Harry Potter and the Mid-Life Crisis

Could there be an eighth Harry Potter novel after all? Just five months after the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling has dropped a hint that she might not be done with the wizarding world.

Rowling told Time magazine in a year-end interview: "There have been times since finishing, weak moments, when I've said 'Yeah, all right' to the eighth novel.”

Okay, it’s not much to pin your hopes on but fans need something to cling to in this now Harry Potter-less land. I’ve spent many a summer afternoon in a hammock reading through the increasingly hefty tomes and I can’t satisfy my interests by waiting for Tristan to be old enough for me read them to him.

Rowling created such a lush, detailed universe that there must be a multitude of characters and stories to tell. Which is what the author may have in mind. "If, and it's a big if, I ever write an eighth book, I doubt that Harry would be the central character. I feel I've already told his story,” said Rowling. “But these are big ifs. Let's give it ten years."

She did drop some other tidbits, which shows how developed the universe already is, such as where the main characters end up inbetween the final battle of Hallows and the epilogue:

"I do have it all worked out in my mind because I couldn't stop myself doing that," Rowling told Time. "Harry and Hermione are at the Ministry: he ends up leading the Auror department. Ron helps George at the joke shop and does very well. Ginny becomes a professional Quidditch player and then sportswriter for the Daily Prophet.”

Wait 10 years for more? I suppose I'll have to. Anything that brings children closer to Satanism, right?

Poor Little Rich Girl

How annoyed must someone be with you to cut you out of a couple of billion dollars? Paris Hilton's grandfather Barron Hilton plans to donate 97% of his net worth, estimated today at $2.3 billion, to a charitable trust. Barron's father Conrad did the same, but Barron challenged the will and clawed a sizable amount back from charity, but now he'd rather give it away then see it in the hands of his petulant progeny. Perhaps Paris will fight this in court, but her lawyers couldn't even keep 1 Night in Paris off the shelves, so it doesn't look good for the heiress.

Of course Paris has, against all reason, turned herself into a multi-platform brand and likely has a significant trust fund to help her get by, but still, it has got to sting...

Full Metal Rudolph, The Reinfather & A Pack of Gifts Now

The stop animation of the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas special always creeped me out Maybe it was the way they moved or the large, dead eyes. But what doesn't put me in the Christmas spirit does lend itself to parody.

Full Metal Rudolph is a wonderful mashup of one of my favourite films, Stanly Kuberick's Full Metal Jacket, with Rudolph. The scene has Senior Drill Instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman tearing a new one for the elves.

Awhile back MAD TV aired a few Rudolph parodies, done by animator Corky Quakenbush. The Reinfather captures some of the best of The Godfather, with Rudolph as Brando, Hermey the Misfit Elf as his lieutenant. "This one time, Clarice, I'll let you ask about my business..."

A Pack of Gifts Now summarizes Apocalypse Now in a tidy four and a half minutes, with Rudolph as Captain Willard and Santa as Colonel Kurtz. Santa has gone mad and is giving toys away for free.

"Saskatchewan. Shoot. I'm still in Saskatchewan... the ho ho horror!"

Dodecatuple Secret Probation

How many universities and colleges frats and residences must lay claim to being the inspiration for Animal House? It must be countless. And just like urban myths, it is often hard to prove or disprove and the story gets repeated enough over the years that it begins to sound true.

This week the University of Toronto turned the Gate House residence, “which lays claim to being an inspiration for the 1978 movie Animal House,” into a co-ed facility after some typical dude idiocy. A giant snow penis sculpture, a pig’s head in a women’s washroom, hazing and this list goes on.

Well not condoning the behaviour, I get the appeal of laying claim to the Animal House mantle. It is one of the best-known pop cultural depictions of university life, and one that is often parodied.

At least Gate House has some connection to the film. Donald Sutherland, who played Professor Jennings in the movie, attended UofT and was in residence next door to Gate House. The Toronto Star says, “his memories of Gate House toga parties are said to have influenced the movie script.” Perhaps, though most everywhere else attributes the origin of Animal House to Dartmouth College, where one of the writers was in the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity.

But whether the residence inspired the film or the film inspired the residents, it was shut down by the university and the dean of students. It’s just how Homer Simpson, whose entire vision of post-secondary life is informed by Animal House-esqe escapades would imagine it. “Marge, someone squeezed all the life out of these kids. And unless movies and TV have lied to me, it's a crusty, bitter old dean!”

Homer Goes to College has several references to Animal House (bless those rowdy members of Chugalug House!), but it can’t touch the loving tribute of Futurama’s Mars University. While the plot centers on Fry and a monkey, it is Bender revisiting his old alma mater, Robot House that steals the show.

Gearshit: No, Bender, wait. We're the lamest frat on campus. Even Hilel has better parties than us. Please, you've gotta stay and teach us how to be cool.

Bender: Well, okay... but I'll need 10 kegs of beer, a continuous tape of Louie Louie and a regulation two-story panty-raid ladder.

Even while on a dodecatuple secret probation, the robots are able to show up the neighbouring Snooty House.

So while UofT may not be the original home of Animal House, it will live on in pop culture forever – and inspire more real-life stupidity.

