popular thinking

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


Sinbad is calling from the mountains outside of Pasadena, Calif., on his way to a voice lesson.
Is the 48-year-old comedian and actor going Broadway on us? Well, sort of. He performs Thursday at The Opera House as part of the Broadway Across America series.
“I’m the next hot r & b pop star,” he jokes.
Sinbad certainly doesn’t regret missing Boston’s “American Idol” auditions last week. “What, so they can find 10 more kids who can’t sing?”
And yet, it’s consistently the nation’s most popular TV show.
“We like the star thing. We like to see people become stars,” Sinbad says.
He knows that firsthand, getting his big break in the 1980s as stand-up comic on “Star Search.” That was different, he maintains, because he and the other comedians had to pay their dues. “You know, we put time in, 40 weeks a year working it as a comic. ‘Star Search’ was that little extra push that you needed,” he says.
“Idol” contestants talk about pleasing their fans? “Your fans? You’ve only been singing two months!” he says.
Sinbad has done TV sitcoms (“A Different World”), late-night talk shows and movies (“Houseguest”), but his most enduring work seems to be the 1996 film “Jingle All The Way,” which has become a holiday staple for airlines’ in-flight movies.
“I think it’s because of Arnold (Schwarzenegger),” Sinbad says. “Anything he touches turns to gold.”
Plus, people can relate to the idea of parents frantic over finding the “hot” Christmas gift for their children. “Every father has been through that one time. For me, it was a white Power Ranger. I stalked a supply truck,” he says.
Sinbad continues to tour, performing in theaters while plotting his next career move.
“I’ve got an idea for a sitcom, some movies. I’m a one-man industry,” he says.
But he has a clear preference.
“I love movies,” he says. “TV is what it is. It’s hard for me to work in that medium. There’s certain things that work better for me, and movies do that. Maybe it’s the size of the screen. I look good big.”
Sinbad, at The Opera House, 539 Washington St., Boston. Thursday at 8 p.m. Tickets: $32.50-$42.50. Call 617-259-3400.
(although it should be noted that in today's papers, ads offer $15 discounts on all tickets -- not a good sign)

Amy Adams
Amy Adams had pink-streaked hair when she burst onto TV screens last year as a finalist in the third season of Fox’s “American Idol.”
Alas, her hair color hasn’t been dyed to match the rainbow pattern in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” Adams, 26, plays the narrator in the touring production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical that begins a two-week run Tuesday at Boston’s Colonial Theatre.
“My hair is fire-engine red and black,” she said during a telephone interview from Kalamazoo, Mich., the most recent stop on the tour. “They wanted it a little downplayed.”
She said she almost ended up with “more old-lady hair,” visiting three hairstylists before getting her current spiky do.
Adams still has great things to say about her “Idol” experience and judges Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell, who were in Boston last week evaluating wannabes.
“They were really, really nice,” she said. “Paula and Randy both helped me promote my country singing career.”
As for Cowell, Adams said one of his friends passed her name along to the “Dreamcoat” producers.
Her role as narrator requires her in every scene during the 90-minute musical montage. She provides vocals in 16 of the 20 songs.
“So it’s a really hefty role. You have to maintain the energy of the show,” she said.
“I didn’t want to do musical theater until I was about 35,” she acknowledged, but she wasn’t about to let this opportunity pass her by. “This role,” she said, “is what a female lead aspires to be. On ‘Idol,’ I didn’t stay enough to sing like that.”
Audiences, for the most part, have been accepting, even if some have preconceived notions of her from “Idol.”
“Everyone has an opinion, like either she wasn’t that good, or she got robbed,” Adams said of herself.
The cast and crew arrive in Boston tomorrow, just in time for Adams to celebrate her first Halloween with her 7-month-old son, Harrison.
“I have a little Halloween travel outfit. It says ‘Mommy’s Little Pumpkin.’ He has a little hat and a little baby bib,” she said.
That’s a stark change from last year’s Halloween, in which she traded places with her husband, a retired ultimate fighter.
“He had the pink hair and the microphone,” she said. “I was six months pregnant and I was in one of his fight uniforms with a black eye. He kept singing, ‘I’m Your Lady.’ It was so funny.”
“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” Tuesday through Nov. 13, The Colonial Theatre, 106 Boylston St., Boston. Tickets $32.50-$87.50. Call 617-931-2787.

For more on either show, go to Broadway in Boston.

THE ART OF GHOST HUNTING: I had the opportunity to attend a class and hang out with two people who have appeared on Sci-Fi's "Ghost Hunters" and investigate paranormal complaints around New England. So you know, I experienced a haunting back in January in Flagstaff, Ariz., so I am a believer. What makes these spirits appear, though? And what implications does this have for an afterlife? That's what I still want to know. Anyhow. Here is that story.

When three North Shore men got caught trespassing earlier this year at Danvers State Hospital, they claimed they were hunting ghosts on the grounds of the former mental facility.
“They said they were filming for us,” said Kristyn Gartland, case coordinator for The Atlantic Paranormal Society.
TAPS, a Rhode Island-based volunteer group that stars in the Sci-Fi Channel show “Ghost Hunters” (Wednesdays at 9 p.m.; a Halloween special airs tomorrow at 10 p.m.) signs legal documents before investigating any paranormal complaint.
But it’s no surprise to Gartland that more people have become amateur ghost hunters. She and Mike Dion, assistant director and case manager for New England Paranormal, another volunteer group that often works with TAPS and “Ghost Hunters,” see packed rooms at their ghost-hunting classes at the Boston Center for Adult Education.
Dion said he has received more than 50 applications from local residents wanting to join, including eight new members-in-training.
They teach these classes to ensure that other amateur ghost hunters aren’t hurting their credibility.
Among their tips for would-be paranormal investigators:
Obey all local laws. Ergo, no trespassing - even in a cemetery.
Act professional. That means no wearing “Ghostbusters” outfits. Or even mentioning the movie. Or saying, “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts.”
Stay in pairs, to make sure that any experiences during an investigation are shared.
Don’t look for fame or money. “You’re not going there for monetary gain, so there’s no reason for you to falsify records,” Dion said. He also suggested rejecting donations, although the Western Massachusetts resident said he has accepted gas money.
Don’t begin an investigation expecting to find ghosts, either. “If you go looking for a haunting, you’re going to find a haunting,” Dion said. Gartland added: “Eighty-five percent of cases we go to aren’t haunted.”
Don’t fall for hoaxes. That’s especially true now for the “Ghost Hunters” crew because they spend about $75,000 per episode. One guy wired his entire house with speakers, hoping to convince them that his house was haunted. Others reported strange banging sounds that turned out to be the radiator. Gartland said she’s gotten 400-500 e-mails each week requesting investigations or help since the show began airing last year.
“You have to balance what’s what when you get an e-mail,” she said.
Do a background check of the person making the request. Does the person hearing sounds and seeing things have a history with medications, drugs, alcohol or mental illness?
Make sure you have proper equipment to record air and surface temperatures, video, audio and electromagnetic fields. Also make sure your cameras work properly. That mystical orb you think you see in the photograph might just be dust or moisture.
Remember to tell the client that you might not see and hear what they do. An actual apparition or ghost might not appear on your timetable.
“Explain to them that you being there for a couple of hours on one day doesn’t mean you missed it,” Dion said.
Dion and Gartland’s groups maintain they’re merely investigators. They’re not like the TV characters you see on “Medium” or “Ghost Whisperer.”
“We don’t have the answers to why they’re here,” Gartland said.
Their Web sites, and others like them, offer tips to debunk myths and fakes, debatable evidence and photos, ghost stories submitted by investigators and articles and links to help those who believe their homes and properties are haunted.
Gartland’s experiences in a former home in Reading prompted her to get involved. She said her home had been built over an old cemetery, with only the headstones moved across the street (just as in the movie “Poltergeist”). She reported an inhuman haunt that pushed her up the stairs and created negative energy throughout the house.
Some people believed her.
“The others think I’m nuts,” she said. “Now I look for dead people. Who do you tell that to?”

