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February 2005 Archives

February 28, 2005

Marty who?

Since this year's Oscars were so predictable and uneventful, we're going to pretty much let it all go without a lot of the usual mean commentary. Besides, FameTracker's recap more than suffices. I feel a little bit bad about making jokes about Jamie Foxx and how his childhood physical abuse made into him the talented performer that the world is juuust about sick of today, so I'll let them do it for me.

Well, OK, fuck it. I am glad Jamie Foxx won this award, because now maybe he can stop going off about how Ray Charles himself was the REAL star of the movie, and it's really all about the music, and the spirit of Ray Charles is the inspiration for all of Jamie Foxx's lowly talent, and on and on as if Ray Charles was some kind of obscure artist who nobody had ever heard of before Jamie Foxx dug his unknown songs out from the vault and gave them as a gift to the world's popular culture. We all know who Ray Charles is. He is probably the most famous soul performer of all time. See you in Booty Call 2, Jamie. And while you're at it, you might want to go to some counseling or something so you don't keep publicly confessing your childhood experiences that most people would consider traumatic personal events.

Martin Scorsese: we really believed it was your year, but as Rungu says, it is sort of fun in a cruel way to watch him bring out his hugely expensive epic Academy-pandering movies, only to see every single one of them shot down year after year. The Guardian nicely documents his moment of getting sucker-punched by the Academy, yet again.

We also bring you Cintra Wilson's annual hilarious recap (brief ad brings you to the article,) featuring especially funny commentary on the heinousness that she calls "Banderas! The Unquenchable Thirst for Shame."

And just in case you missed it, here is Hilary Swank's muscular back.

Hilary's back

February 25, 2005

TiVo: the new monkey on your back +

antennae or devil horns?

New York may still be the city that never sleeps (thank you Bloomberg for rejecting that bullshit 1 am nightlife closing time proposal) but lately, New Yorkers who stay up all night are alone in their tiny little apartments, watching TV. Yes, TiVo and other DVRs have turned a city of energetic go-getters into drooling sloths. Or rather, they've been turned into guilt-ridden freaks who feel bad about not spending even more of their time watching TV. The Post profiles these once active New Yorkers who lately vacillate between catching up on their shows in 8-hour viewing marathons and stressing over all the TV they're still not able to watch.

There has been a glut of articles written on the phenomenon of Too Much Media these days--there are more books, magazines, movies, TV shows, advertisements, cultural trends, websites, albums, news programs and celebrity scandals than anyone could possibly digest. And despite our best efforts to keep track of it all, say by buying a TiVo to record all those worthwhile shows you miss every week, we end up feeling even more behind when we still can't keep up with the onslaught with technological help.

The Post article says, "People who thought [their DVR] would give them more free time are struggling to watch every show on their lists - so they can delete them and start piling up new ones." One stressed-out guy says of his huge list of recorded shows, "The list is like a set of tasks I have to complete, or I feel like a failure. I spend all day making lists, just to go home to another list!" Considering the TiVo taglines like "You've got a life. TiVo gets it" and "Do More. Miss Nothing", the increased sense of obligation and stress that its customers are experiencing results from a misjudgement of the product; in order to miss nothing, TiVo users have to basically do nothing but watch TV.

In our desire to watch TV more efficiently, we end up watching so much we have time for little else. One sad DVR owner describes how he and his girlfriend spent their nights: "We used to come home from work, and she'd have her shows programmed, and I'd have mine, so we'd take turns watching each others' shows, and eventually one of us would get tired and go to bed." The couple has since split up. "It's crazy, because I don't watch much TV normally," he said.

Since 2/3 of Amy's Robot uses DVRs (and would probably have written better posts about this issue than the 1/3 who doesn't own one,) and because a rep from Time Warner Cable says their DVRs are still "flying out the door," we can expect to see more and more New Yorkers engaging in the TV marathons that some of us have experienced first hand. TV stations' fondness for programming back-to-back reruns of shows like Law & Order, Melrose Place, and, oddly, The Munsters only enables TiVo owners to spend even more time plowing through the hours of shows lovingly recorded for them. We've known people to have over 90 episodes of Law & Order on their TiVo hard drive at once.

