Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Do You Wish That Your Legs Grew Long?

A few days ago I asked Spencer a question about spiders. “If you’re in the shower and you see a spider in there, do you deliberately wash it down or do you do you own thing and let the little guy fend for himself?”

And after that, we drifted to the subject of the daddy longlegs. Not any specific one, but just the idea of them. Now that I think about it, they’re probably the first spider I consciously remember seeing. They’re so omnipresent, despite being so slight. Just thinking about what they look like, I feel like they’re the product of some sci-fi writer’s imagination: a tiny, dot of a creature, suspended in the air by nearly invisible legs. Some stray period or the dot from a lower-case “i” that grew legs and walked off the page.

When I thought about it more, I realized that I didn’t even know how the term “daddy longlegs” should look in print, as I can’t remember ever seeing it. “Daddy Long Legs”? “Daddy-long-legs”? The name itself sounds weirdly old-fashioned and Mother Goose-like, when you actually think about what you’re saying. And then I haven’t got a clue how to pluralize it. Surely I’ve seen more than one of these weird arachnids in some corner of an room before, but I can’t think of a logical way to say that there’s more than one. “Look, I see two daddies longlegs?” Or “Shoo away those daddy longlegses.” Not a clue.

I looked it up in the dictionary and then on the Wikipedia. It turns out that the term itself doesn’t really mean anything, as it refers to a different bug or spider or whatever depending on where you are. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, it’s “Any of various arachnids of the order Phalangida, with a small rounded body and long slender legs.” It’s also apparently called the harvestman, which lends the critter even more of a human character than I feel comfortable with. A daddy longlegs can even apparently be a fly — the crane fly.

For the first time in a while, researching something has led to it becoming even more ambiguous than before. A week ago I figured I would have been able to explain what a daddy longlegs was to someone who didn’t know. Now I’m not so sure.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Please Turn on Your Magic Beam

So if the world weren't horrifying enough for you, consider this: British scientists have discovered a symbiotic bug that eats tongues then attaches itself to the root of the former tongue and acts like a new tongue. The bug, Cymothoa exigua, feeds exclusively on fish tongues — thank God — and drains the tongue of its blood. Most surprisingly, the host fish doesn't necessarily suffer. The bug is so adept at mimicking tongue actions that the fish can continue to live with its squiggly new licker. So it's not a parasite. Just a new little friend.

It's like a helper monkey for fish, if the helper monkey rendered the person handicapped beforehand.

And I can't remember every having typed the word tongue so many times.

[ Source: BBC News, via Boing Boing ]

If I Were You, I'd Take a Permanent Vacation

At Spencer's advise, I ate a rabbit sandwich today. I just thought I'd share that.

When the "Oo" Was Important

Before I head in, a note of clarification about Yaz, a great band. Yaz is a two-man outfit: singer Alison Moyet, who came up with the name "Yazoo" after reading it on the cover of some old blues record, and keyboardist Vince Clarke, who had previously been a member of Depeche Mode. The latter actually wrote "Just Can't Get Enough," but quit the group shortly thereafter. Apparently, the band is known as "Yazoo" in Britain. This causes some confusion, especially for me, since my account renames my file with the British moniker and then tells me that no one else ever listens to that song. I don't know why.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Theater of Unexpected Inactivity

I’m just pissed about Francis Fregoli.

You’d think I’d be upset because I didn’t realize that The Theater of the New Ear consisted of what essentially were radio plays: “Anomalisa” and “Hope Leaves the Theater.” I purposely didn’t research the plays before hand, but I immediately felt suspicious when I walked into the theater and saw that the stage had no backdrop. When the cast of “Anomalisa” walked out on stage and seated themselves at miked desks, I knew something was up. A talkie, in the literal sense.

Not that it wasn’t entertaining. I actually liked it a lot. I’ve always had a thing for radio plays and voiceover work and stuff like that. I just wish I knew ahead of time. What I can’t get over is Francis fucking Fregoli.

The program states that “Francis Fregoli is the pen name of an established writer who wishes to remain anonymous.” He wrote “Anomalisa,” and though it’s my less favorite of the two plays I saw, I’m really annoyed that a simple internet search won’t turn up who Francis Fregoli is. No, instead I get plot summaries. “‘Anomalisa’ concerns a motivational speaker and his one-night stand with a pitiful deformed woman.” And that about sums it up. I think I like the end best, because at that point Jennifer Jason Leigh plays the singing voice of an antique Japanese sex doll that oozes semen. And she does a good job. Oh, actually I think my favorite part is that Jennifer Jason Leigh is a midget — seriously. Oh, and actually I feel bad saying that because the second play had Peter Dinklage, who actually is a midget. But I knew that about him already. Not her.

