popular thinking

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


Talked with Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes yesterday, the results of which appear in today's paper. Interestingly enough, for all of the promotion Wallace has done for his new memoir, "Between You and Me," he still wants to talk up the book more than anything else. He did chuckle, though, when I mentioned why the hilarious SNL skit of 20 years ago, featuring Harry Shearer as Mike Wallace and Martin Short as a corrupt jokemaker, wasn't included as a bonus feature on the book's companion DVD. Wallace does write about The Insider and seeing Christopher Plummer portray him, but doesn't mention the SNL parody. On the phone yesterday, he remembered that Shearer played him but couldn't recall if he had ever actually seen the skit. "Now I've got to get a copy," he told me.

Wallace also enjoyed hearing that Roger Mudd once taught a seminar at Princeton (Mudd's first attempt at teaching, which included me among his students in the fall of 1992 for a class on politics and the press. First class, all the way.) Wallace immediately recalled Mudd's infamous interview with Teddy Kennedy, in which Kennedy couldn't answer the question, "Why do you want to be president?"

If he had stayed on the phone longer, I would've quoted a passage from Wallace's own book, in which he wrote about Nancy Reagan's anger at being asked unpleasant questions without warning. "This, alas, is an all too familiar complaint: guests who happily appear on 60 Minutes to plug their latest book (or whatever) and then are angered when we stray from that subject and bring up matters they would prefer not to discuss." Those are Wallace's words. And that brings us to my interview...

Wallace talks about memorable chats (Boston Herald)
Mike Wallace has interviewed so many famous and infamous people during the past 50 years, and yet there are still some who have escaped grilling by the 60 Minutes stalwart.
Like President Bush.
Wallace, 87, said yesterday that White House adviser Karl Rove won’t let him anywhere near the president.
"I can’t understand why," Wallace said.
And then there is Tom Cruise.
"I would suggest to him," Wallace said, pausing to laugh, "I don’t think you’re going to print this - that he doesn’t know his ass from third base about depression, and medications and prescription drugs."
Wallace has been an outspoken supporter of psychotherapy and medications such as Zoloft to fight depression, putting him at odds with Cruise, who famously opposed all such medications in a Today Show interview earlier this year.
"I couldn’t believe it," Wallace said.
Wallace, a Brookline native, mentions his battles with depression in his latest memoir, Between You and Me, which chronicles his most memorable TV interviews with additional commentary and historical context.
The book includes a companion DVD.
Among the chats: Four U.S. presidents, five Middle Eastern leaders, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Louis Farrakhan, Eleanor Roosevelt, Frank Lloyd Wright, Johnny Carson and many more. All of them, Wallace said, sat down and talked "without the power of subpoena, without paying them." (NOTE: Wallace then added that he thinks the only interview his network paid for was H.R. Halderman, which he opposed doing)
He hopes his book helps document history for today’s youth.
Today, Wallace comes back to his childhood home in Brookline, a block away from the Kennedys, back to where he learned to play the fiddle from Kitty Dukakis’ father and see his neighbor serve as bat boy for the Boston Braves.
"It was a wonderful town to grow up in," Wallace said.

Mike Wallace talks about his new memoir, Between You and Me, tonight at 7:30 at Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center, 333 Nahanton St., Newton. Wallace also signs copies of the book tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. at Borders Books & Music, 10-24 School St., Boston.


I interviewed Thomas Mesereau over the holiday weekend, seeing as he is in town today to talk to Harvard Law students about his defense of Michael Jackson, and on the TV tonight as one of Barbara Walters' most fascinating people of the year. It's a positive piece. Mesereau continues to stick up for Jackson, and I let him, trying not to be one of those tabloid people he despises. Yesterday, though, I asked one of my editors to place odds on whether the words Wacko and/or Jacko would end up on the headline. Which naturally means...

Victorious lawyer still defending Wacko Jacko (Boston Herald)
Michael Jackson may be one of the most intriguing people in pop culture, but today, it’s his attorney who has the spotlight.
Thomas A. Mesereau Jr. appears in Cambridge this afternoon to tell Harvard Law School students about his experience defending the “King of Pop” on charges of child molestation and conspiracy in June. Tonight at 10, Barbara Walters interviews Mesereau as one of her “10 Most Fascinating People of 2005,” which airs on WCVB-TV (Ch. 5).
“I was extremely honored and just really surprised,” Mesereau said about making Walters’ list.
The 55-year-old criminal defense attorney spends most of his time setting the record straight about his most famous client.
“He is one of the most compassionate and kindhearted people I’ve ever met,” Mesereau said of Jackson. “And he is extremely honest about his life.”
Mesereau alleged that Court TV and many of the legal pundits who took to the airwaves hoped to profit from Jackson’s plight.
“Ironically, probably the most accurate reporting of all was the E! channel, despite the theatrical issues raised by the acting, which was somewhat ridiculous,” he said.
That includes the actor who portrayed Mesereau in E!’s nightly re-enactments of the Jackson trial. “What I saw of it was amusing. Particularly his wig,” Mesereau said.
On the subject of cameras in the courtroom, he supported them while serving as Robert Blake’s attorney during Blake’s preliminary hearings on murder charges, and opposed them for the Jackson case.
“In the Jackson case, I was against cameras in the courtroom because I sensed there was an effort to make this case a real circus,” Mesereau said. “Since then I have changed my opinion. I wouldn’t change it because we won. I think Michael Jackson’s reputation would’ve been helped if the public was able to see how bad these witnesses were for the prosecution.”

Limited seats are available for “The Trial of Michael Jackson,” with Thomas Mesereau and MSNBC’s Dan Abrams, at 5 p.m. today at Harvard Law School’s Ames Courtroom. E-mail saturday@law.harvard.edu or call 617-496-2054 to reserve a seat.


I'm all over today's Boston Herald, and in a post-Turkey Day haze, so for now, here are the links. Commentary to follow...enjoy!

Live, from Boston, it’s: Saturday Night Laughs
-- A look at the Hub's sketch and improv comedy scene.
-- Plus a list of other smaller troupes and groups working the Boston circuit.

Leary bids season’s bleatings
-- My weekly Jokers Wild column checks in with Denis Leary, who has a new Comedy Central special debuting Sunday called Denis Leary's Merry F#%$in’ Christmas.

Seize the weekend
-- Looking for things to do tonight, Saturday or Sunday? I've got your best bets right here.

I’ve got a golden ticket: A firsthand peak at Bruins’ $5G seats
-- What to expect if you sit in the new "bench seating" box at a Boston Bruins game.


Let’s roast these turkeys (Boston Herald)
This year, the entertainment world (and the news business) brought forth so many turkeys that we’re not sure we have room to roast, baste and deep-fry them all.
Then again, would it be Thanksgiving without stuffing?
So adjust that elastic waistband - let’s dig in. Gobble gobble!

Could it be anyone but Tom Cruise? Where to begin? Dear Tom. The couch-jumping, the Ritalin-bashing, the Katie Holmes-loving all seemed so surreal, we’re almost ready to forget it ever happened. But Tom Cruise won’t let us forget. Unless we sign up for “clearing” classes at the Church of Crazytown. Even then, we’ll be stumped as to how the virginal Holmes got knocked-up. And no, we’re not willing to consider the rational or the religious implications of that last sentence.

Let’s settle this once and for all. Cruise and Holmes are not to be called TomKat - they’re the Couple That Must Not Be Named. Celebrity couple names spiraled out of control this year. Sure, it was cute when Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez begat Bennifer, then Affleck and bride/mom-to-be Jennifer Garner begat Bennifer 2.0, but then someone decided that every couple needed a mash-up moniker - TomKat, Spederline, Brangelina, and horror of horrors, names for couples that are barely even couples. Vinnifer? Please.
Also in this category, TV “reality.”
Did we really deserve so much Gastineau, Gotti and Bonaduce in our lives? Did we need to know that our own Bobby Brown goes hunting for “dootie bubble”? Our apologies for repeating it.
Past “reality stars” refused to go away, turning up at Boston PR parties and on TV shows, including “Battle of the Network Reality Stars” and “Kill Reality.” You had us at “kill reality.”
Especially if it involves watching Fred Durst or Tom Sizemore in a sex tape. We’d rather have visions of dancing sugarplums.

People magazine continues to confuse us with its Sexiest Man issue. Matthew McConaughey? Wasn’t his naked bongo routine so last millennium? Anyhow, whatever happened to last year’s sexiest guy, Jude Law? Oh, that’s right. He shagged the nanny. In front of his kids. How sexy.
Michael Jackson, not guilty on all charges.
The new Boston Common magazine announced its hipness by putting wrinkled rocker Steven Tyler on its debut cover. Not to be outdone, Boston magazine put a drawn-on Tyler on its cover the same month. Have we no new celebrities?

