Saturday, 25 February 2006

Mary Ann Versus Ginger

Today I am going to address a question of vital importance to humanity. Namely, from Gilligan's Island whom do men prefer, Mary Ann or Ginger? It has been a question that has been around almost since the TV show has hit the air. And it has been one that has been discussed by men for literally decades.

On the surface, I suspect a lot of people would think that men would prefer Ginger Grant. After all, she is a glamourous, seductive movie star with curves to spare. Mary Ann Summers is not nearly so glamourous and rarely seductive. She is a simple, sweet, Kansas farm girl. That having been said, it seems that men overwhelmingly prefer Mary Ann. As to myself, I have preferred Mary Ann since childhood. Now much of this is probably due to the fact that I never have cared for redheads. And much of it is also probably because I simply find Dawn Wells so much more attractive than Tina Louise. I mean, Dawn has that beautiful dark hair, those big eyes, a gorgeous smile, and a great figure. Heck, she is still a looker. As to Tina Louise, well, she wasn't exactly unattractive, but she never really tripped my trigger either.

Regardless, it seems that I am not the only guy who preferred Mary Ann to Ginger. In most polls Mary Ann usually beats Ginger by a wide margin. The late Bob Denver, Gilligan himself, always claimed that whenever a poll was held as to who was more attractive, Mary Ann always won by a margin of 3 to 1! As to who Gilligan himself preferred, Denver always thought it was Mary Ann. Indeed, over the years many have theorised that Gilligan was actually in love with Mary Ann. In a fantasy episode of Baywatch (of all things, *bleh*) Gilligan (played by Bob Denver) revealed that he had been carrying a torch for the Kansas farm girl for years. I doubt that an episode of Baywatch can be considered canon, but it does seem to confirm what many people already believe...

Of course, there are other reasons than appearance that men might prefer Mary Ann to Ginger. One important point I think that can be made here is that of the two women, Mary Ann is the most self sufficient. Mary Ann is the cook of the group. Not only can she bake coconut cream pies, but she could whip up any number of dishes from the various food stuffs on the island. She is also the seamstress of the group, able to sew as well as any tailor. Mary Ann even gathers firewood. It wouldn't surprise me if she didn't chop some of it, too! It seems quite likely that without Mary Ann, the Castaways would have been naked and starving to death midway through the first season... While Mary Ann has an array of useful talents, Ginger is much more limited. She can sing. She can act. She can somewhat dance. She can sew (she sewed a dress not long after they reach the island), but that seems to be the limit of her domestic skills. While entertainment is a necessary ingredient in life, it seems to me that it would not be nearly as useful on a desert island as being able to cook, sew, gather firewood, et. al. Quite simply, Mary Ann has survival skills, Ginger does not.

Of course, beyond the fact that Mary Ann can do a number of different things, there is also her personality. Mary Ann is sweet, considerate, and she seems relatively intelligent. She is the kind of girl that one would take home to his mother. She is a bit of a romantic, has could be shown in her frustration with Gilligan when Mrs. Howell tried fixing the two up in the episode "The Matchmaker." Indeed, Mary Ann is so sweet and unassuming that she is perhaps the only girl who would look at Gilligan twice (that alone explains a lot of her appeal for men....). In Ginger's favour is the fact that she is glamourous and seductive. She simply oozes sexuality. But that seems to be all Ginger has going for her. It must be pointed out that Mary Ann could be sexy and seductive too, as when she thought she was Ginger in "The Second Ginger Grant" and the one time she, instead of Ginger, tried to seduce Gilligan. Of course, it has always been a bit of an urban legend that the answer to the question "Whom do you prefer, Mary Ann or Ginger?" could determine what sort of man one was dealing with. According to this myth, if he answered "Mary Ann," then he was the sort who wanted to settle down. If he answered "Ginger," then he preferred one night stands. I don't believe this is true myself. In my experience, the guys who want one night stands rather than long term relationships tend to prefer Mary Ann, too....

This does point to another reason, however, that I think men ususally prefer Mary Ann to Ginger. Mary Ann is the sort of girl one could settle down with. There can be little doubt that if one could get Mary Ann to the altar, then she would remain with him for the rest of her life. On the other hand, it seems to me that Ginger isn't going to be the sort to settle down. I cannot escape the feeling that any guy who gets into a relationship with her is simply going to be another in a long line of fellows with whom Ginger has dallied. I rather suspect, despite whatever fantasies men might harbour, that most men prefer the idea of wedded bliss to a string of one night stands. Let's face it, marriage offers stability and the knowledge that there is always going to be someone to come home to. Beyond which, I think a lot of guys are hopeless romantics like myself--we want that one, speical person we can spend the rest of our lives with. And I think a lot of guys would be more than happy to spend the rest of their lives with Mary Ann...

