Archive for May, 2007
This Muggle is very puzzled. I’ve never heard of a film’s release date being moved up, especially not this late in the game. Cinematical reports that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix will now be released Wednesday, July 11, instead of Friday, July 13.
Why the change? Are they trying to appease fundamentalist Christian groups by separating the movie from Friday the 13th? Cinematical’s Monica Bartyzel hypothesizes that Warner Bros. wanted to open the film a week after The Transformers. I’m wondering, given the timing of the decision, if it has more to do with the revenue from Thursday-night premieres of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End last week. Does this mean Order of the Phoenix will begin showing at 12:00 a.m. on Wednesday? If so, will that count towards the all-important weekend gross figures? So many questions.
May 30th, 2007
Everyone’s favorite paw-holding otters from Vancouver have made it to the evening news of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Check out the report, which reveals some interesting information: the otter video is the top-rated animal video in YouTube history. Hurrah! Also, it mentions that one of the otters is a survivor of the Exxon-Valdez oil spill. Not only are they cute; they’re heroic, too.
Thanks to Cute Otters for posting the story.
By the way, I realized just how far the original video’s popularity had spread when, one day at work, I heard a voice at the other end of my office cry, “They’re holding hands . . . and they’re swimming on their backs!” Yep, sure enough: it was our otter friends, appearing on my coworker’s monitor.
May 30th, 2007
On Thursday we attended the night-before-official-opening-day showing of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, which, fortunately for us old folks, was at 8:00 rather than midnight. Many attendees, including some in our own party, were of course in full piratical garb. So imagine the uproar when, about halfway through the end credits, the picture vanished from the screen and was replaced by theater ads. We all knew that there was going to be an epilogue scene after the credits, as there has been in every Pirates movie; some of us (okay, me) even knew that there were supposed to be twelve minutes of credits before that scene. There were many cries of distress and “Arrrgh!” before we gave up. As we passed the concession stand, we saw a crowd of angry pirates confronting the poor teenaged workers (why is it that the managers of movie theaters are never visible?). Apparently there had been some problem with the film balling up, and it wasn’t remediable. So, alas, I still have no idea what constitutes the epilogue scene, though I have heard that everyone’s favorite monkey is not involved.
Anyway, aside from that frustration, I was highly entertained by Pirates 3. The reviews have been pretty bad—perhaps not quite as bad as the reviews for Dead Man’s Chest—but, then, I expected they would be. Silly fun doesn’t seem to be appreciated by serious “feeelm” critics. Their biggest critique? The “bloated” (seriously, if I read that word in one more review, I’m going to scream) plot. The movie is almost three hours long, and I admit that there were parts I would have cut (namely, most of Captain Jack’s hallucinations, as they really don’t make sense once he’s out of Davy Jones’s Locker—Jack Sparrow is so much more fun when we don’t know what’s going on inside his head). But, for me, lack of conciseness is hardly one of the deadly sins of moviemaking, and so I didn’t really mind, because the movie made me laugh.
Unlike the other Pirates movies, it also made me care about young lovers Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann. I’ve always been more into the witty hijinks and silly slapstick of the Pirates movies, and the romance has been an afterthought (perhaps because I don’t seem to be susceptible to the charms of Mr. Bloom). But this movie actually made me feel a level of epic-level heartache for them, as well as for Commodore/Admiral Norrington, who has always been a great character.
I was a little disappointed that the third Pirates film didn’t have the amazingly inventive duels that were one of my favorite aspects of the first two. Critics may have complained about the giant hamster wheel in Dead Man’s Chest, but it was one of my favorite scenes. Pirates duels are up there with the classic duels in The Court Jester and The Princess Bride, in my opinion—two films with which the Pirates movies have a lot in common, though critics don’t seem to notice it. There are some great fight scenes in Pirates 3, but they’re more on the level of battle rather than personal duel.
Silliness, good fight scenes, and a score by Hans Zimmer (lots of new musical themes in this one, in addition to the old favorites): with those three things, a movie would have to try pretty hard to make me unhappy with it. Sure, I’ve got minor quibbles and things I would have done differently, but I’ll happily take those for the sake of laughter and swashbuckling joy. Pirates 3 is slightly darker in tone than the previous two movies, which is appropriate for the conclusion of a trilogy. And, please, Disney, make it the conclusion. I love my Pirates, but that means I don’t want them to be exploited for profit.
