Saturday, September 09, 2006

Could I have any higher regard for "Studio 60" before it even airs?

You wouldn't think so, given its cast and crew. But apparently, I can, because I just read in the selfsame EW that the writing staff includes Mark McKinney of The Kids In The Hall, who was hired to help out with the sketch writing for the show-within-the-show.

Come on, September 18!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Oh boy, "Girls."

So I'm flipping through the Entertainment Weekly TV Fall Preview issue. In the writeup on the new, Sherman-Palladinoless season of Gilmore Girls, they describe Lauren Graham deleting lines and generally being more "collaborative" and "a more active participant in the process" than was apparently the norm in the past.

Well, great. Graham is a talented, commanding, sexy and funny actress...but I have yet to read a single interview with her that suggests she should be getting anywhere near that creative process.

But then, most actors shouldn't. Occasionally you find one who's capable of looking at "the big picture," but they're rare as un-plastic surgery-ed faces in Hollywood. For the most part, actors creative decisions are based on who they like (I want to make out with him, not him!) or what they think will make people like them (this won't make me look unsympathetic, will it?)

Cruelty, thy name is theatre

Sideways was one of the movies I loved most in the past couple of years; I was pleased when it was nominated for and/or won all those awards. One of the things it gets absolutely dead-on is the soul-shriveling experience of the struggling writer walking downstairs to check his mailbox every day and finding...nothing.

(I've been known to joke that Sideways could have been made for me. I'm a struggling writer and I've had a crush on Virginia Madsen since 1985.)

So anyway, this evening, I go downstairs to check my mailbox. In it, I find an envelope with the return address of a theatre to which I submitted a couple of my plays a while back. Now, I don't mind so much these days, having one of my plays rejected.

Though obviously I'd be delighted if one of those messages in bottles I sent out so long ago suddenly brought me a production. But my ego isn't invested in my plays at the moment, not the way it is in my novel.

So I have no big problem with the fact that in the envelope was not a letter telling me they wished to produce one of my plays and send me some thousands of dollars. I do, however, think it was a bit chintzy of them to be sending me a fundraising letter.

I need Virginia Madsen to come and teach me about wine...

Oh, Mr. Varkentine...come now!

I've been noticed by the web page for The Jack Benny 39 cent stamp campaign. I share space on the page with (among others) a couple of non-entities named Neil Gaiman and Mark Evanier. I'm sure they're proud to be associated with me, even in this meager way.

As I've mentioned before, Benny is one of my all-time favorites from the golden age of radio. Actually, he's one of everyone's favorites from the golden age of radio, and...holy cow. I just found out that YouTube has a couple of short clips of a filmed recording of The Jack Benny Program in 1942.

This is the second part:

I want to make a sidenote here to say a few words abour Rochester, a little "let the clicker beware" if you will. His routine with Benny in the above clip makes use of some racist stereotypes, something his portrayal was sadly not free of up through about the second world war. I'm posting it because I believe the routine is still funny, due largely to Eddie Anderson and Benny's gifts as comic actors.

In his book Prime Time Blues, Donald Bogle makes the case that Benny & Anderson were the originators of the black/white comedy team we've seen so many variants on since, and I agree. First in performance and then in writing, as the staff got more "hip" to the realities of the black experience of living in America in the first half of the 20th century, Anderson's Rochester always transcended stereotype.

Benny was the acknowledged master of comedy timing, but Anderson was nearly his equal at the skill. That is why, in my view, such troubling material as they performed still holds up...which is more than I can say for Amos and Andy.

That team was just as popular in their day if not more so, but nowadays it's just not funny anymore, at least not to me (and for reasons that have nothing to do with the racial content). Anderson's characterization can still be appreciated today, both if understood as in the context of its time and because, again, it's just so funny.

That's what I think, anyway. Your mileage, as they say, may vary.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

"I don’t want to be the person I will be if I stay here.”

Harry Anderson is leaving New Orleans.

Harry Anderson, the illusionist, comic and former star of sitcoms like “Night Court” and “Dave’s World,” has lived in New Orleans since 2000, when he left Hollywood with his wife, the former Elizabeth Morgan. They rode out Hurricane Katrina in the French Quarter, in the building that houses Oswald’s Speakeasy, Mr. Anderson’s nightclub. Their home, whose ground floor was given over to Sideshow, their magic and curiosity shop, was in another building in the Quarter.

In the weeks after the storm, even before the power was back, Mr. Anderson opened his club for what he called French Quarter Town Hall meetings. The weekly gatherings, which at first offered little more than camaraderie by candlelight and warm beer, evolved into a de facto government for a part of New Orleans that had experienced little flooding but could not begin cleanup and rebuilding because of the city’s overall paralysis.

So it is especially poignant that the Andersons have now decided to leave. But their story is not unique: many in this city are suffering the same continuing loss and strain that led these two to their decision. So their departure raises the question of whether others who can afford to leave, those who have not sunk every penny into a now-moldy house or a devastated store, will also move on.

