Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I hope there's a trophy!

The winner of the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest celebrating the best in bad writing was announced yesterday. A Madison, Wisconsin man won for this opening sentence:

"Gerald began - but was interrupted by a piercing whistle which cost him ten percent of his hearing permanently, as it did everyone else in a ten-mile radius of the eruption, not that it mattered much because for them 'permanently' meant the next ten minutes or so until buried by searing lava or suffocated by choking ash - to pee."

I know now that I've been in too many fiction writing workshops 'cause I actually don't think it's that bad. In fact, given the length of that clause nestled in there, I'm fairly certain it could pass for a line out of Henry James. Not to insult the Wisconsin guy or anything...

We don't talk about Liz Lemon like that around these parts

I've got a bone to pick with a Miss Sarah Seltzer and it's in the shape of Tina Fey. In the most recent issue of Bitch Magazine, Seltzer wrote an essay on "30 Rock" called "Sour Lemon" which argues "...Fey should be a feminist role model. So why does she still trade in on sexist stereotypes at the expense of herself -- and smart girls everywhere?" Later she adds, "And if the sexist jokes are a way for the smart, attractive, and powerful Fey to make herself less threatening, then that's not very funny at all."

Please give me a moment while I take off my apron, hand my husband his slippers and say, "What the fuck are you talking about, woman?" For one thing, putting aside the character of Liz Lemon, Tina Fey should not only be considered a feminist role model, she should be given her own burning bra trophy with a built-in eternal flame. She has succeeded in a field that is extraordinarily male. Most funny women who make it succeed as performers. Fey made it as a writer and eventually became the first female head writer in Saturday Night Live history, which is the gender equivalent of a woman becoming the pope. Then she went on to write Mean Girls, a film with a core message that says it's good to tell the popular girls to piss off and it's good for young women to be smart. And finally, she has created an Emmy-nominated sitcom in which a woman, Liz Lemon, heads her own successful show, called, of all things, The Girlie Show. How much more frickin' feminist street cred do we need to give this woman, for Betty Friedan's sake?

Seltzer complains that Liz Lemon is not strong enough and is only painted in stereotypical strokes. Okay, but the thing is, comedy traditionally, you know, plays with and subverts stereotypes, rendering those stereotypes weak by making them the object of derision. It's a little something-something called satire. It's what funny people do. Seltzer has issue in particular with an episode called "The C-word" in which Lemon gets called a naughty word by one of her subordinates. "After an angry speech and subsequent collapse in exhaustion," Seltzer writes, "the message has been hammered home: women can't handle authority."

Oh man, this woman's lucky I'm too busy earning 60 cents on the dollar and being subjugated to get too riled up, but I'm still getting cranky here. My problem with her argument is this: the academically feminist version of a strong woman is not realistic. It's academic, which is fine when it's all about publishing papers. Why do all "feminist" chickies have to be Cagney and Lacey-tough? Seriously. One day Hillary Clinton might be leader of the free world. You don't think she felt flustered when Edwards made that crack about her jacket last week? Simone de Beauvoir was all feminist, but you don't think she got a little self conscious when Sartre called her fat? And when Condi Rice gets those crank calls from Rumsfeld in the middle of the night, you don't think she gets insecure?

My point is, why do strong women have to be portrayed as, well, tight-assed men to be taken seriously? The reason Liz Lemon is appealing to women is because in spite of her insecurity and vulnerability, she always gets the job done. She's the one that solves the problems and not because she's some sort of symbolic mother, narratively compelled to rescue and nurture everyone. She does it because it's her job and she's good at it. I'm tired of people writing women either as girly know-nothings or substitute men or angry bitches or any other two-dimensional variation that requires no thought. I want a character who's true to life, someone like the women I know, women who are goofy and silly and who worry but who are still brilliant and strong and really, really good at whatever they choose to do, whether it's write comedy or have a family or ride magical ponies.

So keep your Gloria Steinams and your academic stiffs. I'd rather have Liz Lemon's relateable and highly entertaining craziness any day of the week.

Monday, July 30, 2007

That goes for you and your little dog, too!

Some things get better as technology advances. Robots, for example, and running shoes. Other things, however, were not meant to be improved. Ponies are pretty much awesome as they are. Monkeys, too, should never be mechanized. I would add a third item to this list: Underdog. Underdog is meant to be a cartoon and is meant to stay exactly the way I remember him when I was five years old. He had a ratty blue cape, the color was a little washed out and he had a non-descript voice that sounded just as you would imagine a superhero dog sounding. Either that or he didn’t talk at all – I can’t remember. I know my real dog didn’t talk. I might be getting them mixed up.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, I hate the idea of the Underdog remake, which is scheduled to open this week. I don’t want to see a real dog strapped into a harness, blazing across a CGI sky. And I don’t want to see the “real” dog’s lips moving, and I certainly don’t want to hear Jason Lee’s voice come out of its mouth when they do. I mean, I love Jason Lee but he’s got this slacker voice and, well, Underdog’s a superhero. He’s a Type A personality. He’s not going to be out in the parking lot smoking with Kevin Smith.

This is just really infringing on my childhood memories, and I don’t like it one bit. There are certain things that are better left unimproved…including everything I ever watched on TV as a kid. That means no I Love Lucy remakes. No remakes of The Monkees. And no remakes of Ultraman. That dude was meant to wear a giant silver unitard and fight crime. He was not meant to be sleek nor futuristic. He was meant to be campy and awesome. Not everything needs to be remade, Hollywood, least of all my favorite crime-fighting dog. For that I will continue to hurl epithets at the TV screen every time that new CGI-ed imposter raises his ugly little ears. Yeah, I’m that immature.

The A.M. Digest

* This news from Comic-Con is almost enough to make me really, really happy on a Monday morning. Whedonesque.com and TV Squad are reporting that Ripper, the Buffy spin-off focusing on my imaginary Sunnydale boyfriend Rupert Giles, has actually been picked up by the BBC. It will be done as a 90-minute TV movie and yup, Anthony Stewart Head will reprise his role. No details on plot or when it will start filming, but hey, I'm not greedy. I've been waiting years and years for this bit of Whedon-y goodness, so I'm just happy to hear it might actually be happening. I hope Head remembers how to stammer and clean his glasses....[TV Squad story]

* In slightly less important cinematic news (kidding, of course), Swedish director Ingmar Bergman has passed away. Which is weird because I thought he was already dead, but then I realized I was thinking of Ingrid Bergman. And then I thought about how Woody Allen's movies wouldn't have been as good if he'd been aping Ingrid Bergman all these years, and then that made me appreciate Ingmar a little bit more and then I felt bad about mixing him up with a woman. Sorry, Ingmar. [NPR story]

* If you want to feel slightly old this morning, and who doesn't really, then take a stroll down memory lane with this visual history of game consoles. You'll see the old Odysseys and Ataris and realize that the 1970s were all about wood-paneling on everything. Including babies and small cars and trees.

