Monthly Archives: March 2014

Kate O’Mara…

Kate O’Mara…

Kate O’Mara died at 74. She’s a tremendous actress who was awesome wherever she appeared.


Absolutely Fabulous

Doctor Who

And here’s a clip of O’Mara’s appearance in an episode of The Avengers, in which, coincidentally, the future Rani teams up with the future Master Roger Delgado.

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Posted by on March 30, 2014 in Pop Life


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The media has responded to the Stephen Colbert controversy as expected.

Stephen Colbert is under fire because his show’s Twitter account tweeted this: “I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.” This is a reference to an old skit, in which Colbert performs a racist Chinese impersonation “accidentally” captured on live feed, and then apologizes for it in the laziest way possible when caught. The attack came soon after, from a 23-year old hashtag activist named Suey Park, who started the #NotYourAsianSidekick campaign last year, and it quickly trended.

Twitter has an extraordinary ability, more than any other media, to encourage speaking before thinking. Did anyone stop, for even a moment, to ask themselves the reason Colbert made that joke? Did anyone question, even for the briefest flash, the motivations behind it? One microsecond of consideration would reveal the following: Colbert plays a parody of a rightwing hack. Rightwing hacks make racist statements. Therefore Colbert is parodying the racist statements of rightwing hacks. It would be weird if he didn’t parody their fictitiously color-blind racism–it’s a major feature of their personalities. Look at Fox News.

I’ve never supported the notion that the audience is responsible if they don’t “get” the joke. When a joke falls flat, the comedian failed. Parody, which I’m glad they are calling Colbert’s show rather than satire, is complicated. Are Colbert’s statements less offensive because they aren’t in earnest? One can claim that Rush Limbaugh doesn’t believe what he says but is just attempting to amuse his audience with sexist, racist jokes. Megyn Kelly’s Santa Claus segment was hilarious if we extended to her the protection of “parody.” She later attempted the “just kidding” defense. Since parody involves exaggeration, does effective parody of Limbaugh, Kelly, Ted Nugent, or Sarah Palin involve making offensive comments beyond the scope of what they’d even say publicly? At some point, you’re no longer making fun of the messenger but merely parroting them.

I’d argue that effective parody does not make the offensive statements the joke but the person making the statements. Limbaugh’s pomposity and Kelly’s clueless defensiveness are better punchlines. I’m not sure who Colbert the brand is parodying anymore — if it’s a broad concept of what right-wingers believe, then it can veer into strawman territory.

The left often opens itself up to charges of hypocrisy from the right because of its defense of what has been called “hipster racism” and “hipster homophobia” and so on. The idea is that the person making the comment is obviously not a racist or a homophobe (he or she votes for Democrats and drives a Prius and, often stated in subtext, is not from the South). I was at a barbecue in Seattle a while back where a young woman protested a dog assaulting her by saying, “I’m not a dyke! I think your dog’s a dyke!” This woman met all the hipster credentials for essentially being able to say offensive things and claim she’s “just kidding.”

Maybe I’m just an old fuddy duddy now, but I do prefer more earnestness in my humor, and while
I obviously don’t want to #CancelColbert, I do think some self-reflection by the left is necessary.

In my Facebook feed, I have posts about how awful it is that gay kids can be bullied and the bullies protected because of “religious freedom,” yet if an avowedly liberal comedian were to say something similarly offensive about gays, that’s defended as satire. I suppose they are just supposed to be clever enough to understand the hurtful thing said about them is just making fun of the other people who say hurtful things about them.

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Posted by on March 28, 2014 in Pop Life


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All I have to say about Gwyneth Paltrow…

…is that she somehow made Huey Lewis suck, which shouldn’t be possible.

Also, I’ve always strongly advised against fathers and daughters singing duets of songs that were written as romantic ballads, but Cruisin’ takes it to another creepy level. No, you should not love driving to a secluded spot and making out with your father. Ever.

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Posted by on March 28, 2014 in Pop Life


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Goodbye, Columbus, Georgia…

Georgia will most likely pass an extreme gun bill that will most likely end my visits to the state.

