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August 2004 Archives

August 31, 2004

Media Alert! The New York Times notices a fashion trend!

In its Sunday Fall Fashion Special, the Times notes that Ass is the new Tits (or as they actually write in their anatomically respectable way, "buttocks are the new breasts.") Of course, we (and Salon) commented on this two years ago. Ahem.

RNC Day One: White, Straight America Gets Hoodwinked

You would think, judging from the speeches delivered at last night's Republican National Convention events, that one issue and one issue only faces America: terrorism. Here is a complete list of the topics addressed last night: September 11th, the War on Terror, and how John Kerry changes his mind a lot. Remember the DNC, and how the speakers there covered the war, the economy, health care, education, civil rights, race and class issues, and on and on? If I were sitting out there in the sea of white, straight, vanilla Republican delegates, I might get a little bored of hearing essentially the same message over and over again for three hours every night.

Let's look at McCain's speech. He talked about Iraq and the war on terror. Well honestly, what else could he talk about without drawing attention to his many divergences from the Bush platform? Could he talk about the economy? The environment? His military record? Stem cell research? Gay rights? The tax cuts? No way. He did, however, deliver some quotes that sounded like some kind of new hippie Republicanism that was all about love as a military value, a "love that is invincible" that will vanquish our enemies. During McCain's speech about how America is bringing the love and freedom of Democracy to those evil, backward Arabs, I couldn't help but think of a recent poll in Latin American countries in which more and more people in some countries say that Democracy hasn't worked out for them, and they might prefer an authoritarian government. But what do they know?

And now let's look at Giuliani, who proved once and for all that, even though people were glad to have him around after September 11th, he is still a gigantic asshole. He had a few problems getting the crowd on his side with his strong pro-New York attitude. Rudy, I've got some news for you: many Republicans hate New York and New Yorkers. Remember? When you open your speech with "Welcome to the capital of the world," and nobody cheers (well, actually, I cheered at home, but this was the only part of his speech that I liked) you might want to remember who you're talking to.

The strongest part of Giuliani's speech was probably when he characterized Bush as an unshakable leader who sticks to his beliefs even when they prove to be unpopular. This does seem to be something that people admire about Bush, but maybe Giuliani wasn't exactly the best person to wax on about this. Let's look at some of the unpopular beliefs that Giuliani held on to, even though they made him look like an insane jerk: jaywalking, dancing in bars, squeegees, Chris Ofili, and ferrets. You know, sometimes clinging to your beliefs and disregarding all other views just shows the world that you are a moron.

Another thing that Republican delegates seem to like is chanting. McCain looked like he was going to start telling the delegates to just shut UP already when they went on and on with the "Four More Years!" stuff. McCain, I am so sorry that your party is full of such embarrassing dorks, but you've done this to yourself. Even Dick Cheney looked irrate and disdainful during the second bout of chanting, even though these chants were inspired by Giuliani's praise of him as Vice President. But the saddest moment of all was Giuliani attempting to jump start his own round of chanting, this time by shaking his fist and saying "New York! New York!" until about 8 other people joined in.

Here's the first of Michael Moore's columns for USA Today. He notes that the delegates he talks to generally support socially progressive causes, and wonders how the Republican party has attracted so many supporters who do not share the party's views. Maybe that's why the party has invited so many in-name-only Republicans like Giuliani, Bloomberg, McCain, and Schwarzenegger to speak at their convention.

August 30, 2004

RNC Update: The State of the City

The population of New York has undergone a critical shift this week: a lot of delegates and media people are here, even more protesters are here, but it would appear that the added population of these visitors is outweighed by the number of New Yorkers who have left the city. The sidewalks in midtown were nearly empty this morning, a lot of restaurants and shops were closed, and there were far fewer cars on the street than on a usual weekday. The usually packed outdoor set of The Today Show at Rockefeller Plaza had only a few dozen tourists screaming at the cameras. So where is everybody? Where are the thronging masses of anarchists breaking windows and drinking the blood of patriots' babies? Perhaps the Republicans are all safely ensconsed in the militarized zone around Madison Square Garden, and all the protesters are still in their sleeping bags on the floors of host apartments in Forest Hills. One older gentleman strolling along 48th Street was wearing a t-shirt featuring a cartoon Uncle Sam holding up his two middle fingers, which were drawn to look like the twin towers of the World Trade Center, with a caption reading WE WON'T FORGET!, but he was probably just a regular mental New Yorker.

However, the few cars that are on the street are being herded by five helpful cops at each intersection, all of whom are directing traffic simultaneously. Drivers are looking a little confused about which cop's directions they should follow, but certainly aren't having any trouble with traffic.

