Saturday, February 07, 2009

Saturday Playlist

1. Theme from The Bob Hope Show
2. Harry Chapin: Sunday Morning Sunshine
3. John Cale: Buffalo Ballet
4. Linda Ronstadt: It’s So Easy
5. Richie Valens: La Bamba
6. The Byrds: Mr. Spaceman
7. Otis Redding: Rock Me Baby
8. Depeche Mode: Enjoy the Silence
9. Richard Harris: Paper Chase
10. Spandau Ballet: True

1. An interesting opener. Thanks for the memories...
2. The opening track from Sniper & Other Love Songs. I love all of Chapin's albums.
3. Cale's prettiest song. I personally don't think he put out anything better than his first five or so albums, especially the three he did for Island Records.
4. Rocking Buddy Holly cover. I have this off the Brokeback Mountain soundtrack.
5. Always a pleaser. Interesting, considering we just passed the anniversary of the Day the Music Died.
6. One of my favorite Byrds tunes. God, I love the Byrds.
7. Otis is always great, too. I love soul music. If you don't love soul music, you don't have one.
8. When I was in high school, my art teacher used to play the radio. It was around the time Violator came out, Depeche Mode was on all the time. The students used to complain and ask her to turn the channel. Even then I found it ironic that a bunch of art students hated Depeche Mode, one of the big art student bands.
9. I know it's supposed to be cheesy, but I unabashedly, unreservedly, and unashamedly love Richard Harris's album A Tramp Shining.
10. Not a bad way to close. I've been making my 1980s playlists, and I'm through 1984, so hearing any 80s music is awesome for me. As an aside, my mom hates this song.

A, I'm Adorable

Mark Evanier did this and it just looked like fun. The idea is that each answer has to begin with the first letter of your first name. No repeats allowed.

1. What is your name: Aaron
2. A four letter word: Ankh
3. A boy's name: Adam
4. A girl's name: Andrea
5. An occupation: Anthropologist
6. A color: Aquamarine
7. Something you wear: Ascot (though not me personally; I can't carry the Fred Jones look)
8. A food: Almonds
9. Something found in the bathroom: Apricot facial scrub (Becks used to use it)
10. A place: Argentina
11. A reason for being late: Alarm not going off
12. Something you shout: "Ai, popi!"
13. A movie title: The Adventures of Robin Hood
14. Something you drink: Apple juice
15. A musical group: The Animals
16. An animal: Aardvark
17. A street name: Anderson Street
18. A type of car: Audi
19. A song title: "At Last"
20. A verb: Atomize

James Whitmore 1921-2009

Friday, February 06, 2009

Throwdown 2/6

Random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week.

1. Michael Phelps was hitting a bong… does anyone really give a shit? I think the real lesson young people should learn today is to stop living their lives on camera. They’re not as interesting as they think they are.

2. Best quote ever: “…for those of you who aren’t gamers, Xbox Live is an online homophobia club for pre-teen Tourette’s sufferers."

3. Gwyneth Paltrow finally realized how many people in the world just don’t like her, and asked “How could people hate me, my intentions or what I’m trying to do? I’m a good person and I’m trying to put good things into the world?” Someone just jumped the shark on detached pretension there. Gwyneth, seriously, the worst thing to do would be to respond with “how could people hate me, I’m so wonderful and good.” It just makes you look weak. And like you live in your own asshole.

4. Etta James is mad at Beyonce for singing “At Last” for President and First Lady Obama at the inauguration. She doesn’t like Beyonce singing “her” song. I wonder if she’s also mad at Nat “King” Cole for recording the song in 1957, three years before Etta recorded her own version. Or if she’s mad at Glenn Miller, who first hit the charts with “At Last” in 1942. After he performed it in the film Orchestra Wives in 1941. The song was written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren, But, you know, it’s “her” song. (Seriously, though, Etta’s At Last! is a great album you should all own.) Etta James now says she was only kidding, and that she was just being a comedian, but that Beyonce still didn’t do the song justice. Now that’s a diva; she just apologized to Beyonce and insulted her at the same time. Awesome.

