popular thinking

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

Dave Barry emerges from retirement

So I see that humor columnist (and Pulitzer winner) Dave Barry has emerged from his print retirement this week to file daily dispatches from his Miami city in honor of Super Bowl Week. Based on today's column about media day? Color me unimpressed. Unless you count the anonymously cited bosoms. But Barry also has kept his typing fingers busy on his official blog, and based on his take on this season's 24? OK. He still has some funny left to share. You just have to go online to find the laughs. Just another bad sign for the old-school print media.

Labels: , ,

24 has a McCarthy villain?! C'mon.

This season of 24 just annoys the heck out of me, and that was before I saw and heard that the new bad guys include an Englishman(!) named Darren McCarthy. Ugh. From the nuclear blast to Bauer's family, it's all just a bit too hokey -- even for a series that has embraced hokey and then some over the years. Prison Break almost seems logical, by comparison. OK. Maybe not. But still. I'm just not feeling 24 this year. Still watching. But they better turn this frown upside down in the next week or two.


This just in from Nielsen Net Ratings: Readership is up for newspaper online sites, and up up UP for newspaper blogs. (thanks, Huffington Post) Not much of a surprise there. The jump from December 2005 to December 2006 was much bigger -- a 210% hike -- for official newspaper blogs, which does make sense, since so many papers finally got into the blogging game last year. I know it worked for me. At least in terms of reaching an audience. Not so much help for me or my employer in terms of revenue, though. That's the trick for 2007. Which newspapers will pull it off?

Labels: ,

Tiger Woods and his winning "streak"

What planet do sportswriters and sportscasters live on? Tiger Woods has won the last seven PGA Tour events he has entered, but he hasn't played in several other PGA tourneys between his wins -- that's not a streak. That's like saying I had a perfect attendance record in school, because I showed up for class every day that I went to school. Even Tiger acknowledged after his Buick win on Sunday that he hasn't won every event during the so-called streak. It's just silly.

Labels: ,

Robin Williams: "Working On Material"

Five years after he returned to stand-up comedy, Robin Williams appears to be attempting another return to the stage. At least, that's what it looked like last night when Williams launched into his first of two sold-out last-minute performances at the Comedy Connection in Boston.

The reasoning? Williams is the star attraction Friday at the Yankee Dental convention at Hynes Convention Center. The dentists are paying $100-$175 to see him there. On Saturday, people will pay $225-$275 to see Williams perform at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City. No wonder, then, that the comic might want to brush up on his stand-up skills before having fans pay a pretty price just to hear him. They should get their money's worth. Right?

So what did Boston fans (who'll see him again at 10 p.m. tonight) get for their $25 in the intimate Comedy Connection setting?

For one thing, 98 minutes of pure Robin Williams (for better or worse, depending upon your viewpoint within the comedy community). The theme of his wildly scattered riffing? Everything old is new again. And everything new is up for ranting.

Dressed simply in a black short-sleeve T-shirt (with monster skull face) and black jeans, he opened with about a half-hour of material that couldn't have been more topical if he were a late-night TV talk-show host. "I'm here as part of 'The Departed' tour!" he quipped, before launching into typical Robin-style rapid-fire ad-libs on audience members in the front row. After a few words on a fur coat, he acknowledged: "That's old joke number one!" He managed to get in thoughts on John Kerry's announcement yesterday that he would not run for president, weaved into the Kennedys and the British royal family, the Big Dig and its failure -- "Even the Egyptians are saying: 'You should've gotten Jews!'" -- a reference to his recent trip to rehab, the State of the Union address, Britney Spears, the Miss USA scandals and Donald Trump and his "feud" with Rosie, iPods, Tony Blair, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Condi, Kissinger and Ahnold, Mel Gibson -- which led to Williams' thoughts on portraying Jesus on film. Peter Lorre as Judas? Funny. Christopher Walken as Jesus? Hack. Brando as Pilate with Joe Pesci and Robert DeNiro as disciples? Also sorta hack. Then more on Gov. Ahnold, immigration and gay marriage.