Of course, even before the days of the DVR, some of us still engaged in guilt-driven accumulation of media that we knew we would probably never get to. I recently renewed my subscription to Harper's magazine for a foolishly optimistic two more years, even though I have a growing stack of unread issues already, and have yet to read more than one issue from 2004. I think we all collectively, as a culture, have to put some effort into letting some of this stuff go, and easing up on all this obsessive media collecting.

It's OK. You can just delete those Malcolm in the Middle episodes. The new ones aren't as funny, anyway. -Amy

In my experience, the feeling of failure that accompanies not watching all your shows goes away after a while, as does the desire to record stuff just for the sake of recording it. On the other hand, if you really like your shows -- be it Malcolm in the Middle (which is hilarious by the way...who knew?) or The Munsters -- then happiness is a full Tivo (or, nearly full, anyway). Tivo enables me to give shows a try without thinking about it or putting effort (heh) into it, shows that I would have never though to sit down and actually watch at a pre-determined time and so would never have seen without it.

These "I feel like a failure b/c I can't keep up with Tivo" stories have been coming out for a while now, and there's always a fresh set of despair-filled consumers who are a couple of months into their new DVR-driven life, always with a ready-made quote. Eventually, though, these people will enter the second stage of their relationship with Tivo, the guilt-free one, and will forget the stresses of the early days. -ADM

Pope Watch '05

John Paul II

Much speculation today on the health of Pope John Paul II. Although the Vatican claims that yesterday's surgery was successful, New York Newsday points out that the Vatican PR machine has historically had only two categories for the Pope's health: Fine, and dead.

Newsday also offers this handy graphic timeline of the Pope's many ailments. And if you're feeling reflective, you can go ahead and buy JP II's recent book, which received mixed reactions from Amazon customers. But let me tell you, it's a braver person than me who would give the Pope a negative review.

One can only assume that someone like the Pope got his flu shot, so what happened? Maybe it's that deadly strain of bird flu?

February 24, 2005

Spelling Lessons for The O.C.

Earlier, we briefly discussed our lack of posts on the second season of The O.C. Frankly, as a once-guilty pleasure becomes - well, no longer even a pleasure, there hasn't been much for us to say. But last Thursday's episode, which had the nerve to feature an extravagant party without a single fist-fight, was clearly a cry for help. It is time for us to step in and get this show back on track.

Since I've been watching a lot of Melrose Place lately, inarguably the best television show in the history of time, I've found myself wondering how a show that rode that perfect Melrose/90210 divide for 27 glorious episodes could go so terribly, terribly wrong.

I think the issue goes back to network television's inevitable reaction to success. Producers and writers have no idea why viewers watch their shows. Beloved shows, and characters, often catch on by accident, and when writers try to emphasize or recreate that spark they just end up throwing subtlety to the wind and shoving your face in what they assume you want. So now, rather than a charmingly geeky Seth Cohen, we are faced with a shrill, mumbly, paranoic stalker who's not even fun to watch. Even more disappointing is the producers' disingenuous insistence that Marissa's sweeps-timed girl-on-girl action is not a stunt(as even the NYT points out, February has been National Women-Kissing-Women-on-TV Month for some time). Listen to me, producers: wearing each other's tiny t-shirts and exchanging kisses on the cheek does not a lesbian relationship make. (ps - also, wearing eyeliner and reading "Please Kill Me" does not a punk make.)

What it all comes down to, O.C. staff, is that your show is a drag. I don't watch television so I can see actors moping, or playing video games, or eating dinner, or actually watching television themselves. That is bullshit. You can't have it both ways. You are either a prime-time soap, or you are a teen drama. And considering your audience is primarily in the 20-30 age range, I think the choice is clear. So, drawing on my advanced degree in Aaron Spelling studies, I offer the following advice to save The O.C.:

1) First, and most importantly, eliminate all "serious" or "sentimental" plot lines and go full-on Melrose. Unrequited puppy love? Boring. Forgetting your anniversary? Boring. Studying for the physics exam? Oh my God, am I still even awake? Go back to the glory days of overdosing on prescription meds and passing out in a Tijuana alley already.

