Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday Playlist

1. Elvis Presley: It Hurts Me
2. Camel: Flight of the Snow Goose
3. Freddie Mercury: Love Me Like There’s No Tomorrow
4. The Smiths: This Charming Man
5. The Killers: When You Were Young (Victoria’s Secret Remix)
6. Sex Pistols: Pretty Vacant
7. Mystery Science Theater 3000: Tubular Boobular
8. The Gourds: Ziggy Stardust
9. Joan Armatrading: City Girl
10. Gene Pitney: Yesterday’s Hero

1. I haven't heard this Elvis song in years. It's really nice to hear it again; it's quite lovely.
2. I love prog rock way more than anyone I've ever known. This is a beautiful piece off of Camel's The Snow Goose, which is a low level masterpiece.
3. Aw, Freddie, you're gonna make me cry with that.
4. I love the Smiths. I'm an adult convert; I never really heard them much as a kid, and I tended to hate a lot of their fans. Moony and all that. In the last six or seven years, though, I've just fallen in love with their music. I would've loved it as a teenager.
5. This is the remix used in this year's Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. I don't know who remixed it. It's a nice spin on a song that's become one of my favorites; it's been on my iPod for over a year. Looking at my numbers, it's the fourth most-played song. I leave my iPod on random.
6. This song's just awesome. One of the best albums of all time. It's easy to say that, but it really is. It's just a great album to listen to.
7. Perhaps my single favorite moment on Mystery Science Theater 3000. I know, I'm juvenile, but it's funny and certainly right in line with my worldview. Here's the video; just about a minute long. It's breasticaboobical chesticamammical pendular globular fun.

8. Absolutely fucking brilliant, laid-back, mandolin-heavy bluegrass cover of an essential piece of glam rock. Love it.
9. I'd say it's beautiful, but that's the only way Joan Armatrading does it. From Whatever's for Us.
10. Overwrought teen angst just the way Gene Pitney does it. Not a bad way to end.

Maybe I'll Go See G.I. Joe

I wasn't a fan of the idea, or what I was seeing, or some of the casting, but... well, I don't know, the more images I see of the film, the more I think, what the hell, let's go. The pictures look pretty campy. But so do most movies based on cartoons and comics, if we're being frank. So what? I remember back in 1989 when Batman came out, and everyone complained that it looked campy. And let's just be honest: Tim Burton's Batman is incredibly campy. And it has not dated well at all. But it still made millions of dollars.

By the way, taking a look at these G.I. Joe posters, I wonder if that show influenced me more than I realize. I mean, the two types of women I've always liked the most are tough redheads and dark-haired women with glasses. Interesting...

Anyway, it can't be as awful as Transformers was. Maybe Stephen Sommers can make up for Van Helsing.

Yeah, G.I. Joe looks dumb and silly and campy. But I hope it'll be fun dumb and silly and campy. Honestly, I don't expect much from American films these days but to be too long, too self-serious, and usually overrated. I just hope to enjoy them un-ironically. Even if they're stupid, at least they can be fun about it.

More Watchmen Stuff

There are some new Watchmen images via Total Film. Here are two:

Every image I see from this movie just makes me more excited to see it.

80 Years of Jean Simmons

Happy Birthday, Madame.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Throwdown 1/30

Random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week.

1. I was very disappointed to read that MAD is going from a monthly format to a quarterly. It’s been so good for the last several years, and it’s one of the highlights of my month. Damn, that’s depressing. Maybe this will finally spur them to embrace online publication more fully. The same thing is happening all over in magazines. I read, too, that Playboy is going to publish only 11 issues this year. I’ve been noticing when I get my issues in the mail that the magazine seems thinner these days. (And not only that, but the Forum, which is a source of very interesting political writing, has been relegated to nearly the last page, which actually pisses me off—it seems like a concession to the shitty Maxim style that Playboy’s been playing up to far too much, and maybe even the first step to just dropping it altogether.) These are, like, the only two magazines I read anymore, and they’re starting to disappear. Sucks.

2. You know, Arrested Development is one of my favorite TV shows of all time. But am I the only one who doesn’t care if they ever make a movie or not? Seriously, I’m not even sure where they’d go with it or why. I thought that even though they were canceled, they found the right note to end on. Trying to redo it now… I’m just not sure it’s a good idea in the first place.

