popular thinking

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


Not finding anything stronger than NyQuil in my medicine cabinet, I remained relatively sober for much of President Bush's State of the Union address. I did have NyQuil, after all. But the speech couldn't have come at a more appropriate time for me to take a state of my union. Has it already been a year since I started work at the Herald? Has it only been a year? For Bush, he had such an awful 2005 (and so did most of us, as a direct or indirect result) that he couldn't help but want to hit the Easy button and start from scratch in 2006. We've all had those kinds of years. For me, Jan. 31, 2005, represented a chance to start over, to be reborn, to begin again in a new town with new co-workers and a new shot at taking control over my own future. And for the most part, I can look back on the past year and think of how much I've accomplished, but not so much that I cannot also look ahead with clear goals to do more. Eight years ago, I sat in a soon-to-shutter newsroom of the Federal Way News, listening to Bill Clinton deliver a State of the Union both ironic and poignant (at least to me and my pink-slipped colleagues) for its calls for full employment. How far have you come since 1998? Just thinking about my own eight-year journey since then...the opportunity to pursue stand-up comedy as a career, a full-time gig at the Space Needle, swing dancing to my heart's content, the willingness for an editor to take a chance on me as an entertainment reporter, meeting someone who made me fall head over heels so far that I couldn't think straight, which led to an elopement and soon thereafter, bitter heartbreak, an ill-fated pursuit into the desert Southwest, which would lead to an even better job at a bigger paper (who'd ever think that my worst personal moments would coincide with my first major metro?), then an even bigger rollercoaster of personal and professional moments that would lead me to the prospect of leaving Phoenix to experience my own mythical reincarnation. And that's just the short story to 2005. This past year, Wow! That's really all I can say about this past year. Someday, perhaps, the full story can be told. And not in a James Frey way, either, although I may need to change some names for their protection. Enough about the past. At least for now. It's time to look forward. I, for one, cannot wait to tackle year two in Boston...


We can discuss the New York Times subhed from today if you'd like, which called the roadside bombing of a military vehicle transporting ABC anchor Bob Woodruff the "latest blow to network," but the bigger issue is how TV continues to show how it has struggled to cover the war in Iraq. All of these broadcasts, from other networks to local affiliates and the cable news networks, are giving so much airtime to the condition of Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt because they're part of the TV community. It makes it more newsworthy to them. ABC has gone so far as to make Woodruff and Vogt the top story Sunday and Monday, tonight giving it eight minutes of coverage before turning to the latest terrorist videos. This was the top ABC News story at this writing. For them, of course, it's more personal. But TV has such a difficult time holding an audience's attention on Iraq that this latest attack gives them a reason to put more emphasis on what's going on over there, reinforcing the difficulties of U.S. troops to deal with insurgent attacks, roadside bombs and the lack of a clear light at the end of the tunnel. Then again, the same ABC News story linked above fails to say anything about a) whether anyone in the military convoy also was injured, or b) whether the video Vogt was recording at the time of the attack will ever see the light of day. Instead, they reconstruct the incident here, giving the sense that troops might get hurt, but focusing solely on what happened to Woodruff and Vogt. And there has been plenty of melodramatic footage, too, by ABC and other networks showing footage of Woodruff's kids, and playing up the friendships between the Woodruffs and the family of David Bloom, an NBC reporter who died in Iraq -- though not in combat. For anyone connected to the Woodruffs or the Vogts, this is a difficult time. But the same can be said for the thousands of American families dealing with dead or injured soldiers, and hundreds of thousands of other families still worrying about their sons and daughters. Do we really need to have a network anchor injured to remember Iraq? Watching TV this week, you'd think the answer is yes.

And the entertainment advertorial shows...why are they weighing in on this at all? Do I need to see Access Hollywood or CNN's Showbiz Tonight talking about this? Why in the world are we asking celebrities at the Screen Actors Guild Awards what they think about the injuries to Woodruff and Vogt? It reeks of the same lazy knee-jerk reaction after Hurricane Katrina, when we devoted air time to celebrities telling us how the images from New Orleans impacted them, as if that was the important thing to focus on. Ugh.


And click on this link for the WGBH-TV station identification promo, circa 1978 (thanks, Retrojunk).

Of course, once you're there, you might want to relive the intro to Bill Cosby's Fat Albert, and then go and buy the world a Coke.


This is a direct quote from today's "Ask Amy" advice column by the Chicago Tribune's Amy Dickinson:

I can't understand why people are so hungry to share their every waking thought with the rest of the world - and I certainly don't understand why people are interested in reading these musings, personal details and outright lies.

Doesn't your job depend upon people being hungry to share their thoughts and readers interested in reading about their personal details and your musings on same? Just a thought.


But he tells me he's glad I did my homework before interviewing him last week. When I asked him about Doug Henning, I could almost hear him bristle on the other end of the phone. Copperfield said that Henning helped bring magic into modern TV..."Doug came at a very good time. He showed you didn't have to be top hat and tails." But Copperfield called Henning "the hippie kid" who never evolved. "He brough a fresh approach to magic, but unlike Madonna, he never really evolved. He just stopped. That doesn't take anything away from him at all. But you really have to keep evolving. If I had the same haircut that I had 10 years ago, I'd be laughed offstage. I was almost laughed offstage then because my hair was so silly."
And with that, here is the rest of my interview...

Hocus-focus: David Copperfield reveals what makes him trick
By Sean L. McCarthy
David Copperfield never stops working.
And that’s not an illusion.
The magician recently put on 50 shows in two weeks and has eight shows (and counting) on his schedule this weekend at the Opera House.
“I’m always looking for new ways of doing things,” Copperfield said during a phone interview last week. “I’m always improving the show. During intermission, I’m backstage rehearsing. During musical numbers, I have Stagewatch. I can talk to the people backstage, giving notes on the show.”
That’s only one of the revelations Copperfield copped to, thanks to questions suggested by Boston-area magicians performing at Mystery Lounge, the weekly Tuesday-night magic show at the Comedy Studio.

Is it true you have the largest collection of magic memorabilia in existence?
“Yes, you bet . . .It used to be the Mulholland Collection, which about 15 years ago was up for sale. I rescued it from being auctioned off. I was so excited, I quadrupled it. . . If you go online you can probably see some of it. I do exhibitions of some of the artifacts around the world.”

Any plans to make your private museum public?
“I can’t really do that, because so much of it is secret stuff. So I look for stuff that wouldn’t give away the secrets of magic. It’s a pretty cool thing, 80,000 items.”

You had a streak of 18 consecutive years hosting prime-time TV specials (1978-1995), but since 2001, you’ve only guest-starred on TV. What would it take to get you to host another TV special?
“I owe CBS specials. I just, it’s real torture for me to do them. I care so much about every detail. I’m the director, I’m the writer, I’m the producer, I perform in them.”
(Copperfield notes his multiple Emmy wins, saying he has more awards than “The Sopranos” or “M*A*S*H.”)
“I guess I’ll have to (do TV again) someday. I want to do something I enjoy, which are the shows. Worrying about, do we make the cover of TV Guide, or the weekend supplement. Will James Brady write me up as the celebrity profile in Parade? Will Regis book me? Screw that.”

How do you feel about the dressing-down of magic by David Blaine and Criss Angel?
“These are guys I like, and I speak to them both. David doesn’t really do shows. Criss Angel is different . . .they’re out there. They’re keeping it alive on TV. Meanwhile, I’m doing arena shows.”

What do you want your legacy to be?
“To be the first 150-year-old magician.”

How hands-on are you with Project Magic, a program you created in 1982 to teach magic to people with physical, social or developmental disabilities?
“We just came up with a new book last year, which is a big volume. It’s in 1,000 hospitals in 30 countries around the world. It was the best thing I was involved in. It’s cognitive skills, mathematical skills, social skills. It’s a good form of therapy. I did something good. My mother wanted me to become a doctor, and this is about as close as I was going to get.”