P.S. I’m fascinated by Porpoise’s reactions to the Pirates films. He wasn’t impressed by the first or third, while he really liked the second one, which had by far the worst critical reception. This is because the aforementioned lack of conciseness is for him the cardinal sin of moviemaking. This got me thinking: what is the cardinal moviemaking sin in my book? I can definitely say “bad dialogue” is my main pet peeve, but I have a hard time defining what makes dialogue bad for me. Take Star Wars, for example: the main thing that gets my goat about the Star Wars dialogue is that it slips in and out of different registers (formal, informal, contemporary, faux-medieval) without any apparent awareness on the part of the writer. Pirates dialogue switches registers with abandon, of course, but the difference there is that the writers are totally aware of it and use it for comic effect. So maybe earnest, un-self-aware dialogue drives me nuts? (in addition to preachy dialogue, which is also earnest, but too self-aware.)
There’s a great line in Pirates 3 spoken in reference to Captain Jack Sparrow’s feats of foolhardy derring-do: “Do you think he plans it all out ahead of time, of does he just make it up as he goes along?” Anyone who has listened to the commentary on Dead Man’s Chest knows that this line is also the screenwriters (Ted and Terry) referring to their own process of writing the screenplays for Pirates. Our fellow moviegoers seemed to know it too, because they greeted the line with much laughter. Pirates may flout all the rules of what makes a “good” movie, but its joy as tramples “feeelm” conventions is contagious.
UPDATE (SPOILER INLCUDED):
I have heard that the Pirates 3 epilogue features Elizabeth and a child (say, 9 or 10 years old . . . hmmm) looking out to sea, waiting for Will’s return. It’s apparently implied that since, unlike Calypso, Elizabeth has been faithful to the Dutchman’s captain, the curse will be lifted, and he will be free (does he get his heart put back in?). I’ve heard, though not confirmed, that dialogue explaining these conditions (which would have applied to Davy Jones as well, had Calypso been there at the end of the ten years) was originally present in the movie, but was cut (the only thing that was cut????).
May 26th, 2007
I’ve been on a mystery-reading kick recently, and since I’ve heard great things about British writer P.D. James—and since I loved Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men, based on her non-mystery novel of the same name—I thought I’d give her a try. People seem particularly impressed with her theological insights. James is a professing Anglican, as many mystery writers seem to be.
I was not impressed with her theological insights (where were they?) or with her characterization or her construction of plot. I began with one of her more recent novels, 2001’s Death in Holy Orders. Since that one took place at an Anglican seminary, I thought, it would be perhaps more full of spiritual significance. Well, other than having the seminary setting, I didn’t see much spiritual import there. (By the way, I was greatly amused to see that the back cover of my American paperback described the setting as the “East Anglican coast.” No, silly copy-writer, “Anglican” is the denomination; Anglian is the geographical region.)
More than any deep pondering of humanity in relation to the divine or to the diabolical, the omniscient narrator (dare I say the author?) seemed almost pruriently obsessed with human sexuality. Not that there’s anything wrong with a religious writer exploring the role of sexuality in the human condition, but the details in Death in Holy Orders (not graphic details by any means, but ones unnecessary to the plot) seemed to be there simply for . . . shock value? An assumption that dirty deeds and secrets are necessary to the genre? Senility on the part of the author?
Because James was 81 when Death in Holy Orders was published, I decided to give her another chance with an earlier book, 1972’s An Unsuitable Job for a Woman. This novel was also the first she wrote featuring her female detective, Cordelia Gray. Death in Holy Orders was an Adam Dalgliesh mystery, and I don’t know if it was because she’s written so many Dalgliesh mysteries previously or not, but the novel didn’t seem to give us much reason to like or respect him, though it was obvious that we were supposed to.
Anyway, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman was much more interesting and satisfying, but still nothing to rave about. Other than Cordelia, the characters weren’t particularly interesting, and neither were the situations.
It may just be the two books I’ve read, but I can’t see the appeal in P.D. James. I still plan to read Children of Men, though it may be a while, as I’m currently number 6 in the queue for it at the public library. But, if any of you out there are James fans, could you tell me what else I should read and why you think it’s good?
Just after finishing my two James novels, I launched into an exploration of Laurie R. King’s mysteries. A friend had loaned me the first two Kate Martinelli mysteries, A Grave Talent and To Play the Fool, promising that I would love the latter.