3. The filmmakers want to release a director’s cut of The Blair Witch Project with an extra hour of footage, but Lionsgate isn’t interested. I can’t imagine why anyone would be. That thing felt way too long at 90 minutes. What else is there to edit back in? Yet more scenes of bad actors yelling “fuck” over and over, the way bad actors do when they’re “improvising” dialogue? How about getting a job instead of trying to cost on the back of your one ten-year-old success of marketing hype.

4. Best construction sign hack ever.

5. Upon hearing the news that Hilary Duff would be playing Bonnie Parker in a new movie about Bonnie and Clyde, Faye Dunaway asked “Couldn’t they at least cast a real actress?” Which I’m sure hurts coming from the star of Supergirl, Don Juan DeMarco, Cougar Club, and the greatest orangutan-stays-in-a-hotel flick ever, Dunston Checks In.

6. 15 year-old Ali Lohan is going to drop out of high school to help further her career. Can you imagine your kid telling you that? Especially if it was Ali Lohan? What career? What the fuck is she talking about? I saw her TV show a couple of times, and I never once saw a girl who was actually interested in doing the work it takes to get where she thinks she should be. I see this all the time in schools; kids and teenagers who wait for something to happen to them instead of working to make the most of their opportunities. I think her generation has got a real problem with that, and I think my generation hasn’t always been successful in overcoming it. This is more of the “your best is enough” bullshit that families have been feeding to kids for over three decades now. Sorry, kids, but you aren’t all automatically special to everyone. You have to make yourself what you want to be. Do the work. And fucking finish school.

7. Since Monty Python started putting up clips on their own YouTube channel, sales of Monty Python DVDs have gone up 23,000%. I wonder if studios are finally wising up to this lesson and will stop suing us for not buying their product.

8. The government of Iceland collapsed. Maybe that’s what it takes to build them back up. Not to be flippant, honestly; I’m just wondering how bad things are going to get and how we can all move into a realistic future.

9. Obama gets to keep his BlackBerry. I’m glad. The last president we had was so shut off from the outside world and unfiltered information that he became more and more deluded. Nice to see the White House finally advancing to 21st century ways. Now Obama can start emailing Scarlett Johansson again. Well, that’s what I would do.

10. Here’s the monument erected in Iraq to commemorate journalist Muntadhir al-Zaidi throwing his shoes at George W. Bush. It’s copper. Still want to tell me how Iraq is grateful for our presence? But I do have to give the neocons some credit here. They were right: Iraq did put up a sculpture in memory of Bush.

11. Israeli soldiers are being given orders to “shoot first” in Gaza. They’re firing warning shots at French diplomats. The bombings yesterday killed 11 children and a pregnant woman. And they’re being accused of war crimes for firing on surrendering Palestinian soldiers. This looks more and more like an extermination; if Israel doesn’t want surrender, then what does it want?

12. Politico is reporting that Barack Obama has broken his campaign promise not to have lobbyists in his administration. In actuality, it’s a little more nuanced (President Obama being nuanced where President Bush was blunt). Of the 8000 people in the administration, 12 are former lobbyists; 10 have recused themselves from dealing with matters for which they lobbied; there have been two exceptions. So, two out of 8000. Wow. Can we get a number on lobbyists in the Bush administration, please? It’s a shame Politico wasn’t so vigilant when Bush was auctioning off the EPA and the Department of the Interior.

13. Other political commentators are trying to say that President Obama broke his campaign promise to not sign any non-emergency bill without giving the American public at least five days to look it over. He signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act this week, his first major piece of legislation, which is a step towards protecting the pay of half of the country. It seems to me that they’re having trouble keeping the White House website up to date; they haven’t been able to properly implement the technology, and they’ve been pretty upfront about it. He broke the letter of his promise, but if he can get it up and running soon enough, he can keep the spirit of it. What bothers me more is that this is the year 2009 and there are still people who want to make equal pay for equal work a debatable issue. Why is there a debate? Fair is fair, regardless of gender. And I don’t respect anyone who tells me that equality is something to have limits placed on it. I can already see people on message boards who are using the “broken promise” whine to somehow invalidate the idea of equality. Republicans mostly voted against this, by the way. Frankly, I’m fine with Obama acting quickly to try and make equality a fact instead of a fight. If that makes me liberal, I’ll get over it.

14. President Obama also reversed the idiot gag order on overseas abortion policy, which is another step towards fixing the short-sighted “Just Don’t Fuck” program. Governing and health concerns are separate from morality, and I’m really sick of seeing politics tried in the court of public opinion on morality issues that have absolutely nothing to do with managing the government. And speaking of things that have passed, we’re finally getting our SCHIP bill. This isn’t bad at all for a guy who’s been president for a week and a half.

