Five-link Friday is still on for Fridays now, but a switch to Monday is still likely in the near future. I'll let you know.
• Ask Metafilter wrestles with one of the world's major cartoon conundrums: If they're both dogs, why can Goofy talk (kind of) and walk upright, while Pluto is more petlike? A great question to ponder for those who like logic in their animation, and who also have endless time on their hands. My favorite theory is one quoted by a Metafilter member "A bunch of us at Caltech figured this out long ago. They are in fact brothers. Goofy sold Pluto into slavery in exchange for the power of human speech. (And evidently he was robbed too, given the unsatisfactory results.)"
• Remember SPY Magazine's wonderful Separated at Birth column? CityRag.com offers a worthy successor, if just for the amazing resemblance between .
• I didn't see "Sleepless in Seattle" until I'd lived in Seattle for a few years. Here's one of those great twisted movie trailers that are all the rage now, . Ironically, I found the actual film equally horrifying. (Thanks to Paige for the link!)
• . If this were a textbook, it would outsell every other one in existence.
• I'm fascinated with regional variations in familiar food and drink. So of course I love this reader-submitted link, which shows just how many other beverage companies offer . (Note that there's no period after the "Dr" — according to , that was dropped in the 1950s — no real reason given). Of the knock-offs, my favorites include Dr. Becker, Dr. Cheaper, and Dr. Gulpster. Wouldn't you like to be a Doctor, too?
Rolling up the quarter talk
West Virginia, let's be friends, OK? I actually think your is pretty nice. The bridge is elegant, and I appreciate the fact that your state bird isn't sitting on the bridge, or your state flower twining around it.
Here's a wrap-up of some final comments on state quarter designs (). A friend suggests moving the topic on to critiquing the different state license plates, but I'm not ready for that yet. Or maybe ever.
BUT DO THEY LIKE CORN?“As a Wisconsin resident who lives near Milwaukee, I have to say that our quarter just serves to further promote our image of “Cheeseheads.” I promise there are people in Wisconsin who do not farm. There are actually people who don’t even like cheese.” --Anonymous
FINDING THE KEY“Pennsylvania’s is awful. Faceless, half-naked woman sort-of pointing to the mysterious “Keystone” that is covering Altoona. I’m from Pittsburgh and I still have no idea what a keystone is other than the most boring shape in the world.” --Jason
GIDDYUP“I have to agree with the Delaware assessment. When I first saw it, I kept thinking, oh Paul Revere’s ride...Delaware? It is sad when your middle schooler has to explain the significance. I am not sure what should be on the back, Dupont chemical insignia?” --Holly
DIAMOND GIRL“I love Arkansas’s coin. It is simple and easy to see the objects. No hanging astronauts, just nature.” --Ann
WHAT A BOMB“Maryland had a great design featuring Fort McHenry, with an explosion over the fort (the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air) as one of four finalists. But our governor at the time chose our lame-o quarter. It’s better than Arkansas in that it’s not as busy, but could it be any duller?” --Dave
STILL NOT AN ISLAND, THOUGHRhode Island’s state coin is the classiest. A simple, beautiful sailboat riding the waves of the Atlantic. After all, we are the ocean state.” --Elizabeth
STATE DEBATE“The best quarter is truly Rhode Island. I could be saying that because I am from there but, the sailboat in the bay makes me think of crisp clear summer days in Newport. It is a very beautiful place and I am glad they went with that instead of featuring the Rhode Island Red. It would be a little embarrassing to have a big chicken on the back of our quarter. It also gives me a little ammunition against my husband when we get into our which is better: Rhode Island or Connecticut debate. (Of course the answer is Rhode Island) Connecticut’s quarter has a nutmeg tree, that is the best they could come up with?” --Ann
Drawn and quartered: State quarter discussion
I'm having a great time reading through your comments on the pros and cons of the . At least one of you asked where you could read explanations of what's on the various coins. Follow the main link to the , then click on the state you want. You'll get a nice image of the coin and an explanation of its design.
Two West Virginians took me to task for praising the quarter from my original home state, , pointing out that not many people outside of Minnesota would recognize the bird depicted as a loon, the state bird. Valid point, but I don't care if people think it's a duck, I just like how the loon is worked into the picture as a whole (as opposed to ).