* Also, the Italians exhumed two Medici writers...apparently just because they can. Bunch of Renaissance-having show-offs. [Guardian story]

Friday, July 27, 2007

Going into the vault with Lost in Translation

You’ve come down off the Harry Potter reading rush. You saw The Simpsons movie at the midnight show Thursday night, and there’s only so much Comic-Con coverage you can watch on G4 before you start to get a little freaked out. So why not invest in a pint or two of Ben and Jerry’s, put on that comfortable Sunnydale High t-shirt you can’t quite bring yourself to wear outdoors anymore, and take a few hours to watch a semi-depressing movie? You know you want to...

I suggest Lost in Translation. Now, I know this is a polarizing movie. You either love it or you hate it and think that the ending is reason enough for Sofia Coppola to be crushed with small stones in the town square. Me, I saw it five times in the theater and have probably watched it another dozen times on DVD and it gets me every time. Of course, my other favorite movies is Jaws, so I might just be messed up. But honestly, to me, this is one of the most emotionally true love stories ever filmed. It's not filled with flowers and romance and fluffy bunny love -- it's filled with the real stuff: the confusion, the tension, the loneliness, and the luck you feel when you find someone who understands you, even a little.

For those unfamiliar with the plot, well, there isn't one really. You've got Bill Murray as Bob, a fading film star whose marriage is falling apart and who's finding it difficult to sell out and shoot a whiskey commercial, and you've got Scarlett Johansson as Charlotte, a lonely young woman who's trying to figure out why she married her photographer husband. The two meet in a Tokyo hotel and spend a week together in the city doing nothing of real importance except maybe falling in love or maybe just becoming good friends or maybe just symbolizing life’s big, sad “what might have beens.”

Murray is brilliant – there’s little dialogue in the movie, but it doesn’t matter because he completely inhabits his character, doing all of his acting with his body and with his eyes. For a comedian who built his life’s work on telling jokes, that’s damn impressive. And it's a crime against cinema that he got robbed of an Oscar for this role. I put that snub right up against the whole Saving Private Ryan/Shakespeare in Love debacle of 1998.

While Johansson is not quite up to Murray’s stellar level, she's wonderfully natural and it's not difficult to feel her character's confusion and loneliness. She's young and innocent but seems to know that life is always going to have its share of angst. At one point, she asks Bob, "Does it get easier?" and you can hear an equal measure of hope and resignation in her voice as she says it. It's a lovely moment. And when he tells her, truthfully, "Yes...and no," you can understand why these two characters connect so deeply.

I mentioned earlier that there's no real, conventional plot in this film. There's no rising and falling action, no building of tension, no easy resolution. And there are only brief flashes of traditional exposition. That's one of the things I like best about it. It reminds me of a very intimate home movie. The realism of each moment is so true and delicate it makes you feel like you're in the room with these people. It’s unsettling and compelling at the same time. That mood is helped enormously by a smooth, ethereal soundtrack from My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields.

All of which bring us to that controversial ending. To me, it's perfect. Yet I know that right now, my husband is giving the computer screen the finger because he hated the ending with a fiery, steel-melting passion. For those who haven't seen the movie yet, I won't ruin the ending. I'll just say that I think it took guts to risk a resolution like that. It all goes back to what I said about being in the room with these characters. Those last few moments stay completely true to that conceit. It's brilliant.

Alrighty, now go have some ice cream and stoke that melancholy. It’s good for you!

Friday Tidbits

Today, I'm sad that I'm not at Comic-Con eating a $5,000 dinner with Joss Whedon. I've drowned my sorrows by reading news stories on the internets. So actually, today is kind of like yesterday in that respect. Oh, and the day before. And a couple ones before that....

Wait, studying mountains that explode is dangerous?
Wired Magazine has published a list of the most dangerous science-related jobs. Volcanologists and hurricane hunters are ranked, as are grad students for some weird reason. Here's my beef: how come hurricane hunters get mentioned but not tornado hunters, who not only risk being killed but also risk being identified with Bill Paxton? And by the way, I always thought it was vulcanologist, not volcanologist. Did they change it? Too much Star Trek confusion? If so, can we officially take a moment to be sad about the society humankind has created?

Two parts Tang, one part Captain Morgan
I swear I'll stop talking about astronauts soon, but I couldn't pass up the latest tale of NASA allowing its space men and women to fly drunk. I don't understand all the hubbub. I'm sure they sobered up by the time they had to steer. And what's the big deal anyway? It's an orbit. Turn right and hold her steady. Jeez.

Why bother taking the ears off again at this point?
You've probably already seen the stories about Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto from Heroes sharing the role of Spock in J.J. Abrams' new Star Trek production. What you probably didn't know is that they're going to be playing Spock as Siamese twins, just like that awesome Farrelly brothers movie a few years back with Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear as two siblings who were simply inseparable! Also, there were hijinks. Of course, Abrams was boozing it up with Sally Ride when he told me this, so take it with a grain of salt.

Just like being there...only with words and no goodie bags

Speaking of Comic-Con, which I whined about a few paragraphs ago, USA Today's Pop Candy blog is providing some nice "as it happens" posts as well as Twitter updates. She's got some interesting details on Lost, a series return I'm looking forward to enormously.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

You know what writers like better than typing? Hitting each other.

Is it wrong that I love Jonathan Ames even more because he fist-fights with other writers? The author and "man-about-town," as New York Magazine calls him, is getting to be kind of a semi-pro boxer in the sense that he keeps stepping into a ring, strapping on padded leather gloves and punching fellow writers in the face. It's pretty much just like Hemingway except he doesn't make them cry afterwards. New York Magazine recently wrote a story covering Ames' latest pugilistic event. Here's what they have to say:

In 1999, under the nom de guerre “the Herring Wonder,” Ames took on David “the Impact Addict” Leslie, a friend and fellow artist, emerging from the fight with a broken nose. Last night, at Gleason’s Gym in Dumbo with friend Fiona Apple cheering him on, an undaunted Ames took to the ring yet again — this time, to duke it out with fellow writer Craig "the Crippler" Davidson in a publicity ploy for Davidson’s U.S. fiction debut, The Fighter.

