July 31, 2004
Read something, why don't you?
Here are Amazon's top ten sellers as of this very moment. How many have you read?
1. The 9/11 Commission Report
by National Commission on Terrorist Attacks
2. Unfit for Command
by John E. O'Neill, Jerome R. Corsi
3. The Da Vinci Code
by Dan Brown (Author)
4. Skinny Dip
by Carl Hiaasen
5. Fear's Empire
by Benjamin R. Barber
6. My Life
by Bill Clinton
7. Obliviously On He Sails
by CALVIN TRILLIN
8. American Soldier
by Tommy R. Franks, et al
9. Lost City
by Clive Cussler, Paul Kemprecos
10. Eats, Shoots & Leaves
by Lynne Truss
July 30, 2004
New from Van Halen
Read the review of this new CD set, then earn 25 points by posting a compelling argument for which Van Halen frontman you would pick if you could freeze the band in time with one or another.
July 28, 2004
More van Gogh. This guy should have lived forever.
I gotta open a bookstore, quick!
No author royalties, no advertising necessary - and EVERYBODY wants one! (Login required, and worth the 2 seconds)
Come to think of it I bought a copy myself. The first 30 pages alone are worth it. Chilling, but worth it.
A Dream Within A Dream
by Edgar Allen Poe
Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow--
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand--
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep--while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
July 27, 2004
Lie to me.
Somebody tell me this is a sick joke.
Mrs. Popping Culture wants YOU...
... to Meet the Fockers!
This is a sequel to Ben Stiller's slapstick "Meet the Parents." The entire original cast is back to join Barbra Streisand
and Dustin Hoffman as Greg Focker's parents.
Our Culture Mavens have been updated! The newest points totals are listed in the sidebar, and it's closer than ever at the top!!
Imagine how all the kids will cheer when you make it to the top of the list!
Remember you can check out the "Points Getters" posts by clicking in the right sidebar, too, if you think you need a few more points.
July 26, 2004
Spidey for nothing and your points for free!
Here are some random observations I made that you might have overlooked from Spider-Man 2:
1. Stan Lee, creator of Marvel Comics, has a cameo in Spidey 2, just as he did in Spidey the First. He saves a woman from falling debris on the street.
2. The movie's opening and closing images are Kirsten Dunst's face.
3. The movie sets up a choice for Peter: will he be Spidey or will he be Peter Parker? Critics seem to mostly think the decision is made when Pete regains his powers to save MJ near the movie's final battle. In truth, the decision is made in the final scene when MJ runs to his apartment and presents him a third choice: he can be both. "Why should we have to be just half of ourselves?" she says.
4. Somehow, miraculously, Doctor Octopus gained super-resilence. It is never explained how he could suddenly to be able to take not just one, but several, blows to the face from a super-strong Spidey and still keep fighting seemingly unhurt.
5. This is no a-ha moment, but the film goes into great depth explaining the fusion reaction, while not even mentioning the science (fiction) behind the more amazing of the breakthroughs... tentacles that have artificial intelligence, can speak through neural pathways and have a will of their own to go with a survival instinct.
The game is afoot!
Mention another "A-HA!" moment that I did not notice myself from Spider-Man 2. If I go "huh!" you get 25 points. If I go "wow!" you get 50 points.
If I noticed it before but didn't think it worthy of an "A-HA!" then thank you for playing.
UPDATE: Aside from the question of whether a man (or woman) can choose his own destiny, the theme of honesty runs through Spidey 2 as well. Will Pete be honest with MJ? Aunt May? Harry? Himself? It was very telling that Pete/Spidey spent most of the end of the movie in costume with his mask off. And what was the name of the play MJ was starring in? "The Importance of Being Earnest."
Politics can be a funny business
One comedian flays George Bush's campaign strategy, naming it "Leave No CEO Behind!" Another does a bit about the Left trying to make Kerry magically electable by tapping their heels together and saying "There's no place like Clinton."
More and more comedians these days are joking their ways into the political world. Dennis Miller on the Right and Al Franken on the Left make their mortgage payments with political humor.
Whoopi Goldberg and Janeane Garofolo are doing "stand-up" on stages these days that seem little more than anti-Bush rants which are only funny to those on the far Left.
So are they funny? Are they staying true to their comedic roots or is this just another way to win an election?
Should I call Al Franken a comedian or a politician?
Geoff Edgers of the Boston Globe makes a run at the topic.
Picasso under fire!
This article suggests the Great Masters may have been cheating.
If there's one thing I love, it's making personal attacks against dead people. Not only can't they defend themselves, but you can never prove or disprove the attack completely. This is tabloid arts journalism, which often suggests because something is in the realm of possibility, that it certainly happened.
In this case, the assertion is that the world had created sufficient technology that, if so inclined, the artists could have "cheated" by using optical viewers. The writer infers and implies that, because it was POSSIBLE to cheat at the time, they did. It's like saying that because I have a gun in my home, I must have shot someone.
