Tuesday, November 08, 2005


A full-sized Tuesday Top Five

To tell the truth, Our Man in LA ran up against his deadline for today's Tuesday Top Five. There I was, getting ready for work, and I realized that I only had three of my five. Terrifying, I tell you, truly terrifying.

Worse, I could come up with at least two things that aggravate me no end. So I thought about sharing a Top Three and a Bottom Two, but that would basically make me a cut-rate version of TV Guide's "Cheers and Jeers" section. And ironically enough, TV Guide's new full-size magazine format was one of the aggravating things I could hang my hat on. So that's an Our Man in LA disaster.

But now, back in possession of my senses, I've brought a new Top Five to the table, as well as a Bottom one. That's six items - and for the price of . . . well, whatever you pay your Internet provider.

Oooh, ooh, one other note. I've noticed that the top five has been running a bit long the last couple of weeks, so I'm going to try and cut it down. So no more further ado. Let's get it started:

5) John Bellairs' Johnny Dixon mystery/horror series. As I've been working up the new script, I've been re-familiarizing myself with all the really cool mystery and horror novels that I read as a kid or a "young adult". And that led me back to Bellairs and Johnny Dixon.

For the uninitiated, Johnny is a nervous, bespectacled and not particularly athletic kid living in a creepy small town in Massachusetts. The book's cover art is done by Gorey, if that gives you a clue. In every novel, he teams up with his smart ass friend Fergie and the elderly Professor Childermass to solve a mystery that bewitches his town . . . one that usually has more than a passing relationship to the Occult.

If you always thought the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift were a little goody-goody for your tastes, you might like this. In Bellairs world, ordinary dorky kids run up against monsters of Lovecraft-style horror, spells from wicked near-sighted sorcerors, and arrogant baseball players.

The titles tell the tale. The one I just read was "The Eyes of the Killer Robot". Very, very good stuff, especially right on the heels of Halloween.

4) The Carolina Panthers . . . and their Cheerleaders. Well, mostly their cheerleaders. See, the Panthers are more or less my wife's hometown football team. Since I don't have a horse in the NFC race, I tend to root for them anyway. I like Jake Delhomme, Smith, and Julius Peppers. I'd love it if they got to the Super Bowl this year, even if I think the Colts would crush them.

But this latest news item warms the cockles of Our Man in LA's heart. It seems that this weekend, following the Panthers' big win over division rival Tampa Bay, two of the team's cheerleaders were involved in a bit of a melee at a Tampa club.

First, you see, these gals were having sex with one another in the club's bathroom, which caused a lot of complaining - not because of the relative morality of public lesbian sex in a more or less red state kind of town. Nope. The complaining came because the sex was causing a big line at the women's restroom.

The cheerleaders were monopolizing the restroom, you see.

That, in turn, led to the two ladies getting into a major bar fight with a number of other women in the club. Then to them being eventually thrown out of the bar and arrested. But since that wasn't enough, the girls gave false names to the Tampa police, and in turn, received another felony charge.

They have been dismissed from the team. One columnist noted that Panther cheerleaders are only supposed to display lascivious behavior on the field. That's too easy a shot. I myself tried to come up with some other witty bon mot to end this item - something about a porn producer in the Valley putting these ladies on speed dial or something, but it just seems too simple.

I really do love this story. Go Panthers.

3) Rancho Mirage, CA. For all my bitching and moaning about having to go to the desert last week, it obviously paid off. By Friday afternoon, when I headed home, the dry air and warm temperatures had restored me to health. And for a work trip, it was a pretty decent time.

For one thing, it's gorgeous out there. The mountains cut an impressive backdrop, and the desert stretches out in every direction like something out of a movie. And I ate really well at a local steak house. And I got to work out at a virtually unused hotel gym.

Hell, if you didn't have to drive through the Inland Empire and past a legion of really daunting tall and futuristic windmills on your way there, it might just be worth the trip on any weekend.

2) City at Peace. Our Woman in LA has taken on a new role in LA's theatre scene. She's now working with a group out of Venice Beach called City at Peace. Steph describes the group as something of a cross between the Lovewell Institute of the Arts in Florida (where she spends her summers) and Scrap Mettle SOUL, the community theatre group in Chicago where she served as Associate Artistic Director before following yours truly halfway across the globe.

According to their website (http://www.cpnational.org/), City at Peace is a nationally recognized nonprofit organization that empowers teenagers to create safe, healthy, peaceful lives and communities. Using the performing arts as a vehicle, City at Peace is developing the next generation of engaged community leaders.

City at Peace operates year long programs that bring together vastly diverse groups of youth from all over a city. They go through an intense year long creative process through which they write an original musical whose stories come from their lives and their ideas for a better world. They also create community change projects where they take those ideas and act on them in their city.

The group has programs in New York, DC, LA and Santa Barbara, in Louisiana, and internationally in Israel and South Africa. Our Woman in LA is very excited about her new role there.

1) Bone by Jeff Smith. Longtime friends of Our Man in LA might remember that Wieland's freshman year roommate at Northwestern was named Jeff Smith. The author of this acclaimed graphic novel, is a different fella.

I started reading Bone years ago, when I was a student at UT-Austin (Home of the Mighty Mighty Longhorns). I loved it then, but I never managed to finish it - moving from Texas to Chicago put a crimp on it and the book phased out of my regular comics stash.

Now it's been collected in one 1,000+ page volume, and it's nothing short of fantastic. Imagine a sweeping fantasy epic - with dragons and rat creatures, damsels who can kick ass, grandmothers who make their living by racing against cows, and, of course, a sweeping struggle between good and evil that might change the way of the world.

And imagine that thrust into the middle of this struggle are three pasty white guys about 4 feet tall that look like a cross between a Smurf and a Schmoo. I'm not doing it justice by this explanation. But stick with me. Three Smurfy-Schmooey type guys - one a hard-working, sensitive type obsessed with Moby Dick; one a cut-rate con man; and one a cigar-chomping goofball - are smack in the middle of a Lord of the Rings style struggle. Only funnier. And in its way, sweeter.

It's awesome. If you like comics, you'll love it. If you don't, you still might like it. Can't recommend this book enough.

And that's the Top Five. Oh yeah, I mentioned a Bottom One, too, didn't I?

Well here it is:

Bottom One: The New SI cover jinx.

You might have heard, but the Chicago White Sox just won the World Series after an 88-year drought. The team overcame a bunch of tough teams in the playoffs, not to mention having virtually no fans in their hometown. And they won. It's the kind of thing that should make a grown man cry.

And they didn't even make the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Come on, you say. What's a bigger story than an 88-year drought finally ended? Champions always makes the cover.

Nope. Not this time. There was a little refer to an article about the Sox along the top of the cover, but not a cover devoted to the White Sox.

That cover instead went to the matchup between Tom Brady of the Patriots and Peyton Manning of the Colts - who played last night in a REGULAR SEASON GAME. Incidentally, the game was basically over by halftime, and the Colts destroyed the Patriots. Oh, and did I mention that the Colts were already undefeated, while the Patriots are limping along at 4-4?

Nice work, SI. Can you hear that? Can you? It's the sound of one hand clapping.


See you tomorrow.

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