15. The House of Representatives passed the Obama stimulus without a single Republican vote. No support from the Right at all, apparently because Rush Limbaugh calls the shots now. The Senate will manage to pass it, too. I like Stephen Colbert’s idea, frankly. And a number of Democrats seem to like the idea of removing all of the tax cuts and other concessions added to the bill to please the Republicans who didn’t vote for it. Is the short-lived era of bipartisanship over? It does seem like the GOP is setting itself to just stonewall on whatever Obama tries to do (like the transition to digital TV and the above mentioned Fair Pay Act), but a look at some of the interviews from yesterday at least show that Republicans were willing to listen to what Obama had to say and were pleased that he came to them to discuss the matter. Still, the nice thing is knowing that Republican opposition barely matters; the bill still passed in the House without the Republican votes, and their alternative, tax-cut-riddled, no-projected-cost plan (because tax cuts have really helped a lot so far) failed. At least Obama is trying to compromise and engage the Congressional minority. Bush just ignored them while dictating to the Right and pretending that moderates don’t exist. Obama is trying to preside instead of bullying everyone into doing what he wants.

16. All of that said, I’m on the fence with this new stimulus package. There’s a lot of money being moved around and so far I’m not sure any of the splurging has done any bit of good. (Their mistake, as far as I’m concerned, was doing it from the top down: what good is a saved auto industry if no one can afford to buy a car? For that matter, what good is a saved credit industry if no one can afford to pay their debts?) What has the bailout been good for? No one’s using the money to guarantee loans, like they were supposed to. But we’ve been reading a lot about trips and parties. Citigroup was going to use $50 million of their bailout on a French luxury jet for executives until the White House came down on them. Wall Street collected over $18 billion in bonuses for 2008, which is quite the hefty reward for not doing your job well. The White House is pretty pissed off about that, too. It’s like loaning a friend or relative money to pay their bills because they’re in a tight situation, and then they spend the money on a party or a new car instead. Then they come into a bunch of money and don’t tell you about it. And then they ask you for money to help pay their bills again because they didn’t pay them the first time. Wall Street is acting like Ronald Reagan’s mythical Welfare Queen. Now Bank of America, Home Depot and others are trying to use their bailout money to buy off Congress to further the cause of their economic oppression by fighting against the Employee Free Choice Act. This is just fucking stupid. You know what I think they should do with the money? I like the way Vikkitikkitavi riffs on Jon Stewart’s idea: “give the bailout money to the people who can't pay their mortgages or their credit card bills, with the stipulation that it can only be used for consumer debt. Because if they did, people's mortgages and bills would be paid, and those same institutions that are now flailing would have their precious fucking money. Everyone wins. C'mon Republicans. You're always saying that we should keep more of our hard-earned tax dollars, that the government can't spend it as well as we can. Now's your chance to put our money where your mouth is.”

17. According to Bloomberg, the economy is tanking faster than it has at any time since 1982. The number of people receiving unemployment benefits is at a record high, and I keep reading that various states are going to run out of unemployment money. Sales of new homes are, unsurprisingly, at an all time low. Production is dropping and a goods surplus is looming; that didn’t work well in 1929. It’s sure to lead to more layoffs than we’re already experiencing. The GDP may have dropped by as much as 5%. We’ve now learned that the FBI and the Bush administration knew as far back as 2002 about the looming mortgage market collapse. So, yet another thing he took no action on. Add that to the list of failures. How hopeless are things looking? Apparently the suicide rate in the Army is the highest it’s been in the 28 years since the Army started keeping statistics of suicides. Jesus, even the US Post Office is running so low on operating cash that they might have to reduce mail delivery to five days a week. Oh, and Thomson SA, the parent company of Technicolor, which is one of the biggest manufacturer of DVDs, is on the brink of insolvency. The future's looking bleaker all the time.