How does one top leaving his previous baby mama for Britney Spears and a free engagement ring? How about producing and directing “Chaotic” with his blushing bride? Or there’s the awful wardrobe (wife-beater undershirt plus flannel plus cargo shorts plus tube socks plus sandals plus tilted cap plus cigarette plus Cheetos equals STOP IT!), the silly cornrows and the futile attempt at rapping. And you had to name your son Sean? Thanks a lot, Kevin.
Then there’s poor Chesney. First you find your attempt at wedded bliss with Renee Zellweger goes astray, and then you can’t figure out a way to explain the annulment without getting goosed by the gossiphounds. And then when you get your own TV special last night on ABC, NBC counters with Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, the picture-perfect married couple.

Shame, shame, shame.
Politics collided with show business throughout the year. Sean Penn, meet Geraldo Rivera. Kanye West, meet George W. Bush. Mercer Hotel desk clerk, meet Russell Crowe’s hotel phone.
Sean Combs changed his name, again, and ruined the MTV Video Music Awards for the entire MTV Generation.
Speaking of MTV, they also found a way to botch coverage of the stellar multi-continent concert called Live 8.
Sony got caught putting spyware on its new CDs. American Idol got caught fooling around with its voting procedures, while Paula Abdul may or may not have been caught fooling around with a former “Idol” finalist.

That’s why we’ll tell you that TV creators shouldn’t let the hype go to their heads and forget to write watchable episodes of the shows that made them such superstars in the first place - that means you, Desperate Housewives, and you, too, The O.C.
The U.S. version of OK! magazine has become best known for its paid exclusives, which entitles us to such dreck as the inner world of Star Jones, which leads us to Star Jones. If we have to watch her conduct one more red carpet interview, God help us, we’ll stuff her face with turkey ourselves.


Here’s what the big kids want (Boston Herald)
Anyone can tell you to buy the new Microsoft Xbox 360, which debuts today. Or, if you want an iPod, you have several models to choose from now, and several more to choose from if you wait another - oh, wait, Apple just announced another new version of its popular portable mp3 player.
But there are other gadgets to consider this holiday season.

Electric Footwear Dryers ($39.50) - Available in red or blue, these aluminum gizmos slip into your soggy shoes after you’ve slushed around town (or the driveway), emitting 8 watts of warm air that both dries shoes and zaps bacteria, so your shoes don’t stink later. Available at www.wishingfish.com

Fly Pentop Computer ($99.99) - Initially marketed for those ages 8 to 14, this pen interacts with accompanying LeapFrog-made paper as a PDA without the screen. Write down your schedule and the pen will give you audio reminders. Draw a piano and the pen will let you play and record music with it. Go to www.flypentop.com

iRobot Scooba ($399.99) - From the folks who brought you Roomba, here comes Scooba, the floor-washing robot. Fill the tank with nonbleach Clorox solution, press the clean button and watch it wash and dry the floors. Limited quantities available online at www.irobot.com

Keychain Digital Camera ($19.99) - Philips makes this stocking stuffer, dubbed ”the world’s smallest digital camera” at 2.25 inches by .75 inches by 1.5 inches. Stores as many as 81 pics with 2MB memory. Also can serve as a Web cam or video camera. Available at the Discovery Store.

LighTalk LED Scanner ($39.99) - Draw within an area of 4 inches by 7 inches, scan the image with this gizmo, then wave the scanner back and forth in the air and presto change-o, your drawing appears in glowing orange LED display. Go to www.thinkgeek.com

Logitech Wireless iPod Headphones ($149.99) - Of all the iPod gadgetry that’s out there, these wireless iPod headphones, using Bluetooth technology, make the most sense. This will make you stand out from the grey earbud crowd. Available at most retailers. Go to www.logitech.com

Nabaztag ($114) - The French (the French!) are responsible for this WiFi white rabbit that glows in different colors, wiggles its ears and can tell you the weather or alert you to incoming e-mail, all in English. Go to www.nabaztag.com

Podcast Factory ($180) - For those of you who don’t already have a microphone, mp3 voice recorder and compatible software, this package from M-Audio bundles it all together to simplify the process of launching your own online broadcast network. Go to www.m-audio.com

Slingbox ($250) - Watch your home TV programming from anywhere else in the world using this revolutionary device. It looks like candy and it’s the sweetest gizmo we’ve ever seen. Go to www.slingmedia.com

TV-B-Gone ($15.99) - As simple as it sounds. Point this little remote control device at an annoying TV tube and watch it go black. Not recommended in sports bars. Go to www.tvbgone.com


Don't know why I haven't seen more written about this tidbit of information from last week, so I guess it's up to me to point out these revelations in the shift to online newspaper reading. Namely, that Boston.com, the site operated by the Boston Globe, has the dubious distinction of being the only top online newspaper site to lose readers in the past year. Read the press release for yourself. At first glance, you're impressed to see that Boston.com has enough reach to rank as the 6th most-visited newspaper site (behind only www.nytimes.com, www.usatoday.com, www.washingtonpost.com, www.latimes.com, and www.sfgate.com). They're all adding readers -- and the industry as a whole (which includes www.bostonherald.com) gained 11 percent. So what made people shy away from Boston.com? Was it the required registration? Are they going to a different Boston-based news site? You'd better believe the folks at Morrissey Boulevard are trying to find out the answers (when they're not busy going through the throes of buyout agony that rode through the Herald newsroom this spring).

Sarah Silverman checks her rack out during our interview in Boston a couple of weeks ago. Posted by Picasa


Yeah, yeah, you've read a whole lot of media love for comedian Sarah Silverman this month as her film, Jesus Is Magic, (trailer on this link is NSFW) opened in cinemas. Lots of reporters saying the same thing and quoting the same jokes. Not this joker. At least I get Sarah to open up about different things and say new witty things. And I remembered to record some of it for online posterity. Read on, and click the Boston Herald headline link for access to audio clips and a photo gallery.

Hear me ask Sarah about why she doesn't own her own domain name: 'I know I should.'

'Jesus' is saving Silverman’s irreverent humor for posterity (Boston Herald)
Sarah Silverman is sweet and endearing offstage.
That makes her taboo-crossing humor that much more powerful onstage and onscreen - a formula that has drawn comparisons to Lenny Bruce and Larry David.
But the 34-year-old comedian and actress from Bedford, N.H., doesn’t get the latter reference.
“I don’t really see myself in any way like Larry David, except that I let myself be unlikable,” Silverman said.
Even then, she does so with a sly smile.
“I’ll tickle your back until you fall asleep while I’m feeding you these horrible things,” she said. “I’ll give you a nice warm sponge bath while talking about black people and Mexicans and rape.”
All of those topics - plus the Holocaust, AIDS, Sept. 11, 2001, and her infamous Asian joke that prompted an apology from Conan O’Brien - get covered in her new movie, Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic, which played to a soldout audience earlier this month as part of the Boston Jewish Film Festival. It opens officially in Boston on Friday.
One of Silverman’s older sisters, Susan, is a local rabbi.
Sarah Silverman, however, left New Hampshire for New York City after high school and soon embarked on her comedy career, getting her first, albeit brief, big break on Saturday Night Live.
Since the mid-1990s, she has cultivated a cult-like following, especially among comedians who wish they had the courage to write and deliver material like hers.
Earlier this year, she turned The Aristocrats joke inside-out. Film critics applauded her for it. She also appears briefly in the film adapatation of Rent (opening Wednesday). Silverman is developing her own half-hour show for Comedy Central, and many publications tout this as her moment to break out to mainstream success.
Silverman isn’t exactly holding her breath.
“I was always a button-pusher growing up,” she said. “But when you start doing standup, it takes years to kind of become yourself or find those best things about yourself comedically onstage. I’m certainly not myself onstage. But I am. I am, in that it’s me talking, it’s the way I talk, it’s the way I move. And those are things that are hard to finally get to. And to continue as I change, once I get old and become a Republican, my material will change and I’ll have to do ads for whatever Dennis Miller does ads for these days.”
But first, a musical number.
To some, the most surprising aspect of Jesus Is Magic is the revelation that Silverman has singing chops, displayed in several musical numbers.
“It was just fun. It was so fun,” she said. “I love musicals, although they’re a little cheesy. Although some are really good. I just saw ‘Wicked.’ That was so good. And ‘Spamalot.’ But I’m a total theater fag, and I don’t mean that in a derogatory homosexual way, but in an, I, too, am a fag for theater. No, wait. That’s still bad.”
The British meaning, perhaps?
“I’m a cigarette for theater,” she said. “See, theater’s smokin’!”
And so is she.