2) Eliminate every adolescent character on the show.

Or, if that's not feasible due to contract issues:

3) Tell them to speak up and take the goddamm marbles out of their mouths. So far this season, I've heard approximately a quarter of the dialogue. And what's the best way to change that? 175% more fights! It's hard to mumble when you're calling someone a money-hungry whore and pushing them into a pool!

4) Death to the "teen" story lines. Good kids who do well in school and love their parents? Ugh. How much better would it be if Lindsay's sweet exterior hid a conniving, gold-digging bitch who's only after Caleb's money? What if Summer was secretly running a private-school prostitution ring? What if Seth died in a fiery car crash and was replaced by his evil, non-mumbly cousin? Or what if everyone just thought he was dead, but then he showed up and pretended to be fine, but had really gone totally mental and made collages on his bedroom wall of all the other characters with their eyes all scratched out and heads cut off and "DIE" scrawled over them, and then had sex with Jack Wagner, and ended up blowing up the whole apartment complex?! Or - you know, something like that. You get the idea, anyway.

5) 85% fewer shirts on Benjamin Mackenzie.

6) 400% more scheming, particularly on the adult side. Kirsten is a tough-as-nails businesswoman, so let's see more of that scrappy conniving - particularly when Julie Cooper's sister, played by Heather Locklear, comes to town to take control of the Newport Group!

7) 130% more intoxication, on everyone's part. Always a recipe for fun - and disaster! (see #3)

Take my advice, O.C. Your show could be wonderful again - just give it a chance. And a few more cocktails thrown in people's faces. Please.

February 23, 2005

Next target: AARP

Cerative Response Concepts, who are the same consulting group who worked with Swift Vets for Truth during the presidential campaign, have gotten to work on another key item on the Bush agenda, and guess what? They're using unethical and confusing methods to degrade another opponent of the Administration. USA Next is a conservative lobby group who hired them to create an ad attacking AARP, who have (obviously) expressed criticism of the Bush plan (which, in the words of Billionaires for Bush, seeks to make Social Security neither.) They also attack AARP in a number of pieces on their website.

This is the ad, with a graphic big red X on the solider, and big green Checkmark on the couple [see complete ad here]:

USA Next ad

Here's a letter from AARP about their stance on Social Security.

February 22, 2005

Bush's visit to Europe

bush's teeth

While touring Europe and doing his best to play nice with the world leaders he's been crapping all over for the last three years, Bush can't help but show up Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt with his far superior Superpower teeth.

Belgium also might want to keep an eye on their creepy Prime Minister, as he looks suspiciously like a zombie.

Dead people more interesting if beautiful, educated, sez Post

Consecutive stories in today's Post. Good thing they got this information into the lead:

A brilliant and beautiful pre-med student, who kindly stopped to help a car-crash victim on the Long Island Expressway, was struck and killed by another driver during yesterday's pounding snowstorm.

A beautiful blond college student from Connecticut was found dead yesterday in the Queens apartment of a friend she had been visiting for the weekend.

February 18, 2005

Sucking the Fun out of Childhood: Part 2

bugs bunny update loonatics

Our friends at the WB are set to debut a new X-treme™ Looney Tunes show, "Loonatics," on Saturday mornings, with familiar characters like Bugs Bunny updated for the year 2772. It's television from the future!

“We all flipped for it,” David Janollari, president of the Kids’ WB, said this week. “We just said, ‘Wow, what a great way to take the classic Looney Tunes franchise that has been stale for years and use it to siphon more money out of parents' pockets.”’

Haha, I'm kidding, of course. He really said: “Wow, what a great way to take the classic Looney Tunes franchise that has been huge with audiences for decades and bring it into the new millennium.”