18. By the way, Media Matters has a great dissemination of the lies being pushed by the media about the recovery plan.

19. My question is: how is this all working out for the Republican Party? According to last month’s NBC/WSJ poll, only 27% of the country has a favorable view of the GOP (Democrats are at 49%). The Democrats are leading now even in states that McCain carried: 44 states, according to Gallup, and only two outside the Mormon Belt still go Republican. So much for center-right. Obama actually won with a higher percentage of the popular vote than Ronald Reagan, the Patron Saint of Republicans (even though they still fail to accurately understand his presidency--and Reagan, while we’re on the subject, knew how to do bipartisan; his Economic Recovery Act of 1981 sailed through a Democratic Congress). Where is the GOP going to go from here? I’d like to see conservatism and genuine conservative ideals return to the fore, but right now the Republican Party is all but irrelevant, mostly because the public face of the Party seems to be in screechy pundits and complete idiots like Sarah Palin (who is planning her 2012 presidential run right now). Stop confusing moral issues with economic issues and streamline your Party. Rehabilitate it. I’m trying to give the Right the benefit of the doubt here and say that, despite what Rush says, they don’t want the economy to collapse. I don’t think they want the government to fail, even if their guy lost. Hell, just because Bush failed doesn’t mean I rooted for him to fail. I want my government to be strong and functional, and I think most of the people who work for it do, too. I hope Obama keeps reaching out to the Right and that this negative experience didn’t make him less likely to. Keep talking. Keep building a dialogue. That’s what’s important. I hope the Republicans who are being the loudest and most uncooperative are just panicking because they’re worried about irrelevance. I hope the election taught the Republican Party a lesson about ideological purity and they wise up. Otherwise, when they lose yet more seats in the 2010 midterm, they’ll just end up rallying around Palin, the first step on the road to the complete destruction of the GOP as a serious force in politics. Besides, I think what the Right is missing is that President Obama is more conservative than Bush was; Bush was some sort of radical reactionary who threw money at problems and hoped they’d go away. Add that to a couple of wars fought on credit, and anyone who is still telling themselves Bush was a conservative is seriously deluded.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Confessions of a Shopaholic: Second Impression

I caught the trailer a second time.

Isla Fisher is hella cute, but I don't think she's cute enough to pull this off.

Happy Birthday, Heather Graham!

I'm one of the last ones carrying the torch (and given the quality of damn near everything she's been in since Boogie Nights, I'm not surprised), but I still love her. One more year before 40. Enjoy it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

Photographers Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler collaborated on this short film, one of the early "city symphony" films (this would be a nice prelude to two great films, Berlin: Symphony of a City and The Man with the Movie Camera). It simply shows Manhattan waking up, as it were; the city sleeps, people arrive to go to work, and Manhattan comes alive. The rhythm of the film is paced by a series of title cards featuring a Walt Whitman poem. The composition of shots is breathtaking and energetic; you begin to see the city as a living organism, with the people as its lifesblood. Beautiful to experience. **** stars.

Surprisingly nice film with Ricky Gervais as a dentist who has a near-death experience and begins to see and hear ghosts. When I first saw the trailers for this I thought "Ugh, seen it a million times, but it's got Ricky Gervais in it, so I'll see it." It was much better and more sincere than I expected. Sure, it's the old Scrooge-finds-a-heart type movie, but Ricky Gervais and writer-director David Koepp stop it from becoming maudlin and overly predictable (although, I admit, I'm a bit of a soft touch). I especially loved the ending. I think 90% of American films don't know where their ending are, but this one found a perfect place: on a moment of tentative understanding and possibility, instead of a hammered happy ending. ***1/2 stars.

I like these stories that take elements from various fairy tales and mash them all together. And, as I've said a million times, I like Brendan Fraser in these silly adventure movies. There's not a whole lot to say about Inkheart, really, except that I found it very enjoyable, the actors were all good, it had neat special effects, and the ending was happy. It's not The Lord of the Rings, but it's not Eragon, either, thank Christ. Paul Bettany is especially good as a character called Dustfinger, a fire juggler pulled out of the titular fantasy novel. I haven't liked Bettany this much in a long, long time. Glad to see he survived The Da Vinci Bullshit. I would've loved this movie so much when I was 9. But I still enjoyed it. *** stars.

Well, at least Neil LaBute tried this time, and after The Wicker Man, that's encouraging. This movie stars Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington as an interracial couple who move to Los Angeles and buy the house next door to Samuel L. Jackson, a 28-year cop. He's immediately offended by this couple on a very deep level and begins to find ways to make them want to move out of his neighborhood. When it becomes clear that Jackson is harrassing them, the couple are left without recourse to the law because, after all, Jackson's a cop. Now this is all interesting; racism exists in our country and is never going to go away. The idea of a racist black cop living next door to an interracial couple whose very existence pisses him off is interesting. It's a big social idea. But instead of raising the idea, examining it, and then having the courage to admit that a genuine solution hasn't presented itself, the film takes the usual tack of devolving into a brainless action flick in the third act. Nice try, I guess. Wilson and Washington are good (Washington is never anything but; Patrick Wilson is good, but has yet to be in movie I've liked, Angels in America excepted), and Samuel L. Jackson seems a natural for the role but overplays it a bit too often. **1/2 stars.