Even though it seems to me that most men would choose Mary Ann by an overwhelming margin, I think the question of "Who do you prefer, Mary Ann or Ginger?" will continue to be debated for years and years. Or at least as long as Gilligan's Island is on the air (which is probably going to be as long as there is television...). Myself, I would definitely choose Mary Ann. Indeed, I have to pity poor, clueless Gilligan. Stuck on an island with Mary Ann, the poor guy had it made and he didn't even realise it...

Wednesday, 22 February 2006

Fans Threaten to Boycott New 007 Movie

I just read an Associated press story which tells how a group of James Bond fans have launched a web site, http://www.craignotbond.com, to protest the casting of Daniel Craig as 007 and the firing of Pierce Brosnan. The site makes it clear that these fans feel Craig is a poor choice for Bond, describing him as short and blond and quoting The New York Times in describing him as "...having a 'pale, flattened face and large, fleshy ears.'" Quite simply, these fans plan to boycott the new film.

I must say that I can understand fans being upset at EON Productions' dismissal of Brosnan as 007. Besides Sean Connery and George Lazenby, he was, in my humble opinion, the best actor cast as Bond. I must admit that I was none too happy to hear that Brosnan would not be back playing Bond. That having been said, I have trouble understanding their rather fierce objections to Daniel Craig. I liked him in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and he impressed me in his bit part in The Road to Perdition. My only real caveat about Craig is that he is blond. In the novels Bond is described as dark haired with steel blue or grey eyes. I am hoping that they will dye his hair, although I doubt that they will. Even if they don't, I don't think Craig's fair hair will detract too much from him playing the role. Here I must point out that, contrary to the statement of http://www.craignotbond.com, at 5' 11" Craig hardly qualifies as short! Besides which, I don't think the original Bond novels and short stories make any reference to his height--I always thought he was probably average in stature (what good is a spy if he stands out from the crowd by being too tall or too short?).

Beyond not having any strong objections to Daniel Craig as Bond, I will not boycott he new Bond film because I think EON Productions is doing the right thing with regards to the Bond franchise. Casino Royale is based on the very first Bond novel, and the only one EON Productions has never filmed (for years the rights have belonged to others). It is also the first movie to be directly based on an Ian Fleming novel in literally years (maybe decades). I must point out that many of the movies merely took their titles from Fleming's works. As to Casino Royale, the novel has been filmed twice. The first time was as a 1954 episode of Climax, in which Bond was Americanised (007 is even referred to as "Jimmy!"). The second time the novel was adapted was the 1967 film, which was made as a spoof of the James Bond movies. While a fun movie, it is hardly faithful to the Bond novels. Given that there has never been a loyal adaptation of Casino Royale, I am interested in seeing the film.

I must also point out that Eon Productions plan the movie to be the equivalent of Batman Begins, portraying events that occurred early in Bond's career. In effect, it will be a reboot of the Bond franchise in much the same way that Batman Begins was a reboot of the Batman franchise. They also intend for there to be very few gadgets in the film--something that Die Another Day went overboard with. I find the whole idea of the movie to be intriguing myself. My only real objection to the film is the casting of Judi Dench as M. While I think she made a great M in the Brosnan films, it seems to be that if this is early in Bond's career, M should be played by a man, preferably one who looks as much like the late Bernard Lee (the first actor to play M) as possible.

Casino Royale looks like it could be a step in the right direction for the Bond franchise. While I always loved Brosnan as Bond, I can only admit to really liking Tomorrow Never Dies (one of the best films in the series, in my humble opinion). In particular, The World is Not Enough (the title taken from the Bond family motto) was so derivative of other Bond films that they might as well as just made a film compilation of the best stunts from the Bond movies instead. As much as I love the Bond series, I think it has started to stagnate of late. A reboot of the series is then needed. The fact that the reboot is going to be based on the first Bond novel and the one that EON Productions has never filmed has me looking forward to it. Okay, I hope that they dye Craig's hair and I would rather Judi Dench was not playing M, but that isn't going to keep me from seeing the film.

Tuesday, 21 February 2006

The Wedding Singer (1998)

Today finds me in a very dark mood. To quote a song from My Chemical Romance's album Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, "I'm not okay." Actually, that is putting it very lightly.