As also noted last week, if a police officer spots someone carrying a weapon in a government building, a bar, a church, an airport or anywhere else in public, the officer will be forbidden by state law from stopping that person to see if they have a gun permit. The change renders the law almost impossible to enforce, and in effect gives everybody in the state — criminal or upstanding citizen, sane or insane — an open-carry permit.

— If someone claiming to have a permit for the gun in their possession is arrested, law enforcement will have no quick way to determine if it’s true. Under HB 60, the state is forbidden to compile a list of those who have valid permits to carry, and permit holders who don’t carry their permits with them are now subject to a whopping $10 fine.

— Convicted felons who are banned by law from possessing firearms can still use the Stand Your Ground defense if they use a firearm to kill someone.

I enjoyed my last few trips to Athens, and I was looking forward to seeing Savannah again. I will now only see Georgia if I’m driving through it, and I will avoid if at all possible contributing to its economy. These laws provide stimulating banter at a cocktail party on the Upper West Side, but for someone of my particular skin complexion, they usually result in un-prosecuted death.

Abandoning Florida, as I did last year, was no big loss to me, but I will miss Georgia. I just prefer civilization more. This slow creep of madness will probably eventually send me outside of the country’s borders, but it was never really mine in the first place.

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Posted by on March 25, 2014 in Social Commentary


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Legal Coordination…

A reliable TV shorthand for an incompetent lawyer is the inability to hold on to important papers without dropping them all over the floor. This is why all your best lawyers have superior hand-eye coordination and a history of athletic excellence.

The last picture is from an episode of Law and Order, in which ADA Ross drops her papers on purpose so that the defense attorney will assume she’s incompetent and not take her seriously. Thus, the poorly coordinated lawyer trope combines with the pool hustler trope for a great bit of legal maneuvering.





Posted by on March 13, 2014 in Pop Life


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Something Approximating Annie

The trailer for something they’re calling Annie starring Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz looks as lousy as it is terrible.

The race change for Daddy Warbucks (now named “Will Stacks” because there are only white people with the surname “Warbucks”) and Annie possibly requires the update to modern-day New York, but the depression-era setting was critical to the original stage production. If you change setting and character (and a race change is a character change — the experiences of a white orphan and a white millionaire from the 1933 is drastic enough from that of a black orphan and black millionaire from 2014 as to essentially make them different people), you’re no longer adapting the original story but rather producing something that is merely “inspired by.”

Aside from being far more faithful to the source material, the 1982 film featured Carol Burnett, Anne Reinking, Tim Curry, and Bernadette Peters, and the best you can give me 30 years later is Cameron Diaz and stale George Clooney and Facebook jokes? Really? It’s like no one told Diaz that she’s playing Miss Hannigan in an actual movie rather than a late-night TV show sketch.

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Posted by on March 11, 2014 in Pop Life


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Sbarro Falls…

Sbarro files for bankruptcy. I suppose 3D printing technology made it too easy to reproduce pizzas of similar quality in your own home.

The New York-based company, which is set to close 155 of its 400 locations nationwide, says “an unprecedented decline” in traffic at America’s malls is hurting its business. Emptying malls have also put the squeeze on Hot Dog on a Stick, which filed for bankruptcy just last month, and retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch, Wet Seal, and RadioShack.

According to real estate analytics firm Green Street Advisors, about 15 percent of U.S. malls will fail or be converted into non-retail space within the next 10 years. But for some, these companies are something other than victims of circumstance.

“Sbarro has been stuck with an outdated business model,” said Michael Whiteman, a restaurant consultant and president of Baum & Whiteman LLC in Brooklyn, New York. “Its biggest shortcoming is that it sells food that has been sitting out for a while.”

Wait? Hot Dog on a Stick is gone? And why is there such a thing as a Hot Dog on a Stick? Are we really that busy?

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Posted by on March 10, 2014 in Social Commentary


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Ukraine Shenanigans…

Fred Kaplan from Slate on the Ukraine situation.

A Romney administration’s response would have been to shout louder and get tougher (although corporate wheeler dealer versus former KGB agent seems a lopsided battle), which demonstrates to me how bad U.S. foreign policy has become in the past 20 years. It’s no longer whether we should get involved but how poorly we should bungle our involvement.

