popular thinking

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

The new reality TV brigade

More new "reality TV" shows debuted tonight, continuing the onslaught. It really is an onslaught, too, which anyone with half a brain cannot comprehend, those with full brains have stopped pretending to comprehend, and the brainless -- well, the brainless don't care a whit. Nor do they know what a whit is.

Let's recap the 2006 summer season...

Tonight I saw the debut of Star Tomorrow, which is American Idol for singers AND bands, with a host who at first reminded me vocally of Brooke Burke (Rock Star: INXS or Supernova), but ultimately realized the familiar noise as the voice of Comcast On Demand.

Also on NBC tonight, another episode of the new Treasure Hunters, which essentially is a B-movie version of The Amazing Race (featuring less intelligent -- thereby more entertaining? -- contestants) in a C-movie version of The Da Vinci Code.

Rounding out the NBC lineup is America's Got Talent, which is The Gong Show with a million-dollar prize. How do they keep stringing this along? Should the Rappin' Granny win a cool million? Are you crazy?

The only new venture of the summer, Tuesday Night Book Club, sank like a silicone breast implant, once again proving that America wants its Scottsdale gold-diggers in smaller doses (see: The Will).

Tonight, actually right about now, is the debut of One Ocean View, which comes from the makers of MTV's The Real World, and that's no shocker. This is essentially the same show, only with a slightly older, less diverse cast thrown out on Long Island. Yippee. Or not.

The One? Yes, you blinked. You missed it. I kinda dug it. But it had absolutely awful scheduling, going up against both Rock Star: Supernova and So You Think You Can Dance? The premise was easy enough to follow. Take American Idol, add backstage footage a la Rock Star, then add a Survivor element with competitors making the final cuts. Oh well.

Something should be said here about Tabloid Wars. I absolutely positively love it. And that has nothing to do with my feelings about the New York Daily News (which are more on the objective side). It offers a realistic look inside a metro daily newsroom, warts and all. At least the debut episode last Monday didn't appear to 1) pull any punches, or 2) try to manipulate the print people into TV-type actions.

A good day for Revere Beach

Summer finally arrived in all of its glory Sunday to the Boston area. Miraculously, the Blue Line seemed to be running normally, too! So the choice came down to golf or beach? I chose beach. Revere Beach. As always, fun people-watching and a great snack from Kelly's Roast Beef. And, it turned out to be the big sand castle weekend. My personal favorite (also the fans' favorite, as noted on the placard) was this Leonardo Da Vinci creation.

Revere Beach, Revere, Mass., 3 p.m. Sunday, July 30, 2006. Posted by Picasa

Sally reports from Lebanon

My dear friend Sally Farhat loved the idea of spending her summer in Beirut. Until the bombs started falling. Sally, whose parents moved to Seattle from Lebanon before she was born, wrote about her experiences here and here, for the Seattle Times. I'm just glad she's OK.

Fun with McDonald's

Thanks go to the kids at Best Week Ever for remembering this 2001 McDonald's ad in which a trapped-in-the-closet Lance Bass plays Spin the Bottle with his N Sync bandmates (and Britney Spears)!!! It's a quick ad, so don't blink or you'll miss all of the wink-wink, nudge-nudge signs that even back then, Bass might be gay.

Although, if you really stop to think about the logistics, why would five straight guys play Spin the Bottle with one girl?

Also in McDonald's news, these two characters believe they've created a new sangwich -- the "Ghetto Big Mac" -- which turns a Dollar Menu double cheeseburger into a Big Mac. Only it's not $1, since they also buy a Dollar-size fries to construct and simulate the middle layer of bread, which would make it $2. So here is a link to the how-to site and video. But methinks you could come up with your own better Mickey D's burger, if you had a few minutes to brainstorm it. Or, even better, if you live on the Left Coast, you could visit In-n-Out Burger and have all sorts of DIY burger-making fun!

Or, relive the original-nosed version of Ashlee Simpson in this already classic clip from a Toronto McD's visit last year. By the way, am I crazy for thinking Ashlee is wicked hawt with her new nose? Am I? Wait. Don't answer that. Just watch the clip...

Staring at my Pumas

I got me a new pair of Puma sneakers. Orange with a brown stripe. Wore them today for the first time, and people cannot stop staring at my feet. It's ridiculous. It's hilarious. It's ridiculously hilarious!

Want to buy them?

These are them! Posted by Picasa

Amanda Palmer does Aberdeen City

The Dresden Dolls lead doll Amanda Palmer presents this "Karaoke Verite" music video for fellow Boston rockers Aberdeen City and their local hit, "God Is Going to Get Sick of Me."

Spotted on YouTube by Scott Stereogum, although it should be noted, Sir Stereogum, that Aberdeen City's disc already is available everywhere. The Aug. 8 date on the band's homepage refers to a re-release, as mentioned on their MySpace profile thusly: "They found an early fan in Producer/A&R Columbia Records Steve Lillywhite who approached the band about going back into the studio to work on a few tracks, leading to a deal with Sony's Red Ink label to re-release the album on August 8, 2006."

