Homo homini rodentius est

William Shatner is Rocket Man

“Oh no no no… I’m a Rocket Man!

Five minutes of excruciating cultural perfection. A brief appearance by Karen Black just adds to the exquisite horror.

The Year of the Rat

Chinese New Year Parade
New Year’s Parade down Mott Street in Chinatown, February 10 2008.

How could I not be on hand to celebrate the Year of the Rat? Saw lots of dragons but no rats of the decorative or (mercifully) authentic type. Besides me, that is. Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Frozen Grand Central

[Improv Everywhere], a performance art group who — in their words — cause “scenes of chaos and joy in public places” pull off a bit of genius: 207 people milling through Grand Central Station suddenly freeze in place for 5 minutes. Brilliant.

Heath Ledger

Heath Ledger 1979-2008

So sad. So awfully sad.

UPDATE 1/26: It’s been a few days since hearing the news about Ledger’s death. The day after he died a colleague and I went by his building to place a couple of flowers at the ad hoc memorial that fans had created. Looked up at the large dark windows of his apartment and commented on the strange irony that — if it’s true that his overdose was not accidental — someone who had touched so many and who was the target of such affection could feel so bereft and desperate. Seeing his body in that large wooden crate being loaded into a hearse for the trip back to Australia was jarring. I walked past him on 8th Avenue a few months ago. He was hard to miss — very tall and lanky, his gaze cast down toward the street as he walked with a woman. He didn’t see me recognize him but she did and her look at me suggested wariness that I’d interrupt them with some gushing fan tribute. I never would. The joy came in simply knowing that I could walk past him. We were both New Yorkers.

Heath Ledger fan memorial

Short Bites

Pleshette in The Birds

Alien + Predator + Cloverfield
A friend and I spent our day off doing a double-feature of Alien vs. Predator and Cloverfield. Fun. I’ve avoided the AVP franchise in the past because I loved the original Alien movies so much — I practically grew up with them and, by the early-nineties, facing the onslaught of AIDS, the [theme] of an alien invader and the heroic warrior who faced it down made the series almost sacred. The AVP movie is a decent B-movie thriller, happily repurposing the tried and true tropes of the earlier Alien and Predator films (warrior woman and little girl take on the now long-in-the-tooth monsters) and just goes to show that, in Hollywood, nothing is allowed to die until the last penny has been wrung from it. In the same derivative vein, Cloverfield is nowhere near original — Godzilla meets Blair Witch Project — but the execution is clever and the idea of an honest-to-gosh monster rampaging through the streets of Manhattan is kind of audacious in its simplicity. Some people are up in arms about the parallels to 9/11 — but it’s no different from Godzilla rising out of post-war Tokyo and probably serves the same purpose.

Pleshette in The Birds

Suzanne Pleshette (1937 – 2008)
Most people think of Suzanne Pleshette from her role in the 70’s Bob Newhart Show. I could never watch that show because, though I liked her and Newhart, the supporting cast made my skin crawl (Peter Bonerz… *shudder*). But I will always think of her as the only interesting character in The Birds. In a movie that was camp the second it hit the can, her portrayal of husky-voiced booze swilling Annie Hayworth provided an authenticity otherwise lacking in the film and made her co-star, the definitively inauthentic “Tippi” Hedren, look even more artificial than she was. Mo Rocca, channeling his inner girl, goes into more depth on this [here].

Monty Python organist

The Organist Entertains
For the life of me I don’t know why I don’t live in Britain. English culture seems still, after all this time, to be a culture not just tolerant of eccentricity but fully committed to it. A perfect example is the weekly BBC radio show [The Organist Entertains], where, according to the website, “Nigel Ogden presents a programme of popular organ recordings”. Not just organ recordings mind you… popular organ recordings. If you have a yen to hear the Wurlitzer put through its paces, this is the show for you. It has been broadcast without interruption for almost 40 years and — perhaps most eccentric of all — originally went on the air in 1969, amid the mod psychedelia of swinging 60’s London. God knows how I came across it, but I’ll sometimes put it on while I’m making dinner and it instantly dispels a bad day. It’s hilarious.

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