Your shows often have adult elements or jokes. Is it still safe to bring the kids?
“My show is like a PG show. It’s like ‘Shrek.’ It’s like ‘Harry Potter.’ There’s stuff that’ll fly over the heads of kids that are very hip for adults. . . .You can bring your family to the show, but there’s a lot of fun that we have just for fun.”

What’s the big deal about a guy from New Jersey making people disappear? Doesn’t that happen all the time?
“I agree.”


Another weekend, another list of events in Boston to choose from...and the requisite haiku to pull it all together.

Music and passion,
Always in fashion, even
When mixed with vino


I don't know what life in Boston would be like without the Coolidge Corner Theatre, but thankfully, I don't need to imagine it just yet. And with that, here is an introduction to the dis(?)harmonic convergence of midnight madness fun around town this weekend.

Midnight, Mass.: Where to find excitement after hours
By Sean L. McCarthy
The Boston Herald
Hearty partyers still looking for entertainment in the midnight hour are in luck on the outskirts of Boston.
First stop: Brookline.
Yes, Brookline. The Coolidge Corner Theatre can be counted on throughout the year for eclectic midnight offerings, ranging from the ridiculously sublime to almost indescribably lunatic.
Take this weekend, for example.
At midnight tonight, J. Cannibal hosts “Feast of Flesh,” a variety show that includes surf music by Gein and the Graverobbers, wrestling by the masked females known as La Gata Negra, and the gross-out 1979 movie “Zombie.” Prizes will be awarded for customers who show up in the best zombie outfits, and everyone gets a free gory goodie bag.
The event is produced by Black Ocean, a nonprofit publishing and production company that employs Cannibal’s alter ego, Janaka Stucky.
“I try to create events that I’d be excited to go to if I weren’t already organizing it,” Stucky said.
He tries to put on something once a month, whether it’s at the Coolidge or another venue around the Hub.
“It’s difficult to do in Boston, because the trains stop running and cabs are expensive, but people are finding a way to do it,” he said. “In my mind, there’s been a resurgence in the past year, especially with small events like this, or like Pan9.”
Most clubs already are booked with live music or dancing, which leaves only small arthouse theaters such as Coolidge Corner or the Brattle for variety shows.
“Theaters seem to be friendly to it,” Stucky said. “Or underground spaces, which manage to stay successful because they are underground. That’s kind of a Catch-22.”
The Coolidge Corner continues Stucky’s cannibal theme tomorrow night with a special midnight screening of “Cannibal! The Musical.”
You might know it better as the first feature film from Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who staged the real-life story of cannibal Alferd Packer as a musical comedy in their 1996 film - a year before Comedy Central committed to their animated series, “South Park.”
The Coolidge Corner screening is not the original movie but thefilm’s DVD commentary track, which has Parker and Stone describing the action and behind-the-scenes funny while downing a bottle of booze.
Over in Cambridge, the Brattle Theatre delves into similar late-night hijinks this weekend with multiple screenings of “Live Freaky! Die Freaky!”
The 2003 stop-motion-animation film has remained virtually underground, and a brief description might explain why: It retells the Charlie Manson saga as a musical comedy with puppets and Claymation and X-rated sex scenes.
The cast includes all three members of Green Day (Billie Joe Armstrong is the voice of “Charlie Hanson” and provided some of the movie’s score) along with Travis Barker, Jane Wiedlin, Kelly Osbourne and Asia Argento.
Ned Hinkle, the Brattle’s creative director, said he’d like to offer more midnight features this spring.
“It’s not so much about fund raising with the late-night stuff as it is programming to my taste or a younger audience’s taste,” Hinkle said. “It’s a way to do guilty-pleasure screenings.”
Just a few blocks from the Brattle, the Loews Harvard Square does just that by allowing the Full Body Cast to throw the perennial audience-participation fave “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” most Saturday nights.
The Teseracte Players of Boston also perform “Rocky Horror” at various venues and functions in the area, including a monthly show at Hollywood Hits in Danvers.

Coolidge Corner Theatre
290 Harvard St., Brookline
617-734-2500, www.coolidge.org

Brattle Theatre
40 Brattle St., Cambridge
617-876-6837, www.brattlefilm.org

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show”
Loews Harvard Square
10 Church St., Cambridge
617-864-4580, www.fullbodycast.org


It's not quite dinner and a movie, but the folks at TD Banknorth Garden have teamed up with Fenway Sports Group to provide post-game shows both tonight and tomorrow night. Read more about it in my story in today's Boston Herald.

Tonight: Celtics-Kings, followed by the All-American Rejects
Tomorrow: Bruins-Islanders, followed by Staind

Saturday night's concert by Staind also will be Webcast on the Bruins page.


Q: What is the appropriate response after watching "Kevin Federline jamming to PopoZao"?

A: Rhythm apparently is not a dancer. Snap!


I just got off the phone with David Copperfield. Yes, that David Copperfield. Only it didn't sound like him at all. Does that qualify as an illusion? Discuss.


Some of my friends swear by the East Coast Grill in Cambridge's Inman Square. Other people apparently swear at it. And one guy from the New York Times apparently spent a week undercover as a waiter there, and documented his experiences here. (registration may be required)


I've edited Harrison Ford's Monday night question-and-answer session at Loews Boston Common, because really, do you want to have to relive the whole miserably lame experience, as I did? No, you don't.

Ford doesn’t give up the goods in his new thriller, Firewall, which comes out Feb. 10, but was willing to reveal a little bit about himself, including the answer to his most-asked question: When will there be a fourth Indiana Jones movie?
“Hopefully this summer,” Ford said. “I think there’s a fair chance we’ll have another Indiana Jones.”

Other topics:
With so many scripts he gets, how does he decide which movies to do?
“I do most of the ones I get all the way through. I’m looking for a good story. I’m looking for something different than what I’ve recently done. Another genre, different kind of character. If I’ve been doing dramas I look for comedy…
I do what I think will please an audience. This is a service occupation. We are storytellers and there’s no sense in telling stories people don’t want to hear…
Things that are well made that have a good degree of challenge for me and for the audience…I’m looking for something that will be a good ride.”

Ford normally plays good guys. Would he want to play another villian, as he did in What Lies Beneath? He said he wants to portray characters who evolve or show some progression. “I’d like to play a good guy who goes bad or a bad guy who goes good," he said. “If there’s nothing that happens to a bad guy other than he dies at the end of the movie, that’s not something that interests me.”

With so many memorable roles in his past, how does he put those behind him in preparing a new role? “Different clothes,” he joked. “I do a lot of research, whether its necessary or not, just to stumble around in the world of the character play.” He said most of the rest of his acting involves figuring out how the character would act and “deciding what to do, what the best choice for the film is, in each particular scene.”

What about directing? “No. It takes too long. It’s very hard. And it doesn’t pay very well.” Referenced his friend, actor Bob Hoskins. “He said it was like being pecked to death by penguins. All day long, people coming up to you, do you want this one or that one?” Ford said directing requires a certain temperament and skills that he doesn’t have nor wants to have.

Did he want to be one of the biggest movie stars ever? “I was not interested in fortune or fame. I just wanted to make a living as an actor.”

Ford also said it’s unfair to compare the two Star Wars trilogies, because the newer ones are digital and his were all analog. On his films: “They were like ‘50s Saturday serials.”


