It's good to be short

While perusing the blog of a Harper Collins marketing coordinator (read about it on muffy’s post), I saw that she invited readers to create six-word memoirs, inspired by the book It All Changed In An Instant : More Six-Word Memoirs By Writers Famous & Obscure. This got me thinking about how the new kind of mass communication (that is, personal broadcasting) is all about brevity. 140 characters in Twitter and texting, four-word film reviews, six-word memoirs, or 55 fiction, the personal tale is trending to shortness.

The cynic in me might attribute this to what seems to be an increasingly shorter attention span in the human animal, but the English major in me knows there’s more to the (short) story: rigid structure and restraint often help us process and speak about things in a more poignant way. Perhaps one of the most moving examples of this phenomenon is W.S. Merwin’s “Elegy,” which can be found in The Carrier of Ladders or The Second Four Books of Poems. Another amazing example of hard-hitting, extremely short poetry is The Really Short Poems of A.R. Ammons.

Other short things I can suggest? The song “Minimum Wage” on the classic They Might Be Giants album Flood is 46 seconds long and contains two (maybe three) words. Kristin Chenoweth is reportedly 4’11,” and has done quite a bit of fun work in music, television, theater and film. Find her song “Taylor the Latte Boy” on your online vendor of choice or check out Pushing Daisies. The Ann Arbor District Library conducts its own short story contest, and the winning stories are a part of the circulating collection. I haven’t gotten around to watching the Pixar Short Films Collection (v.1), but if the shorts you always get to see at the theater before one of their features are evidence of anything, it’s the beauty of simplicity and diminutiveness.

Arrested Development

"Now the story of a wealthy family who lost everything and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together. It's "Arrested Development."

"Arrested Development", a little-known television series, consisting of only three seasons, aired first in 2003 on FOX.

The series, which also features film actors Jason Bateman, David Cross, Tony Hale, and Will Arnett, was a huge hit among the sarcastic, subtle, and a little off crowd of TV-viewers. Stephen Kelly of PopMatters called it "a laugh-out-loud, deeply quirky, and audacious series that has its own wacky agenda and dares to be delightfully different."

The series, narrated by "Happy Days" great Ron Howard, features a grounded son and father, played by Bateman, who has to keep his family together amidst crisis after crisis. His offbeat relatives, romantic relationships, and job all wreak havoc, episode after episode, and offer hilarious quotes throughout. (For more on these, see the ultimate in "Arrested Development" fan site, The Balboa Observer-Picayune.)

Now, one of its cast members, Michael Cera, is a popular indie and teen film actor, of works such as Juno, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, and the new Youth in Revolt, who may be seen as type cast in these movies, due to his role as young George Michael Bluth, the anxious and awkward teen son of Bateman's character.

The show also guest stars many well-known actors, such as Martin Short, Amy Poehler, Charlize Theron, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Liza Minnelli, and even the Fonz.

A movie based on the series is announced, according to IMDb, but is not yet in progress.

The Sword of Orion

SwordSwordIn honor of the upcoming Great Lakes Shipwrecks event, I'm reminded of a maritime disaster referred to in one of my favorite television shows, Aaron Sorkin's Sports Night. In episode 18, Jeremy struggles with the breakup of his family by obsessively researching the literal break up of the Sword of Orion.

The yacht was one of several boats to experience tragedy during the 1998 Sydney-to-Hobart race. 115 Boats began that race, five sank, and six crew were lost. Only 44 boats finished. You can read about it in the detailed and suspenseful book The Proving Ground.

One imagines the Sword of Orion's original owner was paying that useful constellation its due in naming the boat. The AADL offers several books on celestial navigation; it's never too early in the season to learn how to find your way home!

Man of the Decade: Jon Stewart

Jon StewartJon Stewart

It’s halfway through December, which means 2009 is almost over – and so is the first decade of the 2000s. As news programs and magazines reflect on the end of this year and all that’s happened in the past 10 years, I’d like to recognize a man who I think has significantly influenced this decade: Jon Stewart. In 1999, when he took over the hosting job at Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, he was essentially unknown, a comedian who had done stand-up, some appearances on Dave Letterman’s show, and a handful of movies. Now, he is considered, according to an online poll from TIME Magazine, the “most trusted man in news” today. Similarly, The Daily Show itself, during his tenure as host, has gone from being a small show parodying conventional newscasts to an enormously popular show parodying politics and the media. According to the Pew Research Center, "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart", despite being a “fake news show”, is actually a primary news source for many young people.