As I passed my neighborhood firehouse this morning, I noticed that all the trucks were in the garage with the motors off, but their flashing lights were all on. The firefighters were sitting around drinking coffee. I guess that giving the apperance of alertness and preparedness is what really matters here.

Since all the protests thus far have been so sedate and uneventful, it looks like the real action will be on TV. Last night Mark Shields interviewed the sour-pussed Robert Novak on CNN, during which Shields called the Republicans "a bunch of cross-dressers" trying to play both sides by bringing out pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-gay rights speakers like Giuliani, Bloomberg, and Pataki. Novak retaliated by calling the Democrats "Stepford Wives" for following their party platform so rigidly. Meow! Perhaps more fur will fly among televised news anchors than on the streets.

Coverage of the VMAs, which we did not actually watch

This was the first year I've missed the live broadcast of the VMAs in the last 5 years or so. Perhaps this signals some new entry into adulthood, marked by fading interest in cavorting rappers and vacuous stunts? Or maybe I just wised up, since watching the VMAs is actually not an enjoyable activity, judging from my 2002 and 2003 posts.

Anyway, some notable events that I did not watch: OutKast's political convention-like performance, Puffy's new mohawk and Bruce Willis' smirk that is identical to the smirk he started using in 1985, Beyonce giving up on looking classy and just dressing like a hooker like everybody else does, and the one segment of the event that I actually want to see, the duet performance by Mandy Moore and Marilyn Manson. Also nonstop celebrity demands directed at viewers about the hot new trend in the youth market, "voting".

Amy's Robot Republican Convention Policy

As our readers surely know, this week the Republican National Convention will take place within blocks of the Amy's Robot Midtown Bureau. We are sure all of our readers are anxiously awaiting our comprehensive coverage of the event.

However, it has become clear to us in recent weeks that the Republican party is determined to include no factual information or content in this convention, or to address the reality of any of the very serious issues that our country faces.

Therefore, unless one of the RNC speakers presents something of substance, for the next week Amy's Robot will cover current events happening in and around Dover, New Hampshire.

For our first day of coverage, we'll leave you with this picture of Dover's own Olympian, Jenny Thompson, cavorting on the beaches of Greece with Michael Phelps. This picture is particularly tragic for the 2/3 of Amy's Robot who might have also had the opportunity to pose for this picture in their bikinis, had our parents just moved one freaking town over so we could attend a high school that had a pool and a swim team. -Emily

Also, we bring you coverage of the 23rd Annual Hay Day Celebration in Farmington, NH. Governor Craig Benson (R) lead one team in the bizarre Hay Day Bed Race, in which teams of participants push hay beds along a course, and "the driver dismounts their beds at certain points to dig medals out of buckets full of ice-water, Jell-O, and sand." -Amy

August 27, 2004

Who's scarier, Cops or Anarchists?

In these days leading up to the RNC, the press is vigorously covering the few examples of creative nonviolent protest that have led to arrests, and simultaneously reporting the NYPD's references to violent anarchists that they expect to attack the city. Police chief Raymond Kelly said, "Protest organizers have an obligation to condemn the vandalism and disruption advocated by the minority. The organizers could perform a public service by telling the extremists to stay away. Instead, they obfuscate on this point."

He suggests that it is the responsibility of protest organizers to exclude potentially violent people from their events. Organizations like CounterConvention.org and United for Peace and Justice have said all along that their events will be nonviolent, and that they don't know of any organized groups that are planning a violent protest.

Now let's look at the measures taken by the NYPD against nonviolent organizers of the past few days. The activists who hung the Truth/Bush arrows sign from the Plaza Hotel were charged with first-degree assault, because one of the cops who climbed up to detain them fell through a cracked skylight and cut his leg. The spokesman for the group said one of the activists had warned the sergeant not to go on the skylight because it was cracked, but claimed the cop ignored the warning. "The last thing we wanted to have happen is anyone to get hurt," he said.

The next few days will tell, but so far, it's hard to tell why we should be afraid of protesters.

The Final Frontier

I believe I read once in a marketing class that the average American is exposed to 1.6 bazillion marketing impressions every single day. Advertisers have already taken over magazines - I flip through about 90 ad pages in every 100-page US Weekly . They're in the movie theater, with their 20 minutes of pre-movie commercials followed by 90 or so minutes of product placement. They even run banner ads about toenail fungus when I'm just trying to watch Fresh Prince of Bel-Air at the gym. It's enough to make me bang my fists against the television, weeping, "Please, god, just for one minute, don't try to sell me anything!"

But imagine you're not me, and instead a company that spends millions of dollars a year on advertising. It must be maddening to not be able to measure success, to have no idea if customers even notice the images you send out into the world. And it must be doubly maddening to know that there is one final medium, used with aching frequency by your target audience, that you have not been able to advertise on - the cell phone.

