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January 2005 Archives

January 31, 2005

Mark Hamill: Dioxin Poisoning or Methamphetamines? ++

mark hamill

This month's Vanity Fair features an "Exclusive Star Wars Spectacular" cover with all your favorites. But what's happened to Hamill? Is he another victim of Intergalactic Dioxin Poisoning? Or, has he moved to Portland and picked up a nasty meth habit? Or maybe just a bad case of Robert Redford Syndrome? -ADM

Or is he turning into Lou Reed? -Amy

Or maybe just eating too much cake? - Emily

Yes, we know about the car crash, and we were cruel not to mention it. But it doesn't account for the bloat and the worn-out-by-life look.

NUMB3RS: 790 Math, 380 Verbal

numbers misspelling

It was bad enough that I had suffered through 40 minutes of the pretentious, pseudo-intellectual, hackneyed dreck that is NUMB3RS, but it became unbearable once the lead math hunk started telling his brother how something didn't add up -- there was an ANOMALY in the numbers, he kept saying. ANOMALY! ANOMALY! And then, to emphasize the point, we get an extreme close-up of the word ANOMALY. Except, of course, it was spelled wrong.

How many people viewed the misspelling before it aired? 12? 24? 100? Inexcusable.

Since "everything is numbers," allow me to employ the following expression to summarize the show:

((P + T) / F) - 2M = R

where:

Variable Definition Value
P Personifications of numbers/math/formulas/data 30
T Tedious moments 30
F Fake formulas flying across the screen (per hour) 60
M Misspellings 1
√R Reasons for watching this show Solve for √R.

January 28, 2005

Who'Dat?™: Unflattering Photos at Sundance

I guess Sundance gives movie stars the opportunity to appear in public looking all scruffy and unkempt, without their stylists and favorite photographers around to ensure their gorgeousness. Today we bring you a few highlights of Roger Ebert's Sundance photo album. See if you can identify the following celebrities (we admit...it's not too hard, but they do look pretty crappy), then click on the photo to see if you are right.

who dat?

This celebrity is not terribly hard to identify, but his similarity to Ryan O'Neal in this photo is disconcerting. Especially considering Ryan O'Neal is 12 years older than this guy it.

whodat?

This guy looks different just about every time we see him, but is especially grizzled here.

whodat?

Not the most flattering picture of one of our favorite actors. She looks a little like the considerably older Mary Steenburgen.

What Happens When the Graphics Department Goes on Vacation the Week of a Big Merger

MSNBC gillette graphic

Seriously, did someone in the MSNBC mailroom come up with this?

January 27, 2005

Commie-baiting makes a comeback

Now, I'm a girl who lives to call corporate 800 numbers and write letters to the editor, but my efforts pale beside those of Patricia Goldstein, who recently embarked on a personal crusade against a New York City weekly, The Riverdale Review.

Disturbed by the paper's editorial policies, Goldstein wrote in a few months ago accusing The Review of catering to "Jewish Bolsheviks" and "red-diaper doper babies." Publisher Andrew Wolf felt "compelled to respond," so he printed the letter, eliciting a sea of responses...to which Goldstein responded back...to which more people responded...and suddenly, you've got Goldstein praising McCarthy and crowing about "pinching the Bolsheviks in their tuchis," and poor Wolf wishing "the whole thing would just go away."

Does Goldstein have a point? Probably. Her main complaint was that The Review had become boring. Is she also a total nutter? Well, as letter-writer Stuart Eber says after meeting her in person, "On a personal level, she's nice enough...But at one point she pulled out of her purse a list of people who were Communists and had infiltrated the State Department. That was sort of strange."

I'm much more interested to see how the whole chicken-killing controversy pans out, frankly.

January 26, 2005

Us Weekly Photo Editors Make an "Ass" out of "u" and "me"

Kelly Ripa and kids

Correction: In Faces & Places "Happy New Year! Bikinis on the Beach..." [January 17, 2005], we misidentified Kelly Ripa's sister-in-law as her nanny.
- US Weekly, January 24, 2005

Hey, guys? Just because a dark-skinned woman is at the beach with Kelly Ripa, it doesn't mean she's the help.