Say hello to Robby Roadsteamer. Posted by Picasa


Ha! Just ask the comedian/musician, as I did.

When VH1’s "Best Week Ever" writers looked for a way to make fun of Kevin Federline’s aspiring rap career, they linked to Robby Roadsteamer’s online music video "I Put a Baby in You!"
But don’t expect Roadsteamer to claim this is his best week ever.
"Every week is the best week ever," he said. "I’m blessed. I have the best band in Boston. I have the best body in Boston."
And the women.
"Look at this month alone. We cut our first album, which will be out through Mass Appeal. We’re putting out our first DVD. I’m doing WBCN (104.1 FM). I’m doing the Middle East downstairs New Year’s Eve with my band. All I have to do is blink at a girl and I’m at third base.
"I used to have to take girls to Hilltop . . . now I can go to Arby’s."
No one ever accused Roadsteamer, who put the rumble in this year’s WBCN Rock ’N’ Roll Rumble, of being a nice guy.
He antagonizes both his audience and his keyboard player, Nick D’Amico, while belting out tunes with a growling swagger.
"I’m the type of guy, I walk into a room . . . I’m not leaving unless I’m working somebody’s windpipe or I’ve gotten some girl pregnant," Roadsteamer said. "Johnny Cash went to some prison with a bunch of guards to protect him? I once performed a show in a VFW hall in Chicopee, Mass. You talk about a show that should be put on record."
Roadsteamer performs this weekend with only D’Amico as musical accompaniment, then next weekend with the full band at the Middle East downstairs for a Hurricane Katrina benefit.
He prefers solo work "because I keep all the money."
"Everybody wants to bring up their stupid ideas with their stupid instruments," he said. "The audience doesn’t care. They just want to see my body. The guys could play the wrong chords with chocolate guitars. It doesn’t matter. It’s all about me."
Which means Thanksgiving in the Roadsteamer household won’t be all gravy.
"There’s a lot of awkward eye contact at the dinner table," he said. "My uncle wants to talk about why I’ve got a tattoo of myself on my chest. I want to talk about why I didn’t get to have a dog when I was a kid."
Roadsteamer has other plans.
"I think Thanksgiving, I’m just going to be bulking up, working on the Soloflex, making sure I look good for (the show)," he said.

Robby Roadsteamer, tonight and tomorrow at The Comedy Studio, 1236 Massachusetts Ave., Harvard Square, Cambridge. 8 p.m. Tickets: $10; 617-661-6507. For more Roadsteamer, go to www.roadsteamer.com


The fourth installment, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, should do gangbusters business at the box office -- that pretty much goes without saying, even though I just said it. My first impression was good, although I wasn't sure it measured up to the third movie. Then I saw "Azkaban" again this week on HBO, and I started to change my mind. Mike Newell did a great job on this film. The Brit puts more of that trademark Brit humor into the story, to an extent that it's surprising how funny the movie is when everything else about the plot is so, so doom and gloom. Perhaps that's why you needed the funny. Regardless, it's worth looking back at all four Harry Potter flicks to see how they fare in comparison to the books.

Directors bring own magic to Potter films (Boston Herald)
With each successive Harry Potter movie, it seems Hollywood and its directors are finding new and inventive ways to make J.K. Rowling’s books come alive on the big screen.
All four film adaptations come from Rowling’s source material and screenplays by Steven Kloves. Yet three different directors have chosen increasingly more creative interpretations of those words - capped by the debut of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
In the first two installments, director Chris Columbus played it so by-the-book that fans not only could count on seeing everything they’d read in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but they also could follow along with their books if they cared to do so.
Those films moved glacially.
For Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, director Alfonso Cuaron finally found the fantasy in the wizard’s world.
Scenes in both Muggle Britain and Hogwarts Britain captured the otherworldly quality of Harry’s life, while at the same time recognizing that you didn’t need to stop the movie every time something magical happened.
Cuaron breezed through the first 30 pages of Rowling’s text in five minutes. He later cut nonessential characters and scenes.
But he also added a sense of dark whimsy that enhanced audience enjoyment of the film without detracting from the plot.
In Goblet of Fire, director Mike Newell had his hands full condensing Rowling’s bloated 734-page book and Kloves’ screenplay into 2 hours.
Newell’s choices, though, make perfect sense.
Do we really need to see the Dursleys again? Or any Muggles, for that matter? Do we really need to see another Quidditch match? Does it matter who wins?
And do we really need to be reminded of house elves such as Dobby (Rowling’s insufferable version of Jar Jar Binks)?
No, no - five times no.
Instead, Newell builds upon Cuaron’s creative vision and focuses on the most essential parts of the book - the Triwizard Tournament and the impending rise of Lord Voldemort.
Newell’s adaptation is dark and foreboding throughout, although he imbues the film with even more cheeky British humor and nods to thecoming-of-age for Harry, Ron and Hermione. Thus, the Beauxbatons become an all-girls legion and the Durmstrang gang all boys, giving them more surprising and entrancing entrances to the picture.
And the film gets its most mischievous fun out of the Weasley twins, Fred and George, in a way that Rowling never could produce with her adverb-laden dialogue.


The last time Al Franken was in Boston - Election Day 2004 - he and his Air America Radio crew were all set to celebrate with the Kerry-Edwards campaign.
That didn’t turn out so well. But the setting provided an apt way to open Franken’s new book, “The Truth (With Jokes),” in which he continues to bash the Bush administration and the Republican right in print as he does on the air.
Franken returns to the Hub on Tuesday for a live broadcast of “The Al Franken Show,” heard locally on WKOX-AM (1200) and WXKS-AM (1430) from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays, followed by a nighttime book signing at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge.
Is coming back bittersweet?
“No,” Franken said on the phone from New York City. “Just bitter.”
But the news isn’t all bad for the Harvard-educated satirist.
His opening hour is the most listened-to period on WKOX, and he continues to gain ground on his nemesis, Rush Limbaugh, among male listeners between 25 and 54.
“A lot of people come up to me and say I make them feel better, so they don’t feel alone,” Franken said. “I think now, actually now, I’m hearing from some Republicans who are listening to us and switching over.”
He is somewhat amazed by the GOP’s ability to have all their pundits and spokespeople say the same daily message points.
“I know that they’re proud of it,” he said. “I don’t know that I’d consider it something to be proud of. We’d like to be more unified in getting out our message and being more disciplined. But maybe Democrats cannot do that.”
Few, certainly, are willing to make jabs like this one on gay marriage in Franken’s book: “George W. Bush wants to amend our Constitution to make it illegal for gays to marry. But evidently, he has no problem with terrorists getting married. America can’t afford a president who is soft on terrorist marriage. Because unlike gays, terrorists can breed.”
Indicted Vice Presidential chief of staff “Scooter” Libby, a recent talk-radio subject, has a book out, too. Franken hasn’t read it.
“I don’t know,” Franken said. “I hear it’s a good book. Who am I to discredit another author?”
Well, what about Limbaugh?
“Uh, yeah. But he’s just awful,” Franken said.
Franken loves having three hours daily to express his political philosophy and bring a liberal approach to talk radio.
More Americans, though, talk about TV shows than politics.
“It’s shocking how little political literacy there is in this country,” Franken said.
He is supporting grassroots-level organizations that train activists, candidates and campaign managers - some of whom may be enlisted to help Franken run for the U.S. Senate in his native Minnesota. He’ll move back full-time early next year and broadcast his show from a Twin Cities studio.

Al Franken broadcasts live Tuesday from noon to 3 p.m. at the Wilbur Theatre, Boston. Free tickets at www.bostonsprogressivetalk.com. Franken signs copies of his book Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Charles Hotel, Cambridge. Limited free tickets through the Harvard Coop.


Wrestling fans pay homage to Eddie Guerrero (Boston Herald)
Fans from around the world are mourning the death of World Wrestling Entertainment star Eduardo “Eddie” Guerrero.
WWE champ and West Newbury native John Cena told the crowd during last night’s episode of “Monday Night Raw” that “Eddie was a man of faith, but selfishly, we’ll all miss him.”
USA Network’s “Raw” and UPN’s “Friday Night SmackDown” both pay tribute to the 38-year-old Guerrero, who was found dead in his Minneapolis hotel room Sunday morning before the taping of both shows.
His cause of death remains unknown. A private funeral is planned for Thursday in Scottsdale, Ariz., where Guerrero recently moved with his wife and three daughters.
Born into a wrestling family from El Paso, Guerrero became the WWE’s first Mexican-American champ and won over fans with his winning smile even as he performed as a “heel” who worked under the motto of “lie, cheat and steal.”
Fans from Mexico, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and even New Zealand posted to online sites yesterday to honor him.
Last night’s “Raw” on USA included video clips of Guerrero and interviews with wrestlers. “Friday Night SmackDown” on UPN (Ch. 38) will include an appearance by Guerrero’s trademark low-rider car and a bout featuring his nephew, Chavo.
The younger Guerrero said his uncle was celebrating four years of sobriety this week and inspired fans with his recovery.
UPN aired a special last year on Guerrero’s tumultuous life titled, “Cheating Death, Stealing Life: The Eddie Guerrero Story.”


