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May 23-29, 1999

Michael Genrich, Homicidal Maniac? In which Genrich bemoans the cancellation of a certain TV series and has a startling realization:

Network programming and Presidential candidacies are frighteningly similar in the products they respectively produce. Somewhere in time, the nation lost its chance at electing a M*A*S*H, St. Elsewhere, or Soap. Thanks to a muckracking media and the insanity of campaign financing, all you can tune in when you flip on your Presidential boob tube is Al Gore, Dan Quayle and Jeb Bush: the Charlie's Angels of the next Chief Executive buffet table. Bland, inoffensive and vague are the motifs that survive on the campaign trail and the VHF frequencies these days, and the viewing electorate is powerless to change it.

Feed interview with Yaphet Kotto. If you've read other Kotto interviews or chat transcripts, you know what to expect. Some new stuff here, of course, about the cancellation of Homicide. And an anecdote re Robert Mitchum (with a mention of Dean Martin, too).

Saw Notting Hill. Liked it. If you like romantic comedies, you'll like it. If you don't like romantic comedies, you probably won't like this one either (though it's not as smarmy or cliche'd as many films of the genre are). Good performances (starring and supporting) and a fine script elevate this one above the usual stuff of this genre. It's no When Harry Met Sally . . . , but it's a cut above You've Got Mail et al. I saw it in an almost-full theater-- with folks from many different age groups in attendance and it got a lot of laughs and folks seemed to leave the theater with smiles on their faces. For whatever that's worth. (Actually, makes it a good summer movie, IMHO).

I'd give it 3 1/2 out of 5 stars or something like that. Not a movie I rush to recommend to most people or to see again, but one that I'd recommend to people I knew were seeking a light romantic comedy (or looking for a film they could see with their Mom and/or Grandma without too much worry). I should note that I can be a sucker for romantic comedies and also that I'm not a big fan of Julia Roberts or Hugh Grant (though I like them each in some things, I don't universally like them. In fact, I often think Julia Roberts looks like some sort of mutant).

Spotted on a Dairy Queen sign in Navarre, Minnesota:

Become a better Jedi
Eat more DQ

Wow! There's a Jedi in my Palm Pilot. Very cool (but then I have all sorts of wacky things installed on my PalmIII). [Thanks to Felix for sending me the URL via ICQ].

The whole sordid (?!) tale of the guys who stole The Phantom Menace out of a theater in Menomonie, Wisconsin. Too funny. Alas, it didn't turn out to be anyone I know who was responsible (yes, I'll stop teasing them now). [via obscure store]

Scott Rosenberg writes an excellent piece about weblogs and why links are important and why journalists shouldn't scoff at folks who provide good links.

On the Web, with its unspannable abundance of chaotic and ill-organized information, pointing people to good links is a fundamental service -- a combination of giving directions to strangers and sharing one's discoveries with friends. All of which explains why a phenomenon known as the weblog is one of the fastest-growing and most fertile creative areas on the Web today.

This really is at the heart of why I do this-- I love providing useful or entertaining pointers or recommendations to friends and strangers.

And here's another wonderfully spot-on description of what I think webloggers are doing:

More fleshed out than a simple link list but less introspective than an online diary, a good weblog is also a window onto the mind and daily life of its creator. By providing an up-to-the-minute and also fully archived record of what they've found in their browsing and what they think about it, weblog creators provide their readers with evolving snapshots of the Web, refracted through a single editorial mind.

Keep cool this holiday weekend by drinking some Yoda Soda. Thanks to Felix Strates for sending me the link, I'd heard of the Wookiee Cookies book around Christmas time, even looked for it halfheartedly at area bookstores. Seems like a must-have. But then I'm somehow drawn to cookbooks with media tie-ins (I just bought Mary Ann's Gilligan's Island cookbook for $2-- available at a clearance bin near you).

Does the world really need a Battlestar Gallactic movie? Be afraid, be very afraid.

(Don't get me wrong, I liked the series when it originally aired-- 'course I was a kid at the time. And I think it's kinda neat to see comics and toys based on the show. But . . . a movie? I don't think so . . . )

The world of entertainment "news" is filled with so many non-stories and things that are really not anywhere close to being newsflashes. Now here's a story that makes me say "duh" (or something):

Many people don't like Jar Jar Binks.