Some of Bush's best friends are black

bush loves black people

"'African-American males have a — have had a shorter life span than other sectors of America,' said White House press secretary Scott McClellan. 'And this will enable them to build a nest egg of their own and be able to pass that nest egg on to their survivors.'" [AP]

See? It's actually good that black men have short life expectancies! Once we privatize social security, you'll be happy that you die young!

"Exit polls showed that Bush received just 11 percent of the black vote in November's election, a slight increase over the 9 percent he received four years earlier."

January 25, 2005

SSRI's and sexual side effects

If you have a doctor's appointment coming up, and you're considering which prescription psychotropic drug to abuse, I suggest you consider Wellbutrin. The NY Times has a charming anecdote about a woman who was prescribed Zoloft for her depression, which worked on the depression, but also destroyed her sex drive. In an attempt to counteract the sexual side effect, her doctor prescribed Wellbutrin, a wacky drug that has done all kinds of unpredictable and sometimes unpleasant things to those who take it. (You might have heard of people taking Wellbutrin as a part of an effort to quit smoking. Someone I know who did this had to go off it when she started experiencing psychotic breaks and minor hallucinations at work, so, you know, watch out.)

Anyway, the woman in the story starts taking her Wellbutrin as well as her Zoloft, and the next thing she knows, she's doing some shopping, and "spontaneously had an orgasm that had lasted on and off for nearly two hours."

The article goes on to point out that other drugs also mimic Wellbutrin's effects by increasing dopamine levels: "In fact, drugs of abuse, like cocaine, alcohol and opiates, release dopamine in this circuit - and so does sex." Considering that your insurance plan is more likely to cover Wellbutrin than cocaine, I'd probably stick with that.

Amy's Robot Oscar Picks

These represent who we think will win, not necessarily who we want to win.

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Don Cheadle - HOTEL RWANDA
Johnny Depp - FINDING NEVERLAND
Leonardo DiCaprio - THE AVIATOR
Clint Eastwood - MILLION DOLLAR BABY
Jamie Foxx - RAY [Amy] [ADM] [Emily]

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Alan Alda - THE AVIATOR
Thomas Haden Church - SIDEWAYS [Emily]
Jamie Foxx - COLLATERAL
Morgan Freeman - MILLION DOLLAR BABY [ADM]
Clive Owen - CLOSER [Amy]

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Annette Bening - BEING JULIA
Catalina Sandino Moreno - MARIA FULL OF GRACE
Imelda Staunton - VERA DRAKE
Hilary Swank - MILLION DOLLAR BABY [Amy] [ADM] [Emily]
Kate Winslet - ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
(This is a weird category this year. I don't think it's likely that anyone could win besides Hilary Swank, and she's already won an Oscar. Imelda Staunton is a possibility, but she basically plays exactly the same character that Brenda Blethyn did in Mike Leigh's Secrets and Lies; she also got nominated but didn't win. Those other three nominees don't stand a chance. -Amy)

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Cate Blanchett - THE AVIATOR [Amy] [ADM]
Laura Linney - KINSEY
Virginia Madsen - SIDEWAYS [Emily]
Sophie Okonedo - HOTEL RWANDA
Natalie Portman - CLOSER
(Cate Blanchett was the best part of The Aviator, but I think Virginia Madsen was also terrific, and could sneak through in a category traditionally awarded to the prettiest lady nominee. - Emily)
(Yes, this is usually the wild card category, in which actors like Marisa Tomei and Mira Sorvino can win. They might get really crazy and give the award to Sophie Okonedo. Oh, who am I kidding, there's no way. -Amy)

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
THE INCREDIBLES [Amy] [ADM] [Emily]
SHARK TALE
SHREK 2

ART DIRECTION
THE AVIATOR [Amy][Emily]
FINDING NEVERLAND [ADM]
LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT

CINEMATOGRAPHY
THE AVIATOR [Amy] [ADM] [Emily]
HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS
THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT

COSTUME DESIGN
THE AVIATOR [Emily]
FINDING NEVERLAND [ADM]
LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS
RAY [Amy]
TROY

DIRECTING
THE AVIATOR [Amy] [ADM] [Emily]
MILLION DOLLAR BABY
RAY
SIDEWAYS
VERA DRAKE
[there is no way MS is going to lose this one.]