The cool thing is both of these guys actually look like fighters:

I hope the Herring Wonder continues to knock 'em down in future years, and I have my fingers crossed that he eventually takes on everyone he shares a shelf with at Barnes and Noble. He could easily take Isabel "Bell Ringer" Allende, Kingsley "I'm Dead" Amis, Martin "Chain-Smoking, Talent-Dripping Bastard" Amis and of course, Louisa "Mayhem" Alcott, who kinda deserves to get punched for forcing Little Women on innocent middle schoolers for the last hundred years.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Star Pants? Pants Wars?

From the Star Wars community on Livejournal comes this List of Top 100 Star Wars Lines Improved By Replacing a Word with "Pants." I think it may have been around a while, but even if you've read it before, I dare you not to giggle at least once. My personal favorite? "I am altering the pants. Pray that I don't alter them any further." Tee hee.

Ten Reasons Why Being a Nerdy Woman Is Harder Than It Looks

10. People don't realize the Princess Leia metal bikini gets progressively more binding every Halloween we wear it.

9. All of the books we read means we'll likely be blind by the age of 40 and forced to listen to books on tape. Abridged books on tape. No one wants that.

8. Being socially awkward means we're ten times more likely than the average woman to spontaneously fall down in front of attractive men.

7. Carrying these enormous brains on top of our delicate, Audrey Hepburn-like necks gives us backaches, like, every day.

6. Because we're women, we have a genetic imperative to shop. Because we're nerdy women, we have a genetic imperative to fear the clothes we crave. It's a Catch-22 never envisioned by Joseph Heller. If he had, Yossarian would have worn more accessories.

5. We've watched every episode of Star Trek. We know futuristic space travel. Yet, for a lack of advanced degrees, we fear NASA will never give us a shot at driving the space shuttle. Or maybe the word is "pilot." Whatever.

4. When we're out on dates and our significant other misquotes the 17th digit of pi but we really, really want to get lucky, we have to ignore their egregious error and just cry a little inside.

3. NASCAR is a wound that will never heal.

2. English and/or Irish accents render us incapable of clear thinking, explaining our ill-advised crushes on Phil Collins, Wilkie Collins, Joan Collins and one or two other Collinses we'd rather not discuss.

1. We know that nerds are the future. It's just a bitch waiting for everyone else to catch up.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Things completely unrelated to Lindsey Lohan

Here's a little afternoon pick-me-up: Wil Wheaton performing scenes from the Picard vs. Kirk writing contest for Star Trek fans. Somehow I don't really think he's giving it his all, although he is giving it a nice coat of light, shiny insincerity. Thanks to Park Bench reader Shan for the tip!

On a completely unrelated note, I'm planning on checking out the new FX series, "Damages" tonight, starring Cruella deVille who also once played Glenn Close. The series has been getting rave reviews, and it's produced and written by a friend of mine from high school. The guy once got an Emmy nomination for penning an episode of "The Sopranos," so he knows what's what with the whole writing thing.

And from Monsters and Critics comes this story about a postal worker who braved floodwaters to deliver the latest Harry Potter book to the folks in his village who not only had to suffer through rising waters but also the worry that they'd never see their books. I think I love this guy a little, especially since my mailman won't even put the flap on my mailbox down when it rains.

And finally, Premiere magazine has a list of the top ten TV shows that should be movies. The list includes "Friday Night Lights" which, um, I'm pretty sure was already a movie but therein lies the synergistic irony, I'm sure.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Gene Simmons and those family jewels

I mentioned this a bit yesterday in The Park Bench Yahoo group, (which you should join), but I just had to throw a bit more love toward A&E's "Gene Simmons Family Jewels," which is probably my favorite reality show that doesn't involve an amazing race or an angry Scottish chef. I don't care how much of the show is scripted or how much is fake; all I know is I enjoy watching this family function. And that's really the best part of the show -- the fact that former KISS frontman Gene Simmons, his long-time girlfriend and former Playmate Shannon Tweed and their two teenage kids, Sophie and Nick seem like a truly functional, happy family. And they're funny as hell. Nick should have his own comedy show -- the kid is dry-witted and gently mocking of his parents, especially his father, and he's just a riot. His sister, Sophie, is quieter but just as sweetly funny as her brother can be. Shannon Tweed seems pleasantly bemused by the whole thing with a teasing side that seems best spent on freaking out Gene, like when she convinces him she's adopted a child without his knowing about it.

As for the long-tongued man himself, Gene Simmons is pretty damn likable. I never liked KISS. I still don't like KISS, but I've gotta love a guy who loves himself so much and in such a charming way. He totally thinks he's God's gift to music and to women, but he's also incredibly eager to laugh at himself...or at least smile like a bemused Ozzie Nelson. To paraphrase his son's description of him, "Outside, he's omniscient, world-famous rock star Gene Simmons. At home, he's more like Richard Simmons." It's a good combo.

"Gene Simmons Family Jewels" is the antithesis of "The Osbornes," and I'm thinking that's a good thing. No drug-induced brain damage, no crassness or debauchery, no high-maintenance offspring -- just a guy with a super-long tongue who likes to paint his face, wear leather, make lots and lots of money and hang out with his family. and that's pretty much what the American dream is all about, right?

Like recovering from Super Bowl weekend but with poorer eyesight...

So is everyone all Harry Potter-ed out? How many of you finished it in one day? How many finished it over the weekend? What did you think? Pleased? Saddened? Suffering from tired arms from holding the damn thing up? Do tell.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The secret "Let's Talk Doctor Who" page

Thank you for taking pity and talking with me about Doctor Who. :)

I just have to know, how did you feel about the transition between Nine and Ten? I've watched all of Season Two with Tennant and tonight I watched the first three episodes of Season One and I really like both Eccleston and Tennant. I'm just curious what the adjustment was like between the two for you? Eccleston definitely has a harder edge to him although Tennant can sure turn on the coldness at the drop of a hat. How do the two compare for you?

Nick Lowe's "At My Age"

I’d forgotten how finding a great new CD is a lot like finding a heart-thumping new crush. You get that little flutter of excitement when you know you’re going to listen to it. You feel anxious when it’s not within arm’s reach. And you have that satisfied, happy feeling for each and every second you hear it.

All of this is to say I have a serious crush on Nick Lowe’s new CD, “At My Age,” his first in six years. Lowe is probably best known for his success in the ‘80s with songs like “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” which Elvis Costello covered, and “Cruel to Be Kind” Lowe’s new CD is miles away from “Cruel to Be Kind” although it has a seriously pop undertone – it’s sly with a playful gravitas. The songs are an amalgamation of pop and country with a bit of Frank Sinatra-y lounge act, early ‘60s rock and post-war standards thrown in. No matter what the style, each song is infinitely enjoyable, cohesive yet diverse. “The Club,” “Long-Limbed Girl” and “I Trained Her to Love Me,” which is a tongue-in-cheek narrative of a man who woos women simply so he can break their hearts, are particular stand outs. Mature and charming, you can tell these are the songs of someone who’s lived a life and can still smile wryly as he recounts the tale. As he sings on one track, “If I’d done half the things people said I’d done, I’d be buried or on the run.”