Well, Jane magazine is trying to solve that problem for you. Jane's ad sales have been down this past year, so in an attempt to boost revenue the magazine is challenging readers to enter a contest by sending in photographs of the magazine's ad pages. That's right - to win a prize, you must prove that you read the ads by taking pictures of them, with your cameraphone. See how it all fits together? Jane's argument is that readers already exchange cameraphone pictures of clothes and makeup they like, and since magazines are "interactive" (???) anyway, it just takes that interaction one step further.

Jane, I don't pretend to know the mind of teenage girls like you do, but all I can say is, the day I flip open my cell phone and see an ad about toenail fungus I'm coming looking for you.

August 26, 2004

Who is George Pataki?

cuomo

Interesting study in the Times today about George Pataki, the governor who tries hard to be everyone's friend. Are you a Democrat, as the majority of New Yorkers are? Well, Pataki is pro-gay rights, pro-union, and pro-choice! Are you a Republican? Well that's funny, because Pataki technically is one too! (although much of the Bush crowd appears suspicious of his loyalties.) Do you like Mario Cuomo, as everybody in New York and the Democratic political arena seems to? In his upcoming speech at the RNC in which he will introduce Bush, Pataki is recreating the Cuomo Moment. At the 1984 Democratic Convention, Cuomo delivered the keynote address, and it has been canonized as a speech for the ages - read the full text here.

But there's one other notable thing about Cuomo--he never ran for President, and Pataki beat him in the 1994 election. About his talent for delivering a great speech, Cuomo says, "It ruined me," with a bit of melancholy. "And so from that day on they would say. 'Oh, yeah, he gives speeches.' They wouldn't necessarily say it in a carping way, but that's all."

Pataki may not be the great speaker that Cuomo is, but it appears that Americans put little value on a good speech. As long as Pataki talks about security and war and America being under attack a lot, the Republicans will probably love him anyway.

Did someone tell Vince Gallo about the Osama sidewalk graffiti campaign?

And is there any way he didn't carve this into the wet cement himself?

[photo taken at Mulberry and Houston by our intrepid SoHo Correspondent]

Buying the Youth Vote

Jenna and Barbara Bush recently sent a helpful email to young voters (via Wonkette), encouraging them to support "our Dad". "We just graduated from college and are perfectly aware that schoolwork, parties, and extra-curricular activities keep students busy, away from campaigns and voting booths," the girls sympathize.

"Our friends - from varying political backgrounds - are supporting our Dad in November. Not only because of his decisions to liberate the women of Afghanistan or bring freedom to the people of Iraq, but because...he made everyone feel welcome and comfortable in our house (except for the occasional boyfriend) and our friends got to know him as a really good guy."

This content-free appeal made me think of something I heard on the radio a few weeks ago. Four young activists, both Democrat and Republican, were interviewed about the "youth vote". Despite the fact that the interviewees were highly involved students spending an enormous amount of time and effort working on political campaigns, the host's tone was a sort of hand-wringing "these kids today, we just can't make them care about anything!" The panelists were earnestly asked if they felt like Rock the Vote concerts and dance parties were the way to increase youth voter turnout. They responded by outrageously suggesting that rather than bribe young voters with free video games and karaoke machines, maybe candidates should try engaging them by talking about issues. Maybe, both the Democrats and Republicans agreed, the best way to involve young people is to encourage them to participate in politics, and give them positions of responsibility and ownership on campaigns when they do.

Basically what they were saying was, "Don't treat us like we're just a vote."

I sympathize, because lately I'm feeling like I'm just a vote too. The fact that John Kerry may or may not deserve his purple hearts, or that Bush is a "really good guy" doesn稚 mean anything to me, or to the "youth", or to 44 million uninsured Americans, or to the parents of 1,000 dead kids in Iraq. And as you and I both know, it won稚 have any bearing on what kind of a President either one will be.

Is it possible that younger voters really would care about issues, if candidates addressed them? Is it possible that if older voters heard about the issues that really matter to them, they'd be more engaged too?

August 25, 2004

Maybe I should rethink this "staying in NY for the RNC" thing

Even though almost everybody I work with and know in New York has long ago made plans to be somewhere else next week, I have held firm. "If I leave town during the convention, I'm letting the Republicans win!", I thought. And besides, I am curious about what kind of mayhem will ensue. But today, I'm starting to feel uneasy. Last night I was walking down my street, which is a full 14 blocks north of Madison Square Garden, and saw these signs posted absolutely everywhere. No stopping at all, or your car will be towed. The thing is, the block I was on is a typical block in the Times Square area, filled with gigantic hotels and Broadway theaters. You know, places that might tend to have a lot of non-suspect cars stopped in front of them at all hours of the day and night. Can the NYPD seriously expect the entirety of Times Square traffic to not stop in front of the hundreds of things that bring people to Times Square in the first place? For a whole week? And where are they going to store all those towed cars?

