake (Boston Herald)

FINAL LIVE 8 UPDATE FROM TORONTO: After all the other concerts, Toronto (or rather, Barrie, Ontario) kept going for another hour-plus with a leisurely set from Barenaked Ladies and a poignant return to the stage by Neil Young. At 8:09 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, many of the musicians who had performed earlier in the day joined Young for one final song. And yes, it was his song, "Keep on Rocking in the Free World."

THE ULTIMATE LIVE 8 VIEWERS BLOG: Yes, I watched all of Live 8. It's my job. A little worried last night and early this morning that I wouldn't be able to pull it off, at least not logistically, but everything came together. You could say the same for Bob Geldof's little concert. Greatest concert ever? Well, I don't know that I'd use a superlative like that, but...well. Here are my initial impressions, minute by minute...

America Online and MTV promised the world at least 12 hours of live Live 8 coverage yesterday from six cities – Berlin, London, Paris, Philadelphia, Rome and Toronto. The other venues in Tokyo, Moscow, Johannesburg and southern England were relegated to highlight footage, but that’s another story. Our mission: How much Live 8 coverage could one person absorb? Could it be done? Should it be done? Answering the first two questions would have to suffice.

8:00 a.m. Despite AOL’s promotional teases offering streaming video, having much difficulty finding evidence of same. But they have time to fix this, since Berlin is the only site due up this hour.
8:08 a.m. Still no live music from Berlin. What gives?
8:14 a.m. The tease on AOL Radio (still no video) gets replaced by a loud alarm/horn for about 30 seconds, then by someone yelling in German. No need to fear. It’s not 1945, it’s 2005. As JFK once said, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” So let’s roll with it.
8:18 a.m. The same German guy starts singing a punked-out version of “Hang On Sloopy.” It’d be nice to get an ID on the guy and his band. Help us, AOL. Please? Apparently, it’s Die Toten Hosen, one of Germany’s popular punk bands. Thank you.
8:28 a.m. CNN claims AOL has streaming video, but still no sign of it. Is it them, or is it me?
8:44 a.m. AOL finally updated its site to include the Live 8 video broadcasts, and yes, you can have multiple screens on at once. The video arrives a few seconds later than the AOL Radio version, which probably has more to do with technological obstacles than the FCC. In fact, an introductory message from AOL claims that the live shows may include some offensive material. Speaking of which, the first images I see from Berlin are of an emcee who resembles a German Ryan Seacrest. On the bright side, the turnout along Berlin’s Victory Column looks like it at least meets, if not exceeds, the 100,000 pre-show estimates.
8:52 a.m. Hey, the German Ryan Seacrest dropped an F-bomb. But it was in an activist sense, “Give me your f---ing voice” for the cause, so I suppose that’s more acceptable, right?
9:02 a.m. AOL has seven video channels, six cities plus a “global feed” that supposedly allows you to watch all cities. Just not at once.
9:05 a.m. A trumpet call in London’s Hyde Park, and Paul McCartney and U2 stroll onstage to thunderous applause. “Well, it was 20 years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play,’’ sings Sir Paul in London -- and Berlin, too. The Germans see and hear the London show on giant video monitors -- and the set times in Rome and Paris have been bumped later, for Sir Paul, perhaps?Hyde Park doesn’t look full of people yet, but it’s still early.
9:08 a.m. As U2 takes over with “Beautiful Day,” a moment to reflect on the band’s seminal Live Aid performance, in which the Irish quartet stole the show and soon became “the biggest band in the world.” Watching the 1985 video clip again this morning, however, would you have believed that Bono had a mullet and high-heel black boots worn over his jeans, for crying out loud? Better question: Which band, if any, will gain global fame from performing at Live 8?
9:18 a.m. Bono talks about death by AIDS, by “dirty water,” and says Live 8 has something to say to the G-8 leaders. “We have a statement. This is your moment. Make poverty history.” The band launches into “One,” the song behind the anti-poverty campaign and white wristbands -- available at www.one.org
9:28 a.m. Bono ends U2’s set with a few verses from “Unchained Melody,” one of many interesting cover tunes we’ll likely hear throughout the day. Also first sighting of fan fighting poverty with his giant green afro wig!
9:38 a.m. Coldplay’s Chris Martin says he’ll play “the best song ever written, and here’s the best singer in the world, Mr. Richard Ashcroft,” to perform “Bittersweet Symphony.” Wonder what the Rolling Stones think of that? AOL also notifies other feeds of the performance using a ticker called “the buzz” -- in this case, the buzz says: “Gwyneth, Apple watch from front row.”
9:48 a.m. Duran Duran performs “Ordinary World,” from Rome, while Berlin preps for another change, the global feed broadcasts highlights from Tokyo early this morning -- Good Charlotte performing “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” -- and the London feed shows hundreds more fans showing up at Hyde Park.
9:58 a.m. Elton John might not have the same outlandish fashion sense he had 20 years ago for Live Aid, but he announces his return onstage with “The Bitch is Back.”
