Saturday, August 29, 2009

Wheel of Death

The amazing part of this video is how calm the valet parking guy outside the building remains even after coming within a inches of being flattened. He doesn't even interupt his cell phone conversation.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Res Ipsa Loquitur

The lady doth protest too much, methinks. And a star is born.

I hope Vera brought him that aspirin.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

BANG, (Click-Click) BANG

Here's one of those stories that just leave me fucking speechless. Throw away the key my ass. Two bullets. Case closed. (sigh...)

From Reuters:

Kidnapped California girl found 18 years later
A California girl who was kidnapped at the age of 11 in 1991 has been found alive, having spent 18 years living in sheds and tents behind the home of her accused abductor, a convicted rapist who fathered two children with her, police said on Thursday.

Jaycee Dugard had been missing since she was snatched off a street by two people in a gray sedan while walking to a bus stop near her home in South Lake Tahoe, east of San Francisco, on June 10, 1991.

Dugard, now 29, was found after a parole officer for her accused kidnapper became suspicious, leading to a search of his home near the town of Antioch, about 100 miles
southwest of where she was abducted.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Who Moved My Blue Suede Cheese (Mad Men 3.02)

I hate to keep beating it to death, but Mad Men's deliberate use of color (blue and green this time) once again dominated this season's second episode (at least for me).

A television series boasting a rich ensemble cast, such as Mad Men, poses a challenge in terms of character development because generally the audience is either given a lot of a little bit OR a little bit of a lot. "Love Among the Ruins," Mad Men's second episode for Season 3 provides the latter as many different story arcs are advanced. This is somewhat in contrast to Episode 1, "Out of Town," that seemed more focused on one or two characters. However, both episodes take at a leisurely (almost Deadwood-like) pace. This is strictly an observation, not a criticism and may represent a growing confidence that Matt Weiner and company feel about the material as a result of the show's success.

Like The Sopranos, the title and first few seconds of any Mad Men entry (or, given the extensive use of food as a motif in LAtR, one could say "entree") lays the thematic groundwork for what follows. In this case, the title refers to a 1855 Robert Browning poem (notably included in his book "Men and Women"). The protagonist ponders a grass covered pasture that had once been a great city. While lamenting the loss of a mighty infrastructure--"their triumphs and their glories and the rest"-- and anticipating the arrival of his lover on that very same spot, he seems to prefer the land's new use as the site of his rendezvous concluding that "love is best." Thus, the idea of social change (and people's reaction to that change) is established as the overriding theme of LAtR.

(Note: I realize that the image on the left is from a 10,000 Maniacs album of the same name, but the color scheme seemed iterative of the poem and worked with my observations.)
This is further reinforced by LAtR's very first shot showing a clip from the opening credits of 1963's Bye Bye Birdie. Ann-Margret sings the title song against a blue backdrop. The plot of the musical follows the stir created amongst the general public when Conrad Birdie, an Elvis Presley-like character, is drafted into the army. Margret plays Kim McAfee who is selected to represent all of womanhood and kiss Conrad "goodbye" at his farewell performance on The Ed Sullivan Show. LAtR uses McAfee to symbolize a specific female construct that, like the structures in Browning's poem, is destined to be replaced with a new, different paradigm. This old construct is defined by traditional, albeit outdated, ideals such as purity, chastity, and innocence.

Continuing MM's use of color to visually represent its themes, LAtR features numerous juxtapositions of blue and green which represent a choice between the old and new order characters are forced to confront. As established in "Out of Town," blue seems to designate the existing social conventions that are often constricting for those attempting to adhere to them. For example, in OoT, Shelly had to comply with a strict Code of Conduct while wearing her blue Pan Am uniform. This corresponded to what she viewed as her duty to comply with societal norms concerning fidelity. In LAtR, green, like Browning's pasture, is a more modern and arguably more emotionally satisfying new worldview. However as inviting as this new worldview may be, it still represents change. And, as discussed in Spencer Johnson's "Who Moved my Cheese," change in and of itself can be a threatening thing.

The first scene of LAtR show the Sterling Cooper creative team viewing the Ann-Margret number. Pepsi wants something similar incorporated into TV ads for a new diet drink called “Patio.” Unlike the rest of the creative team, Peggy feels that the concept (a 24 year old acting like she’s 14) and, by implication, the social construct it represents is false. Given that in MM's universe, Peggy functions as new female prototype synthesized between the clashing dialectics of Betty and Joan, this is understandable.

The next scene shows Don and Betty's daughter Sally (wearing blue) dragging a blue chair into the kitchen. In this case, blue seems to corresponds to the Drapers’ attempts at making their traditional family unit work. It also suggests that under Betty’s influence, Sally’s path will follow an old female model. A pregnant Betty follows up on the food motif introduced in LAtR through the Patio discussion by commenting that she's out of Melba toast. Don and Betty discuss what appears to be a redecorating project being planned for their home (snap shots of various decor options are on the kitchen counter). Don's informs her that his plans for the day include taking the children to Tarrytown (a older New York village) to buy a part for his car after looking at some "antiques."

