Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Magically Historical

I just finished reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Chase, and I am...well, I'm stunned. It is an amazing book. Really. I mean, I sort of avoided it, because it was really long, and I just thought it might be slow, and boring. I'm going to make a confession here. I have trouble getting through Jane Austen. I mean, I like it when I'm reading, I love the stories, but I get sort of...bored with it. It doesn't really hold my attention. So, naturally, I was wary of a book that presented itself as having an Austien voice (is that a word? Austien? It seems like it should be.), especially one that was about magicians.

I could not have been more wrong about my perception of the book.

From the beginning, with the introduction of the good natured and affable Mr. Honeyfoot and the eager and honest John Segundus, I was hooked. The book is a pleasure from beginning to end, and was difficult to put down when it was time to get off the train, finish lunch, go to sleep. The book is packed with footnotes, each of which is almost a short story in and of itself that sets the context of magic in English history, since the whole conceit of the book is that magic is real, it exists, and it is centered in England. Most gentlemen who style themselves as "magicians" are theoretical magicians, who can't actually make any of the spells work, until they call out the reclusive Mr. Norrell, who claims to be a practical magician. Norrell is deliberative, quiet, secretive, and, above all, uninterested in sharing his art with anybody at all. Until the energetic Jonathan Strange enters his life, anyway. Strange takes up magic almost as a lark, and is expansive and lively where Norrell is self contained and dry. Between them they help Wellington defeat Bonaparte, with Strange rearranging other countries at will. Throw in faerie enchantments, clever servants who should be given their due, and the overarching presence of the mysterious John Uskglass, the Raven King who brought magic into England hundreds of years earlier.

One of the things that struck me as read this book is that I do think of magic as being a peculiarly British thing. When I think of magic I think of the standing rings, my idea of Faerie is completely interwoven with British mythology. Even the landscape I think of when I think of magic is British. I'd really never thought of it before. I mean, other cultures must have traditions of magic. Certainly the Germans burned plenty of witches back in the day. But English magic is sort of, well, friendly. Cozy. Domestic. Familiar.

Sort of like this book.

Here's a link to the book on Amazon.


Oh, please, please go look at the most recent pictures on Go Fug Yourself, because the VMA pictures are up and...well...words fail me. But I do ask myself if Jessica Simpson fell over two seconds after this picture was snapped, because she looks like she's about to topple. Maybe her clothes are ashamed of themselves.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Miscellaneous Bits

Oh my. I watched So You Think You Can Dance tonight. Addictive. I hate the "Simon" guy, but the contestants are amazing. I think I have a higher appreciation for the dance than I do for the singing on American Idol. Of course, I don't really know what they're competing for. I mean, it's not like you're going to soar to fame and fortune as a lyrical jazz dancer. But fun to watch.

The National Book Festival is coming up on September 24th. Probably about the only good thing to come out of this administration. Some great authors: Neil Gaiman, Diana Gabladon (shut up, I know she's romance, but I'm addicted), and Tony Hillerman among others. I went last year, and spent a great day listening to some great authors. I guess I'm going to have to get there extra early this year if I want a shot at getting Neil Gaiman to sign anything, since the line was crazy last year, and I finally gave up because I wanted to hear him read. Worth it, since he's a great reader. The other highlight last year was Connie Willis, who gave a wonderful talk about books that influenced her. It was a tsunami of authors and book titles. She was amazing and inspiring.

I got roped into Celebrity Poker Showdown on Thursday night, and when I looked at everyone, I was transfixed by the fact that Howie Mandel, Bryan Cranston and Meatloaf were all wearing...surgical rubber gloves. And then Bryan Cranston ripped his off, and I think Meatloaf's came off soon after. So it appears that Howie Mandel was the perpetrator. Did he think they were all going to put them on their heads and blow them up with their noses?

And, finally, Pat Robertson. You just never disappoint me. Evangelical preacher, foreign policy specialist, and, now, diet doctor. Shall wonders never cease?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Childish Tantrum

I'm in an unaccountably bad mood. No particular reason. Just...in an ugly mood. And in this spirit, I present you with the rant occasioned by this article about Pat Robertson suggesting that we (well, not we as in the populace, but the US government) assassinate Hugo Chavez. And THEN he denied it. Even though...it's on tape.