The loon argument is one thing, but both respondents replied by defending West Virginia's choice of the , offended that I suggested those outside West Virginia would be unfamiliar with it. Wrote one West Virginian: "Our quarter shows the New River Gorge Bridge. The largest steel span bridge in the world and the second highest bridge in the US. An engineering masterpiece. Yet, according to you, only fellow West Virginians would know this fact."
An inspiring sight, surely. And I don't mean any insult to West Virginia or its citizens. Maybe I'm just geographically challenged when it comes to bridges. But let's and while we're at it, vote for your favorite and least-favorite quarter. Note that I only listed three choices for both "best" and "worst," primarily because I was too lazy to type in dozens of state names. There's an "other" category for both, though.
Here are some more of your comments.
LAKE EFFECT“Michigan’s is the most boring of all—and why ALL of the Great Lakes? Is Michigan taking responsibility for each and every one?” --Betty
OUCH“Helen Keller looks like she’s sitting in an electric chair on Alabama’s quarter.” --Judy
“I am not fond of the quarters for Indiana and Ohio. While I understand that Indiana’s big claim to fame is the Indy 500, do you really want to put a race car on your state quarter? And Ohio should have been a bit more careful with the outline of the state. At a glance, it looks like the astronaut is being hanged. Not the image I would want to commemorate.” --Sarah
JUST PEACHY“The Georgia peach looks more like someone’s backside. Georgia is an incredible state; couldn’t the designer have found better inspiration somewhere?” --Anonymous
BLOOMING BEAUTY“Mississippi is by far the best - as a Georgia Peach myself, I am completely jealous of the beautiful magnolia blossoms. I received one at a drive through last week and struggled to part with it at a toll booth.” --Anne
MUSIC, MUSIC, MUSIC“Talk about cramming everything you can onto a coin. Have you seen Tennessee’s coin? That’s the state I live in and they went with the musical theme, I believe. Three stars, three regions of TN and three styles of music. Kind of a neat idea - and the man who designed the quarter graduated from my alma mater.” --Tracie
GO, WEST“I dislike my home state of Florida’s quarter. A space shuttle flying over a Spanish galleon? Also I don’t like Arkansas, with the big scary diamond hovering over everything. Oregon’s is pretty and Nevada and Colorado look like they are going to be nice as well. Looks like the western states are doing a better job.” --Angie
MULTI-TASKING MONEY“Granted, Wisconsin’s coin looks like the committee couldn’t make up its mind, but they aren’t crashing into one another. South Carolina and Louisiana, unfortunately, look like a pileup at rush hour. Multi-tasking is great in the kitchen, but not on a coin. Yeesh.” --Karen
STATE PRIDE“I love the Texas quarter. I think it’s got a simple beauty about it. I know several people who have had it made into pendant jewelry. Yes, I’m from Texas. Why do you ask?” --Tricia
HOOP DREAMS“I’m rather partial to the Indiana Quarter, not that I’m biased or anything, being born and raised there. But at least it’s an honest representation: Hoosiers are race fans. At least they didn’t try to shove a basketball on there, too. I’m sure they tried, right where the circle of stars is placed. I imagine some wise person brought up the notion of overkill, and they trashed that idea.” --Rae
GETTING IN SHAPE“When looking at the various designs for the state quarters, I’m struck with the unoriginality of many states. “What should we put on our quarter?” “How about a picture of our state?” “Yeah, that sounds good!” Seriously folks, there has to be something more unique and historical about your state than its shape. What’s with North Dakota and Kansas both having a buffalo design? I am amused by the designs of ND, NE, CO, OR, and KS... all look like scenes out of the Oregon Trail game. Why does Massachusetts, a state so rich in history and icons, have such a boring design? They would have been much better off going with an image depicting the Salem Witch Trials and the subsequent executions.” --Heather
MYSTERY HISTORY“I don’t think that the statue on the top of the state capitol in Harrisburg would even make the top-100 list of “Things considered emblematic of Pennsylvania” if you did a poll of the PA citizenry. Okay, so the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall are already depicted on the obverse of other coins. But what about Gettysburg? or Valley Forge? or Washington Crossing the Delaware? (OOPS - we already got another state to depict THAT Pennsylvania scene on the back of THEIR quarter).” --Bob
DUKE IT OUT“You forgot to mention Ohio among the list of “you’d have to live there to understand” quarters. Most people who are not Buckeyes see the design and wonder why an airplane made the cut. It’s as if Ohio is trying to pick a fight with N. Carolina over which state gets to claim the Wright brothers - and it’s been going on for years! I say put Taft and Easley in a ring to let them duke it out once and for all. Now that would be reality TV worth watching.” --Angie
WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE MAGICIANS?“These new state quarters are hell on magicians. From a professional stand point, I will leave it at that. From a personal one, I say they are 50 studies in vanity and ‘ego’ stroking.....no, I don’t like them.” --Omega
FLYING HIGH“I kind of like the eagle. Whoops, that’s the old design. Oh well, superior to the state “art” in my mind.” --Bill
Rating the state quarters
I've never been a coin collector, but I admit to a special love for the commemorative state quarters that have been rolling out for several years now. Our change is fairly dull, so anything that livens it up is appreciated, and makes for a nice handful of variety.