Williams didn't seem to grasp that San Francisco isn't the only place that gay marriage is a big issue. Perhaps his team -- in addition to his two-man sound crew, he had multiple people in the corner recording his show and taking notes -- would fill him in in time for tonight's show.

Yes, Williams pulled out his old impersonations of John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart, but updated them as gay cowboys. He also had plenty to say about the Catholic Church and the Popes, showing off his interpretations of the half-dead Pope, the Nazi Pope, an African Pope, an African-American Pope (Pope Diddy?), and a Brazilian Pope.

Then he got personal for a while, talking about his lifelong battle with alcohol. He introduced warning signs you may be an alcoholic (with apologies -- mine, not his -- to Foxworthy), then expanded his talk to include tobacco, Coca-Cola (the old version, with cocaine!), opium and heroin, constructing a flashback sequence to act-out the discoveries of various drugs that ended with a play on "playing with my Wii!" Williams had some words to say about technology, too, with a bit I remember from his 2002-2003 tour, along with bits on the problems of directory assistance, cars with talking GPS systems and hybrid cars, which led to NASCAR.

Williams ended his first act (1 hour, 23 minutes) with a routine about intelligent design that can best be described as one elongated dick joke with a Bush punchline.

A standing ovation brought Williams back onstage almost immediately for 15 more minutes of seemingly random riffing. "This is wild," he said. "I haven't been back in a long time. Not since Good Will Hunting." He even took requests. And in his crowd work, he couldn't have known that local comics Micah Sherman and Joe List were among his front-row targets. Fortunately for everyone, they didn't take his bait. That would've been awkward. So would've taking pictures or using my camera-phone for ill gains. So this is what you get. For now.

What the Oscar nominations really say

You can get the full list of the 79th annual Oscar nominees here (grouped by film) or here (grouped by category) and wait until Feb. 25 to find out who wins.

But just seeing who got nominated -- and who didn't -- always gets the conversation started. You'll hear a lot of regular buzzwords. Here are two more cents to add to the chitty-chit-chat.

They'll say: Why didn't Dreamgirls get Best Picture or Best Director nods?
You'll say: Because Chicago didn't really deserve its wins, either, so get over yourself and your movie musical mania. Jennifer Hudson has great pipes and Eddie Murphy took his old SNL James Brown impersonation and channeled his inner demons for inspired performances, and they got recognized for it. And Dreamgirls has three, THREE!, Best Song nominees. And really, that is enough.

They'll say: Why did Leonardo DiCaprio get his Best Actor nod for Blood Diamond and not for The Departed?
You'll say: Even though he was better in The Departed, his role got submitted in the supporting category for the SAGs. Did the studio want to avoid a Leo vs. Leo repeat of the Golden Globes? Not exactly, because one actor can't get more than one nod in any Oscar category. And Academy voters are more likely to be sympathetic to the international social awareness goings-on in Blood Diamond.

Which reminds you to say this: Oh, by the way, the Best Actor and Best Actress groups line up exactly with the nominees for this year's Screen Actors Guild Awards (only you said SAG Awards, because you figure they know what you mean since they see all the ads during Law & Order repeats on TNT). So do the supporting categories, save for one substitution, in which Leo's Departed nomination goes to co-star Mark Wahlberg.

They'll say: Well, if the SAGs are supposed to be predictors, why didn't Bobby and Dreamgirls get Best Picture nods?
You'll say: Didn't I cover Dreamgirls already? And Bobby? Seriously? The only reason it's in the hunt for SAG ensemble is because the ensemble in question numbers 24 actors and actresses. All they needed were their closest friends to vote for them and they were a lock. The best thing about Bobby was RFK himself. And he's not getting nominated.

They'll say: Does Clint Eastwood know something?
You'll say: He must've, because by pushing up the release date for Letters From Iwo Jima to qualify as a 2006 movie, he got himself back into the running for Picture and Director. And that also gets Paul Haggis his third straight screenwriting nod (after Million Dollar Baby and Crash).

