Monthly Archives: June 2010

PEI Girls Gone Wild!

My Mom made us watch PBS’s  WonderWorks series when we were growing up.  It was nourishing television.  Classy productions of children’s literature.  Typically airing on Sunday nights, it entertained  without overexciting us and refueled our brains for a week’s worth of school.  I have positive memories of those Sunday nights.  Even if I don’t have the most detailed recollection of each production, I have this vague happiness that accompanies the snapshots in my mind.

One time (I know…’at band camp’), when I was waiting tables at Cafeteria in NYC’s Chelsea neighborhood, Wallace Shawn came in by himself to have some lunch.  Of course I recognized him from a bajillion things, including but not limited to:  The Princess Bride, Clueless, and Uncle Vanya.  But, when I went up to him to refill his coffee, it was for his appearance  as Professor Silverfish in How to Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days (a WonderWorks production) that I complimented him.  He seemed absolutely tickled by that.  He must get so tired of having people approach him just to shout “Inconceivable!” in his face, that he was pleasantly surprised when I didn’t.  He was very smiley, left a great tip and made sure to say goodbye before he left.  What a nice guy.

Thanks for not mentioning 'the shrieking eels!'

By the way,  I waited on quite a few celebs there.  It was a hugely trendy 24-hour faux diner chic hotspot in a neighborhood with lots of expensive shops and nightclubs,  but the other person I served who was enthusiastically grateful to be recognized was Paul Dinello from Exit 57 and Strangers With Candy.  I don’t mean that to sound like he was desperate.  But, Exit 57 was hugely underappreciated and I think it made him happy for me to go on a bit about how great it was.  And it’s not like I was just buttering him up just to hobnob with famous comedy folk .  Exit 57 was pretty ace.  Again, he was super nice and gave a proper tip.

Thanks for your comedy patronage!

Anyway, back on topic.  WonderWorks was an excellent, excellent family tradition.  I loved ’em all.  But, today’s great thing is the WonderWorks production that I have the greatest recollection of:

137.  Anne of Green Gables

That’s Anne with an ‘e’, if you’re nasty.

Anne of Green Gables and its equally great follow-up Anne of Avonlea, are, seemingly, universally beloved.   Google the titles and you’re drowning in links.  Much like 80’s cartoons, there is a huge fan-base out there…hungry to talk about their love affair with this program of yesteryear and geek it up a bit.  My sister and I loved this one so much that we purchased them on VHS!  If you’re one of the unfortunate few that never saw it growing up, this homemade trailer sums it up pretty well.

That actually made me well up a bit!

At this point, I have to say My sister always held slightly more ownership of the Anne franchise.  Make no mistake…I loved it.  But, as siblings, you need to give each other some breathing room in areas of hobby and fandom.  You don’t want to crowd each other out whilst you’re seeking your individuality and personality.  I was comic books, karate, Cyndi Lauper, and comedy.  She was fine art, Russian culture, Howard Jones, and Anne of Green Gables.  We could appreciate each other’s interests but we’d never cross the line and try to claim them as our own or edge each other out if one of us claimed it before the other.  I think she loved its literate roots, gentile setting, and most of all–how Colleen Dewhurst as stern but fair matriarch Marilla reminded us of our super-loveable Grandmother.  Her name was Mary….Mary—Marilla…not too far of a stretch.  Like Marilla, she too was rarely seen without an apron.

I like your sleeves...they're real big.

Kathryn Hepburn had been considered for the role but couldn’t take it due to other commitments.  (Side note…her great-niece plays Diana Barry).  But, as terrific as I’m sure Hepburn would have been, Colleen Dewhurst was born to play the part of Marilla Cuthbert.  An amazing actress, Dewhurst died far too young, thanks in part to her Christian Scientist beliefs (she refused treatment for cervical cancer).

Anyway, the reasons that Steph, my sister, loved Anne of Green Gables aren’t entirely different from my own.  But, I bet I did get one lasting impression out of the production that never occurred to her.  That would be the strikingly close ‘friendship’ between Diana Barry and the titular heroine Anne Shirley Cuthbert.  They were ‘bosom friends’, you see.  They had the sort of intimate friendship that you only ever see between two girls in either:

A. period pieces

B.  films with a lesbian subject matter

C.  period pieces with lesbian subject matter

Of course, it’s probably only lesbians that ever infer sexuality onto the relationship between Anne and Diana.  But, give us a break.  When I was ten years old there was pretty much zero representation.  I needed to foist that dimension onto them.  And it’s hardly like I was alone in this self-satisfying conclusion.  Witness this excellent recut masterpiece and tell me that you can’t see what I saw:

How awesome is that?  Thank God for YouTube and free time!