Rainn Wilson is very funny in it. But there's not much too it. Cute, has its moments, but totally skippable. **1/2 stars.

Wow, what a badly written movie. No, it's not even that: what a lazily written movie. There's a difference between Woody Allen being a bad writer (Hollywood Ending, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Celebrity) and Woody Allen being a lazy writer. Here, he's lazy. Rebecca Hall and Scarlett Johansson go to Barcelona. They meet a painter, Javier Bardem, who wants to make love to them both. Hall is kind of a tight ass, desperately conventional, and about to get married. Johansson is a free spirit who wants to be an artist but can't find a direction or a medium. What happens to them next is completely predictable and dull. And Penelope Cruz turns up to give the movie some energy, which she does marvelously. She's the best thing in it. At least Scarlett Johansson and Javier Bardem are also very sexy people (as is Cruz). But, seriously, it's all very predictable. It feels like a prose story written by a girl in her freshman year of college (or as Becca put it, like a college girl's masturbatory fantasy) who has romantic ideas about Europe and European ideas about romance, but who will eventually settle down with some boring yuppie. Another pointless movie about American women over-intellectualizing and inventing reasons to be unhappy. Ooh, irony. Oh, and the narration is even lazier; it's Harrison-Ford-in-Blade-Runner bad. It's also Harrison-Ford-in-Blade-Runner pointless. Nine times out of ten, narration is a lazy device. This is a good example of it. ** stars.

TV Report: Opinions and Such

* If ABC thinks I'm going to stick around to watch Samantha Who? while they take Ugly Betty off the air, they're seriously deluded. The only reason I ever watch ABC is Ugly Betty, and I have zero interest in their other shows. (I'm sticking to my resolution to watch Lost on DVD.) Is Betty really doing that bad now? I read that it's been a steady decline in the ratings this season. Is yet another show I love going to be canceled before its time?

* All that said about ABC, I've somehow gotten myself sucked in to Desperate Housewives reruns on Lifetime. Maybe I'll check out the DVDs. I've liked more than I haven't liked.

* Another season, another attempt to kill Bruce Dern. How much longer can Big Love keep repeating itself? I'm interested in the relationship/marriage/family aspect of the show, but they turned this thing into an organized crime series last season, and I'm really nearing the end of my patience with it. Becca won't even watch it anymore. She finds it very irritating.

* Rumor has it that either Hayden Panettiere or Ali Larter has been asked to let out of their contract and leave Heroes. If it's Ali, I'm fine with it. But I'm sorry, Hayden, you are not allowed to leave Heroes. Not yet. No way. Sorry.

* I don't know, am I the only person who doesn't think that having guest stars on The Office and 30 Rock is going to run those series into the ground? I'm more worried about the way the writers on The Office haven't found anything interesting to do with Jim and Pam since they got engaged. And I think 30 Rock has finally found a more comfortable footing by taking Tracy Morgan and Jane Krakowski and putting them on the same background level. The first season suffered a lot from trying to put Tracy Morgan on an equal level with Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey, which got fairly annoying. They finally figured out that they didn't have to depend on the third kind of heat. (Damn you, oven commercial first episode!)

* Rita Rocks is a cute show. Not great, but cute. And it's nice to see Nicole Sullivan without having to watch MadTV or deal with Kevin James.

* Still loving Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Robot Chicken, The Drinky Crow Show, The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, and, more or less, Saturday Night Live. And Hell's Kitchen starts tomorrow, which I'm always xazzed about. Not that you needed to know all of that.

Comment Becca Made While Watching The Rocker Last Night

"God, when does Christina Applegate turn off 'bitch'? It's like ever since Married...with Children went off the air, she can't do 'funny' or 'interesting' or 'warm' or 'appealing,' and she's just stuck on 'bitch.' Did someone just set her to 'bitch' and then lose the dial, or what?"

Mickey Prime

I Still Think Jessica Simpson Is Fucking Hot

I know there are a lot of people who take a tremendous amount of pleasure in tearing down Jessica Simpson instead of just, I don't know, ignoring her, but I don't think gaining weight is incredibly funny and I don't think Jessica looks bad with the extra pounds. I might rethink the mom jeans, but I still think she looks fucking sexy.