My home state, , has an elegant offering, if I do say so myself. (Although I like to ignore perspective and imagine that the loon in the foreground is actually a giant mutant about to swamp the tiny boat behind him.) I'm also a fan of . And I have to say that has one of the more striking state quarters, with the giant lone star and a cowboy's lariat encircling the coin.
But some quarters look as if they were designed by committee, and like each committee member was being paid off to try and cram a different state symbol onto the coin. this means you. Also . You too, .
Some quarters are almost too predictable. Illinois, Land of ... ? What do you think South Dakota will have on its coin, due out this year? . What are the odds Georgia involved a peach in some way? . And the state I live in now, Washington, may as well rename itself Salmonton — feature the popular fish. (The , done in traditional Native American style, which kind of makes it look like a video-game token.)
Others go the other way — if you're not from the state, you're not going to know what the heck is going on on its quarter. , , , — you're all guilty, to various degrees.
I know there are more vital questions to be fought over in this world, but I'd like to hear your comments on the state quarters so far. Which is your favorite? Your least favorite? Which one's the weirdest? And what do you think of your state's offering. Be honest, now -- the U.S. Mint isn't listening.
I'll share your currency comments in an upcoming column.
Five-link Friday: Movie deaths and Elvis cakes
Does Five-link Monday have the same ring to it as Five-link Friday? Scheduling conflicts may mean I'm going to have to move the weekly linkfest to Mondays. We'll see how things pan out. In the meantime, here's this week's random linkage.
• Slightly morbid, but also fascinating for movie fans: lets you rank famous film deaths. is one of my all-time favorites, if a death can be a favorite. , the wonderful "tears in the rain" part of the speech Batty gives was improvised by actor Rutger Hauer. (Via
• This is kind of fascinating. Have a song in your head but don't know what it is? The easy way to find it is to Google the lyrics, but if you only know the rhythm, not the lyrics, you can tap it out using your spacebar and will try to tell you what song it is. I tried an easy one: "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and indeed, that was the top result SongTapper gave me -- although it also offered other possibilities, including "Sk8tr Boi,' "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel," and "Jesus Loves Me." The concept may need some refining, but it's kinda cool.
• "Food Network Challenge" recently tested the skills of five cake decorators to make birthday cakes for Elvis Presley, who would have been 71 on Jan. 8. The resulting cakes were amazing constructions, and you can . They're all amazing, but I think the last one, of Elvis in full-on Vegas white jumpsuit, is my favorite. Thank you, thankyouverrahmuch.
• Parade Magazine lists the . A sobering read.
• Reader-submitted link: I love this: . Drag the shapes and lines into the blue circle on the left and see the results in the circle on the right. Thanks to Ginger for the great link!
Shows you’d save
I had my say, and now you get yours. With the WB and UPN becoming one network, the CW, I chose . Here's some of your feedback on shows you hope make the move to the new network. Thanks for sending in your thoughts, and I'm sorry I could only use a sampling.