Pat Robertson is LYING LIAR who LIES. He is totally a liar. I don't understand how this stuff can be captured on tape, witnessed by hundreds of people, and then they say "I never said that." It's like when Frist claimed he'd never offered a diagnosis of Terri Schiavo BASED ON A VIDEOTAPE. And he was ON CAMERA when he did it. In front of his SENATE COLLEAGUES. I'm sorry for all the caps, but I hate when people say things, and they're on tape doing it, and then they say, "I never said that." And people BELIEVE them, because they are dumb and listen to and believe LYING LIARS telling HUGE GIANT LIES. And...I'm sorry? No contest divorces are a result of gays lobbying? Why would people lobby for a change in law that DOESN'T APPLY TO THEM? That just makes no sense at all. And he's the religious mouthpiece of this administration! AAAAAUUUUUUUGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!

shut up shut up shutupshutupshutup!!!!!!!! SHUT UP!

It makes me think to myself that when Pat Robertson dies, I hope God yells at him. And it makes me think of a eulogy from Mystery Science Theatre 3000: "I hope you die a sad, lonely death confident in the knowledge that nobody loves you."

I told you it was childish.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Random Monday Bits

This I'll post without comment: Crying While Eating, mainly because I'm not really sure what to make of it.

Onto other things, a great article in Slate on things overheard, The Word on the Street. It does remind me of a Lewis Black bit where he talks about being in a mall and overhearing a scrap of conversation out of context, and it's the stupidest thing you've ever heard. More can be found at Overheard in New York.

Credit to Tij for finding both of these and amusing me pretty much all morning with it.

I'm coming off a four day weekend, and I was hating life this morning at 5:40 when my alarm went off. However, I did spend Saturday at the Virginia Wine Festival, where it was hotter than the surface of the sun, tasting a lot of wine. Some good, a lot bad. The one winery I did buy from (in fact, everyone I was with bought from them), was Chrysalis, since they were the best of the ones I tasted. I didn't like a lot of what I tasted, and as the day went on, I was less willing to taste wines from grapes I didn't like very much (Vigionier, Cab Franc, Chardonnay). However, it was a very fun day, I ate a very large and very delicious Polish sausage, and hung with some friends.

Sunday I went to see Broken Flowers, which I liked immensely. I don't think the raft of little old ladies behind me liked it very much, given their reaction at the end of the film. But Bill Murray did a great job, and it really felt like a Jim Jarmusch movie, in that it was sort of small and humane. I saw Mystery Train when it came out and really admired it. Of course, the story there is that I went to see it with my friend Michael when we were in college and living in New York. As we sat down I thanked him for taking a flyer on a film that we knew nothing aout, and he replied, "Just so long as it doesn't have subtitles." And the movies starts and is...in Japanese. Sigh. I think he enjoyed it anyway, though.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Story Update

I've been told that a story I related earlier in this forum was not told to its full justice. Now, in Metro Observation 3, I related my general annoyance with people who insist on rolling their teeny tiny little bags that probably weigh about a pound everwhere on the metro. And then I told the story about my experience on a plane to New Orleans. I have now been reminded of the details of this story, and would like to do it justice now.

Okay, so I am going to New Orleans with my friend, and we are getting on the plane. We are seated in the back third of the plane. As we're boarding, there is, ahead of us, a really tall skinny guy ("Stretch"). Stretch has a fold up luggage cart, on which he is carrying...his laptop. The laptop is secured to the luggage cart with an elaborate arrangement of bungee cords (I know, very hi-tech). And, apparantly, the world has to stop while Stretch undos all the bungee cords, takes his laptop off the luggage cart, fold up the luggage cart, and had to then resecure the now empty luggage cart with the bungee cords, as they have to go back on in an equally elaborate manner (because...they're going to get lost in the overhead luggage compartment?). As he goes into the elaborate wrap up of the bungee cords, my friend is all "aughhhhh", and we're leaning on the backs of the seats as we wait to get about two rows behind him on the other side of the plan. People are stacked up behind us, but Stretch is totally oblivious to the inconvience he's causing.