Via Arts and Letters Daily.
Season Two starts with a bang!
Dead Like Me literally started with a bang as the group took about 5 souls from a gas explosion at a vegetable market. We get explosions and flying veggies, but despite the smooth look of the show, it's still the dialogue that drives it.
The Second Season picked up the great dialogue where it dropped off. Last night's episode was a treatise on sadness.
Mason, who we find out was sober all summer, drops off the wagon by episode's end after being forced to take the soul of a man at his daughter's sixth birthday party.
Daisy gets little real substantive play in this episode, but we know from last season she is carrying around some secret from her past that consumes and drives her. George said last season "I watch her sometimes. She's sad about something."
George's folks decided, finally, to get a divorce, leaving the already only-partially-stable Reggie to miss George even more as she has to deal with it alone. The pair broke up after neither of them was able to overcome the sadness that last season's hurts left them alone with. This is utterly believable... how often do we deny ourselves what we really want (in this case, reunion) because pride won't let us?
George herself took a soul early in the episode that was eerily similar to her own death just over a year previous. That put her in mind of the fact that she died after squandering her life on hiding in her room and rebelling against her mother. Her death at 18 left her, in her words, "a virgin with a death certificate," and it's pretty clear that virginity won't last forever in this new season. George also got a promotion at work, but just so that her boss Delores could keep her from a relationship with the boss' son. Rube, the head reaper, doesn't want George to take the promotion at the ironically named "Happy Time", fearing she has too much on her plate already. Of course, she takes the money; she's broke. Just the multi-directional tension George needs to drive another full season.
Rube was the only character who seemed changed, all the others picked up where they left off. Rube was always sarcastic but with words of wisdom and an "old soul" in the first season. This time out Rube didn't seem to have any concern for the reapers at all, especially George, and was solely a force for sarcasm and bossiness. Maybe this was necessary to set up the tension with George or maybe he's just had enough of her antics. There was a melancholy allusion to a daughter of his, but just a mention. Maybe that points to sadness of his own that is the root of his change. We'll see.
Expect that happiness will remain possible in each of these cases. George's ray of light in this episode is symbolized by a flower that she receives from a merchant who is destined to die in the market explosion. While she tries to get rid of it (she's too sad to see any beauty or hope?), it appears again later, rescued by the florally-named Daisy. George sees it in full bloom as she gets in from the end of a very hard, very sad day and carries it to her grave, acknowledging her own death and life-cut-short. The last scene is her running from the grave site, hair in the wind and a huge smile on her face. Symbolism, anyone?
Popping Culture's sources tell us Season Two is even better than Season One as a whole. I can't imagine it, but I also can't wait to find out.
July 25, 2004
Dead Like Me season two premiere tonight.
New "Star Wars" movie info
Read here about the newly-titled "Revenge of the Sith."
July 24, 2004
There Is Another Sky
by Emily Dickinson
There is another sky,
Ever serene and fair,
And there is another sunshine,
Though it be darkness there;
Never mind faded forests, Austin,
Never mind silent fields -
Here is a little forest,
Whose leaf is ever green;
Here is a brighter garden,
Where not a frost has been;
In its unfading flowers
I hear the bright bee hum:
Prithee, my brother,
Into my garden come!
July 23, 2004
More than meets the eye
Dish here on the live action Transformers movie you didn't know was in the works.
Funny, funny stuff.. duff of the cap here
Some of the most hilarious writing these days is found in theater reviews. For instance, try not to snort milk through your nose as you read these reviews of Halle Berry's Catwoman:
"Kitty Litter" - NY Post
"Meow Nix" - Village Voice
"Risible yarn about a mousy underachiever rendered superhuman by arcane pussy power plays like a Lifetime movie on estrogen overdose, barely held together by a script that should have been tossed out with the kitty litter." - Variety
"Catwoman, which opens tomorrow nationwide, achieves something I would not have thought possible. It made me think back fondly on Garfield." - NYT
"Bad kitty! Catwoman is a sad excuse to dress Halle Berry in leather." - NY Daily News
"Catwoman is quite literally an episode of Melrose Place thrown onto the big screen, injected with comic-book cliches and random, choppily edited action set pieces for good measure." - AICN
"Catwoman sometimes feels as if it's been pieced together from a dozen or so Ally McBeal parodies trying to pose as hip-hop videos." - Slant
This just in!
I picked up a copy of the 9/11 Commission Report. I'll let you know if there's anything remotely cultural therein.
Who can take a rainbow.... turn it into 25 Culture Maven points?
Popping Culture can!
The remake of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is on its way with none other than Johnny Depp as the big Wonk himself! Not a bad choice from the current talent pool, I must admit.
This is beyond huge: first of all, Willie Wonka is one of our all-time favorites (even if we still cringe to go through that tunnel!) AND the director is our all-time favorite bar-none Tim Burton! Huge, I tell you! Huge!