Ghost Hunting 101
Nov. 18 at the Boston Center for Adult Education, 5 Commonwealth Ave., led by New England Paranormal founder Stephen Gonsalves, Dion and Gartland. Cost: $38-$48

To find a local ghost hunter:
The Atlantic Paranormal Society: www.the-atlantic-paranormal-society.com
New England Paranormal: www.newenglandparanormal.com
O.R.I.O.N. Paranormal: www.orionparanormal.com


Just when you thought NASCAR and poker had taken up most of the legroom on the sports landscape, here comes professional bull riding, bucking for mainstream attention.
The next two weekends, live and in person, millions will watch the top riders on the Professional Bull Riders tour compete for the $1 million world championship prize in Las Vegas.
Among the spectators: Jaune DeFrancesco of Methuen.
The 51-year-old Best Buy worker won an all-expenses-paid trip to the PBR's Built Ford Tough World Finals by finishing second in the official fantasy league. Yes, even bull riding has its own online fantasy leagues in which casual fans predict the top riders and bulls.
"I'm a cowgirl at heart,'' DeFrancesco said. "I love NASCAR. I just love country.''
She attends the PBR Worcester Classic each January, but she doesn't bother with other rodeo events. "Just the bull riding,'' she said. "I don't enjoy (rodeo). I watch it if nothing else is on, but this is an adrenaline rush. They put their lives on the line every time they do this, and unless they place each time, they're not earning much money.''
That's exactly what PBR's chief executive, Randy Bernard, expects to hear.
"We looked at NASCAR as a model way more than we looked at rodeo as a model,'' Bernard said from Las Vegas. "If anything, our audience is much more a NASCAR audience than a rodeo audience."
He recalled when the top riders broke ranks with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in 1992, putting up $1,000 apiece to start their own tour.
"We actually have money now,'' Bernard said, laughing.
No joke. The $40 million budget for 2005 included $22 million in corporate sponsorships.
The world finals pay out $3.2 million in prize money to the top 45 riders, and fans will watch the Outdoor Life Network and NBC to see if points leader Justin McBride, who already has earned $289,701 this year, can bring home the gold buckle.
Bernard acknowledged that PBR already enjoys great success out West, but claimed that more than 60 percent of attendees at the finals in Vegas will come from east of the Mississippi River.
It's popular in such places as Worcester and the Mohegan Sun (where the 2006 season opens next month) because the thrill of the sport translates anywhere, he said.
"Worcester has been great for us,'' he said. "I don't care if we have 24 inches of snow. We're going to sell out there.''
Comparing PBR and the PRCA, Bernard said, is like "comparing NASCAR with Formula One racing ... a younger beer-drinking audience versus a champagne audience."
Bernard said PBR is developing a behind-the-scenes reality show with The Learning Channel that should help bring the sport to new audiences, while the tour is also opening offices in Australia, Brazil, Canada and Mexico.
What about New England?
Two minor-league circuits made about 160 stops to smaller venues around the country, including Maine and upstate New York. "The biggest thing we can do up there, we need a world champion from the East Coast,'' Bernard said.
That's not likely just yet, as only 10 of the 800-or-so PBR members listed in the database have a Bay State base. The top Massachusetts rider has pocketed only $3,851 in career PBR earnings.
Perhaps you'll find local riders on the even smaller circuit known as International Bull Riding, which is run by a Maryland ranch family and visited the Topsfield Fair earlier this month. The top IBR rider this season, Trinity Dunkleberger, earned $14,351 -- chump change compared to the PBR.
But the risks remain the same.
New Englanders who want to see the safer, more artificial version can visit Boston's Boylston alley, where The Liquor Store's mechanical bull continues to attract hundreds of amateur bull riders every weekend since it was installed a year ago.
DeFrancesco prefers the real thing. Her favorite rider is Brazilian Adriano Moreas, who won in Worcester in 2004.
Her husband, Dennis, doesn't embrace the sport like she does, so she "drags him along" to watch the riders battle for eight seconds of glory triumph or gory defeat.
"It's kind of a solitary thing," she said of her love of bull riding. "I've tried to convert my son. My other friends all think I'm crazy."

This is the full version of my story. An edited version appeared today in the Boston Herald.

THE HERALD'S VITAL STATS: Meant to blog this yesterday, along with so much else, but computer problems at work and other obstacles have held me up. Nevertheless, the Boston Herald published its regularly scheduled official "statement of ownership, management and circulation" in Tuesday's paper. Here is the skinny...

Average # of copies each day in the past year (press run): 256,315
Copies printed Sept. 30, 2005: 284,540

Average total daily distribution: 217,097
Copies distributed Sept. 30, 2005: 246,300

Not too shabby, considering "The Times Co. said last week that its Boston paper's weekday circulation plunged by nearly 8 percent over the past six months compared to last year --dropping 35,000 copies to 416,000, despite heavy marketing and steep price discounts offered by the newspaper. Its Sunday circulation fell by 55,000 -- about 7.6 percent -- to 667,000."

MY BOSS GETS QUOTED BY THE GLOBE: While I was dreaming of a newspaper career as a sheltered suburban teen in Connecticut, Mark Godes was writing himself a teen advice column for the Boston Herald and getting nationwide TV exposure for it. Then he gave it all up. Now, at 35, he wants it all back. Only times have changed. And so has the newspaper bidness. Alex Beam checks in with the guy for this story in the Boston Globe, quoting my boss, features editor Linda Kincaid, as to one of many reasons why Godes won't be regaining his columnist gig anytime soon.

They appear before us morning, noon and night, trying to brace us for coming storms or heat waves. Then Hollywood goes and mocks them.
In The Weather Man, which opens Friday, hostile viewers throw soft tacos, chicken and soda at a Chicago weatherguy played by Nicholas Cage - prompting him to carry a bow and arrows when he walks the streets.
Other movies, from Groundhog Day to Twister to L.A. Story, portray the local TV meteorologist as a buffoon or a geek.
"It's a favorite pastime to pick on meteorologists,'' said Kevin Lemanowicz, chief meteorologist for WFXT-TV (Ch. 25).
With the exception of The Perfect Storm, Lemanowicz said Hollywood tends to portray him and his colleagues "as something less than scientists.''
Todd Gross, chief meteorologist at WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) knows that better than anyone - actor Christopher McDonald played him in that film about the six Gloucester fishermen who perished at sea in a 1991 nor'easter.
"I had to try to temper the script, which was exaggerated,'' Gross said. "They did portray me at one point as a pompous, egotistical person, which they did in a light way, so I allowed it, but they ended up dropping most of it in the end. Not by my request.''
More recently, Gross got a call from Paramount Pictures, which wanted to buy his personal Web site (www.weatherman.com) to promote The Weather Man.
But he hung on to it - and is now using it to remind people that Cage's weatherman is only fiction.
Harvey Leonard of WCVB-TV (Ch. 5) thinks the problem is that Hollywood studio executives and producers only know what they see from the newscasts in sunny L.A., where weather forecasting is - let's face it - not too tricky.
"They may have earthquake scares, but that's not weather,'' Leonard said. Without much to do there, "the personality is what dominates. You can have a stand-up comic or someone who's trying to be funny. Whereas in a market like this, you have a group of professional meteorologists who take it seriously, and hopefully have some sort of personality.''
Mish Michaels of WBZ-TV (Ch. 4) said Hollywood continues to operate with an outdated vision.
"I think what people in the public forget is that forecasting the atmosphere is really a scientific process,'' Michaels said.
None of the real-life Boston forecasters could pick a movie or TV show that accurately depicted their profession - yet most of them enjoyed Bill Murray's comic turn in Groundhog Day.
Twister, meanwhile, went a little overboard with its portrayal of zealous storm-chasers.
WHDH-TV's Chikage Windler, who studied and worked in Olkahoma, said she "did something slightly similar to what they did in (Twister),'' only without as much melodrama or excitement.
"They make movies to make money and to entertain you, not to accurately portray a profession,'' Windler said. "Look at all the cop dramas. They make it more exciting than the average day in the life of a cop. Outside of working weird hours, we have a really normal life.''