My Kid Could Paint That

I have discovered a budding new artist, my 14-month-old son Tristan. Quickly surpassing his daycare contemporaries, Tristan is l'enfant terrible of the abstract art world.

While this claim has been made before, only to fall apart when the hand of a parent was discovered to be assisting the child, I can assure you that I've had no part in this work. His genius is his own...

Energy and Projection
Tristan's paintings are a process of exploration. There are no messages or hidden agendas, other than to reveal the discoveries made during his investigations. Perhaps he does take cues from familiar surroundings and perhaps the steamy southern summers, rich patinas of aged surfaces and the mystery of moss-draped wetlands do find their way into his work. But not as images, not obviously and certainly not intentionally.

Luminous Response
Tristan collects ideas, energy and impressions from his personal experiences and surroundings, and then, using his skills and talent, portrays his interpretation on the canvas. The impressions Tristan treasures are as singularly brilliant as his ability to convey them, so the final effect is one of ravishing beauty and luxury, and canvases alive with character.

The Shimmering Context
Tristan explores the relationships among the natural world, the human soul, color, beauty and the unknown, and interprets these ideas through art that is pleasing to the eye and the soul. His artistic repertoire is crafted and conceived with a sense of timing, a delicate but sure hand and nuances of color.

Ephemeral Appendix of Despair
Tristan's nocturnes are tangible demonstrations of his creed of aestheticism, which stresses his desire to orchestrate selected elements from nature into a composition that, like music, exists for its own sake, without regard to moral or didactic issues.

Déjà Vu/Sweet Dreams
Tristan's work is dependent on design fundamentals: form, color, and composition. He believes the most complex emotions can be evoked from the simplest of forms. His style explores the relationship between man-made structures and the natural world. Tristan begins a piece very spontaneously and become more detailed as the composition starts to show itself. The process involves layering. By building and removing endless layers of paint, Tristan gives the work a sense of history and unique, old world charm. The first layers are the most erratic and freeform, similar to automatic writing. He sometimes add other elements like gels, and collage in these early layers.

There are no preliminary sketches or notions of what is going to transpire. As he notices different characters and forms in the middle of the process, he nurtures and allows them to develop almost at their own will. A dialogue is created with the painting, and it starts to show what needs to be done. Determining when a painting is finished is a crucial and difficult step in his process. Tristan always has to see it with fresh eyes after at least a day has passed to decide if it is finished.


I've been wallowing in some '80s nostalgia. Early '80s. Actually some Australian nostalgia as well and have been searching out old Men at Work and Midnight Oil albums that I used to have on cassettes. (Cassettes? what are those dad?)

It turns out iTunes doesn't have Diesel and Dust or Cargo. Weird. But the Canadian store (stupid geo-blocking) now caries episodes of Little Mosque on the Prairie and Corner Gas. Sigh... go CanCon.

Any-who, it reminded me of a Scrubs episode where the lead singer of Men at Work sang Overkill while following J.D. (Zach Braff) about the hospital. It's a bit odd out of context, but still a great version, especially if you've never seen it.

So without further ado...

Last Supper Redux

Since posting a collection of Last Supper parodies last Easter (I'm sensitive that way) I've found another dozen that are worth checking out. The range is impressive, from House to Quentin Tarantino, Popeye to Batman, Kevin Smith to Phish.

Check out the whole collection before a lightning bolt strikes me or my server down.

House's Last Supper

The Kids Aren't Alright

Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame street? No? What do you mean it isn't for kids?

The recent DVD release of Sesame Street: Old School, Volumes 1 and 2, which encompasses the years 1969-79, came with a warning: “These early Sesame Street episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.”

Are they kidding? These two volumes encompass the beginnings of the classic kids show, which intersect almost perfectly with my childhood. My generation played with lawn darts and had full-wheel walkers that could fly down stairs like nobody's business, but Sesame Street was a source of all that was pure and good.

Or not, it seems. The ravenous, googly-eyed, sugar-binging Cookie Monster used to throw back boxes and boxes of the sugary treats. Om nom nom nom. Now the cookies are considered a "sometimes snack" and he's just as happy with carrots and other veggies. Stupid, overweight children.

And everyone can now see Snuffleupagus too, not just Big Bird. Seems that they didn't want kids thinking adults wouldn't believe them if they told them something, which is understandable, but it still takes a way a bit of the magic. Whatever happened to imaginary friends?

Even Oscar, the cranky, garbage-dwellig Grouch, is too much for our kinder, gentler, child-rearing ways. Apparently he was a touch too acidic way, way back in the 1970s and wouldn't pass muster today. “We might not be able to create a character like Oscar now,” Carol-Lynn Parente, the executive producer of Sesame Street, told The New York Times.

Amusingly, it's likely people my age running the show these days, the ones brought up watching what is now deemed inappropriate for kids. A classic case of "Do as I say, not as I do." I suppose all parents do that.

Of course I'm hardly the first to bemoan the changes and wonder where they are leading to. Below is graphic artist Steve Murray's take on the subject. Click on the image for a larger version.

If He's Not in Action, He's in Traction

Who would have thought it would be Evel Knievel’s health that would fell him and not one of his insane stunts? The star-spangled motorcycle daredevil and ’70s icon died Friday at the age of 69.

