popular thinking

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

See you Monday

Lots to blog about still, but I have a plane flight to catch and a holiday weekend of travelers to circumnavigate, so our conversation will resume, full speed ahead, Monday morning!

"Slumming" in the South End

The New York Times spends 36 hours in my neighborhood. Two things leap out from the page immediately: 1) the piece starts by describing Boston as "still not quite an avatar of cool," and 2) the NYT throws its own little Boston paper under the bus a bit by suggesting visitors pick up a copy of the Herald (Thanks!). And naturally, in mentioning a few hot restaurants, they forgot so many others worth mentioning, from Pho and Union to the Franklin Cafe and B&G Oysters (and Picco, Sibling Rivalry, Aquitaine, Hamersley's, Tremont 647, etc., etc., etc.).

Want some real fireworks?

My colleague Heather wrote a story today that noted how AOL somehow seemed to bypass Boston on its "Top 11 Booms With a View" survey of Fourth of July fireworks across the nation. It's quite an oversight, to say the least. The Boston Pops concert and fireworks spectacular gets national primetime TV exposure (check your local CBS listings for the broadcast time in your area). That should count for something, shouldn't it? Sitting along the banks of the Charles River, listening to a traditionally famous orchestra, watching fireworks with hundreds of thousands of others who travel from far and wide.

But I think AOL missed another unique Fourth of July opportunity that's unparalleled.

It's located 500 feet or so above the Earth, so to speak, in Seattle's Space Needle. From there, you can see not one, but two major Fourth of July fireworks displays -- one over Lake Union, the other over Elliott Bay (and in the distance, several other smaller fireworks going off in all directions!). Sure, it'll cost you. But I still remember what it was like on July 4, 1998. That was my last day working as an elevator operator at the Space Needle. I had already begun my new entertainment reporting gig over in Bremerton a couple of weeks prior, but stayed on with the Space Needle specifically so I could work the holiday. Working holidays or Saturday nights there always provided extra entertainment, even if I was the one supposed to be entertaining visitors, since wedding receptions and other private parties enlivened the historic landmark. On that Fourth of July, after hauling everyone up to the observation deck, another employee and I had an elevator to ourselves. We could ride up and down, pausing every so often, just to stand and watch as grand explosions of light seemingly surrounded us. Without musical accompaniment for either fireworks display, the silence added to the beauty of the moment. I have witnessed Fourth of July fireworks in small towns (Twin Falls, Idaho), medium-sized cities (Hartford, Tulsa and Tempe) and the largest metropolitan areas (New York City and Boston). But nowhere have I enjoyed it more than in Seattle.

Superman Returns: In IMAX and 3-D!!!

In lieu of my mini movie review, I have published a full review of Superman Returns, the IMAX 3-D edition, in today's Boston Herald. The short version: If my colleague Jim gave the regular 2-D film a B-minus, then the super duper edition gets bumped up to at least a B-plus or an A-minus. Looks like we picked the correct Jordan's Furniture entertainment complex (we went to Reading, not Natick) because Barry and Eliot were there to introduce the screening and make jokes at each other's expense. Eliot said seeing mainstream Hollywood movies in IMAX 3-D "is really the future" (and I'd have to agree it's a good thing, although I wouldn't profit from it quite as directly as they would) and noted the "buttkicker" amplifiers embedded in our seats. Then Eliot sat three seats away from me and chuckled at various points in the movie before sneaking out a few minutes shy of the end credits.

-- I asked local notables and regular people which Superman power they wish they had (check out Maria Stephanos!).
-- How'd they get the late great Marlon Brando to return as Superman's father? I asked the people in charge. And the company made a helpful online video for you to watch the process.
-- Go see Superman Returns in IMAX 3-D.
-- The official movie site.

Mainstream blogging

More steps in the evolution of blogging as journalism, as the mainstream media realizes the maxim, anything they can do, we can do better. Or at least with a bigger budget.

Entertainment Weekly, one of my favorite magazines, has the daily blog, Popwatch, recently available to all since EW modified its site and ditched the requirement that you subscribe to the mag to access its goodies. Another EW page, TV Watch, heads into the turf long held by the kids at Television Without Pity and makes it easier to digest, writing up morning-after reviews of the more popular TV shows.

Comedy Central's Insider blog looks at pop culture, with an emphasis on things related to the people and shows of Comedy Central.

Even The New York Times has embraced blogs, and TV critic Virginia Heffernan launched Screens last week. Her mission: Covering all of the other ways people watch TV broadcasts -- "web video, viral video, user-driven video, custom interactive video, embedded video ads, web-based VOD, broadband television, diavlogs, vcasts, vlogs, video podcasts, mobisodes, webisodes, mashups and more." Not a lot on the blog just yet, but let's see how this one develops.

My Firefox glitch

Trying to view my new blog template is trickier on Firefox (Argh! Me wants it to work on Mozilla! Me really does!), not so much because of the sidebar but because of the bottom, which doesn't seem to enclose my posts neatly. Anyone know what's wrong? If you do, please tell me. Thanks.