I liked A Grave Talent, the first in the series, enough to start the second enthusiastically. Perhaps we don’t get a great sense of detective Kate Martinelli herself, but her character is very private, and so it’s appropriate. She’s a closeted lesbian at the beginning of the series (A Grave Talent is from 1993), and is unwillingly outed by events relating to her investigation. But our lack of access to Kate’s character is more than made up for by a central character in each novel. In A Grave Talent, this character is the tremendously talented and tremendously troubled painter Vaun Adams. Dealing with her past becomes the central mystery of the story, and her healing unfolds as the clues to “whodunit” would in a more traditional mystery.
In the second book, To Play the Fool, the main enigmatic figure is Brother Erasmus, a modern Fool who speaks only in quotations—usually from the Bible or Shakespeare, though occasionally he throws in Gilbert and Sullivan. As you can imagine, this makes for some frustrating interrogation sessions with the police. It also makes for some extremely touching moments, when he chooses a quotation that’s so gently insightful and appropriate that it hits you under the ribs.
I loved Brother Erasmus. I love Holy Fools. I was raised on the musical Man of La Mancha (“Maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be!”) and was therefore quite disappointed to discover, in my adolescence, that the literary Don Quixote wasn’t the hero-Fool that the musical made him out to be. But Brother Erasmus is another man of La Mancha, teaching and redeeming the homeless and poking holes in the pretensions of the powerful on the streets of San Francisco.
Here’s just a snippet from one of the “research papers” about Fools that Kate reads during her investigation, to give you a sense of why the Holy Fool is so appealing. The paper discusses Old Testament prophets as Fools, and then continues,
“Jesus Ben Joseph fit right in, preaching to the poor, the prostitutes, the scum, scratching his lice and calling himself the son of God—and the ultimate absurdity, God’s only son strung up and executed with the other criminals: A royal diadem made from a branch of thorns, a king’s cloak that went to the high throw, his only public mourners a few outcast women with nothing left to lose. Then, to cap it off, Christ the original Fool is decently clothed in purple, his crown traded for one of gold, he is restored to the head of his Church, and the transformation is complete.
But what consequences, when the jester assumes the throne? Someone must take his place in the hall, lest the people forget that the essence of Christianity is humility, not magnificence, that in weakness lies our strength.”
That’s the kind of thing that makes me proud to follow Christ the Fool.
Anyway, as I was reading To Play the Fool, I started my own process of deduction about Laurie King’s religious affiliation and background. First clue? A hilarious passage describing Kate’s first encounter with an Anglican/Episcopalian church service. The description of juggling the hymnal and the Book of Common Prayer is something that could only come from someone willing to laugh from within the fold. So, I told myself, she’s Episcopalian, or at least has been in the past.
Second clue. The following description of the Old Testament notion of covenant, recited by a character who’s a religion professor: “In the most archaic forms, the symbolic recognition of a covenant is a split carcass, down the halves of which a flame is passed or the people walk. In fact, in the Hebrew language a covenant is ‘cut,’ not just made, which serves as a reminder that if one party goes back on his part of the agreement, he may be split down the middle as the carcass was.”
Now, I knew that tidbit of information, but only because I grew up with a father who obsessively reads Bible commentaries and shares his discoveries to anyone within hearing. I read that paragraph and said to myself, “This woman knows her stuff.” She’d clearly had some education in the Bible.
After I finished the book, I allowed myself to check my suspicions by visiting Laurie R. King’s web site. Sure enough, she has an M.A. in Old Testament studies. By the way, I recommend ferreting about on her site. There are some particularly interesting comments about the connection between religion and mystery-writing.
King’s subject matter of a lesbian detective and her life-partner may be off-putting to some Christian readers, even to many of King’s own denomination (which is, of course, likely to split over differing views of homosexual behavior). However, King is too good a writer to make a character into an agenda. Kate’s orientation is presented matter-of-factly, without a lot of fuss. I imagine that the lesbian characters in the book wouldn’t make a huge difference, even to readers who disapprove of homosexual activity, because most Christians, if they don’t restrict themselves to “safe” books from known Christian publishers, spend a lot of time reading about sexual relationships between unmarried heterosexuals—and, at least theoretically, this is the same. And of course it’s not necessary to approve of all a character’s actions in order to care about and respect him or her.