But we know what you mean, David. Just like those guys revamping Trolls.

Why The L Word is still important, I guess +

Slate has a decent piece on this weekend's season premiere of The L Word, the Showtime series about pretty lesbians in LA who all wear pearlized eye shadow. Personally, I let The L Word go after about 6 episodes last season, mostly because of the tedious focus on Goddamn Jenny (Mia Kirshner) and her dithery and endlessly selfish process of "finding herself", which mostly consisted of messing around with Marina, freaking out, leaving her boyfriend, marrying her boyfriend, flirting with a bloated Julian Sands, messing around with Marina some more, freaking out some more, and writing a lot of terrible prose poetry. What a snore.

This season will (hopefully) have less of Goddamn Jenny, and none of that foxy Marina (who is sadly off the show), and more butches (although, I suppose, the introduction of a single butch character would be a 100% increase in butches.) It will still likely be an overly talky and sometimes dull soap opera about an ensemble of characters, some of whom are better developed then others. But, since it's about lesbians, the assumption in the media seems to be that it's inherently important. The author of the Slate article thinks the show is important because it depicts lesbians as being mostly like everybody else: drinking coffee, getting divorced, going to bars, having problematic relationships with their parents, lounging around topless, and applying fresh coats of lipgloss. In other words, they are apolitical, as compared to our dominant cultural conception of being a lesbian:

"This conception of lesbianism [as a political choice] is a bummer. It makes it so that the options are being a heterosexual who has sex for pleasure or being a lesbian who has sex as a form of protest. Which sounds like more fun to you? Obviously, we are in a different lesbian era now. While The L Word is eye candy, a glossy production on which everyone is luminous and constantly having explosive sex, it is also a memo to the nation (including the lesbian nation) that there are other reasons for women to have sex with each other than to dismantle the dominant paradigm."

I think that mediocre TV is still mediocre TV, and it's too bad that the very existence of a show about lesbians is in itself a political statement. But it's better than having no such show at all. I guess. -Amy

The L Word is definitely a victim of its own concept - even series creator Ilene Chaiken recalls how "at her initial pitch meetings, in 1999, she was met with the TV equivalent of polite smiles and patronizing head pats; then, after the success of Showtime’s gay-male series Queer As Folk, the cable channel told her The L Word was a go." But does that mean it can't be a good show, too? Hopefully we'll discover that this season. But here's some interesting L Word trivia, recently discovered via cable television: Marina has a history as a homewrecker, as she also was the plant in The Firm who seduced Tom Cruise in the Caymans. -Emily

February 17, 2005

Now Alanis loves America

We've been following Alanis Morrisette's take on American and Canadian media governance since she pulled that fake-naked stunt in a bodysuit last year, to voice her condemnation of "censorship" in the U.S. We covered her confusing relationship with a probably gay and definitely Canadian actor. And now, she joins the rest of us censorous hypocritical patriots by becoming an American.

She's maintaining dual citizenship, but says of her new legal homeland, "America has been really great to me and I have felt welcomed since the day I came here."

February 15, 2005

24: best season ever


If you're not watching this season of 24 because you got bored during one of the previous seasons, I can understand your reasoning, but let me just tell you: you are missing out on the best season of the show yet. There has yet to be a boring or uneventful episode, and the typical family drama tedium has been reduced this season to a few short, unintentionally funny scenes of the loopy schizophrenic teenage daughter of the CTU Director. And that's it. Then it's just all action, all the time.

Let's look at last night's episode, which was an exercise in audience gratification. Ever since Mrs. Araz, the Dragon Lady of Persia, slithered her way through those first few episodes of the season, looking evil and gorgeous and endlessly cool, I've been waiting for her first encounter with Kiefer. Of course! The two most hardcore characters had to have a tense and tingling showdown. Last night's interrogation of the Dragon Lady was maybe the hottest scene of this year's television season so far. The elements of the scene were like this:

Kiefer: Empathic but insistent demands for information, delivered in a relentlessly suave and velvety bedroom whisper

Dragon Lady: Unbending and militant commitment to her cause to vaporize the infidels, lots of breathy and heaving huskiness, also looks ravishing despite getting shot a few hours earlier

Tony Almeida: Driven wild by the smoldering interrogation he is witnessing, he is powerless to resist the slow and deliberate removal of his pants.