I suppose it is simply in an effort to cheer myself up that my mind has turned to one of my favourite comedy movies of the past ten years, The Wedding Singer. The movie centres on Robbie Hart (Adam Sandler), a singer who never made it in rock 'n' roll and instead became a "wedding singer." Robbie makes his living performing at weddings, bar mitzvahs, and so on. When his girlfriend Linda breaks up with him, Robbie thinks his world has ended. That is until he meets the waitress Julia (Drew Barrymore), whom he soon finds is his soul mate. Unfortunately, she is engaged to Glenn (Matthew Glave), a sleezy Wall Street shark.

Much of what sets The Wedding Singer apart from many romantic comedies is that it is set in the Eighties. And it captures the feeling of that era pretty well. Robbie could be called by some a "slacker," preferring to do what he loves rather getting "a real job." Glenn is the personification of the "Greed is good" philosophy of Wall Street in the Eighties. The ridiculous fashions and hairstyles are all there, from Glenn's Miami Vice look to Julia's friend Holly's efforts to emulate Madonna. The soundtrack is drawn from the music of the era (for both good and ill...), with songs ranging from "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" by The Police to "99 Luftballons" by Nena (remember that one?). In fact, the only complaint I have about the soundtrack is that it seems to me that any movie set in the Eighties needs "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell somewhere in there (in my opinion the Eighties song...not necessarily the best song of the era, but the one that brings it the most to my mind).

Indeed, in some ways The Wedding Singer works quite well as a commentary on the Eigties, particularly with regards to Robbie and Glenn. As I said earlier, some might call Robbie a slacker in that he chooses to do what he loves, even if he does not make much money at it. His rival Glenn makes much, much more money than Robbie does, enough to afford such luxuries as CD players (keep in mind this was the Eighties) and sports cars. But then Robbie is an integral part of his community, providing important services (singing at weddings and other celebrations and providing singing lessons), while Glenn is just another Wall Street shark with very dubious morals. I suppose the ultimate conclusion of The Wedding Singer is that it isn't how much money you make but how one treats other people and how one fits into his or her community that matters.

Of course, like any romantic comedy, The Wedding Singer is ultiimately about romance. Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore have remarkable chemistry onscreen. And given how much they have in common, it is easy to see why Robbie and Julia fall for each other. Robbie is not only a likeable fellow, but a sympathetic figure. One can easily empathise with Robbie when his girlfriend Linda dumps him, even if it is clear she is not worthy of him. And one can really sympathise when Robbie's efforts to win Julia from the villainous Glenn (who is not only greedy, but a womanising misogynist as well). Looking at the movie, I suppose that among the worst things that happen to a fellow is to know he is The One when the woman he loves is with someone else.

Of course, the test of any comedy is quite simply, "Is it funny?" The Wedding Singer passes that test with flying colours. Among the best bits comes right after Robbie has just broken up with Linda, when he sings "Love Stinks" at a wedding reception. Both funny and touching is Robbie and Julia's first kiss (easily one of the sexiest moments in the movie). And the climax itself is a hoot (who knew Billy Idol was a hopeless romantic....).

The Wedding Singer is funny, sweet, well written, and well performed. It works quite well as both a pastiche of the Eighties and as a romantic comedy. While many modern romantic comedies lay the romance on too thick or focus too much on the comedy, The Wedding Singer is a perfect balance of the two. It is definitely a film any fan of romantic comedy must see.

Monday, 20 February 2006

William Cowsill Passes On

William Cowsill, lead vocalist and eldest brother of The Cowsills, passed on Friday in Calgary, Alberta. He had been suffering from emphysema and osteoporosis, among other things. His health has been declining for quite some time. His brother Barry had disappeared about the time Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. His body was found on December 28.

William "Bill" Cowsill and his brother Bob started performing in the early Sixties. Adding brothers Barry and John on bass and drums respectively, The Cowsills eventually got a recording contract and a hit single. "The Rain, the Park, and Other Things," with mother Barbara on backing vocals, eventually sold over two million copies. The Cowsills would go onto a successful career in the late Sixties, with several hit singles from "Indian Lake" to their remake of "Hair." Columbia Pictures once considered a series featuring the family band. That same company would produced The Patridge Family, for which is largely thought The Cowsills provided the inspiration. By the early Seventies The Cowsills' career was in decline. The single "On My Side," from the album of the same name, only reached #108 on the Billboard charts in 1971.