Hmmm. Terence Trent D'Arby performing with INXS.

Just received the June catalog from Dreamhaven Books via email. So much cool stuff to covet, so many books and comics I have that I've yet to read . . .

The deadline for pre-registrations for Convergence, a new Minneapolis science fiction convention (that started up when changes were made to Minicon) is May 31st. Con itself is July 2-4. I note this to remind myself that I should register if I'm going to attend (thinking about checking it out, won't stay at the hotel but will likely commute and swing by there for at least one day, maybe more. Assuming I don't go elsewhere to celebrate the holiday weekend). And 'cuz maybe some of you Minnesotans who read this log might want to check it out. Yes, you too could meet Harry Knowles (is this the first sf con to invite him as a guest? Somehow it seems likely, will be interesting to see Harry's reports from the con at ain't it cool).

Zoinks. Writing about July 4th made me realize that summer's truly here (or right around the corner) and with it my birthday, Winnipeg Folk Festival, all sorts of other stuff.

It was really creepy seeing the surveillance camera footage of this abduction on the 10pm news. Needless to say, I hope that the woman is okay, and that they catch the guy that grabbed her.

Huh, I know a lot of folks who visit "da lake" during the summertime, but this stat still impresses me:

Six of every 10 Minnesotans made an overnight trip to a lake in a 12-month period, a Minnesota Poll showed a few years ago, and most owned or rented a cottage or stayed with friends or relatives.

My family doesn't have a cabin up north, but we usually took at least one camping trip a year up to the north shore of Lake Superior.

The new Backfence column is fun, though it may cause nightmares about Wilford Brimley (and Chewbacca?). I'd quote from it, but I'm too depressed that I rarely remember my dreams. Then again, perhaps it's a blessing-- what if I am dreaming about Wilford Brimley? Then it's best I not know.

Many marathons on TV this coming Monday, check out my TV Picks for this coming holiday weekend for all the gory details. (If you hear of any cool TV this weekend that I missed, by all means email me). Not that I plan to watch much TV this weekend, but I feel obligated to babble about it anyway. Now if only I had Court TV . . .

I ordered the audiotapes of Richard Belzer's new book since it's unabridged (yay!) and read/performed by Belz himself. Cool.

I also finally broke down and ordered the audio version of David Simon's Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets (or, as Homicide: Life on the Street fans refer to it, "The Book"). It's read by Reed Diamond (who played Mike Kellerman on the TV series). Abridged, alas, but I've already read the paperback. Now I just need to go on a road trip . . . (I really only listen to audiobooks when I'm driving longish distances).

I wish the folks at Nokia would hurry up and post the details on their 8800 model (as featured in The Matrix).

I know I've linked to X-Review before, but I'm linking to it again because it's very cool. It's a site that contains links to reviews of X-Files episodes written by fans of the show. Many, many reviews. Plus other assorted essays and stuff. Some reviewers are better than others, of course. My all-time favorite reviewers are probably Autumn Tysko, Sarah Stegall, and Paula Graves. And I love Amanda Finch's commentary, too.

Autumn Tysko on the X-Files season finale ("Biogenesis"):

"Matter and gas."

As with all the cliffhangers (especially those over the summer) the audience is left to wonder what really mattered and what was merely 1013 gas. As opposed to most of the mythology episodes served up by the X-Files lately, "Biogenesis" was actually a fairly clean script with a minimum of foolishness, but when it was foolish it went for it with a gusto.

Tired of hearing people argue about "Wear sunscreen" or listening to folks who think it was penned by Vonnegut or Baz Luhrman? I know for most of us it's old news as to who the real author is, but it all's come up again with Luhrman's single. Just point them to The Schmich-Vonnegut Connection. Mary Schmich:

Imagine my surprise. I recall composing that little speech one Friday afternoon while high on coffee and M&M's.

A good piece from the Washington Post on post-Columbine hysteria [via obscure store]:

A 14-year-old girl was strip-searched and suspended for two weeks from her school near Harrisburg, Pa., because during a classroom discussion about the Colorado shootings she said she could understand how unpopular students could be pushed so far that they would lash out violently.