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
BORN INTO BROTHELS [Emily]
THE STORY OF THE WEEPING CAMEL [Amy] [ADM]
SUPER SIZE ME
TUPAC: RESURRECTION
TWIST OF FAITH

DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
AUTISM IS A WORLD
THE CHILDREN OF LENINGRADSKY [Emily]
HARDWOOD
MIGHTY TIMES: THE CHILDREN'S MARCH [Amy]
SISTER ROSE'S PASSION

FILM EDITING
THE AVIATOR [Amy] [ADM] [Emily]
COLLATERAL
FINDING NEVERLAND
MILLION DOLLAR BABY
RAY

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
AS IT IS IN HEAVEN
THE CHORUS
DOWNFALL
THE SEA INSIDE [Amy] [ADM][Emily]
YESTERDAY

MAKEUP
LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS [Amy][Emily]
THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST [ADM]
THE SEA INSIDE

MUSIC (SCORE)
FINDING NEVERLAND
HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN
LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS
THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST [Amy] [ADM][Emily]
THE VILLAGE

MUSIC (SONG)
"Accidentally In Love" - SHREK 2
"Al Otro Lado Del Río" - THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES
"Believe" - THE POLAR EXPRESS [Amy] [ADM] [Emily]
"Learn To Be Lonely" - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
"Look To Your Path (Vois Sur Ton Chemin)" - THE CHORUS

BEST PICTURE
THE AVIATOR [Amy] [ADM]
FINDING NEVERLAND
MILLION DOLLAR BABY [Emily]
RAY
SIDEWAYS
(I'm going out on a limb. The Academy has Scorsese guilt, but they looooove Clint Eastwood. Plus, he's closer to death than Scorsese, so give him awards while you can. - Emily)

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)
BIRTHDAY BOY
GOPHER BROKE
GUARD DOG
LORENZO
RYAN

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)
EVERYTHING IN THIS COUNTRY MUST
LITTLE TERRORIST
7:35 IN THE MORNING
TWO CARS, ONE NIGHT [Amy]
WASP

SOUND EDITING
THE INCREDIBLES [ADM]
THE POLAR EXPRESS [Amy]
SPIDER-MAN 2 [Emily]

SOUND MIXING
THE AVIATOR [Emily]
THE INCREDIBLES [ADM]
THE POLAR EXPRESS [Amy]
RAY
SPIDER-MAN 2

VISUAL EFFECTS
HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN
I, ROBOT
SPIDER-MAN 2 [Amy] [ADM] [Emily]

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)
BEFORE SUNSET
FINDING NEVERLAND [ADM]
MILLION DOLLAR BABY [Emily]
THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES
SIDEWAYS [Amy]
[tough one] (I'd be happy if any of these won. Well, except for Finding Neverland, which probably automatically raises its chances. -Amy)

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)
THE AVIATOR [Amy]
ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND [Emily]
HOTEL RWANDA [ADM]
THE INCREDIBLES
VERA DRAKE

(It's a big year for Scorsese -The Aviator is also nominated for several special awards, including: Movie that Should Have Been an Hour Shorter, Movie That Didn't Really Have a Point, Prettiest Ladies in Soft Focus, Most Gratuitous Use of Alan Alda, and Film That Made Emily Fall Asleep. Twice. - Emily)

(Sorry for all the CAPS...we copied-and-pasted from oscars.com)

Brief thoughts on 24 +

dragon lady

Remember all those reports about how everyone working on movies with Angelina Jolie was transfixed by her and melted at her every glance? I wonder if that's what it's like on the set of 24 with Dragon Lady of Persia. She is awesome. [And man, she has some glorious hair. -Amy] The scene in which she learns of the plot to kill her son is the best thing I've seen on TV in a long time.*

As a whole, the ep is probably the best one since Season 1. There were some parts I disliked -- the re-introduction of the EXTREMELY tired and stupid "mole" plotline, the related parallels between This Year's Black Guy/Aisha Tyler and President Palmer/his wife -- and there were typically stupid small moments, like the EMT telling Jack his girlfriend was "dehydrated," even though it had only been about 4 hours since she was abducted. BUT the rescue strike in the beginning was the best gunfight on tv since the Jessica Lynch movie, and of course Dragon Lady was terrific.