So, we do the whole flight thing (I might add that flight had, like, the best snack I have ever had on flight. It was a box with cheese and crackers, a box of raisins, and piece of chocolate.), had our encouter with the drunk passenger, who drank because she claimed she was nervous flying (well, gee, I know I'd feel safer drunk and not in complete control).

And now it's time to get off the plane. We land, and we're out of our seats. Stretch has gotten up, and is trying to get his luggage cart down, but he can't quite reach it. We'g gotten into the aisle, and we're so close to getting past him, and my friend is muttering "Oh, don't give him that luggage cart. He can just wait for it. No, don't..." as some "good samaritan" reaches up and gets...the luggage cart. We collapse against each other with another "Auuuggghhhh." Down it comes, into the aisle. The untangling of the bungee cords. No one is moving, we're all being held captive by the bungee coard luggage cart freak. And he's undoing the bungee cords, and undoing the luggage cart, and suddenly the flight attendants realize that no one has walked past them in about five minutes, so one of them comes back and sees this production happening. She asks him if he would mind just taking everything off the plane and doing it once he get out to the jetway, and she gestures to everyone standng there staring at him and waitng for him to get his ass in gear and let us off the plane. His response to her is to say, "Oh, okay," and then to continue to secure the laptop to the luggage cart, because, apparantly, he's happy to put it together on jetway, but first he's got to get it put together here on the plane. Finally it's secured to his satisfaction, and he decides to release us from the purgatory which is us trapped on the plane.

And that, my friends, is the updated extended story of The Hell That is Rolly Bags (And Luggage Carts).

Saturday, August 20, 2005

New Cars

This is a quick one, because I need to go get ready for the Virginia Wine Festival, as I need to leave in about a half hour, and I haven't showered yet. Anyway, I was lying in bed this morning listenng to Car Talk, and they mentioned that they have a new Auto Advisor. So when I got up I jumped online to take a look at it, and it's really cool. You get to set all sorts of preferences, including price range, body type, brand, importance of things like reliability, turning ability, all sorts of things that might be important to different people with different car expectations, and then it'll recommend cars that fit your criteria. Oddly enough, it DID recommend the car I currently drive, the Toyota Corolla LE. It also recommended the car wanted to buy, the Mini Cooper. So I'd call it pretty reliable, actually. Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Queer as Folk Finale

I'd like to consider last week's finale of Queer as Folk and how horribly disapointing it was. Now, for those of you who don't know the show, I'll sum up very quickly. Brian is an asshole that people stay friends with for reasons unknown to me, because he does things that are so unforgivable that I would never talk to him again. Michael is his best friend, and is sort of sweet and a little dumb. There's a large supporting cast that I"m not going to get into here.

Because, central to my problem with this last season is the about fact they made with the Brian character. Now, this is a character who refused to say things like "I love you," or acknowledge anyone else in the universe. But suddenly, in the fourth to last show, they decided that this character needed to be redeemed. Why? Who knows? I actually felt they betrayed the character in some ways. I'd really come to rely on him as the asshole of the week, and suddenly, with the contrived use of a bomb in the local gay dance club, he's declaring his love to the person that he's been sleeping with for the last four seasons, and suddenly he's all "I love you", and "let's get married." It was such a fundamental betrayal of the character they'd created. And no matter how they tried to end it with the character backing out of the marriage, I just couldn't buy it. I never believed that the character could change in the first place, but once they put the change in motion, they couldn't very well at the last minute make a half hearted change back.

So, even though i've been a pretty faithful QAF viewer, at the end I felt very unsatisfied by the way it ended. And it sort of taints my view of the whole series.

And, finally, the final fantasy dance scene was totally stupid, and was not worthy of the show.