One Monday, you're sloshing your way through live TV before a worldwide audience at the Golden Globes (thanks, Whatevs, for the play-by-play screengrabs). The next Monday, you find yourself sitting before an audience of about 600 in a downtown Boston cineplex, answering audience questions so numbing they make Inside the Actor's Studio seem watchable. A kid sitting behind me in the press row (representing a college paper which may or may not rhyme with "Tufts") actually had the nerve to ask Harrison Ford if he cares about what critics write about him, and then when Mr. Ford said yes, the kid replies with a plaintive, "Really?" Egads. Other mind-blowing queries included requests to shake his hand, get a picture with him, have him jump out of a cake, have him sing "Happy Birthday" and have him hire some punk as an intern on the still-not-yet-in-production fourth Indiana Jones film. Yes, to answer the more pertinent question, Ford did say that it's his most-asked question and that the answer is yes, he thinks there will be another Indy coming your way in the near future. When a girl with a black Mohawk asked him why he doesn't play bad guys, Ford quickly retorted with, "I guess you didn't see What Lies Beneath." Tis true: Anyone who cheats on Michelle Pfeiffer is a bad guy. I couldn't get close enough tonight for a good camera-phone shot (trust me, I tried). But I've got other quotes and a photo op tomorrow, so, as they say, stay tuned.

Oh, right. Why is Harrison Ford in Boston, anyhow? He is here to promote Firewall. The trailers make it look like Air Force One, except Ford is a bank computer security guy instead of the president. The truth is closer to The Fugitive. Ford plays an unlikely hero, yes, and you can bet your $10 on whether he prevails or not. But as in his portrayal of Dr. Richard Kimble, this is more one of those movies in which Ford is an innocent guy who gets backed into a corner and has to figure his way out of it, rather than a simple kick-ass Commander in Chief who isn't about to let any terrorists tell him what to do. But really, Sean, what did you think of the movie? It's good. Harrison Ford knows how to play this type of character and play it well, although you might wonder how many 63-year-old guys are ultra-techies. Paul Bettany is adequately creepy as the baddy bad man. The ending is cliche Hollywood.


That's the Museum of Science, which is showing off two of the 10 or so known Sony QRIOS known to be in existence.

At 2 feet tall, the Sony QRIO looks like a cross between a mini-astronaut and the machines gone amok in “I, Robot.”
Four QRIOs danced for Beck’s “Hell Yes” video last year, and Wired magazine has ranked it No. 6 of its “50 Best Robots Ever.”
Only a handful of QRIO prototypes exist, and three will be on display this weekend at the Museum of Science. Sony’s QRIOs star in half-hour demonstrations at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. today and tomorrow in the exhibit hall, included with the price of admission.
One QRIO stands behind glass as part of the museum’s “Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination” exhibit, showing how much closer society is to acheiving droids such as C-3PO.
The two demonstration QRIOs offer preprogrammed speeches and choreographed movements,including tai chi, salsa and Arabian dances. No breakdancing, but the QRIOs do offer the Karate Kid “crane” pose and even a move or two of “The Robot” dance.
Next stop: ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars”?
Not just yet.
“We’re still trying to figure out the features of what people want the robots to do,” said Todd Kozuki, senior engineer with Sony’s robot division.
So far, QRIO can walk, talk, respond to motion, remember bits of past conversations, and it has the capability to ID up to 10 people by face and voice recognition.
If QRIO falls, it braces its fall, then stands itself back up.
It speaks fluent Japanese, with a vocabulary of 65,000 words.
It does not rock ’em or sock ’em (too expensive to break ’em), but Sony engineers are tinkering with other possible modes, including one that turns QRIO into a talking remote control for your TV.
“We do envision in the future having this type of robot in the home,” Kozuki said.
Sorry: Much like an Oompa Loompa, QRIO is not for sale, no matter how much you ask your parents to buy you one.
Sony does sell a talking robotic dog named AIBO for $2,000. Some AIBOs also are on display at the Museum of Science.

See the Beck video from this link in two different forms (original video, or one shot).
Learn more about the QRIO.
Buy an AIBO?


Why watch the video when you can read the transcript? There were some safe-for-work edited versions floating around the Web earlier this week, but no more?


Well, OK, maybe that's a little hype. But it's not like I made up my memoirs, right?

Best moment in our interview that didn't make print? When I brought up the fact that Christian trails Dat Phan in online fan voting for Comedy Central's Stand-Up Showdown. "There's a spiritual nut-punch right there," Finnegan told me on the phone Wednesday night. Then he realized he best make nice. "That said, he is a really nice guy." Then he remembered he is performing with Phan next weekend at Florida State University. Ouch! Wonder who is headlining that gig? Double ouch!

I'll update after tonight's show at the Comedy Studio. Here is my interview with Finnegan from today's Boston Herald...

Finnegan accents local roots
By Sean L. McCarthy/ Joker’s Wild
Friday, January 20, 2006
Christian Finnegan called later than expected Wednesday night because the folks at VH1 wanted him to tape an extra sketch or two for Best Week Ever.
Did the bit involve him dressing up in Scarlett Johansson’s red dress from the Golden Globes?
"Oh, if only it were!” Finnegan said. "No, I’m in a white jacket. Nobody will be squeezing my man-breasts or anything like that. Sorry to disappoint the three freaks that would be entertained by that.”
Finnegan, who grew up in Acton and graduated from Natick’s Walnut Hill School, returns this weekend, performing at both Becker and Nichols colleges, with a stopover tonight at the Comedy Studio in Harvard Square.
But he’s a New Yorker now.
So does he sympathize with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg? Bloomberg has lost his Boston accent, according to a recent New York Times article.
"I think that that’s probably a good policy,” Finnegan said. "My dad was vigilant. He has six brothers and sisters, most of them have Boston accents to some degree. But my dad was vigilant, to the extent that whenever we used the word ’spatula,’ he yelled and told us it was ’spatchuler.’ ”
Right now, though, Finnegan worries more about Comedy Central’s top 25 comics of 2005. An online election will reveal the winners Jan. 29. So far, he barely makes the cut.
"This is bigger than the Golden Globes, bigger than the ’24’ premiere. Sometimes people will tell me they’ve never voted. That they don’t believe in the system. I tell them they have no reason to complain then,” he said. "Actually, I just hope to stay there, just so I don’t have to have the conversation with my dad to explain it.”
On his college tours, audiences love Finnegan from Best Week Ever and his appearance on Chappelle’s Show, but there is some material he cannot do.
"You have to remember that these kids are 18, 19, 20 years old, so these kids are in a different place in their life than you are,” he said. "What do you mean I’m not going to be fulfilled in my career? What do you mean I’m not going to want to strangle the person I live with?”
At least Finnegan can say his TV career has lasted longer than Heather Graham’s - her new sitcom was apparently canceled this week after only one airing on ABC.
"There’s nothing worse when you see a comedy and you see someone trying to be funny,” he said. "Comedy isn’t sort of mugging. WHA-WHA WHAAA! Every facial expression she had, it was literally watching a ’Tom & Jerry’ cartoon.”
Sounds like something you might see on VH1 soon. Finnegan sighs.
"This is what my life has become,” he said. "I used to read. At Walnut Hill, I had my Morrissey pompadour, my black turtleneck, and I had these small circular glasses that were fake, but I wore them to make me look smart ... and now I read Tara Reid all day.”

Christian Finnegan's home page. And Christian on MySpace.

NEWS AND NOTES: The Walsh Brothers are going to Aspen, Colo. They’ve been selected to perform at the HBO U.S. Comedy Festival in March ... NBC has ordered another season of Last Comic Standing to air this summer. Stay tuned for audition info.


Looking for things to do. There are plenty of interesting and amazing shows out there to choose from around Boston. Here are some.


If you don't believe me, then ask yourself, what's the most popular show on TV? And what, pray tell, is the most popular show on TV about? Just ask Marti Speranza, founder and owner of Limelight Stage + Studios in downtown Boston. “It’s really the same thing. Amateurs singing covers over prerecorded tracks. Only ‘American Idol’ doesn’t have that stigma of being karaoke.” Read more of my interview with the enchanting Ms. Speranza here.