OK, that last part didn't happen, but Fox producers--feel free to use my ideas. Speaking of Tony "Amy still loves you even if you're a drunk" Almeida, I'm guessing there will be some moment later in the season when he encounters Michelle, his ex-wife who dumped his drunken ex-con ass when he got out of prison, who has gone on to be some kind of CTU Deputy Division Chief. If he wins her back, maybe he can convince her to start wearing those trashy stretch-lace tops that his new hell-on-wheels bartender girlfriend likes so much.

I'm hopeful that this season might keep the momentum going and stay bloody and exciting in the coming weeks, instead of floundering into sloppy filler crap. One recent tactic that works very well is to introduce a seemingly important character, then kill them by the end of their first (and only) episode, such as poor old Uncle Naseem from last night. Keep it up!

February 14, 2005

Everybody hates No Child Left Behind

NY Times headline: "New US Secretary Showing Flexibility on 'No Child' Act"

"Oh alright, I guess it's OK if we leave some children behind. Especially those poor, stupid ones."

OK, really what the headline refers to is some policy elements of NCLB that the new Secretary of Education, Margaret Spelling, is realizing are totally unworkable. For example, 4,000 veteran North Dakota elementary teachers were declared unqualified through NCLB standards, and after they protested, Secretary Spelling said they were qualified after all. She also agreed to ignore the part of the act stating that students in low-performing schools can transfer to better ones in the case of New York City, where this is physically impossible due to overcrowding. Of course, this prevents NYC students from taking part in what was supposed to be a major benefit of NCLB for families who can't afford private school. For now, the concerns of overcrowded high-quality public schools have won out.

Back to the article: "Ms. Spellings said that she intended to balance states' rights to control schools with the federal government's responsibility to reduce the achievement gap between suburban white and urban minority students. 'That's the most important thing I'm going to do, to thread the needle of that balance,' she said. The president, she said, wants her to 'get with the states and the Congress and work the problem.'"

"Thread the needle of that balance"? What does that mean? Maybe the Secretary was reduced to nonsensical metaphors because the issues of class and race in public education are far too complicated to be solved by obsessively testing middle schoolers.

Interestingly, it's the state that voted the most for Bush last year, Utah, that's especially unhappy with NCLB. Maybe that's because many traditional Republicans value local government more than seemingly ineffective federal programs, and they're not too keen on the burdensome requirements that NCLB has placed on public education, which is supposedly a state-operated service. So they're trying to pass a law for state governance of public education.

"Top educators are all demanding more freedom from the federal law's dictates. The legislature is considering a bill that would require Utah's superintendent of public instruction to give state educational goals priority over the federal law. The superintendent, Patti Harrington, urged lawmakers to pass it and predicted in an interview that they would. 'We don't have much regard for No Child Left Behind in Utah,' Ms. Harrington said. 'For rigor, yes, for achievement, yes, but this law just gets in our way.' She called the law's accountability system 'convoluted,' its method for defining highly-qualified teachers 'faulty,' and its requirement that disabled children be tested at their grade level rather than at their ability level 'ludicrous.'"

Who'dat?™: Valentine's Day Heartthrob Edition

In celebration of the holiday of love, Amy's Robot brings you this special Who'dat™, featuring a young man who was many a bright-eyed girl's first love. Make your guess and click on the picture to see if you're correct. Then go eat some chocolates, on us. Happy Valentine's Day!

who dat?

February 11, 2005

Dioxin: The Modern Prometheus

yuschenko kiss

For a few moments I gazed with delight on her dark eyes, fringed by deep lashes, and her lovely lips; but presently my rage returned; I remembered that I was forever deprived of the delights that such beautiful creatures could bestow and that she whose resemblance I contemplated would, in regarding me, have changed that air of divine benignity to one expressive of disgust and affright.