RELATED: `Weather'-beaten: Hub TV meteorologists say their depiction in film is all wet (Boston Herald)

BOSTON GETS STAR WARS CRAZY: "Aww, Star Wars...nothing but Star Wars..." So singeth Bill Murray as Nick Winters in that classic Saturday Night Live skit from January 1978. Well...

Nick Winters got his wish.
Then again, so did millions of Star Wars fans.
After six movies, countless books and billions of dollars in merchandise, the Force lives on - documented and displayed prominently in Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination, which makes its worldwide debut Thursday at Boston's Museum of Science.
"It takes wing from the movies and lodges itself firmly in the Earth's atmosphere,'' said Anthony Daniels, also known as C-3PO.
Daniels, who also narrates a companion planetarium show and Millennium Falcon ride at the museum, just as easily could have been describing the hold Star Wars still has on pop culture.
Just look around town.
Charles Ross brings his Off-Broadway hit, a one-man tribute to Star Wars, to The Wilbur Theatre for one week in November.
At the same time, MIT's Musical Theatre Guild sets the "first'' three Star Wars films to Broadway show tunes in "Star Wars Trilogy: Musical Edition.''
And author Michael Rubin visits the Hub next weekend to promote his new book, "Droidmaker: George Lucas & the Digital Revolution.''
You may even have seen George Lucas himself - if you paid your way into last night's black-tie gala at the Museum of Science.
We got a sneak peek last week.
Here is an overview of all things Star Wars around Boston.

Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination, Museum of Science, Science Park. Exhibit opens Thursday, ends April 30, 2006. Call 617-723-2500 or go to www.starwars.mos.org
Admission by timed ticket: $17-$20, (field trips, $3 per student).
Additional events: Millennium Falcon hyperspace ride, $5; Planetarium show, "Far Far Away: The Worlds of Star Wars,'' $4.50-$9; "Special Effects'' film, $4.50-$9; Nov. 4, "Puppets to Pixels: The Digital Transformation of Yoda,'' discussion with Rob Coleman, animation and development director at Lucasfilm Animation Ltd, $10; Nov. 5, "The Building of a Dream,'' presentation by Jerry Greene and his R2-R9 droid, free with exhibit admission.
"There's some fabulous cool stuff that I thought I'd never get to see,'' said museum president Ioannis Miaoulis.
The 10,000-square-foot exhibit space includes many of the actual costumes, props and models used during "Star Wars'' filming, thanks to Lucasfilm. You'll see a full-size replica of the Millennium Falcon cockpit, Luke Skywalker's Landspeeder, costumes for Darth Vader, C-3PO, Obi-Wan Kenobi and many other characters, including Wampas and Wookiees.
Scattered throughout are interactive engineering design labs that put the theme to use, whether it's building your own magnetic levitation machines that mimic the Landspeeder or creating your own model version of R2-D2.

Charles Ross' One-Man Star Wars Trilogy, Nov. 8-13, The Wilbur Theatre, 246 Tremont St. Performances at 8 p.m. on Nov. 8-11, 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Nov. 12, 5 p.m. on Nov. 13. Tickets are $38.50. Call 617-931-2787 or go to www.onemanstarwars.com or www.broadwayinboston.com
Canadian native Ross first performed his one-man re-enactment in Toronto in 2001 and has been wowing audiences since. He does all of the characters, all of the voices, all of the fight scenes and all of the music from Episodes IV, V and VI himself - all in an hour. And yes, Lucasfilm has approved.

Star Wars Trilogy: Musical Edition, Nov. 11-13, Nov. 16-20, La Sala De Puerto Rico, The Stratton Student Center, MIT, 84 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge. Shows at 8 p.m. on Nov. 11-12 and Nov. 16-19, 2 p.m. on Nov. 13 and on Nov. 20. Tickets are $6-$12. Call 617-253-6294.
MIT's Musical Theatre Guild has taken Episodes IV, V and VI and retold them as musical satire, with original lyrics set to classic Broadway showtunes by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Stephen Sondheim, Frank Loesser, Cy Coleman, Elton John, Danny Elfman and Claude-Michel Schonberg. If you're looking for Jedi ballads and tap-dancing stormtroopers, this is the show for you.

"Droidmaker: George Lucas & the Digital Revolution,'' discussion and book signing by author Michael Rubin, 2 p.m. Saturday, Barnes & Noble, 98 Middlesex Parkway, Burlington. Call 781-273-3871.
Rubin, a Brown University graduate who joined the computer division of Lucasfilm in 1985, writes a detailed examination of what went on inside the company.
"I have a totally new appreciation for this guy,'' Rubin said of Lucas. "The man is a cultural icon, but the things I love about him have little to do with this movie.''

THE COLBERT REPORT DEBUT: Early returns are mostly favorable on the debut last night of the latest, greatest Comedy Central attempt at a Daily Show follow-up, The Colbert Report. The premiere was absurd. But they were going for absurd, so they hit that. The first guest, an inspired choice in Stone Phillips, mostly because having him side-by-side with Colbert let the audience see exactly who Colbert has been mocking all these years. Hint: Not Bill O'Reilly. At any rate. Not sure how the show plans to keep up this pace, since they had a head-start for their debut. More interesting to see: How long Comedy Central waits before pulling it for the next 11:30 p.m. attempt. Can anyone name the last three shows to inhabit the time slot? Anyone. I'll even spot you one: Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn. As Wonkette wrote: "The Colbert Report tests the boundaries of just how long one can stand arch irony. Or maybe I mean satire and "arch" is just what Stephen Colbert's eyebrow does the entire show."

COINCIDENCE? So I'm watching Curb Your Enthusiasm and couldn't help but notice that Larry David must've seen Yoshi Obayashi perform his stand-up act at some point, or that someone told Larry David about Yoshi. You see, I remember Yoshi from back in the day when we were both struggling stand-up comics in Seattle, where we and many others toiled and made each other laugh night after night at the Comedy Underground. Those were fun times. Yoshi's act didn't change a lot back then. One of his signature bits involved the fact that his grandfather was a failed kamikaze pilot. This endeth the flashback, because on this week's episode on the HBO, Larry David makes fun of a guy named Yoshi because his dad was a failed kamikaze pilot. Typical cringey comedy ensues. Only in my mind, the rest of the episode becomes a hunt for other clues that the HBO Yoshi is the Yoshi I know. I e-mailed Yoshi late Sunday night, and he said he certainly had no idea about the similarity. Stay tuned for an update on this one.

WHO WANTS A FREE PAPER? Wait. Don't answer that. It's a trick question. Especially since I work for a newspaper, and I'd like it very kindly if you paid for a print copy. Or, even better, subscribe! Or, if you want to see it appear on your computer screens, get the electronic edition! Or, if you really want to help keep my paychecks coming, buy yourself a piece of the pie and become a minority shareholder of the Boston Herald! What a year this has been, which leads us to the current craze: free daily newspapers. My bosses say the Herald isn't going to become a free daily -- not yet, anyhow. But elsewhere, Philip Anschutz has announced he'll launch the free Baltimore Examiner by spring 2006 (he already has free daily Examiners dropped at homes around Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, and trademarks in 69 cities -- hello, Boston?!). And Grade The News weighed in last week with another look at whether free and newspapers were two great tastes that taste great together. My firsthand anectodal evidence around Boston this year has proven that many commuters on the subway, and especially on the trains, are picking up copies of Metro in the morning simply because it's free. By afternoon, many copies of the Herald can be found upon boarding the commuter rails for secondhand free reads. But are the morning Metro commuters picking up another paper when they hit the Hub? That's tougher to track, although I'm sure some polling group could give it a try. As someone directly involved with newspapers, I certainly hope that my stories reach as many people as possible. The Internet helps get my Herald stories to readers who might otherwise not have a print copy. Does it hinder the ability to generate revenues, and in turn, hinder my revenues? That's tougher to figure out, especially in the long-term. Did I mention that there are many different ways for you to invest in the Herald?