That said, To Play the Fool was the most spiritually uplifting book I’ve read in a while.
May 23rd, 2007
Check ‘em out over at Cinematical.
My first impression? Will is so . . . blond. I think the first image is supposed to be Will’s sister Mary, though, according to IMDB, they’re calling her Gwen (some sister condensation going on).
I was assuming that the man with the dark beard was Hawkin, but, after reviewing the cast list, I think he’s actually Ian McShane as Merriman Lyon, which is kind of disappointing. He’s not nearly tall enough, and his hair and beard should be white!
Apparently the actor playing Hawkin is 25, which seems like a poor choice. How can he convey the bitterness and world-weariness of someone who has borne a burden for centuries?
On the other hand, Christopher Eccleston is looking very suitably sinister as the Rider. I suspect that he’ll be a joy to watch, no matter what the rest of the movie is like.
May 21st, 2007
Certainly not What a Girl Wants, which was the title of the 2003 remake of this 1958 comedy. What a difference forty-five years makes. What a Girl Wants–which, incidentally, was introduced to me by my husband–is cute. Amanda Bynes, its teenage star, is cute and charismatic and good at physical comedy. Colin Firth, as her staid British father, is in cute autopilot in his Mr. Darcy role. Overall, I tend to get the movie’s cuteness mixed up with The Princess Diaries. They’re both cute in that “just be yourself (as long as you’re cute)” way.
The Reluctant Debutante is, well, different. Although it was a little more difficult to get into at first, it made me laugh more. And, most interestingly, instead of focusing on the self-esteem of the younger generation, The Reluctant Debutante offers their parents as its comic stars. Sandra Dee plays the debutante of the title (this is the first time I’ve ever seen her in a movie, and her boring, squeaky-clean sincerity finally explains the scornful tone of the “Look at me, I’m Sandra Dee” song from Grease). Rex Harrison plays her father as a sort of twentieth-century, higher-class Mr. Bennet, Kay Kendall (Harrison’s wife in real life) plays his well-meaning but overly class-conscious wife Sheila, and Angela Lansbury rounds out the cast as Sheila’s gossipy and competitive cousin Mabel Claremont.
In addition to (and perhaps because of) the different generational focus, The Reluctant Debutante is actually a little more risqué than What a Girl Wants. It’s nothing at all shocking by today’s standards, of course—just drinking and references to the potential debauching of young women. Still, it’s curious that the later film should actually be more “innocent.” Again, the audience for What a Girl Wants is largely tween and teen girls, though apparently some of our favorite Dunder-Mifflin employees also enjoy it (see episode 23–”Beach Games”–of season 3 of The Office).
What a Girl Wants also has clear-cut villains, including a potential stepmother (Mr. Darcy, ahem, Dashwood—yes, they did name him Dashwood, as in the main family name in Sense and Sensibility—is of course single, divorced and separated by a continent from Daphne’s mother). In contrast, in The Reluctant Debutante, Jimmy Broadbent is already married to Jane’s stepmother, Sheila, and she isn’t wicked. Nor is Clarissa, Mabel Claremont’s daughter and Jane’s fellow debutante. She just has an unfortunate predilection for boring young men who love nothing better than discussing traffic patterns. I found the lack of villainy refreshing—the movie certainly found enough amusing plot obstacles without it. (Oh, and by the way, it’s merely implied that Jimmy is divorced from Jane’s American mother–the word “divorce” does not appear in the film, which perhaps gives some indication of what topics were more taboo at the time.)
I’m tempted to try to analyze the two films and come up with conclusions about the sophisticated, self-deprecating humor of earlier generations as opposed to the “me” focus and slapstick humor of current generations, but of course that would be an oversimplification of differences that probably have more to do with the audience age for each film. But, still, a 2003 movie that’s more earnest and sincere than a 1950s movie? It might just make me question our caricature of the 1950s.
May 20th, 2007
Today’s bad news isn’t exactly a surprise, given the new network’s treatment of our favorite teen sleuth all this year, but it still stings. It was especially disappointing given the high quality of this week’s episode—high quality achieved despite the CW’s mandate of stand-alone episodes without an overarching mystery connecting them.