Related: Monster...hungry!

What ever happened to The O.C.?

By way of explanation as to why we haven't been writing about The O.C. this season, we thought we'd just post this recent exchange with a reader.


Dear Amy's Robot,

First, thanks. If it weren't for Amy's Robot, I never would have added Disc 1 of The O.C. Season 1 to my Netflix queue, in an effort to combat post-election depression. As it turned out, my wife and I watched all four episodes in one sitting, immediately drove to Target to buy the boxed set, and TiVoed the first 2 episodes of Season 2 while we finished off Season 1 on DVD.

At first, we thought that Season 2 was just off to a slow start, the
writers would settle back into their groove and The O.C. we had grown to love would soon return. Sadly, it's only gone from passable to bad to worse. For a while, I thought that Lindsay was the problem; get rid of her and things would right themselves. Now, however, especially after the past two episodes, I've had to admit to myself that the whole show (plot, dialogue, characters) has become flat, uninspired, not funny, even boring.

I noticed that, since the premiere, Amy's Robot has been silent on the subject of The O.C. I have to know: Do you agree that The O.C. has become a shadow of its former self? Or do you see qualities in Season 2 that I'm somehow missing?



Dear Michael,


Amy's Robot

North Korea: Bush Knows Best


BUSH: States like [North Korea, Iran, and Iraq], and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic. [emph. added] [source]


BUSH: It is naive and dangerous to take a policy that [Kerry] suggested the other day, which is to have bilateral relations with North Korea. Remember, he's the person who's accusing me of not acting multilaterally. He now wants to take the six-party talks we have -- China, North Korea, South Korea, Russia, Japan and the United States -- and undermine them by having bilateral talks. That's what President Clinton did. He had bilateral talks with the North Koreans. And guess what happened? He didn't honor the agreement. He was enriching uranium. That is a bad policy. [source]


KERRY: With respect to North Korea, the real story: We had inspectors and television cameras in the nuclear reactor in North Korea. Secretary Bill Perry negotiated that under President Clinton. And we knew where the fuel rods were. And we knew the limits on their nuclear power.

Colin Powell, our secretary of state, announced one day that we were going to continue the dialog of working with the North Koreans. The president reversed it publicly while the president of South Korea was here.

And the president of South Korea went back to South Korea bewildered and embarrassed because it went against his policy. And for two years, this administration didn't talk at all to North Korea.

While they didn't talk at all, the fuel rods came out, the inspectors were kicked out, the television cameras were kicked out. And today, there are four to seven nuclear weapons in the hands of North Korea.

That happened on this president's watch. [source]


North Korea's deputy U.N. ambassador indicated Friday that six-nation talks on the country's nuclear program were over and said the real issue is whether the United States intends to attack the reclusive communist nation.

Han Song Ryol made clear that his country's announcement Thursday that it is a nuclear power and would indefinitely suspend its participation in six-party negotiations was the result of Pyongyang's belief that the United States is bent on invading North Korea to topple Kim Jong II's authoritarian regime. [source]


U.S. Refuses North Korea's Request for One-On-One Nuclear Talks [source]

I'm glad the President realizes that when dealing with an arms-brokering nuclear power, replacing or supplementing multi-lateral talks with bi-lateral talks is "bad policy" compared to replacing multi-lateral talks with, well, nothing at all.


  • graphic showing timeline of North Korea's nuclear program and its capabilties]
  • Outstanding, extremely detailed timeline of North Korea's nuclear program and our negotiations with them, from the late 1970s to 2000.

United Farm Workers, Morons +

Nonprofit direct marketers are living a nightmare. A number of direct mail solicitations went out to potential donors that were addressed like this: "Herbert Kaiser, Jewish." Some of them even included those free personalized address labels with the same religious identification on them. The organizations that sent out these mail pieces are exactly the kind that would sooner torture an enemy combatant than promote stereotyping or profiling, including the ACLU, Amnesty International, and Drug Policy Alliance. Some other mail recipients had tags like "Catholic" or "Hindu" after their names.