Baaaaaad Date

So, I've been sort of synthesizing this experience, and I think I have it in hand enough to actually write about it here. So here's the deal. A little over a week ago, I got an e-mail from someone on Hurry Date, which has an online component something like that of Match, in addition to the parties. I was surprised, because it wasn't a profile I'd put a lot of work into, and didn't really take it that seriously, because I figured I would be meeting people in person before they actually looked at the profile itself. But anyway, this guy contacted me through the system, and I took a look at his profile and was like, well, okay. I'll give it a try. So we e-mailed back and forth for a few days, and then we agreed to meet up on the following Tuesday. He sent me his phone number and said, well, give me a call this weekend and we'll set it up. So I called him on Sunday afternoon, and discovered that he was in Pennsylvania, and he had terrible reception on his phone. So he says, Call me on Monday. Now, I personally felt that my phone call obligation was fulfilled by calling him on Sunday, but fine. So I called him on Monday around lunchtime and left a message that said, essentially, Hey, I'm calling to set something up for tomorrow night, give me call back. I have a meeting at around 2pm, but just leave a message. And I heard...nothing. No acknowledgement, no phone call, no e-mail, nothing. So I was...annoyed. Because this was ridiculous. On Thursday I got an e-mail titled "Your Back", and in the message it said, well, you came back, so drop me an e-mail. To which my reaction was....what? Back? From where? What did I say that made him think I was leaving town? And furthermore, there is a grammatical error in the title of the e-mail.

I, of course, immediately told all my friends, who were like, what a jackass. I discarded it and was like, whatever.

Fast forward to Saturday morning, when I am lying in bed reading becase, frankly, 10 am is too early for me to get up (shut up. Like you're not slothful on Saturdays if you can be.), and my cell phone rang. I, foolishly, picked it up, and yep. You guessed it. It's the guy. So I told him that I didn't think that I was ever going to hear from him again, given that he'd blown me off, and that this was not a great first impression I had of him. So he apologized, and I felt sort of bad, and, well, I thought it would be nice to go out, so I agreed to meet up with him at the Continental (only an awesome pool hall down in Rosslyn, which I love).

So, I show up for the evening, wearing jeans and a black button down shirt. He is wearing...a giant yellow t-shirt and cargo shorts. Way to look nice there, Skippy. Makes a girl feel special. So I get up to the bar, and got some water and a cider, he's pretty much sticking to water. So we chat, and get some food, and whatever, normal early first date stuff. And then he's done drinking water, and he's ready to start drinking for real.

And he commences to drink. And drink. And drink. I'm talking, he had about four or five vodka and fill-in-the-mixer-heres. And it's getting late at this point, and he asks if I want to see a movie. And I was like, well, okay, that might be fun. So we decide to go see The Wedding Crashers (I'll sideline here to say that it is a very funny movie, and that I enjoyed it, and it's not nearly as raunchy as it was made out to be). But we have to sort of wait around a little bit before it's worth it to go over to the movie theater. In that time he manages to suck down a couple more drinks, having switched to Long Island Ice Teas (which makes me think of the Sex in the City episode where Miranda brings Staten Island Ice Teas, sips it, and declares, "Hello, I'm drunk."). So we settle up the bill, and he says, hey, can you contribute to this? I was like okay, well, I did have three drinks and some chicken tenders, so I threw in twenty bucks.

So we head over to the Georgetown theatres, and we see the movie. After the movie, he's like, Let's go over to Chadwick's. I was like, man, I'm really tired. I'd like to head back. He totally overruled me, and dragged me into Chadwick's. Where I ordered a Diet Coke, and he ordered a vodka and cranberry. And he turned into the obnoxious drunk guy who randomly strikes up conversations with strangers, asking them totally inappropriate questions, harrassing the bartender and being really annoying. It is at this point that I am getting sympathetic looks from other people at the bar, and I start to feel desperate. Like, I really need to go home. Now.

It is at this point that I turn into someone I don't like, and this person is called Bitchy Girl, who looks on everything the guy does with a disapproving look, says in a bitchy and sort of whiny tone of voice that she's ready to go, and puts on an air of infinite patience when the guy she's with turns around and asks a random girl, "Where are you going now?"

Did I mention that in the course of forty minutes he drank four cranberry and vodkas? And not just rail vodka, oh no. Grey Goose vodka.

Closing time comes, and he throws his money on the counter and announces, "I don't have enough money, you have to pitch in." Well, before he said this he yelled at the bartender for charging us for the Diet Coke (because, yeah, $1.95 was going to make all the difference), and tried to say that he didn't have enough and could the guy help him out. Klassy. So I'm like, well, I can see that I'm going to chipping in here, too, so I throw down another twenty dollars, and we leave.