Stylistic theory about this season of 24: it's a video game. The action scenes are more video-game like than any show/movie I've ever seen, including the ones based on actual video games. The camera movements and the character behaviors -- e.g., shooting a bad guy, then taking his bigger, better gun -- are all reminiscent of recently popular games. The strike at the beginning of the ep was like a flashback to my long hours of SOCOM II: Navy Seals, complete with "bang and clear" and a helicopter assist.

24 is still an immensely frustrating and at times laughably bad and even offensive show, but most weeks, it's fun to watch, especially if you fast-forward through all the parts where people are talking.

*Along with the episode of Desperate Housewives where Felicity Huffman has her meltdown. -ADM

There were so many wonderful moments in last night's episode, but my very favorite one is this: the moment in households across America when viewers cheered as Behrooz, an Arabic terrorist teenager, kills a guy by bashing him in the back of the head with a shovel over and over again. It was a scene of savage violence committed by a young kid, but I think everyone who saw it loved Behrooz at that moment. Very few shows could get away with something like that, but then again, 24 is all about showing the torture and destruction that you assume they wouldn't dare show on TV.

A few other great moments: Patchouli Pissant boy getting strapped into the torture helmet again, as directed by his Secretary of Defense father. And a throwaway scene in which we momentarily see Kiefer breaking a guy's neck with his bare hands while breaking into the warehouse. This guy kills people like the Gilmore Girls drink coffee. -Amy

January 24, 2005

Snow injustice

It snows in Brooklyn, kids go sledding

sledding brooklyn

It snows in Afghanistan, kids get whooping cough

snow in afghanistan

January 21, 2005

New Chemical Brothers album: maybe not terrible

push the button

Today's Guardian has a review of the Chemical Brothers' latest album, Push the Button, which is set to be released in the US next week. Given the sorry state of British dance music these days (pathetic recent stuff from Fatboy Slim and Prodigy, Orbital calling it quits, and Daft Punk's forthcoming album reportedly involving a lot of guitars--since they're French, maybe it'll be good) the Chemicals are one of the few groups from the old days who haven't become totally irrelevant.

I attended a "listening party" for the album earlier this week, and the songs that I think were off the album, and didn't turn out to be ill-advised mixes of new U2 songs, were good. The review suggests that they've left behind that swooshy, trippy stuff from Come With Us, but have also progressed beyond the big beat sound that they helped define (and also clung to for maybe one track too many in the late '90's.) This one seems to feature toned-down beats, more strings, and some effects that are "just deliriously odd."

Unfortunately, they fail to resist the worst trend in dance albums by groups past their prime: the guest vocalist. Bringing on Beth Orton or Tim Burgess from The Charlatans to sing for one of your tracks (or, God help us, Noel Gallagher) is akin to the moment a TV series brings on Dick Van Dyke or William Shatner as a guest star. One of the guest vocalists on Push the Button is Q-Tip, which could be interesting, but then again, another one of them is the omni-present Tim Burgess. "The Charlatans' frontman provided guest vocals on their epochal debut, but times have changed. These days, Burgess is resident in LA. Unfortunately, [the track] The Boxer gives him an opportunity to deploy both a standard-issue mid-Atlannick accent and his own patent contribution to the panoply of vocal styling, the Awful Falsetto. 'I'm a hustler, I'm a tiger,' he squeaks, sounding nothing like a hustler or a tiger."

Every album they've ever done has contained at least a couple of great moments. It may not be like the old days, but perhaps the Chemical Brothers can struggle through without becoming an embarrassment.

