Hit & Run: Meet the Jonathans
Thursday 24 September 2009
If you'd like your children to become politicians or pop stars, by all means name them Barack and Britney. But if you'd prefer your newborn boy to become a literary hipster, call him Jonathan and move to Brooklyn. There he may emulate the three "Jonathans of Brooklyn", as the star authors Jonathan Safran Foer, Jonathan Lethem and Jonathan Ames are sometimes described.
Safran Foer produced his bestselling debut Everything is Illuminated in 2002, aged 25, and is now a professor of creative writing at NYU; Lethem is about to publish his latest novel Chronic City; and Ames – renowned for such confessional, semi-fictional short stories as "I Shit My Pants in the South of France" – has scripted his own television show, Bored to Death, which began in the US on Sunday.
The sitcom centres around a Brooklyn writer named "Jonathan Ames", whose girlfriend dumps him as he's struggling with his second novel. Instead of writing, Ames picks up a copy of Raymond Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely, and is inspired to put an ad on Craigslist, offering his services as an ineffectual private detective.
The quirk-based hipster-lit elements of Bored to Death have been bolted together like an item of flat-pack furniture to create a show that – if it lasts – is almost guaranteed an entry on the self-deprecatory blog stuffwhitepeoplelike.com. Depending on your cool-ometer, it's the show you've been waiting for, or the most irritating half-hour imaginable.
Playing Ames is Jason Schwartzmann, a regular in the films of the directorial demigod Wes Anderson. His co-stars are hipster-comic-of-the-moment Zach Galifianakis and ageing-former-sitcom-superstar-of-the-moment Ted Danson. The story on which the show is based was published in the periodical McSweeney's, the home of hip-lit fiction edited by Dave Eggers. The soundtrack is filled with the sounds of such hypercool alternative artists as Andrew Bird. Even Ames' girlfriend is played by the pretty best pal from Juno. And the show is broadcast, naturally, on HBO.
Moreover, of all the genres Ames could choose to riff upon ironically, the detective story is the hippest. Its protagonists are urbane, witty, and frequently look like Humphrey Bogart: a male ideal to which the neurotic, metrosexual Jewish Ames can unsuccessfully aspire, to some comic effect.
But will Bored to Death – contrary to the promise of its name – be a success? With two Jonathans on board, it can hardly fail...
Apple's pod squad is on the warpath
After Apple Inc's long-running dispute with Apple Corp (the company founded by the Beatles in 1968 to manage the Fab Four's business interests) over the use of the Apple logo – the essential upshot of which is that the Beatles' back catalogue is still not available on iTunes – the sleek-lined computer company appears to be trying to get revenge on the world. Its target is the US entrepreneur Daniel Kokin, who has been developing a natty little DVD projector since 2000 which he wants to call a "Video Pod". Apple doesn't like his use of the word "pod" – because, you know, when we hear that three letter word we apparently automatically think of their miniature MP3 players – so has launched legal action to get Kokin to change the product's name. Except it hasn't gone as planned. Earlier this month the United States Patent and Trademark Office refused to make an automatic judgement against Kokin and the matter is now to be decided in a courtroom. "There's no question this is a good ruling and is certainly making Apple nervous for sure," says Kokin's lawyer David Herzog. But while this is not a victory for the little man (yet), if Kokin is successful it could pave the way for the launch of a slew of other pod-based products. So who will be next to face Steve Jobs' wrath? Pea growers? Squid (also known as cephalopods)? The US Post Office Department? We say: Apple, pod off.
Why we shouldn't be surprised by Sol Campbell's swift exit
By shredding his £40,000-a-week contract with Notts County after just one match, the footballer Sol Campbell joins a select club of quick-fire quitters who barely had a foot in the door before they marched right back out again. Last year, the stressed-out Belgian Prime Minister, Yves Leterme, resigned after just four months. Australian minister, Matt Brown, would have been happy with that. He quit after a staggeringly brief three days last year when he was caught simulating a sex act and gyrating in skimpy underwear at an office party. Joseph Goebbels succeeded Hitler as Chancellor until killing himself just five hours later, but for the shortest possible tenure we turn to the fashion stylist and editor Katie Grand. In 2007, she quit as creative director at luxury label Mulberry a whole two months before she started. Now those are some itchy feet.
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