Saturday, March 31, 2007


I went to the library this afternoon. While driving away from my building, I passed what appeared to be a Sarcophagus. Not a real one, of course, a faux one. Nevertheless, not something you see every day.

Then, while leaving the library, I happened to glance down at a coverless paperback novel that somebody had discarded. It looked like some kind of Jacqueline Susann novel or the like, so I was only mildly curious.

Then I saw, printed on the little hype sheet on the first page:


Well, I have an interest in that-Chorus Line and all that jazz, to say nothing of All That Jazz. So I turn to the spine to see who the author of this stunning novel is.

"James Lipton."

Can it be? Can it be that the arrogant, oily, unctuous idiot of Inside the Actors Studio once wrote a novel?

I flip to the dedication page:

For my wife, Kedakai Turner Lipton, who did me the small service of redefining the universe...

Oh yes. Yes it can. And the man even writes arrogant, oily, unctuous and idiotic.

Before the first chapter we are given a lengthy quotation from Rimbaud, which Lipton reprints both in the original French and in an English translation. Then we are given the definition of the dance term Pas de Deux, and are informed that:

The classical form consists of an entrée, adagio, two variations and a coda.
Wait, there's still more. You see, we are now told that what follows is an ENTREE. Gee, I wonder how the book is structured. Okay. Now we turn the page, and see that (finally) the book proper is about to begin.

But it's not the first chapter, no no no, no way. It's:

ONE, two, three, four
First Position

This is the first page of the novel, unedited:

Vibrant. A foot. Pulsing in space. Cruelly arched, against nature, against sense. Under the quivering skin the clenched muscles sent a desperate plea to the distant, unheeding cortex: Stop! Enough!
The teacher, narrow and urgent, glided past the rows of students, one hand afloat, ready to point, to prod, to accuse. He passed next to a dancer, standing like all the others on one leg, the other leg extended, foot pointed toward the ceiling, taut knee nearly brushing ear. The dancer, feeling the teacher's close, reproachful presence, dug deeper into the floor with the supporting foot, toes cluching at the unyielding wood.
"Too heavy. Lighten it. Reach up!" the teacher rasped and moved on through a thicket of wool: tights, sweaters, leg warmers, stained and tattered as overloved teddy bears, but essential to the never-ending battle against the lurking enemy, cold air on warm muscle. Once again the teacher turned to scold. "Turn out."
Under the agonized muscles, the senseless bone. No pain there, no signal. But change, anomaly, the big nob at the top of the thighbone twisted backward as if by a powerful hand.


According to that same hype sheet in the front, those dancers are:

Always short on cash and long on hopes, they live together in glitter and squalor on New York's West Side, sharing their lovers, their heartaches, their dreams.
Carin knew that her own dreams had come true when she became part of their world...

Diane. She took Carin in and taught her everything dancers must know to survive.

Terry. The aging "gypsy," facing the crossroads that every dancer dreads, he gave Carin a special gift.

Gino. Brash, ambitious, sensuous, he showed Carin what a great partner can mean to a dancer.

Chris. He followed Carin a thousand miles, only to find he was losing her to her other great love-to that breathtaking moment when the house lights go down and the curtain goes up!

To be fair, Lipton presumably didn't write those descriptions, but they definitely capture his melodramatic style. Senseless bone, big nob anyone?

What's really weird is that the book comes adorned with quotes by people some of whose work I've admired very much, including Pete Hamill, Bob Fosse, Gwen Verdon, Neil Simon, and Cy Coleman.

Fosse tells us,

"The all-night dance rehearsal scene was so real my muscles ached after reading it."

I'm going on the assumption that these people are or were friends of Lipton, and had not completely lost their critical faculties. But I intend struggling through this book as best I can-if nothing else it promises to be funnier than if Douglas Adams came back from the dead to write for Futurama.

If it turns out I'm wrong and the late Mr. Fosse, et all are right, I'll eat these words here. I wouldn't make any really big bets on that happening, however.