They'll say: Is Little Miss Sunshine really that good?
You'll say: No. Not that good. It was funny, but if being funny mattered, then Borat would've been in its place. This is more about a feel-good Hollywood story. This also is more likely to be the film most likely to come home with all or nothing on Oscar night.

They'll say: What about the 9/11 movies?
You'll say: Oh, yes. What about them? Right. Oliver Stone got snubbed for his World Trade Center pic, while Paul Greengrass got nominated for Best Director for United 93 (the film also garnered best editing). United 93 is the tougher film to sit through, mostly because you know how it's going to end. But it's good to see the Academy was willing to recognize Greengrass for his efforts, especially since he convinced many FAA officials and other folks to relive Sept. 11, 2001, and none of it came off schlocky.

They'll say: Why didn't Volver get Pedro Almodovar another Foreign Film honor?
You'll say: Because this category always seems to leave out a worthy movie, for one arcane or oblique reason or another.

They'll say: Can anyone beat Forest Whitaker and Helen Mirren?
You'll say: Perhaps, but unlikely. Kudos for the Academy for recognizing Ryan Gosling in a performance that was widely hailed if not widely seen, but it's Peter O'Toole who'll compete for votes among the hearts and minds of the Academy. Among the women, Meryl Streep has more nominations than any other actor or actress in history, and you cannot take that for granted. Look for the SAG votes -- and the acceptance speeches -- as an indicator, because the Academy voters will be watching, too.

They'll say: Didn't the critics make a big fuss about Pan's Labyrinth and Children of Men? What happened to them?
You'll say: Yes, and both films will get their due -- Pan's with six nods, Children of Men with three. Both are in the running for cinematography and screenplay awards, which, when you think about it, how a movie looks and what kind of script it has are usually major components to making a good movie.

They'll say: Could we see Al Gore win an Oscar?
You'll say: Possibly. His environmental call to arms, the documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, is up against two Iraqi docs and two docs on religious problems (the Catholic pedophile priests and the Jesus Campers). No Holocaust films this year. And Hollywood might just put Gore onstage just as a statement against Bush.

They'll say: Wait. Did Click get an Oscar nomination?
You'll say: Yes. For makeup. Try not to dwell on it.

They'll say: So what about Babel?
You'll say: What about Babel? The international sequel to Crash. Not likely to see the Academy fall for this twice in a row. Or let's hope not, anyhow. So for Babel, it's all about just being happy to be nominated.

They'll say: Did Hollywood really honor Mel Gibson?
You'll say: Not really. Yes, his Apocalypto is up for makeup, sound editing and sound mixing, but those awards would go to his crew, not to him. Gibson would not be onstage accepting an award.

They'll say: Could this be the year Marty finally wins an Oscar for directing?
You'll say: Probably. But don't count out Clint.

They'll say: So who really got snubbed?
You'll say: So many great acting jobs got turned in for The Departed, but DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Alec Baldwin and even Jack Nicholson got hosed. The supporting actor category simply had too many great performances this year, though, so it'd be hard to deny Alan Arkin, Jackie Earle Haley, Djimon Hounsou, Eddie Murphy or Wahlberg their due. Damon should get some recognition, though, for his superior acting. His longtime buddy, Ben Affleck, also fared well mining his own personal demons for Hollywoodland. Casino Royale wasn't just a Bond movie but a great movie, though the Academy overlooked it nonetheless. Maggie Gyllenhaal is great, too, but nobody saw Sherrybaby (not even me). Annette Bening also could've gotten a nod. Oh well. Maybe next year. Right?


Golden Globe Awards blogged

I've posted my recap of last night's Golden Globe Awards on my other blog, The Big Show Blog, so if you want to relive most of the action by reading my pithy prose, you can do so there.

If I have anything more to add, I'll let you know.