“The only show I’m bothered about saving is Veronica Mars, I’ve watched most of the well known shows on both channels in passing, but Veronica Mars is the only one which I hooked me, that I HAVE to watch each week. It’s the smartest show on television: enough mystery to keep the viewer coming back week after week, but answers to the mini-cases and clues to the big mysteries so the viewer feels some satisfaction for their curiosity. You actually you are getting somewhere episode to episode!” --Ruth
“My favorite shows on UPN are One on One, Girlfriends, Half and Half, All of Us, Eve, and South Beach. Regardless if these shows receive a lot of ratings or not, these are shows my family and I enjoy. Not to mention there are presently very few, if any, predominately Black shows on television.” --Kim
“I would save “One Tree Hill”. These characters are not just names with faces; they are real people whom we have gotten to know in depth. The dual plots, the kids’ lives and the parents’ lives, is something rare we cannot let go. “One Tree Hill” also has the best music on television, having made artists like Gavin Degraw.” --Tara
“Like you, I would save Supernatural. Ackles and Padalecki are gems as the brothers. You can’t buy and package that kind of endearing chemistry. An onscreen pairing has it or it doesn’t. Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles have it in spades....spades that dig up graves, so they can salt and burn the bones of delightfully creepy spooks.” --Dorian
“I am one of the “Gilmore” addicts, as well, so I would obviously save it. I have been watching it from the beginning and finally got my brother and best friend hooked as well. Well- written, well-acted, “quality” television that also manages to be entertaining and fun every week. If for no other reason, it should be saved so we can see yet another fight between Lorelai and Emily—at last season’s second wedding reception when Lorelai told Emily, simply, “you and me, we’re through”, I got goosebumps. Delicious!” --Missy
“What about Reba? Let’s be serious here, an average of 3.5 million viewers weekly for a comedy on the WB. I do believe that to be very decent for such an underwatched network. By the way, you forget the women single-handedly took Female Country Album Sales to new heights for a very long time and she is extremely popular. I have a feeling her ratings will increase, with this change.” --Jason
“Personally, I am offended that the shows, Eve, Half and Half, Girlfriends and Love, Inc. are not even mentioned. Please remove Cuts which is weak in plot and cast.” --Anonymous
“I’m actually very fearful that “Related” will get completely skipped over in the merger, however, it is a wonderful show. The cast is amazing and I love the story line. In a year when “Gilmore Girls” has been disappointing, “Related” has stepped in as worthy replacement.” --Bethlyn
“Charmed receives my vote from WB, just because it is different from all the Teen Dramas/Soaps so prolific on both networks. Puh-lease, as these “traumatized” wannabe drama queens would say, few teenagers’ lives are that dramatic. If they think it’s bad now, all I can say is, “Give it a few years honey and you’ll see this time in your life as the best time in your life.” The only thing I regularly watch on UPN anymore is CSI re-runs.” --V
“I would save Smallville first. Not only does this show offer action and adventure but it is a grounded family show. I throughly enjoy Smallville and would be greatly disappointed if it did not make the cut.” --Pam
“Everwood. I love the opening where there is the voice talking over so you try to figure out what is going to happen, I love the family aspect, the conflict, him learning to be a dad. I cry regularly while watching this show, while I don’t like to cry I do like the show and to me it just shows how good the actors and story lines are to get me wrapped up in it. I think this are the best shows on TV right now and most of them are clean and great TV. I wouldn’t mind my son or daughter watching any of these shows and that is hard to find these days.” --Marissa
“I would save “Beauty and the Geek”. There is something about this show that is so endearing! I love that it is not a dating show, but a show about real people having to step outside their comfort level. The ‘beauties’ are very good looking, but it is unbelievable how even those in college do not have common sense or any knowledge of what is going on in the world around them. The ‘geeks’ are so innocent, some even scared to death of the women, yet their intelligence blows me away. Hey, it may be an Ashton Kutcher produced show, but keep it around!” --Beth
“I’ll have to agree with America's Next Top Model, where else can you see dumb girls fight with each other? Well I guess MTV.” --Julie
WB, UPN top three
UPN and WB soon will be no more. In their stead, we're getting a , CW (country western? conventional wisdom? can't work?) I spent the morning collaborating with my co-worker Jon Bonné , which offers speculation about which shows will survive and thrive at the new network.
