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June 2004 Archives

June 30, 2004


While we here at the 礎ot are deeply opposed to fear-mongering for personal or political gain, we know that it痴 only healthy to be a little scared. After all, anyone who has read The Gift of Fear knows that these feelings can make you more alert, and potentially keep you out of a bad situation.

The fact is, some scary shit has been going on in New York City, and around the world. Is it 杜ounting tension� or some related group psychosis? Or are we just a civilization in decline?

Now that ScaryNY, one of our favorite sources for this kind of news, has closed its doors, Amy痴 Robot has decided to pick up some of the reporting slack on the frightening things happening around us. We hope this new feature, AIEEEE!, will keep our readers aware and attentive.

In our first installment of AIEEEE! we want to remind you that not all scary shit makes it to the pages of the New York Post. Take, for instance, our friend痴 experience earlier this week:

"I was in a cab on Rivington and Chrystie and all of a sudden I was drenched in water from somewhere. The front windows were open and when I asked the driver, he said a kid from the park had thrown a bucket or bottle of water into the cab. No big deal. So we stop at the next light and I hear this noise behind me. I turned and this guy is on the trunk of the cab and jumping up and down. And then all of a sudden the back window of the cab explodes and I'm covered in glass! The guy has a chunk of pipe and concrete (like the kind that holds up street signs) and is bashing in the windows and roof. The cab driver freezes until I start screaming at him to drive and turn down Chrystie. Some people came running over and helped get the glass off of me and we called the police � not that that will do anything of course."

As a testament to the spirit of New Yorkers, the friend in question actually apologized for her terrified reaction to the event, saying 的 know it's just one of those NY things that happen.�

Now, that's even scarier.

Worst Song Ever +

Aimee Mann has helpfully brought a topic of passionate and ever-evolving debate to the public forum, during a recent show in Northampton, MA. What is the worst song ever? This might seem like a frivolous issue about which everyone will have a differing but equally valid take, like the issue of the best song ever. Let me make this clear: these two topics are completely dissimilar. The best song ever is determined by personal taste, experiences, associations, whether you think Genesis was better before or after Peter Gabriel left, and many other individual factors. The worst song ever, on the other hand, is a song that taps into our innate collective humanity, much in the same way that common phobias do. Nearly everybody will be able to identify the worst song ever as overwrought and full of unnecessary instrumentation and, often, lyrics that make overuse of "oooo" and "ohh-whoa-whoa."

Anyway, Aimee Mann and her band decided that the worst song ever is "Ebony and Ivory" by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder. Other members of the band had proposed "Lady in Red" as the worst song ever. Both of those choices, while certainly representative of very bad and maudlin songs, are incorrect. I have long held that the worst song ever is in fact "If You Leave Me Now" by Chicago. Just reading the lyrics, particularly the "oo oo oo" part, explains my choice of this song. I stand by this selection, even though Emily once offered a compelling challenger in the form of the live version of "Wonderful Tonight" by Eric Clapton, though I contend that it is specifically the live video version of this song that is really exceptionally bad, particularly the part when Eric Clapton closes his eyes. The song itself is an abomination, but maybe not actually the very worst song ever.

I'll enable comments on this post, please feel free to offer your nominations. Serious candidates only, please. -Amy

As much as I respect the views of my esteemed colleague, I respectfully must say that in this one case, she is wrong. "Wonderful Tonight" is unquestionably the worst song ever, as evidenced by the deep and visceral ache in the intestines induced by the high note in the line "So I give her the car keeehhhys...". Additionally, the half-sung, half-whispered delivery clearly indicates that even though you cannot see Clapton closing his eyes, you know they are closed, which is just as bad.

One mitigating factor of "Wonderful Tonight" is that it is hilariously misinterpreted by drippy brides and prom committees across the nation; the lyrics are about a man getting wasted at a party, only to slur at his long-suffering lady while she's pouring him into bed that she sure looked terrific while he was making an ass of himself.

Hm. Maybe it is an appropriate wedding/prom song after all. - Emily

Who do you Believe?

"The president has honored Ground Zero and every day works to honor Ground Zero...There's no more important goal this president has than to prevent the next 9/11, and he works every single day to try to accomplish that."

- Bush Campaign Manager Ken Mehlman, June 29, 2004

"A senior US intelligence official is about to publish a bitter condemnation of America's counter-terrorism policy, arguing that the west is losing the war against al-Qaida and that an "avaricious, premeditated, unprovoked" war in Iraq has played into Osama bin Laden's hands......Anonymous, who published an analysis of al-Qaida last year called Through Our Enemies' Eyes, thinks it quite possible that another devastating strike against the US could come during the election campaign, not with the intention of changing the administration, as was the case in the Madrid bombing, but of keeping the same one in place.

'I'm very sure they can't have a better administration for them than the one they have now,' he said."

- The Guardian, June 19, 2004

June 28, 2004

The Seamy Underbelly of the RNC

The thought of a whole swarming mass of sweaty, lumbering, prisoner abuse-endorsing, horny old Republican degates showing up in New York ready to stuff some damp fives into the PVC thong of some blank 28 year-old Russian girl who was probably lured to the U.S. with promises of a good admin assistant job really makes my skin crawl. But to madams, strip club owners, and people who purchase Guatemalan teenage girls from their families for $50, it sounds like "Ka-ching!"

In preparation for the Republican National Convention, all the big names in anonymous commodity-based sex are getting their best girls together to prepare for the high demand. Scores expects that they will be "full every night," and have conveniently recently opened a new branch just blocks away from Madison Square Garden, where the convention will be held. Escort services are encouraging their priciest hookers to make sure they're available August 30-September 2. And while the Daily News doesn't report quotes from the lower-end, un-enlightened, non-working-their-way-through-law-school kinds of prostitutes, I can bet that the pimps at their brothels are also greedily rubbing their hands together, and ordering fresh shipments of Thai teenagers.

But if the RNCers really want to promote their wholesome, family values image, and re-nominate dry-drunk born-again Bush as their candidate, I would like to make a suggestion to them. Instead of organizing trips of twerpy young dorks to wheeze over the bored and potentially Democrat girls at the Penthouse Executive Club, why not put together an evening of Adult Republican Male entertainment at a more respectable and traditional venue, The Women's National Republican Club? This venerable ladies' establishment is located right in midtown, features a sexy Who's Who of great Republican wives as its Honorary Members, and I just bet that Club Presdient Mrs. Peter J. Unger would be more than willing to let her passionate Republican spirit run wild, if you know what I mean. And who knows what those ladies get up to in the sumptuous and pink Pratt Lounge? We know the GOP can appreciate the patriotism of a little girl-on-girl action. It would be an evening of entertainment even your mother would be proud of.

June 25, 2004

Celebrity News

Some bizarre tidbits today about famous people:

  • Demi Moore acted strangely at the LA premiere of Fahrenheit 9/11. A fellow moviegoer reports that she kept pumping the air with her fist and shouting angry things at the screen that don't make any sense, like 'That was really harsh' and 'That was really crucial.' The witness says her behavior might be explained by the Jolt soda she was drinking, or maybe she's just mental.