It seems they have already thought of that one, but in terms of people storage. One of the piers in Chelsea will be opened for storage of arrested protesters. Well, that solves the problem of how to arrest hundreds and hundreds of people at a time, and not bog down the offices at 100 Center Street! I'll just quote directly from the article for the rest of this post, since the original language is far more unnerving and scary than anything I could come up with:

"Cops fear some protesters might hang around after the convention to disrupt other events, like the U.S. Open, so the pen will remain open indefinitely (!!! -Ed.), the source said. They'll be frisked, searched and have their property confiscated at the temporary lockup.

But, unlike regular detainees who are taken to a precinct, they won't be fingerprinted or processed until they're bussed to Central Booking at 100 Center Street in Manhattan.

Central Booking is opening an extra-large process center on the fifth floor to brace for the additional duties. The DA's office is also planning for an influx of arrests, with extra judges, court officers, corrections' officers and legal aid scheduled.

The massive three-story pier, almost a block long, can hold about 1,000 detainees, the source said. If it fills, the NYPD will bring them to other boroughs, starting with Brooklyn."

Further Osama Speculation

It appears that those frequenting downtown Manhattan also have strong viewpoints about the political affiliations of Osama bin Laden, in addition to the stencil-graffiti-politicos in Brooklyn that we covered earlier. This photo, taken on Prince Street by our SoHo correspondent, demonstrates more metaphoric speculation on Osama's voting plans, conflating his supposed preferred candidate with his actual identity.

bush stencil

August 24, 2004

The Life of the Celebrity-slash-Addict

Interesting NYT piece about Jerry Stahl's new book I, Fatty (the best title for a book I've heard since Cintra Wilson's) a fictionalized memoir of Fatty Arbuckle. Arbuckle was a very popular and successful silent film star--the first actor to get a million-dollar contract--who was at the center of a major Hollywood scandal when he was accused of raping and murdering a starlet during an orgy at a San Francisco hotel. Although Fatty was acquitted at three separate trials, he was forever tarnished by the case, and his image was destroyed through a deluge of defamatory articles in the Hearst tabloids.

And: Fatty was a heroin addict. You may recall that Jerry Stahl, TV writer for ALF, Moonlighting, and Twin Peaks, also wrote his own memoir called Permanent Midnight (made into a movie starring Ben Stiller) about his $6,000/week heroin addiction. In discussing his own drug problems in the article, Stahl makes a lot of vague metaphors about addicts creating themselves as alienated beings via their addictions, but, as usual, the anecdotes are more interesting. He says he still buys a car with a consideration of what it would be like to live in it.

His book is doing well, and Johnny Depp's film company has optioned it. So let's think about who could play Fatty Arbuckle, if the film ever gets produced. Johnny Depp says he wouldn't play the title role, but suggests that Philip Seymour Hoffman could do it. How about Dave Attell? Or maybe Kiefer in a fat suit? He did a great job almost shooting up during 24's season this past year.

Stahl says about modern celebrity scandals, "self-destruction is a wing of show business... It has almost become a station of the celebrity cross to have that rehab moment, when you do something, you're caught, then you come clean and everybody loves you again and you're back in." It's the Bill Clinton model of the glorious return after shame. Robert Downey, Jr. aspires to follow this path, but somewhere around The Singing Detective I started doubting. And, of course, there is an ocean of celebrities who have blown it and never quite regained their previous stature (OJ, Christian Slater, Nick Nolte, Bobby Brown, Courtney Love) all of whom could likely relate to the plight of Fatty.

Amy's Robot Link Factory 2.0

Today we are re-introducing the Amy's Robot Link Factory.

For many months, we have taken a break from reader submissions to it. Today we are opening it up again, this time with better features for you and for us.

In case you aren't familiar with it, the Amy's Robot Link Factory is a section of Amy's Robot that allows anyone to submit interesting links. Most submitted links will appear on the front page of the Link Factory where readers can comment on them. We also pick some "highlights" from the links to feature on the right side of this page.

We encourage readers to submit notable, timely links for other readers to enjoy. To do so, just paste an item's URL into the submission form and add a brief description. If we think your link will appeal to our readers, we will post it on the Link Factory and possibly on the front page of the site, too.

We have also re-enabled comments on the Link Factory, but the comments will no longer appear on the Link Factory page. Instead, if you are interested in reading or writing comments, just click the "comments" link. Feel free to share your views and insights, but keep in mind that we may delete offensive comments, unless they are really funny. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason. Also, when you write a comment for the first time, we will send you a confirmation email which you must reply to. This is to prevent "comment spam." We won't use your email again after that.