Busy working, posting on Jokers Wild

Yeah, yeah, I shoulda coulda woulda posted all of the things on my mind this morning, but work pays the bills unlike Blogger.

Get psyched up for Superman Returns with some light reading (note: I also had a big Sunday charticle -- fancy Herald speak for an article in chart form -- comparing all of the actors who've played Superman but it didn't make the hyperleap online)...

-- Catch up with where we last left Superman in our rendition of "As the Kryptonite Turns."
-- Shaquille O'Neal has more songs name-dropping Superman than he has NBA title rings. Go figure. That's just the nature of Superman songs, of which there are hundreds. What's your favorite? I posted a shortlist playlist of songs for a mix CD. Favorite song I didn't include: XTC's "That's Really Super, Supergirl."

I've been posting daily about comedy on Jokers Wild, the Boston Herald-approved blog. So if you clicked here today (or any day) and haven't found anything new yet on Popular Thinking, you're almost certain to find some new reading on Jokers Wild.

My cruise around the Bahamas finally found its way into print last week, too. Take a look at Grand Turk. If you don't look now, you won't recognize it next year.


The trailers for Adam Sandler's latest sophomoric comedy make it out to be his version of Bruce Almighty. And, well, it does have the same writing team behind the box-office hit that had Jim Carrey playing God. But Click? Well, ugh. Just...ugh. My theory is that Sandler either wants to relive his childhood or he has never grown up. The jokes are juvenile. One running bit has Sandler feuding with the neighbor's kid. Not the neighbor, but the neighbor's kid. It's as if Sandler doesn't know how to act with adults. Some would say he doesn't know how to act at all, but that's not the point here. Even the soundtrack is dominated by tunes from the 1970s and 1980s, songs from Sandler's youth. Click makes Nacho Libre look like a mature comedy. So what is the stunning Kate Beckinsale doing in this movie? Christopher Walken is funny in his own way, even if it almost seems this time that he's parodying himself. Outside of Beckinsale and Walken, though, it's just...well...ugh. I cannot recommend it. Not that that'll stop you suckers.

Sean's McMovie Review: Quick, cheap and tasty.

My colleague Jim's review.
The official movie site.

Marking time

My ex left a simple comment on my MySpace page yesterday. It read: "How are you?" Yep. Simple enough. Don't think she knew the timing of her question hit home with me, coming as it did on June 22. I've made some major life decisions right around the Summer Solstice.

1993: Midway through a post-graduation cross-country road trip with a few of my college friends, I fell in love with the West and vowed to start my journalism career somewhere out there -- not thinking it'd be Twin Falls, Idaho, at the time, but who really sets out thinking they'd like to end up in Twin Falls, Idaho?

1998: First day at work at The Sun newspaper in lovely downtown Bremerton, Wash. -- the day my career shifted once (and for all?) from the seriousness of city halls, county courthouses and police stations to entertainment and pop culture.

2001: Final day at work at The Sun newspaper in lovely downtown Bremerton, Wash. -- the day I left my solid and steady footing for a six-week temporary contract at my first major metro paper, The Arizona Republic. I was chasing my not-yet-ex, whom already had, for all intents and purposes, moved there. My temp job turned into a full-time job and a weekly column, but I lost the girl.

2006: ?

Everything seems so uncertain. So stressful. And yet...I just met writer/director Kevin Smith and had a fun and effortless interview with him...I'm about to hang out with hot women who rock (Hell's Belles, check them out at a gig near you!)...I've already seen Superman Returns (it's good) and will see it a second time (IMAX! 3-D!) before most Americans have even seen it once...so things are good. Right? Right. But I feel more changes a-coming this summer. Actually, I know more changes are in store for me -- for one thing, I'm planning to move before Labor Day.

And not just because Mark Jurkowitz said so in this week's Boston Phoenix, in which he suggests more cutbacks in my already depleted department. This marked the first time he indirectly mentions me, methinks, with this line: "(The Herald might be willing to sacrifice some arts reporting, but it has made a pretty serious investment in pop-culture coverage.)"

That sounds like I'm safe, right? Right.

Who is the office thief?

I had heard when I started at my current job to take care with leaving things on my desk overnight -- that ne'erdowells of unknown origins might make off with my goodies. But stealing my juggling bags? Really? C'mon now. I hope someone merely borrowed them to practice and left them in a different location by accident. I hope it's not someone like this former freelance movie critic, caught selling DVD screeners. Now that's an Improper Bostonian!

Where are newspapers headed?

Three different, though by no means conflicting, views of the current state of the newspaper business.

Dean Singleton, head of MediaNews Group, told Wall Street analysts that all is not as doom and gloom as they'd make it out to be. "There are those who think our industry is in decline. It's really not. It's in change," said Singleton, who's bullish on the ability to marry newspapers with the Internet. "We're changing from an old business model very gradually to a different business model and sometimes some of the seed corn falls out of the wagon when you're getting it over the other side."So we're having a choppy year, we may have a choppy year next year and we may have a choppy year the following year. But the business we're developing is an outstanding business. ... The market doesn't like things that aren't going up every quarter, so we're having a tough time explaining that this isn't decline. It's change and change sometimes is painful, but sometimes it's very rewarding."