  • Mel Gibson plans to direct a new TV show to premiere this fall called Savages, about a single dad raising five sons. The very image of paternal tenderness and devotion, David Carradine, (who turns 68 this year) will play the dad. I would think someone more along the lines of Mark Harmon might be a better choice to play the father of 11 to 17 year-olds, but then, I also probably would have cast an actor with brown eyes to play Jesus.

  • As we suggested earlier, it turns out Billy Bob was right, Angelina's adopted "orphan" son was probably illegally purchased from his not-dead parents through a shady adoption ring.

  • And, not surprisingly, Beyonce sometimes wears a wig.

June 24, 2004

The Secret to Affordable Real Estate

When you池e young, you have dreams: a good job, a home of your own that doesn稚 jeopardize your financial future, maybe even a little cabin on a lake to spend lazy summer weekends.

Then you grow up, and your dreams are crushed.

Now I, for one, am sick of people bitching and moaning about never being able to buy homes when there is affordable real estate right here in the New York metro area. All you need is an open mind and a little ingenuity.

Take this listing, for example, conveniently located on Riverside Drive overlooking the beautiful Hudson river:

Trinity Church Cemetery & Mausoleums - Pair of adjoining Crypts [Spaces E-20 & F-20] located at Riverside Drive & 153rd Street. Beautiful Audubon Garden of Trinity Church Cemetery. Convenient to public transportation. Asking price $2,500.00 each or $4,000.00/pair. Originally purchased for $7000. -- THIS IS A STEAL!

Not to your liking? Well, that痴 just the beginning! How about a 電esirable mausoleum for 2 near eye-level�, for a mere $9,800? Or �an inground plot for two�Fountain just a few feet away?�

But why limit yourself to the city? Say goodbye to harsh winters with one of these beauties in Florida:

Chapel of Palms, Section CC Level 5, Spaces 14 and 14D inside. Two Crypts. It is a beautiful site at Hillsboro Memorial Gardens, Brandon, FL�next to Brandon Mall.

Perfect if shopping is your thing! Or for the true bargain-hunter:

MYRTLE Hill Memorial Park, section 23, lot 415, spaces 4 & 5. $1800 includes 2 vaults & granite base. No reasonable offer will be refused. Need to sell in order to settle divorce.

$1800! Why, you can find that in your couch cushions! And it never hurts to profit a little bit from someone else痴 pain. After all, real estate brokers have been doing it for years.

Remember, my children: don稚 give up your dreams. With a little flexibility and some long term planning, anything is possible. Even my fantasy home:

Mililani Memorial Park - Why not "retire" to the beautiful island of Oahu? Have 2 plots, side by side; will consider selling individually. Asking price - $2,500.00. Owner lives out of state. For serious inquires, please email Sandra.

Creative Marketing

Nobody loves clever ad campaigns like this girl, so I was happy to see guerilla marketing get a nod in this article. It’s nice to see advertisers turning away from traditional billboards and getting more creative. In one ploy that sounds not entirely legal, a street team for New York Health & Racquet Club will show their undies to passersby to drum up interest in a new fitness class called “Booty Call”.

Target is also getting in on the action with their “Deliver the Shiver” truck, which sold 5,000 BTU air conditioners in Herald Square today for $75, along with a handy cart to bring them home. (If you missed it, they’ll be at the Second Avenue Festival this Saturday, too).

The great thing about Deliver the Shiver is that the company clearly (ahem) targets their audience with a deal that people want, will remember, and promotes the brand. Now folks will not only think Target = friendly and fun, but also Target = cheap appliances!

My most memorable misguided street team encounter occurred last fall on Hudson Street. Just as I was being soaked through by monsoon level winds and rain, a couple of kids with artificially “windblown” hair stepped between me and the closest awning.

Kids: Hey there, free flashlight pen from the Weather Channel?
Me: No. Don’t you have umbrellas?
Kids: …
Me: It’s the Weather Channel, right?
Kids: uh…...we just have flashlight pens.

Like I said, know your audience.

Thank you, Mayor Bloomberg

Dear Mayor Bloomberg,

As a vulnerable woman living here in the Big City, I’m delighted to see that you and Police Commissioner Kelly are doing your best to protect me from the threat of terrorist attacks on the subway. Silly me, when I first saw the “If you see something, say something” posters, I thought they referred to general crime – but in fact, they meant that I should report suspicious packages!

Not only that, I know now that the people taking pictures on subway platforms are not families of Midwestern tourists at all, but terrorists planning to kill us during the Republican National Convention.

Thanks to you and thanks also to the MTA for involving New Yorkers in these efforts. I'm so excited to be part of the "Get Suspicious" campaign!!! The guy on the F train who sings "Stand by Me" a capella is so bad, it can only be a cover for his illegal activities!

Now I’ll be so busy looking out for Al Qaeda operatives, I won’t have time to worry about being crushed by a train, or shot in the middle of the day, or pickpocketed, or beaten and robbed, or pushed onto the subway tracks.

Thank you for making our subways safe!

June 23, 2004

Advocate Torture, Get Promoted!

You would think that suggesting that the US has the right to murder prisoners would get you laughed out of the Justice Department. Not in this administration:
An Aug. 1, 2002, Justice Department memo argues that torture — and even deliberate killing — of prisoners in the terror war could be justified as necessary to protect the United States. The memo from then-assistant attorney general Jay Bybee also offers a restricted definition of torture, saying only actions that cause severe pain akin to organ failure would be torture.

Bybee is now a justice on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. [source]

Take a look at some of the cases before the 9th Circuit right now, and tell me this is a guy who should be deciding them.

June 22, 2004

Howard vs. Bush

Well, now our President is really done for.

Over the weekend, Howard Stern saw Fahrenheit 9/11 and he is pissed. It痴 now Howard痴 personal mission to do everything he can to promote the movie and to defeat Bush in November.

Of course, community action is largely about knowing what people will respond to, which is why Howard plans to host a Fahrenheit 9/11 party at Scores for folks who show their ticket stubs. One can only hope that this will start a new 鉄ee The Movie, Get a Free Lap Dance� trend around the country. It値l sure make that $10 ticket price seem a lot more reasonable.

This morning, Ben & Jerry痴 founder Ben Cohen* gave Howard some other political action suggestions from his book, 50 Ways You Can Show George the Door in 2004. Ben痴 latest project is driving around the country towing a 12-foot-statue of George Bush with its pants on fire, but he had many inventive suggestions for listeners, such as singing Bush parody songs on karaoke night and dropping off voter registration forms at local bars along with 展ipe Bush� toilet paper.

I値l tell you, the thought of those same folks who tune in for 展ho Wants to Marry a Porn Star� using their energy to register voters made me love this country a little bit more.

*Interesting, sad note: Since small business hero Ben & Jerry痴 was bought by multinational conglomerate Unilever a few years back, you値l notice there are 釘en Cohen痴 views are not the views of Ben & Jerry痴� disclaimers all over his political action site.

Day of Book Readings

A lot of big name book readings scheduled today in New York:

1) Calvin Trillin, who seems to be so in tune with the interests of the writers of this blog that we can only assume that he is a fan. He's reading tonight at the Lincoln Center Barnes & Noble for his new book Obliviously On He Sails. Trillin's last book, a novel about parking in NYC, seemed to be written expressly with ADM in mind, and this latest book about Bush and his administration, written in verse, includes Gilbert and Sullivan-inspired lines such as “I am, when all is said and done, a Robertson Republican.” We love you, Calvin, and we know you love us too.