10:08 a.m. Elton John brings out Pete Doherty, the strung-out Brit from the Libertines, to help him sing “Children of the Revolution.” The buzz, meanwhile, has Audioslave coming on in Berlin.
10:18 a.m. Bob Geldof introduced in London as “the boss” for his first of many appearances of the day onstage. After thanking the audience, he introduces Bill Gates -- yes, Microsoft billionaire and richest man in the world Bill Gates -- because “he says our plan is the right plan. He is one of our biggest supporters.” No wonder Geldof wants our voice and not our money. Gates still isn’t the hippest man in the world, though he does try. “I believe that if you show people the problems, and you show them the solutions, they’ll be moved to act,” Gates said. “The generosity we’re asking for can save millions of lives.”
10:58 a.m. While MTV is still pimping people’s rides, Green Day opens its set in Berlin with an appropriate response: “American Idiot.”
11:08 a.m. Ricky Gervais in London introduces R.E.M. with Michael “Blue Stripe” Stipe (what is with the face paint, anyhow?) while Toronto opens its video feed with Tom Cochrane’s “Life is a Highway.” At this point, I hope there is a rest area around the corner.
11:11 a.m. Would you rather be happy or sad? R.E.M. wails “Everybody Hurts” in London while Green Day covers Queen’s “We are the Champions” in Berlin. Germany wins.
11:28 a.m. Tim McGraw and Faith Hill keep the smooth vibe going in Rome. Definitely a different feeling from that feed and Paris than the others. In Paris, Craig David jams with a band on an R&B influenced take on the Beatles’ “Come Together.”
11:44 a.m. Muse might be singing that “Time is Running Out” in Paris, but the Kaiser Chiefs boast, “I Predict a Riot” -- and with that, the Philadelphia concert starts and AOL has all six feeds up and running. I need a bigger computer screen. Keane takes the London stage with their first big hit, “Somewhere Only We Know.”
NOON Bob Geldof returns (the TV cameras must be on) to the stage, introduces the London crowd to the Philadelphia feed and Will Smith. All the shows stop for the Fresh Prince, who tells a worldwide audience that a child dies “every three seconds” from poverty and disease, then snaps his fingers, instructs everyone else to snap with him -- which they do, only every second instead of three seconds. Timing is everything. MTV has started its coverage with taped highlights, which confuses AOL viewers even more when MTV switches to a live feed that arrives a few seconds before AOL’s feed.
12:24 p.m. Now Geldof is onstage singing. Some Web sites reported earlier this week that the Boomtown Rats leader wouldn’t perform, but there he is with the band performing their long-ago hit, “I Don’t Like Mondays.” MTV instead shows viewers the Black Eyed Peas with The Marleys from Philadelphia, also passing over Andrea Bocelli’s singing from Paris.
12:30 p.m. Wait a second. AOL is playing an actual ad on the Philly feed for the Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City? That’ll put an end to poverty? Just remember to bet on black? That’s followed by a series of AOL in-studio sessions. In London, Brad Pitt goads the crowd: “Let us be outrageous. Let us be bold.” Is he talking about the G-8 or Angelina Jolie? MTV doesn’t fall for Brad Pitt, instead showing clips of Green Day.
12:44 p.m. More TV weirdness. MTV plays an ad for “Monster Ballads” with 32 “monster hits” including Whitesnake’s “Is This Love.” My memory is foggy, but didn’t MTV show more live footage 20 years ago during Live Aid?
1:05 p.m. Strange contrast in the use of harmony. Destiny’s Child shows off three-part harmonies with big beats in Philadelphia, while Brian Wilson dusts off the old-school pop melodies in Berlin. Wilson is as much of a hoot to watch as he is to listen to -- he gets visibly peeved upon botching a note early on in “God Only Knows,” but keeps on with the song.
1:18 p.m. The logjam of interesting choices continues. Kanye West starts up in Philly, Shakira shakes it up in Paris, while MTV cuts to the scene in Johannesburg. “Good Vibrations” indeed, Mr. Brian Wilson said.
1:30 p.m. MTV passes up a chance to split the screen between Kanye West (Philly) and Snoop Dogg (London) to revisit Audioslave’s “Like A Stone.”
1:36 p.m. Posh and Becks look so lovely watching Snoop Dogg, don’t they? Jimmy Smits is talking about something or other in Philadelphia, but unless he becomes the actual president and not merely a fictional candidate for “The West Wing,” I’ll stick with Snoop. Even if Will Smith has entered with flower girls, on a throne, with “Ali” chants that “the champ is here.” Snoop keeps going. The London crowd sings with him: “Na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na, hey-hey-hey, Snoop Dogg.” Even a guy who looks like Jerry Springer is raising his fist in the air.
1:48 p.m. Is the Berlin show over? Looks like nothing going on, which would mean I missed A-Ha. Take on me. No, wait, here comes another unidentified band. Must not have “the buzz” for AOL to mention them.
2:05 p.m. Bob Geldof reminds us on the London, Philadelphia, Rome and MTV feeds what Live 8 is all about by showing recent video footage from Africa’s poorest villages. Then Madonna appears with a full band and choir for “Like a Prayer.” She gets one of the few live spots on MTV. Remember how fragile Madonna sounded at Live Aid 20 years ago? She’s not fragile anymore. MTV bleeps her F-bomb, but AOL lets it fly (She asked if London was ready).