5. The silly feud between Faye Dunaway and Hilary Duff deepens. Duffster responded to Faye’s “Couldn’t they at least cast a real actress?” with “I think that my fans that are going to see the movie don't even know who Dunaway is. I think it was a little unnecessary, but I might be mad if I looked like that now, too.” I’d call it a draw. Duff could easily have stopped with suggesting that Faye Dunaway was irrelevant to her generation of fans (unless they’re carrying a torch for the epic Dunston Checks In or have watched too many of Showtime’s late night airings of Cougar Club), but she did find the right insecurity button on Faye Dunaway’s looks. Ouch. Still, I mostly think Faye Dunaway deserves it. You criticize, you get it back. Still, I’m sure Faye Dunaway likes the attention. She’s probably missed it the last 30 years.

6. Scientists cloned an extinct species, the Pyrenean ibex. It died soon after birth because of a lung defect, but this is the first time an extinct species has been cloned. Are dinosaurs far behind?

7. Okay, I like this one better than the zombie one.

8. The DVD industry is once again complaining that rentals are eating into DVD sales. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that they insisted on an average $25 sale price when the Supreme Court ruled that the industry could set price minimums.

9. Well, Daschle’s gone, which is encouraging. And it was nice to see President Obama admit he made a mistake. Bush never admitted his mistakes, and he had many to choose from. A president who believes in accountability is going to take some getting used to. And one who puts principle above loyalty.

10. Are you buying this CEO executive compensation cap? It’s hard to feel sorry for these whiners coming forward and claiming that $500,000 “isn’t very much money” (it’s still over five times the median salary in this country), and it is nice to see the government demanding something of these companies that took the bailout money, but how is it going to help fix the economy? (Actually, I’ve just read that Goldman Sachs wants to avoid restrictions the government is placing on it by paying back their $10 billion in bailout funds as soon as possible. So maybe it will work.)

11. Eric Holder was confirmed as Attorney General. 21 Republicans voted against him. Some did so, get this, because Holder wouldn’t promise not to prosecute CIA operatives who tortured detainees. Imagine that, an Attorney General who gives a shit about the law.

12. I think it’s hilarious that Michael Steele was named head of the RNC. I see him on Real Time once a year, and he’s not exactly the sharpest pencil in the jar. A lot of people cried “tokenism” right away, while David Duke went the opposite way and decried Steele as a racist (and believe me, if anyone knows racism, it’s Grand Wizard Duke). I don’t know, Steele is pretty unremarkable as a politician; just because he criticized the government’s mishandling of Katrina and Iraq does not make him a “moderate” or a “maverick” or anything I’ve been reading. The Republican Party is just to the left of the Nazi Party when it comes to enforcing lockstep loyalty; they’re not going to put anyone in charge who will shake them up (or defy the great god Rush). And for his part, Steele has said he’s not a moderate. It really does look like an attempt on the part of the GOP to say “Forget the McCain campaign! We’re not racists! See, we’ve got a black guy, too!” He also says the government has never created a single job. You mean, like, Lt. Governor of Maryland, which he once was? (Credit where credit is due: at least Steele acknowledges that the GOP needs to reach out to gay and pro-choice voters. It’s ridiculous, since party ideology will strike down any attempt to concede on gay rights or abortion rights, but at least Steele is trying. He’s also another role model for anyone who failed out of college, failed the bar, but made it into a figurehead position, anyway.)

13. I think when you’ve got Republican governors and mayors coming forward and telling the GOP to stop screwing around and pass the recovery bill, it’s time to just give up and admit you’ve lost on this one. These governors and mayors have to deal with these problems in reality; problems that the Republicans in Congress just have to talk about and theorize on with the usual deep thoughts they have (“Grrr! Tax cuts! Tax cuts solve all!”). Anyone pushing tax cuts these days has no clue what they’re talking about. I don’t know what the answer is, but we’ve had tax cuts for most of the decade now and they haven’t helped at all; we had an idiot man-child in charge who thought you could reduce the stream of money available for government spending, and then spend more than any president ever had. Christ, Republicans, even St. Reagan raised taxes. Like I said, I don’t know what the answer is; I’m not sure anyone does. But doing nothing is worse than doing something.