Brant Houston says we need more Investigative Reporters and Editors, and not just because he's the executive director for IRE. In his words: Media owners also have seen investigative reporting as a "niche" kind of reporting: nice for the sake of public service and awards-gathering, but not really a daily concern. But it's becoming increasingly clear that investigative reporting may be the beleaguered newspaper industry's best franchise for the future. Investigative reporting distinguishes journalists from agenda-pushing bloggers, from advocacy talk shows that parade as fair and balanced, and from the shallow reporting that happens when Wall Street pressures newsrooms to cut staffs. The worth of investigative reporting is not measured in constant bean-counting, but in how well it serves the public interest. Solid investigative reporting demonstrates the credibility of a vigilant press, as well as the need for one – a need that's greater than ever. With the advent of the Web and the blogosphere, rumors and misinformation have run rampant. Simultaneously, officialdom has grown more secretive, public relations and media manipulation have become more sophisticated, and the free press has suffered ever more relentless attacks by governments and corporations that don't want the public to know what they've been up to.

And this wire report from Reuters at the Mid-Year Media Review in New York suggests that newspapers may finally be getting the hang of this online thing.

They're all right, of course. Circulation may be declining, but profit margins at most newspapers have remained steady -- and more likely are rising due to bottom-line concerns. It's not a coincidence. For at least the past 15 years, corporations that view newspapers as businesses have decided to make more money by cutting the resources and the people that were giving you a reason to read the newspaper. Make more money. Newspapers aren't losing money. Sure, some advertisers have gone online or elsewhere, while other longtime advertisers disappeared in corporate mergers. And fewer people of my generation subscribe to a daily paper. But everyone still wants to read good stories. And businesses still want readers to know about their services. News organizations that figure this out quickly will stay alive and even thrive in the 21st century.

It's really oh-so simple. Deliver great stories. Take advantage of all the technological goodies that you'd want to see in your own daily lives. And let everyone know you've got these great stories and technological goodies.

Great stories, made greater with audio, video and online extras, and promoted to the fullest.

The "average size" "rock star"?

File this not-so blind item under Too Much Information...

Pho Republique (good spot for late-night Asian-inspired bites and conversations with bartender Peter) always makes for a lively scene. The other night, one woman celebrating her birthday mingled about the restaurant, sharing her cake with anyone and everyone. But the two women next to me seemed to be in their own world -- one minding to the other, who clearly had plenty of things on her mind and wanted to share them. The clearly inebriated one kept looking at her cell phone and thumbing text messages, or making faces and sending grunts toward the bartender, or delivering non sequiturs about "staying away from rock stars" and wanting to be in Chicago. When she went to the restroom, her friend picked up her cell phone and thought about hiding it. Instead, she scanned through the sent calls and messages to see if the drunk woman was trying to reach her "rock star" man or ex-man. There were calls to Martin and Marty.

Being able to put 2 and 2 together and not get 22, I made an educated guess and told the two women that I knew their "rock star" and didn't think he counted as a rock star since he didn't win the show.

The women began laughing uncontrollably. I had guessed right. But they asked me a couple of questions so they could make sure. "Why do you think we're talking about?" they asked. I told them that Marty isn't exactly a common name for a rock star, and if he's from Chicago, then there's really only one person that could possibly be. "Do you know him?" they asked. No, I replied, but I had seen him live opening for the real "rock star" and INXS at the Wang. They laughed some more. They wanted to know what I thought of him. I told them. He looks like a bird, especially when he's dancing. They laughed even more. His songs are OK, but nothing spectacular. Obvious why INXS chose JD Fortune instead.

And shortly thereafter, the drunk woman said suddenly: "He's average size."

Her friend and I had the same shocked look on our faces. Wha? Huh? You're telling us this why?

I never did learn what the drunk woman considers "average size." And I never did learn what she saw in him. And if you're still wondering, she was talking about this guy. Yes, that guy.

A Whale of a ride

Kevin Dineen and Whalers fans following the final NHL game at Hartford Civic Center, April 1997. Posted by Picasa

Hartford Courant columnist Jeff Jacobs writes from the scene last night in Raleigh, N.C. On the Courants Canes poll, asking how readers would feel about a Stanley Cup in Carolina, 909 had responded by early this afternoon...

Grrrr: 24.6 percent
Go Whalers! 31 percent
Good for the Canes: 29.2 percent
Pete who? 2.4 percent
Really don't give a hoot: 12.8 percent

The Connie Chung Sung Blues

Maybe this will help us Whalers fans get over the Hurricanes victory. If you haven't already seen it, this is the clip of Connie Chung slaughtering "Thanks for the Memories" on her final MSNBC show last weekend. Chung said later that she meant this to be a gag, that she knows she cannot sing well, and that she has done this sort of thing before, for laughs. If only more TV news folk made arses of themselves on camera more often. Wait a second. They already do. Sit back and enjoy!

