Mock & Roll: At the Minneapolis regional of the Air Guitar World Championship

There is a rock god on stage at the Triple Rock Social Club bestriding the speakers like a colossus, his Loverboy T-shirt sacrificed to a Dionysian frenzy, his tongue out and waggling, his fingers pulsating. With a quick kick and flip, he’s down in the crowd, then up on the back bar, strutting around the beer bottles and whiskeys as he brings the music directly to the people. The fact that he has no instrument is of no consequence; this is rock ’n’ roll.

At the Minneapolis regional of the Air Guitar World Championship a couple of weeks ago, nine contestants took the stage to see whose mimicry of real rock-star moves would be good enough to win a slot at the L.A. nationals. There, one lucky American would be chosen to represent the red, white, and blue at the world tourney of “airaoke” in August.

Though amateurs have practiced the art of air guitar for generations (you only start feeling stupid doing it sometime in your thirties), the formal World Championship first took place in 1996 in the city of Oulo in northern Finland. Though the annual Finnish event has been a reliable source of silly-season news stories since then, only last year did the nation that invented the electric guitar finally send a competitor. Davie “C. Diddy” Jung swept the title just the way the U.S. dominated Olympic basketball after NBA players were allowed to compete. And there are signs that the world’s newest Sport of Kings is headed straight for the Hollywood machinery that builds American Idols.

Originally published June 25, 2004 in Rake Magazine. Read the complete article.

The many faces of Superman: Who will be cast as the next Man of Steel?

For a character who can jump tall buildings with a single bound, Hollywood has had very little luck in getting a new Superman movie off the ground. Casting the world’s most well-known superhero has proven especially difficult, and has already led one director, Brett Ratner, to withdraw from the project in favor of making a second “Rush Hour” sequel. (Who thought there needed to be a first sequel, anyway?)

It really will be tough to beat Christopher Reeve’s performance in the 1970s Superman films; he had a knack for both the larger-than-life heroism of the guy in the cape and the clumsy dorkiness of the Clark Kent alter ego. If we could choose any actor in history, we’d go with Gregory Peck — he had the physique, the hair, and he even looked like Clark Kent when he wore glasses. Most importantly, Peck’s persona — epitomized in the classic “To Kill a Mockingbird” — carries the moral weight that a proper Superman needs. Who better to play the Kryptonian do-gooder than Atticus Finch? Cary Grant would also have been excellent, and considering his turn as the nebbishy professor in “Bringing Up Baby,” would have made a very funny Kent.

The rumors and gossip about who might play Superman — and who won’t — have been flying faster than speeding bullets. The most recent news suggests that producers are thinking of casting a relative unknown — a strategy that worked well for Hugh Jackman in “X-Men” and Elijah Wood in “Lord of the Rings” — but nothing is set in stone, or steel, for that matter. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the actors who’ve been suggested as possible Men of Steel.

Originally published June 25, 2004 on Read the complete article.

The myths behind the magic of ‘Azkaban’

One of the aspects we love about the “Harry Potter” series is J.K. Rowling’s sly use of mythological creatures and characters to help populate the world of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Rowling’s fervent imagination supplies her stories with more than a few magical creatures of her own devising, but even the most imaginative writers have their sources, and we thought it might be fun to trace a few of the mythic antecedents of some of the monsters and magics you’ll encounter when the movie version of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” opens June 4.

Originally published on June 3, 2004. Read the complete article.

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