The Dresden Dolls (and on MySpace here)
Aberdeen City (and on MySpace here)

The Daily Show mocks Web, Mac ads, itself

The clip o' the week: Here watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, with John Hodgman (the PC in the Mac vs. PC ads) deconstructing "net neutrality" and the "series of tubes" crack by Sen. Ted Stevens.

Popular Thinking's birthday is today

Popular Thinking turns 2 today. In case you were curious about such things. Again, another reminder to myself that I need to post something fresh for you readers. Thanks for sticking with me for the first two years of blogging, and look forward to even more fun, fresh analysis and insight in the years to come!

What is Jason Wolfe talking about?

And another thing about the insensitivity sessions over at WRKO-AM...the statement provided by DePetro's boss, Jason Wolfe...well, it doesn't compute.

DePetro was suspended for two days for referring to Matt Amorello by a gay slur. And here was Wolfe's response:

This corporation has zero tolerance for racial intolerance. Mr. DePetro has 72 hours to think about it,” said Jason Wolfe, vice president of programming at WRKO (680) and WEEI-AM (850).

72 hours = two days?
gay slur = racial intolerance?

The Herald and the Globe had the same quote (see story links from my previous post yesterday), so it's not about a misquote. It's almost as if the stations released an old statement from when Dennis and Callahan got into trouble years ago by monkeying around, so to speak. Any ideas?

When the slur is the news

Talk about living in a two-newspaper town. Over the past few days, we've seen the two Boston dailies take completely different positions on whether to print slurs and expletives.

First, the scenarios. (Avert your eyes and ears now if profane language disturbs you.) President George W. Bush gets overheard Monday telling British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the G8 summit that Syria should "get Hezbelloh to stop doing this shit" and the crisis between Israel and Lebanon (still ongoing Wednesday night, mind you) would end. On Tuesday, John DePetro of WRKO-AM (680) in Boston took his smack talk to another level by calling Massachusetts Turnpike Authority (as in, the Big Dig) chief Matt Amorello a "fag" several times on the air.

How would the press treat these profanities? How would you describe them? Would you use the words or insert a substitute word instead?

CNN aired the Bush clip and repeated the statement afterward. Watch it here...

The Boston Globe chose a Washington Post story that included the word as is.
The Boston Herald chose an AP story that cut the proverbial profanity to "s---" and linked online to an AP video that censored the profanity.

On the WRKO story, the Globe went with (slur) to cover up the DJ's slur, while the Herald not only used the word, but also put a link online for readers to hear DePetro's words for themselves.

My own journalistic policy on profane language, especially when dealing with entertainers who routinely talk that way, is to substitute the word (expletive) in quotes for print purposes. Online, though, I may offer links original audio and video works that may contain profanities, and for those links I include an NSFW (not safe for work) warning. But in the two scenarios described above, I could understand the arguments for directly quoting the sources. In these cases, the slurs and profanities are part of the news. Readers, viewers and listeners should know exactly what was said so they can make up their own minds. As my old high school English teacher always reminded me, "context determines meaning." (Expletive) doesn't convey the same context or meaning as the actual expletive does.

So are both papers showing inconsistencies? Or do these decisions make perfect sense? What do you think? What would you do?

Human Space Invaders

Saw this mentioned yesterday on Rocketboom (which reminds me, I do have something to say about that whole drama, too) and just had to share it with you.

Space Invaders goes the Soylent Green route...IT'S PEOPLE!!!

Not sure which is more impressive/amusing/puzzling -- that the Swiss love the old Space Invaders arcade game this much, that they could convince enough people to undergo this exercise, or that so many of us would willingly sit and watch this instead of playing the game ourselves. Enough talk. Let's get to the action!

The folks at Not So Noisy, who are responsible for all of this, explain it in French.
Or you can PLAY the game on your computer.

Where have you been all week?

Oh, right. Once you start looking at a blog, you expect to be able to come back on a regular basis and see something new. The dog days of summer, and the doldrums from the I-90 connector ceiling collapse, and what's that word (work?) combined to keep me away from Popular Thinking (noticed I did not say conspired to, but combined to) last week. But fun times were had, too.

Like meeting up with some friends to see Madonna in concert at the TD Banknorth Garden. That woman knows how to put on a show. It reminds you of just how silly we all were to even dare to compare Britney Spears to Madonna a few years ago. Madonna remains the new Madonna. Even now, after two decades, she still manages to make music that makes people want to shake it. And she is in tremendous shape. Here's a clip!

World Cup in the North End

This was the view from outside Caffe Graffiti, on Boston's Hanover Street. Taken via camera-phone at 4:41 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, Sunday, July 9, 2006, mere moments after Italy won the World Cup.
Posted by Picasa

UPDATED: Read my take on the day's celebratory nature here.

And if you want to see how Italy matches up against France in all other sorts of arts and cultural categories, check this out. It looked even better graphically in Sunday's paper.

