The Yearling

Tonight, some of us will gather at the Paley Center for Media to celebrate the first year of this little cultural experiment we call newcritics. It’s going to be a great night, thanks to our host Ellen….er…the fabulous Ms. Peel! You know, on some level this blog feels like a gathering of superheroes in the League of Justice hall – sure some of us use our real names, but the pen names are better. Lance Mannion and Tony Alva – they could be 70s crime shows starring James Garner and Mike Connors. Blue Girl and the Self-Styled Siren are like characters out of a Dashiell Hammett novel. We’ve also got The Shamus, Viscount LaCarte, Neddie Jingo, Trickster and Gotham Gal – what powers go along with those virtual superhero constumes?

I love the names, and I love this community. It began very simply and a year later, it remains so.

You know, newcritics is non-influential. It is non-profitable. Indeed, by any standards of the day it is non-successful.

And yet a year on, we gather to revel (some in person, some virtually) in the minor media glory – but the sweet karmic profit – of this little blog. Continue reading

In Search of Harry Potter

I’ve never read a Harry Potter. But JK Rowling is among my favorite living authors. I owe her a deep and simple debt – the love of reading, and literature, and story-telling that all of my children have embraced. Rowling didn’t do it all, of course; there was Seuss and Stevenson, Tolkien and Margaret Wise Brown. But she did cast an enduring spell – thousands of pages worth.

And now my youngest is on the second-to-last Potter, racing the clock till Rowling’s much-anticipated final volume is out. Like his brother and sister, he sometimes dons Harry’s glasses, slips into a Hogwarts robe, and waves a facsmilie wand. (And when he Googles Potter star Daniel Radcliffe, his mother and I know it’s time to install a search-filter). Such is the hold of Harry Potter on our book-filled household

So when I returned from the UK this weekend after a blogging/business trip to Oxford, the kids were waiting with their questions: “So Dad, was it just like Harry Potter?” Continue reading

The Sorkin Spectacle

Lance Mannion, who graces newcritics with his presence, runs one of those wonderfully just-because online events that attracts the right crowd: I refer to his weekly live-blogging fest of Aaron Sorkin’s much-maligned Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Lance’s commentpalooza has been on hiatus with the show, but it returns to tonight and we urge visitors here to repair over there around 9:30 EDT, 8:30 Central and log on in. The banter is mostly better than the show, whose main topic is, basically, banter.

From this couch, the problem with Studio 60 isn’t so much the over-stylized walk-and-talk tic that Sorkin has developed (and patented, apparently); it’s that the show is supposed to be about a show that’s funny, about people who are funny. But they’re not. (Except for erstwhile network “suit” Amanda Peet, who is occasionally hilarious in the classic wacky-beauty way that Sarah Paulsen is supposed to be, but isn’t). Ken Levine noted this and other factors in an LA Times piece, eliciting a thin-skinned attack from Sorkin (who took Levine’s considerable writing credits in vain),which in turn prompted this blog post from Levine. Ah, Hollywood. Thy charms are many. Ironywatch: the whole Levine-Sorking-Mannion episode is far more interesting than your typical week of Studio 60! Then again, I only watch it for the blogging.

We Can Be Highline

Twenty years ago, a friend of mine pointed to the rusted and abandoned elevated railway bed in Chelsea, which I’d barely noticed before, and proclaimed: “There are a couple of real estate bigshots fighting for that – it’s gonna be valauble some day.” That day has come, but not in the developer-oriented vision my friend once had. Friends of the High Line, which is redeveloping the old passage for open space and limited mixed use building, is planning to hold the first Highline Festival this May. Chairman? One David Bowie, newly sixty and readying for a public celebration of that advanced age. Apparently, he found his glam venue. Fred Wilson has some details. Will this become a permanent part of the New York festival scene?