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Test Pattern: Five-link Friday

Great book site, TV pilots, the Brad Pitt twins.  By Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
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Five-link Friday

This update will have to hold you for a week, as I'm heading out on vacation, and I'll be back May 3.

• As an avid reader, I was thrilled to discover a site that offers multiple reviews and long excerpts from new books. They also offer a free newsletter.

• As shows like "Friends" and "Frasier" come to an end, it's time to look ahead to the 2004-2005 TV pilots. Here's a . Does "Joey" really deserve his own show? I'm sensing a "Joanie Loves Chachi"-type vibe here.

• General Douglas MacArthur now has . But he's not the only war hero so honored: Also getting an action figure is Petty Officer Francis J. Pierce, a hospital corpsman who received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Iwo Jima.. The description of Pierce's actions puts a lump in my throat: "Pierce was caught under heavy enemy fire as he transported wounded Marines from the battlefield. Without thought for his own life, Pierce twice stood in the open to draw the enemy's fire toward him, enabling the injured to be safely evacuated. Carrying one of the wounded on his back, he advanced unarmed through deadly fire across 200 feet of open terrain. The next day, Pierce led a combat patrol to the sniper's nest that had fired upon the medical team and, while he was administering aid to an injured Marine, he was seriously wounded. Ignoring his own injuries, he directed medical treatment to the wounded and maintained protective fire for the group."  Forget Ken -- I'm buying the Pierce action figure instead.

• Want advice from TV's Dr. Phil, but don't want to go on his goofy show? The will give you guidance straight from the horse's mouth.

• Have you seen the creepy MTV show Even if you haven't, you may have seen the ads featuring the Phoenix twins who supposedly wanted cosmetic surgery to look like actor Brad Pitt. This tells the story behind the show, and surprise, surprise, the twins didn't really have a huge desire to get all Pitt-ed out -- according to the article, most of that came from MTV.

• April 20, 2004 |

B.D.'s war injury

If you're a faithful reader of and don't want to know how its current plotline is going to unfold, stop reading here.

But if you've already seen a couple of the news stories floating around, you know what's about to happen. the football star who always wore a helmet, has fought in Vietnam, Desert Storm, and now in the Iraq War.

This week, he to injuries sustained while fighting.

Cartoonist Garry Trudeau says his character will deal with the loss “probably the same way so many wounded vets seem to — with gratitude for having had one’s life spared, empathy and respect for those who have suffered worse, and a grim sense of humor indispensable to fending off despair.”

In a weird coincidence, another comic strip featured the same plotline this week. In "Get Fuzzy," main character Rob Wilco learned that his cousin Will this week. But Will's not a main character, and "Get Fuzzy," though often hilarious, doesn't have the cachet of long-lived "Doonesbury" yet.

It's not that unusual for comic strips to deal with life and death issues. But these days, they often handle it more along the lines of , the dog in "For Better or For Worse," dying after saving young April's life. Also in "FBOFW," Grandma Marion died, and was mourned and is still missed by the Patterson family. Pets die, and grandparents also die, and both are breathtakingly sad, and Lynn Johnston handled these stories deftly.

This feels different. B.D. is a fairly young man, his injury war-caused, horrific, and irreversible. Trudeau has his work cut out for him. Longtime "Doonesbury" readers have known him for decades. As someone whose nephew only recently came home from Iraq, and who has another loved one still serving in Afghanistan, this cuts close to home for me.

But the comics are still called "the funny pages," and many still believe that serious issues should be handled in the rest of the paper, that this one page (sometimes half a page, the way the comics are being squeezed these days) should be a haven for humor (if you can call some of those groaners humor).

Some newspapers, including the one that comes to my door, chicken out and put "Doonesbury" not on the comics page, but on the editorial page, as if by virtue of its characters living in the real world, they can't be viewed as entertainment. I notice that "Get Fuzzy" resides on the comic strips, though, which kind of points up the ridiculousness of "Doonesbury's location. Will "Get Fuzzy" have to move now that it's tackled a war issue? Eventually, who will be left on the comics page? "Family Circus"?

Comics are a form of art, but their art rings most true when it touches reality. Their storylines will never reach us if they stay sanitized. There's a reason I rush to read strips like "Doonesbury," "For Better or For Worse," "Fox Trot" and "Boondocks" and skim over "Garfield." I love cats as much as the next guy, but I can only take so many lasagna and diet jokes.

The characters of those other strips feel real, like people next door, or across the street. Jon and Garfield feel like ... comic-strip characters. I think there's room for both.

Greatest movie characters

For the April issue, Premiere magazine's staff produced one of those list stories that everyone proclaims to hate, but that always spark discussion. is also on the Web, so even those of us who don't get Premiere can join the debate.

Some of the list-makers (, ) are tough to argue with.

Others are pleasantly surprising (, , ).

Some are just bizarre. (Maccaulay Culkin's Whoopi Goldberg's psychic )

And sometimes the order seems pretty random. ( ahead of ? Only in the alphabet.)

I was pleased to see two of my favorites, from "Fargo" and from "Chinatown" ranking fairly high.

But the fun part of any list story is reading the magazine's mail in the following months to watch readers berate the editors for leaving off their favorites. (For seven years, I worked at a magazine that made its living on list stories, so I know of what I speak.)

There are already 97 (short) pages of Web comments plus 6 pages of letters posted about the article on the Web. 95% of them begin with "You are crazy. How could you leave off..." and 75% of those go on to name a fairly obscure character (the wolf from "Dances with Wolves," Berger from "Hair") who would only have made The 100,000 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time list.

One of the funnier notes reads "Myself and everyone who knows me considers me a huge movie buff. However, I have never heard of Fred C. Dobbs or The Treasure of the Sierra Madre." No way is this person real. He or she has got to be a plant, right, like those people who make up fake problems and send them in to Dear Abby. I'm sure it's a fake. After all, nobody puts one over on Fred C. Dobbs!