Friday, June 29, 2007

Screw you, mainstream television, we've got a list!

TV Guide has compiled a list of the Top Cult TV Shows Ever. Star Trek clocks in at a predictable number one with The X-Files nipping at its heels in second. That short-skirt-wearing, demon-pummeling Buffy and the Scoobies come in at third. I was sad to see that Angel didn't make the list, but at least Firefly's hanging in there at 25 and the way-cool Mystery Science Theater 3000 is making its presence known at number 13.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Oh, the things we could buy...

There are a lot of good reasons to be rich. First and foremost, there's a lot of stuff you could buy. You could buy one of these:

Or one of these:

Or one of these:

Or one of these:

But absolutely the best reason for being rich is that you could bid on one of these:

Seriously, how many of us really need two kidneys? Let's start bidding! And if you win, remember to share with the rest of us. Please?

The Lost Classics: Lorrie Moore's Anagrams

Whenever I can't finish a book (yeah, I mean you, Chabon), I turn to Lorrie Moore for a rejuvenating literary respite. In my head, Moore is the authorial equivalent of the brilliantly funny best friend you want to go drinking with every night of the week. She's probably known best for her last short story collection, Birds of America, published nine ridiculously long years ago, or her debut collection, Self-Help, which was written all in second person and launched a thousand MFA-wantin' copycats. I contend, however, with all due vim and vigor that her finest work is Anagrams, an unusual novel that tells the story of Gerard and Benna and the myriad ways their lives could have been lived. Anagrams is realy a series of short stories and one novella all patched together, although the more times you read it (and I will freely admit that I've read it roughly a dozen times at this point), the more you see deep connections running throughout the book.

So even if the structure of Anagrams is kind of the short story writer's equivalent of cheating their way into a novel, it still works and even if it didn't, it simply doesn't matter because of the effortless humor and humanity found in every inch of Moore's prose. You've got to love a woman who starts a short story with the words: Understand your cat is a whore and can't help you. That, right there, should earn a person a Nobel Prize.

Rumor has it that Moore is working on a novel. Many years ago, I saw her read and she gave us a taste of the work in progress. I still remember it because it seemed like the perfect next step in the evolution of a truly gifted author: more rounded characters, same gentle humor, richer details building a scene from top to bottom. I've been waiting and waiting for this new novel to the point where I'm half convinced I imagined every word of it. (Which, if I did, I'm a totally brilliant writer and should have an agent.) Once you read Anagrams or Self-Help or Birds of America or any of Moore's other work, you'll be just as desperate as I am to read the next chapter of anything this woman writes.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A couple of things...

* Wil Wheaton was kind enough to respond to his election as Nerd Man of the Month for June. He gave a hearty "W00t" and added, "Thank you so much for the honor and the incredibly kind words. I'm in some very good company." The Park Bench has been lucky with the graciousness of its Nerdy honorees. Everyone's been a really good sport.

* Via Time Magazine's Nerd World blog, there's a new video out showing the first day of shooting on the upcoming Indiana Jones 4 movie. My Harrison Ford radar didn't spot the grizzled hottie on set, but there's a nice still shot of him in costume up at And the short movie does have shots of Spielberg wearing his Foreign Legion hat and Lucas looking thoughtful. It's a good way to start the countdown to the next installment. I know I'm looking forward to it -- Indy hasn't failed me yet!

Mine, all mine!

Potter book sells for $18,000 at auction (Yahoo News)

Okay, which one of us bought it? And how many kids did you make cry with your winning bid?

Monday, June 25, 2007

What if Wild Turkey fuels my elf?

Those of us playing World of Warcraft 20 hours out of every day have just lost out on some cushy insurance coverage, thanks to a group of spoilsport psychiatrists who are refusing to call video game addiction a mental illness. In fact, they're saying it might not even be an addiction at all, stripping us of the "coolness" cache now reserved for such country club ailments as alcoholism and coke addiction.

"There is nothing here to suggest that this is a complex physiological disease state akin to alcoholism or other substance abuse disorders, and it doesn't get to have the word addiction attached to it," said Dr. Stuart Gitlow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

Dr. Gitlow then ended the interview by waggling his thumbs in his ears, sticking his tongue out and shouting, "Nyeh nyeh nyeh nyeh nyeh nyeh."

You know what this means, don't you? If we want enough worker's comp time to solve Zelda, we're going to have to try a little harder.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Orson Welles says, "We're number one again...and even I'm bored by it."

I imagine this is how the conversation went at the American Film Institute a few months ago. Picture a bunch of film critics and academics hanging out in the Smart Guy Lounge, nursing their remote control-induced tendonitis and comparing Criterion Collections.

"Hey, you know what we haven't done since 1998?"
"Compile a list of the 100 Best Movies of the last 100 years?"

And then they took all of the film titles from the 1998 list, put them in their commemorative Charlie Chaplin bowler hat, jumbled them around, tossed them in the air, then had an underpaid TA type up whatever fell behind the sofa.