“I Know What You’ll Do Next Summer” centered around a fellow Hearst College student named Apollo who had, with the help of his professor, written a memoir about his experience as a child soldier in Uganda. When Veronica, while on assignment from a man who thinks he may be Apollo’s father, discovers that the memoir may be false, she’s troubled about what to do. Wallace points out to her how much good the memoir has done (just on campus, it has not only raised awareness of child soldiers but has recruited students to help out with the organization Invisible Children) and how exposing it as phony might undo that good.
Though Veronica obliquely references the recent James Frey fracas when she suggests that Oprah will be ready to tear Apollo apart on her show, the episode really has more resonance with the controversy surrounding Rigoberta Menchú’s autobiography a few years back. The same arguments were made for and against. Some people were disillusioned, asking how someone dishonest could deserve the Nobel Peace Prize. Some people said it didn’t matter, because the events Menchú depicted had, indeed, happened to many, if not to her in the way she claimed. The nature of truth was debated.
Apollo’s story has a simpler resolution: he had intentionally set Veronica up to hear the “accusation” of falsity and the “breaking” of his movie deal so that he could be sure that the man claiming to be his father wasn’t just after money. Apollo really had been a child soldier, and the episode got to tack on a public service announcement for Invisible Children without any moral complications (though why on earth did they choose the actors who play Dick and Logan, of all characters the most self-centered, to deliver it?).
It was a satisfying episode, with important themes and hilarious moments, of which I’ll mention two. 1) After Veronica has just obtained her official P.I. license, a new client comes to see her at Mars Investigations. He is incredulous that she, a girl and a teenager, is Detective Mars. Veronica assures him of her qualifications, but then looks down and realizes that she is holding a pen in the shape of a cat with a long, fluffy tail that waves as she writes. That, precisely, is how I feel most days on the job. You try your best to seem professional and competent despite looking even younger than you are, but there’s always something that undermines all your best efforts. 2) Vinnie Van Lowe’s attempt to cultivate a respectable appearance. The haircut! The TV ad! Howlingly funny.
Waah! It was so good. And now there’s only the 2-hour season (and now series) finale left. I am glad that they didn’t pursue any option that would cut out the father-daughter interaction between Veronica and Keith or the great minor characters like Wallace, Mac, and Weevil. But . . . sigh.
Apparently Kristen Bell will be providing the voiceover for a new CW show based on the “Gossip Girl” teen book series. It sounds just about the quality level of “The Search for the Next Pussycat Doll.” Thanks, CW. You’ve just made me very grumpy.
May 17th, 2007
“Cast your mind now to a South steeped in Christian fundamentalism,” begins the NPR report. Really, you have to listen to it just to capture the reporter’s “I’m discussing a strange tribe of primitives” tone. New O’Connor letters were just released yesterday, but the ones that are already published tell us that Flannery O’Connor would have had a blast skewering this reporter.
In a 1960 letter to Betty Hester, O’Connor responds to a review of The Violent Bear It Away by “a lady in the Concord P.L. [Public Library],” who says that novel’s main character “is the latest edition [sic—O’Connor’s spelling was genuinely dreadful] to my ‘band of poor God-driven Southern whites.’” O’Connor continues, “I am getting the connection between the God-driven and the underprivileged—God-drivenness being a form of Southern degeneracy . . .”
Ah, some things haven’t changed.
Betty Hester, by the way, is the recipient of all the letters released Saturday, May 12. Readers and scholars alike have been familiar with at least portions of O’Connor’s letters to Elizabeth “Betty” Hester since their 1979 publication in The Habit of Being, a collection of O’Connor’s letters edited by her friend Sally Fitzgerald. Hester is not referred to by name in The Habit of Being; she was known simply as “A.” until 1998, when she died and her identity was made public.
Between 1955 and 1964, when O’Connor died of lupus, she and Hester exchanged hundreds of letters. They shared their insights about what they were reading, and Hester often sent O’Connor books from libraries in Atlanta. They exchanged drafts of their writing, and O’Connor’s letters indicate that she respected Hester as a fellow writer, though the latter never achieved any fame. They also exchanged a good deal of theological dialogue; when Hester was confirmed in the Catholic Church in 1956, she asked O’Connor to be her sponsor. However, some of the best bits of O’Connor’s letters to Hester are her hilarious depictions of reviewers’ comments and of daily life at her mother’s farm.
Seventy-nine of the letters released yesterday are completely unpublished. Others contain excerpts previously excised by Fitzgerald.