Labels: , ,

24: Season 6, First Four Hours

Having watched the first four hours of the sixth "day" of 24, I can say that I remain as disappointed in FOX's winning TV thriller as I was when I first learned that the show wasn't going to follow Jack Bauer in China. Now that would've been an escape worth watching. And a prison term worth watching. And just a nice change of pace for this highly predictable (yet still winning) drama. Bringing Bauer back in the first 10 minutes, and with such ease, just took the wind out of the proverbial sails that set across the Pacific Ocean last May on that Chinese tanker.

That's not my only issue. Chloe is supposed to be both a screw-up and sexy now? President Wayne Palmer? Palmer's go-to adviser is a weasel? Who knew! The bad guy wants Bauer dead, but only stabs him once? And Bauer is running around, all no-pain, no-gain, minutes later? I know, I know. Bauer always bounces back. But this seemed even more outlandish somehow. Kal Penn was pretty much worthless. The neighbors, even less enticing. As for the big reveals at the end of the fourth hour? Well, the first part (look! up in the sky!) just seemed like it's not something that will wrap up in the next 20 hours, so, um, WHY WHY WHY????!!!! The second reveal? More "visitors"? That makes even less sense considering the one nuclear engineer expert for Mr. Bad Guy kinda sorta just went kablooie! No, I'm going to spellcheck kablooie. Oh, right. The other big death. That. Well, that agent whose name rhymes with Curtis -- normally such a standup guy in past seasons/days -- acted like such a ninny that he deserved to get written off. Then again, maybe he's lucky not to have to sort through this season's plot madness. The one bright spot, new CTU agent addition Nadia (otherwise known offstage as Marisol Nichols) is a definite hottie, though some sites on the WWW say she also prefers the Church of Scientology (which only makes me want to know what her dealy deal is that much more).

They better have a clear idea where they're going this time.

Oh. Wait. This is 24 we're talking about. Nevermind.


Tom Hanks as James Bond

The Emerson College kids from Chocolate Cake City have sent me another video-mail missive. This time, they've culled the clips and found a way to let Tom Hanks live out his dream to play 007 -- Bond, James Bond. Watch it here.

Labels: , ,

Red carpet goes back to low-def!?

So the official "red carpet" coverage of the Golden Globes on E! just began, and it's only available this year on my HDTV in low-def. Which means the celebrities have won. They must not like us commoners getting to see them truly up close and personal on our HDTVs! Oh well. We'll make do, won't we? Yes, we shall.

Labels: , ,

Trivial Matters: The biggest wastes of news space this week

It's a tie!

Why the media continues to cover every little thing Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donnell have to say about each other boggles the mind, doesn't it? And yet, here we are, watching clips like this one replayed over and over this week.

Just as ludicrous, the case of the New Hampshire family that's mad at Tigger for slapping the family's teen-aged boy with his furry paw. How many times have you watched this on your local news? And how many times have you wondered why you're watching it?

These were your biggest wastes of news space this week. The items that distracted us from what really matters, as the media dedicated televised minutes and print inches every day to these trivial pursuits. Ugh.

Labels: ,

Kim Dillon shoplifting update

More than a few readers clicking here in the past few days have been looking for Kim Dillon shoplifting or Kimberly Dillon shoplifting. I wrote a little blurb when the Phoenix TV meteorologist got arrested almost two years ago, and apparently it has risen to the #2 search item on Google. Why now? Dillon's case finally went to trial this week in Maricopa County Superior Court. That's why.

Here's a quick link to her case history. Now shoo!


Free movies? Meet Peekvid

What's that, you say? There's no such thing as a free movie? Enter Peekvid. The site's entry page boasts more than 20,000 clips of your "favourite" TV shows and movies (the "favourite" spelling might be a clue as well as a decoy to finding the site's owner(s), although the site also breaks out categories for anime and Asian dramas, so hmmm). Certainly, copyright issues abound. And some of the movies are still showing in cinemas. So, how do they do it?

In the case of Little Children, the video carries the notation: "For Your Consideration." So you know that one is a screener that a critic and/or award voter got and uploaded illegally.

