Sunday, August 07, 2005

Too real

"The Real World" aired a fairly shocking episode last week, an episode in which one of the housemates, Danny, finds out his mother died (at 45, of a heart attack, possibly tied to her alcohol abuse).

MTV televises both sides of the phone call in which Danny's dad tells him, as well as his roommates desperately trying to comfort him, his calling his sister after getting the news, and actual confessionals of him just hours after getting the news. They replay his final phone call with his mom, in which she tells him she loves him and he refuses to say it back and can't get off the phone fast enough. It's a tough-to-watch episode, easily topping the previous tough-to-watch "Real World," which may be a tie between Lindsay in Seattle finding out her friend committed suicide and Neil in London getting his tongue half-bit off at a concert.

Danny seems like he's choosing to do the confessionals in this episode, so perhaps they're in some way healing for him, but watching him say "I don't want to have to bury my mom" just reaches through the screen and shatters you. Previews of the next episode show Danny at home grieving with his family.

My friend Kim Reed tackles the topic of whether MTV showed too much in her insightful recap of the episode at TWoP. It can't have been an easy recap for Kim to do, either, since she lost her own mom so recently. She makes some excellent points, especially regarding MTV replaying that final phone call between Danny and his mom. Since it ended abruptly and Danny no doubt wishes he could do it over, it can't be easy for him to know that phone call is out there forever on the sure-to-be-syndicated episode for all to see.

When my friend Ann died at age 28 in 1995 of a pulmonary embolism, it came out of nowhere, and just after Rob and I had returned from a trip. I had used my calling card to call her long-distance from the trip to get someone's mailing address for a postcard, and that ended up being the last time I talked to her, ever. I remember when the phone bill came that month I just stared for a long long time at the listing for our final call, and for some months afterwards, I carried the bill around with me, thinking "I know the exact last minute I spoke to Ann." Our last phone call was friendly and full of laughs, if not a deep heartfelt conversation. It was just one of many calls between two friends who'd called each other thousands of times, and we had no idea it was going to be the last time we'd ever speak. But I'm glad when I look back that it was a call I remember, and not one that was simply lost in the fog of memory. At least I have that.

Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?

I use online directions all the time, so I'm still entertained by this old Penny Arcade comic that makes fun of getting online directions from Seattle to British Columbia. ("What's so great about Canada anyway? I say we go to Mexico!")

Two bits has a page that almost functions as a Weblog about state quarters, with the latest news about quarters coming up, etc.

Looks like the two remaining quarters due out in 2005 are Kansas and West Virginia. Then in 2006, Nevada, Nebraska, Colorado, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Coder or cannibal?

Reader Richard sent this creepy quiz asking people to look at a photo and ID if that person is a computer programmer or a killer.

I couldn't believe they didn't include John List, who murdered his entire family, yet looked like the bland accountant that he was.

Delicate matters

Mike from Tulsa TV Memories shares this fun old newspaper clipping talking about how on "The Brady Bunch" set, an entire bathroom was installed one day, and then the toilets were taken out the next, for fear of delicate viewers actually seeing a toilet on TV before 8:30 p.m. (It was OK at 8:31, I guess.)

Because sheesh, even though everyone uses one multiple times a day, we'd surely all be struck dead with horror if we saw a toilet on television. Horrors!


The For Better or For Worse site has introduced Mike's Chess Challenge, a simple online chess game. Which is cool and all, but since when was Mike noted for his chess skills? He always seemed like kind of a dumbo to me.

Book spoilers

Recently I asked for sites that reveal the endings of books.

Thanks much to Jennifer, who suggested TheBookSpoiler, and Brigita, who reminded me of Book-A-Minute! Because yes, I read all 650+ pages of the new Harry Potter, but in case I didn't, these sites are darn fun and useful.

True-crime tale

A fascinating true-crime tale that's been in limbo for years is heating up again. Janet Levine March disappeared 9 years ago from her enormous home and fairy-tale life in Nashville.

Her husband Perry claims they had a fight and she packed up and left, but everyone who knows her says she would never leave her children. He told her parents she said she'd be gone for two weeks, and it was agreed they wouldn't contact the police before then (hmm, two weeks is a long time to clean things up, should things need cleaning up.

Perry later took the kids and moved to Mexico, where he married again. His wife has been declared dead, but her body has never been found. A gun was later found in his safe-deposit box, and it was reported that he was once asked to leave a law firm where he worked for leaving sexually explicit letters for a young paralegal.

Recently, Perry March was charged with murder, and has been deported from Mexico back to the U.S. But with no body, and no idea how his wife was killed, I can only imagine that the case will be a tough one.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Now we are six

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy biiiiiirthday, Pop Culture Junk Mail

Haaaaappy biiiiirthday to youuuuuuuuuuu!