Anyway, it’s that video that really reminded me of the delightful memory that is the Anne of Green Gables series.  I think I’ll go hunting on Amazon.  It’ll be erroneously filed in the ‘family’ section instead of the ‘gay/lesbian’ section, but wha-hey.  You can’t win them all.

Now, what of the delightful Megan Follows who played Anne Shirley to slate-cracking perfection?  Well, she still acts.  Every once in a while she’ll crop up in movies or on the teevee.  But, mostly she does theater.   I was lucky enough to catch her at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival when I was in highschool.  What a day that was!  My first real exposure to the works of Shakespeare, it was a beautiful day in Canada, and I was lucky enough to see a minor-celeb in the production.  I actually paid attention to the whole thing!  By the way, sorry if this post reads as a page long diary of ‘famous people that I saw once’.

In 2010 she was in a production of Caryl Churchill’s Cloud 9.–one of my favorite plays ever!  Check out the company-made trailer below… I know it looks bizarre but when the play is done well, it is an inspiring statement on gender politics throughout the ages and it is absolutely hilarious (if you believe those two aspects can co-exist.)

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Pimp Bizkit

So, pretty soon, I’ll be back home in The States for a few comedy shows.  Whilst I’m there, slogging away and trying to be funny on purpose, I’m looking forward to indulging in several of the goodies that I miss from home.  I’ll pick up some Entertainment Weeklys.  I’ll go shopping at DSW.  I might try to catch a WNBA game.  And  I’m definitely going to eat the shit out of some Pepperidge Farm cookies.    Pepperidge Farm cookies are today’s great thing:

136:  Pepperidge Farm Cookies

First of all, here is a pepperidge tree.  I was unaware, until I started pecking away at this blog, that there WAS such a thing.  I just thought Pepperidge was one of those made-up suburban compound words for the upper-middle class.  Like Foxwoods Court, Gullview Ridge, or Whiteperson Park.

I am a pepperidge tree. It is my farm.

The company was founded by a lady, Margaret Rudkin (nee Fogarty) who was struggling to feed her son.  He was sensitive to the processed bread that she was buying so she had to go the extra mile and make her own groceries.  Jeez…even then we pumped our food full of crap.  I wonder how violently his little body would have rejected Crunchberries cereal.   She was born 2nd generation Irish in 1897 NYC.  Whatta life!  Turn of the century NYC is such a cool period of history.  All stabby and sweaty and everybody got to ride horses…  Too bad that the business wound up being so successful that she had to pick up and move the whole works to Connecticut.  BOR-ING!  Oh well.

Anyway, even though she had no business plan and didn’t have much experience in baking, it turned out she could crank out some tasty vittles.  So good was her wholesome bread that people paid about twice as much for it as the mass-produced loaves.  It just goes to show that sometimes you don’t need education or business sense, or maybe even any sense at all to become a success story in this world!  Isn’t that right, Michelle Bachman ?

Her product line expanded to include the delicious cookies in bags that we all know and love after a trip to Europe introduced her to the delicate little biscuits that the likes of Belgians and Swiss folk were already enjoying.  She felt that we didn’t have anything comparable in The States…you know…all we had were ungainly chocolate chip and thuggish oatmeal raisins.

Rudkin’s cookbook, chockablock with Pepperidge recipes, was the first cookbook ever to be a best-seller on the New York Times book list.  The Margaret Rudkin Pepperidge Farm Cookbook, dating from 1963, is still for sale on Amazon, if you’re the adventurous sort who would like to try and recreate the magic in your own home.  It’d be cool if someone pimpmysnacked a Gingerman cookie.

What I like about Pepperidge Farm cookies is that they are slightly fancier than your standard Pecan Sandies and Oreos.  You know how I know they’re fancy?  Because you don’t get that many of them in a bag.  Also, they’re named after classy cities!  You may have noticed that the cookies from the ‘distinctive’ line pretty much  go all-posh Euro.  In contrast, the big chocolate chip varieties are named after American yuppie habitats.  Sausalito indeed.

Here in order of preference, is how I will eat them upon my arrival back in The States.  Saving best for last, of course:

5. Simple and buttery--I like the horsie heads.

4. Weirdly addictive little cut-outs. Are those giant salt crystals? No! It's more sugar! Also, their eye and mouthless faces make for less anthropomorphizing which in turn makes me feel less guilty about eating them.