The scene cuts abruptly from an irritated Betty saying "What are you doing?" (ostensibly at her children) to a meeting between Pete Campbell, Paul Kinsey and representatives for the new Madison Square Garden complex to be built on the "ruins" of Penn Station. In effect, Betty is railing at those who would be facilitating change. The Madison Square Garden project folder used by the SC creative team is green. An offhand observation made by one of the meeting participants emphasizes that fact. The client is seeking public relations help in dealing with a small, but nonetheless loud, group of New Yorkers expressing their opposition to the tearing down Penn Station in order to make room for the “Garden.” Paul upsets Madison Square Garden people by taking the side of the protesters. Since Paul eagerly helped the builders of a nuclear power facility when faced with a similar PR issue, he would seem to be doing some elitist posturing here. Paul has done this before. In the previous season, he bragged to a group of civil rights protesters that advertising was basically a “Marxist” endeavor because it improved the lives of the masses.

Joan greets Betty upon her arrival at the SC office with a compliment on how she’s carrying her pregnancy as gracefully as Wilma Flintstone. This is accurate historically as the 1963 season of The Flintstone’s did feature the birth of Pebbles. However, it’s notable that this episode, named for a poem about "ruins," would reference an animated series set in the stone age. Instead of her usual red dress, Joan is decked out in a bright green blouse and blue skirt. Joan and Roger both reference her impending marriage. This highlights the idea of confrontation with changing realities.

Pryce informs Roger, Bert and Don about the loss of a client. An old style suit of armor is clearly visible in the corner. Meanwhile, outside of Pryce’s office, one of the secretaries (in blue) and Joan (shot from the waist up to focus on her green top) dangle a pendulum over her stomach (an old divining technique) to determine the gender of Betty’s baby. At various points in LatR, Betty is prominently shown drinking alcohol and smoking. This certainly reflects prenatal behavior for the time. It also, perhaps, may suggest a connection between parental inputs and the resulting attitudes those children ultimately possess. On the other hand, that the unborn baby is shown in close proximity to Joan (in green top) while she is moving a pendulum over it side-to-side (not totally unlike the ribbons in the Maypole dance later) could suggest the impending birth of a new paradigm.

Later that evening, the Drapers and Pryces engage in forced civility while dining out together. Mrs. Pryce is clearly not enjoying her time in New York. The scene ends with the arrival of an ostentatious dinner cart at their table. One interesting exchange occurs when Don and Betty are asked how long they’ve been together. Don says ten years while Betty says nine. One could surmise that Don is really referring to the first time they had sex instead of their actual wedding anniversary. So, even though Betty is firmly part of the old female construct, it’s precepts of chastity and purity are an ideal she would seem to honor in the breach. During the car ride home, Betty makes it clear to Don that experience with the Pryces has only added more discomfort to what has already been a disagreeable last few days. She expresses this in terms of food (the “cherry” on her “sundae”). It is revealed that the health of Betty’s ailing father, Gene, continues to decline. As a result, Gene’s companion, Gloria, has left him. Gene’s deterioration will serve as a personification of the “decay” taking place in the old, established order.

An exterior shot showing a woman in a green coat followed by one in blue leads to a scene between Roger, his ex-wife and daughter Margaret to discuss the latter’s impending marriage (a traditional institution). In fact, LAtR features a number of exterior transitional shots showing people wearing green and blue outfits coming in and out of frame. Conflict arises for Roger and Margaret when his daughter says unequivocally that she does not want Roger’s new young wife at the ceremony. The scene ends with a close up of the actual invitation showing the date of the wedding as Saturday November 23, 1963. This is one day after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Not only does this bode poorly for Margaret’s ceremony, but it’s also a point in American history cited by many as the catalyst for a decade of societal upheaval.

Pryce and Don lie to each other about enjoying their dinner. Pryce enlists Don and Roger to fix the situation with the Madison Square Garden reps at lunch. Meanwhile, Peggy overhears Joan, who is bedecked in blue, teasingly joke with some clients who are clearly attracted to her.

Gene (in blue slacks) arrives at the Draper house with William (Betty’s brother), Judy (William’s wife) and their children (dressed in green and blue outfits). They brings with them sandwiches bought on the way. Gene, still missing Gloria, gets her a sandwich despite the fact that she won’t be there. Gene also makes a big point out of the fact that that the trip was easy in the Lincoln. At some level, this may be a symbolic reference to Abraham Lincoln, who, like JFK, was killed by an assassin railing against the established order. Also, William and Judy, who are acting as agents of change in that they seek to institutionalize Gene (effectively getting rid of him), wear green clothes.

At lunch, Roger laments the situation with Margaret, but concedes that he made his bed and must lie in it. Raffit, one of the Madison Square Garden reps finally arrives. While initially unreceptive, Roger (after a rough start) charms him into staying and pointedly orders a salad with “blue cheese.” Don pitches the idea that the best way to handle the protesters is to change the subject. He goes on to say that while change itself is neither good nor bad, people greet it with either terror or joy that results in a tantrum or a dance (such as the Maypole dance Don will later witness). Don further suggests that New York is in a state of “decay” and that the Garden represents something fresh and new. Raffit signals his satisfaction with Don’s approach by picking up the lunch menu. To Don’s consternation, Pryce later informs him that the London home office does not view the Madison Square Garden account as profitable enough. Don thinks this is shortsighted as the new complex represents “30 years worth of business.” Don has his own “Who Moved My Cheese” moment when he asks Pryce why PPL bought SC. Pryce, in a seemingly honest moment, declares that he doesn’t know.