January 20, 2005

Inaugural Mess

"We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world."
- Pres. George W. Bush Inaugural Address

Ah, shit. We're totally invading Iran, aren't we? Listen, I want all my federal tax dollars back NOW.

"And now we will extend this vision by reforming great institutions to serve the needs of our time. To give every American a stake in the promise and future of our country, we will bring the highest standards to our schools, and build an ownership society...We will widen the ownership of homes and businesses, retirement savings and health insurance – preparing our people for the challenges of life in a free society. By making every citizen an agent of his or her own destiny, we will give our fellow Americans greater freedom from want and fear."
- Pres. George W. Bush Inaugural Address

Yep. All of them, right now.

Shout at the devil+

Is Jenna Bush a secret metal fan?

devil's horns

Ronnie James Dio, I am so sorry. - Amy

I believe Jenna is actually making the hand sign for dad's favorite team, the Texas Longhorns. Although some may consider this gesture, say, "inappropriate" at an inaugural event, it clearly outlines our administration's most vital priority: football. Condi Rice would allegedly drop the Secretary of State gig in a minute to be Commissioner of the NFL, and even Alberto Gonzales started out selling soft drinks at football games at the tender age of twelve. - Emily

Inauguration 2005: "The meaning and promise of liberty"

No Parking

Today's inauguration brings previously unseen levels of security to Washington.

"Bush awoke before dawn in the White House, the nation's cold capital under security so tight that 100 square blocks were sealed off to traffic." [AP]

"The security, the tightest for any of the 54 previous inaugurations in U.S. history, included 7,000 members of the U.S. armed forces and at least 6,000 federal, state and local law enforcement officers.

In addition to D.C. police, more than 3,000 police officers from other jurisdictions were on hand to help secure the inaugural ceremonies. Having come from as far away as Seattle, the officers bolstered a force that authorities said would virtually line the parade route from the Capitol to the White House, with an officer stationed every seven to 10 feet along both sides of the road.

The security for the events was being coordinated from a field office in Northern Virginia, where officials from more than 50 federal, state and local agencies were overseeing the police and troops, as well as SWAT teams, sharpshooters, plainclothes officers, canine bomb-sniffing units, bicycle patrols, Coast Guard cutters and surveillance helicopters." [Washington Post]

Unrelated: "An AP-Ipsos poll taken Jan. 3-5 showed that 49 percent of Americans approve of Bush's overall job performance, 49 percent disapprove and 2 percent have mixed feelings. By comparison, Gallup polls showed presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton with job approval ratings of nearly six in 10 just before their second terms." [WP]

Thankfully, all that security didn't deter a plucky bunch of Rockettes from making their way backstage. Kick for America, girls!

Rockettes

January 19, 2005

Who'dat?™: Greyfro

See if you can identify this aging celebrity, then click on the photo to see if you are right.

who dat?

The Daily News takes the gloves off

Need a convenient but trite metaphor for political confrontation to juice up the story for your readers? No problem!

Senate confirmation hearings don't get any more raw than the bareknuckle back-and-forth yesterday between Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Condoleezza Rice.
--columnist Michael Goodwin, "Self-demolishing Dems," 1/19/05.

Mike's looking at bareknuckle fight
--headline, 1/19/05.

January 18, 2005

Amy's Robot Policy Announcement

To readers anxiously awaiting Amy's Robot Golden Globe coverage:

The past few months have been a time of serious self-reflection for the editorial staff of Amy's Robot. In the wake of a disastrous presidential election, the rising death toll in Iraq, and the devastating tsunami in Southeast Asia, we can no longer in good conscience cover celebrity and entertainment news. Serious times call for serious debate of the substantial issues facing our world. These issues are larger than bogus awards ceremonies, star couplings, and idle speculation about celebrity plastic surgery.