3. You think that amount of chocolate in the middle won’t be enough. But don’t worry. It is.

2. Perhaps the best of the biggie line. Exceptionally good for a mass-marketed choco chip. Dark chocolate chunks do it for me. There once was a cookie from Nantucket...and so forth.

1. The winner! I could shovel a full sleeve of these pecan-coated beauties into my gob all in one go. But, it's best to take small and strategic bites...savoring the rich biscuit-y taste. If you show restraint and respect to this cookie, it will reciprocate. I love you forever, Geneva cookies.

I only wish I had a hard-backed suitcase so that I could fill it to capacity with Pepperidge Farm cookies and ensure their safe passage back to the UK.

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Paula Poundstone Is My Own Krusty The Clown

I hate the fact that I’m going to open this blog post with a defense of why I think today’s focus deserves our admiration. Today’s great thing is a stand-up comic.  A stand-up comic who was court-ordered to enter rehab to deal with addiction issues and who faced charges of child-endangerment that stem from alcohol abuse.  The reason it irks me that I have to do this is because today’s great thing is a comedy genius.  There’s nobody else out there that’s like this comic.  Paula Poundstone is a unique comic voice with mystifying improvisational abilities and I’d be hard-pressed to think of  more than ten comics that I’d rank as even being on the same playing field.

Alas, Paula Poundstone is a self-professed asexual, suit-wearing, twelve-cat owning, weirdo.  And, along with the child-endangerment charges came accusations of ‘lewd behavior’ with a minor.  These charges were made by one of her foster children (at the time) and were later recanted and dropped.  That seems like good news, right?  I’ve seen enough Law and Order: SVU to know that these cases are rarely clear-cut.  Unfortunately, those types of charges never really disappear if you’re in the spotlight because it doesn’t matter if you’re innocent or guilty, once the finger is pointed, you’re tarred with the brush forever.  Pee-Wee Herman could tell you that.

I remember when all this shook down.  I wrote Paula a little letter of support.  She sent a grateful reply back.  (I don’t think it was personalized JUST to me, but it was sincere and nice all the same.)  I still believe, as I did then, that though she certainly had some addiction problems, she’s not ‘that type’ of criminal.  Anyway, unfortunately for Paula, there will always be the mutterings of the suspicious.  Take a look at this letter to the editor that was sent to a local newspaper when she recently played Rochester, NY.  Post Bulletin I suppose, the good news is that for every cluster of witch-hunters out there, there are also folks that understand that she was never found guilty of these charges and will recognize her mostly for being funny.  Count me amongst those people, please.  If Chris Brown can still have a career for DEFINITELY kicking the shit out of Rihanna, I think Poundstone can keep her job for charges that were ultimately dropped.

135.  Paula Poundstone

Commitment CeremonyChic

Paula’s been one of my favorites since way back when I was watching stand-up on VH1 and  The Improv on A&E.  I became a stand-up addict in the age of Poundstone, Tenuta, Romano, and Pinette .  I loved watching those compilation shows.  Every budding comic had their best five-six minutes shown.  What a great way for a ten-year old with a bit of ADD to learn to love stand-up comedy?  Even then, Poundstone made a huge impression on me.  Something about the way she twisted her punchlines was instantly relatable but wholly unique.  I loved her outlook on life and her audience work was hypnotically good.

Poundstone was born in the south but lived for most of her childhood in Massachusetts.  This explains the coupling of the slightly southern accent with the occasional correspondence for Mother Jones magazine.  Poundstone is one of those high-school dropouts whose intelligence set was built for comedy.  Her show at Harvard proved that you don’t need to be an ivy league grad to be well read.  Her official foray into stand-up began in  Boston at open mic nights in 1979.  I wonder what her early sets looked like?  I remember my first set.  Some garbage that questioned why other animals didn’t get hay fever.  Like you don’t see rabbits out there sneezing, do you?  Do you?!  It’s like we’re DE-volving instead of E-volving.  Right? Am I right?!  Urgh.