I'm convinced this is how the "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies -- 10th Anniversary Edition" came to be. What other reason could there be for yet another list of the 100 best movies from the EXACT SAME GROUP...give or take a few scholarly types?

I wouldn't normally feel hostile about a list of movies except they put Citizen Kane at the top again. Why, in the name of Gene Siskel, do they keep doing that? Does it absolutely earn a spot in the top ten? Sure, I'm all for it. But number one, over and over and over again on every list ever made in the history of mankind? At this rate, it's happened so often I wouldn't be surprised to hear it was the original first commandment. Yes, it's a great movie but surely there must be something else out there to give it a run for its money, right? Right? Maybe something French and obscure? Or old and obscure? Or something from Scorsese to make up for his one measly Oscar? At this point, if it's anything short of a Corey Feldman movie, I'm ready to consider it.

Here's the list itself (it's a download) if you want to try to find your own new best picture nominee for the next time they do the list...which at this rate will likely be next month.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Let's talk about the good stuff

As NBC burns off the penultimate episode of Studio 60 tonight, its seems right to take a few minutes and focus on all the good things the show's creator Aaron Sorkin has given us over the years, rather than dogpiling on the guy for one semi-failure in an otherwise spectacular career. So I'm put on my Pollyanna outfit, which totally makes me look fat, and am ready to tally up a few of the Sorkin moments for which I am grateful. Um, all of them are from Sports Night and The West Wing. Sorry, Studio 60.

What Sorkin Has Given Us:

A new appreciation of ESPN
Sports Night ruined ESPN's Sports Center for me forever but in a really good way by showing how much damn fun its fictional co-hosts Dan and Casey were having during those commercial breaks. Dan and Casey were Version 1.0 of the "your co-workers are your friends and your friends are like family" motif that would perfected in The West Wing. Dan and Casey were good guys, good friends and the purveyors of sports-themed lunacy. You can't ask for much more than that. And because of Sports Night, I'll always picture Kenny Mayne as a prettier, crazier Peter Krause, and I'm okay with that.

A president so good he couldn't possibly be real
Every president and presidential candidate since The West Wing debuted must just shake their fists in fury at the gods of fictional characters, ruing the creation of Jed Bartlet. He had that Nobel Prize under his belt. He could yell at God in Latin. He loved his wife. He always tried to do the right thing, not just the easy thing. And best of all, he wasn't above calling the Butterball Hotline every now and then. From his unforgettable entrance in the pilot -- "I am the Lord your God" -- to his very last scene flying home to New Hampshire on Air Force One, Bartlet made millions of Americans wish for a leader like him.

Josh and Donna sittin' in a tree
I'm just gonna come right out and say it. Josh and Donna were probably my favorite TV couple of all time. Yeah, he was a cocky, know-it-all egomaniac and she was Exposition Girl way too often, but you'd be hard-pressed to name another fictional couple more devoted to each other than those two crazy kids. And that whole "I wouldn't stop for red lights" speech in 17 People? Pure romantic gold.

Workplace friendships to envy
Sorkin and Joss Whedon share one writerly fetish: the notion that friends make better family than those actual blood relative types. Sorkin took this to new heights with The West Wing. In part, it worked because of the workplace in question: a White House filled with people so dedicated they slept head down on their desks, drooling over top secret documents. You had to believe these guys were like family or, well, it would just seem sad. With father figures Jed and Leo, mom Abbey, squabbling siblings Josh, Sam and CJ, favorite son Charlie, cranky uncle Toby and that pleasant but spacy cousin Donna, they were so close-knit and loving that it made you wish you were sitting with them at your own Thanksgiving table rather than with that uncle who won't stop pulling weird things from your ear.

The greatest ensemble ever to act on TV
Hands down, The West Wing featured the best ensemble of actors ever assembled for a TV show. There were no weak links in the chain, from veterans like Martin Sheen and the late John Spencer to those who'd worked forever but never gained recognition like Bradley Whitford, Richard Schiff and Allison Janney to relative neophytes like Dule Hill and Janel Moloney. Even former Brat Packer Rob Lowe had a chance to shine like never before. Each and every actor took Sorkin's words and ran with them without ever looking back.

Reasons to cry like small, depressive infants
Man oh man, Sorkin had a way with the heartbreaking moments. When Toby meets his newborn twins after a night of worrying he wouldn't love them, greeting them with the words, "I didn't realize babies come with hats. You guys crack me up," it's hard to imagine a more tender parent-child moment. I rank the entire scene second only to Leo's monologue to Josh in Noel:

I'll mail you some Kleenex.

Robert Guillaume in something way better than Benson
Forget Felicity Huffman. Forget Peter Krause and Josh Charles. Robert Guillaume was the real draw on Sports Night. He was the gentle center in the midst of a weekly storm of fast-paced dialogue, off-the-wall situations and general hubbubery. The man held it all together, even after his stroke. Any episode he wasn't it suffered from his absence. That's the sign of a good actor. Plus, hey, he played The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. Top that, Krause!