2) Alex Garland. Remember him? The hot young pomo English guy who wrote The Beach and encouraged a generation of backpackers to feel really alienated and smoke a lot of dope? Well remember, he also wrote the screenplay for 28 Days Later, the pomo zombie movie from last year. Now he's written a new novel called The Coma. In case you missed him last night at Housing Works, you can see him tonight at the Borders in the Time Warner Center (scroll down past David Foster Wallace.) The new book is about a guy who wakes up from a coma after being attacked, but starts to wonder if he might still be unconscious. Then suddenly lots of REALLY! FAST! ZOMBIES! show up and EAT HIS BRAIN! [note: this plot point is speculative.]

In case you want to actually read the book before going to either of these two readings, you could ditch the rest of your day and probably get through both of them: Trillin's book is 128 pages, and The Coma is a mere 144.

3) Clinton. In midtown and Harlem. The entire city is currently standing in line to get into these signings. Forget it.

June 21, 2004

Get This Man a Stylist!

Two fashion mistakes in one week from our beloved ex-President, but we love him anyway. First, he attends the unveiling of his official portrait wearing the same outfit he has on in the painting. Then he shows up for his interview with Dan Rather and 60 Minutes wearing eye-grabbing, tacky, red-and-blue* Nike sneakers.

We know Bill has been responsible for inspiring American cultural trends before -- the finger wag and the old cigar-shoved-in-pussy move, to name a few -- so could it be he's looking to trendset again by becoming Nike's latest celebrity spokesmodel?

Well, let's help him out a little bit: we spent some time mucking with Nike's Flash-powered shoe configurator, and were able to duplicate Bill's 60 Minutes footwear. The ingredients:

  • Start with a pair of Nike Shox R4iD running shoes.
  • Choose "Midnight Navy" for your base color.
  • Choose "Comet Red" for your accent color.
  • Choose "Comet Red" again for your column color.
  • Add a custom inscription such as "Bubba" or "Blow Me." [figure 1]
  • Take a look at the finished product.
Now all you have to do is shell out a mere $165, and those kicks are yours...you'll leave Rather in your dust as you lead him on a tour through that gigantic library being built in your honor.

*Is the color imbalance on his shoes meant as a coded prediction of the upcoming election? He's sent subliminal messages via his wardrobe before.

June 18, 2004

Clinton's NYC Book Signings

Here are your options:

June 22, 2004 - 12:30 p.m.
Barnes & Noble
600 Fifth Avenue [at 48th Street]
New York, NY 10020

June 22, 2004 - 6:30 p.m.
Hue-Man Bookstore
2319 Frederick Douglass Blvd. [at 125th]
New York, NY 10017

June 23, 2004 - 12:30 p.m.
Borders Books
100 Broadway [at Pine Street]
New York, NY 10005

Hue-Man would probably be the best choice, but that 6.30 pm in Harlem sure seems unrealistically optimistic. You know how he is -- you can pretty much bet your paycheck that Bill will be at least 90 minutes late, after he's done gabbing with the throngs in Midtown.

If you can't make the appearances, catch him on TV: it appears he will be on every single talk show on every single channel next week. Except Fox, of course.

[via Knopf's site and Babak.]

Who'dat?™: The New Interactive Game from Amy's Robot!

After the earth-shattering success of our beloved game, Who's Older?™, we're pleased to launch another game in which readers can pit their knowledge of celebrities against the ravages of time and ill-advised career choices. We bring you


Who'dat? will present you with a photograph of a celebrity in which the celebrity is more challenging to identify than you might expect. ADM is the master of locating such photographs, (including this one of Chelsea Clinton from a few years back) so I'm sure he'll initiate a few rounds of Who'dat?

To play the game, first try to determine the identity of the celebrity below. Then simply click on the photo below to see if you're right.

The Terminator Cycle

Here’s a rather inspiring story from a few days ago that caught my eye. One of the major issues with Wal-Mart and similar gigantic chains is their slash-and-burn business model of clearing out an area to build a superstore, then building a supermegagigantastore down the road a few years later and closing the first one down, leaving vacant “big box” buildings sitting on enormous empty lots. In the Dallas/Ft. Worth area alone, that accounts for 4.5 million square feet of abandoned retail space, mostly in chunks of 30,000 square feet or more.

Some of this space can be rented out to discount chains such as TJ Maxx or Marshalls, and in other cases a Home Depot will just demolish the building and start from the ground up. But what happens to the vacant buildings in undesirable (meaning, lower-income or ethnic) neighborhoods?

Community organizer Carlos Quintanilla’s solution was to take over Wal-Mart’s lease on a vacant store outside of Dallas. Paying only $2.50 per square foot, Quintanilla rented out sections of the building to various merchants, turning it into a Mexican-style market with over 110 vendors, restaurants, and an event space. His next project is to take over an abandoned Sam’s Club in another Dallas suburb, and he hopes to create similar spaces in Hispanic areas in Las Vegas and Chicago.

It’s just like Terminator! Humanity greedily creates massive superchains, they destroy themselves – and the community-based businesses rise again.

June 17, 2004

Girls and their Daddies +

Father痴 Day is this coming Sunday, which means I've been spending some time in the local drugstore looking for a thoughtful card. Father痴 Day can be a challenge for me, since most cards focus on golf (which my dad doesn稚 play), or lawn-mowing (which is, frankly, lame to put on a card).

But this year I noticed something new. When a girl buys a card for her dad today, she痴 got two choices:

1) To Daddy from your Pretty Princess [flash]
These cards generally are pink, with pictures of hugging father/daughter bunnies, and contain icky messages like 典o my favorite special Daddy�I wuv you! From your special fairy glitter princess kitten�.

These cards will also often include a jive poem in flowery script.

2) Ka-ching! [flash]
This card says something like 滴ey Dad, you know why I love you? Because you fix my car and give me money! Haha � just kidding! So, can I have some money?�

Sometimes, this card will humorously use a dollar sign instead of an S [flash]. In one instance, the father in question was represented by a robot/ATM, with dollar bills shooting out of a slot in his midsection.

I can't speak as knowledgeably to the types of cards available for sons, but a brief survey indicated that they mostly deal with bathroom usage, barbecue, and the ever-popular, money.

Is this really the relationship we have with the men who raised us? Who's giving us the idea that dads are only good for money?

Now, we should take our cues from a man like Jeb Bush, who understands that �the primary role of fatherhood is defined by love.� And as we all know, Jeb's daddy loves him very very much. -Emily

A recent piece in The Guardian entitled "To My Useless, Lazy Dad on Father's Day" describes a similar phenomena in this year's crop of cards. Their theory is that we express affection for our mothers with hugs and kisses and conservative, sentimental cards, while we make jokes to show our love for our fathers, ususally at their expense. Don't embarrass your father with hokey, lovey stuff, just tell him he sucks at home appliance repair and drinks too much! Love ya, Dad! -Amy

Jamba: Drink the Juice, Join the Cult +

All I've been hearing about from friends, people at work, and random young women on the street or waiting in line at Tasti D-Lite is the new Jamba Juice stores that have opened in a few midtown locations. If you're still among the unenlightened, Jamba Juice is a huge chain based in San Francisco. My native west coast colleagues say that out there it's "everywhere, like Starbucks." The comparison appears to be accurate, based on the enormous list of California stores on the website.