Now, for 25 points, pretend Depp got the flu. What other current Hollywood actor would you like to see in the Willy Wonka role? 50 points if your pick would do an equal or better job than Depp in my opinion.
July 22, 2004
The Sopranos kill them... Six Feet Under buries them... THEN the fun really begins.
The second season of the best-written original series for a premium network EVER begins Sunday night on Showtime. DO NOT MISS it.
Gads, I'm still haunted (literally and figuratively) by images from the first season (see my first Dead Like Me post in the archives, found in your right sidebar).
From the show's description:
Following an unfortunate encounter with a Soviet-era toilet seat, this smart and sassy 18-year old learns that she is the newest recruit for the Pacific Northwest chapter of grim reapers.
A very good season one video recap is HERE.
I looked at a few others by Vincent that I LOVE, but I kept coming back here. Starry Night really is his definitive work and to post any other first would feel wrong.
Danger, Will Robinson... This book is overdue!
Really, I'm all for the robot librarian... too many humans have jobs as it is.
Thinking-(wo)man's comic admirers: prepare to be jealous!
Here in the Popping Culture Archives (er, attic) we still own a copy of every original, first print edition of the Neil Gaiman "Sandman" series in mint condition.
Deal with it.
July 21, 2004
Tonight's MUST READ
Every culture has had its own beliefs in paranormal events. Some would say we should get rid of these superstitious ideas.
The implication here is that society can't exist without them.
You must read this.
From Popping Culture's "Where Are They Now?" Desk
Heart has a new album out.
You know, Heart?
Ann and Nancy?
"What about love?"
Ah.. never mind. Anyway, I think the "29% off" bit refers to total band weight loss since we saw them last. Ann, or Nancy, lost a LOT of weight, while Ann, or Nancy, put a little on - not that we're weight-concious, but Heart always was a cosmic-balancey kind of band.
Six Words and a suicidal genius.
Sheila really nails it (as per usual) with a discussion on Ernest Hemmingway and micro-prose.
NOT eye candy
It's just like art, only not good.
July 20, 2004
LOTR fanboys weep with joy
The Hobbit may just appear on the big screen (with Peter Jackson and Ian McKellan) within the decade!
Culture Maven Points Update
After a flurry of stunning and witty answers, Mr. E. has pulled way into the lead on the Culture Mavens list (viewable in the right sidebar).
He's not out of reach yet, but his clear grasp of pop culture threatens to leave pretenders in the dust.
Remember you can always see JUST the threads that earn Culture Mavens points in the "Topics Getting Much Play" list, also in the sidebar.
Winner of the Dean's World Blogad!!!
Wow, was it ever close!
There were some fun entries and several close to the top of the judgement. There were at least three I would have no problem crowning as the winner.
However, in the end, there can be only one.
Maria de Medieros played "Fabienne," the utterly clueless woman to Bruce Willis' "Butch," in Pulp Fiction. Medieros, played utterly against type in creating a pathetic character with whom male and female audiences were charmed. De Medieros, a Portuguese film director and actress, created a searing picture of a woman living exclusively for love and connection.
The winner: Hatcher.
This was a well-stated argument. It showed knowledge of the actress, her style and what she had to create to be believable. It was also an obscure choice, one clearly chosen just for this topic.
Hatcher, you can contact Dean by emailing him via his website, Dean's World.
July 19, 2004
Is Reading REALLY dead in America?
Here's a second opinion on the recent study.
Girl With Mango by Gaugin
From Popping Culture's "News Only I Care About" desk.
Looks like the Bolshoi's getting back up on tiptoes after a number of years of decline.
This is a good thing.
by Elizabeth Bishop
I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn't fight.
He hadn't fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
--the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly--
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
--It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
--if you could call it a lip
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels--until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.
July 18, 2004
Spider-Man 2 question
50 points to the first person who can tell me when it was explained how Otto Octavious became super-strong.
The tentacles I understand, the fusion I get, the mind-to-action-technology I'm down with. I think I missed the part where Otto gained the ability to withstand not just one, but several punches to the non-protected face from a (if we all remember) super-powered Spider-man.
One more day to win a two-week blogad on Dean's World!!!
I'll announce the winner first thing Tuesday and pass along the winner's email to Dean himself.
Just one more day! "The suspense is killing me... I hope it lasts."
25 points for the first person to correctly identify that quote.
July 17, 2004
Gads, we're dumb these days.
Now even our grammar guides use poor grammar.
Culture Mavens: Easy Points!
25 EASY points for each Star Wars quote from ANY of the movies. One per commenter. NO POINTS if someone else has already mentioned the quote in this thread.
50 points if you point out a way that quote could be used in real life conversation today. For instance, under a picture of Christina Aguilera, you could post the quote: "Who's scruffy-lookin'?"