14. That said, the recovery bill is being parsed in the media with nothing but Republican talking points. Why aren’t there more people out there explaining this to me? Where are these economists who support it? Why aren’t they on the news explaining what this bill does? Why isn’t Obama talking about specifics in an attempt to gain support? Hell, he has that gigantic email list. Try giving that a whirl for something other than donations, huh? The Washington Post editorial was a step in the right direction. Is Obama finally done dicking around on this and going on the offensive to win this stupid PR war?

15. My favorite story about the recovery bill, though, is the one about Governor Rick Perry of Texas. He’s been an extremely outspoken opponent of the bill. When asked if he intends to live up to his principles and not accept the recovery money if the bill passes, he made it clear that he intended to take the money. Conservatism is a massive fraud. For eight years, Republicans presided over the largest deficit spending increase in American history. Any claim they had to fiscal conservatism (or even responsibility) is long gone. (Side note: Sarah Palin, who is apparently involved in Texas politics now, is urging voters to support Perry over Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson in 2010; Palin once said there was a special place in hell reserved for women who don’t support other women.)

16. This is the best the GOP can offer now? Whining about the Fairness Doctrine, which no one has made an attempt to revive? Bitching about Obama not wearing a jacket to work? (Took about 3 seconds to find a picture of Bush not wearing a jacket; how about Andrew Card apologizes for yet another misplaced outrage distraction?) Dick Cheney being his usual America-hating self? And attempting to show up Obama as some kind of liar because he’s allowed the CIA to keep renditions by conflating rendition with torture? (If he hadn’t, they’d be calling him weak on terror and law enforcement.) I’ve been thinking a lot about Republicans and bipartisanship this week. I think Obama needs to stop reaching out to the Right for now and let them sink their own ship. They need it. They need to be destroyed in order to rebuild into something thoughtful (or at least reasonable). Democrats, give it up: “bipartisanship” does not mean that Republicans are automatically going to cave in on every issue. That’s unrealistic. And Republicans, “bipartisanship” does not mean that you get everything you want no matter what. That’s equally stupid. I don’t care about bipartisanship; I care about genuine thought and solving problems. Bipartisanship is an idealist fantasy we shouldn’t be wasting our time on. I’m not a Democrat or a Republican because I don’t care to put ideology before thinking. If you’re in Washington right now and you’re playing the partisanship game because you want your “side” to “win,” then you have no business in the job you’re in. I want solutions, not petty games and window dressing compromises. Do your job. Attempting to be obstructionist just because you think you’re losing is like a toddler stamping their feet: the impotent, meaningless gesture of someone with no power. We should really be ignoring them until they have solutions to offer that don’t amount to “investing in America is the wrong thing to do.” Are they seriously trying to just continue the same policies of the last 8 years? Look around, guys, it didn’t work.

17. Oh, wait… the GOP has even better to offer: Joe the Plumber is now a GOP advisor. A time of major economic crisis and the GOP is turning to an unlicensed plumber for financial advice? To a guy who doesn’t pay his taxes? I’m sure he’s got a lot of thoughts on how President Obama might tax his non-existent fantasy business, but what qualifies him as a serious political advisor? His big advice this week on the recovery was that the government should “just cut its bills like other people do.” I guess when you’re a tax dodger, that makes more sense. He also posited “I don’t know if the American people deserve me.” The American people deserve a lot, pal, but certainly not you. And certainly not Republicans relying on a campaign prop, a token black man, populist idiot Sarah Palin, and cryptofascist blowhard Rush Limbaugh to make it look like they give a damn what Middle America has to say. I can only assume the GOP loves its new found and well-deserved obsolescence and wants more of it.

18. I’m adding this one in at the last minute: I’m reading now that scientists have succeeded in teleportation. The science is very complicated for a dilettante like me, so I’d recommend the article, but the short of it is that scientists at the Joint Quantum Institute have made a milestone in quantum information processing by teleporting information from one atom to another at a distance of about one meter. It’s a significant step. And friggin’ awesome.

Neat Italian Ads for SCI FI Channel Are More Fun Than Watching the Actual SCI FI Channel

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Film Week

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

Well, it's cute. I like Selena Gomez; I think she's one of the more talented Disney girls. And I'm pleased to see that dancing is starting to look more like dancing and less like having an aneurism to music; geez, you lazy kids, you can move your legs, too. (Chris Brown excepted; not a fan of his music, but that kid can dance.) A cute time-waster, and I was surprised to see Katherine Isabelle from Ginger Snaps as one of the evil stepsisters. But am I the only one who doesn't think Jane Lynch is funny? **1/2 stars.