Mellifluous and rich, Lowe’s voice is the star of the production, evoking at various times Johnny Cash, Elvis, Tom Jones and even, I swear to you, Bruce Campbell if he could be sincere. These aren’t caricatures in any way, though. Lowe’s voice is wholly his own. It simply feels familiar.

So if you’re looking for a thoughtful album filled with gentle surprises and dedicated to the ups, downs and so-what’s of love, “At My Age” might just be the one for you. I know he’s the best musical crush I’ve had in years.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Finally, Emmy justice has been served!

Thank God, Kiefer Sutherland received another Emmy nomination this year. Phew. I was totally worried. You know how hit and miss these things are. Year after year, so many people get unjustly nominated for Emmys -- like that Lauren Graham. Total award hog. Thankfully, though, the always emotive Kiefer has claimed the recognition he deserves. Just look at these performances:

He's angry!

He's heroic!

He's commanding!

He's sad!

He's happy!

He's shy!

Just kidding.
Not really.

Kiefer photo from www.kiefer-rocks.com.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A little of this and a little of that.

Farscape set to return
From Park Bench reader Jenn B.: "I was surprised nerds like you hadn't mentioned this yet! I hope I am right in assuming that, as fans of shows like Battlestar, Firefly, and Star Trek, you were once fans of Farscape. Were you aware that SciFi has, finally after many years of lobbying from fans, ordered a 10-episode Farscape web series? Spread the joy to all nerd girls (and boys) that they may soon revel in Chricton's sarcasm, Chiana's sexual prowess, Rygel's greed, D'Argo's raw manliness, and all that was good and pure in Farscape." Check out the story yourself at SyFyPortal. Thanks for the tip, Jenn!

Dear parents: Congratulations, you're paying thousands of dollars for your kids to ride brooms.
I don't quite know what to think about this story about some college kids who have created their own Quidditch league. On the one hand, it's kinda cool. On the other hand, uh, I hope they know they can't really fly. "I wanted to emulate the magical nature you find in Harry Potter books," said Dewey, 20, a student of music and education. But he admits he has to make concessions to reality. "A lot of that you can't really replicate exactly because we are not witches and wizards." Okay, that's fine then.

There's an ingeniously insightful Jesus comment here somewhere
The Cylons are going to love this one. Engineers at Carnegie Mellon University have built robots that walk on water. The insectlike critters have four to sixteen legs, are two to six inches long and weight just a few grams. They use the surface tension of water to remain upright and dry, just like those creepy water-strider bugs. Not that I believe anyone needs any reason whatsoever to build a robot, but you gotta wonder why anyone would build a robot specifically to walk on water? Environmental monitoring of still-water ecosystems like ponds and marshes, of course! Oh, also, they can be used to spy on people. Hello, Mr. Attorney General!

He bled and everything!
And finally, I know this is old news, but for some reason, I enjoy the idea of two comedians fist-fighting, especially when the one getting beaten up is Andy Dick. I'm hoping the ghost of Fanny Brice beats the shit out of Carlos Mencia sometime soon.

Is there a cod piece? 'Cause there's usually a cod piece.
RetroCRUSH.com has a cool item on the top ten greatest super villain costumes of all time. I think it's the swanky glasses that really sell it for Catwoman. And maybe the whip. And the brutal addiction to catnip.

A chance to follow in Dottie's footsteps

If you live in New York, well, you're lucky because you're living in New York. You're also lucky, though because you can take part in the Dorothy Parker Society's monthly walking tour of the former residences, workplaces and yes, speakeasies, frequented in the 1920s by the darkly acerbic poet and short story writer.

For those unfamiliar with Dorothy Parker, may I suggest deeply and with a fan girl's fervor, that you seek her work out immediately? Her poetry, which made her famous in the early 1920s, suffers a bit from the passage of time, coming off in some instances as a slight rehash of Edna St. Vincent Millay and honestly, the world really needed only one Edna St. Vincent Millay, if that. That's not to say there aren't poetic gems in the Parker oeuvre. My personal favorite, "Resume," offers a casually dark run-down of repeated suicide attempts:

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

Parker's real gifts, however, were as a critic and as a fiction author. Her criticism was filled with blistering, razor-sharp diatribes against less-than-stellar plays and books. Of Katherine Hepburn, she once said her performance "runs the gamut of emotions from A to B."

It was Parker's short stories which offered her the chance to show heart and emotion. her most famous story, "Big Blonde," is unflinching in its depiction of a secretary who alls for a married man and ultimately endures the emotional fall-out of an abortion. Pretty edgy stuff for 1929.

My favorite story, though, is a snap shot of unrequited love called "Just a Little One." Told in the form of a monologue, the story is simply about a woman sitting in a speakeasy with her male friend, nicknamed Fred. As they drink more and more, the woman's jealousy over the man's girlfriend grows and gets uglier until she ends up embarrassing herself, all but revealing the romantic feelings she might not even realize she has. This story may or may not be about Parker and her own unconsummated affection for her closest friend, legendary humorist Robert Benchley. It's a story that achieves universality with its specificity.

Almost as fascinating as Parker's writing is her own life, detailed in Marion Meade's biography, What Fresh Hell Is This? If you want to read a book about a brilliantly flawed and endlessly flawed woman with a cruel strike ten miles wide, you should check out this book. You can't help but feel sorry for this woman while simultaneously admiring the hell out of her.

So is all this enough to convince you to go on the walking tour? if you live in New York or are visiting any time soon, you have to try it at least once -- and then tell me all about it because I've never gone on the tour myself. Just looking at the website description makes me salivate -- so many glimpses of history, so many gems of the 1920s -- the best decade of them all, in my sad little opinion -- and best of all, it starts and ends at the Algonquin Hotel where Parker lunched almost everyday and made literary geek history as a member of the Algonquin Round Table, aka the Vicious Circe. If you want to visit with the ghosts of the men and women who changed 20th century theatre, fiction and humor including Parker, Benchley, George S. Kaufman, Marc Connelly and myriad other luminaries, this just might be the tour for you.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Let's chat...or at least post in slightly confusing threads

Some of you may have noticed the Yahoo! Groups button newly installed on this page. I created a group for The Park Bench, thinking it might give us a chance to chat about things of a nerdy nature now and then. This seemed like the second best option after realizing that I don’t have the technological skills to figure out how to create a forum. Please click here to go to the The Park Bench Online group and join in. When you join, please feel free to create a thread and introduce yourselves or throw a topic out for discussion. I figure we have at least a few weeks to enjoy the thing before the spammers get to it. Just enough time for you to tell me which Harry Potter book I should read, since I've never read one before. Ever. I know. I'm thinking that's a bad thing.