The letters had been sealed for twenty years at Hester’s request. Why all the secrecy? According to Steve Ennis, director of Emory University’s Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Book Library, “Betty was a lesbian, and probably for that reason was worried about public scrutiny of herself. She didn’t want any attention. She did not want scholars knocking at her door and did not want to answer meddlesome questions. That’s why she said the letters should be closed for 20 years.” Ennis doesn’t offer further explanation of his statement about Hester’s sexuality.
Indeed, in an interview with NPR, Ennis seems to indicate that what Hester referred to as her “history of horror” is a little more mysterious. The facts he mentioned are that she witnessed her own mother’s suicide at a young age (and surely that’s horrible enough; no doubt it contributed to Hester’s own suicide at the age of 75, though I can’t really find any information about that) and that she was dishonorably discharged from the army. The discharge hints at some sort of sexual misbehavior. At this point, the NPR interviewer interjects, “Presumably with another woman?” “Presumably,” Ennis answers, again without explaining why they’ve made this supposition. They may have substantial reason for it, but if at one point you call the reason for the discharge “precisely unclear,” you should then be prepared to provide some sort of proof for your theory about it.
Anyway, speculation about Hester’s sexuality matters little; she clearly went through a lot of suffering, whatever the cause, and her friend Flannery O’Connor responded with grace. Apparently, in October of 1956, Hester had written to O’Connor revealing some of the details of her “history of horror.” Because O’Connor never kept letters she received, we don’t know exactly what Hester wrote, but O’Connor’s response is amazing. Truly amazing. I highly recommend listening to the NPR clip, but if you can’t, here’s my transcript of O’Connor’s Oct. 31 response:
“I can’t write you fast enough and tell you that it doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference in my opinion of you, which is the same as it was, and that is based solidly on complete respect. . . . Compared to what you have experienced in the way of radical misery, I have never had anything to bear in my life but minor irritations. But there are times when the sharpest suffering is not to suffer and the worst affliction not to be afflicted. Job’s comforters were worse off than he was, though they didn’t know it. If in any sense my knowing your burden can make your burden lighter, then I am doubly glad I know it. You are right to tell me. But I’m glad you didn’t tell me until I knew you well. Where you are wrong is in saying that you are a history of horror. The meaning of the Redemption is precisely that we do not have to be our history, and nothing is plainer to me than that you are not your history.”
If this is what all the excised bits of the letters are like, I had better bring a box of Kleenex with me on that distant day when I finally make it down to Emory to read them. Just this little excerpt turned me into a sniffling wreck.
If O’Connor, who at age 31 already knew she would likely die of the same disease that had killed her father when she was a teenager, believed that her suffering was “minor irritations” compared to Hester’s . . . wow.
From the published letters, we already know that in 1961, Hester wrote O’Connor to tell her that, less than five years after her conversion, she was leaving the Church. O’Connor’s response was again full of grace, though also truthful–in the way that O’Connor’s grace tends to be. She wrote,
“I don’t know anything that could grieve us here like this news. I know that you do what you do because you think it is right, and I don’t think any the less of you outside the Church than in it, but what is painful is the realization that this means a narrowing of life for you and a lessening of the desire for life.”
I don’t know whether Hester ever returned to the Church or not, but at least she had a Christian friend who, without pretense or false piety, and with occasional crankiness (”I also wish I were up there so that in the spirit of Christian charity I could knock you in the head with the nearest stick of wood,” O’Connor wrote in an earlier letter, in response to Hester’s despair over a critic’s comments on her writing), was there to support her through her wanderings.
If only more of today’s pilgrims of faith could say the same.
May 13th, 2007
Lolcats, in case you don’t waste as much time on the Internet as I do, are a fairly recent Web phenomenon involving photos of cats, accompanied by captions that are often in a sort of pidgin dialect. The “lol” part of the term comes from the chat acronym for “laughing out loud,” though in “lolcats” it’s actually pronounced “lawlcats,” rather than being spelled out verbally as “ell-oh-ell.”
Here’s a classic example of a lolcat (in fact, its caption is also the name of a site featuring a monumental collection of lolcats):
Now, lolcats are a fairly common sight on CuteOverload or any of those sites shamefacedly frequented by me and other people who like to look at pictures of fluffy animals. The most interesting development, though, is that non-cat, non-fluffy, non-cooing people have begun to blog about lolcat-speak, because they find it an interesting linguistic phenomenon.