2:38 p.m. MTV asks fans how early they arrived to get their spots in Philadelphia. Several said they camped out overnight. Hope my colleague Sarah Rodman isn’t stuck near the stinky people -- smell ya later! I won’t rub it in by mentioning my comfy chair. Anyhow. Snow Patrol is starting in London, but wait, is that A-Ha in Berlin? They look vaguely familiar, and yes, that is “Take On Me.” Suddenly the line between clever and stupid and the line between Live 8 and NBC’s “Hit Me Baby One More Time” is very fine. An announcement from London about the last trains of the night: “Keep your eye on your watch.” It’s not quite “stay away from the brown acid,” but thanks for the tip anyhow!
2:58 p.m. The Killers emerge in London all wearing their white summer suits. You’d think with all this great music, MTV wouldn’t waste so much of its programming day letting the VJs talk and talk and talk about Live 8, and let the music and Bob Geldof speak for themselves. But no. Another retrospective piece. I want my MTV back!
3:13 p.m. It’s a triple dose of soul with Craig David in Paris, Joss Stone in London and Alicia Keys from Philly, although not together. “This might be the last opportunity we have to change the world,” Keys tells the audience, and cites the death of Luther Vandross. “Life is so important. We don’t know what’s going to happen so we have to do it while we can do it.”
3:18 p.m. MTV replays The Killers’ performance of “All These Things That I’ve Done.” Sounds better than the first time I heard it 20 minutes ago.
3:28 p.m. The sun sets in Rome, reminding me how long the day has been. In the spirit of the mash-up disc Linkin Park made with Jay-Z, I decide to mash-up the performances of Linkin Park in Philly with the dance punk of the Scissor Sisters from London. Sounds pretty good, but then again, it has been 7 ½ hours since I started staring at the computer. And I forgot to turn down the volume on the TV, where Alicia Keys has gone from singing “For all We Know” to telling us all she knows about Proactiv Solution. What?
3:41 p.m. Why is Corey Feldman’s band playing in Berlin? OK, that settles it. I’m delirious. Snack time.
3:45 p.m. Tom Green says Celine Dion “will be coming live from a craps table,” because the singer is, in fact, beaming in her Toronto performance from her Las Vegas showroom. And the more she talks, the more my stomach turns. End snack time. Abort. Abort.
3:46 p.m. Jay-Z joins Linkin Park onstage, effectively making my mash-up a mashy-mash-up. Good times.
3:50 p.m. Rachel Perry from VH1 just described the concert as “off the hook.” What year is this?
3:54 p.m. The banner above the London stage beckons: “We can be the great generation.” Onstage: Velvet Revolver. Oh well. It was a nice thought, right, Slash?
4:11 p.m. Velvet Revolver singer Scott Weiland has lost his shirt and the Def Leppard drummer still has only one arm, so I haven’t completely lost control of my powers of perception. The buzz says Berlin went out with a bang. Were there fireworks? Did I miss them? Ack!
4:16 p.m. MTV is showing Green Day. Wait. Didn’t they do that already?
4:28 p.m. Tami the HIV+ Puppet delivers a thank-you speech to the Philadelphia crowd. They’re kidding, right? Millions of AIDS-infected people in Africa, and Live 8 booked a Muppet? But the buzz on Berlin is inaccurate, as Roxy Music is there covering John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy,” three hours after that city’s concert was scheduled to end. A good sign for fans. A bad sign for my assignment.
