Is it Friday already? Time for another five-link day. Three of the five links I'm sharing this week were suggested by friends, and that inspires me to remind you: You're welcome to send in links, too. Just use the form at the bottom of today's update.
• "Yo, yo, yo, grrrrl! You know, as a music producer, I can honestly say that performance was a little bit pitchy. But, you know, you joined the Dawg Pound, but I'm gonna say it was just aaa'iiight for me. "If you recognize that comment as a Randy Jackson regular, you'll enjoy , which lets you aid in generating a typical comment from each of the three "American Idol" judges, like this Simon-esque gem: "If I'm being honest, that sounded like a lounge singer in a outlandish Saskatchewanian drag bar." (Thanks to Jon for the link!) And if you liked that, be sure to check out MSNBC.com's own
• Yeah, another online quiz, but this one's a fun one for "Star Wars" fans: Jedi Master I am. (Maybe because I confessed to watching The Discovery Channel?) Thanks to Denise for the link!
• is several years old, but I did not know that John O'Hurley, the actor who played J. Peterman on "Seinfeld," actually bought into the company and became a co-owner. I tried hunting around the to see if he still is a co-owner, but couldn't find any info. seems to confirm that he does, though. And here's a from "Seinfeld," including my favorite: “The Rogue’s Wallet. That’s where he kept his card, his dirty little secret. Short, devious, balding. His name was Costanza. He killed my mother.” (Thanks to Scott for the original link!)
• When I saw I was convinced that ligers, the lion-tiger cross Napoleon loved so well ("It's pretty much my favorite animal. It's like a lion and tiger mixed ... bred for its skills in magic.") were fake. I'd better not tell he's fake. The article quotes a zookeeper as saying “the lion and the tiger live in neighboring caves in the Novosibirsk zoo, and got used to each other. [This kind of cross-breeding is] practically impossible in the wild.”
• Whenever "The Sopranos" eventually returns, it's just not going to be the same for me . HBO is offering for your phone, from Paulie Walnuts and Meadow Soprano. My favorite is the first one, where Paulie announces "This phone's bugged. Don't say nothin' about the place. Or the other place. Or the guy. From the other place."
Kroffts are still super, but please, no movies
As a TV-watching kid in the 1970s, I didn't want to grow up to be Marcia Brady or Laurie Partridge (well, maybe a little). I wanted to be Joy from .
The Bugaloos were a British rock band made of, er, bugs. (Inspired by the Beatles, anyone?). Joy was the only girl, and she wore a frilly pink tutu-like dress and giant wings, and somehow that was the coolest outfit I'd ever seen.
"The Bugaloos" flew from the deliciously demented minds of Sid and Marty Krofft, whose programs were a Saturday staple in the 1970s. I remember "Lidsville," a land of giant hats that walked and talked, terrified me. But "Electra Woman and Dyna Girl" may have eventually inspired me to go into magazine journalism. "Dr. Shrinker," "Land of the Lost," "Wonderbug," I loved all of the Krofft oeuvre, even before I knew what meant.
And of course, the Kroffts aren't immune to the modern Hollywood craze of remaking everything that was even remotely successful. (Do we really need a ) , Sid and Marty Krofft are considering taking "H.R. Pufnstuf" and "Land of the Lost" to the big screen. Marty Krofft notes in the article that the kids who watched his shows as children are now working their way up the ladder at various studios, so they tend to look kindly on their old memories.
Here's a message to those kids-now-grown: STOP! Preserve our memories by NOT making any Krofft movies! The charm of the show was its goofiness, the way it felt both cheap and slick all at the same time. In the article linked above, Sid Krofft says of brother Marty: "He was like Walt Disney without the budget. We did this thing with spit and cement, you know."
We know, we know. And that's the reason we remember it so fondly. I know I don't want to see a high-tech version of something that was so adorably low-tech to begin with. I don't want to see Julia Roberts as Joy from the Bugaloos, or Ashton Kutcher as Sigmund.
You can't go home again, except maybe by watching DVDs. The article notes that "Pufnstuf," "Lidsville" and "Land of the Lost" offer at least some of their seasons on DVD, and that "Sigmund and the Sea Monster" is coming next.
While I'll likely buy some of the Krofft DVDs, my dream is still for someone to create a cable channel called Saturday Morning. It could feature all the Krofft goodies, mixed in with , In the News news segments, old candy and cereal commercials (, back before "Sugar" was dumped from the name), you know the rest.
One problem with that, though: I might never leave the couch.
I've written before about comfort pop culture, the kind of books, music, TV and movies you reach for when you need a soothing break from the myriad woes of the world.
I've recently discovered a book series that fills that bill perfectly for me. Alexander McCall Smith's tells the story of Botswana's only all-female detective agency, run by Mma* Precious Ramotswe. But these are not your typical detective novels. I'm not normally a reader of detective fiction, and I love these all the same.
The cases Mma Ramotswe tackles are small ones. She rarely handles a murder, instead, she deals with cheating lovers, guilty consciences who want to set something right in their pasts, the quiet, low-volume problems of the world. It's not the cases that matter here, like , they are just the means to an end.
The true heart of the book is in Mma Ramotswe's charm, her cordial, old-fashioned attitude and formal way of speaking, her complete lack of cynicism, and her deep and abiding love for Africa, her family, and her late father. Yet she doesn't come across as a Pollyanna. Mma Ramotswe has made mistakes in her life (namely, a marriage to a violent trumpeter) and has suffered losses (her beloved father, an infant). While she sometimes reflects on the passing of old-fashioned morals and values, she also knows that much of life in Botswana is better thanks to modern times and advances.
The New York Times Book Review this weekend devoted a to writing about the series. Janet Malcolm notes that while the books hint at the AIDS epidemic that has so tortured Botswana, they don't address it directly, calling it "this cruel sickness." At first that jolted me a little, but when we watch the brother of a major character die of the illness, I can't feel that the series has ignored it. It floats through the major characters' minds in the same way horrible things float through ours — terrorism, cancer — yet we do not let them conquer us, and nor does Mma Ramotswe.
McCall Smith has begun another book series, "The Sunday Philosophy Club," set in Scotland. I've enjoyed the first book in that series, but I have to say the books I'm craving remain the "No. 1 Ladies" books. Philosopher-turned-detective Isabel Dalhousie is well-drawn, but she's a little too much like many other detective series out there, whereas no character I know of is like Mma Ramotswe. The latest book in the series, "The Full Cupboard of Life" came out last week and I tried to stretch out my reading of it to make it last. There's nothing better to send you through those last few minutes of reading before you put out the light, nothing better to help soothe and close down your mind for the day.
In a perfect world, there'd be an unending series of Mma Ramotswe books, and if McCall Smith keeps cranking them out the way he has been (six in two years!), that just might happen.
* "Mma" is a Botswanan title for "mother" or "Mrs.," as the author explains in .