FRANZ FERDINAND, AT THE ORPHEUM: If I read one more so-called music writer call Franz Ferdinand "this year's Franz Ferdinand," then I shall be forced to cut and paste his/her copy and shove it down his/her throat! How hard could it possibly be to simply come out and say that this Scottish quartet has more fun with rock 'n' roll than most other bands in the world? And that their fun is so contagious that you cannot help but love them? Or that Alex, Nick, Bob and Paul write and perform damn catchy rock tunes? Or that they're just as much fun live as they sound on disc? Their performance Saturday night at Boston's Orpheum Theatre had the sold-out crowd on their feet throughout the one-hour set and four-song "encore," from Alex starting solo on the opening lines of "Jacqueline" to the quartet jumping around on the drums with "This Fire." Fun, fun and more fun. Wish you could've been there.

Just take a listen to the most recent single, "Do You Want To," and try not to fall in love with Franz Ferdinand. Are you feeling lucky, lucky? You're so lucky!

Full disclosure: I consider Dan Mer a good friend, know many of the comics mentioned, covered the comedy scene for a time for the Arizona Republic, and have performed at the Tempe Improv. All of that said, this is an insightful look at how comedy scenes operate outside of New York, L.A., Chicago and Boston. Lots of bad comics. Few good venues. Not a good mix. Did I mention it's good to be in Boston?

Look at me, I'm on TV. Don't adjust your focus just yet. Posted by Picasa

SEE ME ON NECN: Apparently, New England Cable News has stored some of my Friday talky talk segments for your future enjoyment, so you can play the Mock-A-Sean Home Game at your convenience. Click here for my clips, plus a chance to check out my colleague Sarah Rodman.

HOW MANY iPODS ARE TOO MANY iPODS? Methinks we realized the answer this week, when Steve Jobs "finally" (in the eyes of Appleheads) launched the video version of the gadget everyone keeps talking about. And by everyone, of course, Jack Shafer means the press. His piece in Slate brings up good points about how the media fails to question these many new variations of the iPod. Just when you thought you were cool by buying the Mini, Apple brings you the Shuffle. But wait. You could've had a Nano. Or if you waited just another couple of weeks, you could have this brand-new video iPod! All sounds like a game show, doesn't it? I own what's now called a "third-generation" iPod from 2003, and don't plan on upgrading until it quits on me -- as the iPod is wont to do (see class-action settlement for details). Which, if I were more superstitious than I already am, would mean that my iPod should go kaput later today.

David and Chris Walsh, pride and joy of Charlestown, Mass. Posted by Picasa

MEET THE WALSH BROS: David and Chris Walsh in some ways resemble the Smothers Brothers as they tell their tales.
But the Walsh boys don't play musical instruments or fling yo-yos, they often dress in T-shirts and jeans, and they're completely over-the-top ridiculous.
Which is why they've been a hit many late Thursday nights at ImprovBoston in Inman Square, and Friday nights at The Comedy Studio in Harvard Square. Tomorrow, they ditch the skits and short stories to recount their attempts to be discovered at this summer's Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal.
Perhaps if they had used one of their many prop mustaches, the Walshes could've crossed the border a bit easier.
David: "We've got these six-way adjustable mustaches, which are inaccurate because we can adjust them 20 different ways and play 20 different characters.''
Chris: "It's not hiding anything, though.''
Fans soon wanted their own fake 'staches. Some receive them as prizes along with membership into The Walsh Bros. mustache club.
Chris: "It was just a silly thing that became a good idea.''
David: "We're paying it forward.''
Chris: "We found if we bought six mustaches we were wearing two and giving four away. They found it just as fun as we did when we were f---ing around doing silly characters. Dave always has three mustaches in his pocket because whenever there's a dull moment, you just pull out a mustache. On the bus or the train, no one really acts goofy. No one says that guy's goofy or that guy's a weirdo, because they're just laughing.''
David: "It's instant fun. Everywhere you pull it out, people want to put it on. No matter how disgusting that sounds, people want to put it on. When I was working at the State House, I'd work at the door. If I knew the person coming around the corner wasn't going to flip out . . .''
Out comes the mustache.
David: "Everyone would give you a smile. Everyone is having a good time.''
Chris: "It's almost a silliness divining rod.''
Their Montreal tale involves a box of 200 mustaches. How many will be worn during the show and how many will go home with fans?
David: "I don't know. We're pretty selective, too. Not everybody gets one.''
Chris: "Well, anyone who demands one.''

"The Walsh Bros. Invade Canada,'' tomorrow night at 10, Jimmy Tingle's Off Broadway, 255 Elm St., Davis Square, Somerville. Tickets: $12 adults, $6 students; 617-591-1616, www.jtoffbroadway.com

The Walsh Brothers

SPINNING THE NIELSEN NUMBERS: Joe Flint breaks the new fall TV season down by city. (WSJ) He attempts an explanation for the big ratings for Desperate Housewives in Detroit, but doesn't offer any excuse for the ABC soap's dud ratings in Boston. Curious if the early figures are skewed here because of the Red Sox and the Patriots. Actually, I'd bet on that. Although those Sunday games weren't at night. So, still curious.

Am I not young? Or am I not promising? Sorry, wrong answer. Just not on Mark Jurkowitz's radar. But my former co-worker Kristen Go is. Congrats! Say hi to D'Anna and the gang for me. I bet north Scottsdale isn't overcast and gloomy today. Hardly ever is. Man, now I've got a hankering for a Double-Double or lunch at Flo's. Argh.

MISS MISSOURI NEEDS A NEW REALITY: Why does every Miss Missouri USA pageant winner feel the need to debase herself with screwball TV dating? The 2005 winner, Andrea Ciliberti, showed up last night (Oct. 12) on ElimiDATE. The 2001 and 2002 winners, Melana Scantlin and Larissa Meek, both showed their true dating colors on back-to-back seasons of Average Joe. Insert your own "Show Me State" joke here.

TRYING TO FIND MEANING IN LOST: The search continues. In tonight's episode, "Everybody Hates Hugo," we get lots of flashbacks for how Hurley's life was when he found out he won the lottery with THE NUMBERS. Obligatory cross-reference scene has Hurley and former Mr. Clucks coworker (played by DJ Qualls) checking out a Driveshaft CD at the record store. We also find out that of the 23 (!) survivors from the rear of the plane, there aren't that many still hanging out in another Dharma Industries facility (logos noted), but that one of them is Bernard, who is married to Rose (although we didn't recall these two being an interracial couple -- did first-season flashbacks back this up?). Obviously, the two groups of crash survivors have played out their first 40-odd days with quite different results. Front part of the plane lost a couple of people but otherwise gotten along smoothly; rear section survivors seem to be playing out a "Lord of the Flies" mentality. Preview of next week's episode would have us believe that rear-section survivors have had multiple clashes with the real "Others" (as in the folks who nabbed Walt from the raft). All of which leads to more head-scratching. As Jack asks Sayid, so what do you think is going on?

Other oddness: Why does some of the food stored in the hatch pantry have a short shelf life?