4:44 p.m. Mariah Carey performs in London. Not looking skanky at all. Good for her. Hold that thought. Within five minutes, Ms. Carey has already demanded water and a mike stand. Diva! Doesn’t she know the audiences in Rome and Paris and here in my apartment can see her? Actually, that probably explains it. Diva.
4:59 p.m. Either I’m half-asleep, or all six concert feeds have gone quiet simultaneously. Is there a moment of silence of which I am not aware? Something worse? More likely, a scheduling fluke, unless they knew I needed to find more food from the kitchen. Thanks.
5:16 p.m. VH1 News sends Ashley Judd and India.arie to Africa -- it’s like “Trippin,’” only with more of a social conscience and less Cameron Diaz. Did I type that out loud?
5:23 p.m. Maroon 5 is covering “Rockin’ in the Free World.” Hope they got an OK from Neil Young, who is closing out the entire night from Toronto and owns that song.
5:33 p.m. The Who, or half of the Who, takes over in London. That’s nice and all, but where is Pink Floyd? Weren’t they supposed to have reunited already? I won’t get fooled again, I’m telling you that much right now.
5:50 p.m. I’m not imagining this. MTV is repeating the same exact retrospective on Live Aid that it played a few hours ago. Or was it a few minutes ago? Meanwhile, The Cure have popped up in Paris. Haven’t had a good reason to look at that feed in a while.
5:56 p.m. Rob Thomas starts in Philadelphia. MTV wouldn’t dare stop its coverage at 6 p.m. as it had indicated earlier, would it? Not with so many acts yet to perform. How late is this gig going, anyhow?
6:02 p.m. Pink Floyd reunites. “Comfortably Numb.” How apt. At least that’s how I feel. How about you? This trumps Motley Crue in Toronto, Rob Thomas in Philadelphia, and The Cure in Paris. The London banner above the stage now reads: No More Excuses. If it’s good enough for Pink Floyd to put the hard feelings behind them, it’s good enough for us, and good enough for the G8, too. But what about MTV? They stick with the best and most newsworthy performance for 21 minutes before bailing out to commercial, just before the end. Why couldn’t they have waited just another minute or two? AOL kept going.
6:38 p.m. The final stretch. Sir Paul McCartney returns to close out London, while Stevie Wonder has the honors in Philadelphia.
6:43 p.m. The Berlin feed goes down.
6:46 p.m. Dido and Youssou N’Dour managed to fit in at least two gigs today, as they arrive in Paris to close down that show after performing in London earlier.
6:50 p.m. Even AOL isn’t safe from the sight of Paula Abdul dancing. Keep those Laker Girl moves to the “American Idol” set.
6:51 p.m. McCartney’s supposed final song, “The Long and Winding Road,” isn’t nearly as long nor as winding as the actual final singalong, “Hey Jude.” Time for a Philadelphia official to send those folks home. Time for McCartney to stop the song, then start again. Time for the Paris feed to end. Time for the old feeds to start anew. And finally, even though Toronto is scheduled to go another hour, time for Bob Geldof to wrap it up shortly after 7 p.m.: “What a night. What a day.”
He can say that again.

****AOL will make all six streaming broadcasts available on demand for the next few weeks at www.aolmusic.com

An edited version of my Live 8 journal/blog will appear in Sunday's Boston Herald.

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