The new New York flagship store at 47th St and Broadway had its official Grand Opening yesterday, after being open for a week to work out all the bugs. I stopped by at 5:30, and enjoyed the in-store DJ spinning No Doubt remixes on his set of fancy Pioneer CD turntable mixing decks, the live bongo player, the live snare drum player, and the troupe of 9 people dressed in banana suits dancing half-heartedly on a stage set up outside on Broadway. I could understand the boredom of the dancers--they had probably been there since 8:30 that morning when Agent 0019 took this photo of them. Some of them looked young and spry in their fishnet tights, and they juggled and kicked with some enthusiasm, while the guy who looked like an aging, haggard Joshua Jackson mostly stood around and talked to the other bananas, oblivious to the crowd of juice-sippers watching the show.

The juice was pretty good, and I sucked it down in about 6 minutes. I had the Caribbean Passion smoothie with a free "Femme Boost" supplement that apparently will help "let my girl power prevail," even though most of the "femme"-oriented nutrients in the boost, like folic acid, calcium, and soy, are really only needed specifically for women when one is either pregnant or menopausal. I encourage as many men as possible to order a Femme Boost with their Jamba Juice.

There were a few design flaws. The counter area that you first see when you enter the store from either entrance (on Broadway or on 7th Avenue) is the place where drinks are picked up. Every single person who entered the store while I was in there first joined the crowd of people waiting to pick up their drinks, looked around confusedly, then eventually realized they had to order their drink from the counter area in the middle of the store. Not the most intuitive layout.

Whole Foods grocery stores have a licensing agreement with Jamba Juice, and many of their stores have Jamba Juice stands in them. However, due to Whole Foods' commitment to selling only products made from natural ingredients, they do not offer the low-calorie "Enlightened Smoothies" in their stores. These drinks are made with Splenda™, a sweetener that is some kind of creepy synthesized form of sugar that contains no calories. Jamba Juice goes out of its way to state that Splenda is natural and non-carcinogenic, but apparently it still does not conform to the Whole Foods philosophy. [tx Emily]

15 more stores are planned for New York over the next year or two. I doubt that New Yorkers will become as entranced by this chain as west coasters are, but who knows? Maybe one day our most beloved frivolous specialty snack shop Rice To Riches will open an L.A. branch. - Amy

Actually, Amy, both men and women only consume about half the calcium they need, and your folate can be depleted through excessive drinking. It's never too early to start protecting your bone density, people - so take that free Femme boost!

The sadder thing about Jamba Juice is that a company based on providing a natural, healthful snack/beverage is forced by the market to introduce artificially-flavored drinks and defend the fact that its product contains carbs. But it seems to be working - there were at least 20 people in front of me in line at the Columbus Circle branch a few weeks ago, and the line at the 42nd street store was out the door yesterday afternoon. Damn, that Berry Fulfilling is some good shit. - Emily

June 16, 2004

More Non-celebrity Celebrities

The world waits bated breath for tonight's premiere of The Simple Life 2: Hicks Are Funny. In this follow up to Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie's starmaking first season, the girls will drive across the southern U.S. with no money or credit cards, getting by on charm alone.

Now, I don't have a problem with Paris and Nicole adding to their coffers of already gigantic wealth via the FOX network: what irks me is that these girls are so boring. As I mentioned earlier, the problem with this new crop of non-celebrity celebrities that we're throwing our precious airtime at is that they just don't have very much to say.

FOX executives, I'm going to tell you this once. You want me to watch your show? Ditch those ninnies and cast Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. And make that check out to Emily, c/o Amy's Robot.

Beastie Boys on Letterman ++

beastie boys on letterman

The Beastie Boys performed on Letterman last night, celebrating yesterday's release of their new album, To the 5 Boroughs.

Here is an MP3 of their performance. A lonely old man who cares very deeply for you made it. In 24 hours, we are removing it.*

And, we also present: many screenshots of the performance. If you squint, you might just see Amy in one of the street scenes. (The pics are a little fuzzy, due to a low Tivo setting.)

The performance was a bit unusual: as they performed, they came out of a subway station, walked down the block to Letterman's studio, emerged triumphantly on stage, and then towards the end of the song, marched over to Letterman's desk and finished up.

ps. if you link here, please link to this post, not the mp3 file. we're freecaching it, and that doesn't work if you link to the file. -ADM

It was exciting to see the Beastie Boys walking down 53rd Street while rapping to a frantic camera crew, though the performance felt weirdly disconnected. Their microphones were connected to speakers that were inside the studio, so all the people on the sidewalk could hear was some quietly murmured rhymes that seemed all out of proportion to the funky moves they were busting out. Note: you might also catch a glimpse of the significantly taller Emily in the screenshots, who was also watching as the Boys passed, though I spent so much time rewinding my tape this morning that I was late for work, and I didn't see us.

[sidebar: doesn't the cover art of To The 5 Boroughs look a lot like Wesley Willis's colored pen drawings of Chicago skyscrapers?]

The real disappointment of the standing-outside-the-Ed-Sullivan-Theater experience, however, was the overexposed Ben Stiller. He was the other guest on last night's show, and spent much more time outside the studio than the Beastie Boys did, doing some unfunny promotion for Dodge Ball, the movie America couldn't care less about. The quickly evaporating love that moviegoers feel for Ben Stiller could be the topic of an entire other post, but I don't think I have the will to write it. -Amy

Don't worry, Amy - our trusty friends at Television Without Pity feel the same way about Stiller, and offer their analysis here. - Emily

*possibly sooner, depending.

June 15, 2004

Is VH1 the New E! ?

Remember back in the day, when it was fun to watch E! ? When you could find out actual dirt on celebrities, instead of watching the umpteenth video of Tara Reid falling down on Celebrities Uncensored 47?

Today, one turns to E! only to catch up on celebrities-by-association with shows like Relatively Famous, a program featuring family members of famous people. Even the E! True Hollywood Story, which used to be a strong spot, currently profiles such non-celebs as “Trust Fund Babies” and “Rock Star Daughters” almost exclusively.

The problem with non-celebrities is that, well, they’re just not that interesting. And the dubious reality television “stars” have already overshared so much of their lives through the magic of network television that it makes the True Hollywood Story of The Bachelor redundant.

But there is a new E! in town, and its name is VH1. VH1 gave up music programming some time ago, but rather than taking the MTV route of game shows with bikini clad teenagers, it began to focus on the lives of musicians. The difference between the two networks is that VH1 realizes the interesting stories come from, you know, people who have stories to tell. People who have clawed their way up the ladder of fame, rockin’ the whole way. Nicole Richie in rehab? Boring. CC Deville in rehab? Awesome.