Play the theory game: Check out any of these sites. The blog 815 has plenty of links and speculation. The Hanso Foundation site has several links; among them, The Hanso Life-Extension Project, The Hanso Foundation Electromagnetic Research Initiative, The Hanso Quest for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, The Hanso Mathematical Forecasting Initiative, The Hanso Cryogenics Development Imperative, The Hanso Juxtapositional Eugenics Development Institute, The Hanso Accelerated Remote Viewing Training Facility, and a "hidden" link to The Dharma Initiative, which lets you watch the orientation film. As other sites already have noted, the scientists in that film look more than kinda sorta like two of the "Others" on the boat that nabbed Walt. All of which leads to more head-scratching.

THINGS TO DO TONIGHT IF YOU'RE NOT WATCHING LOST: Wait. You're not watching Lost? How dare you!

The Suicide Girls bring their punk-flavored burlesque tour to the Middle East in Cambridge.

Chris Elliot talks about his novel and screens Cabin Boy at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline.

UNANNOUNCED ESPN CAMEO? Perchance you'll see me tonight as ESPN begins its edited, tape-delayed broadcasts of the main event from the 2005 World Series of Poker, held in July in Las Vegas. I covered the first three days of play for a sports feature in the Boston Herald, so the chances of seeing me in a shot or two or about as good as going all-in with Ace-King suited before the flop. In other words, pretty good. Could still get shut out altogether, but still pretty good odds. So keep an eye out for me this week and next, would you? Thanks.

UPDATE: This reporter indeed makes a brief appearance in the final five minutes of Hour 2 of 12 of ESPN's main event coverage, leaning in next to Men the Master looking for a reaction and/or quote as he busts out.

ARE YOU AN IDIYOUT? That's the question I had after experiencing my first Jason Mraz concert on Saturday night at the Orpheum Theatre. Beforehand, all I pretty much knew about Mraz was his "Remedy" song and his knack for witty wordplay. Turns out he's pretty good, although he seems to swing back and forth from the girly-girl songs of a John Mayer and the clever rapid-fire banter of a Barenaked Ladies. I enjoyed Jason's softer side. But his fans? Many seemed to belong to the breed I like to call the idiyout. Young and dumb. It's one thing to shriek at the sight of a singer. You're a superfan, you're entitled to such behavior. When you heckle your idol, however, you're not helping. They treated Raul Midon even worse, attempting to turn every one of his songs into a clap-a-long, hooting and hollering over the solo acoustic wonder. Ugh. Idiyouts, I say.

SNL = STILL NOT LAUGHING: You said it, goldenfiddle. After watching all of this Saturday's Saturday Night Live and half of the season opener, I'm still waiting for the funny. Or more importantly, for some relevance. The first show at least featured Kanye West, and had the good sense to bring Mike Myers back to acknowledge his lack of improv skills during the Katrina telethon. But this past weekend, Jon Heder hosted. Um, why? Shouldn't that have happened last October? The Napoleon Dynamite impersonators during the monlogue were funny, sure, but, still, isn't SNL supposed to be hip? Not if you're booking Ashlee Simpson as a musical guest for A SECOND TIME, because that only screams desperation. Right, I said they booked Ashlee Simpson as a musical guest. Ugh. And the new guys in the cast? Er, curious. Maybe they'll be funny, if they're given a chance to do something. But don't applaud anyone for a good Al Pacino impersonation, because that is so hack. Page 2 Sports Guy, I expected more from you.

I'm the clown on the right, silly! Posted by Picasa

MY LIFE AS A CLOWN: The first and only time I had seen the real circus, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, I was but a wee little lad. My grandparents from Lynn brought me to Boston Garden, and I was amazed by an even littler lad named Michu, who in the mid-1970s toured with Ringling as "The World's Smallest Man." (the Hungarian-born Mihaly Meszaros (1940-?) later put on the ALF suit(?!) and showed up in Big Top Pee Wee) Anyhow. I looked up to Michu (literally/figuratively/whatnot) because he turned his short stature into star status. That was the closest I got to Ringling until 1997, when a newspaper I worked for outside of Seattle sent me to Clown College auditions for a first-person assignment. Since I performed with a Seattle improv troupe at the time (Fresh Art Entertainment, now defunct, with several members now appearing in TheatreSports!), it seemed like a fun and natural fit. Didn't get the Ringling job. If I had, I probably would've gone, just for the adventure (and perhaps the stories I could tell and write afterward). But a Seattle clown company offered me a job after the audition, trained me in the art of clowning and sent me on birthday parties and company picnics that summer (including Microsoft's big shebang, in which I did not see Mr. Bill Gates but did see that he had plenty of money to spend on his employees). Imagine my surreal delight when the folks promoting Ringling asked me last month if I might like to become a clown for part of opening night of the circus at the TD Banknorth Garden. The story appears below...

But first, some things that didn't make the paper.

The three-ring show itself is still pretty amazing. Not sure if I'd say it's still the greatest show on Earth, because Cirque du Soleil's various operations have convinced a number of amazing acrobats and daredevils to jump ranks, if you will. But Crazy Wilson, who somersaulted over a spinning AND rotating ring high above the crowd, definitely stole the show. And everything is very kid-friendly.

Even funnier than taking part in the circus was my decision to leave the clown makeup on for the remainder of the evening. Kids and adults outside the new Garden wondered why one of the Ringling clowns was standing on the sidewalk with them. People on the T were impressed or bewildered. By the time I got out to Cambridge to see my new favorite band, Cyanide Valentine, at T.T. The Bear's, bystanders were really confused. Truth be told, Wendy asked me to come in full clown makeup, and I didn't want to let her down. But I also relished having some bold fun again. Reminded me of my youthful foolishness. And when comedian Dave Walsh walked in the doors and began laughing at the sight of me, I knew it was going to be a fun night. Nothing like having a literal mask on your face to embolden you to hit on pretty girls in a way you'd never even think of attempting under regular nightclub circumstances. Dave and I had a lot of fun. Makes me want to get back into comedy.

But first, as promised, this short story about clowning around with the circus...

Some Herald reporters really are clowns.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey made me an honorary member of Clown Alley for Friday's opening-night festivities in Boston for the 134th edition of the "Greatest Show On Earth.''
Gabor Hrisafis, a not-so Ga-big Hungarian clown and six-year Ringling veteran, mentors me.
First, a face. Not too big. "Those scare the children,'' Gabor says.
Then an outfit. Amazingly, every item fits on the first try. Am I built for this gig or what?
It's 6:30 p.m. - an hour before the big show, but time for the Three Ring Adventure and my role in it to begin. Anyone with a ticket can go down among the three rings for an up-close look at the clowns, animals and other acts.
Some Garden employees who had seen me only minutes earlier as a civilian notice perceptible changes in my demeanor.
Some Ringling clowns, however, look quizzically at me, sizing me up as if I were after their jobs.
Circus "diva'' and former American Idol semifinalist Jennifer Fuentes smiles and waves at me, then asks another performer, "Who's the new guy?''
Ladies, gentlemen and children of all ages, meanwhile, quickly adopt me as one of the Ringling tribe. They want me to sign their circus programs. They want their pictures taken with me. They want me to play tricks on them.
They see me juggle balls and clubs. It's so much easier at my desk at work than here under the spotlight - hard to imagine how these pros do it.
They see me balance precariously on the low wire, which Javier and Ernando use to warm up for their amazing antics later from high above the crowd.
They see my impromptu dance number with one of the lovely ladies from Tango de Argentina.
And they see me help Gabor and Ryan Combs, a Ringling clown from Boston, engage in some slapstick shtick.
People are laughing at me, and for all of the right reasons.
For an hour, at least, I'm big time under the Big Top.

READ IT: The story in the Boston Herald.
GET TICKETS: Ringling's schedule and show info in Boston, through Oct. 16.