But like any TV viewer, I have my own biases, and there are really only three shows on the two networks that I'm mentally pulling for. I know that "Veronica Mars" and "Gilmore Girls" pull in the critical acclaim, and have dedicated fan bases. (My husband adores "Veronica Mars," and at least one friend is a "Gilmore" addict.) "Everwood," "Smallville" and "One Tree Hill" have their supporters, too. I'm not trying to knock those shows, but if I were programming just for me, these are the three shows I'd insist come along to the new channel.
1. "America's Next Top Model" (UPN)Is there another show out there that is claimed by so many people as their guilty pleasure? And yet no one seems guilty about watching it...it's like a Wednesday fast-food break in a week of striving to eat healthy. Everyone's allowed one cheat. Say what you will about Tyra Banks and her growing media empire, she laid this show out properly from day one, and hasn't messed with success since then. Of course, the women , but semantics, semantics!
2. "Supernatural" (WB)I just had to go check online to see what night this show airs (Tuesdays) — since I TiVo, I time-shift it, and watch it whenever I feel like it. And I never miss. Brothers Sam and Dean are good-looking, yes (loved Jared Padalecki in "Cry Wolf" too), but their dialogue never feels too scripted. When Padalecki's character, Sam, saved his brother Dean in a recent episode, Dean asked him how he got there. "I stole a car," he said with an element of "duh" to his voice. "MAH MAN!" crowed his bro. You believe these two could be brothers. And as a longtime fan of urban legends (Bloody Mary! The Hook Man!), I'm thrilled to see plots twisted around them.
3. "Everybody Hates Chris" (WB)A "Cosby Show" for those of us who grew up in the '80s but whose dads weren't doctors and moms weren't lawyers. I wasn't raised in Bed-Stuy, but who can't identify with Chris's paranoid dad, Julius, toting up the cost of everything from a bowl of cereal to a few seconds of electric light? In one episode, Julius made the family eat sausage with every meal because he'd gotten a deal on a giant crate of it. In my friend's family, the foodstuff was buckwheat flour her father had purchased by the metric ton, despite the fact that none of his four children would stomach buckwheat anything.
OK, I've had my say, now it's your turn. Fans of "Veronica," "Gilmore," "Smallville" and the like, write in and tell me which three shows you'd save, and why.
‘Reunion’ murderer revealed
The discussions of FOX's canceled "Reunion" in this Weblog have been lively, but it looks like we've come to the end of the "Reunion" road.
At meetings with the TV Critics Association in L.A. last week, the president of Fox entertainment, Peter Liguori, said that when the show premiered last fall, producers hadn't decided who Sam's murderer would be. (Like , I'm wondering if that's really true, and if it is, who goes about planning a show like this in that way.)
He also admitted, however, that their best guess was the same as the guess many of you made , that Sam's young daughter, Amy, given up for adoption at birth, would come back to kill off mommy dearest. (Is anyone else getting flashbacks to ?)
that she asked The WB's David Janollari if his network was interested in picking up "Reunion," and got the big "no." She also says that she's heard rumors that just before the show was canceled, the identity of the murderer was about to be changed.
And yet "The War at Home" lives to fight another day. Amazing.
Five-link Friday: ‘Lost: The Musical’
Ah, Friday, I love you so. Random linkage is my reward for getting through the week.
• Remember my recent rant about "Snakes on a Plane"? One sharp-eyed reader sends proof that there . Check out the snake-sniffing beagle.
• "Lost" fans will find this fun, though I admit I thought it'd be much funnier: Jimmy Kimmel imagines (I still think the parody, is funnier.)
• Mystery novelist Lisa Gardner runs a contest called Submit a name of a friend or enemy (or your own) and the author will choose one name for a doomed character in her next book. She notes "Please don’t provide a physical description of the proposed Lucky Stiff or details about the manner in which you’d like to see the person die. This is supposed to be a harmless bit of fun, not the beginnings of couple’s therapy."
• Personally, I'm bored out of my mind by most Oscar acceptance speeches, as the winners dither on and on thanking everyone they've ever met. But somehow it's more fun to read through the speeches than to hear them spoken. lets you read all the speeches back through 2001, though they don't make it easy. Click on the Oscar year you want in the left margin (73rd awards=2001, and so on). Click on "Nominees and Winners" at the top of the new left margin. Now click on any of the winners' names to read their speech. (Link via .)