Carolina Hurricanes: Stanley Cup Champs???

I see it on my TV screen, but I refuse to acknowledge that the Carolina Hurricanes even exist as a hockey team. They were dead to me the second they left the Hartford Civic Center and the Hartford Whalers fans in the lurch forever. Play the Brass Bonanza one more time! The best goal-scoring, pep-rallying anthem of all times! (And congrats to Carolina, I guess, but ugh.)

Hartford Whalers remembrances.
Another Whalers fan site (Whalers Hockey).
Whaler Watch (the Hartford Whalers Booster Club, still in service?).
What Wikipedia has to say about the Whalers.

CNN: Asking the "tough" questions

I saw back-to-back ads this morning for CNN programming that, well, let me just describe it: The first ad was for tonight's Larry King Live, in which Charlie Rose supposedly talks openly about his recent brush with death and then answers "the tough questions." Um, but he's going to be on Larry King, right? There are no tough questions on Larry King? Unless, by tough, you mean Charlie Rose has to keep up with King's doddering, meandering stream of consciousness. Let's hope King remembers who Rose is. Then, the second ad, this one for Anderson Cooper's exclusive interview, previewing tonight and airing Tuesday, with Angelina Jolie. But it was the clip they decided to show this morning that really took the cake and shoved it down my throat to the point at which I vomited it back up in my mouth. Cooper's question to Angelina: What was it like to give birth for the first time? If only we knew what it was like for Angelina to give birth. It must be so different from the way mere mortal mothers give birth. Let's imagine, shall we?

Short but sweet Sunday links

Just a few things I wanted to mention before too long...

-- My friend and fellow ex-Republic(an) Judd Slivka has an article in the current issue of ESPN: The Magazine. A good portrait of one soccer team in New Mexico grappling firsthand with immigration. Read Judd's blog for more details.

-- Taylor Hicks is the No. 1 hottest bachelor? Really?! Who are these People at People magazine? The Media Gadfly takes a look at the rest of the list and breaks down the madness.

-- Bella Rossa has some amusing things to say and amusing liks to provide from her perch in the Windy City. And she put me on her blogroll. So check her out and tell her I sent ya!

Nacho Libre

Jack Black plays to his strengths, but with a Mexican accent and a tendency to sing Tenacious D songs without that Mexican accent. Jared Hess uses the same techniques that worked for him on Napoleon Dynamite, shooting entirely on location and going for quirky actors and reactions over plot. Ana de la Reguera captivates every scene she's in -- you get the sense that the producers said, "Can we get someone who looks like Paz Vega and talks like Penelope Cruz, but much cheaper?" Turns out they could! It's not quite Napoleon Dynamite meets School of Rock, with the Hess brothers and Mike White writing the script, but it comes close. Is that what you like? If so, then go. If no, then no.

Sean's McMovie Review: Quick, cheap and tasty.

My colleague Jim's review (Note: No matter what he tells you, I gave him the demonic Ewoks line!).
The official movie site

The Lake House

Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock reunite, and show they have great chemistry. But The Lake House asks you to take a big leap out of logic -- and not just because it's got a time warp to it. It's how the characters deal with (or more to the point, fail to deal with) this time warp that makes you question everything. Especially the ending. Nevertheless, the movie paints all the right romantic comedy numbers right up to that ending. But the ending! Ack!

Sean's McMovie Review: Quick, cheap and tasty.

My colleague Jim's official review.
The official movie site.

One-on-one with Jim Lehrer

The longtime frontman for PBS News, Jim Lehrer, is fun to talk to. I had the chance to chat with him on the phone earlier this week, and some of that conversation ran in today's Boston Herald. But there's plenty more. For one thing, the 72-year-old uses some salty language. That's nice to know. For another thing, we have a couple of mutual connections. One of his NewsHour Web experts, Leah Clapman, went to college with me and we traveled in the same small circles. And one of his best journalism friends, Roger Mudd, taught Leah and me in Mudd's first-ever stab at teaching (twas a seminar on politics and the press, held during the fall of 1992, which had a highpoint when we all watched Election Night coverage on multiple TVs with Mudd, pizzas and beer). But I digress.

Jim Lehrer and I talked a bit about his upcoming PBS special, Free Speech, and the state of the journalism industry.

On the notion that the Bush White House is particularly dodgy with the press: "I've been here a long time. Every White House has had a problem with the press. It's not something that I give a lot of time worrying about."

On the rumors following the 2004 Bush-Kerry debate, moderated by Lehrer, that a mysterious bulge in Bush's back hid communications equipment: "I was right there. It seemed to me it was just a bulge in his back. It was not the focus of my attention...I haven't heard much about it since then."

On Bob Schieffer making way for Katie Couric at the helm of the CBS Evening News and the notion of celebrity journalists: "Schieffer and I started out as newspapermen...We came here together and we're friends. As we joke, nobody ever accused us of being pretty faces."