In the meantime, already with the Idol kids in jail? And it's the twins? I mean, the good twins? Well, maybe not-so good twins. Argh.

By the way, I believe the Disco Marmalade tribute at the end of Idol's first episode was all a pre-planned sham, designed to maximize the shaming process. That is all.

Ira Proctor, ready for his close-up? Posted by Picasa


Why are they still on? Who thought this was a good idea? Those might be the first two questions that leapt into your mind. But I had another question: Is that local stand-up comedian Ira Proctor hooting and hollering in the middle of the national TV ad? Why, yes. Yes, it is. Read my interview with Ira here.


"As someone who served as Globe ombudsman for two years..."

Wait. You mean he's not the Globe ombudsman now? Seriously. As for Ron Borges, who covers football for the Globe, I cannot say much about his work because I don't follow it that closely, but I can say that I saw him Sunday night on Ch. 7's Sports Xtra, and his attitude was so unbecoming -- how could someone act so crass when the Boston sports crazies already want your head, that's quite surprising.


The madness resumes. Who knew that the nation's number one TV show would somehow combine the power of karaoke with the nostalgia of The Gong Show? And yet. And yet, American Idol. The fifth edition began tonight with the first two hours of what will be many devoted just as much to the downright awful lengths people will go to get on TV, now with the added twist of even meaner comments from Simon Cowell and mean contestant-on-contestant comments. If this is a reflection of our culture, methinks I don't like what I see.


Ah, yes, onto the fun misadventures of Mr. McCarthy in Manhattan. The fun began on Tuesday, wherein I talked to PR guy Jules Feiler of 5WPR. A couple of colleagues had forwarded e-mails from him to me about something called the "funniest reporter on the planet" contest, being held at the Laugh Factory in NYC and LA on Jan. 5. Since it was Jan. 10, I figured I had missed it and was just trying to find out what happened, who won, and whether there'd be another event around the bend. Turned out the date of the "contest" got moved to Jan. 12, so Jules immediately asked me if I wanted in. Well, what do you think? You get offered free stage time at a New York City comedy club, you say yes. Even if you have to figure out how to get down to New York and back during the workweek (thankfully, I hadn't yet used my New Year's Day holiday, so logistically, I could pull it off). Even if you haven't performed in years. Even if you have no idea what to use for material.

Cut to Thursday.

I chose Greyhound. Sure, Amtrak is a bit more comfortable, but with the on-and-off Acela problems, the train only gets you there about a half-hour quicker -- and the Laugh Factory is located across the street from the Port Authority. And while the Fung Wah bus might be cheaper and faster, it might not get you there in one piece. Just saying. By the way, the people who ride the bus from Boston in the afternoon seem nice and friendly. The people who ride the bus from New York at 3:30 a.m. seem nice and friendly and smelly. Just saying.

Met up with the Lusty Lady herself, Rachel Kramer Bussel, before the show. We walked around the Times Square vicinity and jibberjabbed about writing, the various incarnations of Diet Coke and more writing. Then into the club. As more than one person observed, it looks from the front and the lobby a little like a funhouse. And not necessarily in a good way. It might scare some otherwise normal fun-loving comedy fans away. Hope not. Up the stairs and then you have several doorways to choose from. It's quite the labyrinth. Three different rooms offered live comedy Thursday night -- we had the larger room, with seating for upward of 300. Rich Vos (with wife(!) Bonnie), Keith Robinson and Christian Finnegan were working the crowds in the other rooms. Head to the "green room" to find several media-looking types milling about. Are they funny? Does it matter? Holy cow, is this Joe Franklin walking into the room? Now I know I'm in New York City. He is polite and gracious and yes, everything else you might expect out of Joe Franklin. Club owner Jamie Masada is milling about. (Note to self: Do not make Michael Jackson jokes. Do not say Joe Franklin raped me. And do not -- do not -- say Joe Franklin offered me Jesus juice.) One guy is walking around with a radio crew, another guy with a TV crew. I figured as much. Masada throws this benefit show featuring reporters, which allows the press to feature him and his club (which, from what I hear, has had some difficulties getting established in its first year against the myriad of New York City comedy club alternatives already entrenched in the Big Apple). And the reporters do these ego-stroking, self-relfexive stories about what it's like to try stand-up comedy.

That said, stay tuned to NPR's "On the Media" this weekend or perhaps next (looks like next weekend) to hear host Bob Garfield's experience -- and hope for a clip of me!!! Or this weekend, turn on CNN for "On the Story," and watch senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre talk about his experience -- and hope for a clip of me!!! That show will air at 7 p.m. Saturday, then again at 1 p.m. Sunday.

By the way, if you shaved Garfield's beard, would you find McIntyre's face underneath?

And...we're back. The "contest" (I keep using quotes because, for one, there is no prize other than bragging rights, and secondly, because all comedy contests are inherently subjective and political and not so much about finding the funniest person -- and yes, I'd type that exact same sentence whether I won or not) had 18 media hacks taking the stage for five minutes each. I was No. 14 of 18 on the list. That they had an intermission halfway through allowed people to get a quick break, but it also allowed about 50 people to make a break for the exits, never a good thing in a comedy show when you're at the end of the bill. The host was Gersh Kuntzman (you may laugh at his name now, since everyone else seemed to get a kick out of it, especially "judge" Dom Irrera, who got wrangled into the gig because he's headlining the club this weekend and went onstage first to cuss and ramble on for a few minutes -- the other judge was Pat Cooper -- let all of that sink in before you try to figure out who may have won the night). Kuntzman used to write for the New York Post. Now he's in Brooklyn. Kuntzman was a nice enough host, but had the bad habit of wanting to do lots of material between each contestant, which just made the show even longer than it already was. Garfield went up first and proved he is quite funny on paper. Live on stage, not as much, but his material was solid. On the whole, of the 18 participants, it'd be fair to say that six were funny, six were horrid train wrecks, and the other six were merely mediocre, such as you might find in any open mic or amateur night.

Some notes: Catie Lazarus won. That should surprise absolutely no one since Lazarus is funny and, well, she is a full-time comic and only part-time reporter -- she freelances humor pieces for the New York weekly Jewish paper, Forward. The folks from MSNBC were really nice (that'd be senior producer Nikki Egan and freelance reporter Brian Balthazar, and Egan was extra nice enough to have several of her attractive co-workers come to the show!). One guy from New Jersey looked like a dead ringer for Morton Downey Jr., except Morton Downey Jr. is dead and would've been funnier. A few other people got brought onstage with intros saying they were humor columnists, which is only a good idea if you're actually funny. Robert A. George is the funniest Trinidadian New York Post writer I know. And his friends invited me out to dinner with them after the show, and even though it was almost midnight, we were in New York City so it didn't seem strange, although I didn't take them up on the offer. Maybe I should've.

As for me, well, I didn't win, but I feel like I won. And I say that because 1) after my set, several of the other contestants rushed over to me to offer congratulations, and 2) after the show, Jamie Masada came up to me unprovoked to tell me that I should've won and then he invited me to come back down to New York to host any upcoming weekend. Masada also introduced me to his business partners, and they both had nothing but kind words. From my past in stand-up and improv (I performed often back in the day in Seattle from 1997-2001, and rarely in Arizona from 2002-2004), I have a good sense of when people are offering faint praise or insincere compliments. This didn't seem like that. Especially since I don't live or work in New York, so these people and peers had no reason to say nice things to me. I am grateful they did, though.