In magazine parlance, E! has become the Us Weekly of television, while VH1 is Entertainment Weekly. In addition to its rotating profiles of rock stars and celebrities, VH1 has become the undisputed master of the clip show, including I Love the 80’s and hundreds of other crowd-pleasing countdown shows. In fact, in a recent informal poll*, VH1 was rated the number one cable channel in the U.S. for folding laundry to.

The breakout star of VH1’s pop-culture programming is the Behind the Music series. Indeed, what’s more compelling than washed-up rock stars and their stories of excess? But when producers tried to re-vamp the series with more E!-type celebrities – Britney, for example – no one paid much attention.

Luckily for viewers, VH1 is determined to hold on to their niche. To prove it, the network will air what could potentially be the greatest hour in the history of television. People, I’m talking about

The Guns N’ Roses Behind the Music

Do I need to say more? If ever there was a story that needs to be told, this is it. And one can only assume that the reason this has taken so long is because the notoriously “difficult” Axl refused to participate – until now.

For all of you with no TiVo, the episode will air June 30th, and then an additional ten times during the next week. I plan to watch it each time.

Now, that's entertainment television.

*of people in my house

Breaking Pretend Lesbian Pop Star News

Important news flash! tAtU, everyone's favorite Russian pedophile-indulging pop group, have broken away from their svengali-like producer Ivan Shapovalov, and have taken a new name: tEmA ("tema" means "topic" in Russian.) Turns out that Shapovalov has rights to the name tAtU, and seem to own the rights to the girls' lesbian image that he cultivated as well. Now that Yulia (the butch one) is pregnant by her karate champion boyfriend, the tongue-kissing antics and the declarations about their fantasty-fuelling sex life probably won't hold up.

A new single, “Kto, esli ne ya” ["Who, if not me"] should be on the radio later this month.

June 11, 2004

Celebrity B-List Mourns Reagan

tom selleck at reagan's memorial

I took some screen grabs from C-Span of various B-list celebrities attending Reagan's memorial service in Simi Valley. Are they glum because they've lost a dear friend, or because they haven't been on camera since Reagan was President?

So far I've got:

Wow, this is sort of like live-blogging the 1987 Emmys.

If you look in the directory of photos, you will see other pics of people who I think are famous, but I can't identify them. (Post a comment if you know who they are.)

ps. Man, the sun must be awfully bright! Good thing they handed out sun-blocking pamphlets to everyone. They came in very handy.

ps2. Did you hear that old South African pastor do his imitation of Margaret Thatcher right before they gave Nancy the flag? Everyone looked aghast...including Arnie. Note to pastor: don't try to jumpstart your comedy career at one of the most watched funerals in history. Just because Reagan was funny, it doesn't mean you are.

When You've Missed the Last Train+

The Times examines the fates of those poor, usually drunk fools who show up at Grand Central, hoping to get home to Westchester or Connecticut, only to learn that, unlike the subway, the trains don't run all night. Rich kids who stayed out too late after their prom, financiers who stayed for one last show at a strip club, and revellers who use the station as an extension of whatever bar they were just at all end up stranded. There are some great little stories that illustrate one of my favorite NYC phenomena: the way the city becomes a wilder, drunker, and more unpredictable version of itself after midnight, and spaces that are filled with upstanding, reserved people during the day, like the subway or train stations, are transformed into a more grown-up version of a frat house basement late at night. The station master describes one story: ""Most of the guys who come late have had a few too many," he said. "Sometimes they miss the train because they're so drunk they go to the wrong track." As if on cue, a woman in a black cocktail dress crouched down behind him and threw up into a shopping bag. Mr. Angus, a 29-year veteran of Grand Central, shook his head and helped the woman to her train."

The article also discusses the opportunistic but very popular cab drivers who offer expensive rides home to stranded suburbanites. What they don't go into (maybe a topic for a future article) is what happens to those people who live in the city, and are taking a subway or train home very late at night, and happen to fall asleep on the train, miss their stop, and wind up in some extremely remote part of the city, or if they're on a commuter-rail line, even in another city all together. These people then have to find a cab in the middle of the night in some small bedroom community and convince the cabbie to drive them back into the city, because there won't be a train for 4 hours. Not that I would know anything about that. - Amy

...or what happens to those people who end up dashing off the train late at night to throw up in the closest garbage can, and then are forced to sit in the station waiting for the next one while people look at them suspiciously. Again, not that I would know. - Emily

June 10, 2004

Quick: Which Reality Show Contestant is This? UK version

There isn't a photo of the UK version of the generic female reality show contestant, because the mode of conformity promoted by their reality shows is behavioral, not so much physical. [sorry for ripping off your post title, Em. I thought I'd make a statement about the international pervasiveness of reality show socialization, and plus it was easier than coming up with my own idea.]

The Guardian also decided to publish a piece on women and reality shows today, and while the examples probably aren't familiar to a US audience, the descriptions of how different kinds of women are treated on these shows sounds pretty familiar. The writer contends that "there is an obsession within reality television with finding the appropriate limits for women's behaviour." Sure, looks matter too (the recent winner of Pop Idol, Michelle, was a heavy woman who got a lot of ridicule for her weight, but hey, at least she won the freaking contest) but the boxes that women are squeezed into on UK TV focus mostly on conformity of speech, decorum, and behavior.

The current season of Big Brother just featured an ejection of lesbian contestant Kitten, who sounds pretty typical of most Real World roommates in recent seasons. Kitten's brash attitude earned her a lot of harsh abuse from the press: she's been called a "loudmouth lesbian", the "anarchist whinger", the "attention-seeking brat", "hell's kitten", the "sinner", "staggeringly thick Kitten." Sure, I heard some complaints about Trishelle last year on Real World Las Vegas, but not in national media.

Other shows that feature celebrity contestants also celebrate those women who sweetly stay in line--and it doesn't hurt if they're small and cute and have straight blonde hair (sound familiar?) The writer of the article describes a perfect Stepfordian ideal in these contestants: "As far as I can see, the only sort of woman who gets positive reinforcement out of participating in reality television is one who pulls off the trick of being both sexy and demure." A show called Hell's Kitchen, which is sort of like if The Restaurant was staffed by B-list celebs, features 20 year-old soap star Jennifer Ellison, who was praised in the Daily Mail for being so "perky" and "cheery" and "industrious", which - along with her "Barbie doll figure" - apparently "endeared her" to the public. Pop star and ex-Atomic Kitten Kerry McFadden won the US failure but UK hit show I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, and got kind press for behaving "like a trouper" with her "bravery" and "cheeky smile" and being a sweet blonde in a bikini.

UK reality shows that focus exclusively on looks rather than behavior, such as makeover show What Not to Wear, are less radical (so far) than their US counterparts, sticking to outfit and style advice rather than plastic surgery. The "tips and tricks" section of the website offers clothing advice on how to minimize what's too big (referred to as "boobs" and "bum") maximize what's too small, and how to hide your ugly fat ankles or your chubby face. On the show, the two makeover hostesses suggest new outfits for a variety of women, but move all of them towards the same ideal look: "All their subjects end up looking much the same, in their mauve cardigans and burgundy bootleg trousers and highlighted shoulder length hair. Is this really the box that we now long to fit into?"