I had an Evel Knievel pillow when I was a kid, which in retrospect seems like an odd piece of merchandise for him to have endorsed, but at his height he was like Krusty, stamping his seal of approval on everything. By the time I heard of him, his career was over mostly over and he was as famous for his failed jumps as his successful landings.

I suppose I was impressed much like Bart Simpson was after seeing daredevil Captain Lance Murdoch (a spot-on Knievel parody) at the monster truck rally. Bart starts off jumping his skateboard over pets, pools, Homer, until he runs out of things to clear. He decides to up the ante by planning a spectacular jump over Springfield Gorge, much like Knievel’s plan to jump Snake River Canyon in a rocket-propelled motorcycle. Lisa takes Bart to see Murdoch in the hospital in an attempt to dissuade him.
“Now let me start by saying... Good for you son! It's always good to see young people taking an interest in danger. Now a lot of people are going to be telling you you're crazy, and maybe they're right. But the fact of the matter is: Bones heal. Chicks dig scars. And the United States of America has the best doctor-to-daredevil ratio in the world!”
Bart doesn’t end up attempting the leap, but Homer does, plunging to the the bottom of the gorge, just like Knievel.

The stuntman’s pop culture influence extended beyond The Simpsons, of course. There was Super Dave Osbourne, a rock opera and a forthcoming roller coaster, among the reams and reams of merchandise. But one thing I’ve rarely seen him given much credit for is the term "jumping the shark.”

The term, which describes a show that has passed its prime, is attributed to an episode of Happy Days where Fonzi water-skis over a shark. The episode aired in 1977, just months after Knievel’s disastrous jump over a tank full of sharks. The term is now wide spread and it all goes back to Knievel. Now that’s a pop culture legacy!

Addendum: Having said nobody makes the jumping the shark connection, I found exactly that in Steve Mandich's extensive collection of Knievel Comedy. I also found a great look back at Knievel's career over at A Shroud of Thoughts. She has quite the way with pop culture obits.

Gnome Again, Gnome Again, Jiggity Jig

There is no explaining the wanderlust of the common garden gnome and no way to know when they might pick up and jaunt across the globe for a few months. You can only hope they will return and share their travel stories.

Which is what Nancy Ubell's gnome Simon did this month, reappearing on her stoop after a two-month absence, bearing a travel journal and photos from Buckingham Palace, Stonehenge, Oman, Jordan and "391 metres below sea level."

"He had such a good trip," Ubell told The Province. "I'm very envious of him. He sure changed our life. He gave us something to talk about. What a busy gnome."
Despite her praise, Simon won't be hitting the road anytime soon as his residence has been upgraded from the yard to the house.

Simon's story is not uncommon, playing out on the big screen in Amelie and little screens as the mascot for Travelocity. There are several Garden Gnome Liberation Fronts who are dedicated to liberating gnomes from their unjust imprisonment.


I am doing some blogging at work as well and the above post came from yesterday's National Post Posted blog. It's hard work, but somebodies got to do it. Be sure to check out the newly renovated and relaunched website - I would say it looked good even if I wasn't paid to work there.

The Friendly Giant Has Left the Building

The children of Bob Homme, the creator and star of the long-running CBC kid's show The Friendly Giant, are taking their toys and going home.

The progeny of Homme, whose show went off the air in 1984 after a 26-year run, are offended by the use of Rusty the Rooster and Jerome the Giraffe in a skit for this year's Gemini Awards. The puppets, who were the Friendly Giant's companions in his castle, were portrayed as retirees in an old age home for bored, randy puppets from cancelled TV shows. Gerome, who would poke his head around the edge of a castle window was shown poking his head around beer taps.

"The appearance of the puppets, alone, shocked me, as the CBC is required to get our permission to use them in any way... This is the last straw (a big one) and I feel I have to address it," Ann Homme, Bob's daughter, wrote to the Globe and Mail.

She wasn't kidding. Yesterday the CBC announced to staff that the puppets were being pulled from the CBC Museum in Toronto. "After a lengthy stay with us here in the Broadcasting Centre, these iconic creations and other Friendly artifacts, which have been on loan to the CBC Museum for many years, will be going home - at the request of the family of the man who made them famous," the memo said.

So who has done more of a disservice to a beloved childhood icon? The reason that the skit got laughs 22 years after the show went off the air is people still remember the characters fondly. You can't subvert the image of a character that nobody cares about. And it is doubtful that anyone whom the show is aimed, if were still being aired, would be watching a Canadian TV awards show.

The skit itself (see below) follows in a line of shows that show puppets have a life outside of their TV life - see Greg the Bunny, Puppets Who Kill, Robot Chicken and even The Muppets.

This humour was clearly lost on the Hommes' children who are pulling the puppets from anyone who wants to go wandering down memory lane.

Update: CBC Arts has further quotes from the family and the audio from the As It Happens interview. "I'm sorry this whole thing happened, but we felt we had no choice," Richard Homme told CBC Radio's As It Happens, saying the skit was "misrepresenting the puppets. They seemed like aliens to me with their different voices. It occurred to me that this is not anything we would have approved of, as far as the script goes."

Are You Ready For Some Football?