As Pryce exits Don’s office, his secretary (in blue) and Peggy (in a green top) are visible outside the door. Peggy wants to discuss the Patio account. Since Don hasn't seen Bye Bye Birdie, they run the Ann Margaret number again. Don watches the performance in a perfunctory, almost bored, manner. He certainly shows none of the interest that he’ll later display when watching the Maypole dance. Peggy reiterates that the Bye Bye Birdie rip off is phony. She also feels that the imagery aimed at men should really be tailored to target women. Don ends the argument by pointing out that because women know about men's attraction to Ann-Margret types, women will want “to be her” and respond accordingly. Not to split hairs, but Don’s assessment isn't necessarily without merit. As a previous post discussed, in Season 2’s "Maidenform," the SC creative team establishes two categories of bra customers: Jackie Kennedy (black bra) and Marilyn Monroe (white bra). In that episode, Betty, who from all appearances would be a “Jackie” wears a white bra while Joan (clearly a “Marilyn”) wears black. Thus, each woman’s respectively internalized aspirations overrule what would otherwise have been considered conventional wisdom.

At one point, Peggy, wearing a blue house coat, is shown in her dreary apartment at the sink doing laundry. She clearly does not seem to revel in her socially consigned role. Pretending to be Ann-Margret in the mirror, Peggy tries in vain to take on that persona. Later, Peggy is outside the office after work. The composition of the shot depicts the “decay” of New York Don mentioned to Raffit at lunch. Instead of going home, Peggy heads into a bar. She gets the attention of some men by parroting Joan’s subway joke. Peggy, clearly the aggressor, approaches a young male (listed in the credits simply as “college boy”) with whom she ends up sharing a booth. The food motif is continued when she playfully takes a bite of the boy’s hamburger. He tells her that he is an engineering student. This is noteworthy because as an engineer, the boy would be involved with the alteration and/or replacement of infrastructures. The two joke about being replaced by machines. Back at the boy’s apartment, Peggy, still in her blue top, and the student are locked in an embrace on a green couch. Echoing the condom conversation from “Out of Town” as well as evoking imagery of a long extinct society, Peggy asks the boy if he has a “Trojan.” Like Don’s father, he doesn’t. Unlike Don’s mother, Peggy recommends “other things” that they can do. After the encounter, Peggy gets dressed to leave. She again wears her blue top while her young lover lies under green sheets. They don’t exchange contact information. Instead, in a clear case of role reversal, Peggy unconvincingly tells the student that she’s sure they’ll run into each other again.

Another role reversal presented with Gene. Watching television with the kids, his illness seems to have rendered him childlike (somewhat echoing Peggy’s reference to a 24 year old acting 14). Also, as mentioned earlier, William and Judy, who represent change, are mostly shown wearing green. However, in one scene, having to sleep on the Draper children’s bunk beds (covered with blue bedding), they seem to regress back to children themselves. Here dialog between the couple indicates concern that they may not be able to achieve the change they desire and remain locked in their current situation. This turns out to be correct. After some heated discussions with Betty, Don, who at one point is told to leave his soot covered overcoat in another room (presumably remnants from New York decay), decides that Gene can stay in the Draper home. Don then basically kicks William and family out ironically informing his brother-in-law that they can take a train home from Penn Station. When Gene is informed of the news, he is crushed that all the "plans" he has made will never happen. He also tries to convince everyone he's okay by stating: "I'm not blue." Which, given his mental state, is incorrect.

Later, lying in the bed he made (a sort of reference to Roger's earlier statement), Don (in blue pajamas) hears a commotion in the kitchen. The sound of sirens outside causes Gene to flashback to Prohibition days and he dumps all of the Draper's liquor down the kitchen sink.

In the next scene, Don has a sort of epiphany during a Maypole dance ceremony at the children’s school. Established as a ritual of Spring renewal, the dance takes place on a green lawn. The teacher, barefoot and wearing flowers in her hair dances while carrying a green ribbon. The display so captivates Don that he becomes somewhat emotional and leans down to stroke the grass. Once it’s over, the spell seems to subside as he poses for a family photo (his children again dressed in blue) that includes Gene. This more than likely refers back to the snap shots of proposed ideas for their home redecoration choices shown in the first kitchen scene. In context, the photo with Gene suggests that Don, for the time being, is choosing to stay remain with the old, traditional family model.

The next shot shows Don entering the office. As the camera pans to him, a secretary in the foreground clearly pulls a blue folder from a rack of files before revealing Don. This would seem to indicate that while Don is intrigued by the new paradigm seemingly being built up around him, he is still not ready to leave the old one. Glancing at Peggy, he seems to be contemplating something. Perhaps he is reconsidering her stance on Patio campaign and the larger issues her position implies. Entering Don’s office to discuss the Pampers account (a product associate with birth), Peggy carries a blue folder. Both seem desirous for the change in the status quo they inately sense, yet neither seem quite ready to embrace it.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Coffee, Tea, or Hollow Points?