See my name in your local paper

Even after all of these years, and having my byline in papers almost every day, seeing my name and quote show up in today's national print ads for Superman Returns represented a first. I've made it into a movie ad. Of course, even non-entity fake people have beaten me to that (remember the Sony Pictures fiasco from a few years ago?), and in the Herald and the Globe, my name barely makes it to small print type size compared to my quote: "The IMAX 3D treatment gives extra oomph to every roaring action sequence."

But in a full-page ad in the New York Times, there it is where all the world can see it. My name. My paper. Almost makes me feel like I have actual readers! ;)


This is Hazel Mae. Maybe you've seen her on NESN. More and more, though, you're seeing her pop up everywhere. And I mean everywhere. Not only does Ms. Mae get a puff piece from her colleagues over at the Globe (which holds ownership in the sports cable channel), but also, now, apparently, Hazel is busting out all over the place in life-sized cardboard cutouts, shilling (not Schilling) for Coors Light and dressed in a softcore softball uni with NESN tag. What's that all about? And when can you remember seeing a TV personality -- anchor, reporter, sportscaster -- hawking items in such a manner?

Do you have your own life-sized cardboard cutout of Hazel Mae yet?

This photo was snapped by the author on cameraphone, July 3-4 at the Shaw's at Copley Square, downtown Boston. Presumably, many other locations boast cardboard Hazels. Where have you seen her? Posted by Picasa

Word is, this is all part of a Coors Light promotion to "win a day with Hazel Mae," but what, PRAY TELL, does that entail? ;)

I've got my own sources on the case. Stay tuned for more info.

UPDATED: This is what my colleagues at the Inside Track wrote on July 10, running my photo alongside this prose...
Who needs the Coors Light Twins when you have NESN temptress Hazel Mae?
The Colorado brewers who brought you the dynamic duo Elaine and Diane Klimaszewski, the Worcester sisters better known as the Coors Light Twins, have signed up the SportsDesk chick for a "Win A Day With Hazel Mae" promotion. That's DAY, boys, not DATE.
"Coors Light has signed Hazel Mae as a spokesperson and has launched the promotion which will give one lucky fan a chance to spend a day with Hazel behind the scenes at NESN," said station spokesguy Gary Roy.
Well, now that both Coors twins are married and Elaine's preggers, the brewers must have needed some fresh talent!
Anyway, the promotion runs through the end of July, but for some unknown reason a cardboard replica of HM that was on display at Shaw's in the Back Bay mysteriously disappeared the other day. A store manager said he thought the Coors crew grabbed it. The Coors peeps had another theory.
"Sometimes people take them as souvenirs," said suds spokesgal Kibira Hatland. "It's not something we recommend, but from what I hear, she has quite a fan base in New England."
Oh, yes.

UPDATED (7/21): Hazel Mae told the Globe after signing her NESN contract extension that she wasn't making plans to go anywhere soon. "When you think about it, NESN, to me, might as well be as national and high profile, with satellites all over I get fan mail from California, Atlanta, and North Dakota," she said. "So yes, it's not ESPN, but it might as well be." Other Globe quotes from Mae..."I had heard that Boston could be very cliquey, but everyone has been very welcoming," she said. "Players no longer talk down to you, and they don't talk slowly because they think you don't understand. But I think that's a credit to the women who came before me."
"When I came here, I didn't know what to expect, but I knew I'd be kicking myself if I at least didn't try," she said. "So I'm just glad things worked out."

UPDATED (8/1): Well, July is over. No word yet on who won the day with Mae.

A Hazel Mae fansite. The fan has a MySpace, too, so don't be fooled into thinking you're really Hazel Mae's friend just yet.

The Fourth on 4

Now, I'm OK with a little pomp and circumstance from time to time -- particularly on holidays such as the Fourth of July -- but why, oh why, do some of the TV broadcasters (particularly, you, Lisa Hughes and Joyce Kulhawik) have to sound so breathless in your praise every year? Seriously, Hughes acted as if she had never seen the Esplanade spectacular before. And when you're telling viewers that the crowd is bonkers for Rockapella, well, even we know that's a stretch. We saw that silliness ourselves. The best thing about them was it gave us enough time for a bathroom break. Also found in the nonsense department: Dr. Phil and his wife with their unintentionally humorous lack of timing as co-emcees; Keith Lockhart aping for the cameras and the crowd -- when is this guy going to do something newsworthy like his "illustrious predecessors" John Williams or Arthur Fiedler and be known for something musical rather than his shockingly awful Dunkin Donuts ad? And don't say allowing Elvis Costello and My Morning Jacket sit in with the Boston Pops counts, because it doesn't. Lockhart needs to make his own mark.

That said, the fireworks were noticeably fun, thanks to some new additions that came from abroad. Could you tell which fireworks were foreign-born? I could.

The Fourth on 4 (video highlights)

Signs your town needs help

1. When you head downtown for the town's Fourth of July parade and street fair and realize you're the best-looking single guy in town.
2. When the other men have more tattoos than teeth.
3. Did I mention #s 1 and 2? Welcome home.

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