Some of us retired across the street to the Westin. Dan Allen, a very funny guy who I first met over the holidays at the Comedy Studio, showed up at the Laugh Factory toward the end of our show to pick up his friend (and winner), Catie. I thought about alerting Dan to my presence beforehand, and now I really wish I had so he could've seen my set and offered comments. Nevertheless, we all went to the Westin along with Beth from 5WPR, the McIntyres and the crew from Newsday. I missed the 12:30 a.m. bus, which meant I now couldn't leave town until 3:30 a.m., so I mostly killed the time hanging out with these nice people (who, in the interest of full disclosure, may have broken a little-known law regarding unguarded beverages).

This was the first time I had walked around New York City since July 4, 1993. Times Square may have looked a bit different, but the feeling I had breathing in the big city remained the same. The energy is palpable. I still don't know that I would enjoy living there, but I sure know that I want to go back and visit more often. And now I have some very good reasons to do so.


In case you weren't already in the habit of picking up a Boston Herald or linking to it each morning online, here is a recap of news and notes from me this week...

Deborah Henson-Conant has some mad harp skills. Check her out at Jimmy Tingle's this month.

Cyanide Valentine, "my new favorite band" of 2005, has dissolved into a solo act. Or morphed. Well, really, it's all how you view the band. If you think of it as Jake and a bunch of rotating guest musicians, then Cyanide Valentine will continue same as it ever was. But if you thought of it as a duo, Jake and Wendy, then insert proverbial not so much comment here. In various e-mail exchanges, Jake said that he will continue on solo for at least the next few gigs until he figures out what sounds he wants for the next album and what help he'll need for it. Now I need a new excuse to say hi to Wendy.

Emerson College has begun letting folks get a peek at its new American Comedy Archives. I, for one, think it's a great idea. They're trying to collect as many oral histories on video from the old guard comics of the early and mid-20th century while they still can. They missed out on Richard Pryor, though. What they could really use is primary source material -- original manuscripts, records, discs, videos of live performances. Just thinking about having one room or building in which you could access any comic...yes, me likes this idea.

Bill Meikle is miffed that Philadelphia wants to take all of the credit for Benjamin Franklin, since Big Ben was born 300 years ago this coming Tuesday in downtown Boston. Read a bit of his ranting here (and yes, he really does poke fun at Mayor Menino).

Bob Marley performs at the Comedy Connection and talks to me about all sorts of funny stuff. No, not that Bob Marley. This Bob Marley.

Yesterday was Friday the 13th. Why are you making such a big fuss about it? And how could you have fun in Boston by playing off of that theme, if you really tried to make a theme night out of it?

What else is going on around town this weekend? Here is a roundup of interesting events for you.


Yes, there is much to talk about, much to discuss, but I've been busy both with work -- fodder for many a post -- and with a semi-undercover mission to New York. If all goes well, I'll have a fun story to tell. And if not, then, well, I'll probably have a fun story to tell. Check back tomorrow.


Even if I miss it, even if I fail to record it, the Internet might save me. Here are two clips from recent episodes of The Late Show with David Letterman. Watch the showdown with Bill O'Reilly here (wherein you can see the audience wavering with its applause). Or, watch the real O.C's Kristin talk to Letterman here (thanks, Goldenfiddle).


And a little bit about Howard Stern, too. First, Mr. Stern. I don't own Sirius, also don't own XM. But as someone who covers pop culture, it's a valid question to wonder whether now is the time for me to either buy a satellite radio or ask my employers to subsidize such an operation. And not simply because Roth isn't cutting it. That's not the issue. Nor is that a valid statement just yet. The issue is whether a substantial amount of people are listening to any one satellite radio program, whether it's Stern or Opie and Anthony or Eminem or Bob Dylan. And what constitutes a substantial amount? Or, what is the tipping point? If Sirius jumped from 600,000 subscribers to 3.3 million, is half of that due to Stern? Most of it? If so, does that mean the media needs to start monitoring satellite radio?

Perhaps a valid parallel is cable TV. At what point did the media start actually writing about HBO and Showtime original programming? Or USA? TBS? TNT? Should they have been paying attention sooner than they did? Well, it's all hindsight now. But still worth pondering...

Now, as to Mr. Roth. I stand by my original opinion. David Lee Roth is no Howard Stern, nor is he any sort of Adam Carolla. Roth acts like a new talk-radio host, still getting his on-air feet wet -- odd to think about, considering how much experience he has in the public eye, but not odd considering how others have needed a transition time in learning how to be a talk-show host. But Roth is adapting to his new New York City station's all-talk format. And that's what his show sounds like. Talk radio. Not morning radio. It sounds more jarring here in Boston on a rock station like WBCN-FM, but in New York, it's part of the format. The added sidekicks get in the way more often than not. Roth still veers too quickly from one thought to another. But maybe, just maybe, he'll settle in. Conan O'Brien did. Jimmy Kimmel did. So can Roth. But morning radio listeners have to know that if they tune into Roth, they're getting a retired rocker who wants to talk serious issues and play fun tunes, and may not have a long attention span. That's his show. Love it or leave it.


Er, I mean Media Log. Wait. No. I mean Globe Log. Mark Jurkowitz's revised blog for weekly Boston Phoenix debuted at a new site Jan. 4, and it only took until Jan. 9 for Mr. Jurkowitz to realize there might be another paper in Eastern Massachusetts other than his current and former employers. He posts today about the effort to organize a union among Eagle-Tribune employees, but before that, it was Globe, Globe, Globe -- "you've got to admire the Globe's Ron Borges," "an interesting juxtaposition on the Boston Globe's op-ed page," "Updated Numbers on the Good Globe Miner Story," "When last seen, former Globe national editor Ken Cooper," and in his first new post, a brief mention of the Globe's and Herald's changing page 1s on the miner "rescue," then more about the Globe. Yes, in full disclosure, I work at the Herald. But this isn't so much about Jurkowitz failing to mention the Herald so much as it is about him focusing solely on the Globe without even mentioning ANY other paper in the region. He can snub the Herald all he wants, but he also snubs the Patriot-Ledger, the NYT-owned Worcester paper, the New Hampshire papers, all so he can quote his friends at Morrissey Boulevard. The miner story was big national news. Who did he quote? The Globe and only the Globe. Ugh. Where are you, Dan Kennedy??? Oh, OK. There you are. Phew. Even if you're only online and in the classroom (except when you're on "Beat the Press"), at least we still have someone with er, how dare I say it, fair and balanced coverage of the Boston media.


For your lazy Sunday reading pleasure, an overview of stories, interviews and reviews from me...

A one-woman harp show? It's actually pretty good, especially if you're part of the NPR-style boomer crowd that turned out Friday night for the debut of Deborah Henson-Conant's show at Jimmy Tingle's.

I met Jerry Bruckheimer and Josh Lucas a couple of months ago at the very beginning of their press run for Glory Road. Lucas sported a cast from screwing up the ligaments in his left wrist in filming the Poseidon remake, but he wasn't here to talk about that. They were chatting up the film based on the real-life story of the 1966 Texas Western college basketball team, which won the NCAA tourney and, in a way, paved the way for March Madness. Sort of. When I asked Bruckheimer, who has his producing hands on almost as many TV shows as he has fingers, if he had considered starting his own network, his glib reply: "Well, I sorta already do." Wait. What's that? Another episode of CSI is on? Alrighty then!

