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Now in our ninth calendar year!
PCR #439 (Vol. 9, No. 34) This edition is for the week of August 18--24, 2008.

"The Rocker"  by Mike Smith
Let's Stroll Historic Roser Park! The Fabulous Architecture of the Tampa Bay Region, Part 10 by William Moriaty
Pop Culture Potpourri  by Lisa Ciurro
DVD Review: "Frogs"  by ED Tucker
DVD Grindhouse: "War of the Planets" (1977)  by Andy Lalino
Welcome To The Trop .... Gene Upshaw .... Citrus Park Loss .... A "little" Problem .... .... .... .... e by Chris Munger
I Hate Being Sick .... 11 Delegates Behind??? Wtf .... So Long Gene .... Cancer Test  by Matt Drinnenberg
Movie Notes .... Hypocrisy 101 .... Wrong Place, Wrong Time .... 4 Banana, 3 Banana, 2 Banana One! .... Passing On .... .... .... .... And The Oscar For 1980 Should Have Gone To... o  by Mike Smith
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FANGRRL by Lisa Ciurro

Pop Culture Potpourri

Bring On 2009 Already

2008 is one for the record books, and we’ve only recently passed the halfway mark. From technology to politics, to entertainment or the economy, 2008 has seen a multitude of memorable and record-setting events. To me, 2008 is the Year of Loss. So many beloved, admired, talented, creative famous people have died so far this year – actors, directors, authors, sports figures, journalists, artists…and on and on. Kinda makes a fangrrl scared to read the paper each morning, you know?

Matt and Nolan do a great job of eulogizing the people we have lost. Oftentimes there are celebrity deaths I want to write about, but that would require a lot more writing and my column’s always late as it is. This time, however, I want to briefly mention two famous people I admired who died recently. Both of these people were “celebrities” of a sort, who didn’t really seek public attention but were able to accept it gracefully when it arrived anyway.

Sandy Allen (1955 – 2008) – You might not recognize her name, but you’ve seen her on TV, read about her or seen photographs of her. Sandy Allen was the world’s tallest woman, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, reaching an impressive 7 feet, 7 ¼ inches. Allen’s excessive height was a result of a pituitary gland tumor, which she had removed via brain surgery in her 20s. In addition to the lifelong annoyances of having to special order her clothes and hearing “So, how’s the weather up there?” too many times, Allen endured both the emotional pain of cruel ridicule and the physical pain of atrophied muscles, aching joints and numerous other health problems caused by her large size.

Yet Allen persevered. She used her celebrity superpowers for good, frequently talking to spellbound groups of schoolchildren about self-esteem and resilience. Allen was kind and generous and funny, having overcome her natural shyness by being forced into the spotlight. She traveled the world, was interviewed by Oprah, had a song written about her (1982 Split Enz song Hello Sandy Allen), was quizzed about her sex life by Howard Stern, and even bathed with two dwarves in the Fellini film Casanova.

Sandy Allen died on August 13, 2008, in her hometown of Shelbyville, Indiana, in the Heritage House Convalescent Center where she had lived for several years. (Side note: Edna Parker, the oldest person in the world according to Guinness, also lives there. Heritage House administrator Bill Pierce told The Shelbyville News that he’s often asked “what’s in the water at Shelbyville?” by his colleagues.) Allen’s best friend Rita Rose has written a biography titled The World’s Tallest Woman:The Giantess of Shelbyville, which is coming out in October.

Randy Pausch (1960 – 2008) – Randy Pausch was a fairly successful, but still regular, sort of guy: a computer sciences professor at Carnegie Mellon University; a family man with three children and a wife he adored; a successful and well-liked professor. Pausch’s life changed drastically in September 2006 when he became one of the 37,680 people in the U.S. diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. [Note: 37,680 is actually the National Cancer Institute's estimate for 2008, not 2006, but you get the point.]

Yet Pausch persevered. While he continued to teach, he began to spend more time with his family, which was his priority. Then, in September of 2007, Pausch gave the lecture heard ‘round the world. CMU’s Journeys lecture series (previously known as the Last Lecture series) was a chance for top professors to talk about what really mattered to them in a hypothetical last lecture.