We put a lot of work into creating, and now improving, the Link Factory, so we hope you like it! And we hope you use it.

Love, Amy's Robot

August 23, 2004

How to go to college

The New York Times offers some helpful advice today on what is probably one of the easiest things one can do in modern America: being a college student. Chuck Klosterman, our patron saint of metal fandom, reviews a new book entitled Real College: The Essential Guide to Student Life [tx Rungu]. He points out that the most difficult part of college for many students is paying for it--an area of advice that the book's writers mysteriously omit in favor of trickier topics such as "social life" and "studying". Klosterman notes that if your biggest worry about attending college is how to get your roommate to vacuum more, you probably don't really need an advice book: "For those who actually paid for college themselves, the repayment of student loans was the only 'real challenge' higher education ever presented; everything else was just sort of fun and exciting and amazingly drunken."

The breezy assumption that college students' parents pay the bills is one flaw of the book; as far as I can tell, the other major problem is the usage of the name "Rollo" as one of the "real-life freshmen" characters who write in questions about college life to the writers. I mean, is "Rollo" attending clown school? Will his (her?) concerns be relevant to a student who is not taking classses like The Anthropology of Dance or Television and the Nation at UC Santa Cruz?

Anyway, Klosterman comes up with his own bits of practical advice for the kid entering college which strike me as important platitudes for adults to hold onto as well: "if something makes you vomit, don't worry about it; everybody vomits sometimes" and "your parents will never, ever understand anything about you (and it is unreasonable for you to expect otherwise)" are especially relevant.

But perhaps college students really do need book-length advice from authoritarian figures to guide them through higher education. At least, maybe the kids who study a semester abroad need it. It appears that our ambassadors of the American education system have been promoting the ugly American stereotype to our foreign friends: dropping beer bottles onto passing cars from their dorm windows, getting into knife fights, skipping their classes for weeks at a time, getting caught with drugs, and, of course, getting drunk and puking all over everything. The host universities are complaining, and some U.S. colleges are requiring their students to meet some strict academic standards before they are accepted into study-abroad programs, or even take a class before they go on how to be an exchange student without getting arrested.

Kids: if all you want to do in college is drink, you can do plenty of that right here in America--just join a fraternity or sorority. If you want to have a European vacation, just get your parents to pay for one during the summer--hey, they're already paying for college, right? (see above.) What's another couple thousand bucks? OK, some full disclosure: I was one of those college students who studied abroad, and I was even one of the ones who went to a university in an English-speaking country, which college administrators say are "more likely to attract students who have no language expertise or interest in foreign culture." Sometimes I opted to spend an evening in the bar that was in my dorm rather than do my reading for Gothic Literature. But I did manage to vomit exclusively into appropriate receptacles, and never once wore a Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt while actually in a Hard Rock Cafe.

Political Turf Wars

A silent war has been raging in my neighborhood over the question on everyone's mind: just who is Osama bin Laden supporting in November? Last week, the words "Osama Votes Kerry" appeared spraypainted on area sidewalks. I barely had time to think "whahuh?" before another pundit intervened to alter the message slightly:

"Well, that's clearer," I thought. Until the next morning, when the original activist returned, this time with the hot pink spraypaint of fury!

Would the Kerry supporter retaliate? That very evening, I came home to:

Not only that, the paint was still wet! I had missed the Kerry bandit by mere minutes.

Over the weekend, the turf war expanded considerably - where once there was one message per block, now there are two or three. I'm personally fascinated to see where how this battle will end. Will it continue until the sidewalks of Brooklyn glow pink even in the dead of night?

Oh Osama, which way will you go? Will it be Bush/Cheney? Or Kerry/Edwards?

Presidential hopefuls, forget the vetarans, the youth, the undecided voter - real Americans know it's Osama's vote that really counts.

August 22, 2004

Robot-on-the-Spot: Meow Mix Cafe

The good thing about carrying your digital camera around is that if you should happen to pass by the newly-opened Meow Mix Cafe, you can get your picture taken with Mr. Meow.

Now, I'll admit, when I heard about this new restaurant where doting cat owners can bring their feline friends to dine (but only if the cats are on leashes, a helpful staffer informed me), my first thought was, "That's the lamest thing I've ever heard."

It turns out my first impression was not entirely correct. The cafe isn't just an opportunity for cat-fetishists to dress their pets in bonnets and take them out for kitty tea parties. It's actually just a temporary store selling Meow Mix products with a few tables in the back. Lunch for you and your cat requires only a $2 donation, and all those proceeds are donated to the ASPCA.