I love everything about her comedy.  I love that she won’t abandon her almost-drag fashion sense.  I love that she can’t sit still on her stool.  I love the mundane things she makes sound so special.  I could listen to her tell the same jokes over and over and over again just because I find her phrasing and delivery so delightful.
Paradoxically, she is listed as number 88 on Comedy Central’s 2004 list of the 100 greatest stand-ups of all time and number 7 on Maxim magazine’s list of “Worst Comedians of All Time”.  I should note, that there is a disproportionate amount of women in the ‘top’ ten on that Maxim list.  Six of the ten worst comics (OF ALL TIME!!!) are ladies.  This proves my theory that Maxim hates women unless they’re dumb as a box of rocks and wearing a bathing suit…and starring in Transformers.  I should also note that this list did NOT include Dane Cook.  (WHAT?!)  One of the best rebuttals to their awful list was posted by reader JustJon:
“I appreciate the tireless efforts undertaken by the thoughtful staffperson(s) who wrote copy for this list. It is evident that he/she carefully set aside tens of minutes between office games of NERF basketball and watching live feed of ESPN sports on the break room flatscreen to Make Some Words. Sometimes journalists (sorry… just choked on something invisible) often fear to dip their virtual pen into the tripe bucket of the easy, the unimaginative, the predictable. Often ignored in fine publications, AND also by truly funny comedians (some of whom I see are on this list), it is good to know that MAXIM continues to understand that there is still a *dire* need out there for this kind of work. Let’s take, for example, this article’s entry about Gallagher. The copy itself is indeed an example of humor worthy of Gallagher. Or how about the entry on Sindbad? This author showed knowledge of his wardrobe, choice of accessories and choice of lifestyle that few others did not know about. I wish *more* writers out there could see the beauty of recycling trite observations. It demonstrates that your staff know never to change a thing that has worked the first several few times. He/she understands that “special sameness” should be maintained. The alternative is something that could, maybe have the potential to be novel, interesting, possibly even slightly funny, and both you and I know we don’t want Any of That. This list is sadly overlooking its most valuable, relevant member: MAXIM staff Great Job, Everybody! Consider me inspired. I hope someday I will be able to write for a publication such as MAXIM. I won’t ever have to think again. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if something opens up.”

I sort of love JustJon.

Poundstone

Thanks, JustJon!

Never a particularly cocky comedian, I think she currently finds herself in a position where she feels she has to be overly self-deprecating.  More and more of her material is aimed squarely at herself instead of the world at large.  Hopefully, this crack in her comic facade will soon be smoothed over.  I imagine it’s quite a test of confidence to get back up in front of an auditorium full of people who might still consider you guilty of child abuse.  But, beyond that, video evidence proves that she’s still pretty fricking amazing.  Before I moved over here to England, I’d seen Poundstone live twice–once in a small theatre at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania and once at perhaps the –Carnegie Hall for the Women in Comedy event in 1998 with Mary Tyler Moore and Rita Rudner.  Talk about two strikingly different venues.  She was in top form both times.

Happily, it seems like she’s still killing ’em.  She recently hosted the Art Director’s Guild Awards in Hollywood and regularly makes the rounds on late night talk shows, particularly the Craig Ferguson show.    I doubt she’ll be coming through the UK anytime soon, but it’s my birthday later this month and I may request both her first book– There Is Nothing in this Book That I Meant to Say and her very recent comedy album–I Heart Jokes.

I’m going to make a general effort in my  life to listen to more comedy albums.

Anyway, enough excuses.  I think it’s time to actually watch Paula being funny.  I’ve selected three of my favorite clips.  One has a joke that is repeated from another clip, but the rest of the material is different within the clip.  So, sorry about the slight overlap.

First up, some newer footage:

Here’s a quickie that I think highlights her pitch-perfect delivery of highly relatable material.  Also, this evidences her inability to stay put on her chair.

From Comic Relief…I LOVE the sub shop bit.

Lastly, here’s a fantastic example of her crowd work:

Oh, it is to laugh!  Next time I go home, I’ve got to remember to collect all the VHS tapes I have of her performances.  I’m sure my Mom will just be happy that I’m removing more crap from her house.

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Babeball? Batgirls? No Wordplay Too Foul For This Blog Headline!

Karey and I have been revisiting some of our favorite films over the last few weekends.  There are some that are, unfortunately, not as good as we remembered.  (Minus a few choice gags and performances, much of Young Frankenstein, in my opinion, now plays a bit stale…probably because it’s been nicked from so much).  But, there are also the happy surprises of movies that are every bit as good as they were since the last time you watched them.  Sometimes, they seem even better!  The Man with Two Brains was even funnier than I recalled.  I’m dying to use the quotes “Get that cat outta here!” and “Into the mud, scum queen!” but haven’t been given many opportunities to indulge myself yet.  Another pick that made me well up with happiness is today’s great thing:

134. A League of Their Own

Penny Marshall.  Where are you?  How come you’ve not directed anything  besides a smattering of television shows recently? You know what I miss?  Rosie O’Donnell doing Penny Marshall impressions.  Those were special times.  Remember their Kmart commercials?  Remember Kmart?