Outside he randomly introduces himself to two other people, and says I'm English, and one of the guys tries to be all British to me, and I'm like, "Yeah, I'm not British." We find a cab, which I'm pretty sure isn't supposed to be picking us up, because it's a Virginia cab. There's some altercation with the people getting out, where they try to short the cabbie, so that takes some time to straighten out, and we get in the cab and go back to Virginia. I ended up just giving the cabbie my last twenty and sent the guy home, because, at that point, I would have paid any amount of money to go home.

And, astoundingly, he thought it went really well, and called me the next day. So I ended up writing him an e-mail telling him that I didn't think we should pursue it.

Really, just one of the worst nights I've ever endured. I mean, I can drink, and I've hung out with people who can put it away, but I don't think I have ever been with someone who sucked down that much alcohol in that short a period of time and got that drunk. I mean, what was he thinking?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

People make me tired

When I saw this article on "Reparative Therapy" I just got...really really tired. Seriously. I'm just so annoyed at people who seem to spend all their time worrying about what the hell other people are doing, what their sexuality is, who they're sleeping with and how. How is any of this in any way anyone's business but the people involved?

I have never been bothered by the idea of homosexuality. I don't know why that is, but it has just never bugged me. I completely believe that sexuality is a continuum, and people fall on different places on it, and it's never bothered me where anyone fell. People I knew from high school turned out to be gay later in life, people I went to college with came out later, and I've always had friends who were gay. I don't understand why anyone cares. It's as if they're affronted by anyone having any sort of physical activity that they themselves have not experienced.

I also don't understand the argument against gay marriage - that it, in some way, diminishes straight marriages. I have yet to have this explained in a way to me that makes one iota of sense. I don't consider myself to be a really dense person, but this is an argument that has continued to elude me. The way I see it, let everyone jump in and take the tax hit, and if they run into problems, get divorced with all the attendant expenses and issues that accompany that. Let's let everyone participate in the grand American social experiment.

So when I see articles like the one I linked to above, I just get, sort of irrationally angry, because I really don't understand the obsession with it.

So, shut up, stupid religious right people.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Metro Observation 3

If you must have a rolly bag with you, for god's sake please remember that there are people not only behind you, but also trying to get around you, so, could you please just pick up the eight pound bag and carry it the six feet required, instead of insisting on rolling it onto the escalator, across the platform and onto the train? Just because it has wheels doesn't mean that it can't be picked up from time to time.

It reminds me of the time I went to New Orleans with a friend, and we got stuck behind a guy, who we'll call Stretch, who insisted on assembling his entire luggage cart in the aisle of the plane in order to pull his tiny little computer bag behind him, even as the flight attendant begged him to do in on the jetway, as he was holding up half the plane.

Drives me crazy.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Metro Observation 2

If you are a woman, and you choose to wear a sheer white linen outfit, you get five points for thinking to wear a cami on top. However, you get minus several thousand points when you choose to wear a thong on the bottom.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Why Work Can Suck

Amy Joyce has a column in today's Washington Post, Boredom Numbs Work World, about how many workers feel underused, unchallanged, and undervalued by their organizations.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Junkfood Meditations 1

And who, by the way, is buying enough of Andy Capp's Hot Fries out of a vending machine to warrant them to continue stocking it?

Metro Observation 1

Now, I'm not a reading snob, and I think people should read what brings them joy. But I find it really funny that some guy on my bus has chosen a Calvin and Hobbes anthology as his source of morning joy.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Last Day

So I went with my friend GradSchoolBill to see Gus Van Sant's The Last Day on Saturday night. It's taken me a couple of days, obviously, to synthesize what I thought of the film because, well, it's hard to know how to react. We're so programmed to expect certain tropes and storylines (and I'm not blaming Hollywood, it's just the story telling tradition we have as humans), that when we're confronted by an alternative piece of storytelling, that doesn't get us to become emotionally invested, we don't really know what to do with it. Let me correct that. I didn't really what to do with it.