Meow Mix always comes through with a good marketing gimmick, from their soul-destroying trademark jingle to the premiere of Meow TV on the Oxygen network last year to, most delightfully, CEO Richard Thompson's stunt in the Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village apartment complex this past February. The complex's owner, MetLife, had offered a $150 reward to any employee who turned in illegal cat owners in an effort to boot rent-controlled tenants out and convert their homes into luxury housing. Thompson responded by parking the Meow-Mix Mobile(tm) in Stuyvesant Oval, giving away free cat food, and offering $160 to workers who refused to give up cat owners.

So Meow Mix, you go open your kitty cafes wherever you wish. I'm a sucker for a socially responsible business.

August 20, 2004

Kori's Expression Says it All

britney and stepdaughter

"Can you even fucking believe these people? I'm only 2 and I know this is a joke."

August 19, 2004

The World Falls in Love With Tits All Over Again

A lengthy feature article in the Daily News today covering the swelling popularity of cleavage over the last 10 years that started with one pivotal event: the launch of Sara Lee's Wonderbra™ in the U.S. Gone are the days when women made do with what they had; even Kate Moss claims the Wonderbra gave her cleavage. Retailers claim that push-up bras offer a bustier look for women who don't want surgery. However, over the same period that the Wonderbra has reinvigorated breast fetishism without implants, a whole lot of women have opted for the boob job: "according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the number of breast augmentation surgeries has jumped 657% - from 32,607 procedures in 1992 to 254,140 in 2003." My guess is that the rise of the internet porn industry lead to a sudden increased demand for busty models, but clearly, Americans are just relentlessly fixated on tits. Women are now spending $4.7 billion a year on bras, which is equal to the operating budget for the state of New Hampshire. As they seem to do whenever they examine trends in consumer spending, business analysts say that women's self-confidence and the desire to be in charge of how they look is the source of their buying. A VP of Tobe Report, a fashion industry publication, says about the origens of the push-up bra buying frenzy, "There was a more comfortable attitude toward bodies. It was, 'I want to feel better, I'm me, I deserve it, I should have it.'"

This reminds me of the copy in makeup ads that suggests that you can take charge of your life (Revlon's "don't lie about your age, defy it!") and express yourself more fully through buying expensive products that, in reality, make you look more generic. Suggesting that this is an expression of self-confidence rather than insecurity is such an absurd and counter-intuitive strategy that, of course, it has been wildly successful. Women spend billions every year on makeup (not to mention cleavage-enhancing bras, diet products, colored contacts, hair dye, etc. etc.) that make them look more like a prescribed norm. (And now men are spending $4 billion a year too!) We have discussed this creepy homogenizing effect in earlier posts.

This week the UK's Sun features a helpful Cleavage Week series, though be careful about which pages you open if you're at work. (While the U.S. daily papers still do not include actual photos of topless women, the English have no such prudish restrictions.) Today's feature article celebrates some new statistics: British breasts are busting out all over. The average bra size has bloomed from 34B to 36C over the last 10 years. They do not speculate as to what might be the cause of England's heaving, though my guess is an increasingly overweight population and the aforementioned rise in breast enlargement surgery are at the nub of it.

Who'dat?™

Today's installment of Who'dat?™ will really blow your mind and cause all kinds of rectal prolapse. Remember how the game works? Just look at the photo of the celebrity below, and try to guess who it is.


You might think that this celebrity is Eartha Kitt, but you would be wrong.

It's WHITNEY HOUSTON!

THE HORROR!

[tx ADM]

Whoever Wins, We Lose

This image has been causing me great amusement whenever I walk by Madison Square Garden, so I thought I'd share it with you.

Although some people feel that language more accurately describes the McGreevey scandal.

August 18, 2004

A battle we must fight together +

Today, when trolling the newswires looking for the most relevant and important news to share with our readership, we were met with the shocking news that Paris Hilton's beloved Chihuahua, Tinkerbell, has gone missing!

In the effort to keep you informed and up-to-date, Amy�s Robot has occasionally covered Paris� doings and non-doings. And in a way, we now feel partly responsible for this tabloid juggernaut consuming so much space on our televisions and in our magazines. Were it not for the work of dedicated PR firms and blogs like ours, Paris might have been content to sit back and design handbags like other fraudulent celebrities. But instead, she is starring in television shows and movies, recording albums and launching record labels, and WRITING BOOKS.

Dear readers, this madness must end! And the fight for responsible celebrity journalism starts here. Beginning today, Amy�s Robot is ceasing all coverage of Paris Hilton and other Hilton-family related non-news. Subscribe to US Weekly or turn to other sites if you must, but you will no longer find your heiress swill here. We understand that you may be frustrated, and you may be angry, but this is truly in your best interests.

