Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"30 Rock" is a microcosm of American politics

At least if you're Mitt Romney.

Romney's gaffe immediately reminded me of the hilarious "Hard Ball" episode of "30 Rock" last season, in which Jenna (Jane Krakowski) mixes up Osama and Obama in a misguided attempt to win back the hearts of American voters ("That's why I'm voting for Osama in 2008! Oh, no comeback? Ya burnt!").

This, after Jenna's faux pas of confusing the troops in Iraq with theatre troupes during a photo shoot for Maxim: "They think what they do is so important. But it's just a bunch of gay guys that like to get in silly costumes and prance around!"

Ah, that show is brilliant. The image of an oil-covered Jenna slipping all over a leather chair while trying to pose with a rubber chicken in her mouth will always bring a smile to my face.

Watch Jenna's blunder here.

I wonder if Tina Fey is Romney's new speechwriter?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Goodbye, Old Friend

After nearly four years as my gym partner, subway entertainment and trusted companion in general, my iPod mini has finally succumb to the iPod battery curse.

The long and the short of it is, iPods' batteries wear out over time and what's supposed to be an eight-hour playback time (on my model, anyway) slowly deteriorates to a fraction of that. From what I've heard, I should be happy mine lasted as long as it did. I know several people whose iPods crapped out after less than three years, so I wasn't completely surprised last week when my little green Mini barely had the juice to get me through 30 minutes on the elliptical. And a road trip in the car? Forget it.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit I've disregarded some of Apple's recommendations about how to get the most out of your battery (which, incidentally, I only discovered after mine was already on its last legs. I'm not one for owner's manuals.) I leave my iPod in the car during the summer heat and winter cold. I use the equalizer and the backlight. I use the skip function. (Side note - WTF?!? I'm too indecisive to just accept whatever comes on in shuffle mode).

I realize that planned obsolescence is one of the most effective ways for a company to generate revenue, but that doesn't make it any less frustrating for consumers.

But here's where the genius of Apple's marketing and constant reinvention of its products comes into play. Let's be honest. Rather than being annoyed that I'm going to have to shell out a couple hundred dollars to replace upgrade my iPod, I'm actually really excited to be getting a Nano.

My mentality — and Steve Jobs knows this — is, if I'm going to pay $66 to merely replace the battery on my old, out of production mini, I might as well just buy one of the pretty new models — a Shuffle, maybe — for just $13 more.

But a Shuffle holds just 240 songs. And for twice the cost, I could get one of the amazing new Nanos, which has a screen and plays videos and holds four times as many songs get the idea.

And so on.

For financial reasons, I'm opting for a first-generation Nano through Apple's refurbished discount program. (A blue silver one. Only 99 bucks!)

But my heart's still set on one of the new video Nanos.

And don't even get me started on the iPhone. ::Drools::

Monday, October 22, 2007


Tonight I celebrated the Red Sox' ALCS victory by dancing to "Tessie" on the streets of Bloomsburg. Hopefully next weekend will involve a World Series celebration in BOSTON!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Saving the world from terrorism, one indie record at a time

Add song demos to the list of things you shouldn't try to smuggle across the northern border.

Death Cab for Cutie guitarist/producer/genius Chris Walla's song files for his much-anticipated solo record Field Manual were confiscated by mounties Homeland Security officials this week when a courier from his record label tried to bring them into the U.S. from Canada, where Walla is recording the album.

Walla says he has master copies of the songs on tape and plans to mix the songs himself so the record can be released in January. He sounds like he's, predictably, taking the setback in stride and with a sense of humor.

"I can't just call their customer-service center and ask about my drive. There's nothing I can do. I don't know if we can hire an attorney ... is there a black-hole attorney? You can't take a black hole to court."

According to Walla, the album does have "very political" undercurrents. The title refers to a World War II-era guide about how to build IEDs, he says, and some of the songs deal with topics such as Hurricane Katrina, the war in Iraq, and morning-after pills. Sounds like it will be the dance hit of the summer!

But seriously, this is ridiculous. Why can't Homeland Security seize, like, Fall Out Boy's records or something? That would show the terrorists!

A different side of Ellen

Talk show host and normally happy person Ellen DeGeneres made headlines Tuesday after her daytime show turned into a sobfest.

Apparently Ellen and her partner Portia de Rossi adopted a puppy, a Brussels Griffon mix named Iggy, from a shelter last month. But the dog was too rambunctious and didn't get along with their other pets, so DeGeneres gave it to her hairdresser's family. Unfortunately, DeGeneres wasn't aware she had signed a contract saying she would return the dog to the shelter if she couldn't take care of it. Long story short, the pet adoption agency came and seized the dog from its new owners.

I don't typically have a lot of sympathy for people who adopt pets without knowing what they're getting themselves into. My parents own two rescue dogs and the agency they adopted from gets dozens of dogs from families who are too lazy to take care of them, or whose kids aren't interested in the dogs after they've outgrown their puppy cuteness. But Ellen's story seems genuine and her plea to get the dog back is fairly heartbreaking. She gave the shelter free (if bad) publicity on her show; I wonder if they'll respond to her request in return?

Random: There's a great picture in this week's Entertainment Weekly of de Rossi wearing an old, ratty Iggy Pop shirt. Wonder if she named the dog?

Update: A much cheerier DeGeneres reiterated her plea Wednesday, but apparently shelter officials still aren't buying it. Maybe the death threats they've gotten from angry housewives have something to do with that.

Also, has eye-popping video footage from Sunday night, when de Rossi and DeGeneres rushed over to the house after the family had a standoff with the shelter folks.

Questions: Who called TMZ? How many times does Ellen cite her monetary contributions to shelters? And who watches this stuff?!? (Answers: dunno, too many, me.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Note to self: Don't piss off Page Six...