Turns out the tainted names originally came from United Farm Workers, who apparently had asked a list broker they hired to add demographic information about donors to their address records. Anyone who has worked in marketing knows that a lot of market research information and potential donor screening is based on making assumptions, like that someone is Jewish based on their last name. Two of the people who reported receiving mail designating them as Jewish are not, in fact, Jewish.

As once private information becomes more and more accessible, easier to manipulate, and available to anyone willing to pay for it, it's hardly a surprise that organizations start segmenting and targeting their customers or donors. Even the ACLU. But when this typically invisible process gets printed right on an address label, it sure looks ugly. A Stanford Law professor commenting about the enormous income nonprofit groups make from renting their donor lists says, "If you talk to people doing marketing for nonprofits, you hear them saying that this is all publicly available information that is being passed around, so what's the problem? The problem is that what's publicly available has changed dramatically because of technology, and it can be easily manipulated to produce unforeseen outcomes, some of which can be terrible."

The ACLU is telling people who call them to ask why their assumed religious affiliation was printed on a solicitation, "We do not collect or store religious information on our members." But the fact that they buy their name lists from a company that does store this kind of information, and sells its valuable segmented lists at a premium, makes them complicit in this kind of privacy breach.

Comments from the Official List Broker of Amy's Robot (via Emily):
What happened in this case is, the UFW farmed out the job to a large, well-known list broker in California, Triplex, who left the coding in the file. The broker was at fault, and they knew better. It’s really complete stupidity on their part, to not have two people checking the list, but many people who are employed to do data entry just don’t notice or don’t care, and mistakes like this really end up hurting all the charitable people who rent lists. But even through non-profits make such a huge amount of money by selling their lists, it’s not all profit. Many people may stop giving you money, or drop out of your organization if their name is used too often. For example, I subscribe to The Nation, and was furious when they sold my name to the Communist Party of America. It's particularly bad when you rent lists to politicians, because the letter the politician sends for approval can be completely different from what they end up sending to your list. Organizations that are very cautious will do the mailing themselves, rather than give out their own list. This way, they still make a profit without releasing any confidential information.

"Public Enemy Number 1" Comes to New York

Wal-Mart happy face
Oh ho! It looks like the working man's friend, Wal-Mart, is looking into opening its first New York City location in 2008. And New Yorkers couldn't be more enthusiastic:

Wal-Mart builds communities!
Says Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner, "Wal-Mart has blazed a path of economic and social destruction in towns throughout the U.S."

Wal-Mart creates jobs!
Brian McLaughlin, president of the New York City Central Labor Council, adds that "Wal-Mart has come to represent the lowest common denominator in the treatment of working people."

Wal-Mart brings people together!
Richard Lipsky, spokesman for the Neighborhood Retail Alliance, says, "There will never be a more diverse and comprehensive coalition than this effort against Wal-Mart...It will include small-business people, labor people, environmental groups, women's groups, immigrant groups and community groups."

Interestingly, this news comes just after Wal-Mart announced it will close a Canadian store close to unionizing, citing "unreasonable demands" from labor organizers that would make the store unprofitable to operate. And I'm sure it would. As this interesting* New Yorker piece points out, Wal-Mart is stuck: its own business model makes it impossible to pay fair wages, because the low pricing allows such a small profit margin (according to the article, an average of 4 cents on every dollar of sales).

But here's another curious thing. Why are the same New Yorkers who courted Target so vehemently opposing Wal-Mart? After all, they're both big-box stores that sell products at discount prices, affecting local retailers in their communities. Target might have a hipper ad campaign and cooler opening parties, but are the differences betwen the two real or perceived? Sure, Target promotes corporate giving, but Wal-Mart also operates community programs, just as Target also employs a staff of largely part-time, non-union workers. Can we really be won over so easily by cheap designer clothing? Will labor and community leaders** look the other way, as long as it means access to cute kitchen accessories?