I finally get football. I don’t mean I understand how the game is played – I don’t – or its appeal, but I think I know have some insight into the mindset of the fans thanks to Steve Murray’s comic strip, excerpted above.

Murray, an illustrator for the National Post, is drawing his impressions of the week-long hoopla leading up to the Grey cup – the championship game for the Canadian Football League – taking place in Toronto this week. The CFL is our version of the NFL, and there is some difference in the game. What that is, exactly, is lost on me.

Anyway, you can comics one, two and three here.

Save the Writers, Save the World!

Leave it to Hollywood to produce such an entertaining strike. With all the machinations, scheming and backstabbing, it’s like one of the reality shows they are so worried will take over the airwaves if the writers stay out for months. Which, it seems, could very well happen.

With everyone’s heels dug in, some nastiness is emerging. Fox aired a new Family Guy today, but without the participation or approval of creator Seth MacFarlane, who joined the picket lines when the Writers Guild went on strike on Nov. 5. There was only one complete episode in the can at the time, but three that were near completion. So the network, which has cancelled the show before, is moving ahead without MacFarlane, who also voices Peter, Stewie, Brian, Glen Quagmire and Tom Tucker. Ingrates.

Not surprisingly, this is not going over well with MacFarlane. "It would just be a colossal dick move if they did that," he told Variety. "They've never done anything like this before, in which they've said, 'We're going to finish a show without you. It's really going to be unfortunate and damaging to our relationship if they do it."

Obviously they know that and clearly they don’t care. The networks and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have known this strike was coming and they are prepared for it. If that means stepping on a few writers and creators, then so be it.

On the other side of the picket line is the cast of 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live, who are staging live performances at a New York improv theater and donating the proceeds to production workers who will be out of work while the strike continues. Doesn’t get much more black and white than that, does it?

Some other interesting tidbits:

- My friend Nik, a TV blogger extraordinaire, is speculating that if the strike goes long, it could mean the end of Lost.

- Another friend, who works at a Toronto production house, says there is renewed U.S. interest in Corner Gas. Already airing on the cable station WGN, it seems the strike has at least one of the big four networks sniffing around.

- Perhaps they’d better settle this strike soon, or my pals at Dose will have to keep pumping out their replacement versions of 24 and Ugly Betty.

Bunnies on a Plane

So I've finally seen Snakes on a Plane, more than a year after the web-hyped, box-office dud ran rampant over the pop culture zeitgeist. Ok, not the actual film, but the 30-second version, re-enacted by bunnies.

I resisted the film because I was bothered by the attempt to create a cult classic, a mantle I believe is bestowed by the audience, not manufactured in advance. Ultimately it appeared most people agreed and the film slithered away, only to be remembered for Samuel L. Jackson's prodigious use of the word "motherfucker."

But now that the Bunnies have hopped all over it, perhaps I need to give it a look, if only so it doesn't become another one of my pop culture blind spots.

TV's Greatest Icons

In the midst of a writers strike that could reduce the TV landscape to a wasteland of reruns if it lasts, TV Land and Entertainment Weekly's list of The 50 Greatest TV Icons is a reminder of some of the best of what television has created.

The U.S. cable show will count down and profile the icons as will EW later this week, but the list is out now, so why wait to pick over it?

The list is topped by the King of Late Night, Johnny Carson and the man who venerates him, David Letterman, comes in at No. 16 while the man who inherited his chair, Jay Leno, didn't even crack the extended Top 100.

Modern-era icons Jerry Seinfeld and Homer Simpson made the Top 10 (No. 8 and No. 9, respectively), with the rest of the top slots taken by Lucille Ball, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Cosby, Walter Cronkite, Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Clark.

It's a good list, though I would question the inclusion of George Clooney (No. 37), who really wasn't a huge star until he switched to films and John Stamos shouldn't be on the list, even at No. 90.

What's interesting to contemplate is that most of these icons are the creations of writers. Even though the list does not include their characters, most of these actors are known for one show. They brought their abilities and personalities to bear, but without the writers they would have had nothing to work with.

Cartoon characters like Homer, Kermit (No. 21) and Cartman (No. 84) first came to life with words. Hawkeye Pierce, Carrie Bradshaw, Alex P. Keaton, The Fonz, Rachel Green, Buffy Summers, J.R., Magnum and Gilligan sprung from a pen before the actors brought the characters into our living room.

In fact there are a lot of writers on the list: Carson, Cosby, Seinfeld, Letterman, Rosanne Barr, Alan Alda, Jon Stewart and Paul Reubens, to name a few.

So if we have to go without for awhile to make sure new names keep getting added to this list, then I can wait.