Points will go up on our "Culture Mavens" list in the right sidebar, and you can click on "Points-getters" to see the other posts that will earn you Culture Mavens points.
Imagine the envy they will all feel when you alone sit atop the Culture Mavens point list!!!
July 16, 2004
Eye Candy, Spooky
Note the unexpected headless image. Unexpected by the artist, too, if the lore behind this painting is to be believed.
From Popping Culture's Classical Music Department
You learn quickly, grasshopper.
(And he can chirp along in harmony using his back legs.)
Free Blogad STILL Up For Grabs!!!
Jadakiss: The one-man, no talent, attention-begging, America-hating, 9/11 Commission-wanting-to-be-on, literally dozens of records in a year-selling, did we mention no talent (?), political commentator wannabe
Or did we overstate our case? We at Popping Culture hate to get political at all. We're all about the art.
But that's what makes this story so shocking. I believe this is the first time we've ever seen a well-known rapper risk his reputation by saying anything controversial, unkind or political. Most rappers are such nice boys.
Decide for yourself by reading the aptly-titled "Rapper Jadakiss Blames Bush for Sept. 11".
Key Quote: "Why did Bush knock down the towers?"
This article has me sweatin' like Paris Hilton on Jeopardy.
Don't make me blog... You wouldn't like me when I blog
Hey, I'm the last one to link to another blog, but I found this one simply, erm, smashing.
"NOW CAN HULK HAVE HULK'S RAINBOW BRITE DOLL BACK??? PLEASE???!?!?"
Key Action Photo:
Video Killed the Radio (downloading) Star.
Apparently, downloading movies is the new downloading music.
The Edge needs your help.
If you were vacationing in Nice, France earlier this week... check to make sure you don't have an extra in your CD case.
U2 thanks you, and Popping Culture thanks you.
July 15, 2004
Lady at the Piano by Renoir (currently at the Art Institute of Chicago)
Motherhood, substantive writing and "life outside of literature"
The topic of Jennifer Neisslein's brilliant essay here.
Win a free blogad at Dean's World
A new Axis of Excellence has been formed between Popping Culture and Dean's World!!!
This is quite a coup for Popping Culture, since Dean's World gets something like a million jillion hits a day. NOW it can be a coup for you as well: all you need to do to win a free TWO WEEK blogad on Dean Esmay's web log is know a little bit about popular culture, be able to write (or get your mom to write) three intelligible sentences and, you know, win.
Here's the game: It's called Three Sentences and is pretty self-explanatory. We'll play it from time to time on Popping Culture, but seldom with this big of a payoff.
I pick a topic. You write three sentences (no run-ons, of course, but beyond that the sky's the limit - write a 3-sentence poem if you want) on that topic in the comment section. The commenter who has the most compelling and believable three sentences as voted on by our crack Popping Culture staff wins. Easy, right? On with the show....
THREE SENTENCES CONTEST ONE
I'm looking for the ONE best acting performance of the last 25 years. Not best movie or play, not best-looking actress, not prettiest special effects. Best Acting Performance.
My own three favorites in no particular order are:
(1) Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption.
(2) Emma Thompson in Sense and Sensibility.
(3) Meryl Streep in, well, everything.
Your task: pick your ONE favorite acting performance in the last 25 years and convince me you are right in three sentences. Creative and smart always win over dull and stupid. Up for grabs is two weeks of free publicity from Dean's World and a place in Popping Culture's Hall of Knowinghood. Take your time, but hurry: contest ends Monday night, July 19, at 11:59 p.m EST. Two entry limit per blogger.
May God and Dean Esmay have mercy on your souls.
Culture Mavens abound!
Popping Culture's first list of points leaders just went up in a sidebar. Have an opinion, work your way up the list.
Imagine the prestige of a previously merely-mortal Weepboy, who now sits atop our Popping Culture Mavens list! Imagine, and tremble!
July 14, 2004
News of the Obvious
Well, yeah. We knew that.
Slim-Fast dumped Whoopi after her lewd riff on our President's name.
Slim-Fast to block, anyone?
I'm STILL just saying...
Obsession.. growing... must hide.... from wife.....
The Brando headline you hoped you wouldn't see.
"Brando ends film career as elderly woman."
Key Quote: "He was gorgeous," Bendetson said. "I guess it was part of his Method training or something, where you almost embarrass yourself as the character, so that way you're free to be the character. ... About halfway through he took off the wig because he was getting too hot."
Um.. polite discussion only please. I worshipped the man.
More Eye Candy
I'm on the road today, so I leave you with this, done in pen with brown ink and brown wash.
St. George Slaying the Dragon by Rubens. You can see the real thing in the Louvre.
If it ain't Baroque, don't fix it.
July 13, 2004
We take a break from our all-pop culture format...
...to let you know about these hosers who are messing with relief efforts. Dean needs some folks who are in a position to help. Are you?
I love this movie already:
I'm just saying.
Top 25 books sold in the last month
How many have you read?