Truly frightening stuff. Don't they realize all this craziness will only make matters worse?

Jon Carroll on flirting:

Flirting is popularly supposed to consist of eyelash- batting, sentences ripe with double meaning and hands brushed discreetly across forearms. A true flirt requires nothing so obvious; the genius of flirting is that it's exactly like normal behavior, except that it isn't.

What a flirt does is sexual, although it is in no sense an invitation. It is a sort of art form using human emotions.

EW's Bruce Fetts on why NBC cancelled Newsradio and Homicide (answer: Greed!). And, of course, I agree with this:

I'll miss these series not just as a fan but also as a critic. It's rare that you find shows rich enough to write about numerous times, but "Homicide" and "NewsRadio" were constantly-evolving entities. Even if you weren't wild about their latest incarnations, you held out hope they would reinvent themselves into something better. Which is more than can be said about two other shows NBC is bringing back for next season: "Jesse" and "Veronica's Closet."

Got the new issue of Smart TV in the mail the other day. Once again, I'm disappointed. It's a great source for finding URLs for cool stuff, and they do manage to mention a lot of spiff new technology. But I keep hoping that they'll do reviews that are a bit more in-depth-- compare and contrast the various new products rather than simply telling us what they are and where to find them (you can get that from press releases, webpages, ads). They do take a stab at one comparision this issue, of digital TVs, but I'm left wanting more.

The feature on home networking had the most URLs that I felt compelled to check out (still checking, actually):
Peracom HomeConnex
Philips Ambi
MicroCast from Panasonic
HAL2000 from Home Automated Living
HomeFree from Diamond Multimedia
Terk Home Network

I swore I wasn't going to collect the many toys that are available at KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut. It's overkill. Each of the restaurants has a separate run of toys and cup toppers. A person could go broke (plus there really aren't many sit-down Pizza Huts around here anymore). But I'll admit that the KFC Queen Amidala cup-topper is really cool (as is the KFC Queen toy that comes with a kid's meal). And I'm thinking I should get a Darth Maul cup-topper from Taco Bell . . . (oh no! I've been sucked into the evile merchandising vortex!).

Backfence: Chewbacca is a Real Dreamboat for One Reader:

You've had a crush on Chewbacca? See, this is every guy's nightmare: We dress nicely, speak nicely and shave, and women go nuts over some big, hairy jerk who grunts and yowls. Fine, go with him, spend your Saturday nights combing his back. Perhaps it's an understandable crush for a 12-year-old; he was, more or less, a golden retriever who could drive.

Lileks on the KFC/Taco Bell/Pizza Hut Star Wars ads:

I'm alarmed by this ad, for a few reasons. One: I was under the impression that the colonel had passed away. Kicked the take-home bucket, as they say. Bought the slaw. Finger lickin' dead. (No, that one doesn't work.) To find him reanimated and none the worse for wear -- well, it makes you wonder what's in those 11 herbs and spices.

Perhaps they realized that if you rubbed the corporate father in the 11 herbs and spices, he could be brought back to life whenever needed. After the cameras stop rolling, they lead the colonel back to his hyperbaric tank, which is specially insulated so the attendants don't hear his muffled cries. Y'all release me! Ah'm dead already and I ain't gettin' paid for this!

Or, it's an actor playing the colonel. Yeah, right.

So we have a lascivious Chihuahua, a dead man and an underdressed young woman, joining forces to sell drink cups emblazed with the image of a Yoda puppet. Other than that, the world makes perfect sense.

Jon Carroll on cats, gardens, and the sense of smell:

Cats are not interested in odors we would find appealing. Flowers hold no special attraction. The cats are not having an aesthetic experience; they are engaged in practical research. They are not admiring any of the odors, either; the only thing a cat finds admirable is itself.

Wow! An interesting USA Today piece (I know, seems an oxymoron) on violence on TV, Littleton fallout, and Homicide:

It is a troubling sign of the times.

One day after another major high school shooting helped spark Senate passage of a measure that seeks to reduce handgun violence in this nation, NBC aired the last episode of Homicide: Life on the Street, a television crime drama that tried mightily to limit the on-screen portrayal of gunplay.

The show died for lack of an audience.