Anyway, when the motion picture came out in 1992 , I was 16…perfect timing as it coincided nicely with my budding girl-fancying.  Beyond crushing on Geena Davis though, this pic appealed to me because it’s a pitch-perfect (yes, pun intended) example of a quality family comedy.  Its ‘real-story’ roots and gentle feminist comedy stylings represented all that could be good and true about Hollywood to me in my teenage years.  Maybe there’s a bit of a formula forced on it.  (Turns out that the league, in real life, wasn’t unpopular initially…it was pretty much a hit from the get-go…but the script needed some extra obstacles in the way and it’s better for it).  But, even on this–my seventh viewing–it never came across as nauseatingly hammy–only endearing in a familiar sort of way.  Plus, baseball movies are ALLOWED to be a bit more sentimental.

SO excited when this issue arrived at home that year...

Though Tom Hank’s mini-meltdown in front of the Peaches dugout is certainly one of the finest moments in the film, I have to admit, my new favorite quote may be a completely random moment made wonderfully ridiculous by Anne Ramsay’s over-the-top reading of it.

Anne Ramsay’s character Helen Hayley steps out into the hallway of the dormitory where all the other girls are trying to eavesdrop on a fight that Kit and Dottie are having.  Helen is ready for a night on the town:  Has anyone seen my new red hat?

Dottie (storming out of the fight with Kit):  Piss on your red hat!

Both clips for your enjoyment here:

I like Anne Ramsay.

I like your big clunky watch! Seriously!

The idea for A League of Their Own, a gem of the ‘how come nobody had made this yet’ variety came on the heels of a documentary of the same name which was produced  in 1986 by Kelly Candaele and Kim Wilson.  Candaele is the offspring of AAGPBL player Helen Callaghan.  His aunt, Marge Callaghan, was also a player.   Speaking of which, RIP Dorothy Kamanshek (the character Dottie Hinson was based on) who died on May 17th this year.

Two things I want to crow about in regards to this film before I wrap up this blog:

1.  The ensemble.  What a fantastic roster of actors they got for this shindig.  Tom Hanks in his prime,  Geena Davis rarely better, Rosie and Mo perfect as nasal New Yawkers, the aforementioned Anne Ramsay just for that line reading alone, Megan Cavanagh as sweet bruiser Marla Hooch, David Straithairn– empathetic, and Jon Lovitz as the funniest man in the film.

I can’t imagine what the picture would have looked like had casting gone differently.  Like Ghostbusters this is one of those movies that actually has a rather fascinating list of ‘coulda-beens’.  For instance, both Molly Ringwald and Moira Kelly were considered for the role of Kit.  Debra Winger, Ally Sheedy, Brooke Shields, and Kelly McGillis were all up for the role of Dottie at one time or another.  KD Lang was supposed to be in the picture in SOME capacity.  I would bet that she was up for the Rosie role…but backed out because she would have had to wear a skirt.

My only gripe is when it comes to Lori Petty.  Now before you think I’m hating too hard, I’d like to say that I actually like Lori Petty.  She was Tank Girl! She’s scrappy!  She wears her hair short!  But, I think she went a degree too far into the ‘annoying kid sister’ approach to this role.  Yes, Kit needed to be threatened by the perfection of Dottie and resentful of the shadow she is subsequently cast in, but she was a mite bit too big of a whiney baby.  The grating edge on her performance wound up being detrimental to her character as I wound up  getting pissed off at Kit instead of feeling bad for her.  On a positive note, Petty was apparently able to run faster than Davis in real life.  That’s some good scrambling, little lady!

2.  In my geekish info-gathering exercise for this blog post, I reviewed the original trailer for the movie.  Boy, what a lousy misrepresentation that is!  It totally sells this film as a “the trouble with girls” type of outing instead of the sweet herstory lesson that it actually is.  Watch and seethe:

I call shenanigans!  The Rockford Peaches weren’t ‘impossible to manage’.  They had real talent and moxy.  They had to drag the character of Jimmy Dugan up from the gutter he’d gotten himself into.  The Dugan character is redeemed by the team.  Not the other way around!

Grrrr….I hate it when they sell to the lowest common denominator.

Anyway, let’s close on a positive note.  Here’s a nifty little presentation about the real girls of the AAGPBL:  teachertube

Lastly, please enjoy this ACTUAL newsreel about it from back in the day.  It’s even more ridiculous than the fake one they wrote for the movie:

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