On his talk with Bradlee and the future for Free Speech: "We're going to see what happens. I talked to him for maybe four and a half, five hours. (Note: One hour airs on PBS) We'll put it (all) out later this summer, make it available to kids, journalism students."

On what newspapers can do to survive (Bradlee's answer: "Stories. Good stories."). Lehrer agreed: "Absolutely. He's saying the same thing I was saying. We just need to stay in the story business. Because no one can touch us. No one else is in that business."

Tuesday Night Book Club

Yes, I watched the "reality" soap opera debut last night of Tuesday Night Book Club on CBS. Wasn't planning to. But when my Comcast told me the show centered on women from Scottsdale, Ariz., I said, "I need to see this." After all, I did watch The Will. I know, I know. That show lasted only one week. This one probably will make it, because it's got that Starting Over vibe to it, with the added inanity that is Scottsdale. These people may be acting, but they're not acting. This is how a lot of folks think, act and live in Scottsdale -- at least the people who think, act and live publicly. There also are plenty of nice folks (I still know a few) who live there, too, but they don't seek the limelight.

Return of the moon

Even my mediocre Motorola cameraphone could see that the full moon made a dramatic return to Boston last night, pictured here above the new Cathedral High School gym. Posted by Picasa

Dane Cook's Tourgasm

The show debuted last night on HBO. If you missed it, catch up with my coverage in Sunday's Boston Herald, in which I talked to Mr. Dane Cook about the show. If you saw the show, then you'll really appreciate the extra stuff I put on my work blog, including explanations straight from Gary Gulman and Robert Kelly about their roles in the first episode.

Or just watch this funny skit The Groundlings did a couple of years ago, called "Gary Gulman."

Just For Men: Mixed Messages

I saw a new TV ad for Just For Men with at least two major problems:

1. It continues to suggest that women who wouldn't otherwise have sex with you would if only you got rid of those pesky gray hairs and dyed them another color. Tell this to Taylor Hicks, your new American Idol!

2. It makes this suggestion with this song in the background: "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing."

A Prairie Home Companion

REVIEW: I have to agree with my colleague Jim: "charming but surprisingly toothless." If you're a fan of Garrison Keillor's NPR show, "A Prairie Home Companion," and wanted to see its whimsy folkiness captured on camera by Robert Altman, then this movie is perfect for you. The more you like Keillor and Altman, the more you're like the film. Take Keillor's odd sense of humor (he wrote the screenplay), the aforementioned whimsy folkiness of his radio program, add an all-star cast including Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin as singing sisters, Lindsay Lohan as Streep's angst-ridden daughter, Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly as a humorously hammy duo, and Kevin Kline as what exactly, I'm not really sure, but he is a very funny guy. I wasn't really sure about Virginia Madsen's grinning reaper angel character, but Jim set me straight, reminding me that with Altman aging and ailing (the studios require a second director on each of his films, for insurance purposes!), it's a nod to how even the best things and people have to end eventually.

Dixie Chicks: Not country...folk

The Dixie Chicks have the best-selling CD in the country, but you cannot hear them on country radio. Curious, idn't it?

I asked Mike Brophey, program director at Boston's Country 99.5 (WKLB-FM), about that. The station lists the Chicks on its artists roster, but no longer plays any Chicks songs nor does it even include the Chicks local date at the TD Banknorth Garden (July 29) on its concert calendar. Brophey said Sony didn't even try to get his station to play the new songs. "I think nationally, they've reached such a roadblock with country radio," Brophey told me. Just look at the national airplay charts if you don't believe him. But folk station 91.9 (WUMB-FM) plays three of the new Dixie Chicks songs: "I Hope," "Everybody Knows" and "Heartbreak Town." At least according to their online playlists. As WUMB's program director, Brian Quinn, told me today, "It's really based on the sound of the record and the quality of the record than about the politics." So who is abandoning who here? Has country radio dumped the Dixie Chicks, or have the Chicks gone folk (and bluegrass)?

Jokers Wild: The Blog

Another blog? Whenever do you find the time for all of this typing? Never you mind that. Just go read it. And keep reading it. And tell your friends to read it.

It's Jokers Wild, your source for comedy previews, reviews, interviews and news in and around Boston, online via my employers at the Boston Herald.

2006 MTV Movie Awards

For reasons I've yet to figure out, I watched and blogged tonight's show. It's over at The Big Show Blog, which you don't need a hyperlink for -- just look up at my new funky tab for it and click over! Don't forget to come back. Thanks.

The Netflix roadshow

I cannot deliver the graphic goods like the Thighmaster can, but I can weigh in on the planned Netflix Rolling Roadshow for a cinematic scene near you this August. Classic films, screened at their classic locations.