A painful understanding of writer's block
This is a personal thing for me. No one has ever shown the misery and stupid humor of writer's block better than Sorkin. I always looked forward to those state of the union speech episodes of West Wing because I knew I'd see speechwriters Toby and Sam torment themselves over crafting perfection. There was Toby lighting his drafts on fire and wandering the halls, silent and in search of pie. There was Sam pounding his fist on the desk and working all night to get a 25-word presidential birthday greeting "just right." Sorkin showed a love of the written word that bordered on reverie. You don't see that too often in this world and that's a shame.

A belief in public service
So, how many of those young people interning in Washington and slaving away on all those presidential campaigns do you think got inspired by The West Wing? Based on no statistical evidence at all, I'm guessing there's a lot of 'em, although few would probably admit it. It would be nice to believe that maybe there's a generation of public servants out there influenced by The West Wing's storybook notion that there's no more worthy mission in life than doing good for the common good. Can't think of a better legacy for a TV show than that.

Now it's your turn to tell me why you're grateful to The Sorkin. Or we could just talk about not liking Studio 60....

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I Love (the) New York(er)

Eustace Tilley has owned a little piece of my heart for a good 20 years now. If you're a fan of The New Yorker, then you likely recognize the name of their monocled, top-hatted fop of a mascot. And if you're not a fan of The New Yorker, well, you've got 82 years of spectacular reading to catch up on...and trust me, it'll be worth it.

Few magazines, with the exception of Life and maybe Time, can bill themselves as legendary. The New Yorker has no problem with that title, though, because they've earned it. What else would you call a magazine that launched or expanded the writing careers of Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, James Thurber, E.B. White, Woody Allen, David Sedaris, John Updike, Joyce Carol Oates, Raymond Carver, John Hersey, John O'Hara and dozens of other members of the "greatest American writers" club?

To me, The New Yorker works because it still feels fueled by the spirit of its founder, Harold Ross, and that's a good thing. A high school drop-out and itinerant journalist once described as resembling a "dishonest Abe Lincoln," Ross became one of America's finest editors and spotters of talent. He ignored the mockery of his friends who told him that a former Stars and Stripes editor like himself could never edit the type of "smart" magazine that was so popular in the 1920s. He held his ground, kept his sense of humor and in the process, changed the future of 20th century literature.

I will freely admit that I've had mad love for The New Yorker since childhood when I first discovered Thurber cartoons. I may have been the only twelve-year-old in my school to submit something to the magazine just so I could get a rejection letter...suitable for framing. In college, I forced my friends to sneak into the old New Yorker building late at night just so we could ride the same elevators our favorite writers used to ride. And yes, I own every book ever written on the magazine, including Harold Ross's collected letters, which includes a slightly bizarre invitation to the circus addressed to the First Couple of American Theatre, Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt. I would have paid to see that adventure.

Best of all, except for a dark period of time when the magazine was edited by Tina Brown, The New Yorker has maintained its quality, running groundbreaking stories on everything from Hiroshima to Abu Ghraib. Given that the magazine has managed throughout its 82 year history to balance serious reporting, exceptional, oddball cartooning and the best in American humor writing, it's hard not to tip your hat to Eustace Tilley and all that The New Yorker has accomplished. Also, when it comes to monocled mascots, Tilley completely kicks Mr. Peanut's ass. Take that, legumes.

Bring your Slim Whitman album!

Ever wanted to spend 17 months in a Russian isolation tank? Of course you have. It's certainly better than being in that Big Brother house (that was a CBS reference, not an Orwellian one). Even better, you'd be doing it for the good of science. The European Space Agency is looking for six "astronauts" (who are astronauts in the same way that those horses who count with their hooves are mathematicians) to live in a confined space the size of nine truck containers with no contact with the outside world save for a crappy radio and a Justin Timberlake CD. The experiment will help scientists prepare for a future manned mission to Mars. Researchers want to see if living in a human Habitrail for years at a time will make people go insane. I'm guessing we already know the answer, but what's the fun if we don't try?

For their effort, test subjects will receive 120 euros a day, a cooler of Tang and a little gold bell they can push with their noses.

Read all about it here at Yahoo News.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Nerd Man of the Month: Wil Wheaton

In a way, it's inevitable that someone who wore a unitard on Star Trek: The Next Generation and wrote a book called Just a Geek would make it into the pantheon of Nerd Men of the Month. Beyond his nerd street cred, though, Wil Wheaton earns his Nerd Man honor because of his wickedly funny sense of humor, his deft writing style, his ability to make fun of his Star Trek past while still tipping his hat to its cultural importance and finally, for pioneering the art of blogging. Since the day it began, Wheaton has infused his blog with equal measures of goofiness, pop culture criticism and an intriguing look at what it's like to be a working actor. And damn if I didn't get just a little bit choked up after reading his post about his son graduating from high school. Plus, the guy knows Patrick Stewart (le rowr), starred in Stand By Me, almost single-handedly made Fark famous and is a bad ass Texas Hold 'Em player. Blogger, poker stud, actor, author and smart ass, Wheaton's basically a 21st century Renaissance man. If that doesn't earn a man the title of Mr. June, what will?

