At last, the final Five-link Friday entry that actually will appear on Friday — at least for a while. Due to a change in my work schedule, I'm moving the five-link day to Monday for a while. Multi-link Monday (thanks to the numerous folks who suggested that name) likely will launch March 13. For now, more random Friday linkage. A little listy today, for whatever reason.
• My best friend just got engaged, and I emailed her the other day that I . Although a) it’s $95, and b) I’m kind of grossed out that they also offer it with Luke marrying Leia. They’re BROTHER AND SISTER! (Uh, did that need a spoiler warning?) Sure, that cake topper would be great for a V.C. Andrews wedding, I guess. Other toppers offered on the same site include dancing and French-kissing , an unusual couple, , , and more. Yeah, I want beer-drinking pigs on the most expensive cake I've ever purchased.
• We all scream for ice cream: Ben & Jerry's has some of the goofiest flavor names and concepts out there, though they'll be hard-pressed to ever get me to give up on my favorite, their New York Super Fudge Chunk. Here are their . Most interesting to me: Black & Tan, named for the drink; Vermonty Python, with chocolate cows; and Neapolitan Dynamite, which combines Chocolate Fudge Brownie and Jerry Garcia. (Thanks to Jon for the link!)
• We've discussed TiVo before, but here's a . Pretty similar to the Nielsen ratings top shows. A friend was surprised that "Lost" wasn't the number-one TiVoed show, considering how it's jam-packed with weird little surprises that encourage rewinding and slo-mo viewing.
• The , from the online Merriam-Webster dictionary. They include "tsunami" and "levee," as well as some other news-pertinent terms.
• Reader-submitted link: is a fun quiz testing how much you know about eating etiquette in other lands. Submitter Tanya says "I only got 7 out of 11, but my husband, the world-traveler got them all right!"
Hey you guuuuuuys!
When I was growing up, my TV life revolved around three PBS shows: "Sesame Street," "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood," and "The Electric Company." Parents felt good about the shows, because they were educational, and kids loved them because they were lively and fun.
These days, if I wanted to, I could still turn on the TV at the right time and catch an episode of "Mr. Rogers," even though Fred Rogers has died, or "Sesame Street," even though many of the Muppets are new since my era (who's this Elmo character, anyway?). But the only place "Electric Company" existed was in the memories of former 1970s kids.
Until now. As of just a few weeks ago, has been released on a four-disc set, which you can bet your Silent E that I purchased. I was a little wary about popping a disc in, wondering if the charm of the show would have faded over the decades. I needn't have worried. "Electric Company" was ahead of its time when it debuted in 1971, and it's managed to maintain its charm and sass and smartness even while the world has changed from dial phones to push-button to cell phones.
Bill Cosby and Rita Moreno were already famous when they did "EC" (Moreno did the famous "Hey you guuuuuuuys!" scream), but they weren't the only famous names. Morgan Freeman played Easy Reader with a level of cool that would make polar bears comfortable. A very young Irene Cara was one of the kid singers in the Short Circus group (I wanted to grow up and be the Short Circus' Julie, who had wonderfully long straight hair). Satirist wrote 10 of the show's songs, including "Silent E." ("He turned a dam — alikazam! — into a dame. But my friend Sam stayed just the same.")
Watching "Electric Company" today, I marvel at how much the show expected of its young audience, and how much we kids stayed right with them. This was no "Sesame," teaching kids simply to count and recite the alphabet. We were learning about silent letters, rhyming, suffixes, how the same letter could sound completely different in different words. And it was all wrapped in catchy tunes, inspired animation, and goofy gags that were smartly written.
Watching the DVDs as an adult, I marvel at how much sailed over my head. I never knew that "Julia Grown-up" was a parody of Julia Child. Although I lived one state away, in Minnesota, I never clued in to the double meaning of "Fargo North, Decoder." I certainly never understood the parodies of "2001's" monolith. But I reveled in Letterman, the word-changing superhero in his varsity sweater; in Jennifer of the Jungle (and her gorilla pal, Paul); in the weirdly silent Spiderman; the wonderful "A Very Short Book."
So many of the skits remain in my consciousness — "It's the plumber, I've come to fix the sink!" and "by golly, this lollipop is following me" being just two of them. I shouldn't be surprised it stuck with me: I met the woman who is my best friend today in high school, when she and I bonded over our mutual "Electric Company" memories.
In the booklet that comes with the DVDs, former Children's Television Workshop president Joan Ganz Cooney recalls that "Sesame Street" was based on "Laugh-In," with "quick takes and blackouts." "Electric Company," she writes, was inspired more by "The Carol Burnett Show," with more complex, longer sketches that told more of a story. "It was an insider show in a funny sort of way," she writes. "Children felt that they were in on something."
That's as good as explanation as any as to why this 1970s child remembers "EC" so fondly, and why the DVDs are such a treat. The theme song bragged "We're gonna turn it on," and that's just what they did.
I've never been an Oscar fan, and it took me years to realize why. Because for me, it's all about the movies. Oscar night pretends to be about the movies, but really, if we're truthful about it, it's about the stars. They get glammed up, pose on the red carpet, stutter through boring speeches, and head off to big parties clutching gold statues and embarrassingly elaborate .
It's pure candy if you're into that thing, but for me, it's pretty boring to see a bunch of rich, pretty people patting themselves on the backs. For me, it was never about the stars, it was about the movies. And for me, the best part of Oscar season is not the awards themselves, but the fact that it shines a spotlight on the movies, including past winners that I may have heard about, but never seen. And with services like , it takes only seconds from hearing about a great movie for me to add it to my to-be-mailed queue.
Turner Classic Movies celebrates the Oscar season the right way, by putting on their annual , showcasing only films that were Oscar nominees or winners. They're already two-thirds of the way though the event, but there are still plenty of films remaining to be shown.
"Walk the Line" may be the hot singer-with-a-poor-childhood movie of the moment, but played a similar tune in 1980. (I still remember how shocking it was to me that Loretta Lynn wed at 13.)
"Brokeback Mountain" is getting all kinds of attention for its unusual romance between two cowboys, but in 1970, love meant never having to say you're sorry, in
Philip Seymour Hoffman could come home with a Best Actor Oscar for playing the title role in "Capote," but in 1957, Kirk Douglas stole the show with a very different artist portrayal. Douglas played tortured painter Vincent Van Gogh in losing the Oscar to Yul Brynner in "The King and I."
One note: I find the TCM Web site rather confusing, but a very simple version of their monthly schedule . A , and you can click on various dates for more information about the films.