Yes, conformity in looks or behavior is boring. And it makes for boring television too. The fact that we all keep watching these shows, repeated in endless iterations with slight variation from season to season, just shows how obsessed we all are with trying to figure out how women are supposed to look and act.

A new show called Ladette to Lady that will be broadcast in the UK this fall features a group of loudmouthed, bawdy, hard drinking girls who will be molded through the show into refined, polite, ladies who know how to act correctly. They will go through tests in important areas of knowledge for today's woman, including dressmaking, party hostessing, and cooking. The show's website says the lessons will reveal in the young women "a true female sensibility." Hopefully, hair-straightening techniques and robot CPU installation sessions will also be included in the series.

Quick: Which Reality Show contestant is this?

If you guessed Jen Schefft, from season 2 of The Bachelor, you’re right. Not that it really matters – you could just as easily have guessed Darla or Stacey from The Bachelor 3, or Sarah from Joe Millionaire, or Trista (The Bachelorette), or Brooke (The Bachelor), or Katie Couric. And you’d still be right. Is it an accident that the bachelorette photo gallery on ABC’s website features a pop-up ad for The Stepford Wives?

Catherine Orenstein (author of Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked) doesn’t think so. In this op-ed piece, she looks at our increasingly Stepford society, asking of shows like Extreme Makeover and The Swan, “Why do we wish to reinvent ourselves so badly – and so blandly?”

It's a good question. For me, the offensiveness of these shows is not in the implied premise that life can be made happier by radically changing your physical appearance. It’s that life can be made happier by becoming a Midwestern office manager with a blow-out. These shows, encouraged by the success of television’s brides to be, turn out a production line of highlighted, plucked, thin-nosed soccer moms who weep and wail and claim that they are finally their “true selves.”

No wonder they feel so desperate. It goes without saying that no woman of color has ever been a finalist on a reality dating show – but even more alarming, no curly-haired woman has either.

We should heed Orenstein’s warning that “in our quest to be Cinderellas, we are risking becoming her imposter stepsisters – eagerly slicing off toe and heel….to fit into a false shoe.”

America: The Country that Doesn't Want to be Saved

bush approval

Who THE FUCK are these 44 PERCENT of people who APPROVE of what Bush is doing in Iraq? How can you look at that situation and be like, "Oh yeah. This is what the country should be doing over there. We're on the right path. More torture, no-bid contracts, and dead American kids, please."

June 9, 2004

Everyone Hates the Cable Company +

Looks like I知 not the only person in America who痴 currently pissed off at their cable provider. The American Customer Service Index (a project of the University of Michigan Business School) reports that cable television providers rank lower in customer satisfaction than any other group in the public or private sector, including the IRS.

How can companies with such a disgraceful attitude toward customer service survive? Professor Claes Fornell hits the nail on the head:

展hen buyers have meaningful choice alternatives, this level of customer (dis)satisfaction is neither competitive nor sustainable�Under normal competitive conditions, there would be mass customer defections. The reason this is not the case for the cable industry is due to local monopoly power, which means that in most markets, the dissatisfied customer has nowhere to go.�

Is this the reason that while most people I speak to are filled with mouth-foaming rage over their cable service, only 14 complaints against Time Warner have been filed with the Better Business Bureau in the past three years? Are we just writing checks out every month for sub-par service because there痴 nowhere else to go?

People, we don稚 have to take this lying down. Just because your cable company is the only game in town doesn稚 mean you池e powerless. If you池e pissed off, if your problem isn稚 being resolved, take action. File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. File a complaint with the Attorney General痴 office. Leave a paper trail. The Consumer痴 Union is supporting a bill that will allow you more choices in your cable programming - email your Representatives about it! Don稚 stand for crappy service just because it痴 all that you know.

And Professor Fornell has a message for all you cable-minded entrepreneurs: 典he weak ACSI for the cable industry suggests that its customer base may well become vulnerable to new competition.� No shit. Listen to me, business people: Offer me comparable services to Time Warner, prioritize customer satisfaction, and I値l cancel my account today. -Emily

Em, don't forget that you can just get satellite service and get hundreds of channels, including the local affiliates. It's still hundreds of channels of crap, but it's crap from space. -ADM

Pizza Wars

Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi has lost a lot of respect through his questionable politics and plastic surgery, but his administration recently passed a piece of conservative legislation that is upsetting Italian business owners: the process and ingredients for making Neapolitan pizza have been strictly regulated. (Story was first covered weeks ago, but the Times article offers more squabbling of pizzeria owners.) The Association of Real Neapolitan Pizza urged the new laws to help brand Naples as "the cradle of pizza." We really like our pizza here at Amy's Robot, and I can understand the need for standards (as one of Naples' foremost pizza makers says, "Pizza with pineapples? That's a cake.") However, one of the Naples pizzerias that will be declassified as Neapolitan pizza is Da Michele, one of the best and cheapest pizzerias that I, or anyone else travelling in Naples using a budget travelers' guide, have ever been to. Under the new laws it may be an outlaw pizzeria, but it's the real deal. The menu consists of the following: cheese pizza; marinara pizza; Coke; beer. I admire its uncomplicatedness. I doubt the lines of locals and travelers at Da Michele will shorten based on government certification of the pizza.

Can you imagine what would happen if New York State passed laws regulating the size, ingredients, baking time, and flavors of bagels, and H&H was suddenly declared a producer of unworthy New York bagels? Their inclusion of the "everything" bagel flavor is suspiciously progressive.

June 8, 2004

Fake Fat

An obesity researcher at Rockefeller University has been horrifying medical alarmists by claiming that Americans are not actually becoming hugely fat. According to Dr. Jeffrey Friedman, statistics show that the average weight of the population has only increased around 7 pounds since 1991.

"Obesity, Dr. Friedman says, is a problem....But it does no one any good to exaggerate the extent of obesity or to blame the obese for being fat."

Lest you think that he is simply an apologist for fat, lazy slobs, this article also takes pains to point out that "Dr. Friedman, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator....is not fat. He is tall and gangly, with the rumpled look of an academic scientist." -Emily

It's good to see that the widely reported obesity "epidemic" is mostly the result of casual observation and changing definitions of obesity. I've heard about the work of Dr. Friedman from some of my scientist friends, who we might hear more from later. His basic arguments make sense, and he has research to back up his ideas, but I think he carries the theory a little too far. It is worth noting that Dr. Friedman has based his career on his discovery of "leptin", or the fat gene, which he says is wholely responsible for determining our weight. "Body weight," he says, "is genetically determined, as tightly regulated as height. Genes control not only how much you eat but also the metabolic rate at which you burn food. When it comes to eating, free will is an illusion."

He also says that on average obese people have gained a significant amount of weight over the last 10 years or so, 25 to 30 pounds. Non-obese people have gained an average of about 7 pounds. So where is this weight coming from? If leptin is responsible for setting our weight, and not the food we eat or the amount of exercise we do, why do people ever gain weight at all? Or lose weight? He compares leptin levels to other genetic traits, like height, but the analogy isn't clear: our height does not change in response to our behavior, like weight does. Leptin levels are genetically determined, and there are more obese people now than there were in earlier generations, so are obese people of earlier decades suddenly having more children than thin people? It all doesn't quite make sense.