Photo from

Quick bits

* This should improve your lunch hour. It's Cracked Magazine's Top Ten Moments from 30 Rock. I'm still laughing over the Paul Reubens' birthday party episode.

* If only you'd had $30,000 lying around this past weekend, you could now be the proud owner not only of Elvis's gun but also one of his favorite prescription bottles that he probably once tried to open with his feet. If not for those pesky Los Angeles police policies, you could have had the pills too. "'We'd planned to sell the bottle with the pills, but the Los Angeles Police Department told us it would be a federal crime to do it, so sad to say we had to remove the pills,' (the auctioneer) said before the auction." God bless free enterprise.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Quitters and the Crazy Non-Quitters

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who will finish a disappointing book no matter how bad it is and those who will give up on a disappointing book the first chance we get. I've always been a member of that second group but as I've grown older and cheaper and more stubborn, I'm working hard to become a member of the first. The book that's causing me this reader's angst is Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union. I want to like this book. As I've mentioned a few times before, I loved The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay so I've enjoyed Chabon's work but sweet fancy Moses, I just can't get into this thing.

Now, the old me would have just accepted it and put it aside and started something new. The new, cranky me can't get over the fact that I paid full price for a hardcover. For $23.99, I feel compelled to wring some sort of satisfaction out of this book beyond turning it into a coaster or a nice place to rest a geranium. So I've dedicated myself to finishing this damn thing. I'm trying everything. I've tried finding uncomfortable reading positions to prevent napping. I've tried greasing the reading wheels with a fresh blend of Mountain Dew and dark chocolate with a Red Bull chaser. While it does keep me bright eyed and bushy tailed for a few dozen pages, it also gives me the attention span of a hopped-up hamster -- bright lights! Ninja Warrior's on TV! I could scrub the bathtub! I can't sustain that kind of ADD and not, you know, pass out. I've also tried a reward system, telling myself that if I finish the book, I'll buy myself a David Sedaris book or that Pride and Prejudice DVD I've wanted to own for so long but as I'm sitting there, staring at the words on the page, trying to stir up some interest in the book's main mystery, it just doesn't seem worth it.

The only thing that's going to get me there is flat-out bullheaded persistance. I'm going to finish this book because I'm going to finish this book. It's not going to get the best of me. I paid $23.99 and I'm going to enjoy this goddamn thing if it kills me. And if that happens, I'm going to be really pissed off. Chabon's gonna owe me one...and it better have fewer big adjectives.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Friday Tidbits

A big thank you to Bethany Lee for writing a nice entry on The Park Bench at Check it out if you have a chance.

He'd be writing some hot love between Jean-Luc Picard and Dr. Crusher, that's for sure. And now you can too, thanks to a new Star Trek contest hosted by Wil Wheaton and George Takei. Get out your laser quill and help pen a few new tales involving Picard and that other space stud Captain James T. Kirk. You could even win a prize! Here's hoping it's Shatner's kidney stone!

Premiere Magazine's got a list of Top 20 Movies Not Coming Soon to a Theater Near You. Sadly, the list includes The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, an adaptation I've been looking forward to for years.

From, a short, funny interview with swanky duo Nathan Fillion and James Gunn talking about Nathan's fame and oddly enough, The Green Lantern. I'm sorry I can't post the video directly because if I did, four hundred beefy attorneys would descend upon my humble home. Or at least that's what the scary warning label said. To make up for it, I give you this picture of Nathan from Gunn's My Space blog, which is one of the funniest, most crass and profane blogs you'll ever read.

Of course, now that I've posted that Fillion picture, Gunn's own litigious legion of doom will come after me, calling me names and forcing me to watch Slither...

DVD Review: Music and Lyrics

There are certain things you know you shouldn't enjoy, like eating untoasted Pop Tarts or watching politicians getting indicted. I suspect Music and Lyrics, now out on DVD, is one of those things, but damn if I didn't enjoy it anyway.

Just to be clear, this is no comedy masterpiece. If Howard Hawks was still alive, he would not feel threatened. In fact, if you brought it up, he would just hand you a copy of His Girl Friday and tell you to piss off.

Here's the story in case you missed the blitzkrieg of ads when the film debuted. Hugh Grant is a washed-up 80s pop star (the Andrew Ridgeley portion of the Wham! equation). He's given a chance to write a song for a Christina Aguilera-style singer, but he needs a lyricist. That's where insecure poet and plant waterer Drew Barrymore comes into the picture. Romance and hijinks ensue.