PCJM turns six today. Six! A first-grader! And like mothers who retell the story of their child's birth, I need to retell PCJM's birth story.

I was living in Minneapolis, working as restaurant editor for the Microsoft-owned city guide site, Twin Cities Sidewalk. I loved my job and my co-workers, and I'd taken to emailing friends and co-workers regularly with goofy sites I came across.

That summer, it was announced that Microsoft had sold Sidewalk to Citysearch. We were all going to have to apply for jobs anew with Citysearch, there wouldn't be enough jobs for all of us, and we'd have to take pay cuts if we remained employed. I applied and was offered a job, but ended up rejecting it when I was offered a job as online arts and entertainment editor at, the Web site of the state's biggest newspaper, instead. I would spend three fun years there before Rob and I took deep breaths and took the plunge, moving to the West Coast (Seattle) to work for Microsoft and, respectively.

But I didn't know any of that the August day I came home, with the news of my upcoming layoff weighing on me, and told Rob I wanted to start a Weblog. I just knew that when I was no longer working with my Sidewalk crew, I would miss them, and I would miss constantly sharing goofy Web links with them. He helped me set up the site, and the name just kind of came to me. I knew I'd be focusing on pop-culture links, and the "junk mail" part came from what I feared. I was starting to worry that I was overloading my friends with emailed links, that they were thinking of my frequent missives as junk mail, and I didn't want that to happen. I knew if I presented those pop-culture links in Weblog form, only those who chose to seek the site out would come visit, and it couldn't in any way be perceived as junk mail. Hence the long, four word Weblog name: Pop Culture Junk Mail.

Six years have seen a lot of changes, including the cross-country move, and yet PCJM has continued to be a fun break for me. Sometimes I don't update for a few days, but that's fairly rare. Sometimes I babble, sometimes I repeat myself, sometimes the tech end of things throws a wrench in the works. But it's six years, and if you're not sick of me, I'm not sick of you. Thanks, as always, for reading.

Tooned in

Remember when the networks used to hype their Saturday-morning cartoon lineup like there was no tomorrow? "Shazam," "Isis," "Far-out Space Nuts," "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids," there were some great kiddie shows back in the day, and they weren't all written just to sell crap, either.

This site has a fun collection of full-page newspaper ads promoting Saturday-morning lineups, and you can buy the ad of your choice if you feel like framing it. I think 1975 is my favorite.

Freaky foods

I love the Museum of Food Anomalies, which is kind of a sideshow for edible freaks.

I think my favorite is either the Honeycomb cereal piece that looks like Munch's "Scream," the smiling green pepper, or the surprised-looking gherkin.

Doing time

Back in 1999, when I started my Weblog at the Star Tribune (only the second Weblog by an American newspaper, and the first to appear in print as well as online!), one of my first posts was about Mike Daisey, who wrote the play "21 Dog Years: Doing Time at" At the time, I had no idea I'd be moving to Seattle, home of both Daisey and Amazon.

The San Francisco Chronicle has a look at what Daisey's up to now. Turns out he's doing a show in San Francisco about his college year as a theater exchange student in London. (By the way, if you ever misspell "San Francisco," just think of "San Francis," and then add the "co." Works every time!)

Booking it

Does anyone know if there is a book spoiler site, equivalent to Because as much as I love to read, sometimes you just want to know the ending of a book instead of reading it all.

Monday, August 01, 2005


You know about the Mystery Flavor of Dum-Dum lollipops, right? The label just says "MYSTERY FLAVOR" and a bunch of question marks, and the flavor ... well, it's a mystery. I had one today (because I am nothing if not a faultlessly healthy eater), and got to wondering what exactly the "Mystery Flavor" is.

Apparently that question is asked so often that Spangler Candy Company, maker of the Dum-Dum, lists it in its FAQ. And the answer? Well...instead of cleaning out the machine between flavors, it seems that they kind of just...keep running them, so some Dum-Dums come out with bits of both the old and the new flavor mixed in. Which is actually cooler than what I assumed, which was that they just threw a "Mystery Flavor" wrapper on a random lolly. I'm pretty sure the one I had today was solid bubble-gum flavor, though.

And shortly after, Mike Judge created Beavis and Butthead

We all know that the first-ever video played on MTV was the oh-so-perfectly named "Video Killed the Radio Star," by the Buggles.

But I'll be the first to admit, I didn't know the name of the second-ever video MTV aired. Well, I'll be.

Jane says, redux

Why did Jane Pratt resign from Jane? Maybe because she got her own show on Sirius satellite radio. (We have XM, not Sirius, but honestly, I can't imagine listening to Jane for long.)

Pony tales

The last post I made about My Little Pony was so well-received that I had to link to this: The Pony Project. Various artists will be given oversized blank My Little Ponies to design as they see fit. Pony-delic!