On September 18, 2007, Pausch gave his 76-minute talk titled Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams. During his speech Pausch revealed that he had recently learned that his pancreatic cancer was terminal and showed slides of his CT scans to the audience of 400 people. Instead of being bitter or maudlin, however, Pausch was vibrant, energetic and darkly funny. He spoke eloquently about being sad for his children, but he also did push-ups on the stage to show that he could.

Pausch’s Last Lecture became an Internet sensation that has been viewed by millions of people. Wall Street Journal reporter Jeff Zaslow – who was in the CMU audience that day – co-authored a book with Pausch titled, of course, The Last Lecture. (Zaslow has written that his daily phone conversations with Pausch (that became the book) occurred while Pausch was riding around the neighborhood on his bike, so as to not interfere with Pausch’s family time.) Pausch gave multiple TV interviews, testified before Congress, blogged about his experiences for CMU, encouraged support for the Pancreatic Cancer Network (PanCAN), and appeared in a brief scene in J.J. Abrams’ upcoming Star Trek movie.

Randy Pausch died on July 25, 2008, at home with his family. His book The Last Lecture is a New York Times bestseller that has garnered thousands of online comments, posts and articles.

But Nolan Is The Most Creative Loafer I Know

Tampa’s alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing had a weird week last week. Nolan wrote last week about being interviewed, but then not mentioned or quoted, for a CL article about the ‘zine scene. To me, the CL article was a great profile of several local ‘ziners who publish content the old fashioned way, on paper. (Kidz: Paper means flattened sheets of material, made mostly from wood, on which text and photographs can be printed. It was the primary means of news/information distribution in those dark days before Skynet invented the Internet.)

The same week that Creative Loafing profiled local creatives and wrote about their importance to the ‘zine scene, the publication let go long-time film critic Lance Goldenberg and announced plans to publish movie reviews written by CL authors in other cities, primarily Chicago. Goldenberg was a freelancer, not a regular CL employee, who apparently (based on what CL publisher David Warner has written) made close to what a full-time staffer would make, but who didn’t contribute in other ways as a full-time staffer would have. Goldenberg’s upcoming departure (in September) hasn’t received much public attention that I’ve seen, except for a few rumblings in the blogosphere (which I contributed to on my own blog, of course).

Warner promised that local film coverage on CL will not suffer. He also said that the fiscal realities of today’s newspaper industry forced CL to make some tough decisions. I understand the tough decisions part and am keeping my fingers crossed about the local film coverage part. I don’t like it though, and will miss reading Lance Goldenberg’s reviews.

It was an interesting juxtaposition, however. After reading the news of Lance’s departure (online), seeing the resulting public outcry (online, via blog comments), reading about CL’s commitment to local coverage (online at a CL blog), finding published remarks by CL owner Ben Eason about the importance of the CL’s web presence on a national level to attract national advertisers (via an online search)...after all of that, I read (online) the CL’s ‘zine articles, which celebrated the dedicated writers who continue producing print publications, explained what hard copy ‘zines offer that the Internet can’t, and bemoaned the loss of local creative outlets to the soulless, dumbed-down, easy-access Internet.

By using the Internet to comment on a print publication’s use of the Internet to publish a story blaming the Internet for the decline of print ‘zine publications, I have now completed the Circle of Metacognitive Life. (Insert The Lion King soundtrack here.)

How Movies Have Messed With My Head, Item #563

Recent news reports announced that after a decade of study and investigation, the Catholic Church is canonizing one of Hawaii’s most revered saints, Father Damien...

That’s as much of the article as I could read, because all I could think about was the cuddly killer Antichrist kid in The Omen. I kept picturing Father Damien tearing around Hawaii on his tricycle, on his way to knock Lee Remick off the railing, which made me laugh, which is just plain wrong and is something I should probably mention at my next confession, which is something I should start doing even though I’m not Catholic because giggling about Father Damien is probably a mortal sin. I guess I could just yell "It's all for you, Damien!" before hanging myself publicly ... dammit, there I go again. I can't help it. Movies have messed with my head.


The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is a nationwide network of people dedicated to working together to advance research, support patients and create hope for those affected by pancreatic cancer. For more information, visit www.pancan.org.

"FANGRRL" is ©2008 by Lisa Ciurro.   All graphics, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2008 by Nolan B. Canova.