The 100 Greatest TV Icons

100. Marcia Cross
99. Delta Burke
98. Meredith Baxter
97. In Living Color cast
96. Shannen Doherty
95. Richard Dawson
94. Melissa Gilbert
93. Neil Patrick Harris
92. Judge Judy
91. Dennis Franz
90. John Stamos
89. Robert Guillaume
88. Gavin MacLeod
87. Phil Hartman
86. Jerry Mathers
85. Rod Serling
84. Cartman from "South Park"
83. Isabel Sanford
82. Ted Knight
81. Dick Cavett
80. Adam West
79. Angela Landsbury
78. Art Carney
77. James Garner
76. Candice Bergen
75. Peter Falk
74. Joan Rivers
73. Tony Danza
72. Cher
71. Rosie O'Donnell
70. Bob Denver
69. Barbara Eden
68. Don Cornelius
67. Tom Selleck
66. Kelsey Grammer
65. Pamela Anderson
64. Phil Donahue
63. Ed Asner
62. Redd Foxx
61. Pee Wee Herman
60. Merv Griffin
59. Ted Danson
58. Don Knotts
57. Charlie Brown
56. Betty White
55. Fred Rogers
54. Florence Henderson
53. Ed McMahon
52. Ron Howard
51. Bob Hope
50. Larry Hagman
49. Calista Flockhart
48. Jimmy Smits
47. Simon Cowell
46. Lassie
45. Sarah Michelle Gellar
44. Susan Lucci
43. Flip Wilson
42. James Gandolfini
41. Jon Stewart
40. Sally Field
39. Jennifer Aniston
38. Bea Arthur
37. George Clooney
36. Diahann Carroll
35. Michael J. Fox
34. Bob Barker
33. Ellen DeGeneres
32. Henry Winkler
31. Sarah Jessica Parker
30. Alan Alda
29. John Ritter
28. Howard Cosell
27. Regis Philbin
26. Farrah Fawcett
25. Heather Locklear
24. Michael Landon
23. Barbara Walters
22. Milton Berle
21. Kermit
20. Carroll O'Connor
19. Andy Griffith
18. William Shatner
17. Bob Newhart
16. David Letterman
15. "Not Ready for Primetime Players"
14. Ed Sullivan
13. Jackie Gleason
12. Dick Van Dyke
11. Roseanne
10. Dick Clark
9. Homer Simpson
8. Jerry Seinfeld
7. Mary Tyler Moore
6. Carol Burnett
5. Walter Cronkite
4. Bill Cosby
3. Oprah Winfrey
2. Lucille Ball
1. Johnny Carson

Pop Art

Who says celebrities aren't high art? Toronto artist Joanne Tod's Tone Poem (2001) arranges celebrity portraits in order so that their first names can be read as a nonsensical marching rhyme.
Sean John John John/
Sean John John John/
Sean Dave Patty Ron/
Dolly Dolly Ling Don
You can buy Tone Poem this week at a fundraising auction for the Power Plant gallery (look under Art Auction). It is expected to sell for between $30,000-40,000, after the $1,000 ticket to get in.

Celebrities - they give and they give and...

Bits 'n' Bites

• It's the future of personalized news, the Facebook News Network. It makes me laugh and sad at the same time. I'm such an addict...

• Ever wondered who all the people standing behind The Beatles on the cover of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band? The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography has an interactive version of the famous album, with bio links to everyone pictured.

• Seems Heroes creator Tim Kring realizes that his once hot show is now ho-hum and he's promising to do something about it. A sampling:
"We took too long to get to the big-picture story."
"In retrospect, I don't think romance is a natural fit for us."
"The message is that we've heard the complaints — and we're doing something about it."

Punch Lines to Picket Lines

"No money, no funny! No money, no funny!" - strikers chanting outside Rockefeller Center in New York.

The Writers Guild of America put down their pencils today and picked up placards, vowing to stay on strike until Hollywood producers open up the vaults and share the wealth. It can be hard to feel sympathy for a group whose average member pulls in $200,000, with the top tier pulling in millions yearly, unless you examine the industry in which they work. Many actors, directors and executives receive staggeringly large paycheques and, according to Reuters, the motion picture and TV industry generates $30 billion in annual economic activity for Los Angeles County alone, so there is a lot of money to go around. Why shouldn't the creators, the ones who put the words in actors' mouths be getting their fair share of the gold?

It's much like sports - professional athletes get paid millions, but the people who pay them earn billions. Somebody has to get the money and it would be nice to see it go to the actual talent. The sports analogy is echoed by Chris Albers, a writer for Late Night With Conan O’Brien.

“The majority of writers are barely making a living, and the majority of writers’ careers are very short-lived,” said Albers, a past president of the East Coast branch of the Writers Guild. “So we feel that if these companies are going to be making a lot of money off of what we create, and we only have a few years to be in the game, then it’s fair to compensate us so that we can support our families.”

Sure, some of those in the game are writer-producers like Shonda Rhimes, the creator of Grey’s Anatomy, and Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, the lead writers and show runners on Lost, so they aren't hard done by. But I'd rather see them with a larger piece of the pie than some nameless corporate exec.

Now whether or not the strike will work is another question. Often these labour disputes are settled based on whose pockets can hold out the longest. For now the studios and producers can afford to wait. Sure, the late night shows from The Daily Show to The Late Show with David Letterman will be showing repeats starting tonight, while sitcoms and serials should be fine for a couple of months before they start running out of stockpiled scripts.

It will take even longer for the labour dispute to hit the film industry, but the last strike lasted 22 weeks, so it could happen. When it does the studios will really start losing ad and ticket revenue and may be forced to settle. Until then some of the lower-rung writers may find themselves getting squeezed.