Actors get in sync with musicals (Boston Herald)
In Walk the Line, a biography of Johnny Cash opening in theaters Friday, stars Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon make the brave - some would say foolhardy - decision to sing.
Do they hit the right notes? You’ll decide soon enough.
Some actors, however, do have an uncanny ability to portray singers onscreen. Jamie Foxx proved that last year in his Oscar-winning performance in Ray as the late Ray Charles. Foxx chose an odd way to go, lip-syncing the vocals but playing the piano parts himself.
Most actors go all or nothing.
Not that it should surprise anyone, but Curtis Jackson (50 Cent) raps as the fictional version of himself in Get Rich or Die Tryin.’ Sounds just like him, too.
That’s not the case for Walk the Line. An actual Johnny and June duet plays over the end credits, reminding you of Phoenix and Witherspoon’s shortcomings.
Actors Tyler Hilton (as Elvis Presley), Waylon Payne (as Jerry Lee Lewis), Johnathan Rice (as Roy Orbison) and Shooter Jennings (as his father, Waylon) also sing for their proverbial suppers in the movie.
None of the performances will make you forget the original hits.
But they don’t detract from your enjoyment of the movie or admiration for the real people, either.
The same cannot be said for some past musical biographies, which met with varying degrees of success.

Beyond the Sea (2004): Kevin Spacey channels Bobby Darin. We saw it coming when Spacey performed a John Lennon cover at a televised benefit concert a couple of years ago. But audiences would want to see Lennon’s life retold onscreen. Darin’s? Not so much. “Mack the Knife” couldn’t cut it.

8 Mile (2002): Eminem loses himself in the role of Rabbit, who was based on Eminem. Like Get Rich or Die Tryin,’ only more believable. Which shouldn’t make as much sense as it does, until you watch both movies.

Selena (1997): Jennifer Lopez got her first starring role as Tejano sensation Selena Quintanilla-Perez. This was before J.Lo, two divorces, the dalliances with Sean Combs and Ben Affleck, and her own singing career. Selena’s family demanded Lopez lip-sync. If only Marc Anthony had such pull.

What’s Love Got to Do With It (1993): Angela Bassett spins as Tina Turner in an Oscar-nominated performance. Bassett lip-synced. We’d write something snarky, but Ike might be reading this.

The Doors (1991): Val Kilmer as the Lizard King, Jim Morrison. Kilmer sang in the 1984 spy spoof “Top Secret!” So why not here? The movie blends both Kilmer’s and Morrison’s vocals. Oliver Stone directed, so start your conspiracy theories now.

Great Balls of Fire! (1989): Dennis Quaid as piano-playing, cousin-marrying Jerry Lee Lewis. Quaid wrote songs for several of his films, singing some in 1987’s “The Big Easy.” But Quaid lip-synced here. And we all know the track record of actual musicians who have dated Winona Ryder. Goodness gracious, indeed.

La Bamba (1987): Lou Diamond Phillips as Ritchie Valens. It got the song stuck in everyone’s head and ended up doing much more for the career of Los Lobos, the band that performed the songs for the soundtrack, than for Phillips.

Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980): Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn and Beverly D’Angelo as Patsy Cline did their own singing, and it turned out to be much less frightening than Spacek’s earlier turn as “Carrie.” She won the Best Actress Oscar and also received a Grammy nomination for Best Country Vocal Performance.


Polly Walker exposed to history in ‘Rome’ (Boston Herald)
When we first saw Atia of the Julii, Julius Caesar’s scheming niece on HBO’s Rome (tonight at 9), she was riding some Roman tradesman while servants tended to her nonsexual needs. Soon thereafter, we saw her naked in a bath, talking to her son (the once and future Augustus Caesar), then taking part in a bloody sacrifice ritual.
Actress Polly Walker is nothing like Atia, of course.
But Walker certainly has enjoyed seeing how American and British audiences have reacted to her character and the HBO-BBC production. The first-season finale airs Nov. 20 on HBO. In Britain, “Rome” debuted Nov. 2.
“It’s been quite weird, actually,” Walker said during a telephone interview from her London home. “Friends really love it. But I don’t know what it is about England. They get caught up with historical accuracy. It’s just entertainment. It’s just a soap. Does it matter?”
Consider that a rhetorical question. Caesar, Brutus, Mark Antony, Cleopatra, Cato, Cicero - the gang’s all here.
But Atia is the breakout star - the Roman you didn’t remember from the history books but most certainly recall after the show airs each Sunday night.
Already, viewers have seen Atia break up her daughter’s marriage (and have her husband killed), present her daughter as an unsuccessful gift to Pompey, and engage in several sex scenes herself, including a continued dalliance with Marc Antony. In a recent episode, Atia found out her own children had an incestual encounter, too.
“They’re quite caught up on the whole sex part of it,” Walker said of British viewers. “They were worried about it and shocked that it’s not on late enough. There’s much, much worse on TV that nobody says anything about. So I don’t understand the furor of seeing some bosoms. But there you go. Americans have been much less puritanical about it.”
Walker, 39, said producers have given her “total” leeway in sculpting her portrayal of Atia.
“And I was vaguely concerned about that,” she said. “I’ve never let loose like that. Is that good? Is that bad? Should I be worried?”
So far, bad is good.
Walker relies on the crew to make sure her look remains true to ancient Rome, but otherwise, she has had to craft Atia from scratch because most books gloss over the women of the era.
“I didn’t want her to be an out-and-out monster, which is hard to do because of what she does at times,” Walker said. “I feel terribly sorry for her. She has no husband. She has these two kids. But she’s trying to do her best to survive and not be a victim of all these men and their intrigues.”
She thinks Atia, deep down, is ruled by her vulnerability.
“She wants love, Atia, believe it or not,” Walker said. “And people misread her and misinterpret her.”
Walker’s own children, ages 5 and 12, aren’t going to be watching “Rome” anytime soon, nor will they be subjected to Atia’s parenting techniques.
“God, I’d be locked up if I behaved like that in real life,” she said.
Despite the historical nature of the show, Walker hasn’t looked into Atia’s true destiny.
“No, maybe I should have,” she said. “I figured she’d make so many enemies, she’d have to die a gruesome death.”
Although several characters don’t survive the first season, rest assured Atia will return.
The second season doesn’t begin filming until next year. “Not quite sure when,” Walker said.
At least that will allow time for her TV son, played by 16-year-old Max Pirkis, to age into his emerging role as the future Augustus.
“It’ll allow him to have more gravity,” Walker said.
The show already has covered several years in Roman history. But Atia hasn’t aged one bit.
“I know,” Walker said. “I have it written into my contract. There’s going to be no latex. There’s going to be no gray hair.”


Very brave of Mr. Curtis Jackson (50 Cent) to do all the rapping and singing himself for the movie, don't you think? Nah, just kidding, fitty. We enjoy seeing Joy Bryant again -- girl, you've come a long way from the Milliken common room. Just saying. Also, tell your agent to get you a part where you can actually stretch yourself a bit and show everyone your chops. We'd like to see more of you than just these love interest/best friend supporting roles.

Silliest question on 50's press tour this week came this morning on The View (don't ask me how I happened to catch this), in which the women asked him how he can make sure his 9-year-old son doesn't follow in daddy's footsteps. Well, moving from NYC to a 50-room house in Farmington, Conn., might do it. I grew up in the Farmington Valley, and people, there ain't no trouble to found up in them thar hills. If anything, Mr. Curtis Jackson will have to worry about his son getting bored to death.


Looking for something to do around Boston? Try these ideas on for size.


And again, and again, and again.