Anil Dash writes that he understood that “kitty pidgin” had a fairly consistent grammar when he saw a lolcat whose caption made him realize that “it’s possible to get cat-speak wrong.” Good point.
To continue our study of lolcat-speak, let’s take a look at a recent post on Zero Sum Mind. David traces the evolution of lolcats and classifies them by type: “I has . . .,” “I eated . . .,” “I’m in ur . . .,” etc. The last example is particularly interesting because it’s derived from a phrase originally used in an online multiplayer game (variously attributed to Starcraft and World of Warcraft): “I’m in ur base, killin ur d00ds.”
So somewhere we had cross-pollination between people who play online games and people who look at pictures of fluffy animals, resulting in . . . lolcats who use the phrase “I’m in ur.” Why did lolcats adapt the language of online gamers? I’m not sure, but I think it has something to do with the aura of devious subterfuge that surrounds cats. Look at examples of “I’m in ur” lolcats, and you’ll see sneakiness as a common theme. Here’s a good one:
That still doesn’t answer the question of why lolcats in general have a specific kitty pidgin, but I think it’s actually part of the explanation. Think about it: whenever we see a picture of an anthropomorphized animal accompanied by text, the animal is usually trying to accomplish something in its own interest. Remember the Chik-fil-A ads with a cow holding a “hand-written” sign reading “Eat Mor Chikin”?
It’s like we want to credit animals with being smart and devious enough to figure out how to use our language against us, but we don’t want to go the final step of pretending they can master our language. I mean, if cats really could speak English, they would completely dominate us. So there has to be some sort of distinction, and pidgin grammar works well to appease our fears while tickling our imaginations.
There’s my theory of lolcat-speak. Dissect at will.
May 11th, 2007
Tuesday’s stand-alone episode of Veronica Mars (“Debasement Tapes”) was significantly better than last week’s public service announcement episode (“Un-American Graffiti”). Maybe the CW allowed more quality because the episode had the draw of guest star Paul Rudd. Unfortunately, the ratings were still pretty bad.
Many viewers are raving about Paul Rudd’s performance, but I actually found him kind of annoying. Sure, I liked the concept of a 90’s has-been rocker: it was a great nod to those of us for whom the 1990s were the apex of rock music. Makes me wonder: are most Veronica Mars viewers late twenty-somethings and early thirty-somethings? But, anyway, Rudd’s character didn’t have much depth—and couldn’t, since he was just there for one episode. Same thing with the “mystery,” which ended up being really lame. Bring back the story arcs, please!
There actually were some connections to previous arcs, with the re-emergence of the Fightin’ Fitzpatricks and Danny Boyd (“O Danny Boyd, the pipes, the pipes are ca-ah-lling . . .”). Plus, Leo came back, which made me happy, especially when Keith reinstated him as Deputy. (Did anyone else notice that he’d lost a lot of weight? His chin looked very pointy.) And then there was the whole Vinnie Van Lowe thing, which looks like it will provide some interesting tension in future episodes. (For you sad people who didn’t watch, Keith Mars’s rival P.I. announced that he would be running against Keith in his previously unopposed race for Neptune sheriff.)
Speaking of Vinnie, because I just recently watched season 2 and this was completely and totally confused when I watched the beginning of season 3 last fall, can someone fill me in on Vinnie’s involvement with the Fitzpatrick/Kendall plot? And please preface your response with a “spoiler” label, since I know some readers have not yet watched season 2.
As far as the romantic plots, as much as I would like for Veronica to date someone who isn’t a rich bad boy, Piz doesn’t seem to have the requisite mental acuity to keep up with her. This problem was nicely foreshadowed by Mac’s realization that her “nice” boyfriend Bronson just didn’t click with her brain the way fellow geek Max did. Ah, if only there were more nice boys with a touch of evil wit. I think I may have married the last one. There certainly don’t seem to be many on TV.
This episode did make me feel sorry for Logan for once—and not because he’s a “poor little rich boy” or because Veronica dumped him. I was indignant that he actually did legitimate work for his business class, and the professor wouldn’t give him a chance. I guess it is kind of like “the boy who cried wolf,” but oh well.
Save Veronica Mars!
May 10th, 2007