• Reader-submitted link: is a Web site run by ... well, apparently by a terrycloth monkey. Who cooks. Here he's seen , step by careful step. I don't quite grasp the purpose of this site, but the monkey is awfully cute.
I just don’t get ‘Idol’
"American Idol" is, without question, a television phenomenon. No show, not even the vaunted "CSI," gets the ratings, the hype, the plain old craziness that surrounds "Idol," which with another round of can-you-believe-they're-so-bad auditions.
I'm a television editor and a pop-culture junkie. I've been addicted to some great shows ("American Dreams!") and some truly awful shows ("Reunion!") in my time. I'm no TV snob, and I don't shun reality shows — I never miss "Project Runway." But I don't understand the appeal of "American Idol," which started its fifth season last night, and so help me, I don't think I ever will.
And it's not as if I haven't been exposed to "Idol," given it time to work on my brain. As TV editor here, I have to watch almost every episode. I've endured the hideously delusional auditioners, watched the singers slowly move up from no names to hitmakers, seen the so-called Simon-Paula banter, tried to dissect Randy Jackson's latest "a'ight" filled criticism. And I still don't get it.
I guess it can be called a wholesome show. Sure, there's some bleeping of language going on during the audition phase, but compared to the blood and gore of "CSI" or the bed-hopping of "Desperate Housewives," perhaps the only other two shows that come close to it in viewership, "Idol" is "The Waltons." The appeal can't be the bland musical styles -- "Idol" surely has millions of fans who watch, yet would never buy a Kelly Clarkson or Clay Aiken CD. It cuts across demographics as well. A co-worker across the desk from me is a massive fan, as is my best friend, who works achingly long hours in Washington, D.C., then comes home and relaxes to "Idol." A friend watches with her young boys, who actively argue about their favorite contestants.
I've read through hundreds of reader e-mails about the show and the devotion from viewers shines through. Not even devotion, it's passion, sometimes obsession. To some, it's just a light-hearted show, sure, if they happen to catch it, great, if not, no big deal. But to others, it's an event to be anticipated all year round. What's funny is the very same folks who will write in and decry the very existence of reality shows don't view "American Idol" as a reality show in the same way they might view "The Bachelor" or "The Apprentice." They'll write e-mails blasting those shows as garbage and also turn around and write one praising "Idol" to the skies. To them, it occupies its own lofty space in the television pantheon. To me, it remains a popular, yet incomprehensible mystery.
Shelley Winters, champion of the plain
Like many, I read of with sadness. And like many, I was one who read the frequent description of Winters as a "blonde bombshell" and realized that I came to her work too late to ever think of her that way. For me, she was Shelley Winters, champion of the plain and put-upon.
I won't pretend to have seen every Shelley Winters movie, but in "Place in the Sun" she played Alice Tripp, the poor factory girl who gets knocked up by Montgomery Clift and whom he eventually watches drown so he can live the party life with the gorgeous Liz Taylor. Her obituary reports that Winters had to actively campaign for that role, that her "blonde bombshell" reputation preceded her, and director George Stevens thought she was too sexy. Winters apparently scrubbed off her makeup and went after the role again, this time successfully selling herself as the plainest of the plain, and getting the part.
That's not unheard of even today — look at sexy Charlize Theron mussing up her glamour-girl look to play serial killer Aileen Wuornos in "Monster." But Winters did it so well that I, for one, never questioned that she was a regular Jane who'd somehow fallen into the world of Hollywood beauties.
She did it again in 1955's "Night of the Hunter," playing a bedraggled mother who was unable to protect her young kids from oh-so-creepy Robert Mitchum. Again, there was no pinup girl in Winters' portrayal of Willa Harper, last seen in a shocking underwater shot after she'd been murdered by Mitchum's character. She was completely believable as a woman who just wasn't strong enough to fight off Mitchum's conniving con man killer.
And of course, her role as Belle Rosen in "The Poseidon Adventure" didn't exactly appeal to a Hollywood actress's vain side. Belle was older, overweight, looking soft but possessing of a scrappy soul, willing to give her all for others. She epitomized the roles Winters had come to after her pin-up days were in the past — one whose looks were dragging her down rather than raising her up. But with Belle, unlike with her roles as poor doomed Willa and Alice, Winters epitomized the woman whose looks were just a facade covering a spine of steel. She'll be missed.