...or you might get raped.

It seems the editors at Page Six took offense to Vanessa Grigoriadis' article in New York Magazine about, in which she describes Page Six as "emasculated by the Murdoch hierarchy after the Jared Paul Stern scandal." (link mine).

(Side note: It's a great article. Check it out.)

So, in an effort to prove her wrong, P6 Editor Richard Johnson offers, along with his male co-workers, to assault Grigoriadis — if she were better-looking. Um...right. Cue "Whatta Man."

Not a drive-through

This is why, if I were in a position of power, I would support mandatory yearly driving exams for people over the age of 65.

Update: Second person dies.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A slap in the face

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is deservedly on the receiving end of harsh criticism over his recent comments encouraging the media to ignore a mass shooting in Crandon, Wis. and discouraging residents from responding to reporters' questions.

Telling journalists to stop asking questions is like telling Eric Gagne to throw strikes. It's just impossible.

State officials said Van Hollen was trying to respect the victims' families by invoking his gag order. Well, that's not his job - and, harsh as it may sound, it's not a reporter's obligation to be sensitive to grieving relatives when pursuing a news story.

An editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel gets it right.

"The news media must give the survivors room to grieve in private. But they must also do their job — report on a matter of great importance to the state. Unfortunately, Van Hollen has signaled that he may make the media's job harder."

It's the Fourth Estate's responsibility to act as a watch dog, pestering public officials in cases like this to make sure justice is carried out, and raising important questions as to why such acts are committed in the first place. I'm sure plenty of people would have preferred it if Woodward and Bernstein had held off on their questions as well.

At a time when public officials across the country are trying to combat the "Stop Snitchin'" campaign, Van Hollen just gave the movement a boost. Witnesses to violent crimes are already reluctant enough to talk to the press out of fear for their personal safety. This is evident by the prevalence of anonymous sources in newspaper articles about such crimes. Most public officials entreat residents to open up and speak out as witnesses to help solve cases of murder, rape and gang-related activity. It's ludicrous for anyone in such a position of power to suggest otherwise.

Since my earliest experiences in journalism at the Berkeley Beacon, I've lost track of how many complaints I've heard from readers about the media's "gratuitous," "insensitive" coverage of tragic events. My current editors recently devoted more than an hour at one of our bi-weekly writers' meetings to discussing what, if any, obligation we as reporters have to grieving families. At issue was a controversial front-page photo we published of a woman's body, covered by a sheet, after a fatal DUI accident. We didn't come up with a definitive answer, but several very strong opinions were tossed around.

Journalists can't please everybody. In fact, more often than not, we don't please anybody. Someone once told me that, as a reporter, if you're not pissing someone off, you're not doing your job. We certainly don't need public officials to tell us what that job entails.

"Everybody Sucks"

There's a great piece in the current issue of New York Magazine about Gawker, which is probably my favorite Web site and which I check at least 20 times a day. (I'm also a lowly commenter on the site. When I got approved, it was the highlight of my week).

Author Vanessa Grigoriadis brings up some interesting points about Gawker's form of snark reporting and the role it plays in the modern journalism industry:

"Consider the Gawker mind-fuck at a time of rapid deterioration of our industry: Young print journalists are depressed over the state of the industry and their inability to locate challenging work or a job with health insurance. Although the situation may not be as dire as they might imagine—a healthy magazine is constantly on the hunt for young writers, because it wants the fresh take on the world found only in the young, and because young writers tend to be cheap—they need a release, the daily dose of Schadenfreude offered by Gawker’s gallows humor, its ritualistic flogging of working journalists and relentless cataloguing of the industry’s fall (e.g., items like “New Republic Page Count Watch”). Though reading Gawker subtly reinforces their misery, they generate an emotional bond and soon begin to tip it with their own inside information..."

Anyway, the article is long, but fascinating (at least for nerdy people like me). It's well worth a read for anyone interested in current media.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Check out the latest issue of Blast Magazine for my Fall TV preview package (and other great content, of course). One show I didn't review (it premiered after the issue came out) was "Friday Night Lights", so let me go on record here as saying that's the best show on television. If you haven't seen it, watch an episode for free on, or go rent Season 1 to catch up. You can thank me later.

The Parlance of our Times...

"It's Britney, bitch."

That computer-generated badass assertion (a line from Britney Spears' new single "Gimme More") kicked off the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards on September 9 and told audiences to watch out. Britney was back.

Obviously we all know how that turned out.

If anything positive can come out of Britney's disastrous comeback performance at the show and subsequent downward trajectory, it's a new colloquialism.

I'm hereby proposing that "Britneybitch" be added to modern vocabulary.

Britneybitch — verb
1. to exercise a misguided attempt at a comeback, thereby ruining any chances of said renaissance;
2. to set outrageously high expectations for oneself and then fail to live up to, really, any expectations at all

Example: "The New York Mets really Britneybitched their playoff chances toward the end of the season."

"Gimme More" is undeniably catchy, and it's tearing up the charts even as Britney continues to reach new lows every day in her personal life. But after the promising, cheer-inducing "Britney, bitch" introduction, raised eyebrows gave way to stunned silence and eventual guffawing among Britney's peers at the show, and in homes across America.

With one exception.

One might say MTV Britneybitched its attempt to revitalize the slumping awards program by relying on an (alleged) drug-abusing basket case to open the broadcast.

Trust me, it'll catch on.

Come one, come all

Greetings, friends, family and other guests. I've decided to create a blog to act as a forum for my opinions on all things related to pop culture, the Red Sox and media, as well as random musings. Those interested can also keep up with my latest clips from the Press Enterprise and Blast Magazine here. Thanks for visiting!