While I hope they get what they are after — as someone who has been paid to write before, I say get whatever you can — I won't mind a bit of a break to catch up on my PVR backlog. With a one-year-old I can barely keep up. Even though I will eventually burn thorough what I have stored, don't rush back on my account.

It's the Celebrity Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

My pumpkins have always been in the classic vein - triangular eyes and gappy, square-toothed grins. But over the past few years there has been a dramatic leap forward in pumpkin design. We have the technology, we can carve him.

Above is one of my favourites - someone's clever tribute to the classic Calvin & Hobbes snowmen. Below are some of the better pop culture pumpkins. Get more from Zombie Pumpkins, Extreme Pumpkin, PumpkinGlow and Pumpkingutter.

Peanuts & Homer Simpson

Wallace & Gromit

Statler & Waldorf

Buffy & Spike

Tom Cruise & Britney Spears as seen by Gallery of the Absurd

Gossip 'R' Us

"These are the people who saw an overcrowded marketplace and said, 'Me too!'"

Super blogger Tina Mockmore, formerly of Glitterati Gossip, now of Hollywood Offender has started up Gossip Blog Girl to help anyone who wants to join the cutthroat world of celebrity blogging.

Or, as she more eloquently puts it, "helping others avoid the pitfalls of gossip blogging, to aid in sifting through the sludge, to answer questions, spark ideas and have a place to recharge their batteries." I know I could have used that when I fell off the web this summer.

Tina asked me to answer a few questions about choosing a name for a blog and I was honoured to participate, especially as asked the creators of Pretty on the Outside, Cele|bitchty and Holy Candy. Heady company for such a slack updater as myself. Thanks Tina, I hope I was of some help.

DUI Charges as Lost Spoilers

Lost isn't back on the air until next February and already we know who's going to get killed off. Jin-Soo Kwon will be biting the dust after being the latest cast member to be arrested on suspicion of drinking and driving.

Daniel Dae Kim, who plays the reluctant Korean enforcer, was pulled over by Honolulu police and charged, following in the illustrious footsteps of his former cast-mates Michelle Rodriguez (Anna Lucia) and (Cynthia Watros Libby.)

After being busted for their own DUIs in 2005, both Anna Lucia and Libby were shot. Eko, played by Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje, was also killed off following a traffic run-in with the Hawaii 5-0. Various reasons were given for their leaving the show, but a pattern is emerging.

With a huge cast and new characters constantly being added, it's easy for producers to knock off an actor causing trouble. I'd think it would be cheaper to hire them all drivers and let them get blitzed all they like than firing them - even I can afford a cab after I've been out boozing.

But if this trend is going to continue, could someone please give Matthew Fox a case of liquor and a set of car keys? I can't take another season of Jack's smugness.

To Infinity and Beyond!

The space shuttle Discovery blasted in to space yesterday carrying its usual payload of scientific doodads and a crew of clean-cut, athletic go-getters (I hate people like that). I know what you’re thinking: “Oh no, not another boring space launch. Change the channel. Change the channel!”

But something in the cargo caught my attention – a lightsaber used by Mark Hamil in Return of the Jedi. The kid in me wonders if there are really raging space battles taking place overhead that they need such a powerful weapon, but the realist in me figures it’s just a publicity stunt to earn George Lucas more money to throw on the pile.

Or maybe NASA has realized a simple truth – most of our knowledge comes from pop culture, so why not hitch a ride?

My first memories of space are from Star Wars, quickly followed by Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (Bidibidibidi, hey Buck). It’s how I saw space – a wild west frontier filled with lasers, wise-cracking pilots and short little robots.

Then came The Black Hole, Moonraker (a rather silly Bond film in retrospect) and Star Trek: The Motion Picture, my first introduction to Gene Roddenberry’s world. At the tine we only got two channels on TV, so I’d never seen the characters – luckily the film didn’t put me off.

From there I was introduced to the original Star Trek and its myriad spin-offs, to the writing of Issac Asimov, 2001, Dune and happily to the brilliantly funny Douglas Adams, whose Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy required you to have at least a modicum of sci-fi knowledge.

While my head may have been buried in the stars I had no real knowledge – or interest for that matter – in the realities of space exploration. So when I recently found myself in Florida, not far from Cape Canaveral, I jumped at a chance for a tour.

We saw Discovery sitting on the launch site (covered in high-tech scaffolding) and many of the Apollo rockets that took men into space. And as I sat in the control room that was used during the moon landing, I was thinking about how The Simpsons got it right in Deep Space Homer.

Assistant: Sir, the TV ratings for the launch are the highest in ten years.
Scientist: And how's the spacecraft doing?
Assistant: I dunno. All this equipment is just used to measure TV ratings.

So maybe sending the lightsaber into space wasn’t just a Lucas publicity stunt and NASA understands that to connect people to the space missions it may need a little help from pop culture.

The Second Coming of Chocolate Jesus

Chocolate Jesus
Well its got to be a chocolate jesus
Make me feel good inside.
Got to be a chocolate jesus
Keep me satisfied
The return of a life-size, naked and anatomically-correct milk chocolate sculpture of Jesus is causing less of a furor in New York this week, because the display of the immaculate confection isn't coinciding with any Holy days, as originally planned.