By the way, walking back to my apartment building from my car, I passed (apparently) the same faux Sarcophagus...but not in the same place. Now there's something you don't see every day...twice...

Friday, March 30, 2007

Six, Bells

I decided to look in on a couple of new(ish) shows tonight, "Wedding Bells" and "Six Degrees." Both are getting what Metacritic describes as mixed or average to generally negative reviews.

In the case of "Six Degrees," it's really not hard to see why. What a waste of some good actors, especially Hope Davis and Campbell Scott. The character interactions-which is really all a show like this would seem to have going for it-were deadly.

Let's say you have a woman character who's a realtor and takes some hunk-o-rama to a nicely furnished apartment. Then as he's checking out the windows, she steps briefly out of the room, and calls to him that in fact the apartment is not for rent...because it's hers. Then she walks back into the room in the nude.

Then is not the time to have her play coy as to whether she's going to let this man kiss her or not. Not if you want the show to have a sense of reality.

For these and other reasons, the script and direction struck me as just barely competent. Something that really saddens me to say, considering the script was written by a man named Peter Parnell.

Besides having been a producer and writer on "The West Wing," Peter Parnell was also Aaron Sorkin's writing teacher. I'm going to say that again: The man taught Aaron Sorkin to write. He also wrote a great play, "The Rise and Rise of Daniel Rocket," which I saw in a filmed-for-television version in 1986 and still have on tape somewhere.

If this is what has become of his gift for writing characters, then I have another reason to excuse myself for not finding fame in Hollywood.

This show is still on (for the moment-both are losing in the ratings) and "Veronica Mars," "Studio 60" and "The Nine" are all missing and presumed dead. And some people tell me there's a god.

One of the only hard-and-fast rules for TV is that what a show is about is not as important as who's doing it. "The Wedding Bells" sure doesn't sound like a promising idea(Three sisters! And they're wedding planners! And their last name is...Bell! Get it?).

And David E. Kelley is hit-and-miss with me. I liked his episodes of "L.A. Law" and "The Practice" that I've seen; "Boston Legal" continues to tickle me to my heart's content. Heck, at age 16, I even enjoyed "From The Hip." But I actively disliked "Ally McBeal" and most of the rest of his series I didn't care about one way or the other.

But "Bells" has got some dazzling women, including Teri Polo, Missi Pyle, Sarah Jones and Kadee Strickland. And-get this-Kelley's given them some funny things to do, and they do them well. Funny, as in, I actually laughed.

If I was gonna make any suggestion I'd say that it could probably be turned into a filmed, one-camera sitcom without too much trouble, and might be improved by it.

Still...appealing women. Saying funny things. Sometimes my needs aren't that complex. And besides, they invoked my favorite Broadway love song, the beautiful "Dulcinea," from "Man of La Mancha." This is my kinda show. I'm in for so long as it lasts-which, if the reviews and ratings are any indication, won't be long.

I'll just overlook the fact that one of the bigger jokes involved the timely death of a man named Benjamin.

And I really want to know who gave sexy Teri Polo that unflattering haircut.

You learn something new every day.

Take me, for example. I just learned something, thanks to a reply on a message board to a post I left about that Suze Orman woman. The one who came out as a lesbian but said she was a virgin because she has never been with a man.

Apparently, the proper term for such a woman is (via the Urban Dictionary):
gold star lesbian

A lesbian who has never slept with a man.

Sometimes I forget my girlfriend has slept with men... I'm a gold star lesbian.

Love it.

Who do I root for in a case like this II: Oh, yes. There will be blood.

Rosie O’Donnell vs. Bill O’Reilly.

Sweet land-a-goshin.

Halle cameraman...Halle cameraman...

Thursday, March 29, 2007

There's no such thing as heroes anymore

You know...

I used to like a man named Colin Mochrie. You know, from Whose Line Is It Anyway? Funny man, right? Beautifully random. I used to think that, too. That was before I'd seen on The Daily Show that he'd chosen to caper and prance for the amusement and glorification of Karl Rove.