Maybe now I can finally begin the healing from the hurt of Oprah's Book Club, since she put Anna Karenina on the list and it hit the top 25.
I've read 6-of-25, and no, The DaVinci Code isn't one of them. Unless by "read" you mean "wishing I could place in a large pile and ignite."
1. My Life
Weeks on chart: 2 Last week: 1 Entered on: 7/1/2004 Peak Position: 1
2. The Notebook
Weeks on chart: 156 Last week: 3 Entered on: 10/17/1996 Peak Position: 2
Weeks on chart: 21 Last week: 2 Entered on: 9/18/2003 Peak Position: 2
4. Angels & Demons
Weeks on chart: 68 Last week: 5 Entered on: 3/27/2003 Peak Position: 2
5. Sam's Letters To Jennifer
Weeks on chart: 1 Last week: 0 Entered on: 7/8/2004 Peak Position: 5
6. The Da Vinci Code
Weeks on chart: 68 Last week: 6 Entered on: 3/27/2003 Peak Position: 1
Weeks on chart: 6 Last week: 0 Entered on: 8/7/2003 Peak Position: 7
8. Ten Big Ones
Weeks on chart: 2 Last week: 4 Entered on: 7/1/2004 Peak Position: 4
9. When He Was Wicked
Weeks on chart: 1 Last week: 0 Entered on: 7/8/2004 Peak Position: 9
10. The South Beach Diet
Weeks on chart: 66 Last week: 8 Entered on: 4/10/2003 Peak Position: 1
11. The Rule of Four
Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason
Weeks on chart: 8 Last week: 7 Entered on: 5/20/2004 Peak Position: 6
12. The South Beach Diet Good Fats Good Carbs Guide
Weeks on chart: 28 Last week: 9 Entered on: 12/25/2003 Peak Position: 3
13. The Purpose-Driven Life
Weeks on chart: 78 Last week: 12 Entered on: 1/16/2003 Peak Position: 4
14. Sense of Evil
Weeks on chart: 3 Last week: 0 Entered on: 8/28/2003 Peak Position: 14
15. The Wedding
Weeks on chart: 18 Last week: 0 Entered on: 9/18/2003 Peak Position: 4
16. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Weeks on chart: 5 Last week: 10 Entered on: 6/10/2004 Peak Position: 5
17. Second Chance
Weeks on chart: 1 Last week: 0 Entered on: 7/8/2004 Peak Position: 17
18. The Five People You Meet in Heaven: A Novel
Weeks on chart: 41 Last week: 13 Entered on: 10/2/2003 Peak Position: 2
19. The Vanished Man
Weeks on chart: 6 Last week: 0 Entered on: 3/20/2003 Peak Position: 19
20. Deception Point
Weeks on chart: 56 Last week: 14 Entered on: 5/22/2003 Peak Position: 11
21. The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah
Weeks on chart: 4 Last week: 11 Entered on: 6/17/2004 Peak Position: 1
22. The Secret Life of Bees
Sue Monk Kidd
Weeks on chart: 78 Last week: 19 Entered on: 10/24/2002 Peak Position: 5
23. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Weeks on chart: 14 Last week: 22 Entered on: 8/7/2003 Peak Position: 20
24. The Lovely Bones
Weeks on chart: 84 Last week: 20 Entered on: 7/4/2002 Peak Position: 1
25. Anna Karenina
Leo Tolstoy; translated by Richard Pevear, Larissa Volokhonsky Weeks on chart: 5 Last week: 17 Entered on: 6/10/2004 Peak Position: 1
Moved on Up to That Deluxe Apartment in the Sky
We will miss you Weezie. End of an era, this.
July 12, 2004
From the "Literary News We Already Knew" Department
Reading is at risk!
Literary reading is down, says a newly completed study. Fewer than half of Americans now read literature.
Ugh. The microwave age has caught up to the bookshelf... why read a novel when you can hit a blog or watch TV?
"Monet Painting in his Garden at Argenteuil" by Renoir
What's the Deal with the Pointage?
You may have noticed that certain discussion topics come with point values (most recently The Matrix and Best Children's Literature Ever Posts below).
Popping Culture will be keeping a running score of points gained by commenters in a sidebar and will crown those at the top of the list with the Popping Culture Mavens title. As always, wisdom and creativity earn more points than dull and plain.
It's a status thing.
NOTE: If you're all about the competition, I'm putting up a 'points' category in the sidebar that will link you directly to the posts that will gain you points for victory.
July 11, 2004
Instant Literature Poll: Best Children's Book Ever???
This, or the House at Pooh Corner. There are none other as far as I'm concerned.
25 points for every compelling argument for a book other than these two. 50 points if you convince me.