Neely is at 'Home' in roomful of comics (Boston Herald)
Every fall, Bruins great Cam Neely brings some of the Hub’s funniest comedians onstage for Comics Come Home, with Denis Leary hosting his benefit for the Cam Neely Foundation for Cancer Care at Tufts-New England Medical Center.
Only now, Neely is a Hall of Famer.
Does Leary, who spoke at Neely’s induction ceremony earlier this week, have anything up his sleeve to commemorate the occasion here? "Not as far as I know,” Neely said, already chuckling at the notion.
"You know, I never know year to year,” he said. "I choose to do it that way so I’m just as surprised as anyone else.”
What makes Neely laugh?
"Anything from Don Gavin, where you really have to pay attention to what he’s saying, to a guy like Kenny Rogerson. He did a bit on the French and Lance Armstrong at Denis’ charity benefit on the Cape that was phenomenal. It was so hilarious. I don’t want to spoil it, but I hope he does it again,” he said.
"Obviously, Steve Sweeney, with the way he nails the different characters in Boston. Anything you can laugh about is generally my kind of humor.”
Does Neely get embarrassed anymore by what the comics might say about him?
"I certainly hope they’ve covered all the bases, in that regard,” he said. "But you never know with these guys.”
Any silly memories from past Comics Come Home?
"One year, when Dane Cook came out and had these sweat pants on, he ripped them off. It had snaps on the side. It caught everyone by surprise,” Neely said. "Another time, they had Bucky Dent show up. It was a year . . . where the stage looked like the Green Monster. That caught Denis big-time by surprise. He handled it well, though. His typical Bucky (bleepin’) Dent.”
So, hanging around with Leary and the other comics all these years has made Neely that much funnier, right?
"Um, no,” Neely said. "I learned a long time ago to try to not compete with their kind of humor.”

Comics Come Home XI, with Denis Leary, Lenny Clarke and other comics, 8 p.m. tomorrow at Agganis Arena, 925 Commonwealth Ave., Boston. Tickets, $30-$150, available via Ticketmaster. Or go to www.camneelyfoundation.org


Capitol, EMI give Web a chance at Lennon’s solo work (Boston Herald)
Imagine all the people who can download John Lennon songs now.
Capitol Records and EMI Music just began offering ”Working Class Hero: The Definitive Lennon,” a new 38-song retrospective of Lennon’s solo work, as a digital download this week through Napster, MSN, Rhapsody and Yahoo! Unlimited.
The rest of his non-Beatles music is slated to turn up online Dec. 6.
”I am very happy that John’s music is now available to a new generation of music fans,” Yoko Ono said in a prepared statement. ”New technology is something he always embraced and this is something he would have loved.”
The Beatles have remained the most important holdout in the conversion from physical retail record sales to online.
”This is a milestone in the sense that some of the crankier parties are coming to terms with technology,” said Newbury Comics chief Mike Dreese.
Dreese, who wrote his thesis on the poetry in John Lennon’s ”Imagine” album and calls the late Beatle ”my working class hero,” believes the music industry is still in the beginning stages of adapting to the online world.
Josh Bernoff, Forrester Research analyst and vice president, said it’s only a matter of time before all music gets sold digitally.
”Any artist who doesn’t buy into that is inviting people to pirate them,” Bernoff said. ”It’s not like this technology needs to be proven.”
Some artists, including the Rolling Stones and Madonna, only recently joined the online music market through exclusive arrangements with Rhapsody and iTunes.
”You have to wonder, if Lennon were alive, whether this would have happened sooner or would have happened later,” Bernoff said.
Nearly 25 years after his murder on Dec. 8, 1980, Lennon’s solo recordings and his work with the Beatles continue to sell strongly. And Paul McCartney is performing to sold-out arenas this fall.
”That’s the beauty of this,” Bernoff said. ”Now here’s another format that they’re going to make millions off of.”
But one online retailer isn’t celebrating this Beatles breakthrough: Apple’s iTunes. The Fab Four’s former record label, also known as Apple, has gone to court in a dispute with the computer company over use of the Apple name in music.
The only Beatles-related content you’ll find on iTunes remains Ringo Starr’s solo work and McCartney’s Live 8 performances, duets with Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, an NPR interview and audiobooks about the band.


Talk about burying the lede. Reading the Globe's Ed Siegel rip apart Charles Ross' One-Man Star Wars Trilogy, you'd think that Siegel doesn't even know or like the original movies on which the show is based. Which is exactly true, only you find that out more than halfway through Siegel's review. Only in his final paragraph does he recognize that Ross' show has a specific target demographic. Still, I find it highly amusing that the Globe chose to send a non-Star Wars person to an all-Star Wars show. Here was my take on last night's Boston debut...(more info on the show's run here)

Ross fights ‘Star Wars Trilogy’ all by himself (Boston Herald)
The Force is strong with Charles Ross.
It has to be. Ross’ hourlong tour through the “Star Wars” trilogy captures our culture’s hold on the movies in a whirling dervish of amazing execution.
The 31-year-old Canadian said he has seen 1977’s “Episode IV: A New Hope” more than 400 times.
Audience members need not equal Ross’ feat to appreciate how he manages to condense “Star Wars: A New Hope,” “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi” without losing any of its magic.
The crowd, which last night included families, couples, college students, “Star Wars” buffs and even costumed members of the 501st New England Garrison, a local fan society, cheered Ross loudly and often.
The movie score plays beforehand, setting the mood. But when the curtain rises, it’s Ross and only Ross for the next hour: He provides all of the dialogue, sound effects and musical cues himself, without props or costume changes and only minimal lighting.
From the opening drums and horns of 20th Century Fox, through the “big yellow words” all the way to the victory dance with the Ewoks, Ross takes just enough time between episodes to grab a drink of water.
Ross does slow down the action at times. That’s as necessary for his own pacing as it is for the audience to keep up. Fans may quibble about missing out on their favorite scene or line – last night, for instance, Ross skipped over Yoda’s signature “Do or do not, there is no try” line.
But finding holes in the performance overlooks just how extraordinary Ross’ achievement is. Vocal impersonations aren’t spot-on, but Ross’ tone, delivery and wording all are pitch-perfect.
And his small nuances and asides all hit home, whether you live in Boston or on Tatooine.

But the Globe buried the lede yesterday, too, in its story on the latest newspaper circulation reports. Its story focuses so much on Herald bulk sales that 1) it tries to downplay its own circulation declines, and 2) it fuzzes the whole math on bulk sales. In my math class, percentages only mean something in the context of what the figure is a percentage of...in this instance, 19 percent of Herald circulation (230,543) and 7 percent of Globe circulation (414,225) aren't as far off as the Globe would have you believe. In fact, the bulk-sale averages are 43,803 and 28,995 - a difference of some 15,000 copies. Of course, my paper struck back today with a story on how other metro dailies, including Globe's owners at The New York Times, rely on bulk.

Such is life in a multi-newspaper town. Gotta love it. Because that means others, such as Dan Kennedy, can weigh in on the matter, along with the Phoenix's Mark Jurkowitz.


Most will interpret today's FAS-FAX circulation reports for daily newspapers and say the end is near. Well, maybe so, maybe not. But to look at all the negative numbers among the top 20 and write the obit for newspapers is well, premature. The main reason so many papers dropped circulation during the reporting period? The Audit Bureau of Circulations remembered the "audit" part in its name and got tougher in what leeway it gave companies in reporting their daily distributions. Note how three of the "top 20" dailies aren't even listed because they misbehaved last year. The old counts for many papers were artificially inflated, so it shouldn't surprise anyone to see these declines. Of course, the long-term outlook remains dubious for any newspaper that doesn't adapt to its readership -- which more and more is getting its news for free, either online or from free dailies. People will still buy or subscribe to a newspaper (heck, they certainly still subscribe to magazines even though their content is available online via other outlets), but you need to keep giving them reasons to do so.