Aug. 2: The Warriors, at Coney Island. (Warriors, come out and play-ay!)
Aug. 5: Jaws, at the state beach on Martha's Vineyard. (If only they had done this last year for the film's 30th anniversary, the islanders who hold their little shark fest would've done flippy flips.)
Aug. 8: Clerks, at The Quick Stop, Leonardo, N.J. (Kevin Smith reportedly attending)
Aug. 10: Ferris Bueller's Day Off, at Cedar Road Water Tower, Northbrook, Ill. (Because the Cubs won't let them in Wrigley Field?)
Aug. 11: Field of Dreams, at the field in Dyersville, Iowa. (Been there, can verify that it really is in the middle of nowhere, and would definitely go back for this one except for the fact that it'll probably bring out a lot of crazies.)
Aug. 16: The Shining, at Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colo. (Although really, you'd need to show it in the dark of winter for full effect.)
Aug. 18: The Searchers, at Gouldings Lodge, Monument Valley, Ariz.
Aug. 20: Raising Arizona, at Lost Dutchman State Park, Apache Junction, Ariz. (Finally, a reason to go to Apache Junction and have laughs that aren't at the expense of Apache Junction.)
Aug. 24: The Poseidon Adventure, aboard the HMS Queen Mary, off Long Beach, Calif. (This is the good Poseidon, as opposed to the one that's still in cinemas this week.)
Aug. 26: Escape From Alcatraz, from Alcatraz, in San Francisco Bay. (Followed by a swim?)

That's the initial list. More films and locations may be announced. Any suggestions? I'll start. North By Northwest at Mount Rushmore. Casablanca in Casablanca, Morocco. King Kong from the Empire State Building.

How about you?

My Independence Day

Two years and counting, as of today. Has it been that long? Freedom still tastes fresh and new. Me likes me some more of this freedom.

Actors as singers

It's no secret. "Rock stars want to be actors, and actors want to be rock stars." That's what John C. Reilly said when I asked him about why so many actors try, but fail to have successful music careers. Actually, Reilly's first reply was a zinger. He looked me in the eyes and shot back, "I don't know. Why is it so many writers try, but fail to be successful novelists?" That was earlier this spring, when Reilly, Kevin Kline and director Robert Altman accompanied THE Meryl Streep to Brookline for an appearance at the Coolidge Corner Theatre and a sneak preview of A Prairie Home Companion. I'll wait to post my review until Friday, when the film opens nationwide. But read more about my probing into the subject of actors singing on film in today's Boston Herald. Here's the link to the story.

Sarah Silverman really is unrated (on DVD)

For an actual "unrated" DVD out today, try Sarah Silverman's 2005 effort, Jesus is Magic, instead. The DVD includes a behind-the-scenes "featurette," Silverman's critically-acclaimed turn in The Aristocrats, commentary tracks and a music video. Here are the first eight minutes from the film...enjoy! :)

An "unrated" Brangelina?

Please. Who are the folks at 20th Century Fox trying to kid with the DVD release today of an "unrated" version of Mr. & Mrs. Smith? It's almost as if they expect suckers to believe there is a version of the movie that actually shows Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie making whoopie baby Shiloh...wait a second. That's probably eggsactly what they eggspect. Don't buy it.

Ch-ch-ch-changes to popular thinking

A fresh look, and a fresh perspective on my Popular Thinking blog. As you can see, I've enabled comments again -- mostly because I'd like to get your feedback on the new template, the new links and anything else you might like to say about this blog. I've also gotten a new template for my sideshow Big Show Blog, and will update that soon enough with full retro-blog treatments of the Lost and American Idol finales. Thanks for visiting!

The Omen reviewed: 86 this 666 remake

Those of you who read my Sunday interview with Paul Bisson, the 35-year-old from Salem who launched The Omen Chronicles, already might have surmised my feelings about this remake. I saw it last week. And Bisson's quote to me about the original rings oh so true: “You feel for Damien in the original. You’re heartbroken that this kid is who he is.” The remake, out today because it's 06/06/06 on both the American and European calendars (but not the Jewish or Chinese calendars -- discuss!), doesn't ever make you feel sympathetic for new Damien. It's almost as if the director kept telling the kid, "OK. Can you look even creepier?" Ugh. And how can you have a suspenseful movie without any suspense? Mia Farrow camps and vamps it up, but otherwise, the movie provoked laughs -- not shrieks -- at our press screening last week. I imagine a lot of people will go see this movie, anyhow. But I'd rather you didn't. If you want a good scare, rent the original (or buy the 30th anniversary special DVD when it comes out later this month).

RELATED: Jim's review in the Herald. Jim gave it a C+, I'd say C- or D+ is more like it.

Film attendance in Boston

Tom Bernard of Sony Pictures Classics told the Hollywood Reporter last week that fewer people are going to the movies in Boston because the city has lost popular movie critics. Really? Not because Boston no longer has an art house? Not because Hollywood has produced a bunch of junk the past couple of years? Not because ticket prices headed toward $10?

Apologies to Mr. Jurkowitz

I must acknowledge my previous posts have been a little rough on Boston's full-time paid media critic. Because as it turns out, Mark Jurkowitz and his blog postings have been, on the whole, increasingly more fair and balanced now that he has given notice to the Phoenix. Better late than never, right?