No, we're totally kidding. Unfortunately, we are unable to present our usual exhaustive analysis due to pressing bar and dinner party obligations. But we would never leave you totally in the lurch. Below are a few issues from a largely blah Golden Globe night that we felt worth mentioning:

I'm Ready for My Montage, Mr. DeMille:
Seriously, who puts together the Cecil B. DeMille award clips? I'm convinced it's someone who hates actors. Each ceremony's tribute reads like a celebrity roast. Last year's Michael Douglas montage focused on his vital work in films such as Black Rain and Basic Instinct. Similarly, Robin Williams' 2005 presentation immortalized his performance in the universally reviled Patch Adams without mentioning the movie that actually proved he could act, The World According to Garp.

Grow up, Natalie Portman:
Natalie, we understand that you're milking the whole breathless ingenue thing, but it is gross to refer to Mike Nichols as your "Daddy." Also, now that you've been an ingenue for 12 years, maybe it's time to stop dressing and speaking like you're in middle school.

On the Other Hand....
Hilary Swank, you are a classy lady and a great actress and we love you. That is all.

Why are Rock Stars so Much Cooler than Actors?
Prince, we totally don't know why you presented the clips for Ray, but we would like to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press, your manager, and your pert little behind.

Mick Jagger, you may be 107 years old, but you are still the sexiest beast on the planet. Seeing Mick slink around the stage in his shiny pants after the parade of characterless presenters and tight-faced award winners makes you realize the difference between truly great rock stars and even the best of today's actors. His effortless charisma knocked everyone else off the stage, out of the building, and back into their Prius hybrids.

And finally, I feel for you, Ellen, because this is totally how I'd look if Robin Williams kissed me:
Ellen degeneres Robin Williams kissing

Other Tidbits:
USA Today blogs the Globes
List of Winners [Hollywood Foreign Press Association]

Every "Top Ten Albums of 2004" List on the Planet

Our friend Greg has exhaustively compiled the Top Albums lists of pretty much every publication in the universe to bring you this Mega List. He even aggregated the data and assigned each album a score based on its standing on all the lists. Following that is his own personal Top 20 Albums list, and following that is the raw data from 60 American and international "top 10" lists. While we might not personally share all of Greg's views on this year's music (for example, I think the new Streets albums is a lot better than the first one, and Interpol and Swayzak would probably appear on my list), we really like his style. Here's Greg:

As some of you know, I like lists. And music. So here's what I foolishly spent 10 hours doing this weekend. First I compiled 60 end-of-the-year top-10 lists. These were culled from major (and some minor) music magazines, webzines and newspapers, mostly from the States and Europe (specifically, I included 23 American lists, 10 British, 8 German, 5 Italian, 2 Dutch, 2 French, 2 Spanish, 2 Swedish, 1 Australian, 1 Canadian, 1 Croatian, 1 Mexican, 1 Norwegian and 1 Polish.) These are included below, too, in case you're interested. Most were sourced from Acclaimed Music.

All in all, this represents a pretty good slice of all the music criticism out there. None of these lists were made by individual people (e.g. Christgau or blogsters); they were all tallied from editors/ publishers/ contributors polls conducted by each publication. Also, all had to be ranked lists (thus I didn't include AllMusic or Rolling Stone, though I did use them to settle ties.) Then I just awarded 1 point for each 10th place listing, 2 points for each 9th place listing, and so on up to 10 points for each 1st place listing.

So here's the final list. I'm not sure if it offers any surprises or not, but enjoy. Following the list, I offer you something even more valuable: my list of the year's best albums.

Continue reading "Every "Top Ten Albums of 2004" List on the Planet" »

Naughty Little Monkey on PBS

Probably the most irresponsible series of children's books ever made, H.A. Rey's Curious George, is being adapted for 30 half-hour animated shows for PBS. William H. Macy will narrate.

No word yet on how they're planning to handle the infamous Curious George Sniffs Ether episode from the book Curious George Takes a Job, (now a popular subject of t-shirts for stoner college students,) the stories that conclude with Curious George and the Man in the Yellow Hat smoking their pipes, or the lesser known Curious George Falls Into a Wicked K-Hole storyline.

January 14, 2005

Anti-Americanism in consumers

Since we all know how much the whole world freaking hates the US these days, a clever market research firm recently polled 1,000 consumers in the UK, Canada, France, and Germany to find out how much this anti-Americanism spills over into their buying habits. A nice chart plots the selection of brands on two axes, one showing their perception of the "American-ness" of their product, and the other showing how strongly they say they will avoid buying the brand.