Last March the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights was in a rage over the planned Easter display of "My Sweet Lord," artist Cosimo Cavallaro's sugary saviour.

Personally I prefer my blasphemous treats in the form of pop culture parodies, but I can't be too bothered by an incident that had my humming Tom Waits all week.
When the weather gets rough
And its whiskey in the shade
Its best to wrap your savior
Up in cellophane
He flows like the big muddy
But thats ok
Pour him over ice cream
For a nice parfait
Below is a live performance of Chocolate Jesus by Waits on Late Night with David Letterman back in 1999. Good sound but dodgy video, but boy can that man strut!

The Geek Prince

Seth Green is the coolest guy in Hollywood. Sorry Johnny and Brad, you can't hold a candle to this scrawny, pasty geek.

It all crystallized for me during Family Guy’s subdued version of the original Star Wars. At the end of the episode Peter Griffin (voiced by series creator Seth MacFarlane) bickers with son Chris (voiced by Green) about Robot Chicken's take on the series.

Chris: Didn't Robot Chicken already do this three months ago?
Peter: I wouldn't worry about it, Chris. I don't even think people are aware of that show's existence.
Chris: Well, I don't know, Dad. I think a decent number of people watch it.
Peter: Oh, really? Define 'decent'.
Chris: I think it's the highest rated show on Cartoon Network, and the Star Wars episode doubled that audience.
Peter: Well, yeah. But double ten people is like twenty people. So, uh, what kind of numbers are we talking about here, you know?
Chris: Don't be glib about this stuff, Dad. It's a legitimate show and they beat you to the punch.

It was a fantastic piece of meta comedy that got me thinking about how many cool projects Green has been involved in.

The first time I saw Green was as Scott Evil, the reluctant son of megalomaniac evil scientist Dr. Evil. The disbelieving Scott voiced everything I have yelled during a James Bond film: “Why don’t you just kill him?” Why not indeed? It was a great character that managed to hold up against all of Mike Myers’ mugging.

That same year Green appeared as the werewolf Oz in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He was laconic and sarcastic and so much cooler than Michael J. Fox’s Teen Wolf. There haven’t been many positive pop culture portrayals of werewolves and Green’s should have made lycanthropes the “it” supernatural being.

Green got his next badge of cool by starring in a cancelled Fox sitcom. The network is infamous for green lighting cutting-edge comedies and then killing them off before the season is over. Green earned his stripes with Greg the Bunny, a show populated by a group of foul-mouthed puppets. It was dealing in bad puppets before Avenue Q and Wondershowzen and was hilarious. So naturally, it was killed off.

The next time I saw Green, or at least heard him, was on Family Guy. Though I think the show slips over the line from sharp to mean more often than not these days, it broke new comedy ground, constantly making me wonder how they could get away with what they aired. Chris is a wonderfully stupid/smart, horny teenager, who is getting notably better story lines so far this year.

Then of course there is Robot Chicken, a brilliant cornucopia of pop culture parodies acted out by stop-motion-animated action figures. Co-created by Green it is one of the funniest shows on TV. It mines all the TV and movies of my youth and asks what happened to the characters when the cameras turned off. No childhood memory is sacred – the Care Bears engage in ethnic cleansing; Masters of the Universe sex tapes; Apocalypse Ponys! It’s the most fun you can have playing with toys

Buffy, Austin Powers, Greg the Bunny, Family Guy, Robot Chicken – the guy has impeccable instincts in picking his projects – and has made geeky cooler than ever.

Kill Bunny

It’s always a good day when a new 30-Second Bunnies shows up in the mailbox. I get a surprising amount of joy watching squeaky-voiced little rabbits perform an entire movie in the time it takes for a commercial to pitch something nobody should buy. (Oreo pizza anyone?)

So when the reenactment of both Kill Bills arrived I was excited. The fuzzy versions of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction distilled Quentin Tarantino’s language and flow into a potent shot and I expected the same again. Sadly, it didn’t deliver. Stripped of the style and music it just seemed… empty.

But I forgive as I spent the next part of the evening re-watching most of the rest of the 38 other leporid films. Such hoppy goodness.

Karma Police

How much would you pay for the new Radiohead album? Would you drop $14.99 for a CD or $9.99 for a digital download? How about $81 or just 10 cents.

It’s not just a theoretical question – the rock auteurs have announced their latest album, In Rainbows, will be available for download off the website, with buyers choosing what to pay. It’s an interesting challenge to the record labels, digital retailers and fans alike.

If a band only earns 10% of the retail price of a CD, then even the equivalent of the cost of one track from iTunes would potentially net them just as much. Of course some people will still download it for free, but those people likely weren’t going to buy it in the first place. For those who do pay, all the money is going to the band and the middlemen get zilch.

The pricing model for music is still being worked out. P2P networks forced labels to start selling digitally and Steve Jobs laid down the gauntlet that has sent the DRM walls tumbling in the past few months. Now Radiohead and their ilk are throwing new options into the mix.

People really should pay something for music – and I say this as someone who has indulged in my fair share of downloads. No matter how much labels and retailers might be taking off the top, some does filter down to the artist. And even musicians that offer their music for free needs to make something off their art. You don’t see them playing tours for free, do you? So if bands are now taking distribution into their own hands and the money (or at least more of it) goes directly into their pockets, all the better.