Metro vs. Sidekick

An imaginary showdown for ultimate uselessness in Boston snooze. Oh, if only the Metro budget meetings were that amusing. Thanks, derspatchel! And thanks, too, to Universal Hub, for sharing the links.

The Insider's name games

Couldn't help but notice last night that The Insider (crappy online site, btw) has dropped references to the New York Post's Page Six and its influence on the show, calling Page Sixer Paula Froelich simply a Post reporter. Hmmm. Could it have anything to do with this? Or this? Probably the latter, at least.

In slightly related news, the TV Insider's online home also has a section called Inside Track. But it's not the Herald's Inside Track. Just keeping Tabs.

Speaking of my friends down Dorchester way, you may have missed the Globe's massive 180 last week. On May 23, the Business section screamed this headline: So why are Boston movies getting shot in Canada? But this is not a case of a misleading headline, because the story goes to great lengths to describe how so many Boston movies aren't being filmed in Boston. One slight problem with this article. Care to take a guess? Turn to the May 24 issue of the Globe, City/Region section, equally big splash. The headline one day later? Lights, camera, Semont Road: Affleck's new film draws a crowd. Oh. That little thing? I suppose Ben Affleck's directorial debut, starring brother Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Ed Harris and Morgan Freeman (among others), and based on Dennis Lehane's book, "Gone, Baby, Gone," yeah, I suppose that counts as a Boston film being filmed in Boston. Oops.

Opposition research now goes mobile?

Found this little news nugget about the Boston Globe. According to this press release (with helpful names, phone numbers and e-mails!), anyone can access Globe headlines and stories on their cell phones. If you're cracked out on the BlackBerry, perhaps. But my friends and I don't even like reading long text messages. Full stories? Color me dubious, at least at first glance.

The return of Last Comic Standing

Jay Mohr is out and Anthony Clark is in. Ponder that for a moment. Now let's move on to a new season of Last Comic Standing.

The first two hours aired last Tuesday. There's an hourlong recap tonight at 8 p.m., but while you wait, here are some things you likely don't know but probably should.
Past winners John Heffron and Alonzo Bodden get updates, while original LCS weiner Dat Phan...um...where is he now? Buck Star gets invited back, but not Dat Phan. Ouch!
Many comics "auditioned" in the other cities (rather than NYC and LA) for an easier chance.
Bob and Ross act as if they don't know who Gabriel Iglesias is, which is odd, considering they've booked him before on The Tonight Show. Same with Bil Dwyer (I hung out with him at a Cubs-Brewers spring training game in 2003, when he was appearing at the Tempe Improv and hosting TV's Battlebots -- he more recently hosted The 70s House on MTV and Extreme Dodgeball).
Doug Benson, best known from VH1's Best Week Ever but also part of a long-running touring trio gig called The Marijuana-Logues, what is he doing on this show?
Only a brief shot of Kyle Cease onstage...wha? Kyle is huge on the college circuit and just got a Comedy Central half-hour special and CD package, so he's going to be OK. Another face in the L.A. comic crowd...was that Yoshi? I think it was. Matt Iseman, too. How'd you like to be the comedians who made the live face-off but got zero face time? Is that a bad thing? Perhaps not, if they bombed. You don't want THAT to be how America first sees you. Marc Price (Skippy from Family Ties) and Theo Von (from MTV) get extra screen time, credit for past TV experience. And Theo, because his experience is all "reality" challenge-based, gets a pass to Vegas.

But first, the show heads to Tempe. Ah, Tempe. So many memories on that Improv stage. No sign of Dan Mer, but I see other familiar faces here. First up is Josh McDermitt, who I put in a Tempe Improv showcase/contest a couple of summers ago (and who has been working with the Tim & Willy morning radio crew there in Phoenix for several years). Good for him. Ron and Ryan, though, come off as two-bit amateurs. Not good for them. Their shtick never quite worked at the Improv, jumping around after making the most basic jokes, especially when they were supposed to be hosting the big shows there. April Macie, not local -- from L.A., and girlfriend of Gary Gulman. Hmmm. I saw Mark Cordes standing in the background onstage, but no jokes from him. Too bad. Didn't recognize a single face in the audience, though, and no glimpses of the staff. Argh. Of others making it through, it should be noted that Ty Barnett was on Star Search only a couple of years ago.

Austin? Um, whatever. Next. New York City. Angel Salazar? He was in Punchline, for crying out loud! Brody Stevens?! Yeah. Former Mass. comic Jon Fisch got a callback. But he'll be at the Comedy Studio this Thursday instead as part of a sold-out benefit show. Kerri Louise got relegated to background duty. Moody McCarthy -- no relation. Chicago: What was Jimmy Pardo doing there? And Larry Reeb, he was on a Rodney Dangerfield special in 1989 with Tim Allen, Jeff Foxworthy and Sam Kinison. Um, yeah. Gerry Dee has done both Star Search and a CBS golfing "reality" show. John Roy won Star Search, so, um, yeah. Then Miami, where Flip Schultz is a no-brainer selection: Another Star Search competitor (and I saw him in Aspen a few years back).