Nice going, Mochrie. Would you like it if some American comic decided it would be good for his career to suck up to some repulsive truth-twisting piece of Canadian toxic trash? And I know you've got 'em, Colin (I have a spy in Ontario).

I'd ask whether or not your greed actually knows no bounds, but the truth is, I want to believe you were paid, and paid well, and that's the only reason you did it. Because that makes you a cynical opportunist scumbag, and if so, hey, welcome to show business, baby.

The other possibility is that you've been so poisoned by sucking at Drew Carey's teats that you've lost the moral sense I want to believe you once had, and possibly any sense of reality.

Say it's not so, Colin...

Give me your shoulder, I need a place To wait for morning...I deny any mission, escape definition...

I want to run a couple of videos, just because I think the songs are great. Watch them, watch one but not the other, watch only enough to see whether or not you agree with me. I really don't care.

I think these songs are great.

The first is one of my favorite Thomas Dolby songs, which means it's one of the best-produced, best written electronic pop should-have-been-hits of the '80s. With more keyboard hooks than are dreamt of in Beyonce's philosphy.

There's really nothing much more to say than: "Airwaves."

Now in My Girlfriend's Boyfriend, there's an almost thrown away reference to Colley & Keitha once having done a lip synch performance to a Hue & Cry song at day camp. This is the song I was thinking of. It's a paradoxically breezy yet rough edged early song by the Scottish pop duo. I've been a big fan of it for about 20 years now.

And it seemed fitting for my two characters because it is about, simply, refusing to accept the definitions that other people put on you.

And it's called, fittingly, "I Refuse."

I hope you enjoyed.

Stop in the middle of your life for asking

I want to call your attention again to what Garry Trudeau has been doing in his satirical comic strip Doonesbury.

It sounds strange to describe any comic strip creator as "wise," and Trudeau would doubtless be the first to agree. Nevertheless, it's the best word I can come up with to describe the caliber of the work Trudeau has done following the experiences of his character BD, the Iraq military casualty.

It's been wise while never losing sight of wit, and always rooted in individuality. BD is not a statistic or example, he has always remained himself. In fact if anything, this focus has allowed Trudeau to flesh him out in a way he hadn't been in years.

This week, Trudeau has been widening his scope as BD meets, outside his therapist's office, a young female Vet who was the victim of sexual trauma and abuse by her fellow soldiers. It's increasingly gripping; engrossing work.

And yes, believe it or not, it's still funny. There's a reason why Trudeau is rightly considered the finest of his kind.

This link should take you to Monday's strip, where the story started. Then click the "next" tab to bring you up to today.

Not so mysterious, really.

American Prospect has an article about how the GOP seems, for lack of a better word, stuck in a rut. Even in the face of an nearly-universally unpopular war, and every day new evidence of criminal behavior by conservative thugs, they just can't change their ways.

The truly astonishing thing about the latest scandals besetting the Bush administration is that they stem from actions the administration took after the November elections, when Democratic control of Congress was a fait accompli.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' hour-long meeting on sacking federal prosecutors took place after the election. The subsequent sacking took place after the election. The videoconference between leaders of the General Services Administration and Karl Rove's deputy about how to help Republican candidates in 2008, according to people who attended the meeting, took place Jan. 26 this year.

The president's mega-failure, of course, has been his decision to plow ahead in Iraq, the verdict of the American electorate in November notwithstanding. More mysterious still has been the inability of congressional Republicans to change course on the war. Last week, just two Republican congressmen voted for the Democrats' bill to withdraw U.S. combat forces from Iraq by the end of August 2008. On Tuesday, just two Republican senators voted for Democratic senators' bill setting a March 2008 deadline.

Not so mysterious, really. The only chance Bush has of saving his "legacy," will be if Iraq somehow, against the odds, ends up to his benefit. And the same goes for the Republican congressmen who supported him and his war.

