Mark Manilow

This is an add that ran on the back of the airline magazine when I flew home from Texas. And, of course, it’s good to see ol’ Barry continues to belt out his hits and draw in the crowd.

Ultimate Manilow

But the part that got me was in the small print:

Barry Manilow

Now, note that the name “Barry Manilow” doesn’t appear anywhere else in the ad. So what they’re saying is clearly not that “Barry Manilow” is a registered trademark. No, it’s Barry himself that must be the registered trademark. And at that, he’s not even a self-owned man! Hastings, Clayton, and especially Tucker reserve all his rights!

“I write the songs that make the whole world sing. But I didn’t write the song about writing the songs. And no matter what I write, my rights are not my own….”

Published in: on September 29, 2008 at 7:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

I fact-checked FactCheck is a handy spot for verifying politicians claims. They do a good job of vetting the major ones.

And on Friday, they did a good job of checking various claims in the presidential debates. One problem: when addressing a claim about how much money we send overseas, they noted that the state department budget was only $51.3 million… which was off by 3 orders of magnitude. So, I dropped them a note correcting them, and now it’s corrected!

Of course, there were probably 34,172 other folks who sent in the same correction. But I’ll still take credit for it!

Published in: on September 29, 2008 at 6:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

The polls are in on the results of last night's debate…

Jim Lehrer’s up seventeen points!

Published in: on September 27, 2008 at 12:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Fact-checking the factcheckers

The Associated Press has run a fact-check on last night’s presidential debate, and notes:

MCCAIN: In a discussion of how the government could shrink spending, he said: “Look, we are sending $700 billion a year overseas to countries that don’t like us very much.”

THE FACTS: The comment echoes one he made in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention earlier this month, when he was talking about money the U.S. spends on foreign oil. says the U.S. this year is on track to spend $536 billion on imported oil — not $700 billion — and nearly one-third of that comes from friendly nations: Canada, Mexico and Britain.

Which is all well and good and to the best of my knowledge accurate. It does, however, miss another, less subjective way in which Canada and Mexico fail inclusion in McCain’s statement: neither one is overseas.

Published in: on September 27, 2008 at 1:18 am  Leave a Comment  

Project Runaway!

In stage acting, there’s something that’s called a “speed through”. It a rehearsal where the actors run through the script very quickly, with glib delivery and no pauses, just getting out the lines and following their blocking.  This helps the actors get those memorization elements in place with confidence. Once you can count on those, you’re free to get on with the acting work.

In the new series Gary Unmarried (originally advertised as Project Gary), most of the cast feels like they’re doing a speed through, reeling off sitcom banter without taking time to react and seem to be formulating a response. This is most blatant in Jay Mohr in the lead roll; he doesn’t end up seeming like a thinking character, but merely like a sitcom actor.

It’s a little puzzling. It’s not like Mohr is untalented (he was the lead in the enjoyable sitcom Action) almost a decade ago), and he’s playing with veteran comedy folks Paula Marshall and Ed Begley, Jr. And the pilot was directed by Ted Wass, who was not only a lead in but also a frequent director of the pause-heavy Blossom.

The setup is basic. Mohr is your basic sitcom manchild, recently divorced from Marshall, who is an ex-wife very much in the “smarter than you, harsher than you, and not as reasonable as she thinks” mode that we see in other TV ex-wives (see Two-and-a-Half Men). There is shared custody of two kids in their early teens, and both parents are now dating (Mohr’s character, in typical sitcom mode, dating someone much younger and better looking than he is.) Nothing in the pilot really sparks. I wouldn’t be utterly shocked if this were to end up being the next According To Jim, staying on TV in a convenient time slot without anybody really noticing, but it’s going to have to find some game if it wants to be anything more than that.

Thing is, I don’t get great vibes off of anything yet this season. If there’s going to be any delights, it will be unexpected delights.

(In the manner of reviewing everything this year, I’m going to consider the spring’s Knight Rider telefilm as the pilot of the new TV series, and thus spare myself watching an episode of the ongoing adventures.)

Published in: on September 24, 2008 at 11:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

What about hockey players turned florists?

Sample set makes a real difference in what a study says. For example, take this headline from a press release from the University of Bath, being reprinted in places like Science Daily:

Over a third of former American Football players interviewed had sexual relations with men, says study

Wow. That says a lot about the reality of homosexuality in the perceived macho enclaves of America. If one-third of randomly chosen American football players have had… wait, random? Well, there were some conditions put on it. Go a few paragraphs in and you find:

The 47 men, aged 18-23, were all American Football players who previously played at the high school (secondary school) level but had failed to be picked for their university’s team and were now cheerleaders instead.

(emphasis added). Somehow, the headline of “One third of current male cheerleaders interviewed have had sexual relations with men” wouldn’t have been quite so eye-grabbing.

Published in: on September 24, 2008 at 10:31 am  Leave a Comment  

The Mentalist

What I thought The Mentalist would be:

  • a little puzzle mystery series where you see all the clues and then get to be impressed when the detective puts the clues together in ways that make sense when he shows it, but if you see it before he says it, you get to feel real proud.

What The Menatlist is:

  • A series with a running dark serial killer story, featuring a clever man who figures out little things either with clues they hit you over the head with, or with clues you don’t have the info on.

As such, much lower on the “fun” scale.

And it shares the situation of the more fun-oriented series Psych: while it teaches that psychic detectives are fake psychics, it still shows them as good detectives. Between those and recent series that show psychic detectives as being both real psychics and great detectives, it ends up being ongoing endorsement for a hideous, destructive sort of con artist who prays on people at their worst.

Published in: on September 23, 2008 at 10:37 pm  Comments (1)  

Worst Week

Worst Week, which premiered tonight on CBS, doesn’t focus on witty reparte the way most modern sitcoms do (or at least attempt). Instead, it’s an everything-goes-wrong sitcom, something not without precedent (the most recent coming to mind is Big Night), but uncommon and tough to do right. For at least the first episode, they pull it off. The focus is on one ordinary, well-intentioned guy who needs to impress the father of the woman he’s knocked up and is still engaged to. Now, since the father is played by the smart-but-dour-looking Kurtwood Smith (you probably remember him best as the dad on That 70s Show, although my first mental reference for him is always as the bad guy on The New Adventures of Beans Baxter — yes, my mind holds odd things), this is an uphill battle… and I think it’s the casting of Kurtwood, more than the rest of the cast (which is really just four people at this point: man, girlfriend, her dad, her mom) that makes this basically work.

The trick will be to keep it working. He has aspects of both shlmiel (someone whose loserdom arises from his own incompetence) and shlmazel (someone who fate just keeps handing bad, undeserved blows to), but as long as they can keep him basically the good guy, it wil allow the bad things to be funny. If they make the mistake of having him plan big, Lucy-like schemes and having them fail, then he will become a schemer, his failures will be justice, and there will be less humor there.

It’s not great, not a must-see, but different and well-done enough that it’s worth trying to see if it fits you.

Published in: on September 22, 2008 at 11:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

a tip

When you’re casting about for hosts for your awards show, remember: the reason people watch reality shows is not to watch the hosts. They’re facilitators. The entertainment comes from the contestants/participants.

Five reality show hosts does not make things better. Unless one of them will get eaten by the end of the show.

Published in: on September 22, 2008 at 7:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Licensable BearTM – released!

To celebrate today’s release of the Licensable BearTM trade paperback, here’s a brand-spankin’ new episode of his series, Products Which Should’ve Licensed Me!

Tell your friends!

Published in: on September 17, 2008 at 12:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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