New England Patriots cheerleader Melinda McGrath, shown in a recent issue of Muscle & Fitness magazine. Posted by Picasa

New England Patriots cheerleader Melinda McGrath, shown earlier this season at Gillette Stadium. Posted by Picasa


That is the question I posed to the squad that root, root, roots for the New England Patriots earlier this fall at their unveiling of the 2006 Pats cheerleaders calendar. And this is the resulting story, in today's Boston Herald:

Since Sept. 11, 2001 the New England Patriots have won three of four Super Bowls, and the team’s cheerleaders have enjoyed a similar wave of success.
Multiple overseas USO tours to support the troops.
TV ads for Pepsi, Coors Light, ESPN and Visa.
Magazine spreads in Maxim, FHM, Playboy, Muscle & Fitness, among others.
And, of course, a lot of regular prime-time exposure on featured “Monday Night Football” games, including tonight’s home game against the Indianapolis Colts.
But is that enough to get the Patriots cheerleaders national recognition?
“I think we do already,” said squad director and choreographer Tracy Sormanti. “We’ve been to Florida. We’ve been to Texas. We’ve been everywhere.”
That includes 20 different countries on Patriots cheerleader passports since 9/11 and first choice for patriotic appearances. “We’re also lucky to wear the red, white and blue,” Sormanti said. “America’s Team, in my opinion.”
The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders might have something to say about that. They got their own network TV movies in the late 1970s - the first one garnering a 33 Nielsen rating. That’s more popular than anything on TV today.
The Laker Girls also got a TV movie in 1990, and once had an aspiring singer and dancer named Paula Abdul on their dance team in the 1980s.
Les Stella from the U.S. All Star Federation, a conglomerate for cheer and dance teams, said the Cowboys squad stood out because it was the first to take advantage of “publicity, posters” and the success of the football team to gain recognition for themselves.
Stella said pro cheerleaders differ from high school and college squads in that they’re not so much cheerleaders as they are entertainers.
“They’re not really leading the crowd,” he said.
As for the Patriots cheerleaders?
“I can tell you right now, I don’t know that I’ve seen any of them,” Stella said. “That’s not an insult. It’s just a matter of getting the publicity out in the arena.”
The Universal Cheerleaders Association’s Jim Lord said he wasn’t sure if any pro squad “can really come back in and capture that kind of attention” that the Cowboys cheerleaders or the Laker Girls once did.
“They’d have to do something from a PR standpoint that’s really different,” Lord said.
Melinda McGrath of Marlboro thinks being from New England helps keep her and her fellow Patriots cheerleaders more grounded than if they were working in L.A. or Miami.
“If we were in a different location, I think we’d be much different,” the 26-year-old line captain said.
Nevertheless, McGrath has gone on many of the USO trips and has been featured in Muscle & Fitness and Maxim magazine spreads, plus TV ads for ESPN and Visa.
She thinks ESPN should give the Pats cheerleaders their own TV show that reflects the true nature of their job, rather than the fluff and pageantry of the Cowboys girls.
“We still battle that image,” McGrath said. “They were the first, but they’re not No. 1.”

Related: Patriots cheerleaders home page.

Update! I got an e-mail today from Natalie Adams, associate professor at the University of Alabama and co-author of "Cheerleader! An American Icon." Too late to include in my story, but not too late to include her comments here...

"I'm not sure that any professional cheerleading squad could attain in the 21st century the popularity of the DCC in the 1970s since their popularity was based on their uniqueness. They were the first professional cheerleading squad. After their popularity, practically every football and basketball franchise followed suit and tried to introduce equally sexy cheerleaders. Some were more successful than others. Further, I'm not so sure professional football is as popular today as it was in the 1970s as it was then that it was making the transition from an athletic event to an entertainment spectacle. Cheerleaders were key to that transition. I think professional cheerleaders have to struggle much more today than they did in the 1970s to gain legitimacy since cheerleading itself has changed so much since the 1970s and "real" cheerleaders (meaning those associated with UCA, NCA, college squads that compete, high school squads, etc) would never recognize professional cheerleaders as cheerleaders. They are, they would argue, more akin to dancers, and some would say, Las Vegas dancers. This is changing as some professional squads (such as the Tennessee Titans) are going coed and looking more like the collegiate squads in their building, stunting, tumbling, etc. In short, I think the New England Patriot cheerleaders may be able to be ambassadors for their particular local community and, perhaps, get some recognition at that level, but attaining the status, visibility, and iconic power of the DCC in the 1970s is not likely going to happen in today's climate."


(At T.T. The Bear's, Nov. 4, CD release party, with openers Bon Savants) Earlier Friday night, I went on NECN and compared this local rock quartet as something like The Killers, but with the sonically creative tangents of a band like Radiohead. Others have cited Interpol as a like-minded band. Whatever name band you use in comparison to help out people who haven't yet heard Aberdeen City, it doesn't change the fact that Aberdeen City -- four guys from Boston College who won this year's Boston Music Award for best local song of the year ("God Is Going To Get Sick Of Me") -- are clearly on the up and up. Their show Friday night at TT's was brilliant. Simply brilliant. And loud, too. My new friend Dee spoiled me with a view from the soundbooth (tho she did warn that the experience can spoil anyone, even her, on future club gig experiences) so I didn't have to worry about getting booze spilled on my fancy threads. Also got a chance to hear the Bon Savants, who also entertained, throwing in a Pixies cover and allowing me to have a surreal opening meeting with lead singer Thom afterward. Look forward to reporting more good news about both bands in the future. Go get 'em, boys!

Aberdeen City on MySpace.
Bon Savants on MySpace.


This weekend you can choose your poison: Go to the movies to see Chicken Little warn that the sky is falling, or stay home and hear the media squawk about a deadly flu spread by little chickens.
Harmonic convergence or Catch-22?
Hollywood conventional wisdom says it’s just art imitating life.
The fall TV schedule includes plenty of fictitious threats to humanity, from the Category 7 miniseries that airs tonight and Nov. 13 to the series Invasion and Threshold.
But what of past “real” signs of the apocalypse? Where are they now? For optimal conditions, read this while listening to REM’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine).”

The Unabomber - He could strike anywhere, anytime, until 1996, when he published a manifesto in The New York Times and Washington Post, and his brother exposed him as a deadly math nerd from the hills of Montana. Now his nom de bomb has been resurrected by a poker player who dates Jennifer Tilly. Wait. That is kinda scary.

Mother Nature (December 2004 to November 2005) - Tsunamis, hurricanes and earthquakes, all in the past 12 months, have people thinking they’re living Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”: “Thunderbolts and lightning, very very frightning, wee!” What in the h-e-double-hockey-sticks is going on? Eggsactly. Yet meteorologists say it’s all a coinky-dink. Makes you long for El Nino, doesn’t it? (Blogging update: And now a fatal tornado crosses Indiana and Kentucky this morning? C'mon now. We hear you loud and clear, Mother Nature.)

Gay Marriage - Still scaring the beJesus out of old-fashioned folk who believe divorce is a sacred institution reserved for a man, a woman and their teams of lawyers.

Y2K - Technology was supposed to cause a massive malfunction when electronic clocks hit Jan. 1, 2000? Didn’t happen. The Herald's computers still think it's 1977. Who, us worry?

“Spectacular” terror attacks - Remember when an orange alert meant you had to duct-tape your windows? Do you even know what color we’re on today? Our guess: Jaundiced.

SARS - What was that again?

Anthrax - Its new CD title says it all: “No Hit Wonders.”

Related: Story as it appears in the Boston Herald.


Goldenfiddle was right: "This does make this even funnier. And vice versa."


Every Friday, I coordinate a page called Seize The Weekend, in which I cull together whatever info I have on events and happenings around the Hub and decipher them for you, dear readers with room on your weekend schedules. This is also why I go on NECN on Friday afternoons. It's been a while since I posted a sample of said work, so here goes...

Have you seen the foliage? (blogging note: always open with an introductory haiku, I say!)
All the leaves are gone,
But the sky is blue, not gray,
So hip, hip, hooray!!

Still three weeks to Thanksgiving, and already Boston’s World Trade Center is hosting the 19th annual Christmas Festival, where you can check out arts and crafts and the great gingerbread competition, in which Boston chefs sculpt homes, snowmen and other holiday items out of gingerbread. They’re judged then sold, with proceeds helping Rosie’s Place. Hours: Today from noon to 7 p.m., tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets cost $8-$10 (free for children younger than 14).
617-385-5000, www.christmascraftfestival.com

How did they turn Yoda from a muppet in Episodes V and VI into a leaping, fighting digital Jedi hero in Episodes II and III? The man with the plan tells all, as Rob Coleman, Lucasfilm’s animation and development director, discusses the implications of replacing living actors with animated ones. His talk, “Puppets to Pixels: The Digital Transformation of Yoda,” is at 7 tonight at the Museum of Science. Tickets cost $10, separate from museum admission to the “Star Wars” exhibit ($17-$20 timed tickets).
617-723-2500, www.mos.org

What happens when you put members of indie darlings The Arcade Fire and The National into separate, classically minded bands? Find out tonight at 7:30 when the Museum of Fine Arts hosts Bell Orchestre and Clogs. It’s First Friday, so the MFA already will have the party vibe going at 465 Huntington Ave., Boston. Tickets cost $16-$20.
617-369-3306, www.mfa.org/concerts

ALSO: Ireland’s Cross Border Orchestra brings peace and harmony to Symphony Hall; Chicago house DJ Roy Davis Jr. spins at Redline; Jeff Glor from WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) hosts a benefit in Hull for displaced pets of Hurricane Katrina; and Aberdeen City’s CD release party is tonight at T.T. The Bear’s Place.