Let's Hear It for the Rainbow Tour

I'm perfectly willing to wait for more evidence to come in, but I don't think Governor Blagojevich going on a little diva tour of high profile soapboxes and comparing himself to Martin Luther King is exactly what an innocent man goes out and does. What kind of innocent man refuses to set foot before the legislation and defend himself while his trial is actually proceeding? What kind of innocent man runs around whining to Larry King and anyone who will listen that he's being bullied. "The fix is in," he kept repeating, over and over again. This Rainbow Tour was so ridiculous an idea that Blago's lawyer actually quit over it. And then he hires the same PR firm that's failing at making Drew Peterson seem like he's not a murderer? I don't know, it just seems like a lot of clutching at straws in a piss poor attempt to save face because, deep down, maybe he knows he's guilty and there's nothing he can do about it. I mean, he could be defending himself where it counts, and instead he's talking to Diane Sawyer about Oprah?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Can I At Least Get Your Number?

The Health Report, Year 3: Week 7

A study conducted by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy found trace amounts of mercury in high fructose corn syrup. A study of 55 consumer items found trace amounts of mercury in one third of them, ranging from Coca-Cola to Yoplait yogurt, from Heinz Ketchup to Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars.

Now, before the HFCS apologists get on my ass again, the researchers did point out that these were only trace amounts of mercury; 30 to 350 parts per trillion (a part per trillion being "the rough equivalent of a drop of water in 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools"). A spokeswoman from Con-Agra said "You would have to eat more than 100 pounds of ketchup each day to even come close to reaching the EPA's safe exposure level."

But I'm not so sure it's that trivial. I mean, how much HFCS is in ketchup? According to the USDA, the average person consumed 128.3 pounds of HFCS in 2006. How much of it had a tiny bit of mercury in it?

Does mercury build up in a human being's muscles the way it does in fish?

I think there's room for more research here. And I'm not really any more satisfied with Con-Agra's flip write-off of the results than I am with those annoying pro-HFCS commercials that claim high fructose corn syrup "doesn't have artificial ingredients" (just natural chemicals like caustic soda, hydrochloric acid, alpha-amylase, gluco-amylase, isomerase, powdered carbon, calcium chloride, and magnesium sulfate) and is "nutritionally the same as sugar" (which it patently is not, nor does the body process it the same way it does sugar). Oh, and that it's "made out of corn." I love that one. HFCS is made out of corn the same way that Cherry Kool-Aid is made out of cherries. Doesn't make it healthy.

So, that's my question: does all of this mercury add up in the body? It's bad enough that HFCS is in most of our food and drink--and that there are people out there apologizing for it and attempting to discredit a legitimate health concern. Autistic children, for example, have problems metabolizing mercury. So do the elderly.

And the fact is, HFCS manufacturers knew this. It's obvious they knew it, because in defending themselves, they've said they "no longer use mercury-containing ingredients" (although there are plants that still do).

This is why I don't trust people to defend something honestly when they've got a lot of money tied up in it. When I hear people who use HFCS, who benefit financially from HFCS, talking about how the science isn't there yet and it's irresponsible to say that HFCS is a contributor to the nation's obesity problem and that it's somehow unfair or rude to suspect a chemical sugar substitute which doesn't get broken down accurately by the body, I hear all of those tobacco spokespeople spinning every way they could over the years to shout "No proven link!" again and again. They desperately don't want you to dig too deeply, because they're making money on it.

And they've put it in seemingly everything. It's in pretty much all fast foods. It's in my beloved Stove Top Stuffing. It's in way too many sodas and juices, many of which are supposed to be kid-friendly. Do you have a kid? You're loading him or her up with this shit; it's in the juice boxes and the Lunchables and the Wonder Bread and the Eggo's and the cereals and a lot of candy bars. It's in ketchup and cookies and cough syrup. It's in those healthy Wheat Thins and less-healthy Ben & Jerry's. Salad dressing and steak sauce. Everywhere. You can't escape it unless you try very, very hard.

I've made attempts to cut out as much HFCS from my life as I can. Some have been successful, some not. I went to my cardiologist yesterday, and she's pretty pissed at me. I'm not being as cooperative as I could be, mostly due to my lack of health insurance. Isn't it fun going to the doctor's and being treated like some kind of lazy criminal because you don't have health insurance? And isn't it also fun being treated like some kind of lazy, stupid idiot fit for ridicule because you're fat and you're addicted to crap and you have a hard time breaking a cycle of weight gain? America is awesome sometimes.