Dr. Friedman himself says "People can exert a level of control over their weight within a 10-, perhaps a 15-pound range." Presumably, people can gain as well as lose 10-15 pounds by changing their behavior. For most people who want to lose weight, isn't 10 or 15 pounds generally what they're interested in losing? If you want to lose 10 pounds and are willing to change your eating and exercise habits to do so, you most likely are in control of your weight. Saying "free will is an illusion" is an overstatement, otherwise no matter what we eat or what exercise we do, our weight would never change. Unless, of course, we take leptin while dieting to chemically alter our physiological response to food. And what do you know, Dr. Friedman himself is developing drugs that do exactly that. Ka-ching! -Amy

June 7, 2004

MTV Movie Awards: Advance Highlights

Since MTV still tapes its movie awards show and airs it several days later, the press gets ample opportunity to provide tons of free publicity and complete coverage to all of us, who will have already lost interest by the time of the broadcast on Thursday. Here are some photographic highlights of the show you probably weren't planning on watching anyway:

Check out how long Halle Berry's hair has gotten. Is there any way this could be natural?

Looks like Scarlett has succumbed to the celebrity machine and lost a bunch of weight, and started wearing inadvisable outfits.

Ellen DeGeneres in Spiderman costume. Kirsten Dunst in bored old lady costume.

Also a new member of the Lost Tons Of Weight Club: Nicole Richie.

Snoop Dogg watches Carmen Electra and Paris Hilton kiss.

Sharon Stone is a foot and a half taller than Christina Aguilera. (But Christina's breasts are a foot and a half pointier than Sharon's.) (tx ADM)

Jack Black wears a political t-shirt.

Uma and Quentin in a very unflattering victory photo.

Gigantic, freaky placecards so celebrities know where they're supposed to sit.

If You Leave Me Now...

After last night’s climactic Sopranos finale, I know what you’re all thinking – no more Johnny Sack until 2006? What the hell am I supposed to do with myself?

Don't get too upset. You'll still be able to catch your favorite New York underboss on his hiatus job, singing backup for some pals in a little band called Chicago. And if you’re very lucky, Furio may be there too. (via ChrisF)

On a related note, some of the Amy’s Robot staff will be taking legal action against Time Warner cable for disrupting our service between 9:44 and 9:48 last night.

June 3, 2004

What Happens When you Love Kids Too Much +

An interesting article in today’s Times examines the popularity of Internet sites that rate physical appearance, such as Hotornot.com . Many interviewees in the article try to make it sound as if they only posted their own pictures as a joke (just as I would, if a reporter from a major national newspaper came calling): "What do I care what people on the Internet think of me?" says one anonymous fellow whose “bangability” averaged .63 out of a possible 10. Despite the bravado, a creepy neediness comes through in most of the quotes.

The part that caught my eye was a throwaway towards the end:

"I see this phenomenon as an extension of the narcissism that has become much more pervasive in our culture,” says [psychiatrist Armand] Aserinsky. “I see it especially in the under-30 crowd, where there's this insatiable appetite for acknowledgment based largely on patterns in child-rearing that came along about the time of that generation." He calls it the "overappreciated child," whose every accomplishment, no matter how pedestrian, is praised as if extraordinary, if not also bronzed and placed on a pedestal.

Dr. Aserinsky has hit on an alarming cultural phenomena that's all too clear if you turn on MTV - well, ever - but specifically on a Tuesday night. I'm talking about The Real World. This show, which began by featuring real people living their lives while sharing an apartment now exclusively casts very hot, very spoiled brats. In the current San Diego season, the roommates bitched and moaned and threatened to quit their strenuous “job” on a sailboat, where they put in twenty hours a week with a noon start time. Jock Brad was devastated when his mother suggested that after the show, the 23-year-old college graduate could maybe find an apartment instead of living at home and spending his rent money on motorcycles and beer. This week fake punk-rocker Frankie, emotionally drained from living in a beach house rent-free and taking MTV-paid trips to Greece, packed up and went home early.

Is Dr. Aserinsky right? Could it be that overindulgence is ultimately responsible for the genesis of reality tv? Who could have imagined that loving your children too much would bring about such terrible repercussions for all of us?

Parents, love your children, protect and support them, but for God’s sake stop spoiling the shit out of them. It’s going to turn them into helpless, whiny adults and if nothing else, it makes for boring television. -Emily

The Times has been publishing a lot of "kids these days" articles lately. Last Sunday's magazine section cover story is all about trends in teenage sex and relationships. It's a great article, but it filled me with horror, and also prompted a discussion/argument with a group of friends that lasted for many hours, so watch out.

It seems that teenagers have largely stopped dating or pursuing boy/girlfriend relationships, preferring instead to meet each other at the mall or on websites like hotornot.com or facethejury.com and arrange to "hook up." The "friends with benefits" arrangement is also popular, though one of the girls that the writer interviews says that ''To be honest, we don't even really like hanging out together. I go to his house, we sit there and talk for two minutes, then we go at it. Then we sit there again for about 10 minutes, and I go home.'' Clearly, for some teenagers, ''friends with benefits'' is a misnomer. Take away the sex, and they probably wouldn't hang out at all.

It's better to meet people outside your own school or social circle, so as to avoid the uncool potential of dating each other. Also, "hooking up" for many of these kids means one-way oral sex, with the boys on the more beneficial side of the transactions. Some of the girls the writer interviewed think that these girls have no power, respect, or validation in these kinds of relationships, though some insist that they enjoy it, and that their behavior is not self-destructive. To me, and to some of the psychologists the writer interviews, it sounds like these girls are so insistent on being as sexually aggressive as the boys that it doesn't matter if they get any enjoyment out of it, as long as they are not perceived as being modest or reserved. My long-time radio/MTV/Dawson's Creek crush Dr. Drew says ''It's all bravado. The fact is, girls don't enjoy hookups nearly as much as boys, no matter what they say at the time. They're only doing it because that's what the boys want.''

Where are the parents in all this? you might ask. It used to be that most communications and meetings were arranged via the central family telephone, so parents knew who their kids were spending time with. Now, with kids meeting each other online and making plans via email or cell phones, their social lives are far less supervised. Their parents probably have no idea. If I ever have children, if someone could please remind me to go live among the Amish when the kids are ages 10-18, that would be great. -Amy

Friendster Goes (More) Corporate

Over a year after everybody in the universe got a Friendster account (including, of course, us--Friendster login req'd) Friendster is finally hitting the big time. They've got a new chief executive and a new plan for profitability through advertising. Whether or not they'll ever abandon their 'beta' status is anyone's guess, but if they're going to start selling ad space on their pages, they'd better clean up some of the many, many bugs that still mess up my profile all the time.

Apparently Friendster has 7 million members, but its daily usership has been declining for some time. From what I hear around the water cooler, people don't use it so much for dating or learning more about friends of friends of friends any more, but rather for creating funny pretend profiles for celebrities or fictional characters. Like the entire cast of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the animatronic Christmas TV special from the 1960's--Hermie the Elf/Dentist is into oral hygiene and hardcore gay porn. (Friendster login req'd) (tx Jim.)