If you're near Dorchester, you might still have time tonight to catch the "Big Funny Sunday" show with Chris Tabb and Corey Manning. If not, there's always next week, and in the meantime, catch up with Manning, as I did, to find out more. OK, fine. Here are some samples from our interview last week:

Many Boston comedy fans know Corey Manning as part of "the dynamic duo of comedy,” with fellow stand-up Chris Tabb.
Does that mean they’re Batman and Robin?
"No,” Manning said. "We’re more like a DC Comic matchup of Superman and Batman.”
Which one is which?
"I’d be Superman because I have more powers than Chris,” Manning said. "And plus, Chris is a little more, uh, how should I say it. Actually, I guess he’d be Superman because he’s more PC - Batman gets carried away sometimes. Chris always says I’m willing to take it there. No matter what subject matter or issue, I’m willing to take it there.”
Where is there, exactly?
"Let’s just say I have a fondness for the ladies. And they have the same for me. I’m fully willing to give the women what they need, whether they want it or not,” Manning said.
Perhaps it’s his Southern charm that does it. He is from North Carolina, having moved to Dorchester five years ago.
"It’s great to go back down for the holidays, because I’m able to recapture my country-ness, which is different,” he said. ”I got my r’s back in my words.”
Does he feel at home in Boston yet?
"Oh yeah, I get pulled over all the time. I fit right in,” he said. "Down South, when a person shoots you or robs you, they do it nicely. And they use titles, like 'Mister, could I please have your wallet, sir? Thank you.’ ”
Manning backs the city on wanting to get rid of the "Stop Snitchin' ” T-shirts and likes the alternative "Wait Until You See My Degree” shirts.
"I might come up with my own shirt: Where Have You Heard My Jokes? Or maybe: Where Can I Fix My Credit? That’s a good one,” he said.
Manning mentors children, and he’ll host an upcoming fund-raiser Jan. 26 at the Comedy Studio for the Adoption and Foster Care Mentoring Program.
"It doesn’t take that much time to listen, not talk, but really listen to a kid,” he said.
He said he was funny even as a child.
"I was so funny, I used to do private shows at the principal’s office all the time,” he said. "It was an on-demand performance. Usually it was prefaced by an announcement over the PA system that I’d be performing at the principal’s office. Some people might call it detention. I’d say it was a performance.”
That’s what you see any given Sunday at the "Big Funny Sunday” show he co-hosts with Tabb at the Emerald Isle in Dorchester.
"Usually I get out of control, and then Chris has to come in and clean things up,” Manning said.
They have guest comics both from Boston and New York, "and of course, we have stars coming down from Maine, too. Most of them have their teeth."
He boasts that their show is the most diverse comedy offering in the Hub.
"You’ve got two black guys hosting a show at an Irish pub," he said. "How much more diverse can you get than that?"

I must confess, I found this highly amusing on multiple levels -- not only for putting the Jake as Forrest Gump quote into its proper absurdity, but also for showing how all of the Marlboro Man comparisons really do kinda sorta fit, in an odd way. Posted by Picasa


Reality check awaits ambitious celebs (Boston Herald)
By Sean L. McCarthy
Celebrities are just like us.
So says this month’s TV offerings, which have them trying ballroom dance (season two of “Dancing With the Stars” starts at 8 tonight on ABC), ice skating (“Skating With Celebrities” debuts Jan. 18 on Fox), losing weight (“Celebrity Fit Club 3” on VH1) or mocking “The Bachelor” (25 “real”women compete to date Flava Flav on “Flavor of Love,” also on VH1).
TV also already proved that some stars cannot croon (“But Can They Sing?”), cannot survive a fake jungle (“I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here”) and cannot live together (“The Surreal Life”).
When will the networks put celebrities in situations we’d actually want to watch? Maybe they should consider one of these pitches:

“Celebrity Olympics: Double Luge Edition”
Premise: NBC bolsters coverage of next month’s Winter Olympics in Italy by having stars lay atop actual lugers for the 80 mph run down the slopes.
Contestants: Nathan Lane, Will Ferrell, Larry David, Mr. T, John Goodman

“Gorgeous Gorging”
Premise: Since Takeru Kobayashi’s record of eating 53.5 hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes cannot be beaten, we might as well have some fun at this year’s Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.
Contestants: Nicole Richie, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Kelly Ripa, Paris Hilton

“Drafted for Success”
Premise: Celebrities join the war effort in Iraq. No, really. They join the armed forces serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Series finale TBA.
Contestants: Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Barbra Streisand, Martin Sheen

“Do Like My ’Do?”
Premise: Stars get behind the stylist’s chair and duplicate their hairdos on fans. Each week’s losing celebrity gets his/her head shaved.
Contestants: Jennifer Aniston, Donald Trump, Halle Berry, Farrah Fawcett, George Clooney, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jennifer Lopez, Meg Ryan

“Paparazzi Prize Patrol”
Premise: Stars on a photographic scavenger hunt go for big cash prizes. First task: See who can get visual evidence that Katie Holmes really is pregnant. Prize money doubles for childbirth footage.
Contestants: James Van Der Beek, Michelle Williams, Joshua Jackson, Kerr Smith, Meredith Monroe, Chris Klein


That's what you might read into this follow-up story from E! online about the ongoing complaints from the Catholic League over South Park and other Comedy Central programming. The "Bloody Mary" episode might not have re-aired as originally planned Dec. 28, but you can still view clips at the official South Park online home.


Just my luck, I write a story that lots of people want to read and get a DJ confused with a car. Somehow my review of David Lee Roth's syndicated radio debut includes references to Adam Corolla when it should've been Adam Carolla. Ack. No, make that double ack!!

Post-holiday harmonic convergence or worst day ever for trash/recycling pickup? You be the judge as my neighbors toss their Christmas (er, holiday?) trees on the sidewalk along with their New Year's Eve booze bottles for collection on Tuesday morning, Jan. 3, 2006. Pictured: Union Park in Boston's South End. Posted by Picasa


The storm everyone in Boston predicted last night didn't quite come to pass as expected this morning or anytime today, at least not in the Hub. We got rain and cold wind. Ugh. Back in my Connecticut hometown, meanwhile, they got anywhere from 14-18 inches of snow! No wonder winter is so much different than I remember it...


I listened to Diamond Dave's radio debut this morning, so you wouldn't have to. Verdict: Hot air? Fresh air? Dead air? Try none of the above. Here is what it sounded like on Boston's WBCN-FM (104.1):

5:54 a.m., Now playing: Alice in Chains, Rooster. Somehow fitting since WBCN put closure on its Howard Stern era with an Alice in Chains song, and also because, well, here comes the rooster!

6 a.m., With the familiar drum roll intro to Van Halen's Hot For Teacher, the show starts with other strange dance beats, something that sounds slightly operatic, then a vaguely foreign female voice, saying: “Welcome to David Lee Roth, prepare to feel filthy my friend, and completely alive.”

6:01 a.m., Dave is talking. Among his first words: “This is the hottest seat in international radio here.” Then: “What do you start off with in something like this?” There are other voices in the studio, Dave calls to a guy named Hutch who sounds slightly British. Dave reads something about Morgan Spurlock and Supersize Me, then talks about what he orders from McDonald's: two cheeseburger meal, supersized, with a Coke. Then segues into talk of always a new diet pill on the market. Must be some sort of New Year's resolution ramble.

6:04 a.m., Dave asks rhetorically: “What am I doing on the radio?”

6:-4 a.m., Wait don't answer that. I used the adverb rhetorically for a reason, since Dave starts reminsicing about the first time he got a radio (or record player?) as a gift from his uncle, listening to Ray Charles when he was 7 in 1961, living at 21 Alton Court in Brookline (about two blocks from Coolidge Corner), when his dad was in college on the GI Bill.

6:07 a.m., First mention of Uncle Manny, New Yorker who started Cafe Wha?, and hired Bob Dylan for his first gig in the Big Apple. Another shout-out to Hutch, who helped Dave during his non-tryout tryout last March at WZLX-FM (100.7) in Boston. Hutch says he was born in Birmingham (England), lived in London, has been in the States for 25 years. (Looking him up online, we see he also has been a DJ for most of that time, working in the Boston area since the mid-1990s, including stints at WROR and WBOS. A Herald article search reveals he also temporarily replaced Steve Sweeney in mornings when Sweeney got booted last summer from ZLX.)