NO SUCH THING AS A FREE HOUSE: Win a big prize on TV and sometimes you find it's the gift that keeps on taking.
Take Oprah Winfrey's big Pontiac car giveaway last year, which became a minor PR crisis when some of the 276 recipients from her studio audience, who won the cars because they couldn't afford them, complained they had to pay taxes on their new wheels.
Closer to home, Fox's Renovate My Family took the 48-year-old, 1,716-square-foot Peabody home of Richard and Diane Famiglietti and turned it into a 3,600-square-foot abode complete with an outdoor all-season hockey rink and a hot tub.
ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition put the finishing touches yesterday on a new Greek Revival-style, wheelchair-accessible home for Tripp and Heidi Johnson and their kids.
It's been the talk of the town all week. And it'll make for a great episode later this fall.
But what will the makeover mean next July, when Medfield assessor Stan Bergeron revalues the Johnson place at Hospital Road and Harding Street?
"Sometimes you're not thinking of what's coming the next day,'' Bergeron said.
The previous 1,404-square-feet home, valued at $327,450, cost the Johnsons $4,230 in property taxes based on the town rate of $12.92 per thousand.
Bergeron said most new homes built in Medfield get valued closer to $800,000 or $900,000. That would send the Johnsons' annual tax bill into five figures.
"I'm hoping there is something set up for them. I'd hate to see them put in a hardship,'' he said.
Local builders and friends set up www.hometeammedfield.com to collect donations for the Johnsons.
Endemol USA leases homes for 14 days from "Makeover'' families, which exempts the renovations from state and federal taxes. Endemol chief David Goldberg said producers make families aware of future property tax liabilities.
"This show is about benevolence,'' he said. "It's about making people's dream of owning a home come true. It isn't about duping them and then leaving them riddled with a bunch of tax bills. So if it does become an issue . . . we'll do everything we can to resolve the problem.''
One Illinois family got so angry at Renovate My Family over their increased property taxes they wanted Fox and Rocket Science Laboratories to buy the home from them.
That's not the case with the Famigliettis. Then again, they haven't received their new property tax bill.

Related link: Free house - with a catch: Makeovers pump up property, tax bill too (Boston Herald)

TALK ABOUT ODD TIMING: The Globe decides to profile front-row home plate ticketholder Dennis Drinkwater on the day after the Red Sox season ends. Maybe they noticed that dozens of people were visiting my site looking for more info on the Giant Glass guy. But really, you'd think they'd run this story before the Sox season went kaput. And I thought I was a bad planner. They tell you things I already told you -- like the fact that Drinkwater hates the cellphone wavers, or that Robert Redford sat with him last Friday night. But they could've told you so much more. Oh well. Guess that leaves it up to me.

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE WHITE SOX: Perhaps this year, the fans on the South Side of Chicago will finally be relieved of their own cursed fandom. The 2005 Red Sox, much like its fans, did not have that same magical feeling this fall that this was THE YEAR. That's due, in large part, to the fact that last year was THE YEAR. But it's also more evidence that pitching always wins or loses the World Series. Peter Gammons and Bob Ryan said as much last year on-air in the minutes and hours following Game 4 of the 2004 World Series, trying to put the Red Sox accomplishment into perspective. The Red Sox won last year because their starting pitching and their bullpen got the job done. This year's squad never had that edge. Foulke was a mess from start to early finish. Schilling never fully recovered from his Faustian ankle bargain of an October ago. Pedro went to Queens. And Edgar Renteria, who grounded out as a St. Louis Cardinal to end Boston's Curse last year, grounded out to close not one but two of the three games with the White Sox, while Orlando Cabrera still provides a spunky spark, only now in Anaheim. How fitting. Anyhow. I could go on a full rant, but I shan't. What's done is done. It'd be very interesting to see how Chicago and the baseball world would respond if the White Sox do go all the way. How would Cubs fans feel then? Would they still cede some ownership of the Windy City? Or would their lovable loser shtick get ramped up even more if the White Sox win?

TROPICAL STORM TAMMY SOAKS EAST COAST: Or as the subhead in my own internal newsletter calls it ... Ex Marks The Spot.


The Red Sox blew Game 2 of the ALDS as Tony Graffanino muffed a potential double-play that turned a 4-2 lead into a 5-4 loss to the White Sox. Game 3 is Friday at Fenway.

FREE iTUNES FOR GUARD SERVICE: Sounds like an odd promotion. And yet...

What are you willing to do to get free iTunes?
Drink Pepsi? Wear Gap jeans? How about fighting terrorists and rescuing hurricane victims for the Army National Guard?
For the past few months, and continuing through Oct. 15, the Army National Guard is offering three free iTunes song downloads to anyone who agrees to a visit with Guard recruiters. A Guard spokesman said the promotion already has enticed more than 700 people nationwide to begin the enlistment process.
"Just because we are the government doesn't mean we have to act like the government,'' said Lt. Col. Mike Jones, deputy division chief for National Guard recruiting.
"(The recruits) learned a little bit about the Guard and they got their item right away,'' Jones said. "Instant gratification gets a bad knock. It's just the world we live in that mailing in to get a T-shirt (days or) weeks later seems like an eternity.''
The Guard's iTunes ads have appeared in college newspapers and online at various sites this summer, including the Drudge Report.
Ads point online to www.1800goguard.com/music, which requires checking a box that reads: "Yes, I understand that the Army National Guard will send me information about great new Army National Guard benefits! I also understand that I will be contacted by a recruiter, and that's OK.''
Not everyone is impressed.
Steve Hall of Groton, who publishes ad criticism site AdRants.com, wrote: "That's right. iTunes in exchange for the privilege of defending our country. What a deal.''
Past recruitment giveaways have included DVDs and Internet service. The iTunes promotion saves the Guard money, costing the feds 87 cents per song (and no shipping fee), vs. $3 plus $1 shipping per DVD.
And it's also generated about 25 percent more responses than other Guard tactics.
Jones is proud of his efforts.
"The Guard is saving lives not just in Iraq but also in Louisiana,'' he said. "What I'm selling is a little more noble than selling packaged goods.''

BACKING UP THE SMACK: Yes, I know yesterday's game did not bode well for the boys from Boston. But if you have learned anything from recent memory, these Red Sox are not the same as previous editions. These Red Sox almost don't seem to respond until their backs are up against the proverbial wall -- exhibit A, 2003 ALDS, down 0-2 to Oakland in a best-of-five, down 2-3 to the Yankees in that ALCS; exhibit B, 2004 ALCS, down 0-3 to the Yankees; exhibit C, have to win two of final three games of the regular season against the Yankees to make the playoffs this year. Keep the faith, people. Keep the faith.

SOX SMACKDOWN: Our Sox are better than their Sox.
And here's why:

Red Sox: Loyal international fan base bought out all 81 home games before the season began, and sometimes even outnumbered the other team's fans at away games.
White Sox: Can't even get loyalty in its own city, where the Chicago Cubs are the A-list team.

Red Sox: Author Stephen King, actors Ben Affleck (and new wife Jennifer Garner), Matt Damon, Denis Leary, even Robert Redford.
White Sox: Every Chicago celeb we can think of roots for the Cubbies. Except Dennis DeYoung of Styx. Does that count?

Red Sox: Fathers teach their kids to love the game, hate the Yankees and "wave'' at right fielder Gary Sheffield.
White Sox: Fathers teach their kids how to take off their shirts, jump the fence and attack the opposing first-base coach.

Red Sox: Fever Pitch shows how an obsessed Red Sox fan can find true love and a happy ending as the team wins the Series.
White Sox: Eight Men Out shows how a cheap owner forces his players to take bribes, throw the Series in Black Sox scandal.

Red Sox: Fenway Park, home since 1912, made even better by new seats above the Green Monster and a right-field rooftop plaza.
White Sox: New Comiskey Park, which replaced classic Comiskey Park in 1991 and was renamed U.S. Cellular Field in 2003. Main attraction is Pontiac FUNdamentals area for kids bored by the home team.