The results have inspired us to generate this guide for American companies who want to market their products to foreigners, who appear to be irrationally averse to certain goods that they perceive as being somehow more American than others.

  • If the name of your company sounds vaguely foreign or European, especially French, you have nothing to worry about. Brands such as Estee Lauder, Ralph Lauren, and Gillette are all perceived as not particularly American, and consumers don't plan to avoid buying their products. National Geographic apparently has enough of an international focus to be untainted by Americanism.
  • Brands that specifically align themselves with images of America, or that are defining elements of American culture, don't fare as well. Disney, Marlboro, McDonald's, Coke and Pepsi (though Coke is seen as more American) are all shunned by foreign buyers.
  • If you have the word "American" in your company name, forget it. American Express, American Airlines, and United Airlines are all thought of as extremely American, while Northwest Airlines is not. Consumers say they wish to avoid all three of the airlines, however.
  • If your brand produces the gold standard of whatever product you produce, it doesn't matter if you're perceived as American or not--everyone in the world will still want to buy your stuff. Levi's is perceived as very American, but few of the consumers polled say they plan to avoid buying Levi's jeans.
  • But when it comes right down to it, no consumers really make any sense. Jack Daniel's, about as American a brand and image as you can get, is perceived as being less American and more desirable than is Budweiser (despite there being a Czech beer by the same name) or Starbucks. As the article's author notes, "Some of the other results make me think that the people polled are just dumb. Chrysler, which polls in the danger zone as very American and unlikable, is owned by a European company!"

January 13, 2005

Law & Order goes lesbo-crazy

Any Law & Order fan will tell you that the best days of the show are behind us, but last night's episode might be the proverbial nail in the coffin. We've known that this season would bring the departure of Serena Southerlyn, aka Lawyer Barbie, and last night's episode was the one. The episode dealt with a case based on the murder of Jam Master Jay, but the notable stuff happened during the last few minutes of the show.

The DA calls Serena into his office and fires her. His reasoning is that she uses her heart more than her head in thinking through cases, and that this makes her better suited for advocacy work than for prosecution. A reasonable argument, but seeing as Serena's character has been this way the whole time she's been on the show, wouldn't the DA have come to a decision like this years ago? It sounds more like a conversation that a boss and his employee would have after 6 months, not four years.

Anyway, after she's been fired, Serena looks at the DA, and says, "Is this because I'm a lesbian?"

Whaa--huh?

Either this is just terrible writing, or the Law & Order producers wanted to throw in a little zinger as their worst ever character departs. Are we as an audience now supposed to go back through our memory of Serena, seeing everything she ever did through this new lesbian lens? The show has never been about the personal lives of the central characters, but still, if you're going to make a main character a lesbian, wouldn't it have been good to let the world know that, you know, before the last 5 seconds of her career on the show? This is not the time for character development.

Or if the writers knew they had to get rid of Serena, and since she's such a boring and poorly developed character, made even worse by wooden acting by Elisabeth Rohm, so they thought they'd throw in this zinger, then this is where it gets offensive. Something like sexual orientation is not just a throwaway detail, especially on a popular mainstream show like Law & Order. Especially when it is revealed as part of an employee questioning the reason they're losing their job. I don't think the show's writers intended anything offensive by it, but I do think they've run out of good ideas, and they accidentally suggest through this stunt that being a secret lesbian in the Manhattan DA's office is just a tossed-off little detail. They're grasping for anything sensational they can find, and they resort to something like this as a poorly-timed cheap shot at generating interest in a dull character.

Badly done, L & O.

[tx Agent 0019 for notification about this important but misguided episode]

January 12, 2005

Who's Older?™: True Love

Flava and Brigitte

We're suckers for real-life televised romance, so today we bring you a very special Who's Older?™, in which we ask you to think very carefully about Flavor Flav and Brigitte Nielsen, a couple of crazy kids in love, and currently starring on VH1's Strange Love.


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