I attended the play primarily for the second half, “Hope Leaves the Theater,” which was written by Charlie Kaufman, who is kind of a hero of mine. I like how ambitious his stuff is. But I’m not yet entirely convinced I really liked “Hope.” It’s po-mo to an extreme. It breaks the frame of narrative seemingly just for the joy of breaking the frame of narrative,

The setup: in the program for the play, Kaufman has listed the three actors — Hope Davis, Dinklage and Meryl Streep — and all the roles they play. Streep, for example purportedly plays Sally, Kelly, Jane, the Empress of Japan, Mrs. Finnigan, Boy #2, Joan of Arc, Daisy, Teresa D’Useau, Radio Man, Sailor #1, The Killer and Broken Katie. Furthermore, Kaufman also lists a breakdown of the play’s scenes:

I quote:
Scene one: Elevator
Scene two: Elevator. Ten minutes later.
Scene three: Joe’s living room. Dawn.
Scene four: The “kitchen.” Later that day.
Scene five: Offices of Rolling Stone magazine, 1969.
Scene six: Engine room of an Argentinean freighter, 1943.
Scene seven: The void. Thursday, 6:53 a.m. EST.
Scene eight: Elevator. Exactly thirty years later.
Scene nine: Joe’s living room. Midnight of the same day.
Scene ten: The void. Early morning.
Scene eleven: The eye of a hurricane. Easter Island. Now.
Scene twelve: Elevator. One thousand years later.
Scene thirteen: A field of marigolds.
Which is great and enticing and all that. But the play never actually shows any of this, really. It technically starts before the lights go down, with Hope Davis sitting on stage but voicing the thoughts of Louise, an angry, miserable woman sitting in the audience. She hats Charlie Kaufman, likes Meryl Streep, thinks she could have been the third Coen brother and is annoyed by the British couple sitting next to her. The play starts, but Davis stays in her head — until her cell phone rings. Streep breaks character and angrily rebukes Davis’s character, who leaves the theater.

Only Hope Davis herself never goes anywhere. We just follow her narrative as she walks away from UCLA, on the bus, into her house, with Streep and Dinklage supplying the voices of the people she passes by on the way. And it’s convincing, too. I didn’t even care that I didn’t get to see the scene in the offices of Rolling Stone. I was impressed enough to see how the actors would break character and address each other and all that.

The downside was that the play concludes with Dinklage playing a smarmy critic giving “Hope Leaves the Theater” a bad review. And he addresses the play’s problems — like it being “too precious” — and basically eliminates the need for you or me or anybody else to bring them up. And I feel like that’s cheating — writing a post-modern play but then using its post-modernism to evade actually criticism. “He’s so good he knows what he did wrong — and he told us!”

I still like Charlie Kaufman and “Adaptation” and “Eternal Sunshine.” I just haven’t made up my mind on this one yet. I only know that I'm pissed I can't find out who Francis Fregoli is.

Did I mention that Jennifer Jason Leigh is a fucking Hummel?

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Goodbye and Good Night

After Seven Falls, neither Kristen nor I felt much like going out. Honestly, the five-hour hike drained us enough that if we had gone out, we'd be trampled corpses on the beer-soaked floor of some bar right now. So instead we had a drink with Betsy at Tee Off — a golf-themed cocktail lounge we hadn't been to before — then headed in early.

I saw the last few sketches of an "SNL" that I've caught the end of twice before. Luke Wilson and U2. I don't care for U2, but the closing credits are the best thing I've ever seen on the show. Wilson does the usual "I had a great time! Thanks to the cast and everybody else!" — but then the camera sweeps over to the music stage and U2 performs an unprecedented third song from their new album. And I don't like Bono, but he's such a great performer. He walks off-stage and into the audience and sings to this woman in the front row. And she starts crying.

But then — this is the best part, really — he walks over to the stage where all the castmembers are and puts his arm around Amy Poehler. And Amy Poehler starts crying too.

It's this awesome moment for "SNL" and TV in general. It's always interesting when the actors break character, but here you see them all completely out of character. They're not performing or acting or entertaining. They're not even the cast of a show. They're just a bunch of people watching a concert, just like we are. They're completely out of character — so much so that they're letting us see them be genuinely moved by a band they've probably loved for years.