LL Cool J says don’t do it, but Shout Out Louds say, “Let’s call it a comeback,” and we’re all for that. The quintet from Stockholm performs tomorrow night at the Paradise, 967 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, with openers Essex Green and The Sun. Show starts at 9 p.m. for ages 18 and older. Tickets cost $10-$12.

Steve Sweeney may have said goodbye to morning radio, but that means hello again to nighttime stand-up comedy. Sweeney and Dick Doherty have opened a new comedy club - Steve Sweeney’s Comedy Cafe - that officially debuts tomorrow night inside Jae’s restaurant at 711 Boylston St., Boston. It’s about a block from Copley Square. Sweeney, Doherty and other favorite veterans of the Boston scene should be dropping by on a weekly basis.

The Arthritis Foundation has rounded up some of the Hub’s “best” bachelors and bachelorettes for a date auction tomorrow night. The semiformal black-and-white event starts at 6 p.m. at Embassy on Lansdowne Street - each date comes preplanned. With Bob, you get floor seats to a Celtics game, dinner at Strega and a six-month plan at Forever Fit; with Heather, it’s bowling at King’s, dinner at Dillon’s and a massage. The three highest bidders get to have lunch with J.C. Monahan and Chris Collins (though that’s not a date). Tickets cost $35-$40. 800-766-9449, Ext. 120, www.bidforbostonsbest.org

ALSO: Boston Billiard Club hosts Beanpocket 2005; it’s open studio time for Waltham Mills Artist Association; and fellow comics roast Annette Pollack for her 50th birthday at F1 Boston in Braintree.

Many interesting films to choose from at the 17th annual Boston Jewish Film Festival (continues through Nov. 17). Israeli comedian Edan Alterman, himself 5-foot-4-inches tall, explores the meaning behind being small in his documentary, “Short,” which screens at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline. Alterman also is expected at the screening. Tickets cost $9-$10.
617-244-9899, www.bjff.org

Dozens of acrobats, gymnasts, dancers and jugglers find their inner and outer “Chi” in this show directed by a former Cirque du Soleil choreographer. The action begins at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Orpheum, One Hamilton Place, Boston. Tickets cost $30-$40.
617-247-7200, www.worldmusic.org

Don’t be thinking The Fame is a band based on the movie, the TV show or even the artistic New York City high school, although these four guys are based in the Big Apple and there is more than a hint of “I Love the 1980s” about them. They provide everything you like about pop rock music from the ’80s, without the bad hair. They perform Sunday at the Abbey Lounge, 3 Beacon St., Somerville, along with Animal Hospital, The Rabbit Ears and Broken River Prophets.

ALSO: The New England Revolution host the Chicago Fire for the right to go to the MLS finals, 3 p.m. Sunday in Foxboro while Don Gavin hosts the “Grin & Share It 3” comedy benefit for My Brother’s Table, at the Montvale Plaza in Stoneham.


There are morning people, there are night people, and then there’s Dave Attell - best known for his late-night escapades on Comedy Central’s Insomniac yet doomed to a vicious cycle of morning radio interviews to promote his weekend club gigs.
How can he pull it off?
"I guess there’s a lot of ways to adapt,” Attell said. "If you’re in jail, they get you up early.”
Though still a free man, the comic no longer does new episodes of Insomniac, ending his run earlier this year with a Comedy Central special filmed in Las Vegas. That hasn’t stopped Attell from working the circuit and hitting lots of bars.
"I’m doing a new show called 'Why Aren’t You Doing That Show Anymore?’ ” he said.
At that moment, the front desk at his hotel in Orlando, Fla., called to tell him he would have to switch rooms.
"Somebody has the jones for this room,” he said. "I’ll just take whatever room you give me, but I just wonder what kind of people say, 'I have a loveless marriage. Can you give me a room with double beds?’ ”
Later this month, Attell reunites with Lewis Black (they did a nationwide theater tour two years ago) for a performance at the new HBO Comedy Festival in Las Vegas.
He enjoys watching HBO’s Rome - "So is Christ going to show up at the end? Is he going to do a walk-on?” - and is pulling for the success of comic Louis CK’s new show.
"At the end of the day, it comes down to the American people, and they want to see Amy Grant granting wishes,” Attell said.
That’s not a bad thing, but he said the wishes usually are pretty tame. ”It’s never, you know, I’d like a three-way,” he said.
Which is why Attell remains a late-night kind of guy.

Dave Attell performs tonight and Sunday at the Comedy Connection Boston in Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Tonight at 8, 10:15 and 11:59, Sunday at 7 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. Tickets: $32. Call 617-248-9700.


November sweeps period begins in mere minutes, so it's a good a time as any to weigh in on this year's offerings on the TV landscape. Having a DVR (mine is Comcast-supplied, but others have TiVo) allows you to try to navigate the primetime lineups a little bit easier. Except at 8 p.m. Thursday. But first things first. Let's look at my week in TV...

8 p.m. -- Why aren't more people watching The West Wing? Perhaps it's because of the juggernaut that is Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, an ABC show that serves up smiles and good stories every week. But if you watch week after week after week, you start to get the feeling that you could use the same tape of the Extreme crew and simply sub in a new family. The Simpsons is on all the time in syndication, so you can always catch it later. The West Wing, however, is back in full stride, thanks to an election season and solid performances from Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda. The show features a live debate next Sunday, which should actually be more exciting than most other recent attempts at live scripted TV. So watch it, would ya?

9 p.m. -- I head for HBO's Rome, which despite the unintended humor in early episodes that made Cato and Cicero look like SNL flunkies, delivers on other historical and hysterical levels. And I'm not just saying that because I'm about to interview Polly Walker. But isn't she devilishly divine? Desperate Housewives is in a sophomore slump. And Family Guy? Catch it later on the Cartoon Network.

10 p.m. -- Seriously, this fall, the only real alternative is Curb Your Enthusiasm and Extras; the former, inconsistent but sublimely bizzare; the latter, reminding everyone why NBC decided to adapt The Office. Hi-lar-i-ous. Grey's Anatomy is OK and all, but gets me more for its Seattle setting, its killer musical selections and Katherine Heigl than for anything about the plots or dialogue.

8 p.m. -- Wanted to like Surface. Really, I did. But it comes up lame again and again. And FOX is not making things any easier by failing to get people to watch the funny on Arrested Development and Kitchen Confidential. Please watch these shows and tell your friends to watch them! This is ri-donk-u-lus.

9 p.m. -- Prison Break is a show, that like its FOX predecessor (24) makes absolutely no sense and has so many plot twists that it even makes the cast as dizzy as the audience is from week to week. And yet, it's so much darned fun to follow along for the ride. I guess that's why people use that rollercoaster metaphor sometimes, eh? Over on NBC, Las Vegas is fun to look at, and is campy fun in a Love Boat kind of way with the celebrity guest stars visiting the resort casino each week along with a special musical guest. But if the Patriots are on MNF, they get a look-see, too.

8 p.m. -- Apparently everyone is watching NCIS at this hour, but why, exactly? I've started catching episodes of Bones, and sure, it's not all that different from all the other let's examine a dead skeleton shows out there, but Angel (oops, I mean David Boreanz) is still a witty alternative to your typical hero guy, and Emily Deschanel can occupy my time anytime. Boreanz gave a recent interview where he called upon the gods of Moonlighting for inspiration.

9 p.m. -- I keep meaning to watch House because everyone who watches it tells me it's good. I keep wanting to like My Name Is Earl more than I already do, but it hasn't matched the hype. Some episodes are better than others. But still. Keep expecting more than a traditional sitcom out of the show. Which is what you kids would get if you managed to keep it on NBC afterward for the extraordinary half-hour (or 22 minutes, minus ads) that is The Office. Brilliant stuff. Another example in how brilliance gets wasted on the masses. But kudos for NBC, one for bringing the show back this fall, and also for going even further into funny this season. The Amazing Race? Well, it used to be my favorite reality show, until this family edition. At least some other show can win the reality Emmy now.

10 p.m. -- This spring, I urged ABC and viewers to stick with Boston Legal. But the show has devolved into a mess thanks to the Shatner (one award was enough, but more than one has made the writers play up his queasy character past the point of parody). Then Rhona Mitra left. Ugh. But Julie Bowen may rescue this ship yet. And the Spader hasn't completely lost it. So maybe, just maybe, there's hope for this show to get back on track. Law & Order: SVU has to just quit it with the "very special episodes" that turn out to be not so special at all.

8 p.m. -- Rest up for Lost. Or prep for it by scouring the Web for clues.