6:10 a.m., There is a toll-free call-in line: 866 313 3733 (866-313-FREE) -- a reference to the new Infinity, er, I mean CBS Radio all-talk FM "Free" format, which replaced "K-Rock" in NYC. Dave also is streaming audio online at http://www.david.freefm.com/ (links from http://www.davidleeroth.com) Dave pleads: “I’m not running for office, I’m not trying to save the world, that’s Bono’s job.”

6:11 a.m., Perhaps first full song, but Dave doesn't say what it is (female voice talking about "baby love," but it's not that Diana Ross song), all he mentions is something about people working toward their New Year's sobreity.

6:14 a.m., Dave asks if schools are back in session today, brief mention of him "lighting the menorah" over the holidays, first mention that he is a certified EMT, then talks of what to do at Ground Zero. Says something akin to "the black wall for Vietnam" needed for memory, but suggests creating housing for artists, students, as a song plays in the background ("playing a bit of a 'School Boy Crush,'" he says). “Instead of putting up another boring office building” there, he suggests new theater/bohemian district for future creative types. “What makes it the swingingest is all the style,” he says of NYC. Then he asks for phone calls.

6:21 a.m., First commercial break, fades out to Van Halen riffs.

6:26 a.m., Dave says to play the whole song, School Boy Crush by the Average White Band. This is beginning to sound a bit like, ahem, average white radio.

6:29 a.m., First caller is from Los Angeles. “Where do you work the late-shift at?” Dave asks. Caller says he is listening online, works as customer service rep at a multinational bank, is a Van Halen fan.

6:31 a.m., Dave has Hutch play Vertigo by U2 as Dave sings along, as the vague female voiceover says something about “zen and the art of hearty laughs?”

6:35 a.m., Someone else is in the studio. Don't know who(m).

6:37 a.m., Caller Jessica says, “I want to thank you Dave for being you.” She asks if he's married. Dave says making your personal life public wrecks it, says that’s what happened to Nick and Jessica. He'll repeat trend of about 15 minutes on-air, 5 minutes ads, throughout the show.

6:45 a.m., Dave says,“I think this is my first real office job.” Plays Faces' Ooh La La, sings along to lyrics, “I wish I knew what I know now, when I was younger.”

6:49 a.m., Rambling about New Year’s Resolutions? Parades?

6:50 a.m., Caller Georgie from Boston asks “Remember me?” He is singer in a band called Red Ball Jet, named after Roth's pre-Van Halen band, apparently played a party at the Palladium when Roth guest-hosted at ZLX last St. Patrick's Day? Dave ends up going on rant about need for George to get his kid educated, but at one point repeatedly says “if you know your 24 letters” (???) that you won't know any others.

6:55 a.m., Another caller, another Van Halen fan. Go figure.

7:04 a.m., “Roth…866 313-FREE” which leads to ramble about freedom and yet we cannot say the f word, how do you explain that to kids, how do you explain lesbians to kids, “You have to tread around it, not because the kid can’t handle it, but because mommy and daddy can’t handle it.”

7:11 a.m., Unknown song. Of course, notably more music without Stern, less Stern-centric ads.

7:14 a.m., Dave introduces Brian Young from California after the song. Was it Young playing? Turns out Young had at one point been guitarist in a VH tribute band called Atomic Punks, later hired by Dave to be his guitarist on the infamous 2002 concert tour with Sammy Hagar. Dave says something about Pakistanis in low-riders trying to be Tupac or Mexicans. I have no idea, either.

7:31 a.m., A couple of calls get lost. Dave quips: “What’s going on? Is Eddie Van Halen running the phones?”

7:41 a.m., How many mornings can we listen to Van Halen fans telling Dave how great he was? Then again, Stern listeners sat through 14 months of Stern telling everyone how great he was and how he was leaving for Sirius and how fans were cheering him on.

7:44 a.m., Dave makes a paramedic joke: “Mr. Rodriguez, how many of your fingers am I holding up?”

7:48 a.m., Dave quips, “I have a sex tape out, from 1982, Wichita Falls, Texas”

7:52 a.m., Dave gives a shout-out to Howard Stern, asks him what to do about Stern's old boss (and Roth's new boss) Tom, suggests he and Stern engage in "a running dialogue" about it once Stern starts on Sirius next Monday. Dave makes another Boston reference, jokes something about Tom not liking someone in the studio because he is "Boston Irish."

8:00 a.m., “This job is a breeze!” Dave says. Halfway there. He introduces his first official interview guest, Uncle Manny. They talk about Manny's childhood in the 1920s.

8:42 a.m., Still talking to Uncle Manny, now about the start of Cafe Wha?

9:09 a.m., Still with Manny? Manny says first big celebrity was Louis Gossett Jr. (!), remembers dismissing Dylan as someone who couldn't sing, didn't have stage presence. “This kid doesn’t have a frickin prayer!” Manny says. “He writes this song, The Ants Are My Friends.” The studio is laughing up a storm. Me, not so much.

9:15 a.m., Manny reads off names: Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor. “I was Richie’s first manager,” Manny says. “That had to be 1963” said Pryor must’ve been 22, 23, doing generic stuff, nothing compared to Cosby. Also lists Jimi Hendrix (as Jimmy Jones), Bobby Klein.

9:33 a.m., Finally says bye to Manny before another ad break.

9:51 a.m., Dave talks about taking flight lessons recently, says it's the hardest thing he’s done.

9:58 a.m., Dave figures he can sign off from “David lee’s tiki bunker, where the debris meets the sea...Join me tomorrow, it gets nothing but better from here.” For his sake and ours, let's hope so.

9:59 a.m., WBCN plays Pearl Jam, Jeremy

Michael Vale, aka "Fred the Baker" Posted by Picasa


How many people can say they've impacted a generation in 60 seconds or less? Michael Vale did, reminding Americans for 15 years that it was "time to make the doughnuts" for Dunkin Donuts ads. 1982 to 1997. Vale got a parade and pep rally in Copley Square when he retired his "Fred the Baker" character.

To put it into perspective, think of Jared from Subway or the Verizon Wireless "can you hear me now" guy. Each one of them is nationally known. Each one of them has been on TV ads for a few years now -- but can you imagine seeing them on TV ads for another 10 years? Another 12 years? Eggsactly. You cannot even imagine seeing them on TV tomorrow without wanting to curse them both with a case of the bird flu.

My colleague Donna put Vale's accomplishments into business perspective on Sunday.

CNN talked to the guy who hired Vale for the Dunkin Donuts campaign here (with video link).


Even facing impending TV doom, Arrested Development manages to maintain its brilliance, mocking the conventional sitcom mentality and the powers that be. Tonight's episode was, once again, magnificent. But if you're one of the few who watches, you already know that. What if you're one of the perhaps many more who record the show for future viewing? Perhaps the new Nielsen DVR ratings will hold a last gasp of appeal for FOX. Then again, it is FOX.

David Lee Roth begins his career as a syndicated morning radio host at 6 a.m. Jan. 3, 2006. Posted by Picasa


I had "Diamond" Dave on the phone last week in anticipation of his morning radio debut (he starts at 6 a.m. Jan. 3 on several CBS Radio affiliates, including WBCN-FM 104.1 in Boston). Anyhow. Dave had lots on his mind, and I didn't have room for all of it in print for today's story that ran on page 3 of the Herald, so here are some other quotable quotes from our phone chat last week.

Me and David Lee Roth, the interview, Dec. 29, 2005...