We need to take a stand and that stand starts today, people � and I mean even if the Nick Carter sex tape appears. We�re serious. It's not just for your own good, but the good of the entire entertainment industry.

Update (6.45 pm): Well, life can go back to normal now. Tinkerbell has been found.

August 17, 2004

Working with Rich People

Personally, my policy about dealings with the very wealthy goes like this: they already have all the money and all the power, so why should they have my respect too? But then, I'm not the chief concierge at the Ritz-Carlton, and Frederick Bigler is. People like Mr. Bigler are the real reason that rich people are happier than the rest of us poor old saps: when you're rich, you can pay people to do absolutely anything for you, even things you don't actually need to ask them to do. They'll just come up with new and inventive ways to make you feel like you are more important than everybody else.

And when you're paying $595 to $12,000 a night for a room, you expect that kind of service. He will escort you to the bathroom instead of just showing you where it is (I assume this is in the lobby, not in your suite,) he will rent you an armored car to take you shopping, he will send up special treats for your dog that you didn't even ask for, and this is my favorite, he will orchestrate a "Charlie's Angels" theme weekend for you and your girlfriends and narrate the activities he has planned for you via a cassette tape that he slips under your pillow every morning. It's sort of like having your mom stay with you in your hotel, except a fabulous, indulgent, doting mom who is at your beck and call and never tells you you've had too much to drink and get your hair out of your face. Mr. Bigler says he "likes making them feel special," but apparently what guests at fancy hotels really want is some kind of grown-up version of a nanny. See the outstanding title essay in David Foster Wallace's A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again for further reading on this subject, using the example of guests on a luxury cruise.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Bigler is not a native New Yorker--he grew up in Lancaster, PA. The secrets to much of his success as a concierge are his skill in reading people, giving them what they want, and also just being polite. He says, "Some New Yorkers aren't aware that if you don't give someone eye contact, it's considered rude."

August 16, 2004

Do you get it? It's Irony +

Our friend Rungu took notice of a feature piece in today's Times about a group of ladies from San Francisco called Double Dutchess who do double-dutch jump roping. But these girls have a website, on which they sell t-shirts and DVDs. They also perform at hotel parties sponsored by city newspapers. SF Weekly loves them, and they were invited to perform at the Christmas party for Zoetrope, Francis Ford Coppola's literary magazine. So what has propelled these girls to the art-world A-list, and not the girls who do double-dutch every day at the Stanley Isaacs Playground on 1st and 96th? When black girls do it, it's a non-notable emblem of urban culture. When white girls do it, it's avant-garde and worthy of national press.

Not surprisingly, some people have wondered about race issues when approaching Double Dutchess. The article reports, "The women of Double Dutchess are regularly confronted with questions about their race, often by young black boys at the largely African-American community center in the South of Market neighborhood where the team practices. The women do not treat the issue lightly. "It makes me sad when we get hassled for this race issue," said Ms. Dougherty, a 21-year-old office worker. Ms. Hupp said that the women in Double Dutchess were largely drawn to the sport because it was affordable. "We live in an urban area, and we don't have a lot of money," she said. Ms. Herrera added, "It's just a really, really good friendship thing.""

So they claim to jump rope for the exercise, and for the "friendship thing," but since their earliest days they were performing on stages in front of audiences. And each performance has a theme, usually a sexual theme. Girls, if you wear hot, matching outfits and do your routine on a stage, or if Dave Eggers is in the audience, you are not just exercizing in a way that you and your admin homegirls can afford, you are using someone else's cultural expression to promote yourselves. Just call it what it is.

Well, we'll let Rungu give you his ideas:

The article makes it sound like they are doing some hip, alternate, new-style Double Dutch, but then you look at the videos and it's not. This is regular double-dutch like little girls in black neighborhoods used to do on the streets before children made the lifestyle choice to stay inside and become obese. As far as I can tell, what makes these girls interesting is that:

a) they wear funny clothes,
b) they have bigger breasts than the 9 year-old girls who usually do this stuff (but not substantially, frankly) and,
c) they are white.

And of course, it's c that makes the difference. I hate to sound like a whiny liberal, because I'm not a whiny liberal, but really, if four black girls from Oakland put on a double dutch show, they would not wind up showing it at the McSweeney's/Zoetrope Christmas party. Sure, it's all in who you know, but it really strikes me how blatant an appropriation this is. They're good, but all this hooting and hollering is for run of the mill double-dutch stunts with cool costumes. No wonder the Times talks about some people complaining about their race. I know when straight people get famous for doing things gays see as their turf (disco, fashion, flamboyant magic involving great cats) the gays get pissed, though it's generally more grumbling than anything else. I think black people get more upset about blatant appropriation than gays do, since all we want is to be noticed anyway.