"My name is Inigo Montoya..."

Today's Pop Candy blog informs me that The Princess Bride turns 20 this year. ABC News has a "where are they now" item up about the cast that's kind of cool, except for the part where I realize that Cary Elwes seems to have had plastic surgery. (You didn't need it, Cary!) Mandy Patinkin is still looking pretty good. And I feel I must take this moment to be a huge fan girl and reveal that I once got kissed by Mandy on stage during one of his concerts. I will then neglect to mention that he also kissed about 20 other women at the same time because it's not important and because he obviously liked me best. If you ever get a chance to see Patinkin perform live, by the way, do it. He puts on a great show. And he makes out with his audience!

I knew I stayed unathletic for a reason

This week’s New York Magazine has a pom-pom shaking article on what it’s like to be a sedentary magazine writer who apparently goes temporarily insane and for the sake of an article, tries out to be member of the New Jersey Nets dance squad. Author Arianne Cohen showed up alongside 200 other hopefuls for the team’s annual open tryouts and ran into all of the cheerleaders who ever “accidentally” bumped into you in the dining hall, causing you to spill cherry Coke down the front of every new Morrissey t-shirt you ever owned. And no, Cohen didn’t take the audition seriously at all, bless her little keyboard-wielding soul:

“Strangely, even though I don’t dance, the team manager promised that I wouldn’t be the least talented wannabe there. I was probably the least tanned, though….”

And later:

“I pulled at my quads next to Christina Iannelli, who at 19 has already been a Philadelphia 76ers dancer, her abdomen smeared in body glitter and in a pink-sequined bra top. ‘I’m really nervous,’ she said. ‘I’m moving to New York City, and the only options are here or the Knicks.’ I asked whether the thick black hair spilling down her back would get in her way. ‘I think it’s an asset!’ she said. ‘I like getting all sexy with it.’ Hair in your mouth seems to be a crucial part of being a dancer, so I decided to leave my hair down, too.”

You've got to love the delicate nature of the sarcasm, so subtle and wispy that the young Jerseyites being mocked might miss it altogether, which hopefully means that Cohen will not get a fuschia nailfile shiv in the back anytime soon. Which also hopefully means she’ll be around to mock pageant participants and/or everyone who works at Abercrombie and Fitch. Fingers crossed!

Monday, July 16, 2007

College-ruled is so much hotter than wide-ruled...

If bookstores are a nerd Nirvana, then office supply stores must surely place a close second, like maybe a Pearl Jam or an Alice in Chains. (Sorry.) While visiting my old college stomping grounds this past weekend, I indulged in a little office supply browsing and wondered if I was the only person in the world who got sweaty-palmed and dry-mouthed over a fresh new legal pad or a five-pack of Uni-ball Deluxe Fine Point pens. Then I looked at my friend, who was clutching a college-ruled notebook to her chest and, I believe, doing a small dance of joy, and realized, “I am not alone.”

It was a comforting feeling because all of my life, I have possessed an unhealthy fascination with office supplies. I love me the paper clips which are so handy, so moldable and these days, so brightly colored. I giggle like a small school girl in the presence of mechanical pencils with their fine points and the little clicky sound that precedes each fresh new centimeter of graphite. And then there are the notebooks. I’m sorry Shakespeare died before the mass production of college-ruled notebooks because I am certain his greatest sonnets would have been composed in their honor. Even without the sonnets, we can still revel in (and possibly roll around on) the spiral bounds and the taped-spine composition books, the six-sectioned behemoths and the slim, single-sectioned petites.

And we can exalt in the glory of the champions, the thoroughbreds, if you will: the Moleskins. Oh Moleskins, how I love you. Your elegant cardboard insert tells me you were used by Hemingway and Van Gogh, but you don’t need star power to make you shine. I was smitten the moment I saw your simple black cover and the saucy little band that holds all your pages together. I buy Moleskins the way Marion Berry used to buy crack – with impunity and very little thought for the future. What the hell am I going to use my stack of Moleskins for? Well, I’ll tell you. I use them for everything, from big plans and outlines to stray words and recipes. I use them for my short stories or for that novel I may accidentally finish one day or for my secret mash notes to Anthony Stewart Head. They are a smooth-surfaced repository for every crazy thought I have.

Which gets me to what I believe is at the root of office supply appeal: everything you buy at an office supply store suggests a new beginning. You buy a shoulder bag to house that new laptop you got, the one you’re going to edit your short film on. Or you buy a new set of pens and think of the poetry you’re going to write. Or you snag a new organizer, thinking how finally, with this one book in hand, you’re ready to become a profoundly efficient, orderly and yes, wealthy, adult. All you needed was a fresh start…and a few hundred dollars worth of office supplies.

Photo of Porsche-designed pencils from www.cultpens.com.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

X-Files movie news update

If David Duchovny says it's true, then it must be true. Right?? Of course, he also swore he'd never leave me for Tea Leoni...

X-Files movie news from IGN:
...Duchovny was asked why he felt so confidant the movie was happening this time, after years of rumors about different scripts. Duchovny answered that the reason he was sure about this script was because "I'm actually supposed to see it next week! Before I would just say that [there was a movie] because they told me, but now, after talking to Chris [Carter] -- he's been giving me progress reports -- and he actually called yesterday, and said 'Next week, you should have something to read.'"

Friday, July 13, 2007

He's not saluting, he's, uh, waving, yeah....

Two-week old tiger triplets made their debut at Germany's Leipzig Zoo this week. I hate to be the one to make this joke, but guess which of the tigers likes to wear brown shirts, study the architecture of Albert Speer and root against Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan?

Who's a cute little fascist? "I am, I am!!"

Dear X-Files, sometimes you make me sad

I thought enough time had passed. I thought I'd finished with the three stages of X-phileism which are, as we all know, love, confusion and "what the hell was that all about?" But yesterday I had the urge to watch Fight the Future and I succumbed to that urge, only to find myself in the "what the hell" stage all over again. None of it makes sense! None of it! There's bees and there's a virus and Martin Landau urinating in an alley, and then there's more bees and cavemen and a giant space ship and just kiss already, for God's sake!! It's enough to make you crazy.

