I am all out of words after a week of writing and editing and so forth, so let me linkblog a little for your Friday edutainment:
• The Oscars have a billion viewers! This is the figure we always hear, and I admit like most I accept it without really thinking about the likelihood of 1/6th of the planet really caring whether Alan Alda wins Best Supporting Actor. This nifty little piece in The New Yorker recently does a good job of putting that myth to rest. (Of course, we'll still hear people talking about the Oscars' billion-person audience for eons to come, but you and I will know better.)
• I've been merrily immersed in the DVDs of the HBO series "Deadwood" lately, and have worked my way up to the final disc. This is the best HBO series since the first few seasons of "Six Feet Under," a stark, profane, morally complex and lyrical Western that just builds in power over the course of the season. The second season starts soon on HBO, which of course we can't afford right now, so I have to wait another year or so to see how it all shakes out. I love the idea of Westerns, but few in practice really grab me. Many of them lack a kind of primal rawness to show how life was really like back then, feeling more like glossy historical reenactments than anything else. "Deadwood" doesn't spare on the mud, the feces and blood of life before air conditioning and cable TV. "Deadwood" also features more swearing than any TV series I've seen in my life, yet it works. The vile, hugely charismatic saloon owner Swearingen manages to raise the word "cocksucker" to a kind of art over the course of the series. Check it out.
• Ever heard of "Diary Of A Mad Black Woman"? It was the #1 movie in the country last weekend, shocking a lot of pundits. It didn't get a very good review from Roger Ebert, and naturally this was taken as evidence of racism by many. Ebert writes a cool essay responding to these complaints. Eloquent as always, somewhat sympathetic to the detractors yet holding firm on his own well-reasoned views. I wish people could separate their politics from a review of a work of art, but it ain't always so. (Kudos to Ebert for not sinking to a "my best friends are black" type response by pointing out that he is, in fact, married to a black woman.)