I'm not sure what to make of these mugs. As a 2nd Amendment kinda guy, I don't have a problem with them per se. But, it just can't be a good idea to get in the habit of putting ANYTHING equipped with a trigger near your face.
Chilly Chilly's Trigger Mug
Killing time can be so much fun drinking a cup of your favorite pick-me-up with these cheeky porcelain mugs. Attention to detail is paramount with the platinum or gold glazed trigger and the red-dot of the safety catch.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Fog of War (Mad Men 3.01)

I once again can't help but indulge myself and discuss a number of observations made while watching Mad Men's Season 3 opener. Feel free to play along.

While pitching to nervous executives at London Fog, the company that provides the central motif for Mad Men’s Third Season opener, Salvatore Romano quotes Balzac: “our worst fears lie in anticipation.” Appropriately titled “Out of Town,” Sal’s own worst fears about being discovered as a closeted homosexual is probably the most dramatic turn of events in an episode that contains many of them. As usual, MM's methodical, almost detached tone belies the cauldron of boiling emotions (like the pan of milk Don heats in the first scene) contained within.

Our first sight of Don Draper is a shot of his bare feet. One’s first impression might very well be the phrase “barefoot and pregnant.” Which, as it turns out, Don is. While heating milk for what the audience is tricked into thinking may be for the baby Betty announced she was having at the end of Season 2, Don thinks back to his own birth. A quick snippet shows the prostitute who was Don’s birth mother presciently telling her condomless john that if she'll cut off his "dick" and boil it in hog fat if she gets pregnant. She uses the term "sheath." Another euphemism for condom is "raincoat" and makes this incident part of the running motif in "Out of Town" established later with the London Fog account. The client does indeed get her pregnant and turns out to be Don's birth father. The prostitute subsequently dies in child birth and Don’s parents adopt the newborn. Christening him after his dead mother’s warning, we find out how Don got the name “Dick” and the symbolic origins for his hatred of ham. The imagery of a penis boiled in hog fat juxtaposed to the close up of Don spooning a viscous layer off the top of the boiled milk is slightly jarring. As he contemplates the skim covered spoon, Don could be seeing himself.

Watching Don take the glass of milk to a visibly pregnant Betty, we realize that it’s only been a few months (rather than years) since the close of Season 2. Season 3 continues the use of red and black to represent a manic continuum of emotions from highly aroused/desirous (red) to profoundly deflated (black). In "Out of Town," the color blue is (at least temporarily) added to the palette. Don and Betty’s bedroom scene is bathed in blue light. As we see later, this color would seem to suggest an attempt by characters to corral both their urges and the resulting actions into something less combustive (and perhaps more socially acceptable). Also continuing the linkage from previous seasons between a suitcase and one’s life, Don's pregnant wife informs him that his valise is all packed.

The first scene establishes that Putnam, Powell and Lowell is now fully installed as the British parent company for Sterling Cooper and introduces a new financial officer, ironically named Lane Pryce. The episode picks up after about one third of SC’s workforce has been downsized. Pryce and Bertram Cooper contemplate an oriental artwork depicting a woman making love to a tentacled octopus. The woman in the piece would seem to represent SC while with the duplicitous British company represented by the octopus. It’s notable that Pryce is shown wearing a red tie while the original SC employees ties are mostly black. After firing Burt Peterson as head of accounts, Pryce brings up the London Fog account. He starts out by commenting on the fact that the brand name itself is misleading. According to Pryce, there is no such thing as “London fog.” He claims that the famous “fog” hanging over London is really the result of industrial (commercial) activities. This ties in nicely with the fog of confusion and misdirection Pryce subsequently unleashes on the employees of SC as PPL firms up their control.

Pryce uses a Machiavellian tactic to pit Ken Cosgrove and Pete Campbell against each other by offering them BOTH Burt Peterson’s vacated position as head of accounts. During their respective meetings, Campbell appears nervous and disingenuous, while Cosgrove comes across as confident, affable and competent. Cosgrove has the presence of mind to ask what his new salary will be. Pryce informs him that at “21” ($21,000), he’ll probably be somewhat disappointed. Twenty-one is also another term for “Black-Jack.” Pryce also tells each man that their promotion should not be discussed with anyone else until a formal announcement.

Finding themselves in the same elevator at the end of the day, Ken and Pete walk on eggshells to avoid directly addressing the recent turn of events. Significantly, both are wearing raincoats and trying hard to, as Don will later say in a different context, limit their “exposure.”

Once it’s clear to Pete that his sharing of the accounts with Ken is an exercise in corporate Darwinism devised by Pryce (who views the remaining employees of SC with the same level of detachment with which he regards an ant farm left in Burt Peterson’s abandoned office) he complains to his wife about having to wait for success to come. Like Sal, Pete’s worst fears seem to be in the anticipation of the future. Pete’s wife is wearing black and the gift she brings him ostensibly to celebrate his “promotion” is in a black box.