Bill Cowsill was born January 9, 1948 in Newport, Rhode Island. Following his career with The Cowsills, he moved to Canada. He also released a solo album, Nervous Breakthrough, which went nowhere. In 1978 he formed the band Blue Norhtern. Later, in the Nineties, he formed the group The Blue Shadows. Their debut album, On the Floor, was released in 1993. He also played with The Co-Dependants.

Just as I was saddened by his brother Barry's death, I am also saddened by Bill Cowsill's death. The Cowsills performed some of the background music of my childhood and to this day I still listen to their songs with a large degree of fondness. I must also express my condolences to The Cowsills themselves. To lose one brother is bad enough. To lose another in less than a year is even worse. At any rate, I doubt either Bill or Barry will soon be forgotten.

Sunday, 19 February 2006

The Cell Phone

Yesterday I bought a cell phone. Hard as it is to believe, I have never owned one before. Quite simply, I really didn't see the need for one. But in a world where being connected is becoming more and more important, where pay phones are becoming harder and harder to find when away from home, I thought it wise that I finally buy one.

The cell phone is the culmination of many developments over the years. Ultimately, the cellular phone can be traced back to 1946 when AT&T introduced mobile car phones to St. Louis. At that time the car phones relied on one transmitter that would cover the entire city. This created problems in that there was no way the system could keep up with demand. There were always more users on the waiting list than there were people actually using car phones.

Fortunately, Bell Laboratories came up with a solution. They realised that by reusing frequences in small cells (in layman's terms, service areas), they could allow for greater usage of mobile phones. It is because of these "cells" or usage areas that cellular phones got their name. To this end AT&T proposed to the FCC that the UHF spectrum from 470 - 890 MHz so that the use of mobile phones would increase. Sadly, the FCC decided to limit the spectrum to a point that mobile phone usage would remain low for decades.

It was not until 1968 that the FCC had second thoughts about their decision. Both AT&T and Bell Labs proposed a system in which low power, broadcast towers would use only a small fraction of the frequencies in the system and would cover a small area or "cell." Calls would esentially go from tower to tower to reach their destination. It should then not be surprising that it wasn't long before someone invented what is now considered the first modern mobile phone. In April 1973, Dr. Martin Cooper, then working for Motorola, made the first call from a cell phone. That call went to the head of research at Bell Labs, Joel Engel. Ny 1977 AT&T and Bell Labs would create a protype for cellular systems. They would test it a year later in Chicago. In 1982 the FCC at last approved cellular phone service. Ameritech (now Cingular) would be the first company to offer cellular phone service (that was also in Chicago).

Sadly, even though the FCC had finally granted approval to cell phones, they would still be slow to move with regards to improving service. By 1987 there were at least one million cell phone users in the United States. As a solution, in that same year, the FCC decided that new techonologies could be in the 800 MHz band. As a result, the various cellular companies looked to various other systems (among them digital and other techonologies such as Code Division Multiple Access--it's easier to say than to explain...) than the analog system in use since the late Seventies. In 1991 the Telecommunications Industry Association (a trade association for communications technology) created the TDMA Interim Standard 54, new set of specifications that would allow for more efficient cell phone usage.

Since that time, cell phone usage has boomed. In fact, it is now unusal to find someone who doesn't own a cell phone (yes, I know I was an anachronism...). Of course, the phones themselves have changed a good deal. In the late Eighties the phones were absolutely huge compared to today's phones. Just watch the movie American Psycho for a look at an early cell phone--it's bigger than most hardline phones today! And in the old days one could do only one thing with his or her cell phone--make a phone call. As far as size goes, today's cell phones remind me of the communicators on the original Star Trek (if mine was a flip phone I'd be tempted to utter "Beam me up, Scotty"). And one can do more than call people on them. A cell phone user can send text messages, take photos, make videos, play games, surf the Net, play music (who needs an iPod?)... I have to wonder that twenty years from now the phones won't be able to boil water and take out the trash...

Of course, the cell phone has become part of pop culture. On The X-Files they were an integral part of the show (all those phones are looking pretty dated now). Cell phones played a central role in the moive Cellular, released in 2004. If there can be little doubt that cell phones are now firmly entrenched in Anglo-American pop culture, one need look no further than Stephen King's latest novel. In Cell: a Novel, it is cell phones that are responsible for the end of the world as we know it....

At any rate, I am glad that I finally got a cell phone. I cannot picture using it nearly as much as some people do, but at least it is there when I need it. Unlike a dinosaur like me, I suspect the children of today will wonder how we ever did without cell phones.