When something is your only chance, or even if you just see it that way, it is perhaps not surprising that you focus on it to the exclusion of almost anything else; sometimes, apparently, rationality.

Harold Meyerson, who wrote the article, finishes up by asking-
What gives with the Republicans? How have they -- not just in the White House but in Congress, too -- become so detached from reality?

-and then offers four possible explainations. I have another. I think the only thing that horrifies Bush and the people who supported him more than the plunge their popularity has what will happen if the whole truth ever comes out.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Then he sunk back into despair

Dear Ben Varkentine,

We are writing to let you know that we must pass on My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend. Because of the amount of client work in our office just now we must pass on projects when we don’t feel immediately and wholly connected.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to read your work. We wish you the very best with your writing.

Best wishes,

He was born and raised in privilege
Took everything it gave
Had financial help from his father
From the cradle to the grave
And this enabled him to believe in the things
He did try hard, God forbid
he should give in to pointless wandering
But he would wander from time to time
Seeking guidance from the Holy
he tried to find the truth
Among the radical revolutionaries
Who canonized his youth

So with little or no formal education
He taught himself to work
Would often steal the pain it took
To rise up from the dirt
And out of desperation would
Disturb the millionaires
Whose patronage had helped the power
Rise up from thin air,
Then he sunk back into despair

–The Dream Academy, “Power To Believe.”

Just because you're wearing glasses doesn't mean you look smart, Scarlett

Scarlett Johansson in scene from upcoming movie The Nanny Diaries.

Is it just me, or does anybody else see the concept for a great reality show here?

Hollywood actress Anne Hathaway finds it difficult to get the roles she wants - because contemporaries like Scarlett Johansson and Keira Knightley fight for the same parts.

The important question: How to get them on the waterslide?

Yes, now you too can lick the back of Emperor Palpatine's head

You'd think if they really wanted Star Wars fans to use these, they would have included Princess Leia in the gold bikini. There are men who have been waiting 25 years to get their tongues onto the back of that.


...15 postage stamps commemorating the Star Wars movies. The 41-cent stamps will be released May 25.

They were going to issue a stamp featuring Jar Jar Binks, but they were afraid people would take to spitting on the wrong side.*

* With apologies to Will Durst.

That kid from American Beauty's going to be pissed.

San Francisco passes plastic-bag ban

SAN FRANCISCO - City leaders approved a ban on plastic grocery bags after weeks of lobbying on both sides from environmentalists and a supermarket trade group. San Francisco would be the first U.S. city to adopt such a rule if Mayor Gavin Newsom signs the ban as expected.

The law, approved 10-1, requires large markets and drug stores to offer customers bags made of paper that can be recycled, plastic that breaks down easily enough to be made into compost, or reusable cloth.

San Francisco supervisors and supporters said that by banning the petroleum-based sacks, blamed for littering streets and choking marine life, the measure would go a long way toward helping the city earn its green stripes.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I appreciate the thought, Jerry

From the dedication page to Jerry Hopkins' Yoko Ono:
This is for the people who must be artists, or must try to be. They are pushing at the walls the rest of us erect.

The Bush supporter's trademark bravery (and original relationship with literacy)...

...can be seen in an anonymous comment on my post of a week or two ago.

One of the three greatest things anyone has ever written about the Human League*

From Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield, page 186:

Take the Human League. Everybody knows "Don't You Want Me." Everybody loves this song. Nobody would remember it except for the girl who sings the second verse. It's some of the clumsiest singing ever smuggled into the top 40, a common voice, a girl who has to be free and has no special reason to give, nothing clever to say. She's just speaking her piece, and not even taking any pleasure in that. Part of the joy of the Human League is Phil Oakey indulging his vocal melodrama-"dooon't! don't you waaant me!"-versus the dippy flatness of the girls in the band. They sing "(Keep Feeling) Fascination" and they can't keep a straight face. In the video, Phil is preening, seducing the camera, while the girls swing their hands back and forth, lock eyes, and know that teenage boys in America are watching closely to see their tongues flicker out when they pronounce the "l" in "love so strong." I know I waited for that moment every time.