Joan Holloway and Pryce’s assistant John Hooker are contentiously at odds throughout the entire episode as both clearly try to establish dominance over the other. In addition to the fact that they have the same initials (JH), it’s probably more than coincidence that the last name of Joan’s PPL counterpart is “Hooker.” The idea of prostitution having been raised earlier, this would seem to suggest that both John and Joan debase themselves for the purpose of advancing their respective careers. Joan certainly has used her sexuality toward that end. Meanwhile, John clearly plays the role of Pryce’s sycophant to cement his position. Unlike her co-workers, Joan, wearing one of her famous red dresses, wins the first round.

The central story of “Out of Town” is Don and Sal’s trip to Baltimore for a meeting with executives at London Fog in the hopes of quelling any concerns about Peterson’s firing. On the plane, they look at a magazine ad for Fleischer whiskey. The ad depicts a man carrying a large Fleischer liquor bottle. They are approached by Shelly, a flirtatious stewardess (wearing a blue uniform), who gets Don’s name off of his luggage tag. However, because Don’s brother-in-law had previously used the suitcase and left a tag bearing his name on it, Shelly mistakenly thinks Don’s name is Bill. Used to going by false names, Don plays along with this and introduces Sal as Sam Fleischer (after the liquor ad). This links Sal with an image of a whiskey bottle being carried by a man and thus symbolically reflecting Sal’s secret homosexual desires. Shelly and the men arrange to meet for dinner.

Still under their assumed names, Don and Sal dine with Shelly, another stewardess (also wearing a blue uniform), and a pilot (wearing a bib which makes him look baby-like). Shelly remarks about the airline’s strict rules outlining acceptable conduct stewardesses have to adhere to while in uniform. Later, when making a play for Don, she’ll lament the fact that an impending marriage brings with it limitations in her personal life. That Don’s attempts at domesticity with Betty are played out under blue lighting and Shelly’s blue uniform represents restrictiveness would seem to be deliberate. Expanding the masquerade at dinner, Don and Sal pretend to be “G-Men” investigating corrupt Teamster head Jimmy Hoffa. Note that later on, an exasperated Hooker refers to the SC environment, albeit somewhat inaccurately, as a “gynocracy”(a society run by women). It’s worth mentioning in passing that Hooker inflection when saying the word uses a soft “g” sound as opposed to the hard “g” that an American would probably employ for the term.

After dinner, Don, Sal, Shelly share an elevator ride up with a bell hop clad in a red uniform. Sal gets off on a lower floor and upon entering his hotel room, flops himself on the bed. Don’s room is on the 14th floor. But, as is the custom (and verified by a shot of the elevator control panel), the 14th floor is really the 13th floor in disguise. Don and Shelly share an intimate moment outside of his room. Shelly, still clad in blue, further expresses her reluctance to betray her fiance. Don presses the issue by telling her that it’s his birthday (a reference to the opening flashback). Shelly teasingly asks to see his driver’s license. Don, realizing that the name on his license is just as bogus as the one on his luggage, says that such a gesture wouldn’t prove anything.

In his room, Shelly appears shy about disrobing in front of Don. As with Pete and Ken earlier, she indeed appears to be trying to limit her exposure. Meanwhile, Sal calls the front desk for help adjusting his thermostat. In response, the concierge sends up the same bell hop from the elevator with the red uniform. After fixing the problem, the bell hop gets suggestively close to Sal. A shot from Sal’s viewpoint shows the close proximity of their feet (both in shoes). This could be showing Sal still trying to maintain control, as it seems to be deliberately contrasted with an earlier shot of Don’s bare feet (who, at the time, was reflecting on his past and experiencing a more vulnerable moment). Sal and the bell hop end up in a passionate embrace. The bell hop takes off Sal’s jacket to reveal that black ink from a broken pen has stained his shirt. But before Sal can consummate the encounter, the hotel’s fire alarm goes off. Quickly throwing on whatever clothes they can, Don heads down the fire escape with Shelly. On his way down, Don sees the shirtless bell hop with Sal. Sal is mortified at being “outed.” The shot of Don and a distraught Sal descending the side of the hotel via the fire escape is reminiscent of Mad Men’s opening credits that include a figure falling down the side of a building.
The next day, Don and Sal have their meeting with the London Fog executives. The executives are concerned about being vulnerable to capricious economic cycles. Don reassures them that while "there will be fat years and there will be lean years…it is going to rain." On the plane ride home, Don asks a still embarrassed Sal for his opinion. Instead of directly confronting Sal about his homosexuality, Don describes a London Fog ad of a women clad only in a raincoat with the tagline: “Limit Your Exposure.” This is certainly Don’s way of cautioning Sal concerning his private activities. But it is also a credo that Don himself is attempting to adhere to (and something his birth mother failed to do).

Arriving home, Don and Betty visit with daughter Sally in their bedroom. Don reassures Sally that no matter what happens, he’ll always come home. Sally finds a Shelly's uniform pin in Don’s luggage. For the audience, it’s an awkward moment suggesting that Betty will find out about Don’s encounter with the stewardess. However, Betty unquestioningly accepts that Don brought the pin back for Sally. While at first blush, there’s a certain visceral squeamishness associated with the act of Sally putting on Shelly’s pin. In fact, their names are even similar. However, the demarcation of Sally as the focus of his life (rather than the "Shelly’s" of the world) would be consistent with his attempts to be a better husband and father. One doubts if Don will be successful. “Out of Town” ends with Betty and Don telling Sally about the events surrounding HER birth day. According to Betty, it was raining on the day Sally was born. And as a famous Morton’s salt ad with a rain soaked child proclaimed: “When it rains, it pours.”