Stupid, reactionary fantasy about teenagers who have sex. Ridiculous. And released on video as Havoc 2. Don't bother unless, like me, you're extremely bored. * star.

Man, this movie just took me by surprise. I was expecting one of those painfully earnest, bad-but-fun Lifetime movies. And there I was, sobbing like mad several times. This movie struck a real chord with me. It's emotionally genuine. This is a true story about Mary Griffith, the gay rights crusader, and her son, Bobby, who came out to her while he was still in high school in the early eighties. Mary, a devout woman, pushes religion as the "cure" for homosexuality, and refuses to see Bobby any other way but sick and in need of more God. Bobby, becoming more desperate and adrift, kills himself, and it's only then that Mary finally makes an effort to understand her son's feelings and that homosexuality is not a sin and not an illness. I identified a lot with this movie. I'm not going to get all pretentious and say I know what it's like to be gay, but I do know what it's like to be made to feel like there's something wrong with you, like you're not a real person because of something people don't like about you. And I know what it's like to try to get your parents to understand it and, when they don't get it, to stop trying and feel shut out. A surprisingly powerful, mostly sensitive film. Sigourney Weaver is excellent (of course) as Mary, and Ryan Kelley is sympathetic and likable as Bobby. Henry Czerny plays Mary's husband; it's always nice to see him. ***1/2 stars.

Oh, holy shit. A terrible Mexican film terribly dubbed into English and painfully narrated with the kind of earnestness usually reserved for films about the coming atomic wars. So, Santa Claus lives on a cloud in heaven, has children of all races building his toys for him (are they kidnapped slaves?), has a creepy telescope with an eye and a mouth that can see into childrens' dreams, and has his best friend, Merlin, make potions for him. His sleigh is drawn by four creepy wind-up reindeer. And there's a demon, Pitch, who is under Satan's orders to try and stop Santa as he makes his intricate, seemingly-in-real-time way through Mexico City. The scenes of the devils camping about in hell is like some kind of fucked-up parody of Kenneth Anger. This movie is unbearable. For about ten minutes it seems like an unintentionally hilarious camp classic that's going to be a lot of fun to rip on; after that, it is unbelievably tedious. Seriously, this may be the longest 90 minutes of your life. What a piece of shit. Apparently there's a Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of this movie. I wonder if they had more fun with it. This movie has made me hate Christmas, hate movies, and kind of hate being alive. Tread carefully; this is the kind of movie you can't un-see. The worst piece of happiness-killing awfulness you could ever look for. No stars.

Kristen Bell at the Fanboys Premiere

They had a premiere. So they can't take it back, right? Bad enough they went all limited-release on us. Is America suffering from a sudden lack of geeky Star Wars fans so that no one would go see this movie?

Oh, yeah. She's a keeper. It's always wonderful when two things you love cross paths.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

50 Years

The Health Report, Year 3: Week 8

So, I've been doing the South Beach Diet for the last week.

I like the idea of a diet application that actually plans for how you can deal with a future time when you're off the diet. And I like the language. And it's astounding to me that I've made it this far into it without caving and at least having a piece of toast or something. I think this may be the first time in my life that I've ever gone for a week without something made from bread.

I haven't lost any weight yet, which is only a bummer in relation to Becca, who's doing this with me, and who has lost almost 10 pounds in a week. Damn. I've had some slight size reduction, but I the weight is all still there. She's losing weight, I've got diarrhea and leg cramps. Huzzah.

The diet isn't bad. It's basically all food that I already love to eat (lean meats, light cheeses, salads), just none of the bread and sugars that are foundation stones of my diet.

But I'm anxious a lot. I'm not sure why. Am I really hungry or is it some other sensation to do with the dieting? I've accepted it, and chewing gum a lot helps the hunger issues (sugarless, minty), but I do miss some foods and I want them more now than I hoped I would. (My kingdom for a plate of nachos.)

I can't wait for phase two of South Beach. I can have wheat bread again. I'm sticking with this, but I can't wait until this next week is over and I can start adding things back without going insane.