Anyway, I'm at a critical point here. I weigh far, far too much. Enough that there's every chance I'm not going to live into my fifties. But, I'm told, I haven't done any permanent damage to myself yet. Everything's still within my power to change. Time to take the bull by the horns and buck up and stop getting so caught up in disappointments and setbacks that I forget to keep moving forward. I've wasted a lot of my life just not doing anything. Time to do something.

I started doing these Health Reports because I thought making a regular comment on my progress (or lack of) would help spur me forward. It hasn't always been successful. And I don't always have anything to say about it. And it hasn't always been helpful. I wanted genuine, helpful advice from people with more experience maintaining their health than I've had because, honestly, I just don't always know what to do. I just don't. If I had an inborn knowledge of how to maintain my health, I would be thin. Duh.

What I don't want, but get a lot of, is cowards and idiots with low self-esteem trying to puff themselves up by trying to chip away at mine while bravely cowering behind a cloak of anonymity. Don't mistake my openness for some kind of simpering vulnerability. I get that you don't have the courage to share and you don't have the intellectual capacity to contribute, but that doesn't mean I have to be annoyed just because your parents failed to teach you civility. Don't jump on my blog and leave a random comment because you just don't get what I'm about and think that you're clever. You're not. In return, I promise not to come down to where you work and slap your mom's dick out of your ass. Because I don't care about what you do anymore than you should care about what I do.

I just want to be healthy. And, with hard work, I just might be.

Angela Morley 1924-2009

Angela Morley died last week in Scottsdale, Arizona, after a struggle with cancer. She was a composer who was nominated for two Oscars and won three Emmys. She began life as a man, Wally Stott, and was musical director for The Goon Show, as well as a musical arranger who worked with Shirley Bassey and Dusty Springfield. She also arranged the first three Scott Walker albums, which are fantastic. She even orchestrated, arranged, and supervised the music for the 1974 version of The Little Prince, the last film collaboration of Lerner and Loewe (one of her Oscar nominations). And, uncredited, Angela Morley worked in collaboration with John Williams, orchestrating the scores for Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Superman, and even for the Boston Pops.

Where Angela Morley makes the biggest impact on my life is in her beautiful score for the film Watership Down. I saw this movie on TV when I was under 5, and ever since it's been one of my favorites (one of my favorite books, too). And a big part of that is the score. So, in tribute to Morley, here's my favorite track. To this day, my mom can't hear this music without crying.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Fanboys Clips

Does this mean it's finally frelling coming out?

God I love you, Kristen Bell.

Follow That Instinct

Michelle Obama

COLLEAGUE: That Michelle Obama is hot. Don't you think she's hot?

I shrug.

COLLEAGUE: Seriously? Why do you hate Michelle Obama so much?

ME: I don't. I have nothing against Mrs. Obama. She seems like a decent person. She comports herself well. She's not like that reptilian monster Laura Bush. I was so sick of hearing old people talk about what a great lady she was; it's like their version of being a great lady is to always just shut up and support your husband no matter what and dress down and not have any political opinions. Michelle Obama is more to me what a great woman is supposed to be like; she's supportive, but she's not a mouthpiece and she knows how to get around in business. She's got a lot of confidence. I just don't find her sexually attractive.

COLLEAGUE: That's still not cool.

ME: It's not an insult that I'm not attracted to the First Lady. I'm just not. It's not like I think of her as less of a person because of it.

That's Kind of Clever

SamuraiFrog: A Nice Boy

Last week I was a sub aide for a kindergarten boy with Asperger's. The kids in the class were quite fascinated that there could be such a thing as a male teacher.

KINDERGARTEN GIRL: Where's our teacher? Are you our teacher for today?

ME: No, I'm not. I'm --

KINDERGARTEN GIRL: Are you here instead of our regular teacher?

ME: No, I'm --

KINDERGARTEN GIRL: It's okay, it's just for one day. You'll be okay.

That same girl just ran up and hugged me six times that day. It was cute and hilarious. On the way to PE, four different girls wanted to hold my hands. You just sigh and carry on. The woman subbing for their regular teacher thought it was adorable.

At the end of the day...

KINDERGARTEN GIRL (for the seventh time): What's your name again?

ME: Mr. Frog.

KINDERGARTEN GIRL: I'm going to tell my mom there was a nice boy at school today named Mr. Frog.

It's reassuring to be seen as nice by somebody.