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Monday, August 17, 2009

The Fugitive Kind

"For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: 'It might have been!'..." (John Greenleaf Whittier). My review of a new sci-fi flick that started out with such promise but failed to deliver is posted over at The House Next Door. Sigh.

Disarmed: District 9

Near the end of District 9, the main character, Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley), points to a wedding day photograph of his wife and wistfully comments on the halo effect created by her veil. I wondered if this was a not so subtle reference by director Neill Blomkamp to the fact that his new sci-fi drama was really a consolation prize for not helming the big screen version of Halo.

I can understand why for some the “shockumentary” approach used in The Blair Witch Project, Diary of the Dead, Cloverfield, and Quarantine has become tired. But I must confess that I haven’t yet gotten bored with it. Making excellent use of the faux documentary style, District 9’s first forty minutes are strong and suggest that its storyline concerning maltreated alien refugees—a staple Star Trek plot—will be used as an intelligent allegory to explore bureaucratic ineptitude, greed (both corporate and individual) and xenophobia. However, try as it might, the film just can’t find a way to keep all of those plates spinning at once and descends into the realm of garden variety action yarns.

...Full post at The House Next Door.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Apollo 11: The Restoration

The original moonwalk tapes were lost? How convenient. I'll bet all the mistakes NASA made when they staged the moon landing have now been digitally corrected.

I just thought I'd blurt that out before the moon-landing conspiracy nuts chime in.

From The Detroit News:

NASA refurbishes video of first moon landing

With the help of Hollywood, those historic, grainy images of the first men on the moon never looked better. NASA unveiled refurbished video Thursday of the July 20, 1969, moonwalk restored by the same company that sharpened up the movie "Casablanca."

NASA lost its original moon landing videotapes and after a three-year search, officials have concluded they were probably erased. That original live video was ghostlike and grainy.

NASA and a Hollywood film restoration company took television video copies of what Apollo 11 beamed to Earth 40 years ago and made the pictures look sharper.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

How Do You Spell WTF?

There's only one explanation: lunatic.

From The Detroit Free Press :

Former Clarkston teacher charged with sending sexual texts to student

A former Clarkston Schools teacher has been charged with texting partially nude photos of herself to a 14-year-old student at Sashabaw Middle School.

Michelle Simonson, 28, of Oxford Township was charged with enticing a minor for immoral purposes and distributing sexually explicit material to a minor...

...Oakland County Child Protective Services notified the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office on June 24 about the complaint. After receiving the boy’s cell phone from his mother, investigators found 10 texts and a partially nude photo that appeared to have originated from Simonson’s cell phone.

...Simonson told investigators the texting started with her wanting to help him as a student, and then progressed.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Oh Danny Boy

Before the "birthers," there were the "truthers."

All of a sudden, I'm getting emails from the "9/11 was an inside job" nuts promoting their new Loose Change video. Daniel Sunjata, from Rescue Me, narrates. I guess because he plays a fireman on TV, they figure he'll add more credibilty to their bullshit. The DVD "Extras" include a "12 page booklet featuring Daniel Sunjata's manifesto" and an "Exclusive interview with Daniel Sunjata."

The real conspiracy I'd like to examine is how the fuck I got on their email list in the first place.

BTW, I'm boycotting Rescue Me.
About Loose Change 9/11: An American Coup:
With the departure of the Bush Administration and the arrival of an "era of transparency," opportunities are arising for the disclosure of new information that may shed more light on the events that took place before and after 9/11/2001.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bad Medicine?

Camile Paglia, a self-proclaimed Obama supporter with absolutely NO trace of "buyer's remorse," takes a critical look at the administration's healthcare reform efforts. Her advice to the Democrats (my words): More Pat Moynihan and less Rube Goldberg.

From Salon:
Obama's healthcare horror

...I just don't get it. Why the insane rush to pass a bill, any bill, in three weeks? And why such an abject failure by the Obama administration to present the issues to the public in a rational, detailed, informational way? The U.S. is gigantic; many of our states are bigger than whole European nations. The bureaucracy required to institute and manage a nationalized health system here would be Byzantine beyond belief and would vampirically absorb whatever savings Obama thinks could be made. And the transition period would be a nightmare of red tape and mammoth screw-ups, which we can ill afford with a faltering economy.

...Blaming obstructionist Republicans is nonsensical because Democrats control all three branches of government. It isn't conservative rumors or lies that are stopping healthcare legislation; it's the justifiable alarm of an electorate that has been cut out of the loop and is watching its representatives construct a tangled labyrinth for others but not for themselves.

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I've got to admit that getting search results to both "can gonorrhea be cured" and "can gorillas swim" from a single inquiry is a real timesaver!

From Mashable:

Top 10 Funniest Google Suggest Results

...A feature from Google Labs, Suggest offers you real-time suggestions to complete your search query as you type. One of the factors in the algorithm that determines the results is the overall popularity of searches by other users.

Part illuminating, part entertaining and part terrifying, Suggest is a window into the collective search psyche of our fellow humans. And based on the contents of this list — be afraid. Be very afraid.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Viggo Mortensen's Daughter?