The other aspect of this I thought was fascinating was how superficially European it is. One thing that I find fascinating and bizarre about Europe is the way Europeans appropriate things from other cultures (dreadlocks, Arab music, bhangra, the blues) without any real understanding of where it comes from. Japanese people don't even pretend to care about context, and Americans are so self-absorbed we don't even bother. But Europeans think it's a political statement to wear dreadlocks, when in fact, it makes them look stupid. (Though the Rolling Stones got the blues right, as history has shown, and white Americans who were too racist to perform it were wrong.) Anyway, this Double Dutchess is an obvious case of appropriating an aspect of another culture without paying any attention to where it comes from, but, God love us, Americans do things ironically. So the fun is watching women dressed as criminals, or Catholic school girls, jumping rope. Europeans would just dress as black girls, jump rope, and think it's a statement. Americans dress as Black Sabbath, jump rope, and call it a party.

This all reminds me of those Radical Cheerleader groups that were popular about 4-5 years ago. Except that the RCs use their performance to promote social and political causes rather than promoting themselves and their careers as performance artists; they preach non-ironic respect for actual, non-avant-garde cheerleaders; and they are often recruited from poor neighborhoods, like the squad discussed in this Guardian article.

Outside discussions suggest that people might have some insightful comments to make on this issue. So if you have something to say, feel free to comment.

Our Favorite Republican

There’s nothing to brighten up a gray Monday morning like an interview with everyone’s favorite megalomaniac, Vincent Gallo. Before you head out to see “The Brown Bunny”, this entertaining piece will give you some delicious tidbits including that Vince has never read a book of fiction and can’t spell. What makes the interview really remarkable is the insight offered into the psyche of co-star and live-action fellater, Chloe Sevigny:

"After making "Buffalo '66" Mr. Gallo said he had all but decided to leave filmmaking because he hated working with stars (he publicly insulted his costars, Christina Ricci and Anjelica Huston, as well as Ms. Sevigny)….Ms. Sevigny, an old friend of Mr. Gallo's who had stopped speaking to him, said that when she was in Sweden working on Lars von Trier's "Dogville," Mr. Gallo began to pursue her for the role. "I got an e-mail from him," she said, during an interview, adding: "I'm not even sure how he got my e-mail address…She said that he apologized for insulting her "in not so many words and, you know, said that I had hurt him."

Take heed, horny young men. It’s the most time-honored trick for getting a girl to go down on you – talk shit about her, and then tell her it’s her fault.

For more Vince Gallo fun, Amy and I strongly recommend a visit to his website (“The Official Website for Vincent Gallo by Vincent Gallo”). But be careful before posting anything there:

"....if I notice any polluted messages, which usually come from bitter, jealous, ugly, poorly-hung men, who are unhappy at work and wished their whole life to be like me, I will remove these unproductive nasty little posts and I would like to say to these twisted queers and half-men, I feel sorry for you. All I ever wanted to do was be me. I hope one day you feel the same about yourself and release yourself from the petty, small-minded urges of polluting this message board and distracting its wonderful members. So go ahead and say whatever you want nasty about me, but know that we will all know by your insults just how small your pecker really is and how miserable your life has always been and how long it's been since any girl under 500 pounds responded to your cheap lines at the local pub."

Why, by strange coincidence, that’s also the comments policy of Amy’s Robot!

It’s our fondest wish that Vince will follow through on his promise to attend the Republican National Convention later this month. It should only take a few minutes for the Republicans (who clearly don’t actually know who he is) to figure out that their sought-after “young hipster bohemian” spokesperson is actually the GOP’s worst nightmare.

Who'dat?™: Surprising Celebrity Intersections

We've been playing Who'Dat?™ a lot lately. Remember how it works? We give you a picture of a celebrity in which the celebrity is sort of hard to recognize, and you have to guess who it is.

When you think you know, click the picture to see if you are right.

whodat

This one's tricky because of the mask, and because this is her Who'dat? debut, but you should be able to get it.

There are some interesting trends in guesses that we have noticed in casual polling with this picture that we discuss in the next section of this post. You can continue reading by clicking on the link below. Make your guesses before you continue reading! We don't want to give the game away, after all.

ps. pic via alaina

Continue reading "Who'dat?™: Surprising Celebrity Intersections" »

August 13, 2004

Who's Older?™: Irrelevant Celebrity Edition

Today's Who's Older?™ could even be combined with a
Who 'dat?™.

Both of these now irrelevant celebrities have been out of the public eye for some time, but are newsworthy for two reasons: one of them just got married, and one of them shares a birthday with me and Sir Mix-a-lot.


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