July 10, 2004
The sound you just heard was Bill Shakespeare turning over in his grave
This from the NY Times:
On July 1, 100 lawyers and summer associates from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom rolled up their sleeves and headed to the Delacorte Theater in Central Park for an evening of culture. After finishing off a buffet dinner backstage, next to Turtle Pond, the conservatively dressed crowd adjourned to the theater itself, where reserved seats to a preview of "Much Ado About Nothing" were awaiting them. The firm's bill was $10,000.
Hold on. Reserved seats for law firms certainly doesn't sound like the democratic vision of Joseph Papp, the founder of "free Shakespeare" in Central Park. Papp, after all, said that his theater should be as inclusive as the public library. Isn't free Shakespeare in the park supposed to be, well, free?
Last year, Ben Brantley, the chief theater critic of The Times, described the production of "Henry V" at the Delacorte as "one long, desperate exercise in diversionary tactics." In 2002, he wrote that "Twelfth Night" was "seriously confused."
(read the whole thing by signing up here)
You heard it here first!
Um, unless you heard it somewhere else before this.
Bewitched, the 60s sitcom with our favorite nose-wiggling witch is getting a makeover for the big screen.
The best part? Playing Samantha and Darrin are, unexpectedly, Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell.
It turns out the pair play actors shooting a remake of the old series, and Nicole's character just also happens to be a witch. Um, of course.
Sure it'll be 7 bucks you'll never see again, but we at Popping Culture still snort aloud over our cereal to think of Elf, and promptly get that wistful look in our eyes to think of Satine. Rarely will we promote a mindless bit of cinema, so hop on board while you can.
Popping Culture will update just as soon as we find out if Will's playing Darrin number one or Darrin number two.
Most Disappointing Sequel(s) Ever!
Usually, I won't use this post to discuss movies less than, say, 5 years old. A movie has to be a classic to be worth words in a blog, yes? Nevertheless, a movie I consider a classic (despite its sci-fi background, no less) went through a subtle change yesterday thanks to my own stupidity.
I promised I wouldn't do it.
For many, many months, I held out. I was strong and I was right.
Then, yesterday, it happened. I watched the second two movies in what I refuse to call "The Matrix Trilogy." In my mind, the final two movies don't exist. The Matrix, like the Cheese, stands alone.
There sat the two traitors to my fond memories on the video rental shelf (I had just returned To Catch A Thief) and I was weak. Five nights for two dollars. Might as well have been 30 pieces of silver.
I heard bad reviews of the second Matrix movie, Reloaded, and promised I would never sully my love for the first movie by watching a sequel I KNEW would never be nearly as good as the original.
The first Matrix was a complete film unto itself. It had a character in process, and the movie ended with him allowing himself to become. He had defined himself by choosing to believe. The story was, and should have remained, over. Yes, yes, the bad guys weren't all dead yet, but that's really not what The Matrix was about.
It is, on the other hand, what the other two were about. The final two movies were little more than high-priced western shoot-em-ups, with no subplots or themes (and don't give me that Passion of the Christ, sacrificial death at the end of Revolutions nonsense - it was easy and required no skill on the part of the screenwriter).
The hell of it is that The Matrix worked on so many levels and, while I would never have guessed it would become one of my all-time favorites, it did just that. Now I have to scrub my frontal lobe with soap to get out the grit the last two movies left behind in their search for bigger explosions and larger paydays.
So here's the game: Is there a more disappointing sequel (or sequels) out there in film history? I don't mean movies that were just awful and happened to be sequels.
I mean that in all of film history, I can't remember any movie that was as great as The Matrix that produced such pedestrian sequels. Anyone? I should also qualify this to include only movies with the original cast or at least the original director.
50 points for every comment that includes a movie sequel that was more disappointing than either Reloaded and Revolutions.
THIS is what I'm talkin' 'bout
by Edward Hopper
A Blogwarming Gift
Because this is my first day in a bold new world (not blogging, but blogging under the new format), I offer this gift from the universe of popular culture: Dead Like Me.
If you’ve somehow missed the first season of this Showtime series, you’ve missed plenty. Generally speaking, I stopped watching television when the often-dismissed yet stunningly philosophical and relational BtVS got the axe (if you have to ask, it’s better for both of us if you just keep reading and forget it). However, Dead Like Me is 45 minutes or so that justify the entire cost of the Showtime movie network.
First of all, the acting is just stunning.
Mandy Patinkin is a revelation. His character always knows what to say and the actor always knows HOW to say it. The show as a whole is dialog-driven and Patinkin is the jewel in the crown.
Ellen Muth, a relative newcomer, who plays George (symbolic and short for Georgia), nails her character completely as well. She plays a deadbeat teenager with less-than-zero in the way of prospects who finally starts learning to live after, well, she dies. Struck down by a bit of space junk (specifically a toilet seat) from a Soviet space station. Thus starts our trip into the absurd.