She does have crazy eyes.

From The Local:

TV viewers terrified by Swedish supermodel

A commercial for Apoliva, an assortment of personal care products for Apotoket, featuring Swedish supermodel Adina Fohlin has made a major splash, although not quite the one that the Swedish pharmacy chain was hoping for. Rather than running out to purchase Apoliva products, viewers are running scared.

The 30-second ad spot, set to the haunting tones of a Swedish folk song, depicts a close-up of a rather sullen and emaciated Fohlin standing in the snow, rain and sun. The clip ends with the tagline, “Apoliva – for Swedish conditions”.

Almost 100,000 Swedes, many of whom viewed the clip on YouTube, have joined a Facegroup group called “I am scared of the girl in the Apoliva commercial” (“Jag är rädd för tjejen i Apolivareklamen”) in reaction to the film. Several other related groups, both in favour of and against the ad, have popped up on the social media
site as well.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Tangled Web

"" had already been taken by Ann Richards

From The Chicago Tribune:

Ousted Illinois governor launches new Web site

Vowing to continue speaking his mind, ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Sunday launched a Web site that catalogues his scores of public appearances and allows for public feedback.

"Since his controversial ousting from office, Rod Blagojevich has refused to be silent," an introduction on reads. "In the meantime, he's not holding back. He's not playing politics or playing nice. He's simply speaking his mind and telling the truth!"

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Stop the Bench Presses!

John Cloud shockingly declares today in Time Magazine how exercise can actually cause a person to gain weight.
Why Exercise Won't Make You Thin one major study — the Minnesota Heart Survey — found, more of us at least say we exercise regularly. The survey ran from 1980, when only 47% of respondents said they engaged in regular exercise, to 2000, when the figure had grown to 57%.

And yet obesity figures have risen dramatically in the same period: a third of Americans are obese, and another third count as overweight by the Federal Government's definition. Yes, it's entirely possible that those of us who regularly go to the gym would weigh even more if we exercised less.
However, upon closer review, Cloud really only points out the rather unremarkable fact that to lose weight, you can't consume more calories a day than you burn. Well, duh!
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Saturday, August 08, 2009

Call Me Brad Pitt

Brad Paisley's "Online" is a funny song about a cyber geek who lies about his personal stats on the web. In the video, Paisley is cast as the nerd's alter ego.

With all due respect to Mr. Paisley, if I were going to assume a fake Internet identity, it wouldn't be his.

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Friday, August 07, 2009

Homer Price Can Kiss My Ass

If I had one of these, I'd never leave the house. And at $3,500 it's a heck of a lot cheaper than a red sports car!


The ChefStack automatic pancake machine is a revolution in the making. Now, for the first time, perfect panless pancakes can be produced in a matter of seconds. With ChefStack, the ultimate comfort food has now become convenient to make. Resulting in more profits for coffee shops, convenience stores and cafeterias everywhere.

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What a Pussy!

This takes the "infinite number of monkeys" theorem to a whole new level.

From USA Today:

Kitty porn: Man blames cat for downloading child-sex photos

A Florida man told authorities his cat was responsible for more than 1,000 images of alleged child pornography found on his home computer, the Martin County Sheriff's Department reports.

Keith Griffin of Jensen Beach is charged with 10 counts of possession of child pornography. He told investigators he was downloading music and his cat jumped on the keyboard after he had left the room. When he returned, he found "strange things" on his computer, according to the sheriff's report.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Beggars Can't Be Choosers

Gov. Grahnolm is sounding breathtakingly stupid on the Standish Maximum Correctional Facility issue. There's no logical way to envision how it would benefit Michigan to house Californian prisoners over Gitmo detainees.

First, Arnuuuuld has nothing to offer Michigan in payment but IOUs .

Second, where do these inmates go AFTER their sentence is up: Michigan or California? At the very least, one would expect most ex-Gitmo detainees to be deported.

Was Granholm REALLY on the short list for Supreme Court Justice? Gosh, I hope not.

From The Detroit Free Press:
Granholm prefers that prisons hold inmates from California, not Gitmo

Gov. Jennifer Granholm would prefer that inmates from California help fill Michigan's prisons rather than detainees from Guantánamo Bay.

"They don't present the same homeland security issues," she said this morning during a briefing with reporters.

...Granholm is awaiting California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's decision on whether he'll ease California's prison overcrowding situation by moving inmates to Michigan.

"We have some conditions we’ve placed on the table," she said. "They have to take them back and we won't take any IOUs."

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Why So Serious?

The so-called "outrage" on the Internet over the posters casting President Obama as "The Joker" is probably a bit overstated.

To be fair, characetures of Bush showed him as Hitler...

...and on little flags meant to be stuck into dog shit (my personal favorite).

You can tell it's getting silly when columnist Robert Dougherty deconstructs The Dark Knight to demonstrate that the "socialism" tag is inappropriate for The Joker.

If President Obama isn't called a socialist once every day, then it is a day on which his opponents must be busy taking a nap. The Obama Joker poster is a new tactic, however, albeit small time. But using the Joker to paint Obama as a socialist isn't really that accurate at all.