And that's something that I feel lucky to have seen.

Friday, September 2, 2005

Ginger Prince Is Not Shirley Temple

There's no way around it. She's just not.

Spencer and I have this wonderful exchange of mix CDs. It's the best thing two people could do, I think. You give someone a CD and they get new music and a better look into who you are. Or something like that. Anyway, one of the songs on the "Enjoy or Destroy" mix was a by the unfortunately named band Father Bingo. I know little about Father Bingo other than that it's apparently the solo project of a Philadelphia-based artist named Mark Lebovitz. And that one of Father Bingo's better known songs is called "Ginger Prince Is Not Shirley Temple."

So from that title alone, we get what Ginger Prince isn't. Surprisingly, the internet has very little to offer on who or what Ginger Prince actually was. And I'd really like to know.

These are the opening lines of "Ginger Prince Is Not Shirley Temple."
Somehow they got it in their heads that she would be a star
I don't think they realized that cuteness only goes so far
Try as they might, Ginger Prince is not Shirley Temple
There's actually no site on the internet that lists the song's complete lyrics, which may be because the words are frequently hard to pick out from the song's instrumentation. Regardless of what is being specifically said, the song is about Ginger Prince's failed stardom.

Some of you might actually recognize this girl from her IMDb page, which I accidentally linked to a few days ago. (I research these things days in advance, don't you know.) A Google search yields little on Prince's career. I found these three promotional posters, in which you can clearly see her non-Shirley Templesque face. From what I can tell, she made some movies and appeared on stage a bit.

That first poster seems to be for a picture called "The Prince of Peace." According to the IMDb trivia for this movie, which is apparently also called "The Lawton Story," all of the actors in it were native Oklahomans. Those with the thicker accents even had to have the dialogue redubbed. All I can tell is that it's a Christian-themed musical. That, and that there's a cast member named Maude Eburne playing "Henrietta," who I bet is the unattractive maid looking character in the poster. (Doesn't she just look like a Maude or a Henrietta?) So based off what I know about "The Prince of Peace," I have to wonder of perhaps Ginger Prince was some kind of Southern twist on the Shirley Temple model? (Like, maybe instead of dancing with Mr. Bojangles, she beat him.)

There's a database of exploitation films that surprisingly has an entry for "The Prince of Peace." It also provides a little more plot description, noting that the movie concerns one small town's production of a passion play and that the film served as a debut for Prince, whose moppet qualities were employed to net a wider audience — or, if you will, trick more people into seeing it. There's also a fairly large gallery of screen grabs from the film, in which you can see Ginger Prince mugging in all her spunky, puggish cuteness.

Someone calling herself Ginger Prince also has an entry at the IBDb, the Internet Broadway Database. This actress appeared in "Ain't Broadway Grand" and Gypsy," but she couldn't possibly be the same moppet from the forties, as the dates for these plays are in the late eighties and early nineties. (On a side note, I'd like to point at that the title for "Ain't Broadway Grand" omits the question mark. This is a wise choice, I think, in that it would discourage Broadway critics from reviewing such a shitty-sounding play simply by answering "no.")

Searching for information on Ginger Prince is further hampered by the fact that red-headed Paul Scholes, a midfielder for Manchester United, is known to his fans by the nickname "The Ginger Prince." (Macho, no?)

So while I have some idea who Ginger Prince is, I'm still left wondering whatever really became of her. Maybe nothing did. And maybe the lack of many mentions of her name online says all there needs to be said about what happened to her career. Or maybe there's a part of the story I'm missing. I wonder how Mike Lebovitz ever stumbled across her and why he decided she warranted a song about her. These are the things that bother me.

This is kids' stuff

EDIT: I may have answered one of my own questions. Apparently "The Prince of Peace" was produced by Kroger Babb, an early director of exploitation films who also cast Ginger Prince as the daughter of an alcoholic in "One Too Many." Babb's films were notoriously tawdry and was hounded by Christian groups. In response, Babb alleged he was making a film called "Father Bingo" that would serve as an expose on the secret underground of church basement gambling. The film never was realsed and Babb had no interest in making it, so it would seem it resulted only in becoming the name of a band sixty years later. And it would make sense that Lebovitz, while researching Kroger Babb would come across Ginger Prince.