80s Revisited: Ghost

Ghost (1990)
Directed by Jerry Zucker; written by Bruce Joel Rubin; produced by Lisa Weinstein

Coincidentally, Becca and I watched Ghost Town on DVD Saturday night; when it was over, I turned the TV back on and there was Ghost, just starting on HBO. Well, there was nothing else going so it looked like it was time for another 80s Revisited.

Ghost. Gosh, remember when you could not escape this movie? You also couldn't escape "Unchained Melody" that year; hell, the Righteous Brothers even re-recorded it for a single. I remember all of the women in my life being enamored of it; my mom and sister went to see this six or seven times and bought the video; I went with them once and thought it was alright and then didn't think about it ever again. But this is still consistently making lists of the most romantic movies of all time or best chick flicks or whatever you have. And the famous pottery wheel scene is still being parodied to this day; heck, they even parodied it in the new Wallace and Gromit short. This movie has left its impact on the pop culture landscape. Looking at it now, 19 years removed (gosh, I feel old), with more mature eyes, I have to say... I still don't get the big deal.

Don't get me wrong, I didn't think Ghost was a bad movie. It's just not a very good one, and it's vastly overrated. It's a good sort of B-movie thriller written by Bruce Joel Rubin (who wrote the excellent Jacob's Ladder and two of the worst movies I've ever seen, My Life and Deep Impact). Rubin has an interesting way of making the afterlife seem scary and shattering. But as a romance, I think it fails.

Part of the problem is the leads. Once again, as I said recently about Dirty Dancing, Patrick Swayze just seems way too old for the role (38 here, a full decade older than costar Demi Moore). Not only that, but he seems uncomfortable in it; playing a banker in a suit, he shifts around uncomfortably, just counting the seconds until he can take the jacket and tie off. His chemistry with Moore is seriously lacking, a large part of which being that Demi has zero charisma in this movie. Demi Moore is an actress I generally like, too. I kind of miss her being in these big, showy movies--the kind of movies that Ghost made possible. But there's nothing about her in this performance that shows any kind of spark of stardom. She pretty much acts like a woman who's appearing in a B movie and doesn't feel she has to waste the energy trying too hard. (She also, sadly, looks like she took sleepy emoting lessons from former boyfriend Emilio Estevez, because her delivery is the exact kind of boring that his usually is, gritted teeth and all.)

Patrick Swayze, it also must be said, seems to have learned how to convey shocked and confused by watching William Shatner on old episodes of Star Trek, so terrible is his overacting. Swayze always comes across as a likable guy, but as an actor, he's a great dancer.

And the famous pottery wheel scene? Not sexy. At all. They needed actors with heat.

Still, it's a fairly enjoyable movie that you can't take seriously. The thriller elements work, and the vision of demons in the shadows is surprisingly dark for a movie that was advertised as this moony love story. Although it also seems like the thriller storyline is a crutch for a writer who wasn't creative enough to just write a story about two people in love, both trying to figure out how to move on when one of them dies. (Which is, interestingly, what I thought Ghost Town pulled off really well.) He couldn't write that, so he made it a thriller about money-laundering instead. Which is funny, because Tony Goldwyn's plan is tremendously stupid. All he had to do was wait for a quiet moment to get the bank numbers he needed away from Swayze. It's not like they never saw each other; they were best friends. He might even have been able to come clean. Instead he's got to hire an accomplice, murder his best friend, and then try to murder a couple of other people? I mean, seriously, I know his life is in danger, but it's just incredibly silly to get into this kind of spiral over something that could have been taken care of discreetly and without murdering anyone. What a dope.

And then there's Whoopi. Everybody used to love Whoopi. Or at least we were made to think so. Whoopi Goldberg won an Oscar for this movie, another year when voters were following the tradition where "Best Supporting Actress" means "Best Supporting Actress with the Sassiest, Funniest Homespun Dialogue." It's not necessarily an award-worthy performance, but looking back on it now after all of the annoying movies she's done, this and The Color Purple are pretty much Whoopi's big moments. She's very good in this movie, and gives the film whatever vitality it has. The love story seems like background, the thriller plot is silly, but Whoopi Goldberg is genuinely funny and likable. That everything else is so drab makes her shine all the more.

So, on the whole, it's not a waste of time. It's just not an institution.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Song of the Week: "Ding Dong"

I've been listening to Klaus Nomi lately, and what with George W. Bush's presidency mercifully ending this week, this 1982 cover seemed appropriate.