I was a devoted X-phile for all nine years. And don't get me wrong, I still love the show. There are a lot of great things about it. First of all, there was David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson who made Mulder and Scully the mournful, sardonic, repressed modern-day equivalent of Nick and Nora Charles. Mulder and Scully were great characters: flawed to the nines, self-absorbed yet heroic and devoted to one another. ("Scully's trapped in an alien ship in the Arctic, and I've just been shot in the head? Hand me my parka!") Their partnership, romantic or otherwise, made the show.

And then there was the comedy. Few "serious" shows brought the unexpected yet intentional funny better than The X-Files. You had brilliant Darin Morgan episodes like "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" which featured Peter Boyle as an actuary who could predict enough of the future to foresee people's deaths, but not enough to see those winning lottery numbers. You had "Jose Chung's From Outer Space," and "War of the Coprophages" with the cockroaches from outerspace and "Humbug," with Jim-Jim the Dog Face Boy and a town of circus freaks far more normal than most people. And best of all, you had a drugged Mulder singing the theme to "Shaft."

And the show could be scary, too. "Home" with the murderous, in-bred Peacock family and their limbless, insane mother hiding under the bed -- well, that freaks me the hell out ten years after the fact. And serial killer Donnie Pfaster in "Irresistible." I've never be able to look at Nick Chinlund, the actor who played Donnie, without thinking of that show. He could play the god of puppies and fluffy kittens and buttermilk pancakes, and I'd still think "psycho killer."

But here's where The X-Files blew: the conspiracy. I stopped understanding it around season four, and I'm pretty sure the writers stopped understanding it around season three. Not all the mood lighting or Well-Manicured Men in the world was going to make that mythology make sense. Mulder's kidnapped sister became a star in the sky? Barren Scully with her eggs in Mulder's refrigerator has a miracle baby...but it might be an alien? Cigarette-Smoking Man was killed how many times?


I'm sure it's difficult to produce a product that stopped making sense three years into the game, but that doesn't mean I don't feel enraged every time series creator Chris Carter shoves a stick through the spokes of my little TV viewer's bicycle. The sad part is that the show could have been even better than it was, but they just never took it to that next level. The level where logic lives. And for that I shake a rolled-up newspaper at Carter, rub his nose in "Gesthemane," and say, firmly, "Bad producer! Bad!"

All I can say is, I hope the second movie makes sense. And I hope Mulder sings "Shaft."

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I know I've watched too many sweaty people in white jackets making risotto when...

...I start worrying what would happen if, God forbid, I ever got trapped in a parallel universe that only had one competitive cooking show. What would I watch? Hell's Kitchen or Top Chef? Let's reason this one out:

Top Chef has better chefs, cooking unusual and intriguing dishes that show skill and talent.

Hell's Kitchen has people who, theoretically, have cooked in some sort of professional setting but more often than not, probably have to read the instructions when they make macaroni.

Points go to Top Chef

Top Chef has an impressive panel of judges, including restaurant poobah Tom Colicchio, Salman Rushdie's ex-wife Padma Lakshmi, Gail Simmons from Food and Wine magazine, my favorite Queer Eye for the Straight Guy survivor Ted Allen and a random legendary chef of the week.

Hell's Kitchen has mussed, crazed Glaswegian Gordon Ramsay screaming his brains out at a team of incompetents.

Points go to Hell's Kitchen.

The action:
Top Chef features a whole mess of competitive chefs going at each other's throat as they try to out-cook and out-create each other.

Hell's Kitchen has a whole mess of competitive "chefs" having nervous breakdowns, crying and breaking things.

Points go to Hell's Kitchen.

A lot of Top Chef contestants use foam in their dishes.

Gordon Ramsay occasionally foams at the mouth.

Points go to Top Chef, for sanitary reasons alone.

Mouths to feed:
Top Chef contestants cook for guests who savor fine food and have experienced palates.

Hell's Kitchen contestants serve complete idiots who apparently have never watched the show and are shocked each week to learn that their food may never actually reach their plate and who wonder why that Glaswegian is shouting, "fuuuuuuuck," at the top of his lungs in the pretty kitchen. The sign on the door says, "Hell's Kitchen," people, let's think about this!

Points go to Top Chef.

Comedy value:
Everyone on Top Chef is very serious using big food words that I don't understand but am impressed by. Sadly, though, no one ever cracks a joke.

I understand all the words on Hell's Kitchen, even the bleeped out ones. And it's funny as hell. In season 2, crazy Ramsay, enraged by incompetence once more, tells a chef, "Oh my God almighty. Right, now here's what I suggest you do. Buy a restaurant, put one table in there. Any more than that, you'd be fucked."

Points go to Hell's Kitchen for its ongoing comedy of debasement

Concern for my emotional well-being:
Top Chef is a very soothing program to watch late at night when you're ready for either sleep or a snack.

I need like three Xanax after watching Hell's Kitchen, after spending an hour worrying that Ramsay's angry head is going to explode like a Roman candle...and that somehow he'll find a way to yell at me through the TV.

Points go to Top Chef because it has yet to give me a nervous tic.

So apparently, if trapped in a parallel universe with only one competitive cooking show, I would have to watch Top Chef. I would do so but with a sad heart, knowing that I was missing out, somewhere, somehow, on seeing Chef Ramsay bark like an angry terrier while making a sad little sous chef cry.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I was thrilled to open my e-mail this morning and find this review of the latest Harry Potter flick from frequent Park Bench contributor and midnight movie-goer, Ms. C. I'll let her tell the tale:

Just got in from seeing the newest Potter flick and sat down to write my thoughts, still digging out popcorn kernels from the back molars to give you this immediate review.

Of course, The Order of the Phoenix was great. Like the lady in the stall next to mine said into her cell phone (before asking for TP), "Dumbledore was AWESOME." They got a lot of good stuff in from the book and succeeded in portraying a whiny, angry, entirely too teenage of a boy without overdoing it or losing the audience. I was disappointed at many things left out of the movie and at all the wasted time spent showing castle spires and the same door over and over again. HOWEVER, despite my reservations at the editor's questionable decisions, I must admit that I wanted more so much more because the film was already delivering plenty of visual delights for fans of Potter. Many times, I wished I could just freeze the screen and soak in the stupefying tableau. Though the film offers a veritable garden of top-notch actors, that means not everyone gets as much screen time as a fan would like. But because they ARE such amazing actors, the faithful viewer is rewarded greatly. There's one scene where Alan Rickman, as Snape, says the word "yes" with such aplomb, he might've just recited a Shakespearean monologue. Or the wizard equivalent, of course.

I encourage you to go see it, especially if you love great fight scenes between Obi Wan and...uh, between Good and Evil. You won't be disappointed, either, to be delivered back into the magic of Hogwarts and the waiting arms of one of the hottest, funniest, and charming of movie pairings. Of course I speak of the Weasley twins, Fred and George. Le sigh.