While there are quite a few good lines in Music and Lyrics and a nice atmosphere of irreverence, you know you're basically watching the film equivalent of a Twinkie and not an eclair. Drew Barrymore, as sweet as she is, just isn't magnetic enough to do the heavy romantic comedy lifting. The movie does benefit enormously from sweet and sullen Brad Garrett as Hugh Grant's manager and manic and bossy Kristen Johnston as Barrymore's sister. Aside from all of that, there is just one very simple reason why Music and Lyrics works and his name is Hugh Grant.

I'm just going to lay it out right here: Hugh Grant is an extraordinarily funny man. If you don't believe me, just listen to any of his DVD commentaries or read this interview about Music and Lyrics. When asked about singing in the movie, here's what he said: "I couldn’t believe how clever the computers are now. You can literally bark like a dog and it comes back like Pavarotti." He is witty, caustic and world-weary, and he brings those sensibilities to this movie. He knows it's not Shakespeare but he's still going to do his best to entertain you. And it works. And I might just watch the movie again. And then I might watch Four Weddings and a Funeral and maybe Love Actually with a smidge of Bridget Jones thrown in for good measure....

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Who's Your Good Daddy? Best Fictional Fathers

We did the bad dads last week. Now, with Father's Day coming our way on Sunday, it's time to do the best dads. Special thanks again to The Park Bench readers who shared their favorites.

RUPERT GILES / Buffy the Vampire Slayer
You've got to admit it, Rupert Giles is one kick-ass awesome father figure. He suffered traumatic head injury for Buffy at least 400 times, lost his job because he loved his Buffy too much, made out with Buffy's mom when no one else would, made up (not out) with Buffy's boyfriend even after the dude tortured him and killed his girlfriend and finally, showed up just in the nick of time to wear a dead sexy black coat and save the world at the end of Season 6.

JEAN VALJEAN / Les Miserables
You loved him in the musical. You loved him in the 1,200 page unabridged French novel with the inexplicable 150-page mid-section devoted to the history of French nuns. In many ways, Jean Valjean was too good for that whiny Cosette girl. He rescued her from those nasty Thenardiers, he adopted her and protected her through childhood, he carried her sappy, dying boyfriend on his back through the sewers of Paris and was willing to die alone just to protect her from his true identity as an escaped prisoner. Plus, if you believe those Broadway folks, he had a lovely tenor voice. She didn't deserve him.

Wouldn't you love to have seen the parent/teacher conferences for Sydney Bristow? "What do you mean my daughter's cursive is illegible?" Jack shouts, grabbing the language arts teacher by the throat and using lasers to cut his ankles off. Sure, being daddy's little Alias girl was tough what with the mistaken matricide and the brainwashing and the lies and the global conspiracies, but no one can say Jack didn't care: the dude blew himself up for her! And on a side note, Victor Garber has the sexiest ears of all time. I'm very, very serious.

GOMEZ ADDAMS / The Addams Family
Gomez wins the prize for least judgmental dad of all time. Pugsley and Wednesday could blow stuff up, torment their babysitters, and (in the movie) cause anarchy and chaos at summer camp and all Gomez ever did was love them. You gotta admire that.

ATTICUS FINCH / To Kill a Mockingbird
It would be impossible to deny Atticus Finch a place on this list -- the guy's got a heck of a resume. The American Film Institute named his character the #1 Greatest Hero of American Film and he was named the 7th Greatest Character in Fiction by some literary bigwigs in 2002. Courageous, moral and honest, he's a brilliant ideal both as a father and as a man.

Cliff Huxtable wins substantial points first, for being funny and second, for making bold sweater patterns work and third, for always having all those cool jazz musicians over for dinner. Hello, Louis Armstrong, would you like some pudding?

JED BARTLET / The West Wing
He may have had his flaws as a father to his own children, but who wouldn't want President Josiah Bartlet as the father of our country? Kind, caring, intelligent with just a pinch of bull-headedness, Jed almost always did the right thing and when he didn't, he went through enough moral self-flagellations to make up for it. And when Josh's father died and he offered to fly home with him even though he'd just won the presidential nomination? Tell me you didn't cry just a little.

GEORGE BAILEY / It's a Wonderful Life
Man oh man, he tried to keep that savings and loan open. He went deaf to save his brother from drowning, he sacrificed his dreams to keep the family business going, he worked night and day to see his fellow townspeople through the darkest days of the Depression. He even kept Zuzu's petals. George Bailey's so good it hurts.

/ Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
He had a voice that could make me nap, but he was always a good, upright guy, fightin' the aliens and loving his son. He even taught young Jake to love baseball -- five hundred years into the future! Plus, he served as a good example by not killing that little Bajoran woman which would have been the first thing on my space captain to-do list.

Remember when you were young and you would boast to your friends that your dad could kick their dad's ass? Yeah, Kim Bauer has us all beat. Talk about the tough guy protector. No matter how many times I've wished Kim would get eaten by a cougar, somehow Jack always manages to come to the rescue, nuclear bombs be damned. Sure, he cut Kim's boyfriend's hand off and inflicted enough psychological damage that she ended up dating C. Thomas Howell (Ponyboy!) but seriously, Jack and that man-purse of his completely rock.