I also reject the notion that it’s perceived “weakness” that compels another country to defy U.S. interests. First off, Pee-Wee Herman could be president and he would still command the largest military in the world. It’s easy to speak loudly when you’re carrying other people’s sticks.

John Green helps you understand the Ukraine. In my younger and more vulnerable years, this is what I imagined 24-hour news networks would give us.

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Posted by on March 8, 2014 in Political Theatre


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Great piece in what was once The Oregonian about gentrification in Portland.

“We have both some bad history and limited history,” said State Rep. Lew Frederick, a Democrat who represents some of the Northeast Portland neighborhoods most changed or in the process of changing. “Most of the folks in Portland, the white folks, really do not interact with African Americans at all. When you start talking about this as a problem they go, ‘Where?’ because they don’t see it. They have no clue.”

Anna Griffin’s article is in response to recent statements Spike Lee made about gentrification in Brooklyn. One of the more irritating un-truisms New York publications like to repeat is that Portland is “Brooklyn without black people.” Of course, the Brooklyn that makes the pages of these New York publications is the “Brooklyn without black people.” It’s as “awash in hipsters” as Mississippi Avenue.

Gentrification’s effect on a city’s African-American population is often unspoken, but it’s interesting to note how they are an “In-Between Generation.” White Portland Boomers might have grown up in Northeast, but their Gen-X children were raised in the outer suburbs, and now those kids are returning to Alberta Street, after a fashion.

Prior to the attention Lee’s statements received, there was an interesting documentary on the subject called Gut Renovation.

By the way, I’m currently living in a gentrifying neighborhood in Seattle. As part of a biracial family, I never know if I’m part of what’s coming in or what’s going out.

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Posted by on March 7, 2014 in Social Commentary


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Not worth a Yugoslavian pfennig…

Not worth a Yugoslavian pfennig…

So, Lena Dunham is going to write an Archie comic.

Archie Comics have announced that Dunham will be writing a four-party Archie story to be published in 2015. Dunham story will follow Archie and the gang when they run into a new reality show filming in Riverdale.

“I was an avid Archie collector as a child — conventions, first editions that l kept in plastic sleeves, the whole shebang,” Dunham said in a press release. “It has so much cultural significance but also so much personal significance, and to get to play with these beloved characters is a wild creative opportunity.”

Dunham was born two years after I started reading Archie comics. My first was a copy of Archie Annual No. 45 for $1 that I bought from the Gulf Station down the street from my house. The crazy bearded Duck Dynasty-esque manager always looked like he’d blow my brains out if I breathed on a comic book without immediately paying for it.

I didn’t store that issue, which I still own, in a plastic sleeve at the time. Instead, I carried it with me everywhere I went and read the hell out of it, as comics were intended to be consumed before the dark times, before the speculator boom of the 1990s, and the Hollywoodification of comics that has almost destroyed the industry.

When I was 9, all I cared about were the stories in an Archie comic. If Molly Ringwald or some other popular figure of the time had written a story, I wouldn’t have noticed or cared. Years later, I learned the names Dan DeCarlo and Samm Schwartz but by then I’d already associated them with luscious depictions of Betty and Veronica and hilarious adventures with Jughead respectively.

I’ve no idea if Dunham is a four-color humor writer on par with George Gladir or Schwartz, but the following depresses the hell out of me:

Getting Dunham on board was the first official move of new Archie Comics Chief Creative Officer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who thinks she will be a “stunning fit” for the brand.

“When we found out Lena was a fan, the first thing I did was call Roberto,” Archie Comics Publisher and CEO Jon Goldwater said. “And he said, instantly, ‘Let’s try to make this happen!’ And here we are. It’s been a magical confluence of events, and it further cemented why Roberto is the ideal person for the CCO role, and why this is the next logical step in Archie’s evolution as a real pop culture company – a place where the strongest, most unique voices can come and contribute to Archie’s world. The best part is – we’re just getting started.”

No, I know how Jughead felt when he dug up that pot of gold and discovered just one Yugoslavian pfennig.


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Posted by on March 5, 2014 in Pop Life


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