But despite failing public interest in Friendster, their announced intention to become a successful corporate entity has gained it some good business press coverage, as mentioned in the Washington Post article linked above. However, the Village Voice article quoted by the Post about this cool new online service called Friendster is, tellingly, a year old. The Wall Street Journal might care about the business prospects of a "hot" web-based company, but the kids seem to have stopped caring.

June 2, 2004

Taking Candy From Babies

Bad news for greedy New York students: the State Legislature has decided you can稚 get candy from your school痴 vending machines anymore. Under this bill, food sold in vending machines must meet minimal nutritional guidelines, so that means no more "hard candy, chocolate candy, jellies, gums, marshmallow candies, fondant, licorice, spun candy and candy coated popcorn." Soda water and beverages containing caffeine and sugar will also be limited.

Lest you think all politicians are against you, William L. Parment, a Democrat from Jamestown, gave a 菟assionate defense� of chocolate.

"I object to this inclusion of chocolate in non-nutritious foods," Parment argued, noting that a Mars Bar contains less fat than a hot dog.

Schools may not sell chocolate, although chocolate milk will be available. Guess you kids will just have to go to the bodega for your fondant.

On a completely unrelated note, a bottle of Snapple Fruit Punch has 220 calories and almost 60 grams of sugar, mostly from high fructose corn syrup.

Raines on Kerry

Just a quick note on Howell Raines' big Guardian piece on Kerry's lackluster campaign. He writes:

As America's first war-hero candidate since John F Kennedy, [Kerry] ought to be leading the national discussion on what went wrong in Iraq...
Wait a second...."First war hero candidate..."? What about George H.W. Bush, who was the youngest naval pilot in World War II and got shot down over the Pacific Ocean? What about Bob Dole, who got shot in the back by Nazi machine gunners while trying to help another soldier?

I guess he meant "Democratic," not "American," but come on.

You know what Howell Raines needs? An editor.

The Future of Radio

Howard Stern has spent the past few days waxing poetic on the great debt he owes his boss, Viacom President and COO Mel Karmazin. With yesterday's formal announcement that Karmazin is leaving Viacom, Stern has pretty much promised that he will leave Infinity Broadcasting when his contract is up. Stern has openly dumped on corporate radio since his FCC fracas earlier this year, so much so that his website even has a countdown to the second his contract expires.

Love him or hate him, the power of Stern is undeniable. If, as he has hinted, Howard takes his show to satellite radio, millions of listeners will follow. Stern is at a point now where he could single-handedly change the future of radio.

While Clear Channel's stock prices have sunk lower and lower, the subscriber base for both XM and Sirius satellite radio is steadily growing. Although XM is currently the larger of the two, its ties to Clear Channel (which owns 3% of the company) may not help in the future. Stern's vendetta against Clear Channel makes it more likely that he will go to Sirius if he makes the leap.

Stern's listeners are more than loyal, they're fanatical. Will they pay $10 - $13 a month to hear about Chynna Phillips? lesbian experiments? Hell yes, they will. And at the same time, they'll have access to a new kind of broadcasting: commercial-free (in Sirius' case), wide-ranging, and uncensored.

Surprise! Drug companies knew anti-depressants are bad for kids+

To continue the thread on the growing international awareness of the dangers of prescribing anti-depressants to young people: our local hero Eliot Spitzer has filed suit against GlaxoSmithKline, claiming the drug company withheld information about the negative effects of Paxil on children. As British drug regulatory bodies stated months ago, anti-depressants do not show conclusive positive effects on young people, and they can increase suicidal thoughts and behaviors in some. The lawsuit says that Glaxo suppressed four studies that demonstrate these results, and also includes an internal memo circulated within the company that says they intended to "manage the dissemination of data in order to minimize any potential negative commercial impact." That negative impact might have reduced the $55 million in revenues that Glaxo made in 2002 from prescriptions of Paxil to children and teens.

Glaxo claims that they made all of their studies available to the FDA. Which leads to the question: if U.S. companies got results like this in their drug tests, why didn't the FDA take action similar to the UK's regulatory agencies and ban the prescription of anti-depressants (besides Prozac) for young people? The article contains this seemingly contradictory sentence: "Paxil is not approved for use in children, but doctors can prescribe drugs as they see fit and routinely recommend antidepressants for children suffering from depression and other psychological disorders." The FDA's website answers some questions about Paxil and children; they say that the FDA has "not approved" the use of Paxil for depressed children, but that physicians can prescribe whatever they want for whomever they want. Way to throw your weight around, FDA. - Amy

Interestingly, this news comes out on the same day the NYT reports on a government-funded study that shows Prozac is more effective than talk therapy for suicidal teenagers. The study appears legitimate, since it is not overtly funded by a drug company (although some people, by which I mean me, would argue that our government is the biggest and most profitable drug company of all).

One doctor not involved in the study echoes the concerns of many bad parents, noting that the findings are a relief "because it's hard to get people into cognitive therapy anymore. They just don't want to take the time.'' - Emily

Say Cheese!

June is finally here, and we all know what that means – it’s Dairy Month! We can’t all be lucky enough to live in Barron County, Wisconsin, where residents celebrate by starting the day with cheese and ice cream sundaes at 6 am, but that doesn’t mean we should neglect this most magical of holidays.

In case you need extra encouragement, the American Dairy Association has provided this helpful Snackulator™ to assist you in finding just the right cheese for any event.

June 1, 2004

Battleground States

The complexity of this year's campaigns for President and Senate seats is generating some controversial strategy in battleground states. Especially because, depending on which election you're looking at, the list of battleground states varies. States like Washington, South Dakota, and South Carolina that aren't considered uncertainties in the Presidential race have Senate elections that the Washington Post describes as "potentially competitive." Many of these Senate battleground states are not expected to vote for Kerry, leaving Democratic Senate candidates in a tricky position: do they align themselves with Kerry's agenda, or give themselves a better chance of winning a vital Senate seat by supporting more conservative issues? Inez Tenenbaum, who is running as a Democrat for the South Carolina Senate seat being vacated by retiring Senator Ernest Hollings, has sided with Bush on issues like the death penalty, supporting the war in Iraq, and banning same-sex marriage. Democratic political strategists have to weigh the value of gaining more Senators from otherwise red states against eroding party unity.

Changing demographics in the South are one cause of increased Republican victories in recent years, but Kerry's campaign managers have decided to target Virginia, which hasn't voted Democrat in a Presidential election in 40 years, for advertising. In this case, more and more liberal Washington residents have moved into Virginia suburbs, and Kerry hopes that his military background will appeal to veterans living around Virginia's naval bases. The Guardian reports a Zogby poll showing that Kerry leads in 11 of 16 battleground states, though Zogby and the Washington Post use different lists of battleground states. The Wall Street Journal also offers a list of battleground states (they have 17) as part of their newly-launched Electoral College Calculator, which helps you understand the numerical strategy behind focusing on key swing states (tx ADM.) All this mudslinging and negative advertising is pretty far removed from our daily lives here at Amy's Robot: neither candidate is bothering to waste much of their money in boring old blue New York.

About June 2004

This page contains all entries posted to Amy's Robot in June 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

May 2004 is the previous archive.

July 2004 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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