*The other two, of course (not counting my review of Secrets) were in these books:

Monday, March 26, 2007

A question.

Whatever happened to Gabrielle Anwar?

Scent of a Woman was on TV last night and it reminded me of how fantastic-looking she was, with that look of innocence-meets-lewd that some say is every man's fantasy.

Pretzel Logic

Andrew Sullivan has a column about how, in his view, Karl Rove has failed in the long run.

...just as Rove has become entangled in petty scandal, he has bungled the bigger strategy as well. Six years into the Bush presidency Rove’s fantasy of a permanent Republican majority is fast becoming a B-movie of a broken political movement.

It's worth reading, with one big but: It lets Bush off too easily. Sullivan seems to think that all the spin, all the objectively-unhinged behavior, all the lies and basically this whole nightmare called the Bush administration can be blamed on Rove:

Rove advised a moderate, congenial and compassionate Republican, elected with a minority of the popular vote, to forget about retaining the political centre. Rove believed that appealing to moderates was a fool’s game when there were millions of alienated evangelical voters waiting to be tapped.

So Bush cut taxes, turned on the spending spigot and stuck to a strictly religious line on social policy: no new federal embryonic stem cell research, judicial appointments designed to reverse the Roe vs Wade case that established women’s right to abortion, a constitutional amendment to ban civil recognition of gay couples and a clumsy attempt to play politics with Terri Schiavo, a woman in Florida in a permanent vegetative state.

Look, Karl Rove is obviously a truth-twisting piece of toxic trash who repulses me even more than anime. But the notion that, if not for him, George W. Bush would have been "moderate, congenial and compassionate" comes from someone who swallowed the Bush line a long time ago. Someone who still hasn't spit it back up, no matter how rancid it turned out to be.

Bush did all those thing. Not Rove. George W. Bush. He is without mercy or feeling.

But, as always...this is pure speculation and I admit that...I continue to be convinced that all of Andrew Sullivan's opinions on Bush really come from only one place: He's haunted by the fact that he's a gay man who masochistically supported Bush and twisted himself into a pretzel trying to cling to the belief Bush thinks he's a human being.

And although he's made great strides in calling bullshit on all the spin, all the objectively-unhinged behavior, all the lies and basically this whole nightmare called the Bush administration...

I believe he still, deep down, wants to think that he could have a civil discussion with George W. Bush if they met across a table. They could have a couple of refreshing drinks, eat some snacks, and he could look into Bush's eyes. And he would see that there is really no cruelty, indifference or meanness in his heart.

It's really kind of sad, when you think about it.

News you can use:

In South Carolina, gay marriage is now officially unlawful. However, marrying your cousin, even if he or she is only 14-years old, is still perfectly all right. There and in Texas.

-Via Feministing.

challenge answered

Blogger Dave Lifton decided to weigh in on the most recent meme, even though I didn't tag him. This is the kind of initiative we like to see here at Dictionopolis in Digitopolis.

And speaking of what we like to see here at Dictionopolis in Digitopolis, my pretty old girlfriend* Kelly, who I did tag**, has also answered the call.

*I mean she's pretty, and she's my old girlfriend, not that she's pretty old or anything like that.

**And I don't mean that in any kind of euphemistic way.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

2, 368 entries, and I haven't posted any footage from Monty Python's Flying Circus

Let's rectify that right now, being as they're some of the funniest men in the world.

Random Flickr-blogging 6236

Oh, dear. Y'know, the "discreet" bow school of ladies fashion is one of the few things from the '80s I'd hoped would never, never make a comeback. So now I'm worried. Because if this is here, can a Loverboy revival be far behind?

Certainly a lovely-looking young woman, though. And I'm not normally one for Asians.