The Joker was many things, but he was hardly a socialist. In fact, the Joker is the polar opposite of a socialist, and anyone who watched The Dark Knight would know that. Socialism is the result of an all-powerful central government that runs every aspect of life -- but the Joker subscribes to anarchy, one of socialism's polar opposites.

If the Joker was a socialist, he would be destroying Gotham in the name of an all-powerful state. Instead, the self-described "agent of chaos" nearly brought down the state itself, and all of its most cherished institutions, so that nothing could bring order to Gotham.

Pardon me if I split hairs to point out that an "anarchist" and a "socialist" need not be polar opposites by definition. According to The Free Dictionary, an anarchist is simply "a person who causes disorder or upheaval." In fact, one could believe in "socialist anarchism." Furthermore, if Gotham City, with its ubiquitous troops of SWAT Teams, resembles ANY sort of "ism" in The Dark Knight, it would be fascism. And Batman, by tapping everybody's cell phones, is certainly engaged in fascist activities.

So, for The Joker (who burns a mountain of money at one point) to be opposed to Gotham/Batman doesn't mean the he can't also be a socialist. After all, the Socialist government of the Soviet Union fought a war against Nazi Germany in World War II.

I hate to dance with the devil in the pale moon light. I'm just saying...
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The Other "Birthers"

While the ridiculous debate over Obama's birth certificate has reached absurd and, for those pushing the case, destructive proportions, I feel compelled to point out that it wasn't too long ago when Obama supporters like Andrew Sullivan were promoting a different "birther" issue. Namely, the rumor that Trig Palin, Sarah Palin's Down's Syndrome baby, was really the child of her daughter Bristol.

Their tone, as demonstrated in Sullivan's post from December 2008, in demanding to see Trig's birth certificate (and medical records) simply for the sake at arriving at some objective truth was presented with the same smarmy disingenuousness as the Obama "birthers."
...Neither Patrick [Appel] nor I have baldly asserted something we cannot know for sure: that Trig Palin is Sarah Palin's biological son. Our difference has merely been that he assumes that the Alaska governor is telling the truth and sees all the circumstantial evidence as very compelling backing for her maternity (as has almost everyone else in the MSM). For my part, I have always clearly conceded that that is perfectly possible, but that the bizarre chronology and facts in the public record raise enough questions that a simple piece of easily produced evidence should have been produced to end the issue at once. The facts of the case and the refusal to defuse it was enough to prevent me from assuming that she was the mother. I know that made and makes me look like a total douche in some people's eyes, but I figure that journalists who are afraid of looking like douches for doing their job should pick another line of work.
Now that Sullivan has joined the chorus of those deriding the goofy "birther" movement, I'd only remind him that people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

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Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Law of Unintended Curmudgeonliness

A surprisingly Malthusian Richard Corliss takes a page from Andy Rooney and trashes Netflix in his latest Time column. It seems the success of the virtual video giant has resulted in the closing of Kim's Videos, his favorite local brick and mortar rental store.
Why Netflix Stinks

It's Friday night, and you want to watch a movie at home with that special someone. You could go to a video store and rent a film, and instantly it's yours; popcorn extra. Or you could go to Netflix, and the movie will arrive, earliest, on Tuesday. Here's hoping you had a Plan B for your big date.
I don't remember the success or failure of any of my dates hinging on renting just the right movie. Usually, expensive restaurants were involved (the best often requiring reservations made a few days in advance). That said, having a letterbox copy of The Killing of Chinese Bookie in hand was never the cornerstone of my master plan to close the deal.
You must cool your jets for two to four days, dependent as you are on both the skill of Netflix employees to put the correct movie in your envelope (sometimes they don't) and the speed of the U.S. Postal Service. By the time a video arrives, you may have forgotten why you rented it.
Corliss must be suffering from ADD. And I can't say that Netflix has ever made me wait four days or sent the wrong film.
Most online retailers try to interest customers in items similar to ones they've bought. Netflix offers "Movies Most Like ...," but the similarities can be baffling.
Okay, I'll give him that one. Netflix's algorithm for determining other movies I'd supposedly enjoy based on previous rentals is rarely on target.
Beyond the mail delays and the botched orders, the lack of human interaction is the big problem with Netflix and its cyber-ilk. Thanks to the Internet, we can now do nearly everything--working, shopping, moviegoing, social networking, having sex--on one machine at home. We're becoming a society of shut-ins.
So, interacting with the video rental clerk is the solution to technology based societal isolation? He sounds like that old man at the end of the block screaming "get off my lawn you damn kids."
...soon there will be no more waiting for DVDs. But it'll come at a price. You'll be what the online corporate culture wants you to be: a passive, inert receptacle for its products.
Jeez. Lighten up Francis. Or as Henry Drummond says at the end of Inherit the Wind:

Progress has never been a bargain. You have to pay for it. Sometimes I think there's a man who sits behind a counter and says, "All right, you can have a telephone but you lose privacy and the charm of distance. Madam, you may vote but at a price. You lose the right to retreat behind the powder puff or your petticoat. Mister, you may conquer the air but the birds will lose their wonder and the clouds will smell of gasoline."

Hmmm. I think I'll add that one to my Netflix queue.

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