Photos from, Wikipedia, and

Roamin' in a virtual Rome

As an archaeology nerd, I'm practically frothing with joy over the University of Virginia's newly unveiled Rome Reborn project. According to the Yahoo News story, you can travel throughout the city circa 320 AD and see all the landmark buildings and fountains. I would have preferred an Augustan era tour, but you know, archaeology snobs can't be choosers. I just took a short jaunt through the streets and it is indeed very cool, if not a little World of Warcraft-y. I kept expecting trolls to start shooting at me -- I hear that's how Julius Caesar died actually.

Photo: AP/Rome Reborn project

Monday, June 11, 2007

A Tony Award recap -- Park Bench-style

The Park Bench's resident theatre expert Meghann gives us the lowdown on all the Tony Award goodness from last night. Check it out:

When I was 13, I convinced my teachers (with the help of my mom) to take my 8th grade class to New York to see The Phantom of the Opera. Somehow they agreed this was a great idea and thus, I saw my first Broadway show. The following summer, I laid out at the pool on my Miss Saigon beach towel. I searched through my mom’s records until I found Barbra’s Broadway album and then I bought the easy piano book for it so I could play and sing “Not While I’m Around” and “Being Alive” in my melodramatic 15 year old way. I did high school musicals. I just about memorized Rent senior year of high school with my friends and my sister. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched A Chorus Line or Into the Woods with my parents.

I’m a Theatre Nerd. I have a degree in Theatre Nerd, actually. And I’m also a professional Theatre Nerd, spreading Theatre Nerdery to the Greater Philadelphia area. And last night was Theatre Nerd high holy night - The Tony Awards.

The Tony Awards are televised (thank god) but don’t usually get a lot of viewers. Unfortunately last night they lost even more than normal because most of America was wondering whether another Tony would live or die over on HBO. But I remained faithful. Surrounded by Theatre Nerds like myself and my boyfriend, we filled out ballots, we had trivia at commercial breaks, and we rooted for the, uh, one show we saw this season, Spring Awakening.

Now you can find the list of winners anywhere. But there are still awards to be given out. Oh yes, you didn’t know it but there are.

Most Heartfelt Acceptance Speech
David Hyde Pierce, Leading Actor in a Musical for Curtains. You may know and love him as Niles, but DHP has been a stage actor forever (20+ yrs) and this is his first win. He was genuinely touched and I think a little bit surprised.

Guy We Fell Most In Love With Immediately
Bill T. Jones, Choreographer of Spring Awakening. When his name was called as the winner for Best Choreography, he danced down the aisle! And then he danced on stage! And then after his speech, he danced off! LOVE HIM.

Most Annoying Acceptance Speech
Julie White, Leading Actress in a Play for The Little Dog Laughed. She was shrill and loud. And not a little bit terrifying.

Best Presenter in the History of the World
Eddie Izzard. No one was shocked that Eddie Izzard turned out to be the [very sexy] highlight of the show. He ended the introduction by blowing into the “envelope” to show how it sounds like when you blow into a blade of grass – that high pitched squealing sound. I have no idea what award he presented, but it doesn’t matter because he was hilarious and very sexy.

Most Misguided Dress
Now this is a difficult category, but I’m going to have to go with Jennifer Ehle, who won Best Featured Actress in a Play for The Coast of Utopia. I decided on her instead of Cynthia Nixon’s Unfortunate Neckline Styling 2007, only because I expected more from Elizabeth Bennett. I love Jennifer Ehle and I want her to always be lovely. And she was, but the dress was terribly misguided.

Musical Performance That Made Me Instantly Want Someone To Win a Tony
Christine Ebersole as Little Edie in a number from Grey Gardens. And win she did!

Best Line of the Evening NOT from the telecast
“Angela Lansbury is alive?!” – one of my friends

Best Line of the Evening from a Speech
“You know, when I used to think about if I ever possibly won one of these, would I feel like there was a mistake made, would I feel that way and I don't.” – Mary Louise Wilson, Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Grey Gardens

And now, a public service announcement. Many of you reading this have probably not even heard of half the plays and musicals mentioned. It’s okay, but I implore you to go see a show. Doesn’t have to be Broadway, doesn’t even have to be a big theatre. There is nothing in the world like live theatre – living, breathing people acting right in front of you. There’s a lot of good stuff going on probably very close to where you live. As Jack O’Brien said when he won Best Director of a Play for The Coast of Utopia, “Let's have no more nonsense about the state of the American theater.” Hear hear!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Dating for the Single Girl Nerd: The Blind Date

Today, The Park Bench welcomes back frequent contributor Ms. C for another entry in the Dating for the Single Girl Nerd file.