Exactly the Kind of Stupid Thing I Wonder About

How much do you suppose the guy on the right gets paid?

TV Report: The Heroes Do-Over

From what I've read, this new chapter is make-or-break time for Heroes. This new half-season story arc, "Fugitives," could prove to be the nail in the coffin if the show doesn't start picking up viewers again. Imagine that, science fiction in trouble on NBC...

I watched Heroes last night and I really enjoyed it. It's a really good idea for the show to move from a full-season arc to two half-season arcs. It cuts down on the filler. Last night's episode didn't suffer from the problems Heroes usually suffers from at the beginning of a storyline: all the characters were brought together immediately, we got to see some regular life instead of fake intensity, and the action started right off. It was a good sort of introductory episode to what feels like a slightly re-tooled show.

Is it going to be enough to save the show? Probably not, if this morning's reviews are any indication. I think people are tired of giving Heroes chances, and that's mostly what I've seen: that this episode was better than the show has been, but it's just too late to care now. Obviously, I disagree. It's been a rocky road with Heroes--I dismissed it at first, then fell in love with it, then hated the second season and waited for the DVD to finish it, then loved the second half of the second season and have been faithfully watching it ever since. Personally, I think the key is patience; I'm willing to wait to see how it unfolds instead of demanding answers immediately. It doesn't frustrate me. (Side note: I do find it interesting how this is a frustration on Heroes, but apparently one of the wondrous virtues of the getting-worse-with-each-new-season Lost.)

Either way, I'm still really into it. I think they may have finally found their balance; enough that I'm willing to forgive them the silly lapses in the first half of this season and the stupid killing off of Elle (thus rendering her storyline a pointless distraction). I like this show a lot and I'd hate to see it get canceled. But that's usually the way these things go.

At least I've got one more half-season to enjoy.

(But in case the show does get renewed for next season... sorry, Hayden, you're still not allowed to leave the show.)

Monday, February 02, 2009

Seventies Television Looks Cooler Than I Remember It

Two great pieces from Dusty Abell @ deviantART. They're huge, but worth it.

Les Folies Dalique

Thanks, John, for this awesome image.

My Nitpick on the G.I. Joe Teaser

I see a lot of nitpicking going on re: the new G.I. Joe teaser trailer. I thought it looked pretty good, and most of the complaints are silly and dismissible: most people seem to be butt hurt that grown men and women leaping about in spandex can't look more realistic. Which makes me wonder how those people deal with seeing movies in the first place. But anyway...

My annoyance in the trailer stems from a character (Duke, I think) saying something along the lines of "Officially, we don't exist." Cut to scenes of characters causing millions of dollars in property damage in broad daylight. Most of these movies come down to big fight scenes in big cities (I don't remember G.I. Joe being so urban-set; I remember a lot of deserts and mountain ranges, but my memory of the show is admittedly scattered), but the idea of G.I. Joe being top secret is completely ridiculous if the movie is going to have a lot of boys and girls in spandex causing traffic jams.

Anyway, it's probably a nitpick, and it doesn't dim my mounting enthusiasm for the movie. I thought the trailer looked good. Especially Sienna Miller...

TV Report: The Post-Superbowl Episode of The Office

Not quite a shark-jumping episode, but still kind of a bummer.

It felt like the episode was designed to be a showpiece to hook people who might have been watching the Superbowl but who haven't really given The Office a try. For some reason, the first 15 or so minutes felt like a sales pitch, what with the incredibly wacky opening chaos, the new opening credits, and the attempts to squeeze a big character moment out of every character. I don't know if I can explain it, but something felt weirdly cynical about the first chunk of the show.

The second half at least felt like an Office episode, but it wasn't as strong as the show is normally capable of.

It bummed me out. It made me think that the show might be at that point where it's peaked in quality and is going to slide down the opposite side of the hill. I know that point is coming. It comes on every show that lasts longer than three years; at some point, they get repetitive and lazy. Last night's episode of The Office... kind of lazy.

The unfortunate part is, I'll still watch it either way. I like the characters.

Here's hoping for the best.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Song of the Week: "Word Up"

It's cheesy and the video's terrible, but I completely love this song. LeVar Burton looks extremely uncomfortable in this one. 1986, by Cameo. They ain't got the time for psychological romance.