Link It Up: 5.21.10

Yesterday was the Hubble Telescope’s 20th birthday. I bet its images today are as hazy as its memory of last night… [via Wired]

Is marijuana on the path to legalization? 49% of us hope so. [via LAist]

Bret’s back. Read the first excerpt from Imperial Bedrooms, the sequel to 80’s classic Less Than Zero. [via Esquire]

Good riddance. Jesse James is packing up and leaving LA. [via CNN]

Century Cityscape. via Flickr

-MK

Contact the author at mksmogger@gmail.com.

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What Do We Have to Look Forward to on the Tween Networks? More of the Same. Hurray!

There are two types of shows that end up on the tween channels ABC Family and the CW — the bad ass ones like Gossip Girl, and the wimpy ones you watch with your mother, like Life Unexpected. ABC Family used to be pure wimp, CW used to be more bad ass. But it looks like they’re both taking cues from one another and blurring the lines.  Shall we take a look at what the baby cable networks decided young girls and other-people-too-old-to-watch-shit-but-somehow-we-get-sucked-in-anyway will be watching this fall?  —

Hellcats

I don’t even know if ABC Family’s boring gymnastics show Stick It is still on, nor I do care to any immense degree, but looks like the CW decided to go ahead and create the same show with cheerleaders. Watch the boring trailer full of awkward non-talking/nondescript movements, and then get excited for this gem to shine on the fall schedule–

Pretty Little Liars

So then ABC Family was like, hey, if you’re going to steal our boring gymnastics show, we’re going to make a less-intense, less-interesting version of Gossip Girl and call it Pretty Little Liars. No one will be as attractive as they are on GG, and there’s no way this show will weasel its way into pop culture like the CW hit did, but why not give it a whirl? Trailer below–

Nikita

Like.. La Femme Nikita. Upcoming CW show. Looks kind of cool, but will I watch? Nah. All this action will get in the way of the characters scheming and shopping. Let’s be honest, I can knock the CW and ABC Family shows all I want, but they’ve got me wrapped around their litttttle fingers with their formulaic soaps.

-MM

Contact the author at mmthesmogger@gmail.com.

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Tackle Traveling

While Americans may be more culturally, technologically, and politically splintered than ever, there are a couple things almost every American agrees upon – terrorists are bad, Lady Gaga is strange, and traveling sucks. The first too are probably going to be with us for a while, so we should just get used to them. But traveling? There are steps you can take to make it much less painful. Here are some of our recommendations.

Take a trip. via Flickr

airportdining.net – Although airplane food has actually improved over the past few years, $5.00 for a box with crackers and some craisins is hardly a value. Instead, picking up food in the airport is always the way to go…but’s always a gamble. Do you take the mediocre options at the beginning of the terminal (Manchu Wok, Freshens, etc.) or do you risk it and hope there will be better options closer to your gate (CPK ASAP, Wolfgang Puck Express, etc.)? Well,  you no longer have to guess. Airportdining.net maps out terminals for you, allowing you to plan out your dining before you even check in. Now, if they can just do something about having to go to the bathroom on the flight…

seatguru.com – There’s a lot of strategy to picking the best seat on a plane – maximizing leg room, ensuring proper distance to a TV, staying away from the engine, etc. Seatguru.com can help you pick the best seat from your available options by using a simple color-coded guide. However, even though you may get the best seat on the plane, you’ll still be at the whim of rogue threats that you can’t control. Crying babies and obese people are menaces that even technology hasn’t been able to stop.

bookingbuddy.com – Although it’s basically just a newer version of kayak.com, this site is a little easier to use. Search multiple airlines and hotels all at once to try to save money – even though you’ll probably still end up spending a bundle no matter what.

trekamerica.com – Remember going abroad? Well, your college days may be gone, but you can still travel like you once did. Trek America will help you put together a customizable travel package for you, based on your trip length, preferred destination, and budget. Who needs Ibiza when you have Vegas, anyway?

tripit.com – For those of us who haven’t “made it” yet – and don’t have an assistant to book their travel, this site will be your virtual subordinate for you. Simply set up an account, send your hotel, flight, and any other confirmation emails you’ve received, and TripIt will put together a full itinerary for you, including weather details, entertainment ideas, and suggestions for to make your travel simpler.

worldsbestbars.com – Once you have all the details set, it’s time to let loose. This one should be pretty self-explanatory.

-MK

Contact the author at mksmogger@gmail.com.

