Michelle Obama Braves Letterman; Human Birdwings

The Atlantic Wire
Michelle Obama Braves Letterman; Human Birdwings
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Michelle Obama Braves Letterman; Human Birdwings

We realize there's only so much time one can spend in a day watching new trailers, viral video clips, and shaky cell phone footage of people arguing on live television. This is why every day The Atlantic Wire highlights the videos that truly earn your five minutes (or less) of attention. Michelle Obama holds her own with David Letterman in one of his moods, Jeffrey Tambor opens his memory box, and the TV remote of the not-so-distant future comes with complications.

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Michelle Obama did well out on her recent swing through the talk show circuit, but come on: making sure Jay Leno eats his vegetables is not particularly challenging, as couch segments go. Having David Letterman back his way into an interview by demanding to know what the deal with your dog -- who also happens to be the American President's dog --  is, that makes for an unsettled few minutes of televised chit-chat. Because it's Letterman, it's also screamingly funny, and also a sign that, at this point, the First Lady's schedulers think she's just about the most versatile performer on television. They may be right.  [CBS]

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Today, in videos that will make you believe a man can fly: Dr. Jarno Smeets, an engineer based in the Netherlands, has finally achieved lift-off with the Human Birdwings -- his name, not ours -- that he's been developing in his lab since December. There's something about self-propelled human flight -- especially when the pilot is outfitted in gear that looks a great deal like a dragon's wings -- that also inspires wonder, envy, and questions like, "Do you think he knows where to land that thing?" [Human Birdwings]

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When you run for president, part of the deal is that people will point out your various foibles and chuckle. Sometimes it is a generous chuckle. Other times, it is an angry chuckle. (For the record, we have chuckled angrily before. It is possible. Do a regular chortle, then narrow your eyes at the end, so you look mad.) The point is this: you do not want to be the candidate people shake their heads at the moment you open your mouth, cringing at the thing about you're about to say, which will somehow sound ever-so-slightly wrong. If you're say, Harvey Keitel, and your career as an actor is increasingly defined by standalone five minute cameos of varying quality, you strive to keep audiences unsettled. But not if you're running for president. That's what seems to be happening to Mitt Romney this election cycle, the same way it happened Al Gore in 2000. Call it the legacy of the minor gaffe. It's even worse when you remain gaffe-free: because that's exactly what the perfect straight man would do. The dog on the roof, the impatience during debates, the way he said "coupla Cadillacs" -- these are the oddball details that make almost anything seem possible. Consider a new parody video set to the tune of Eminem's "Will the Real Slim Shady Please Stand Up?" It is called "Will the Real Mitt Romney Please Stand Up?" You get the conceit: he's a tough fellow to pin down on an issue, this Mitt Romney. Except it's not about Mitt Romney flip-flopping: it's about the sheer number of strange, out-of-context soundbites that have been offered up by -- or extracted from, thanks to the the miracle of sound dubbing -- the most formidable candidate in the GOP field. Any other candidate, it's just a nice, well-produced viral gag. But in Romney's case, it comes as close as anything we've seen to teasing out why he's still struggling to consolidate support. Because if you're not behind him from the start, he lends himself well to silliness. This is not a knock on the candidate. He's like Don Ameche in His Girl Friday. [The Washington Post]

Jeffrey Tambor filled in for Late Night announcer Steve Higgins last night and was terrific, which is what we've come to expect from Tambor on television, even when he's appearing in not-so-hot material like the short-lived Twenty Good Years and Welcome to the Captain. The good news is, his supply of anecdotes comes largely from time spent on the sets of The Larry Sanders Show and Arrested Development, which were good places to be in the mid-1990s and early-2000s if you wanted to make iconic television, and also file away stories that could be used to kill a few minutes with Jimmy Fallon at a later date. Tambor's delivery is generous and textured, even when Fallon asks him, in somewhat Chris Farley Show-esque fashion, if people ever come up to him and say "Hey Now!" in honor of Hank Kingsley, Tambor's tooth-chipping, banana schnapps-guzzling sidekick on The Larry Sanders Show. You have to remember, he hasn't told this story thousands of times yet. We're Jason Alexander is a nice fellow, but we have a feeling he wouldn't be as lively if you asked him whether people still come up to him and ask if George is getting upset.  [NBC]

In the future, TV remotes will be...nothing like the universal models that were supposed to save channel surfing in the 1990s, we're confident enough to say that. Too tough to program! As for the real remote of the future, there are some questions: you'd think it would be smaller, like everything else, but obviously it can't be too small. It's the future, there's no time to waste running your hand between couch cushions going, "Where the hell is that thing?" You have a blind date with a Venusian at 7:15 and the space buggy traffic is awful on Fridays. It could be a smart phone app, but that worries us as well. We have a Cold War mindset when it comes to our most prized household electronics. Separate the two great powers -- the phone and the remote -- to maintain order even if one should fall, or just stepped on. [Parakeet via Paid Content]

 

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