Lisa Schmeiser of on the death of Homicide (and NBC):

. . . it was the end of the series, and the end of an era in television. At its best, Homicide was television that could leave you staring at the screen in silent thought long after the ending credits rolled. Characters you only saw once -- as the perpetrators of a murder or the people indelibly affected by it -- burned on to your consciousness and stayed there longer than they deserved. The brutally mundane world of investigative police work -- systematically sifting through information, trying to decide which lies are worth pursuing, summing up a human execution in ten pages of paperwork -- became an accessible doorway for elegant meditations on the nature of humanity.

Too true:

The Adena Watson case was never resolved. We never do find out how to live with the unsolved murder of a child, but we learn how Bayliss has come to live around it. And in the end, we understood how the detectives lived around their jobs, picking apart the darker corners of the human psyche while trying not to get eaten by whatever lurked there. They did it through drinking, through dying, through sardonic humor and intense metaphorical discussion.

There has been no other show that has grappled with the conflicting human needs for privacy and exposition like this one. There has been no other show that could mixed the existential with the accessible so well. Homicide was the rare gem that managed to simulate the world around us while offering an insight into it, and the picture it showed wasn't always easy to watch. That doesn't matter. Now that Homicide has gone, its dark and pungent brew has left the television viewer's palette a little poorer.

I really really like Rebecca's Pocket. The design reminds me of a design I tried for my site once upon a time, seeing her fab page makes me want to try it again. Great content. According to an idea posted on her page, my Jedi name would be Lau-Astro of Zoloft. Ha! Doesn't seem quite right . . .

I like the weblog quite a bit, but then I'm a bookaholic. And occasionally I think I should've been a librarian.

I maintain a weblog, therefore I'm required by law to link to Jon Katz' take on weblogs. And here's the piece @ slashdot. It's a good piece. This log isn't mentioned, but that's probably for the best. I suspect Katz and anyone later coming here from /. would've found my all-Homicide all the time weblogs-- which have a limited audience (I admit it, I do).

Already? [via haddock].

TV Cream is a website that focuses on old TV shows, mostly from a British perspective, but plenty of American shows are covered, too. Snippets of theme songs, people trying to remember obscure old shows, that kindof thing. Layout bugs me a bit, but there's some good material there. [via haddock]

Bruce Schneier's Crypto-Gram is kindof a monthly newsletter with elements of a weblog. Check out the web version of the May 15th Crypto-Gram.

Here are the tour dates for Neal Stephenson's latest book tour. Bruce Schneier is planning to be at the midwest tour stops, too (see how tehse two items tie together . . . ).

I know he's my favorite 'bot, it's the Tom Servo Fan Club [via memepool].

Cool! An online gallery of Dave McKean's gorgeous art [via].

I read this tidbit somewhere, but I won't bother linking to any news article since I can sum it up in a simple sentence my own self: The A-Team is moving to TV Land. In case anyone out there cares (I've not seen the series since it aired originally, I used to quite like the show. I wonder if seeing it on TV Land will be akin to my horror when I first glimpsed The Dukes of Hazzard on TNN Nah, can't be that bad . . . at least I hope not. The A-Team's a better show, for one thing . . .

Speaking of Dirk Benedict ('cuz how can you have The A-Team without Face?), peterme mentioned that Dirk's now a Kamikaze Cowboy. Beats the heck out of me, too.

I'm pouting 'cuz I won't be going to Wiscon this year, it's a fabulous con. And it would've been fun to meet Whump, see some friends, etc. Next year for sure (really I mean it this time!).

Carrie Fisher looks back at Star Wars [via YAWL]. Her daughter Billie loves the original:

The old "Star Wars" is more Billie's speed. She's still fond of the vintage soap that says on the back, Lather up with Leia and you'll feel like a princess yourself! She still likes the old shampoo bottle, too—the one where you can unscrew my head and pour soap out of my neck. And she still takes a Princess Leia homework folder to school, which breaks my heart. The folder got so ratty that I had to call George and ask him to go to his big Lucasfilm warehouse and get me a newer vintage homework folder.