While we were out

A brief journey in the not-so-wayback machine to some of the things on my mind, and in the press, as a gentle reminder to click on the Boston Herald tag above (I have tags? I have tags!) and read my regular print musings -- or better yet, to go pick up a copy of the newsprint, and for a couple of quarters, see how pretty it all looks.

Jim Norton is just as nutty on the phone and onstage as he is as the comic sidekick/foil to Opie and Anthony (locally mornings on WBCN-FM 104.1 or everywhere on XM satellites), and it's something that I managed to get as many printable quotes as I got.

Then again, Jim Florentine's mind may be sicker.

My interview with guitarist Mike McCready of Pearl Jam was one of the most popular online reads for our paper, even weeks afterward. That's due, in part, to the band's newfound resurgence with the rest of the mainstream media (disclosure: I've been a fan since a college friend turned me onto them in 1991), in part due to Pearl Jam's two sold-out shows at the new Boston Garden, and in part due to my use of a Doonesbury reference (thanks, Larry!). And, of course, my stellar writing!

I wanted Katharine McPhee to win American Idol. On the other hand, it's probably for the best that she didn't. And did you see the look on Taylor's face when he realized he really was the next American Idol? Which reminds me, I need to update my Big Show Blog to reflect all of that.

Lots of TV characters didn't make it through May sweeps, although really, that's not as much because the networks felt more violent than usual -- just that offing the cast sometimes is an easy dramatic screenwriting device, 1) saving the show some money, and also 2) buying them new plot developments.

Dan Sally is one of Boston's funniest, quirkiest stand-up comedians, and I finally got to give him some much deserved press. Go here to see his Web site. Or check him out on Comedy Central.

I recently spent a Saturday night with a bachelorette party out of Somerville. And no, I wasn't the hired dancer. Although they did drag me out on the dance floor. Get a flavor for the experience here. RELATED: Hitch your own ride on the Bustonian.

Not quite as recently, I sat down at a table across from Al Gore. Yes, that Al Gore. Here is some of what transpired. As for his movie, An Inconvenient Truth, Gore makes a solid case that we've been (and by we, he means George W. Bush and Co.) have been neglecting the environment, and woe be unto all of us if we don't start cleaning up our act. Part of the reason Gore "lost" in 2000 was because he came across as a guy who knew he was smarter than the rest of us and showed it with smug. On film, he comes across like a college professor. Warm. Still a bit boring. But warm. In person, he's easier to like. And knowing I could make him laugh early and often over the course of a half-hour convinced me that the guy is human, and humorous. If only he could figure out how to present that guy to the rest of the country.

Amazon.com is in the TV talk show bidness? Who knew? RELATED: Watch the first episode of "Amazon Fishbowl with Bill Maher"

Greg Giraldo should be a lot more famous than he is. Of all of the stand-up comedians working the circuit and talking topical, few know how to tell it like it is like Giraldo can. My interview with him ran on Friday, and I went to see his show Saturday at the Comedy Connection. He had me rolling throughout his set, taking on everything from the just concluded national spelling bee to the immigration debate and practically anything else that our society should be worried about. RELATED: Greg Giraldo's Web site (which has audio and video clips). Or watch other video clips of Giraldo on Comedy Central.

I wasn't terribly impressed with the sixth-season "finale" of The Sopranos. It was one of the episodes in which you kept thinking the other shoe was going to drop, and it never did. More ho-hum than Bada Bing! Then again, my friend Christian pointed out that creator David Chase always has had a knack to keep the audience guessing, resisting the easy ways out of an intricate plotline. Even so. The last eight episodes, due in 2007, better be better. A whole lot better.

Hanso Industries, the early years?

File this under Fun With Filmstrips. The folks behind Lost are at it again, or are they? This six-minute video popped up online last week, purportedly looking at how Hanso Industries got going in the 1960s. As you look for clues (notice where the electromagnetic satellite orbits and stops?! social engineering? cryogenics? things to ponder!), let your mind wander, as mine did, and consider where they found these films, to what lengths they had to go to "age 'em up," where they found the music, and where these old scientists actually are. Are any of them still alive? If so, how do they feel about getting tangled up in the Lost mythology? At any rate. Kick back and enjoy...


Was it to last a little longer. Alas, even the author of Popular Thinking, after taking a much needed respite from the land o' blogs, must eventually return. And return I shall soon enough.

In the meantime, Sean's Umbrella Rule remains in effect. The rule states:

When Boston meteorologists predict rain, but no rain is visible...one of two actions will result. If Sean carries his umbrella, most likely no rain will fall. But if Sean neglects his umbrella, Sean will get doused with rain. This rule has not failed Sean in the past several months. NOTE: This rule did not apply at all in Phoenix, Ariz., or in Seattle, Wash.

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