She quickly wrote back to add that the movie was"...laugh out loud funny in parts and properly heartwrenching in others."

So what's everyone doing at work? We should all be out there seeing this movie now! Your boss won't mind a three-hour lunch break, I'm sure of it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Nerd Man of the Month: James Gunn

When you cower at the thought of giant alien slugs trying to pry their way into Nathan Fillion's orifices or when you've had three bottles of Boone's Farm and spend the entire night watching and re-watching Sarah Michelle Gellar in Scooby-Doo or when you accidentally wet yourself in fear while watching Dawn of the Dead, who do you blame? I actually can't answer that for you, but I can tell you who you should be blaming. That'd be James Gunn, writer, director, occasional actor and recipient of the prized Nerd Man of the Month honor for July.

If you're married to my husband like I am, then you've probably seen a lot of James Gunn's work because, seriously, we have quite the extensive collection (sans Scooby Doo). We've got Gunn's masterwork, Slither, a very funny, very scary film and very gross film featuring the aforementioned slugs and the aforementioned Nathan Fillion. We've got Dawn of the Dead, a recent classic addition to the zombie hall of fame. (Which is located right next door to the Hockey Hall of Fame. It's weird, I know.) We've had Tromeo and Juliet, described on imdb as "a modern punk adaptation of Shakespeare's classic," which, uh, doesn't really do it justice. I think we may have lost that one. On purpose. Don't tell my husband. And we've got Lollilove, starring James and written and directed by his wife, Jenna Fischer of The Office. Gunn is hilarious as one half of a self-centered Hollywood couple who decide to help homeless people by giving them lollipops. It's one of the meanest, funniest movies I've seen in ages and is highly recommended.

Gunn earns July's top nerdy honor, too, because of his wickedly funny blog, which I've mentioned in previous posts. If you ever wanted to know what it's like to interview a prostitute in Amsterdam or get a bug trapped in your ear or how many times you can reasonably use the word "motherfucker" and all its derivations in a sentence, James is your man. Also, he's good to dogs and his brother is Sean Gunn from the late, lamented Gilmore Girls. So for all the people who find my blog by googling "Sean Gunn's chest," now you know who Sean Gunn's chest's brother is, too.

Now let's all go watch Slither. Fillion wrassles a slug-possessed deer!

Monday, July 09, 2007

This wouldn't happen if Hillary Clinton were president

TV Squad recently came up with a list of the seven coolest geeks on television: Adam and Jaime from Mythbusters, Conan O'Brien, Seth Green, Matt Stone and Trey Parker of South Park, The Simpsons' Comic Book Guy, Bill Hader from SNL and Patton Oswalt from The King of Queens and currently playing Gordon Ramsey as a mouse in Ratatouille. Which means that unless you count Matt Stone and Trey Parker in drag, there's not a single woman on the list. For failure to include Liz Lemon and/or any of her kind, I proclaim a big, ol' foul.*

* For the purpose of my mild outrage, I'm turning geeks and nerds into synonyms. Hey, playing with the nomenclature works for Bill O'Reilly all the time.

Happiness, thy name is Buffy sing-along

I have found my bliss and it involves watching a ten-foot-tall Giles singing a power ballad on the big screen while I and dozens of other nerdy nerds like me wave our lighters and cell phones from side to side in the audience. Yup, I finally have experienced the Buffy Musical Sing-Along...and I'm here to tell you, it was good.

If you've never seen the musical episode from the sixth season of Buffy, well, you should. What's it about, you say? A demon named Sweet curses the residents of Sunnydale, forcing them to sing their deepest secrets and fears. For the uninitiated, here's a little tidbit with a rollicking number about rabbits:

Nice, huh? You don't hear many songs about the evils of rabbits much anymore, do you? Not since Grace Slick ruined everything and sobered up. Selfish woman.

The sing-along jacked up the musical's fun level to approximately eleven and beyond as the entire audience sang along with gusto. It was like a really weird church choir. I'm pleased to report we were even able muster through when the sound crapped out on us during the Parking Ticket Song. The organizers of the show did a fine job getting everyone in the spirit, warming the audience up with trivia, karaoke and some videos. Everyone was given a goodie bag, too, filled with little Grr, Argh finger puppets, bubbles to blow during Dawn's ballet, poppers to pop during the Tara/Willow "No, This Song Is Not At All a Metaphor For Sex" duet, and more. And best of all, we were all encouraged to shout epithets at the screen whenever Dawn appeared. It was very therapeutic, and highly recommended. Try it at home!

This show tours around the country throughout the year and plays regularly at the IFC Center in New York. If you're a Buffy fan, don't miss the experience. Or if you're not a Buffy fan but just enjoy staying up late, telling imaginary children to shut up and singing about bunnies, then you should see it too. And then talk to someone about your problem. A professional maybe....

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Movie review: Transformers

There are a few things that are guaranteed to entertain me: monkeys, especially monkeys dressed in little pants; squirrels waterskiing, throwing nuts at people or reciting pi to seven digits; and finally, robots. So while in theory, I'm a prime audience for Transformers, I wasn't hugely excited about seeing it. For the love of Shia LaBeouf, though, I enjoyed the heck out of it, even if it was produced by Michael Bay who gave World War II a bad name in Pearl Harbor.

First of all, THERE WERE ROBOTS!!! Who knew? I never watched Transformers as a kid. I never had a Transformers toy. I really didn't know what the hell the movie was about. I didn't know if it had one robot or two robots. Imagine my glee when I realized there were oodles of robots!! And they talked and flew and cracked jokes. All movies should have that, including documentaries. The special effects are terrific in Transformers. All of the CGI action is seamless and slick. And the robots have more personality than Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett combined in Pearl Harbor. Although, to be fair, so does my pancreas.

Second of all, IT WAS FUNNY! Intentionally! Again, a huge step up from Pearl Harbor. Without sounding too much like a Mrs. Robinson, Shia LaBeouf is extraordinarily attractive and charming and can snap off a punchline like nobody's business. The scenes with LaBeouf's family including a cute little chihuahua are hilarious and warm.

The action doesn't really get rolling until the second half of the movie, when the good robots and the bad robots start fighting each other over the fate of the human race and some little cardboard box that holds energies or Yoda action figures or something. The important thing is that they're fighting, and it's pretty frickin' awesome.

The only negative aspect of Transformers is that it's too long, like every movie produced these days. Shave off about 30 minutes and it'd be beating Saving Private Ryan at the Oscars. The guys who made all the Pirates movies should be heeding that advice too. Brevity is the soul of wit and action movies, dude, just like Oscar Wilde said.