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Things I’m OK With: A Potential End to American Apparel

If there’s one thing I’m sick of hearing, it’s the excuses from American Apparel fans as to why they had to spend $20 on a plain T-shirt. “They’re sooo comfy.” “They last forevvvvver.” “It’s muccccccch higher quality.” I’m a certified brandwhorrrrrre.”

via the insider

A jersey T-shirt is a jersey T-shirt is a jersey T-shirt. I get it — American Apparel makes some damn comfy T-shirts/other crap. But so do other places that charge less. I mean, I can rant ’til I’m blue in the face, but the fact of the matter is, the hipster mecca might be in danger of crumbling. The company reported a $17.6 million loss for the first quarter of 2010. Looks like jersey fabric and metallic spandex isn’t recession-proof.

But, people, it’s going to be all right! It’s time to explore other places to buy boring and/or strange crap! Expand our horizons! There are other stores on Melrose, I promise! So take a last tour around the ol’ hipster palace, and then step outside, into the light, and then turn way or another and start walking. You’re bound to find a jersey T-shirt or two somewhere.

-MM

Contact the author at mmthesmogger@gmail.com.

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Looking at Lost: The Literary Connections

Sure, Lost may be regarded as one of TV’s most well-written shows, but it should also probably be crowned television’s most well-read as well. For a show that’s mostly known for its confounding mysteries and flawed characters, its packed in more literary allusions than almost any other show in TV history. Sure, some of these references have been blatantly obvious (such as Sawyer reading Richard Adams’ Watership Down early in the show’s run), but many more have gone under the radar and been left up to viewers to discover. Here are our favorites (there are way too many to include every reference):

Desmond's Odyssey. via Flickr

The Odyssey by Homer
In one of the most famous epics of all time, Greek poet Homer tells the story of Greek warrior Odysseus. After fighting in the Trojan War, Odysseus embarks on an epic journey across the Mediterranean to return home to Ithaca, and his patient wife, Penelope. In the process, he gets shipwrecked, encounters mythic monsters, and is manipulated by the Gods of Mount Olympus. Similarly, Lost tells the story of a man named Desmond (oDYSseus/DESmond?), who embarks on a journey, only to get shipwrecked, encounter monsters, and be manipulated by Jacob and the Man In Black in a long attempt to get home to his patient wife, Penny. Coincidence? (While I’d love to pretend I thought of this, it was actually TIME’s James Poniewozik who made the connection for me in this great article about Lost‘s cultural significance)

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Carroll’s psychedelic tale about a girl who falls down a rabbit hole has been widely interpreted in pop culture. Its veiled references to drugs, history and politics, and mathematics are all steeped in urban legend. Lost has used Alice extensively throughout the shows run, evening naming two of its episodes “White Rabbit” and “Through the Looking Glass.” In the aforementioned season three finale, we also see Dharma’s underwater Looking Glass station for the first time. The station’s logo? A rabbit with a watch – another direct reference to the novel, in a scene where Alice first encounters the White Rabbit looking at his timepiece. Along with these references and many more, the show’s manipulation of space and time is a theme that Carroll constantly explores in his work.

The Bible – by ummm…
I almost didn’t include this because pretty much every great piece of art and literature has in some way been influenced by it (even when they advocate otherwise). However, since its been referenced so many times, it’s probably necessary to include. Besides the obvious episode titles (“The 23rd Psalm,” “Exodus,” “Fire + Water”, etc.), character names (Adam, Eve, Jacob, or the blatant Christian Shephard), Lost has also used biblical imagery continuously throughout the show. During season 6, young Jacob even appeared to the Man in Black with his arms outstretched and bleeding (“The Substitute”). Hmm, wonder who that could be referring to…

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
For a while, many people thought that the Island was merely another version of “Narnia” or “Oz.” That’s been pretty clearly disproven over the years, but he connections to C.S. Lewis’ seminal saga are still interesting nonetheless. The most obvious link? Doomed anthropologist Charlotte Staples Lewis…or should I call her “C.S. Lewis?” Also, of all the Dharma Initiative stations that we’ve seen over the years, one is unique from the rest in its site off the island. The Lamp Post station, run by Eloise Hawking, is a direct reference to the lamp-post in Narnia that marks the point which links the imaginary and real worlds together. In Lost, the Lamp Post is the real world location that tracks the Island’s position (imaginary world?).