That said, it is an interesting movie. We are never allowed inside the characters. There's little to no dialogue, no exposition, interactions among the characters are fleeting, and don't mean much to us. It's as if we're just observing the characters going about their daily lives, and events unfold with with a similar pace to that of everyday life. Characters are introduced, and we have no idea who they are. Interactions with people from the outside world are surreal, as when a Yellow Pages salesman appears at the door and mistakes the main character, who looks almost exactly like Kurt Cobain, and is called Blake, for the owner of an automotive parts distribution company. Now, how someone could come to the door, be confronted with someone wearing combat boots, a thrift store overcoat, and his wife's slip, and who is barely responsive, and continue to sell him a advertisement, is sort of beyond me. But it's sort of typical of the film. The conversation with the salesman turns into a little discussion on the relativity of success. These sorts of interactions don't last nearly long enough, since they're about the only time you get a clue into Blake. We are never let into the character, he's entirely within himself.

Much of the movie we're treated to him sort of wandering around his crumbling mansion, avoiding the hangers-on who are crashing there and asking him for money for flights to Utah, of for assistance writing a bridge on a song. He avoids his bandmates, who want him to commit to dates. His absent wife sends a friend over looking for him, and Blake manages to avoid him, as well.

The film is very well put together, in that it's a masterpiece of editing, and there is some really nice camerawork. Scenes that would be happening in real time concurrently are shown from both sides, not always together. So often you think you've seen the scene before, and you have, in a sense, but only part of it. You saw the end of a conversation, or someone entering a room. So you get to see everything that happens, nothing is hidden. But...nothng much really happens.

I wasn't really invested in the characters, because I knew next to nothing about them. Blake is obviously in intense psychic pain, because he can barely function. he has completely shut down, because he's so totally overwhelmed. I don't know that he could even articulate what it is he wants to happen to fix the problems. I think he feels his problems are so huge and insurmountable, that there's nothing that he can do to fix them. He can't muster up any energy to have an argument with anyone, because that would suggest that he was actually invested enough to care how it turned out. But he's barely engaged enough to fix himself a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. We know how the movie ends, so we're always expecting the end. We even know how he'll do it. And when it does come, my main feeling wasn't the sadness I felt when I heard that Kurt Cobain had killed himself, but relief that Blake had ended his pain. Because he's such a cypher, I didn't feel bad that he hadn't gotten help, and sorry that he didn't see that there were people who cared about him enough to try to help him. I was mainly happy that he wasn't in pain anymore.

And I'm not entirely sure if that was what Van Sant was after. But I'm glad to see Van Sant return to his roots. I loved his first two movies, and this feels like he's coming home.

Sad Moment

A moment of silence for Peter Jennings. Nice obit in The Washington Post this morning.

After hearing this, and the story about the how the Galapagos Islands are being destroyed on NPR this morning at 5:40am, it was not a good start to the day.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Washington Post redesign

Now, y'all may not know this about me, but I am an unabashed fan of The Washington Post. It was one of the things I missed most when I lived out of the DC area, and, as you can see, it's the first link in my sidebar. I think the Post is an incredibly valuable local resource. Their online site is a constant souce of entertainment for me. So it's with trepidition that I hear that they are changing things. When they added color pictures to the front page, it was clear attempt to keep up with USA Today. When they added the Sunday Source, and moved the Carolyn Hax column into it, it was a clear play for under-30 readers (and, in fact, I have a friend who wouldn't even read the section, even if it did have recipes. So it's heartening that Hank Steuever, one of the best writers they have penned this screed about the Post's over-reliance on people who don't even read the paper to determine the direction of the paper.

Project Runway Recapped

Oh, I'm so happy. Television Without Pity is recapping Project Runway as a Tubey's Kids promotion. I couldn't be happier, because I loved loved loved Project Runway. I cannot wait for the second season, though I doubt they will be able to produce another eeeeevil Wendy Pepper, or another Jay, who is only the most hilarious reality show contestant ever.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Back to School

Well, first off, a big giant huge thank you to JohnOk again, for helping me figure out the vagaries of the Blogger template. I know just enough to be dangerous, so I was very frustrated that I couldn't get the links sidebar to show up. But now it does. So that makes me happy. (well, that and the fact that GSN is rerunning all the episodes of The Amazing Race, which I am obsessed with, and season three is starting...RIGHT NOW!)