So, if you like robots or funniness or Shia, go see Transformers. If you like monkeys in little pants or squirrels reciting mathematical formulas, well, you and I have a bit more waiting to do.

Grown humans cram hot dogs down their gullets in quest for snug championship belt

Nothing says America better than a well-attended, sweat-filled display of gluttony. That's why I spent part of my Fourth of July holiday quelling my gag reflex and watching ESPN's coverage of the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest. As promised, the competition turned into a true clash of the titans with six-time champion Takeru Kobayashi and his bad jaw going head-to-head with Joey Chestnut and his freakishly expandable stomach. Kobayashi is Japanese. Chestnut is American. In case you didn't know that, ESPN was there to say it a whole lot during the broadcast. There was even a helpful graphic showing past battles between the U.S. and Japan, thankfully stopping short of World War II.

It was an impressive field of competitors with champions who specialized in all sorts of competitive eating, including the intimidating, bad-ass field of strawberry shortcake consumption. Chestnut himself is a champion waffle eater and recently downed more than seven pounds of medium-hot hot wings in 12 minutes. Sure, I just get weird looks when I try to do that, but these guys get trophies. It's sexism, I tell you!!

Kobayashi and Chestnut proved to be well-matched, with the two leading the pack for the entire competition. At one point, Chestnut had a five dog lead over Kobayashi, who mounted an impressive comeback, taking the lead at one point and looking as though he might re-take the title...until the last seconds when he suffered what competitive eaters (or at least ESPN) refer to as "a reversal of fortune." And yes, it was disgusting. There's nothing like watching a sweaty man slap his hands over his mouth to try and hold back an explosively vomitous mass of hot dog and wet bun. Chestnut won the contest with a new record of 66 dogs swallowed. Kobayashi came in second with 63. Our victory over Japan was complete, and the ghost of General MacArthur could rest once more.

Back to the whole "reversal of fortune" thing. I can't believe this competition helps Nathan's sell hot dogs. Who finds the sight of men and women with pulsating forehead veins and gobs of hot dog juice streaming out of their mouths attractive? Does that make me want to eat? No. In fact, it makes me want to remove my stomach and never ever think about food, let alone Coney Island pork products, again.

Now if we were talking pie, that'd be totally different.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Self-taught, self-graded, self-graduated

Did you ever take a class in college and think, "Jeez, I could teach better than this tweed-wearing bloke." (One assumes you were British when you thought this.) Well, now's your chance, thanks to MIT OpenCourseWare which offers almost all the tools you need to take an MIT class without actually taking an MIT class. You get access to the course syllabus, a list of reading materials, downloadable lecture notes, homework assignments and in a number of cases, access to discussion groups so you can talk over the material with other self-learners as you go. The only thing missing? Teachers and grades. There are a ton of classes from which to choose, including political science, poetry and literature, aeronautics, nuclear science, music and roughly 200 others. All you've got to do is hunt down the textbooks, which may or may not be difficult depending on how good your local library is. For anyone who would still be in school if not for those ungodly tuition costs, this is a cool higher-ed toy. And just think, now's your chance to create your own sorority. I intend on hazing my cat mercilessly.

I get to throw things at Dawn!

This Friday night, my local art house movie theater is debuting the Buffy Musical Sing-Along. I am thrilled to the tips of my little pink toes. I understand this has grown to near Rocky Horror Picture Show proportions, and I've also heard that I get to shout rude things at Dawn, both of which please me equally.

Have any of you been to the Buffy Sing-Along? What can I expect? Should I wear a helmet of any sort? And most importantly, should I bring my action figures?

Monday, July 02, 2007

I'd raise up my lighter but my hand might freeze off

Forget U2. Forget The Police. Forget Foo Fighters, Snow Patrol, even Spinal Tap. I hereby proclaim Nunatek to be the world's greatest band. Friend of the penguin, comrade of the long-dead Captain Scott, foe to global warming, this five-man band hails from Antarctica and is comprised of research scientists studying evolutionary biology, global warming and ass-kicking rock and roll. They'll be performing, via tape delay, at this Saturday's Live Earth concert, fulfilling the organizers' hope of having at least one band perform on each continent.

"You've got to remember, although we've got a very big following within the British Antarctic Survey — and in particular, Rothera station — we may not have the worldwide renown that some of the other acts have," said my new rock star crush Tristan Thorne in a great, tongue-in-cheek interview on NPR yesterday.

Nunatek, which is a Greenlandic word for mountain peaks protruding through ice sheets, will start their concert outside at around three o'clock in the afternoon in dull Antarctic light and a balmy temperature of around 10 degrees below zero Celsius before moving indoors to a venue that Thorne calls "very popular venue known as the 'sledge stall.'" The audience will be filled with hard-core fans, i.e., seventeen members of the Rothera Research Station, all crazed and PhD holding.

Check out their performance the day after the concert at liveearth.msn.com. In the meantime, you can check out a video of the band rehearsing:

Rock on, Tristan. Rock on, Nunatek. Whoooooooo!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Bathroom humor, international and classy-like

You know how sometimes important things are really funny? Like if you're a member of the United Nations, you probably giggle every time Ban Ki-Moon's name is mentioned because even though he's an important guy, it still sounds like he was named after a Vegas stripper. It's the same thing with the World Toilet Organization. My dear friend Ray, who I've always thought of as "the sophisticated one," lifted the lid on this organization for me the other day. It's undoubtedly a very, very important group because they're fighting for improved sanitation for people all over the world. The thing is, though, it's called the World Toilet Organization and their logo looks like this:

It's a space age toilet seat, for cryin' out loud. Really. I don't think they're trying too hard for dignity here. Also, there's a toilet entertainment section which turns out to be more than just old copies of Entertainment Weekly stacked against the plunger. They're real games...kinda. There are quizzes like What Kind of Toilet Paper Are You? I'm an "over-dispensing toilet paper, the kind that dangles over the roll and is usually folded into a little triangle, like at hotels. I'm generous and hospitable. People admire me for my emotional availability. And I don't mind if my friends need to unload on me every once in a while." Given the context of the quiz, I find that phrase "unload on me every once in a while" very unsettling and frankly, disturbing. There are games, too, like Toilet Quest, where you have to find toilet paper and a stall. If you lose, there's an unfortunate flood of urine. Or so I've heard. There's also the Urgent Game and, I'm not kidding you, the Catch a Shit game. Honestly, these guys gave up on respectability eons ago.

I urge you (no pun intended...well, maybe a little pun) to visit the site. If you really get into it, you can attend World Toilet College. (Diplomas supplied by Charmin.) In the meantime, let's all prepare for World Toilet Day on November 19, upon which day we will all be flush with pride.