In the case of Blood Diamond, at least twice during one clip you can see people's heads obscuring the screen. So you know that one was taped at a screening. Also highly illegal.

Peek-a-vid, we see you! How long, though, before the studios track you down?

Labels: , ,

(Blank) in a box!

You have to hand it to Saturday Night Live. Every once in a while, they get it. Not just delivering laughs, but also understanding the need to let everyone in on the joke. Over the holidays, NBC's longtime late-night institution proved that once again with the music video, "Dick in a Box," starring Justin Timberlake and SNL'er Andy Samberg. Like "Lazy Sunday" before it, the video has only gotten more popular online, inspiring millions more viewers and countless parodies. This time, however, NBC wised up and put the video on YouTube -- along with many more SNL sketches -- online for anyone to see, anytime, anyplace.

One of the "Box" parodies/tributes getting buzz is "My Box in a Box." For good reason. This video has all of the essential qualities you need in a buzzworthy YouTube vid: Solid production values, a catchy soundtrack and an attractive woman who's not afraid to give plenty of come hither poses.

Nice job, Bunny!

Labels: , ,

Whither convergence?

When I arrived at the Arizona Republic in the sweltering summer of 2001, convergence was the buzzword of choice around the office. Gannett had bought the big metro daily months earlier, and already owned the NBC affiliate in town. So why not find a way to leverage the power of the daily newspaper and the local TV news leader? We'd go on Ch. 12 and offer our expertise whilst promoting the paper, thereby selling more copies. They'd offer up columns or other tidbits in the paper. Seemed like a decent plan. Never really worked out as well as planned, though. For one thing, the Republic's circulation has continued to decline over the past five years, even though Maricopa County added at least 100,000 new residents (new readers!) each year. For another, the convergence thing never really took among most folks. 12 News mostly wanted Republic reporters only on the morning newscast in the wee hours, the one part of the day the station didn't have that many viewers! The directives kept changing. Reporters were expected at first to do the TV stuff on their own time, then had to try to factor it into the week without overtime. Some reporters had to audition. Others got asked to undergo TV training, all to no avail. One guy who fared well, though, was business reporter/columnist Brahm Resnick, who has become a regular anchor.


I think of all of this as I read today's story in the Washington Post about newspaper companies feeling less and less cozy about owning TV stations -- or in the case of the venerable Scripps, the consideration of dropping all of its newspapers to focus on TV!

The media bidness continues to evolve in strange and mysterious ways.

But I continue to think there is a place for newspaper reporters on TV, radio, online and anywhere else they can go to spread the news about the news. You need to find readers wherever you can.

Labels: , ,

Globe following Herald down dark black hole

To anyone who has asked me over the past month if I had considered applying for a job at the Boston Globe, this report online from my former colleague at the Herald should provide a sufficient answer. Just a month after the Herald decided to cut costs by cutting content, the Globe is following suit, with 17 newsroom jobs about to disappear and most open positions remaining unfilled. We in the media business all saw this bad news coming. It was only a matter of when. When arrived today. At least I have a headstart, right?

Labels: ,

My fake classmate

Big news around town this week has centered on the mysterious case of Esther Elizabeth Reed, who stole the identity of the missing Brooke Henson and used it to get into both Columbia and Harvard. The New York Post wrote about her here and here, and Boston TV outlets have followed the story, talking about Reed's con as something new in the age of identity theft.

It's not.

One of my Princeton classmates was a famous faker who took the name Alexi Indris Santana and ran cross-country. I knew of him, but wasn't that close to him (unlike some other infamous Tigers of my generation whom I do know better). He turned out to be the much-older James Arthur Hogue. His story is documented in the 2003 film, Con Man, which is available on video. My alma mater even hosted a screening and discussion about the film and Hogue last year during Reunions. Sorry I missed it.

Labels: ,

Greyhound beats Fung Wah

I'm in New York City on unofficial business. Arrived yesterday via Greyhound, so no, I was not on that Fung Wah bus that decided to lose its wheels! As a matter of fact, my bus ride from Boston yesterday was an even better bargain -- not only did I get to NYC for only $15, but our Greyhound driver even passed (I'm going to type that again for those of you who may need a moment to comprehend this) -- passed -- a Fung Wah bus on I-95 as we neared the CT-NY border. This guy meant business.