One reason they were leaving, they said, was that the tourists were few and even fewer were coming to see “Wise Guy,” Mr. Anderson’s engaging one-man show at Oswald’s. “I had more people in my car last night,” he said to his piano player during a performance in May.

Mr. Anderson said friends and relatives from out of town are happy to hear that they are moving. “It’s been a universal response from people who aren’t here,” he said.

Their New Orleans friends, too, have been supportive, Ms. Anderson said, and no one has expressed hostility. “I feel a little bit better now because I feel something is going to happen,” Ms. Anderson said. “I’m glad we tried to stay, but I don’t want to be the person I will be if I stay here.”

Okay...I freely admit this is a cheap shot...but come on...

Via A Socialite's Life:

Justin Timberlake...who will be voicing King Arthur in animated feature "Shrek The Third,"

You know...a lot of great actors have played King Arthur. Joss Ackland...Mel Blanc...Pierce Brosnan...Graham Chapman...Sean Connery...Peter Cook...Tim Curry...John Gielgud...Richard Harris...Harry Shearer...Martin Sheen...Dave Thomas... name just a few, in alphabetical order (thank you, IMDB). Now, Justin Timberlake. Good work, guys. We just got the English to forgive us for the whole Dick Van Dyke's Cockney accent in Mary Poppins thing.

I suppose we can't really blame young Justin. The poor boy ain't that bright:

[Timberlake] finds himself dizzy when he tries to read books and scripts aloud - unless the text is always in the centre of the page.
He says, "I think I need to get my eyes checked. I don't have a problem reading scripts because all the text is in the middle of the page and you just scan down. "But there's something about going left to right, left to right that makes me dizzy."

A choice of replies.

One: He can't read left to right? Well, maybe there's a solution to that. Oh, Rabbi...

Two: Do all of you reading this know from just what state in our union Mr. Timberlake happens to hail, or would you like me to refresh your memory?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Now that, my friends, is comedy

Guerrilla artist Banksy hijacked a shipment of Paris Hilton cds and replaced the cd with a disc of his own music ... he also replaced the inner artwork with his own manipulated artwork. Here are a few photos of the jacked up artwork and the cd:

Banksy has replaced Hilton's CD with his own remixes and given them titles such as Why am I Famous?, What Have I Done? and What Am I For? He has also changed pictures of her on the CD sleeve to show the US socialite topless and with a dog's head. A spokeswoman for Banksy said he had doctored 500 copies of her debut album Paris in 48 record shops across the UK. She told the BBC News website: "He switched the CDs in store, so he took the old ones out and put his version in" ... But he left the original barcode so people could buy the CD without realising it had been interfered with. Banksy is notorious for his secretive and subversive stunts such as sneaking doctored versions of classic paintings into major art galleries. His spokeswoman said he had tampered with the CDs in branches of HMV and Virgin as well as independent record stores ... No customers had complained or returned a doctored version, he said.

Via Pink Is The New Blog.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Labo(u)r day address

I refuse to believe that the hardworking people of these United States would not have wanted me to get my mail on this, their day. That said, I'm stealing a tip from Blue Gal and using this as an excuse to post the video for one of my favorite Billy Bragg songs.

It's not as explicitly political as some of his others, though Billy being Billy, a nuclear submarine and painful headlines do make it into the second verse. Most importantly as far as I'm concerned, it features Kirsty MacColl (sigh) banging on a tambourine, shaking what her mama gave her, singing backup vocals and generally taking the piss out of Bragg.

God, I love her.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


There was a month or so there, around 1984, when if you asked me who I would want to be if I could be anybody besides myself I would have said: Daryl Hall.

I also love theaters. Not "the theater," pls note (though I've loved that too in my time), but theaters. There is something romantic about a big, cavernous, empty theater.

And as you may remember, I'm also a sucker for water imagery. I think the ocean is beautiful and many of my favorite songs have overt or covert water associations.

What we have here is a few of my favorite things.

The lord taketh away, and the lord giveth.

As my friends and fans know, this season I expect to be saying "no, thank you" to Gilmore Girls after the departure of creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband Dan. Ah, but there's good news tonight.

As it turns out, this does not mean I have to give up watching Lauren Graham speak great dialogue by a writer who is a genius or something like it.Thanks to her recently announced two-episode appearance on...(wait for it)...Studio 60.

Random Flickr-Blogging: IMG_6074

Today I seem to be in the mood for a few romantic locales...

This is very much the kind of place I liked to play as a child when given the chance. A green and leafy glade, with stairs to run up and down and an archway for dramatic entrances. I would have figured out ways to "stage" Robin Hood or sumthin'....

See the lights, in the night sky...

This one makes me want to listen to a Ryuichi Sakamoto album. So I am.

Original sources here, here and here.