George turns out to be a reaper, one of a group of folks who remain on earth for a while after their deaths to help harvest the souls of those about to die to both ease their suffering (“We’re bail bondsmen for the dead,” Rube (Patinkin’s character) says) and help orient them before their departure into the great whatever-comes-next. Muth plays, at least at first, a cross between helpless confusion and detached irritation, all with just facial expression.
That’s all just setting and window-dressing though. The characters are the key here. Each death in the series, and there are plenty to go around, is poignant in its own way, and George, now forced into other people’s stories, can no longer avoid human contact. Each death touches her in some way.
Adding another layer, the show follows the story of her family, who are now coping with her death in various ways (possible infidelity, definite depression, schizophrenia, all the fun stuff). Since George is visible to the world still, just not in her prior form, there have been a few touching moments when her story and the story of her family connect. One scene in particular stands out: a yard sale where the family is selling some of George’s stuff (I hate the word “stuff” – feels lazy - but that’s what it is in this case). George’s mother doesn’t know it’s her, of course (George literally can’t tell her), but we know and that’s what drives the scene.
All that to say this: the show is art. Literally. The seamless use of music and other forms of artistic expression work with the incredible characterization to make the show feel surreal and important.
The first season, for me, boils down into two images:
1. The last 5 minutes of the pilot episode. George’s first soul. Her struggles with what will be, unarguably, her toughest soul to take in the entire series. As George finally comes to terms with what she is, how she wasted her life and why she has to do what she has to do, a haunting version of “Que Sera Sera” plays in the background (song version by Pink Martini – the amazing Squirrel Nut Zippers also add a tune to the pilot). There are more details adding to the poignancy of this incredible scene (one of the best written I’ve seen in any format in years) that I won’t give away in case you get to watch for yourself. I hope you do. You will be richer for it, and you’ll be asking “why?” the same way George does.
2. One of the last episodes of the first season called “Nighthawks.” I mention this episode as a whole because it all builds together as a feeling. You gradually work your way into the plot in the way you work your way into a painting as you study it. At the end, it all fits together in a sort of “Aha!” moment, and the scene morphs (I hate that word, but that’s what it does) from the diner where the reapers sit into the episode’s titular painting (“Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper). Immediately upon the final reveal you feel the need to watch the entire episode again, to see how all the pieces fit. It’s really a gorgeous bit of camerawork and dialog.
So the new season starts 7/25. Call it my blogwarming gift to you. Share and enjoy.
Then, you know, turn the TV back off.
The Experiment Begins!
The best way to get to know my pop culture tastes?
1. Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly? Fred Astaire
2. The Great Gatsby or The Sun Also Rises? The Great Gatsby. No-brainer.
3. Count Basie or Duke Ellington? Duke Ellington. Swing, baby! Yeah!
4. Cats or dogs? Ouch. Um. We’ll do this numerically. I have two cats and one dog.
5. Matisse or Picasso? Please. Picasso.
6. Yeats or Eliot? Yeats
7. Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin? Charlie Chaplain. I laughed a little just typing his name.
8. Flannery O’Connor or John Updike? Please don’t make me pick.
9. To Have and Have Not or Casablanca? Casablanca. I buy the hype.
10. Jackson Pollock or Willem de Kooning? Pollock.
11. The Who or the Stones? I HAVE to pick one? How about the Beatles?
12. Philip Larkin or Sylvia Plath? Plath Plath Plath. Also, Plath.
13. Trollope or Dickens? Dickens. Duh.
14. Billie Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald? Ella Fitzgerald.
15. Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy? Dostoyevsky. Double duh.
16. The Moviegoer or The End of the Affair? Not enough information. Um, in my head, not in the question.
17. George Balanchine or Martha Graham? Eep. I defer to Sheila on this one and say Balanchine.
18. Hot dogs or hamburgers? Burgers. Double duh.
19. Letterman or Leno? Letterman five years ago or Letterman this year?
20. Wilco or Cat Power? None for me, thanks.
21. Verdi or Wagner? Verdi.
22. Grace Kelly or Marilyn Monroe? Grace Kelly in by a nose. A particularly cute nose.
23. Bill Monroe or Johnny Cash? The Man in Black. I’m shocked you even asked.
24. Kingsley or Martin Amis? Kingsley
25. Robert Mitchum or Marlon Brando? Early Brando.
26. Mark Morris or Twyla Tharp? Not enough information.
27. Vermeer or Rembrandt? Rembrandt.
28. Tchaikovsky or Chopin? Tchaikovsky. They’re getting easier.
29. Red wine or white? Red (I was tempted to go with the Billy Joel answer: “A bottle of red, a bottle of white”)
30. Noël Coward or Oscar Wilde? Wilde
31. Grosse Pointe Blank or High Fidelity? Nice choice here. Can I get back to you? Both are right up my alley and Cusack’s the man.