The irony of Girl Nerds and Dating is that we don't. Much. Sure, we go out with friends who are men, and we go to parties where there are men, and we talk to the DJ about Tom Waits and he’s a man, but that Sex and the City stuff? No way. By the nature of our Girl Nerdness, we tend to view the dating scene as an escalator out of control. Fine for our Non-Girl Nerd Sisters whose sense of balance has been honed by years of club-hopping in stilettos and spangly tops but way too dangerous for us. What if our heel gets caught in the step?

All we Girl Nerds really want is a companion with whom to play video games, watch Alias DVDs, and share the last volume of League of Extraordinary Gentleman. But finding that nerdy match isn’t easy. Do we go to a snooty, high-priced bar? Put on a skirt and wait outside the seminary for drop outs? No. But you know what we should do? Let our friends set us up on blind dates. And here’s why: there are absolutely no preconceived notions to hurdle.

He hasn’t already seen you drooling chocolate ice cream down your front, and you haven’t already got a crush so bad you spit when you talk. And best of all, letting a friend set you up on a blind date allows you to avoid randomly meeting someone in a bar wih the inevitable regret of beer goggling and seeing a grown man dance to “My Humps.” In fact, the less you know about one another before hand, the better. You won’t be tempted to mistake his sensitivity for a big, red flag denoting life-long personal family issues. Best of all, if things don’t work out, you never have to see each other again. And if it turns out you do take a shine to one another, well, you never have to see that person again either because really, that escalator is terrifying and Mythbusters is on and your friend Dave is coming over soon…and we all know you’re just going to end up with Dave anyway. He’s bringing the Wii.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Nothing says ice cream like a Corleone

Ever since the ice cream truck rolled down my street a few years ago playing the music from The Godfather, I've been fascinated with those calliope-style tunes. So, apparently, is Michael Hearst, a musician who has a new CD out called Songs for Ice Cream Trucks. NPR did an interview with him the other day. It's worth checking out just for the musical clips. It makes me want a creamsicle.

Who's Your Bad Daddy? Our Worst Fictional Dads

Thanks to a creative crew of Park Bench readers, we've got our list of Worst Fathers in preparation for the big Hallmark day next week. We've got go-kart drivers on the list, ET-lovers, platinum blond magicians and a blocked writer -- the scariest one of all!

Let's face it -- he may have blown up a few planets, cut off his son's hand, bifurcated his mentor and given asthmatics a bad name but we all kinda love him. It's the little kid Darth Vader that rots our socks. Friends with Jar Jar? That puts him on the list right there.

GEORGE BLUTH / Arrested Development
He built model homes for Saddam Hussein, poisoned people with muffins, invented the skin-blistering Cornballer and drove his poor responsible son Michael crazy. His worst crime though? He joined the Blue Man Group. Oh George....

All work and no play made Jack a crazy frickin' lunatic but he sure was entertaining. Equally dexterous with a baseball bat or an axe, Jack still found time to crack jokes while going insane and tormenting his family in that haunted hotel in the mountains. And admit it -- you kinda wanted Shelley Duvall gone too, didn't you?

LUCIUS MALFOY / Harry Potter
This pure blood wizard lovin' father of widow-peaked Draco Malfoy never fails to look stunning with his flowing white hair and blistering stare. Sadly, this stunner is bewitched by Voldemort and known to be a Death Eater. That'll be a bitch for Draco to explain at Career Day, although I guess it's no worse than the old man always trying to kill Dumbledore.

KING OF ALL COSMOS / Katamari Damacy
Our one and only video game dad, this greedy devil accidentally destroyed all of the stars in the cosmos. Oops. Now he's instructed his son to collect all of the objects on Earth (cows included!) and turn them into replacement stars. Speaking of clumsy, he also accidentally caused a tsunami. The French porn star mustache is apparently on purpose though. Double oops.

/ Lolita
Got married to a woman so he could get "close" to her underage nymphette daughter. That's not good. And in the movie, he killed Shelley Winters. No one messes with Shelley in my book. (I'm looking at you Poseidon Adventure!)

Jeez, what didn't ol' CGB Spender do? Lemme see. Conspired to allow aliens to colonize the Earth. Check. Tried to murder his son Jeffrey. Check. Orchestrated Scully's kidnapping. Yup. Ordered Krycek to kill Bill Mulder. Check. Had an affair with Mulder's mom. Eww and check. May have had an affair with Mulder's ex girlfriend. Ewww times ten. Was a heavy smoker, bad novelist and may have killed Kennedy. At least he wasn't lazy.

Booze hound and resident undead guy, he fathered Claire so there's one strike. He fathered Jack. There's two big strikes. Add in the "had an affair with Jack's ex-wife" and the killing of a few patients, and it's pretty clear he's not going to get many "World's #1 Dad" mugs.

ROYAL TENENBAUM / The Royal Tenenbaums
It's hard to tell with Royal if he's intentionally a crappy dad or just the world's most socially inept man over 50. He fakes cancer to get back into the family fold, intentionally shot his son Chas with a BB gun and stole from him (but seriously, who hasn't wanted to do that to Ben Stiller from time to time) and constantly tells his daughter she's adopted. But he's played by Gene Hackman so you've gotta love him just a little.

