The news from Lake Wobegon

When I posted about two other public radio shows yesterday, I mentioned A Prairie Home Companion. In her comment on the post, Georganna noted that she’d been to see APHC in person. So have I, several times. The biggest thrill was probably the show that they did to celebrate the re-opening of the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville. That was personal to Garrison Keillor because it was a visit to the Grand Ole Opry which gave him the inspiration to create APHC.

I have to admit, I really don’t listen to APHC too often any more; there for a while, it was getting a little too political. It’s not necessarily that I disagreed (or agreed) with the politics so much that the politics took away from the timelessness and innocence that first attracted me to the show. I probably need to check back in and see what’s going on lately.

Anyway, just by coincidence the New York Times has a nice profile of Sue Scott, the show’s female voice actor. (You may have to register with the NYT web site if you haven’t already.)

Not much. You?

Something I Said? : Innuendo And Out The OtherSince cutting back to budget cable a month or so ago, I’ve rediscovered what used to be one of my great Saturday morning pleasures: listening to “Car Talk” and “Whad’ya Know?” on public radio.

“Whad’ya Know?” did a show from Nashville a few months back — I should have gone, but tickets were in the $40 range, and I just didn’t need to spend that kind of money. As I note elsewhere on the site, I was once the phone-in contestant on the “Whad’ya Know?” quiz. One of my uncles, in Louisville, Ky., heard me and called my mother to ask if that was really me on the radio. I hadn’t told them about it yet, and they’d never heard of the show.

For the uninitiated, “Whad’Ya Know?”, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, is a sort of combination talk show, quiz show and comedy show hosted by Michael Feldman. Feldman opens each week’s show, after a little comedy teaser, by saying “Well, whad’ya know?”, to which the studio audience responds “Not much. You?”

The show’s home base is in Madison, Wisc., but (like another public radio staple, “A Prairie Home Companion”) it frequently goes on the road.

If I ever do get to see the show in person, my real dream is to be called upon to read the “Four Disclaimers” which precede the quiz portion of the program.

Inspired casting

Because cameras are not allowed in the Michael Jackson trial, the E! network (which I can’t get at the moment) has been airing a nightly re-enactment, with actors playing the parts of the different participants.

I am not one of those people who are obsessed with the trial — I’m content to believe that, whether or not he’s broken the law, the sleepovers Jackson freely admits to are inappropriate enough. Anything past that is just disgusting.

But I had to be amused by this: Jay Leno is testifying today, about the fact that Jackson’s accusers supposedly approached him for money at one point. In a publicity stunt that I find somewhat amusing, the part of Jay Leno will be played tonight on the E! re-enactment by … Jimmy Kimmel.

I almost wish I could see it.

Meanwhile, the man whose desk Leno is not worthy to dust, Dave Letterman, was in fine form last night, interviewing one of his own employees. Danica Patrick is the wunderkind of the Rahal-Letterman race team and, as a rookie, did remarkably well in the Indianapolis 500 time trials. Could she have a chance at becoming the first woman to win the big race? Patrick was a charming interview, from the moment she came out and called Dave “boss,” and I decided then and there I was going to have to root for her this weekend.

Tania

I just got through watching an absolutely riveting, edge-of-your-seat documentary on PBS’s series “American Experience.” “Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst” tells the story of how an underground radical group, the Symbionese Liberation Army, kidnapped the newspaper heiress, who for a while claimed she had joined the SLA and taken the name “Tania.” A security camera photo of her holding an automatic weapon during a bank robbery became an iconic image of the 1970s.

Later, Hearst was successfully able to convince authorities that she was a victim of fear and “Stockholm syndrome,” not a true accomplice; her prison sentence was commuted by Jimmy Carter and she received a pardon from Bill Clinton. The documentary concludes with a glamorous-looking Hearst as a celebrity guest on a British talk show.

I was 12 and 13 when the Patty Hearst saga was taking place; I remember a vague outline of it but none of the gripping detail which was brought out in this documentary. Several key SLA members, who had been released after serving their jail terms for kidnapping Hearst, were arrested again and tried in 1999 for a murder committed during a bank robbery of that period.

As I watched, I kept wondering why Spike Lee hasn’t done anything with this story; it really seems like his milieu.

Your next American Idol

Two seasons ago, my then-co-worker Chris Oakes talked me into watching “American Idol” near the end of the season, which was the classic Ruben-vs.-Clay battle. I actually enjoyed it, much to my surprise, but when I started watching the 2004 season I didn’t become a regular viewer. I actually got turned off at about the point last year when the judges started lecturing the viewers for voting off the wrong people — why ask for our opinion and then tell us we were wrong? To make matters worse, some of the blame for our “wrong” voting was heaped on the back of one of the youngest competitors — a young boy still in high school. In disgust, I stopped watching.

By this year, some of my resentment had worn off and I watched an episode or two. But it never really piqued my interest.

Lately, of course, my viewing options are a lot more limited. I ended up watching tonight to see the final three contestants (which was about where I had joined the Clay-vs.-Ruben battle two years earlier).

The two ladies were fine, but Bo Bice hit a home run. Each contestant got to sing three songs — one selected by record mogul Clive Davis, one self-selected and one selected by one of the three regular judges. Bice’s self-chosen song was sung a cappella — the first time anyone’s tried that in the serious portion of the competition before. I forget the title of the song, but it was great. And Bice also did a terrific job with Elton John’s “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.” His “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” was inoffensive — a fatal flaw when performing a Rolling Stones song — but even so, he really did a terrific job tonight.

Lake Neuron Lite — all the blither, none of the meaning

I saw an ad for Edy’s Grand Light ice cream last night which claimed it tastes just as good as full-fat ice cream.

No disrespect to Edy’s — they make a fine product — but I’m always a little flabbergasted when a TV ad claims that the low-fat or low-cal version tastes just like the original. If that were really true, why would you need to keep making the original version? You could simply reformulate your flagship brand rather than making a “light” version of it.

It would be more accurate to say that the light version tastes “almost like” the original. But that doesn’t make as compelling a commercial.

Another take on Trek

My brother Michael pointed me to this fine fine essay by James Lileks about the end of “Star Trek: Enterprise.” Lileks, in his screamingly funny book “Fresh Lies” (sadly, out of print), has a piece poking fun at the reverence some fans have for The Original Series over its successors. He runs counter to fan consensus here, as well, expressing his admiration for “Enterprise” and saying that the romance between Trip and T’Pol is the only such believable romantic relationship in any of the Star Trek series.

I don’t agree with every single point, but Lileks is always worth reading.