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Every month, the editorial team here at PopShots receives literally several e-mails from devoted readers worldwide. By “editorial team” I mean me, this subcontractor in New Delhi who provides the adverbs and adjectives, and my invisible friend Ian, who shows up whenever I drink too much TheraFlu. In an effort to maintain this close interactive dynamic with the readership, made possible by the extremely digital nature of online publishing, we occasionally publish a letters feature in which PopShots’ mighty yet sensitive readership submits a few burning questions.


Dear PopShots,
What do you think about this ugly new trend of screening advertisements before movies at the cinema?
- E.G., Miami, Florida, USA


Well, E.G., I like to take a measured view of this. The retail motion picture business is incredibly complex, with advertisers, studios, distributors and exhibitors all participating in a delicate calibration of commerce and art. And so, every time I see an ad before a film, I simply make a mental note to boycott the advertising company forever, and also firebomb the cinema later that night, along with any regional corporate headquarters in my area. The only ads I want to see at the movies are trailers for other movies. You see, the Covenant of the Cinema is that I pay $6.25 for a Coke and you show me movies, all movies, and nothing but movies. I know that European audiences are used to this idea of cinema ads, but then Europeans put up with a lot of weird crap. Like Portugal.


Dear PopShots,
Which celebrities, in your estimation, have sold their soul to the devil for fame and fortune?
- T.L., Windsor, Ontario, Canada


Excellent question, T.L. I’ve actually kept extensive running notes on this, and the list is very long, indeed. In terms of the younger starlets, Lindsay Lohan’s contract is clear. She gets to be a famous celebrity, so long as she goes to a minimum of 30 nightclubs per week and stops eating altogether. Sisters Ashlee and Jessica Simpson leveraged a collective bargaining agreement for their careers, so they did pretty well, although they have to share that prosthetic chin. Colin Farrell, of course. One nice thing is a rider on his contract that guarantees a new liver every other year.


Amongst established names, the biggest is probably Robin Williams. How else does one successfully peddle a hybrid swill of cheap sentiment, flop-sweat improv, and 8th-grade humor over four decades? Oliver Stone has a long-term contract in which he has the option of making great films (JFK) or terrible ones (Alexander), and gets all the free pot he can smoke. Then there’s Shania Twain. Every time she belts out another preassembled sassy woman anthem, the eternally damned writhe and scream in the squalid acid pits of hell. Let’s see, who else? Roughly 70 percent of all reality TV stars, 85 percent of all C-list talking-head celebrities on VH1 and E!, and everyone involved in making the movie version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.


Dear PopShots,
Which city is the greatest city in the world?
- K.B., Arcadia Atoll, Southern Pacific


Some people will tell you that it’s New York, but those people are delusional. That eight million people choose to live on a small island off the east coast of North America is final evidence that mankind is insane. London’s nice enough, but the Scots will inevitably rise up and take over for good, so better for now to wait. Rio de Janeiro is OK, if you don’t mind packing heat to help assure you get to the market and back in one piece. And Paris makes for the occasional good time, considering it’s full of Parisians. My personal vote would be San Francisco, except that rents there exceed the GNP of many small nations. What we need is a good earthquake to shake out the weak-hearted, and bring real estate prices back down. Until then, the greatest city in the world is still Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine.


Dear PopShots,
Are you going to see Brokeback Mountain?
- A.W., Seattle, Washington, USA


No, and I had some really clever reasons why not, but stupid Larry David stole all my good jokes in his New York Times Op-Ed piece, “Cowboys Are My Weakness”.


Dear PopShots,
What’s this I hear about a Ramones-themed cop drama coming to Romanian television?
- J.B., Bucharest, Romania


Aha - very shrewd, J.B.! As you know, I spent many years toiling in Los Angeles and wrote several spec scripts and TV pilots. Rock ‘n Roll Precinct was, in my estimation, a cop buddy drama destined for greatness, but U.S. studio executives seemed to think it would be a difficult concept to maintain over several seasons. So I’ve set up a European development deal. Here’s the first scene of the pilot script:


Rock ‘n Roll Precinct Dramatis Personae


Detective HAL JENKINS, 25-year veteran, NYPD. JENKINS recently divorced his third wife and suffers from severe stomach ulcers.


Detective JOHNNY FALCONE, hotshot rookie, NYPD. FALCONE is new to the precinct; inexperienced but eager. He speaks only in song titles from the first Ramones album.


OPEN ON:


Squad room, 15th Precinct, New York City Police Department:


FALCONE is at his desk. JENKINS enters, pulling occasionally from a Pepto-Bismol bottle.


JENKINS: Did the lab come back with anything on that DOA?


FALCONE: I Don’t Wanna Go Down To The Basement (2:37)


JENKINS: What’s with you, kid? I asked you an hour ago to get those files, and now the lieutenant wants us to canvass the area on that deli shooting.


FALCONE: I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You (1:43)


JENKINS: You got a real smart mouth for a rookie, Falcone. Do it yourself, then. I gotta interview this punk in interrogation.


FALCONE: Beat On The Brat (2:31)


JENKINS: Don’t I wish. Not with I.A. sniffing around.


FALCONE: Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue (1:35)


JENKINS stares.


FALCONE: I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend (2:15)


JENKINS: Why you gotta be bustin’ my balls all the time? Wise up, kid. Look, I’m gonna roll this perp, then I want you to meet me back at the stakeout. You got it?


FALCONE: 53rd & 3rd (2:21)


JENKINS: Right. Now get outta here!



Dear PopShots,
What movie are you most looking forward to in 2006?
- T.F., Detroit, Michigan, USA


No contest: Snakes on a Plane. (I am totally not kidding about this movie; click over and see.) I also look forward to the sequel, Snakes on a Plane 2: Bears on a Train.

Glenn McDonald writes about popular culture from his home in lovely Chapel Hill, NC. His humor essays have been described as "grammatically consistent" and "remarkably frequent". He is editor of the Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me daily news quiz at NPR.org, and a film critic at the Raleigh News & Observer. He lives virtually at www.glenn-mcdonald.com.


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