Khaaaaaaaannnn!!!!!! Sorry. I can never resist. The dude forgot he even had a son, even though it was that geeky kid from Square Pegs. How could you forget something like that? You'd have to be a major league self-loving ego maniacal girdle-wearing crazy to forget you had a...oh wait.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


As a matter of principle, I try never to use the words "Paris" or "Hilton" in the same sentence unless I've just made an extraordinary hotel reservation, but today I received a copy of the following letter, smuggled to me from Paris' Los Angeles prison cell. It seemed too important not to share.

(with apologies to Martin Luther King, Jr.)

My dear fellow humans:

While confined here in this detention center, I came across recent statements calling my present activities “self-serving” and “opportunistic.” While these cruel words sting, I refuse to end my protest. I will remain in my bright orange jumpsuit, shivering under my three thin blankets, afraid to peer into the mirror at my shimmer-free lips, sad and faux fur-free until the glorious, long-awaited day when the world’s press – and I mean you, Mary Hart – finally, finally shine their collective spotlight on something significant and substantial. I refer, of course, to the plight of over-privileged, chronically-intoxicated blondes and near-blondes. Lindsey, Britney, myself – all of us been abandoned and set adrift in a fog of obscurity and inattention. No one will look at us. No one will write about us. We are the flame yet we have no moths. Thirteen year old boys and prepubescent girls, soccer moms and genial masturbators throughout the country all ignore us, bullheaded in their focus on the trivialities that hold the world’s attention hostage. Day after day, the citizens of America do nothing but engage in intelligent, insightful analysis and commentary on what I call the Axis of Trifles: Iraq, Darfur, and climate change. I say screw that and its little dog.

I am in Los Angeles because injustice is here. Vacuity has been forced aside, replaced by depth of character, by reason and serious thought. What will become of our nation if we lose our size zeroes, our velour “Juicy”-assed pants, our designer drug addictions, our voyeuristic joie de vivre? What will happen to our government, our society, our very way of life if we think for ourselves, if we put aside our botox injections and instead inject ourselves with the botulism of knowledge? I’ll tell you. We’re going to start listening to NPR. We’re going to read AND subscribe to The Wilson Quarterly. We’re going to watch NOVA. We’re going to understand The Daily Show. Again, I say screw that, its little dog and its little dog’s friend.

I don’t hate you for your misguided ways, but I do pity you. I hope that all of you will look deep within your souls and come to know right from wrong, shallow from deep, Pamela Anderson from Heather Locklear. Together, we can find our priorities. We can set ourselves straight. And we can become the nation we were destined to be: a country full of a lot of not-so-smart people who actually care whether I live or die.

With heaven’s help, we can be that nation. Let us hope it’s not too late.

Peace out bitches,


YOU be the judge!

My apologies for the dearth of posts lately. The real world caught up with me something fierce this past week. But enough about me -- this post is about YOU! In honor of Father's Day coming up soon, I'm taking nominations for worst and best fictional father, step-father or father figure. Tell me who springs to mind for you, whether they're from film, TV, books or an old Bloom County strip. Need a few examples? Well, you'd have to put Lolita's Humbert Humbert somewhere at the top of Worst list. Maybe add a dash of The X-Files' Bill Mulder or Battlestar Galactica's Bill Adama. On the "best of" side, there's the sweatered-duo of Bill Cosby and Ward Cleaver. Les Miz's Jean Valjean ran around in sewers to save his daughter's drippy boyfriend and Buffy's Giles got hit on the head all the time to protect his slayer, so they might earn a good guy spot.

Post your nominations in the comments section, and we'll see who tops the list when we rank Worst Fathers this Friday and start preparing for Best Fathers next Friday.

Monday, June 04, 2007

There are no right or wrong answers

Recently, I've been feeling the Bruce Campbell love, mostly because of the woof he gives at the end of those Old Spice commercials, so I wandered over to his website today and unearthed this great questionnaire he provides for people interested in moving to Hollywood and becoming ridiculously famous and most importantly, becoming Bruce Campbell's sidekick in Hollywood-style capers. Thanks to this quiz, I think we'll all learn a little something about ourselves today.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Saturday Cinema: The Thin Man

If you're looking for something witty and romantic to throw into the DVD player this weekend, might I recommend The Thin Man? This 1934 classic has it all -- you've got William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, arguably the greatest romantic duo in all of cinema history. You've got a clever murder mystery filled with oddball suspects. You've got unbeatable dialogue. You've even got a cute little dog, Asta. This movie had a profound impact on me as a young girl. I watched it so many times I not only memorized it, I also became convinced that my future would be filled with silky evening gowns, men in tuxedos, delicious quips tossed casually over my shoulder, and lots and lots of highballs and cocktails. Trust me, you will fall in love with these characters...and likely develop a huge, huge craving for a Cosmopolitan.

If you'd like a little preview, check out this a highlight reel.