More to remind me that I love Carrie Fisher's way with words:

Whoa: the new footage reminds you how old the old "Star Wars" is. It's from long ago, a show business far, far away. Like Old Spice, it takes you back—it smells of lightspeed and wet Ewoks. It reminds me, for one thing, that I had a crush on Mr. Ford before it became a trend. When we shot the first movie, I was 19 and he was 34. I kept a journal chronicling my crush, as well as crushes past. Just a taste: "I've got to stop getting obsessed with human beings and fall in love with a chair. Chairs have everything human beings have to offer, and less, which is obviously what I need. Less emotional and intellectual feedback, less warmth, less approval, less patience and less response. The less the merrier. Chairs it is. I must furnish my heart with feelings for furniture."

Roger Ebert on Star Wars: The Phantom Menace:

At the risk of offending devotees of the Force, I will say that the stories of the "Star Wars" movies have always been space operas, and that the importance of the movies comes from their energy, their sense of fun, their colorful inventions and their state-of-the-art special effects. I do not attend with the hope of gaining insights into human behavior. Unlike many movies, these are made to be looked at more than listened to, and George Lucas and his collaborators have filled "The Phantom Menace" with wonderful visuals.

Yup. I loved the film, but I know it's just fun space opera stuff. If I want deeper space opera stuff, I'll read books by Lois McMaster Bujold. I go to Star Wars to see Cool Stuff. And of course I read tons more into these movies than is there, that's what all the fans do with the books, comics, fanfic, toys, etc. It's amazing when you just watch the original trilogy to note how much stuff isn't there, but has been elaborated on and imagined outside the movies.

salon piece on Star Wars Widows:

While the female fan base continues to grow, "Star Wars" is still pretty much a guy thing. So why does "Star Wars" continue to have such a strong hold over males into their adulthood? There are as many theories as there are interpretations of the films.

Huh. So is Star Wars still seen as a "guy thing"? I do remember some particularly closed minded guys I met in college being astounded that I was a girl who loved Star Wars, Star Trek, computers, the internet, some sports, etc. I'd think those days are long past and that those so amazed by this factoid are living in fairly closed off communities . . .

As I read this piece I kept thinking that I wouldn't have the slightest problem with any boyfriend of mine spending money on Star Wars toys, traveling to Skywalker Ranch or Tunisia, going to Toys R Us at midnight, etc. I'd probably think it cool. So long as he wasn't blowing all his money on Star Wars stuff (rather than paying bills, etc). 'Course I've been known to live on ramen noodles so I could afford particularly cool geek.gear or trips to sf conventions.

I guess I know more guys than gals who are really into Star Wars, but I think that's just 'cuz I know more guys, period. Or maybe I have more guy friends than female friends because we share more interests? Nah. Which came first the chicken or the egg? Heh. Doesn't much matter. I don't buy these stereotypes. Though I find such perceptions intriguing.

Starlog has a website.

Tom Heald does haiku descriptions of this Fall's new TV shows.

Ally McBeal, The Practice, and Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist are among the this year's Peabody Award winners. Episodes of NYPD Blue and The Larry Sanders Show also won.

Yay! Deep Space Nine is featured in a cover story in this week's TV Guide.

Are there any sites out there where folks are comparing notes on the Star Wars game pieces from Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut? Anyone know? Or if you're collecting pieces and want to compare notes, I'd be happy to.

I've now seen Star Wars: The Phantom Menace three times, at three different theaters. Yeah, I know I'm a geek. Did you know that E.T. (well, at least 3 or so creatures that look a lot like him) is in it (watch closely in the senate scenes)? I also spotted Gonk (well, a couple of Gonks) on Tattooine. Warwick Davis' cameo is hard to miss. I keep forgetting to look for some other cameos I've heard about.

And yeah, it holds up on repeat viewings, though I find myself eager for the film to get to my favorite parts (the final sequences in particular, also any lightsaber fights).

Tim Goodman on the end of Homicide:

What really made "Homicide" different was that it talked a lot, it stirred your mind and, ultimately, it had no interest in standard TV restraints. Scenes ended when they felt right - or true. Cases went unsolved. Episodes ended without that familiar all's-well climax so common on television.

"Homicide" was a gray show in a black and white world.

The folks of NPR's Weekend Edition are fans of Homicide: Life on the Street. They aired an excellent essay in tribute on Sunday's show. If you've got RealAudio, you can listen to it (piece is 3 minutes long).

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