Red Sox: The Fenway Frank – plain, plumped perfection.
White Sox: Chicago-style dog buries the meat with tomato slices, banana peppers, dill pickle spears, neon green relish, onions, celery salt and mustard on a poppy seed bun. No wonder ER is set there.

Red Sox: Yawkey Way is a carnival for ticketholders on game days. Lansdowne Street is a club mecca.
White Sox: Why, are you looking for trouble?

Red Sox: Reversed.
White Sox: Haven't won a postseason series since 1917.

That's all on page 3 of today's Boston Herald. Here are even more ways to tell the two Sox apart during this week's American League Division Series matchup, which begins shortly after 4 p.m. today in the Windy City.

Red Sox: Maintain classic home and away looks. Biggest recent change added red jerseys for certain home games.
White Sox: Change almost every year, it seems. Remember the shorts in 1976? How about the all-black ensembles that had Sweatiest Summer Ever written all over them? The softball unis? The sleveless numbers? We can go on and on and on...

Red Sox: We have an eighth-inning stretch, too -- "Sweet Caroline" - BA BA BA! Put on the rally caps for "Tessie." Celebrate the win with "Dirty Water." So good, so good, so good.
White Sox: Harry Caray started the singalong tradition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at Comiskey Park, but that legacy lives on at, where else, Wrigley! Which leaves the White Sox with what anthems of their own, exactly? "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Good Bye." Exactly.

Red Sox: We retired his number 27, named the left-field pole after him and his famous 1975 World Series homer and appropriately scheduled it for a Cincinnati Reds game this year. Oh, and he wears our cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.
White Sox: You retired his number 72, held a tribute day for him this Aug. 7, but scheduled it against the Seattle Mariners because you knew better than to do it during a Red Sox game.

Red Sox: We had him for two years, including one standout season in 2000, then knew enough to get rid of him.
White Sox: Keeps showing up on your roster like a bad penny.

Red Sox: Unnecessary, since every game is a sell-out.
White Sox: Often resort to giveaways and wacky promotions, from free T-shirts, caps and luggage tags to the infamous disco night in 1979.

Red Sox: Boston defined arena rock in the 1970s and 1980s. Its self-titled debut sold more than 17 million albums. Hits include "More Than A Feeling," "Rock 'n Roll Band," "Peace of Mind," and "Amanda."
White Sox: Chicago perenially underrated as a band, much like the city and the team, since the late 1960s. Biggest hits were soft-rock ballads by Peter Cetera, who since has been replaced by Jason Scheff -- best friend of Red Sox pitcher David Wells.

Red Sox: Our mayor mumbles. Thomas M. Menino, born in 1942, hardly opposed since taking office in 1993. Big Dig not his fault.
White Sox: Your mayor and everyone around him seems to be up for indictment. Richard M. Daley, born in 1942, hardly oppposed since taking office in 1989. But 13 of Mayor Daley's aides recently left in the wake of several scandals.

DENNIS DRINKWATER: A lot of people today are coming here looking for info about Dennis Drinkwater, Salem State grad and Giant Glass giant, who has the best seats at Fenway Park and sat next to Robert Redford on Friday night and Lorraine Bracco on Sunday afternoon. I sat with Drinkwater for the early part of a Red Sox home game in April for a story about "cell phone wavers," who continue to ruin the experiences of fans at games and at home. At any rate. Not sure what info you're looking for. Maybe if you left a comment I could help you. I do know that he is a member at Ipswich Country Club, which links him to my parents. But that's not what you wanted to know, was it?

I'M NOT A FEMALE CHAUVINIST PIG: That said, I thought Ariel Levy did a great job of pointing out how young women have embraced the "raunch culture," but wish she had answered the next question: Why did they embrace raunch? When I met with Levy a couple of weeks ago for a walk and chat in Boston's North End, she said that she merely wanted to start the discussion. "I don't have some big public works program," Levy told me. She said she just hoped to show how, in a most literal sense, the Emperor had no clothes in this form of 21st-century feminism. She sure did that. She also got a lot of people talking. Not all of them like what Levy wrote. I think raising the question is important enough. But I hope that as Levy goes on her book tour, she advances the discussion to explore how raunch became so mainstream, and what the culture and the media can do to temper it.

Paris Hilton went from heiress to sex-tape infamy to TV fame, commercial pitchwoman and now to a topless photo on the cover of Vanity Fair, claiming to be sexy but not sexual.
Jenna Jameson turned her career in porn into a best-selling memoir.
These are not good things, argues Ariel Levy, the New York magazine writer and author of Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture.
"People whose job it is to fake lust shouldn't be held up as our sexual role models,'' Levy told the Herald during her book-tour visit to Boston.
Yet Levy cited lots of evidence that today's young women have embraced stripper and porn-star culture.
Preteen girls buy thong underwear, their sisters give lap dances and oral sex to boys at high school parties, while young women compete for one bachelor on "harem-style'' TV shows. Girls Gone Wild, after several years, has become mainstream enough for headline writers to use the phrase.
When Levy followed the Girls Gone Wild camera crew on spring break, she found plenty of women willing to doff their tops, all for a T-shirt and the promise that their nudity might be seen by millions of people.
What happened to feminism?
"I don't think there was a single moment,'' Levy said. "A lot of this has to do with rebellion. Nobody wants to turn into her mother.''
Mothers of today's teens and 20-somethings grew up during serious feminist times, fighting for the right to attend top colleges and hold top jobs in the 1960s and '70s.
Levy said young women who adopt strippers and porn actresses as role models thinking it is a continuation of the women's movement don't realize that they're merely advancing the objectification of women.
Rachel Kramer Bussel, who writes the Lusty Lady sex column for The Village Voice, said "being raunchy is a quick and easy way for young women to get attention, and I'm sure many of them, especially the younger ones, don't necessarily get the full implications of their actions.''
But not everything about so-called raunch is bad, Bussel said.
"When I was little, my friends and I were dressing up as Madonna,'' she said. "We were singing 'Like a Virgin' and we loved Madonna, not necessarily because we wanted to be total sexpots, but because there was an allure to that imagery, that there was something fun and exciting about it. I think that's what a lot of young women are tapping into, and that part is not necessarily a bad thing. But how that message is taken and what women are told their bodies are good for can warp that very joyous feeling into something more sinister.''
The key, she said, is for parents to explain the positive and negative aspects of sexuality.
Levy's book is not the only one to point out how American attitudes toward sex and sexuality have changed in the past 20 years. Some authors and critics argue that culture is rebelling against Republican politics or sex-education policies that encourage abstinence.
Alecia Oleyourryk, editor of Boink - the sex magazine by and for Boston University students - said she believes Americans have become more European in dealing with topics that were once taboo and that women are taking more control of their own sexuality.
The third issue of Boink, published last week, displays naked men and women in both straight and gay settings.
"I think that women are recognizing what's been going on for a while, things that were misogynistic, owning them and letting them empower them in some way,'' Oleyourryk said.
On the other hand, she also acknowledged that repetitive imagery of women as objects in music videos and late-night shows - from Girls Gone Wild to The Man Show to The Howard Stern Show - might have altered expectations for girls.
"Nobody is shocked by something they are used to,'' she said.

Related: Raunch on the rise: Porn-star culture spurs young girls to sex it up, author says (Boston Herald)

Read Slate's three-day discussion about Levy's book and other tomes that talk about the pornification of America.

Related: Ariel Levy's official author page.

Here is the expanded e-mail dialogue between myself and Bussel...
Q: 1) Why do you think young women (not all, I know, but a good many) have embraced the raunch culture? 2) Is that a bad thing?