My 2006 fun run

Some people never get to enjoy their work. I have thoroughly enjoyed every step on my crazy career path, including the past two years in Boston, where I got to meet a lot of interesting people, including Playboy's December 2005 Playmate Christine Smith (shown here clearly enjoying my company! And notice how I have pen and paper at the ready!).


Over the past 12 months, in particular, my life and my work increasingly revolved around celebrities.

Among the famous people whose lives and mine intertwined: Maud Adams, Ben Affleck, Dave Attell, Greg Behrendt, Maria Bello, Mike Birbiglia, Lewis Black, Josh Blue, Alonzo Bodden, Eddie Brill, the Broken Lizard guys, Albert Brooks, Jerry Bruckheimer, Bill Burr, Nic Cage, Cedric the Entertainer, Anthony Clark, Lenny Clarke, George Clooney, Sasha Cohen, Dane Cook, Allen Coulter, David Copperfield, Cindy Crawford, Nick DiPaolo, James Ellroy, Mike Epps, Craig Ferguson, Will Ferrell, Christian Finnegan, Jim Florentine, Harrison Ford, Matthew Fox, Judah Friedlander, Jim Gaffigan, Rande Gerber, Greg Giraldo, Bobcat Goldthwait, Al Gore, Gilbert Gottfried, Paul Greengrass, Christopher Guest, Gary Gulman, Chelsea Handler, DJ Hazard, D.L. Hughley, Mike Hoffman, Dom Irrera, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Grace Jones, Val Kappa, Barry Katz, Robert Kelly, Brian Kiley, Robert Klein, Johnny Knoxville, Larry the Cable Guy, Denis Leary, Jim Lehrer, Wendy Liebman, Eugene Levy, Richard Lewis, Josh Lucas, Stephen Lynch, Kelly MacFarland, Howie Mandel, Bob Marley, Marc Maron, Demetri Martin, Ralphie May, Mike McCready, Carlos Mencia, Eugene Mirman, Barbara Nedeljakova, Jim Norton, Patrice Oneal, Patton Oswalt, Todd Phillips, Paula Poundstone, Rain Pryor, Colin Quinn, Brian Regan, Joe Rogan, David Lee Roth, Eli Roth, Dan Sally, Ryan Seacrest, Jane Seymour, Harry Shearer, Michael Showalter, Sarah Silverman, Sinbad, Bobby Slayton, Kevin Smith, Fran Solomita, Sylvester Stallone, Doug Stanhope, Oliver Stone, Meryl Streep, Wanda Sykes, Tony V, Wally the Green Monster, the Walsh Brothers, Damon Wayans, Johnny Weir, Katt Williams and Steven Wright.

I also got to meet plenty of regular and extraordinary folks, playing one-on-one with a Harlem Globetrotter, spending a night as a clown in the Ringling Bros. circus, cavorting about town with a bachelorette party on a bus, watching the World Cup finale on Boston's Hanover Street in the increasingly Italian North End, watching the Red Sox home opener from the fanciest seats in Fenway, watching the Bruins from the bench, checking out new restauarant openings, magazine launches, nightclub parties, all of the comedians I've come to know, love and loathe before and after the Boston Comedy Festival, and of course, the aforementioned night on the town with some Playboy Playmates. It has been a fun run, indeed, and I look forward to even bigger and better adventures to blog about in 2007!
Posted by Picasa


Google search this blog

About me

Check me out!
Terror Warning Code Terror Alert Level 2004 World Series Champs

Last posts



Powered by Blogger

make money online blogger templates

Your E-mail:

ATOM 0.3

popular thinking is powered by Blogspot and Gecko & Fly.
No part of the content or the blog may be reproduced without prior written permission.
Learn all about Blogging for Money at Gecko&Fly