Jon Stewart has won Emmys and Peabody Awards for The Daily Show; hosted the Oscars twice; written a best-selling book (America: the Book); and helped to launch the careers of two other well-known comedians: Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell. Stephen Colbert started out as a correspondent on The Daily Show in 1997 (before Stewart), and gained so much popularity for his segments on the show that he was given his own Comedy Central show, The Colbert Report. Steve Carell joined The Daily Show as a correspondent in 1999; he left to star in the hit TV sitcom The Office, and has since become famous for his movie roles, both small (Anchorman) and large (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Get Smart). I think that Jon Stewart, as host of The Daily Show for the last 10 years, can claim some credit for Colbert and Carell’s current popularity, since his show gave them the platform to launch their solo careers.

As one of the most popular and influential comedians of our time, who has redefined both comedy and politics, Jon Stewart deserves to be considered a Man of the Decade.

Live from Ann Arbor, It's . . . Santa Claus!


That's right, Santa himself will be taking questions and wishes LIVE from the North Pole on CTN Channel 17 on Thursday, Dec. 10, 6 - 8 p.m. He'll be ready for your questions and your wish lists, so set you speed dial to 734.794.6155 and talk directly to Mr. Claus. Ho! Ho! Ho!

Goodbye Reading Rainbow


I am so saddened to hear the news that Reading Rainbow, the PBS show that has fostered a love of reading in children for the past 26 years, has come to an end. According to the NPR story, Reading Rainbow is the third longest-running children's show in PBS history — outlasted only by Sesame Street and Mister Rogers. Fortunately, the AADL is well stocked with Reading Rainbow DVDs, as well as many of the books featured on the show, which means you can still see LeVar Burton sharing wonderful stories and hear those magic words, "Take a look, it's in a book".

Season Five of the Simpsons

Simpsons Season 5Simpsons Season 5

After close to seven months without watching television it began to seem like tv was a wonderful luxury we couldn't wait to have again. I began to fantasize about watching the news while cooking dinner, turning on the weather channel instead of taking an educated guess at how the day would go, and watching Conan O'Brien on the Tonight Show before going to bed. We have our cable hooked up, but to our general dismay there was not a single good thing to watch on any of the 120 channels. For three days straight. We wound up watching some DVD's we had checked out from the library and nearly died laughing at Season Five of The Simpsons. Reruns of the show are almost always on tv, but watching it commercial free and in chronological order definitely enhanced the experience. AADL owns several seasons of The Simpsons, but you should check out Season Five, the _best_ season.

I Love Lucy


I’ve always been an I Love Lucy fan and have seen many of the episodes over the years - especially from watching with my mother while I was growing up. Recently though, I have decided to watch every single episode of I Love Lucy in order from beginning to end. This has now become what I have named “The Lucy Project,” and it is, of course, a hilarious one. Rewatching the show also inspired me to read Lucille Ball’s very own autobiography, Love, Lucy. (Did you know she and her family briefly lived in Wyandotte, Michigan?) In addition, there are several biographies written about Lucy that are probably quite interesting, too! You can also see her in movies such as the musical Best Foot Forward, the film noir Lured or the dramatic 1942 film The Big Street co-starring Henry Fonda.

Travel to Cabot Cove!

Has is been a while since you've ventured to Cabot Cove? Have you missed watching Jessica, Sheriff Mort Metzger, and Dr. Seth Hazlitt in action? If so, you might want to take advantage of our recently acquired seasons of Murder, She Wrote. AADL now has the first four seasons of Murder, She Wrote. For those of you unfamiliar with the series, Murder, She Wrote, was a murder mystery television series starring Angela Lansbury. This long time running series (1984-1996) features former substitute English teacher and famed mystery writer Jessica Fletcher using her talent and unfailing ability to be where murders occur, to solve mysteries. Get your Jessica Fletcher fix today!

Thank You for Being a Friend


Beatrice "Bea" Arthur passed away a few days ago, on April 25. Arthur was the star of two highly-acclaimed comedy shows, Maude and Golden Girls. AADL owns many discs of The Golden Girls, so why not celebrate her life by watching a few episodes?

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