32. Shostakovich or Prokofiev? Pass.
33. Mikhail Baryshnikov or Rudolf Nureyev? Baryshnikov.
34. Constable or Turner? Dunno
35. The Searchers or Rio Bravo? Rio Bravo. Makes me feel all manly.
36. Comedy or tragedy? Mood-driven. Mostly comedy.
37. Fall or spring? Fall. Triple Duh.
38. Manet or Monet? Manet, based on minimal information.
39. The Sopranos or The Simpsons? Simpsons. Easy one.
40. Rodgers and Hart or Gershwin and Gershwin? Rodgers and Hart.
41. Joseph Conrad or Henry James? Joseph Conrad. Close one, though.
42. Sunset or sunrise? Sunset.
43. Johnny Mercer or Cole Porter? Johnny Mercer. I see a lot of folks going with more popular but less talented names on this thing.
44. Mac or PC? Please. PC... unless I'm publishing.
45. New York or Los Angeles? NYC
46. Partisan Review or Horizon? None of the above.
47. Stax or Motown? Motown.
48. Van Gogh or Gauguin? Van Gogh. So I’m a romantic. Sue me.
49. Steely Dan or Elvis Costello? Elvis Costello. Not even close.
50. Reading a blog or reading a magazine? Magazine. Magazines don’t demonize you for disagreement.
51. John Gielgud or Laurence Olivier? Olivier
52. Only the Lonely or Songs for Swingin’ Lovers? No clue.
53. Chinatown or Bonnie and Clyde? Chinatown. One of the best ever.
54. Ghost World or Election? Good question. Election.
55. Minimalism or conceptual art? Minimalism.
56. Daffy Duck or Bugs Bunny? Bugs.
57. Modernism or postmodernism? Modernism, if I have to choose.
58. Batman or Spider-Man? Batman as a concept, Spider-man as a movie
59. Emmylou Harris or Lucinda Williams? Emmylou
60. Johnson or Boswell? No answer.
61. Jane Austen or Virginia Woolf? Austen Austen Austen. May I just say Austen again? Ever see Emma Thompson do Jane Austen? Delicious.
62. The Honeymooners or The Dick Van Dyke Show? DvD, of course… got me through a lot of long, sick afternoons.
63. An Eames chair or a Noguchi table? Pass.
64. Out of the Past or Double Indemnity? Out of the Past
65. The Marriage of Figaro or Don Giovanni? Figaro.
66. Blue or green? Green. This is a recent change. It was blue for the longest time.
67. A Midsummer Night’s Dream or As You Like It? Midsummer, of course. The best of the comedies. God, I love Shakespeare.
68. Ballet or opera? Ballet in a landslide.
69. Film or live theater? Live theater. Duh.
70. Acoustic or electric? Acoustic. Double Duh again.
71. North by Northwest or Vertigo? Ouch. I honestly can’t pick here. Durn. Wow.. good question.
72. Sargent or Whistler? Sargent
73. V.S. Naipaul or Milan Kundera? Cute. Um, Naipaul.
74. The Music Man or Oklahoma? The Music Man, based strictly on fond childhood memories. Color me biased.
75. Sushi, yes or no? Yes
76. The New Yorker under Ross or Shawn? Stop it.
77. Tennessee Williams or Edward Albee? Williams.
78. The Portrait of a Lady or The Wings of the Dove? The Portrait of a Lady!
79. Paul Taylor or Merce Cunningham? Dunno
80. Frank Lloyd Wright or Mies van der Rohe? Wright
81. Diana Krall or Norah Jones? This is not a choice. Norah Jones is a gift.
82. Watercolor or pastel? Watercolor. I like being able to hide my mistakes.
83. Bus or subway? Subway
84. Stravinsky or Schoenberg? Stravinsky. Not close.
85. Crunchy or smooth peanut butter? Smooth.
86. Willa Cather or Theodore Dreiser? Willa Cather.
87. Schubert or Mozart? Hrm. My heart says Schubert.
88. The Fifties or the Twenties? Fifties.
89. Huckleberry Finn or Moby-Dick? Huck Finn, still changing my life.
90. Thomas Mann or James Joyce? James Joyce.
91. Lester Young or Coleman Hawkins? Dunno
92. Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman? Part of me really wants to say Dickinson just because, even though I love Whitman, he’s all elitist and white male in his writing. However, I’m saying Dickinson because I just think she saw things others didn’t.
93. Abraham Lincoln or Winston Churchill? Lincoln. Freed the slaves, yo. I hate this choice, because I’m a huge fan of Churchill and I’m ultimately only picking Lincoln because he’s the American.
94. Liz Phair or Aimee Mann? Liz Phair, but another close one.
95. Italian or French cooking? Italian. Not even close. Not in the same time zone.
96. Bach on piano or harpsichord? Anything on the piano.
97. Anchovies, yes or no? Nope
98. Short novels or long ones? Long ones.
99. Swing or bebop? Swing, baby. Yeah! Or did I say that already?
100. "The Last Judgment" or "The Last Supper"? “The Last Supper,” and I am presuming this is a reference to art, not occasion.