Are you ready?
DLR: "It's much like a play on the old golf joke. When I should I start learning golf? Answer: Always 10 years ago. I don't think you can get ready for a job like this. It's not even a job. You either are like this or you aren't. Howard Stern spent the last 20 years basically in a small little room with no windows. I've spent the last 30 years leading a life of crime and international intrigue! At least that's what I write on my resume!"

Did you look at your weeklong stint on WZLX-FM 100.7 last March as a formal tryout?
DLR: "There's no way to tryout. There's no way to audition. You either have this within you or you don't. Sort of like the triple half-gainer off the high dive. And no, I don't have that in me!"

DLR: "As you know, I'm an EMT."
Wait, I didn't ask you another question yet.

Did you learn anything from the week on ZLX?
DLR: "Oh, I didn't learn anything. I simply confirmed everything I knew to be true. Only this time it all happened in public...I'm a single voice that can combine and singlehandedly outrage both the extreme liberal left, of which I'm a card-carrying member, and the NASCAR nation. And yes, I am one of the great unwashed, according to Faulkner."

What should we expect from your show?
DLR: "First off, don't even think about it as radio. Think of it as the first of the first of that day's late-night talk shows. You think of it as morning radio. I think of it as afterhours....(something about Buddhists)...Whether or not you're staying up or waking up, the truest question is: Are you comfortable at 4 in the morning? For someone like myself, Keith Richards, or a four-star general, 4 in the morning is a very familiar hour to us. I don't think I've actually been to sleep since 1987!"

Is "Hot For Teacher" now ironic or prophetic, considering the more frequent allegations of affairs between female teachers and boy students?
DLR: "Students are more accelerated than ever....the whole game has sped up...that's what's walking around in the skull of a common kid today...and teachers, because of the lousy way we treat them, and the lousier way we pay them, are younger and...unconditioned, inexperienced, through no fault of their own. What kind of job is that going to attract?"

Yes, I know that was an incomplete answer, but he was all over the place, so try not to take those thoughts too far out of context, especially since a couple of minutes later, he started on another tangent...
DLR:"It's my duty to explain to little Paris, what's it all about, Alfie? Because if you show a 6-year-old a couple of lesbians, you've got a lot of explaining to do. Same if you show them a picture of soldiers. Or a picture of me!"

But what about your show?
DLR: "Another thing that separates me from almost unanimously the rest of my colleagues in radio, is I'm not a comedian. I'm just like you. I'm a cynic. And you're never going to get tired of hearing me speak my mind."

You spent part of your childhood in Boston (early 1960s). Do you plan to bring the show here ever?
DLR: "It's in my contract that I'm not giving up my life as a danger-loving adventurer! Every fourth week we travel anywhere. My first stop is Miami. Who's doing this tour?! You can figure we're going to the danger capitals of the world."

He went on to say that most DJs get uncofmfortable outside of the booth, whereas he is comfortable anywhere and everywhere. He said he suggested broadcasting from a hotel room. "They said sure, in Vegas. Why wait for Vegas?"

DLR: "Two things are happening that work against radio. The future is closer to Christiane Amanpour, who can tell you the temperature of the Tigris River within two minutes of broadcast. The technology is that advanced. Yet radio still relies on the same old tired little room. The same thing was killing the television sitcom...that's why generally the youth have abandoned radio. Because it's utterly predictable."


Strong stomach a must to check into ‘Hostel’ (Boston Herald)
The latest TV ads for Hostel boast that the film’s torture scenes are so graphic, they’ve already resulted in multiple calls for paramedics at screenings in Toronto.
That’s not to say Canadian audiences are especially squeamish.
Rather, Hostel (opening Friday) gets down and dirty, literally going for the viewer’s Achilles’ heel - slicing, dicing and clipping appendages; menacing medical tools used for nonsurgical purposes; guns to the head; the now-obligatory chain saw.
Eli Roth, the Newton native who wrote and directed Hostel, got giddy after a recent Boston screening, describing his movie’s “eyegasm” shocker.
But Sony and Screen Gems, which partner with Lions Gate Films on distribution, initially balked.
“They didn’t know what to do when they saw the scenes with the tortures,” Roth said.
But producers who knew Roth’s background - his 2003 homage to gore, Cabin Fever, was Lions Gate’s top grosser that year - defended him. Roth’s box-office credibility also is enhanced by having the words “Quentin Tarantino presents” attached to the marketing campaign.
Still, Roth acknowledged that Cabin Fever is “a Disney movie compared to” the violence in Hostel.
He showed his appreciation for Japanese horror by having Audition director Takashi Miike make an acting cameo in Hostel.
“You feel like you’re in the hands of a dangerous filmmaker,” Roth said about Miike. “Anyone could die at any moment.”
Roth wished Hollywood could support those kinds of films.
“American horror is like the (weak) wimp bastard cousin of Japanese horror,” he said. “That’s like putting a Smurf up against King Kong.”
Roth said the recent spate of remakes seemed promising with the new versions of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Dawn of the Dead but have since gotten soft.
“The studios are so afraid to offend anybody. We get boring, safe movies like The Fog,” he said. “Horror movies cannot be afraid to piss people off!”
Roth said the profitable “Saw” franchise - Saw II cost $4 million to make and has earned $87 million and counting - helps him and other filmmakers get their ideas greenlighted.
A discussion with Harry Knowles of Ain’t It Cool News (www.aintitcool.com) about a few of the sickening sites on the Internet turned into Roth’s idea for Hostel.
“I figured, if somebody else thought of it, somebody is doing it,” Roth said of the premise, which takes the stolen kidney urban legend to a sicker level.
The story ultimately frightens because it has at its root some plausibility, said Barbara Nedeljakova, who plays the villainous vixen Natalya in Hostel.
“Scary to think this might happen,” she said, “because it might happen to any of us.”

Sidebar: Why is torture the theme du jour in cinema?
Related: Watch the trailer here


Favorite favorites
Aberdeen City, The Freezing Atlantic
Amos Lee, Amos Lee
The Cyanide Valentine, Let It Rot
Franz Ferdinand, You Could Have It So Much Better
Iron & Wine, Woman King
Kaiser Chiefs, Employment
Kanye West, Late Registration
OK Go, Oh No
Sufjan Stevens, Illinois
The White Stripes, Get Behind Me Satan

Favorites 11-25
Athlete, Tourist
Bloc Party, Silent Alarm
The Bravery, The Bravery
Brendan Benson, The Alternative to Love
Bright Eyes, I'm Wide Awake It's Morning
Calexico with Iron & Wine, In the Reins
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
The Click Five, Greetings from Imrie House
Common, Be
Joy Zipper, American Whip
The Magic Numbers, The Magic Numbers
Maximo Park, A Certain Trigger
Raul Midon, State of Mind
Shout Out Louds, Howl Howl Gaff Gaff
Weezer, Make Believe

ALSO: Best 2004 disc I discovered in 2005...Ray LaMontagne, Trouble


In order of box-office performance:
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (favorite Harry Potter adaptation yet)
5. Wedding Crashers (favorite comedy in which Vince Vaughn plays Vince Vaughn)
11. King Kong (favorite blockbuster spectacle)
18. Walk the Line (favorite movie in which actors mimic real-life musicians)
29. Sin City (favorite colorful film)
43. Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (favorite family-friendly film)
45. Crash (favorite life is ugly, so deal with it film)
62. Fever Pitch (favorite use of the 2004 Red Sox in a film, for comic and dramatic effect)
71. Syriana (favorite politics is ugly, so deal with it film)
98. Good Night, and Good Luck (favorite movie with an unrelated McCarthy)
115. Kung Fu Hustle (favorite movie still waiting to see via Netflix)
129. Capote (favorite movie in which actors mimic real-life writers)

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Terror Warning Code Terror Alert Level 2004 World Series Champs

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