But on to what I was actually thinking about. Which is the primacy of children's oriented entertainment in the mainstream. I have next to me, on my purple couch, a copy of the July 29th, 2005 issue of Entertainment Weekly. It has a picture of Daniel Radcliffe on it, dressed as Harry Potter, natch. Now, the new movie doesn't come out until November, but the new book just came out three weeks ago. Now, I'll say straight out right here that I am a fan of Harry Potter, both the books and the movie (yes, I preorder the books, yes, I see the films opening weekend, opening night if possible). And I'm not disturbed that Harry Potter rates the cover of Entertainment Weekly (though I sort of wish they'd had a picture of the author and not the actor portraying the character). But I've been struck, in the last five or six years by the interest generated by something directed at kids excites in the adult population. I'm not sure when it started, but I don't remember, in college, being particularly interested in kid's stuff. But when I moved to Cleveland, my then-SO would get up on Saturday mornings and watch The Tick. And got me hooked. On that, and the X-Men, and some Canadian cartoon in which all the characters were anthropomorphized computer programs. And then Toy Story came out, and every adult I knew (because god knows I didn't know any kids at that time) wanted to go see it. And we did. In droves. And we went to see ever Pixar film. And we taped Wallace and Gromit off of PBS. And we read Harry Potter and Philip Pullman and Lemony Snicket.

What is the pull these have over adults? And it's specific to adults of a certain age. CultureMaven Dad surprised me by reading the first Harry Potter book, "just to see what the fuss was about." Now, granted, he wasn't much impressed, but he doesn't read science fiction or fantasy, but he was struck enough by the hype to want to read the first book. I wonder if it has anything to do with a desire to hold on to some sense of innocence from our childhoods. I mean, does a single childfree adult need to stay au currant with 10 year olds? Are we going to have a scholarly discourse with them on the portrayal of good vs. evil in Harry Potter? On the vilification of organized religion in the His Dark Materials trilogy? Are we proposing a symposium on the nature of friendship as portrayed in Pixar films? A conversation about the origins of nonsense in literature from Aristophanes to Wallace and Gromit?

All of these, I might add, worthy conversations. I actually do believe that good children's literature endures and has appeal to adults. I think very little is produced. But I'm fascinated by the fact that, for the first time that I've noticed, that it's really entered the mainstream consciousness.

I think there are two things at play here. First, adults who are in their thirties and younger tend to be more open to kids stuff, maybe because we have such fond memories of popular entertainment from our own childhoods. Second, it's sort of a scary world out there these days. And while the best children's lit does reflect this, there's a clear demarcation between good and evil, light and dark. That's a comforting thought, that somewhere it's easy to tell who your enemies are, and where good will triumph at the end of the day.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


A big thanks to my good friend JohnOk, who gave me a shout out. His blog is erudite and funny, kind of like him... Thanks John!

Jailhouse Apprentice

So, Bush just had a press conference, in which he was, as usual, all faux folksy and down to earth, joking with the reporters, and yet, not really answering any of their questions. I noticed that he's done more press conferences since the last election, and I've always sort of thought that his handlers steered him away from doing them due to their inability to actually control what comes out of his mouth when he's up there. I imagine them, off to the side, clutching their heads and averting their eyes as he, yes, dare I say it, uses the wrong word (May 31, 2005) and then defines it for the press. However, I think he's getting more comfortable. By the end of his term he'll stop caring entirely, show up for press conferences with a beer in one hand, a bong in the other, dressed in a toga with underpants on his head. And then he'll give us the finger, moon us, and run off whooping, his secret service detail hot on his trail and giving himself a new secret service nickname: "Nut Case."

And then the question came up, what is he going to do after he leaves office? Will he just sit back and be like, hey, I'm worth millions, I don't gotta work, I'm going to enjoy myself. I was e-mailing my buddy SY, and I said, you know, he should go on the Apprentice! And they could pair him up with, you know, Omorosa. And then I thought about it, and I was like, they could do a failed CEO version of the Apprentice, where former CEOs try to regain a modicum of power through the show. And the SY made the best suggestion ever: Whichever one can run the most successful jailhouse business. I was like, wow. That is brilliant. You could have the Enron guys, the World Com guys, the toy guy.... I would totally watch that.