A: I think in part it’s a desire for attention. Being“raunchy” is a quick and easy way for young women to get attention, and I’m sure many of them, especially the younger ones, don’t necessarily get the full implications of their actions. I also think young men are just as shafted by the idea that they’re supposed to be “on” all the time – that they have to act in certain macho ways to get ahead. Whether it’s good or bad really depends. Certainly, there are extreme cases, but I think it’s not so simple to just say it’s all terrible. I don’t think the impulse to want to be looked at is terrible, but certainly girls and young women are becoming sexualized and sexually active at increasingly younger ages and the main problem is that they don’t necessarily know what it means or how their own pleasure fits in. I think everyone has some part of them that wants to be “raunchy” and that it can build one’s self-esteem, to play out that part of ourselves. Look at Britney Spears – she want from saying she’d be a virgin till she got married, to being all sexed out, and is now a mom. I’m not saying Britney should be anyone’s role model, just that people are more complex than one singular image. When I was little, my friends and I were dressing up as Madonna. We were singing “Like a Virgin” and we loved Madonna, not necessarily because we wanted to be total sexpots, but because there was an allure to that imagery, there was something fun and exciting about it. I think that’s what a lot of young women are tapping into, and that part is not necessarily a bad thing, but how that message is taken and what women are told their bodies are good for, can warp that very joyous feeling into something more sinister.

Q: 3) If so, how can society find some middle ground? Or 3a) Is this just a generational shift, which will likely shift back with the next round of kids?

A: I think parents definitely need to step up to theplate and be honest with kids. We can’t lie to them and say sex (or drugs) are pure evil, because the taboo is always going to be a strong pull. I think we need to show them the good and bad sides, the ways that being “sexy” is different than being sexually active, the ways to appreciate their bodies and themselves that do justice to all of who they are. I don’t know if it’s a generational shift or not, or what will happen, but in terms of finding a middle ground, perhaps women have been so bold in (re)claiming our sexual power because we haven’t really had the chance to before. Maybe some of this is an over-the-top way of making it known that women are sexual, too, and that once that’s recognized, it’ll be a little more balanced. I don’t think it’s fair or helpful, though, to simply characterize women who are publicly sexual as “chauvinist pigs.” I don’t think it’s necessarily the same, whether as an experience or in what it means, for a woman to get a lap dance. Women aren’t simply claiming “men’s space” or power, but are often transforming it with their own reactions, and with new eyes; we may look at the same images but feel totally differently. I don’t think the answer is to try to make women less publicly sexual, but to recognize that we are sexual AND so many other things. We shouldn’t have to be totally asexual to achieve power, and we shouldn’t be thought of as “less” (smart, strong, important) because we dare to stake a claim to our sexuality. I think there needs to be balance in how women are looked at, by men and by women, so that we don’t simply jump to these simplistic definitions and binaries.

Mama Bortone snaps a pic of Eliza Dushku with her boyfriend, Michael Bortone (right), and fellow Bortones at Wizard World Boston on Saturday. Posted by Picasa

MORE WITH ELIZA DUSHKU: Here is some more information from my day with Eliza Dushku and family on Saturday at Wizard World Boston, repackaged for easy reading.

Eliza Dushku doesn’t seem too broken up over the failure of her first TV starring vehicle, which FOX pulled the plug on before Tru Calling could wrap up all of the supernatural plot’s loose ends.
“I just bought my first house in L.A. thanks to Tru Calling,” Dushku said. “I have Max Factor and Coco Chanel (her two dogs, a golden retriever and chocolate lab/pit bull mix) who are waiting for me to come home.”
Even seeing other “I see dead people” shows such as Medium and The Ghost Whisperer rush onto the schedule doesn’t bother her.
“To be honest, I think everything happens for a reason. Tru Calling had some triumphs but Tru Calling also didn’t gel for some reason,” Dushku said. “I learned a lot. I carried the show.”
Plus, she said, she now has the freedom to pursue other opportunities, from a new film that begins shooting this week to an off-Broadway production, “Dog Sees God,” that begins rehearsals in early November.
The 24-year-old star came home this weekend (first-class airfare and Four Seasons stay paid for) to meet thousands of her fans at the Wizard World Boston convention. Signing autographs on Saturday, Dushku sat between her father, Philip, and her childhood friend, Suzanne, while her mother, Judy, and stepfather arrived later and sat behind her near longtime boyfriend Michael Bortone and his family.
Of all of the rumors she has heard, the one that made Dushku laugh most was the notion that she dated Ben Affleck and Matt Damon at the same time.
“That’s not a bad sandwich to be in!” she joked. “Sorry, honey.”
Bortone, who also attended Watertown High and played football there, is an aspiring actor who appears in a national TV ad for Progressive Insurance and is shopping his own TV pilot about gamblers that he said resembles “a junior Sopranos.”
Dushku doesn’t read the online fan sites and message boards about her, and lives happily away from the rumor mill.
“I stay out of the US Weeklies and the In Touches,” she said. “My life isn’t so scandalous away from the cameras.”
Instead, Dushku and her boyfriend visited with Manny and the Ramirez family on Friday afternoon, enjoying a tour of Manny’s penthouse of the Ritz before receiving primo treatment at Friday night’s Sox-Yankees game.
“We were hanging with Manny last night, so I think I gave him good luck,” Dushku said Saturday upon hearing of his two home-run blasts.
Yesterday, they sat in the box in Foxboro for the Pats-Chargers game.
Dushku said she hoped to catch a production at the “amazing” new Arsenal Center theater in Watertown and swing by local hang Demo’s before heading back to La La Land for work.

FUN WITH VIDEO: Here are two examples that have made their way around the Web to me, and now to you, too (not to be confused with U2, now back in Boston for another two nights).

Save the Lost dance for me...David LaChapelle directs a short music video with the Lost bunch.

The Shining as a new comedy? Believe it when you see it.

ELIZA DUSHKU WANTS TO BE WONDER WOMAN: You read it here first. Didn't you?

Here is my story, in today's Boston Herald, Wizard of awes: Fans Marvel at stars and more at Hub comics fest

Watertown native Eliza Dushku delighted fans yesterday when she said there was a Joss Whedon character she'd like to reprise even more than Faith, the action hero she played in TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.
"I hear Joss is doing this little movie called Wonder Woman. If he wants to call me up for that, I'd throw on the boots and the suit. I'd do that,'' Dushku said.
The 24-year-old actress already was wonderful in the eyes of thousands who turned up at Wizard World Boston, a pop-culture convention making its first-ever visit to the Hub. Fans waited in line for hours at the Bayside Expo Center to meet the expo's star attraction.
After taking her fiance's picture with Dushku, 28-year-old Amanda Jordan told Jim Butler, "You're engaged to me, not to her. You can't have her.''
Butler replied: "But she said I was cute.''
The Hadley couple bought some Buffy the Vampire Slayer action figures along with collectibles from Marvel Comics and Serenity. Meeting Dushku was "a happy coincidence,'' Jordan said. "We came for the action figures, but we were excited to find out she was here, too.''
For Dushku, the convention appearance meant a chance to come home and see family and childhood friends.
On Thursday, she said, she begins shooting a new movie, Nobel's Son. Next month, she starts rehearsals for an off-Broadway production, "Dog Sees God,'' that she calls exciting yet terrifying.
While a few souls attended the adjacent oddly timed "Red Sox Mania'' autograph show, thousands more soaked up the comic books, video games, anime, Star Wars costumes and more at Wizard World.
Pro wrestler Mick Foley has written seven books, but he said yesterday that most fans think of him for his exploits in the ring.
"It's a rarity when I see my novel at one of these things,'' Foley said.
He occupied a booth alongside Marvel Comics editor Joe Quesada, Kane Hodder (who played Jason in some Friday the 13th movies), Margot Kidder (Lois Lane in the Superman movies) and Lou Ferrigno (TV's Hulk).
Even Foley seemed amused by it all at an earlier show in Chicago.
"I went home and told everybody I sat next to Lois Lane,'' he said.
Wizard World Boston ends today.

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