9 p.m. -- Lost. There is no other choice, nor any reason to discuss anything else. The two-week vacation was interesting, though, because it wasn't planned -- did the writers or producers hit a road bump? Did their plans become too convulted for even them to figure out the destiny of these characters? We'll have to wait until next week to find out. (Veronica Mars, by the way, should be better than it is, but we'll watch it from time to time, anyhow -- exactly like its UPN tag-team partner, America's Next Top Model, although ANTM is the best reason to own a DVR because you can skip through so much filler in that hour, it's incredible!)

10 p.m. -- Who knew Shaun Cassidy could follow up his Hardy Boys and da-doo-run-running with a quality show like Invasion? I've seen the lights. Have you? Oh, right. There's also CSI:NY if you're part of the CSI cult. Record that for later and watch Invasion.

8 p.m. -- Holy counterprogramming, Batman! It'd be impossible to figure out what to watch if it weren't for the fact that a) The O.C. has completely lost all its marbles, and b) Alias could keep an idea going in a straight line for more than half a season. That said, I still have nostalgic feelings for both of these wayward programs. Intrigued by Rachel Nichols. Is she being groomed to replace Mrs. Ben Affleck? Who knows. In the meantime, you have to decide whether to watch the very humorous and uplifting Everybody Hates Chris or the supremely underrated adventures of Smallville. I say give Superman a chance, and record your other choice for later viewing. What's that, you say? There's another edition of Survivor? It got voted off the proverbial island this time around. Sorry.

9 p.m. -- CSI is the number one show in America. So how come I'm not watching it? I suppose I can catch it in repeats. Usually, though, I'm catching up with my other viewing or doing something really outrageous like getting out of the house to experience something called life.

10 p.m. -- And yet, I figure out how to record Without A Trace. Who's your Poppy now...

There's TV on Friday? Really? I'm out and about, living the good life. But when I do catch Threshold, I'm OK with that. And now they're making it easier for me by putting some of the episodes online.

You've got to be kidding. If your TV is on Saturday night, and you're not watching sports, a movie or previously recorded material, then you are a bigger couch potato than I, my friend.


Nothing can quite prepare you for an actual conversation with Larry David. Even having the HBO media rep tell me that Larry was about to call me to talk for my story, even watching his TV shows. Afterward, the HBO rep called me back to apologize for how surreal that must've been. Well, let me just say this. Talking to Larry David is just like you might imagine it. While everyone around him on Curb Your Enthusiasm is improvising, Larry David is being Larry David. Take that, Manny Ramirez and your Manny being Manny. Larry actually began our chat by saying he didn't want to talk to me because "I was just in the Boston newspapers" last week. And so he was. But I had to find out for myself how the real Yoshi Obayashi, an aspiring stand-up comic who I recall from our days together in the Seattle comedy scene, found his name and signature opening line in the premise for a recent Curb episode.

This story is a follow-up on my blog posting of Oct. 18, headlined, "Coincidence?"

‘Enthusiasm’ for kamikaze shtick shocks L.A. comic (Boston Herald)
It’s sometimes hard to tell fact from fiction on Larry David’s critically acclaimed HBO comedy, “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
Especially when they collide.
Yoshi Obayashi, an L.A.-based stand-up comedian, saw something a little too familiar in the “Kamikaze Bingo” episode, which first aired Oct. 16 and remains available via Comcast On Demand.
The premise: David makes fun of his friend Yoshi once he finds out Yoshi’s elderly father was a former kamikaze pilot who didn’t die in World War II. Cringeworthy hilarity ensues, including a failed suicide attempt by Yoshi.
The real-life Yoshi, 36, has opened the majority of his stand-up gigs for years with a similar bit. A Seattle Times article in 2000 even quoted his joke: “My grandfather is a retired kamikaze pilot. Obviously not very good.”
Obayashi said people have ribbed him about the TV Yoshi.
But he had nothing to do with it.
And now he worries that some audiences will think he stole his bit from the show. “That’s the ultimate irony of the thing,” he said.
“My friends tell me not to get mad. This stuff happens in Hollywood all the time,” he said. “I find the whole thing really curious.”
David, who has a home on Martha’s Vineyard, said he had never heard of nor seen Obayashi and picked the name Yoshi for the storyline because it sounded funny.
“It’s just unfortunate,” David said. “It’s totally bizarre. It’s completely bizarre.”
But all a coincidence, he says.
“I should call the guy,” David said.
So he did. Will there be a happy ending? Stay tuned.

Yoshi tells me he had a surreal phone talk with Larry, too. Yoshi certainly doesn't want to make waves or pick a fight with a guy who has made millions of dollars off of Seinfeld. Nor do I. But Larry David has such a sublimely bizarre ability to blur reality and at the same time co-exist with it (remember his episode from seasons past at Dodgers Stadium that helped provide an alibi for an alleged criminal?) that this coincidence was too surreal to let go without at least asking about it. I suppose if the TV character had a name other than Yoshi, I would've let it go. Anyhow, I wish both the real Yoshi and the real Larry David the best.


(With openers Scamper and Juliette and the Licks, at The Middle East Downstairs, Oct. 27.) Fun, fun and more fun from the Chicago headliners. Surprised to find that Scamper is based locally. Not so surprised during the middle of their set to hear the bassist describe themselves mockingly as "derivative power pop," but me wants to give them another chance. As for Juliette and the Licks, well, it's about what you'd expect from a band fronted by actress Juliette Lewis. Kinda punky. Not too memorable. But not horrible, either. A passable bar band. Which puts in her the same category as Bruce Willis and his blues band. But enough about them. OK Go. So darned catchy. So darned fun. Just about every song makes you want to jump out of your clothes and bounce around the club. They even make more than adequate use of cowbell. Yes, more cowbell. "Do What You Want," indeed. And their encore "performance" of "A Million Ways." Brilliant. Simply brilliant. Watch the video for yourself at OK Go's home page. Then you'll have to watch it again.


At the Paradise Rock Club, Boston, Oct. 26. Went for the ambient chill rock sounds of Ambulance, left rather impressed by the quirky trio known as We Are Scientists. Say what you will about these boys sounding like a better match with Hot Hot Heat (in fact they're back out on the road with those Canadian upstarts). But the three men of We Are Scientists are fun to watch and listen to, even if they do look like they could have scientific day jobs. Each guy had his own period-piece hairdo: drummer Michael Tapper had the jam band beard look, bassist Chris Cain was rocking the mid-70s mustachio, while lead vocalist and guitarist Keith Murray had sort of a new wave floppy front do. But back to the witty portion of the program. Typical between song banter...Keith: "Someone stole our set list." Chris: "I think our lack of initiative stole our set list." Their banter continued outside after the show. As for merch, they're only offering a three-song EP with bear-chasing video of "Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt." Virgin Records is waiting until January to release the band's major-label full-length debut. But if you see We Are Scientists headed for your city, do go and check them out. You'll be glad you did. Unless, of course, you don't care for upbeat post-punk pop and rock tunes. By the way (and by by the way, I mean I know I haven't given Ambulance enough blog ink), I enjoyed Ambulance, too, especially since seeing them live finally let me know whether and how to pronounce the Ltd. suffix on their band name. The answer is don't.

Listen: We Are Scientists, "Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt"


Anyone who really wants to understand the psyche of the stand-up comedian, the process of constructing a stand-up set and the business behind the show business -- well, you should see the 2002 documentary Comedian. That movie is full of insight. The Aristocrats, on the other hand, exists more as a way to turn what inherently is a subjective form of entertainment -- what you think is funny isn't what everyone else thinks is funny -- into something more scientific and objective. See how dozens of different comedians tackle the same premise. In doing so, maybe you'll find out more about the comedian telling the joke. Or not. I finally saw the film on the big screen (thank you, Coolidge Corner Theatre), and the highlights for me were those moments in which you got to see which comedians really have creative genius in their corner. Among those moments, again for me...

-- George Carlin, getting self-analytical mid-routine
-- Gilbert Gottfried, more for his explanations of the joke than for his 2001 live performance of the joke at the Comedy Central roast that reportedly inspired the documentary
-- Eric Mead turning card tricks for his joke (impressive on that level alone)
-- Billy The Mime, because he didn't care about being on a public boulevard
-- Dana Gould's discussions all around the joke
-- Bob Saget, not for showing his true stand-up self (because anyone who follows comedy already knew that), but for cracking himself up repeatedly, yet continuing to tell the joke
-- Mario Cantone's channeling session (spooky but silly)
-- Sarah Silverman's endearing creepiness
-- And the South Park gang's animated bit (by the way, a new season has begun on Comedy Central -- you should still be watching it)

WHAT ABOUT THEO? Just because everyone else has weighed in on the latest episode that is "Your Boston Red Sox," what makes you think I have something to say? Oh, right. Hold on while I come up with something. But first, these entertaining posts...

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