Bienvenidos and welcome to the blog of Manda Newlin, professional writer/copyeditor, amateur pop-culture quipper and perennial observer. I’m nuts about words, grammar, bookstores, foreign accents, DVR and iTunes. I enjoy one-on-one conversations, eavesdropping in coffee shops, learning other peoples’ life stories and discovering universal truths. Here’s what I know ….

Sunday, June 24, 2007

TV titles are so much pun!

June is running out of steam and summer is in full swing. Naturally, the time is ripe for TV networks to begin promoting their fall programming.

One fresh entry offers a new take on the common-as-air police procedural drama. Fox’s “New Amsterdam” chronicles the life of John Amsterdam, a New York City homicide detective “cursed with immortality because he stopped the murder of a Native Indian schoolgirl in 1642 by stepping in front of a sword.”

This show is the latest in a string wherein the main character’s name appears in the title as part of a cliché or idiom. Other prime(time) examples: “Grey’s Anatomy” (Dr. Meredith Grey), “Saving Grace” (Det. Grace Hanadarko), “Crossing Jordan” (Dr. Jordan Cavanaugh) and “King of the Hill” (Hank Hill).

I haven’t decided whether this convention is clever and catchy – or indulgent and irritating ... just like newspaper and magazine articles with gaggingly cute headlines. (So help me, if I see another environmentally friendly piece titled “It’s easy bein’ green,” I can only pray I’m close to a defibrillator.)

Nevertheless, I understand why TV scriptwriters do this, because the daily pressure to join old words in new ways can be grueling. And it’s a surprisingly easy approach to developing concepts.

Play along at home by brainstorming a list of popular phrases and then imagining how each one could play out on the small screen. Consider, if you will, my humble contributions:

  • Pike’s Peak,” with Julia Pike as an overachieving businesswoman whose just-as-she-likes-it life is upended by the arrival of her estranged sister’s precocious teenage daughter (as if there’s any other kind of teenage daughter on TV).
  • Lame Duck,” featuring James ‘The Duck’ Duckworth as a cutthroat, jerky-but-genius litigator who juggles intense career pressures while dealing with a mangled right leg. (Think “House” in a courtroom.)
  • Robert’s Rules of Order,” about U.S. Sen. Robert T. McAllister, a political heavyweight who is being groomed for the presidency – but whose personal life is secretly in shambles. (You see, the title is ironic.)

Like ’em? Have your people call my people …. We’ll do lunch.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Hyatt's kinda mellow, but Radisson totally rocks ....

Hyatt Hotels & Resorts announced this spring it will feature “unique music collections that reflect local music flavor for guests to enjoy on property and at home.” It’s something like a soundtrack – or an auditory scrapbook – of your vacation.

The firm is piloting the program in two Southwest locations, with handpicked playlists subtly transmitted in common areas, spas and eateries. The music is available online, too, so enchanted guests can download, listen and evoke fond memories of the Hyatt long after their suntans have faded.

The program makes spectacular sense considering the heavy-gauge link that connects music and memories. Research studies have demonstrated that music stimulates certain parts of the brain – most notably the tiny cranial shoebox where our memories are stored.

Consider your own experience for further evidence. Exhibit A? Your first real kiss. Ten bucks says you remember the song playing in the background (assuming you weren’t snogging in silence). For me, it was Sir Jon Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” – way, way, way before Blake Lewis reinvented it. (Sadly, the title had not even a micron of irony.)

It’s amazing, really, the way a song can evoke a memory as vividly as any photograph can:
  • Take “Swingtown” by Steve Miller Band. A couple of beats into it, and I’m on the backseat hump of my parents’ yellow Subaru, wedged between my brother and sister, on some drumstick-straight Midwestern highway, bound for adventure in the Rockies.
  • Cue up “I Touch Myself” by the Divinyls, and I’m in my freshman-year dorm room with my best friends, cackling to the point of incontinence.
  • “Jumpin’ Jumpin’” by Destiny’s Child carries me to Grand Cayman Island, close enough to the Caribbean to feel its salty spray and breathe in bougainvillea. Sigh ….

Words, music, memories – all are intangible elements that, when joined, become beautifully indelible.