Island by Adolus Huxley
This one is a little more obscure. In the first part of Huxley’s novel about a cynical journalist who gets stranded on an island, the protagonist is “Lying there like a corpse in the dead leaves, his hair mattered, his face grotesquely smudged and bruised, his clothes in rags and muddy, Will Farnaby awoke with a start.” Sound familiar? It’s exactly how the first episode began, with our cynical protagonist, Jack, in the middle of the jungle. I know what you’re thinking…but unfortunatley, I don’t know if Amazon’s express delivery will get you the book (and last chapter) before Sunday’s finale.

Lost's Lamp Post. via Lost-Media

Finally, Lost has been riddled with different philosophical references over time: David Hume (Desmond Hume), Rousseau, John Locke, Anthony Cooper (historically, he was John Locke’s philosophical mentor, in Lost he was John Locke’s father), Jeremy Bentham,  and even Zen-master Dogen.

For a show that has posed so many questions over the past six years, it’s a good thing we know its creators are well-read. Whoever said TV rots your brain? They were clearly lost. And while we may all be looking for some final answers and closure from Sunday’s finale, if history is any indicator, we’ll likely be asking questions for hundreds of years to come…ok, that may be an exaggeration.

-MK

Contact the author at mksmogger@gmail.com.

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Idol Hangover: The Finale Two

Somewhere, Kara DioGuardi is crying. Last night we bid adieu to country crooner Casey James as Lee and Crystal advanced to next week’s finale. Has it really been 5 months? It seems like just yesterday that we found Casey James auditioning in Dallas. Since then, “Pants on the Ground went viral, Ryan went crazy, and the show rating’s have gone away. So, before we begin discussing next week’s finale, let’s say goodbye to Casey. While it’s unclear how his post-Idol career will play out, we’ll probably remember him for now for his rendition of “Mrs. Robinson” and the dizzying effect he had over Kara. While making it to the finale might have been preferable, Casey can take some comfort in knowing third isn’t bad (if you don’t believe me, ask Season five third place-finalist Elliot Yamin).

Here's to you, Mr. Robinson. via Flickr

So with that, let’s see where the finale lies with our final two…

1. Lee Dewyze – Although Crystal had all the early heat in this season’s competition, she has cooled as Lee has gone on a hot streak. Last night he gave two of the strongest performances of the season and proved that he’s in this contest to win it. Another thing Lee has going for him is his “transformation” storyline. If there’s one thing American Idol loves, it’s a strong narrative for its winner. Carrie Underwood went from country bumpkin to world-class pop star. Same with Kelly Clarkson. Lee has a similar narrative – evolving from the shy underdog to the confident Idol-heir apparent. With that said, the title relies on next week’s show. Will he once again blow us away to claim his crown? The momentum certainly seems to be on his side… (same as last week)

2. Crystal Bowersox – It’s hard to knock Crystal for anything terrible. If she could be summed up in one word this season, it would be “consistent.” I can’t remember a single week that she delivered a performance well below the audience’s expectations. Sure, some weren’t as great as others, but overall, she brought her best each week and competed like a star. However, the downside to consistency is that it isn’t exactly exciting. As much as they may claim to hate change or unpredictability, Americans love surprises. Crystal didn’t give us many – good or bad. And with Lee delivering his performance all season last week, it may be impossible for Crystal to reclaim any of the early buzz she had this season. (same as last week)

Sure, everything may change next week. That’s the beauty of Idol. But, if you’ve followed this season weekly like we have, you’ll know that you have two contestants in the finale with two very reliable track records. Will Crystal’s steady-and-safe approach win the race? Or will it be Lee’s dark horse-to-frontrunner momentum that puts him over the top? With two finalists who have never been in the bottom 3, it’s sure to be a nail biter either way.

-MK

Contact the author at mksmogger@gmail.com.

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Link It Up: 5.20.10

East meets rest? The once-trendy Hollywood restaurant is reducing its hours…not a good sign. [via Eater LA]

The Frank Gehry-designed Brain Health Center (appropriately in Las Vegas) will blow your mind. [via LA Times]

After 10 years, Smallville’s super run on the CW will come to an end. [via Deadline]

Double-check your ferry ticket to Catalina. A gubernatorial candidate has proposed an island for pedophiles off LA’s coast. [via LAist]

Santa Rosa Island may be getting a whole lot creepier. via Flickr

-MK

Contact the author at mksmogger@gmail.com.

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