As for Radiohead, I plan to pay $5. I really haven’t enjoyed anything since OK Computer, but for that amount what do I have to lose?

The Clown Show is on Hiatus for Re-Tooling.

Popped Culture is taking a short hiatus to recharge and catch up with some pop culture instead of just writing about it. But not to worry (if that's the sort of thing you're prone to doing), I'm not packing it in, just a vacation of sorts. See ya soon.

Yippee-ki-yay, Bunnies!

The 30-second bunnies are back with their not-so soft and cuddly take on the iconic John McLane and it’s likely the only Die Hard I see this summer. The plot of the upcoming Live Free or Die Hard finds McClane (Bruce Willis) working for Homeland Security and chasing a gang of hackers, trying to take down the world’s electronic infrastructure.

Inevitably these clever, technologically-proficient criminals will be taken down by McClane’s roughneck, hands-on justice after they bring his family into it, thus making it personal. I’ll stick with the bunnies.

Perhaps this will help end Hollywood’s feverish love affair with all sequels, all the time. Ok, probably not. Happy trails, Hans.

Cartoons I'd Like to F***

Garth: Did you ever find Bugs Bunny attractive when he put on a dress and played girl bunny?
Wayne: No.
Garth: Neither did I. I was just asking.

Let’s face it, cartoon women are kinda hot and more guys than you know think so (see the quote from Wayne’s World above). One brave man has put his CILF predilection where all the world can see and I shame-facedly salute him. Thanks to Amber and Webnation for the tip off.

Pop Culture Supreme Court

Hear Ye, Hear Ye, the court is now in session. No longer will you have to end pop culture arguments with friends and comment trolls with the statement, "'cause I said so." The Pop Culture Supreme Court, comprised of nine pop culture bloggers, has come together with a single goal in mind: to render decisions on the most contentious and debated issues amongst our peers. Is George Lucas a hack? Is graffiti art? Is The Simpsons better than Seinfeld?

Our first ruling took on contentious issue of Hollywood remakes: Should there be a moratorium? The issues surrounding remakes has been discussed throughout the blogosphere for years and in traditional media even before that, and as such, they seemed to be an ideal subject to adjudicate.

Each justice has presented their own set of arguments regarding the above question, and we as a court have come to a decision regarding the subject at hand.

By a vote of 6 to 3, the court has decided that there should be no moratorium on remakes in Hollywood, despite their flaws.

The full decision can be found at the Pop Culture Supreme Court, as well as the individual rulings of the eight other talented justices.
My ruling is as follows:

Remakes are the scourge of Hollywood, a crutch for lazy writers and directors, a simple way for producers to turn a quick buck by betting on a sure thing. There artistic risk is minimal as the previous box office results are there to see – the filmmaking equivalent of tracing.

And just as copies of copies tend to lose their definition, remakes often dilute the original artistic intent. Luc Besson’s La Femme Nikita was a brilliantly dark film about an unlikely assassin, but the sin was that it was filmed in French and had to be subtitled for North American audiences (“eww, reading!) When the movie was remade a few years later we got the sunshiney Bridget Fonda in Point of No Return, turning it into a generic thriller.

The same occurred with the Dutch film The Vanishing, a chilling film about a mysterious disappearance and the obsession of one man’s search for a missing loved one. The ending was so pitch black that when director George Sluizer remade the film in English he was forced to alter the ending, destroying the impact of the film.

This travesty isn’t limited to foreign films. Witness the atrocity that was Tim Burton’s remake of Planet of the Apes. Burton is a talented director, but his greatest folly was taking a sci-fi cult fave, dropping millions on it and making it dull and uninteresting. The list goes on – Gus Can Sant’s pointless, shot-for-shot recreation of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Psycho; Madonna and Guy Ritchie’s Swept Away.

Based on the previous examples – and the legion of others – it seems a slam dunk to say there should be a moratorium on remakes. But it’s not that easy. On the whole, I’ve seen more good remakes than bad. George Clooney & Brad Pitt’s Ocean’s 11 was great fun and full of style. Was it better than the Rat Pack’s version? I don’t know, I didn’t see it. Al Pacino’s Scarface is so well known that few people even realize that it is a remake. Again, I haven’t seen the 1932 Howard Hawks original. Same goes for The Magnificent Seven, a remake of Japanese master Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. Should I see the source material? Sure. Have I? No.

And that is the crux of the problem. It is easy to say that everyone should see the original films, that they should forgo the new release sections at their local video store and get to know their film history, but it’s not going to happen. For better or worse, film is not a static art form, where once the images have been committed to celluloid they remain untouched and treasured for all time. Much like plays are reinterpreted year after year, films of the past will always be a source for its present.

A bad remake can destroy an original vision, but the best remakes can rescue good stories from obscurity. If remakes are must be made (and it appears that they are) perhaps the best we can hope for is that directors don’t plunder the classics, but help repair flawed work. It’s a long shot, but there is always hope.

Visit the Pop Culture Supreme Court for the full ruling and the decisions of the rest of the members of the bench, who are also listed on my blogroll to the right.