* Interesting, but ultimately incorrect: Surowiecki concludes that as big-box stores and manufacturers like Proctor & Gamble/Gillette continue to grow, economic power lies with the consumer - which is a theory I can't subscribe to.
**Disclaimer: I'm as guilty as anyone on this, I love me some Target.

February 10, 2005

The Gates go up

Since every single blessed one of the NYC-oriented blogs will feature wads of nearly identical photos of the Christo and Jeanne-Claude The Gates Central Park project starting this weekend, we thought we'd provide some shots that were emailed to our office of the people who were working in this morning's drizzle to set it all up.

Public art: it's hard work. But it already looks cooler than I would have expected, considering the simplicity of the project. But contemporary art shows us that if you just have a whole lot of the same thing, even if it's just some orange metal and fabric, it looks good.

February 9, 2005

Funny Arnold 2.0

Many movie fans know that the real hidden talent of Arnold Schwarzenegger which emerged after decades of starring in muscled-up action movies is not political sensibility or balancing social liberalism with fiscal prudence, but is in fact comedy. If you've seen Junior or Kindergarten Cop, you know it's true--the man has some real comic talent.

Kindergarten Cop

Watching Emma Thompson chase a fleeing and hugely pregnant Arnold Schwarzenegger through a college campus--that's some funny shit. So now that Arnold has decided to explore other, lamer career options, we're left with a void. A void that can only be filled by another burly muscle man who is not afraid to get a laugh out of a kid peeing on his head. That man is Vin Diesel.


IMDb's plot summary for Kindergarten Cop: "John Kimble is a tough city cop who's been on the trail of drug dealer Cullen Crisp for years. He finally tracks Crisp down but it seems the only person that can testify against him is his ex-wife. The problem is she's disappeared and all Kimble knows is the name of the school in Oregon where her son attends. When things don't quite go to plan, Kimble finds he has to go undercover on his toughest assignment yet - Kindergarten teacher!"

IMDb's plot summary for The Pacifier: "The film is the story of an undercover agent who, after failing to protect an important government scientist, learns the man's family is in danger. In an effort to redeem himself, he agrees to take care of the man's children only to discover that child care is his toughest mission yet."

Slavery and America

Another big PBS series: Slavery and the Making of America, which debuts tonight. Four different producers created each of the four parts of the series, which move chronologically from the first slaves brought to the early American colonies to Restoration and the Compromise of 1877. The philosophy of the series seems to be that not only is slavery a central element of our country's history and identity, but much of the wealth and power that America has today have their roots in slavery. The whole series is narrated by (one guess)--Morgan Freeman.

Tonight's first segment about the early days of American slavery includes some interesting elements. The Daily News review says, "In the beginning, Slavery notes, slaves had some rights, leverage and voice. Then gradually they were separated from other workers, including white indentured servants, until they became virtual nonpersons, human farm animals, given none of the rights of 'Americans.'"

The next two segments air next Wednesday.

February 8, 2005

Peace in the Middle East!

Palestine and Israel shake hands

Today's cease-fire pledge between Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas is an important breakthrough in the Israel-Palestine peace process, and a step toward one day finding a two-state solution.

It's a fragile situation, however. I don't know, something about this photograph of young Palestinians watching the summit broadcast casts some doubt on the pledge's successful future.

gunmen from Jenin

February 7, 2005

Into the Wall

head on

I was going to wait to write about Head On until it got a wider US release, but since that might never happen, I'll just do it now. David Edelstein from Slate, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite movie critics, starts his review with this: "Here's a cute idea for Valentine's Day: Take your sweetie to the ferociously compelling German-Turkish love story Head On , and then, when the credits roll, whisper, 'Our relationship has problems, but at least it's not like that wreck.'" The original German title is Gegen die Wand, which translates literally as "into the wall."

One of the darker love stories (sort of) I've ever seen, Head On is full of anger, blood, self-destruction, weirdly animalistic sex, and some real tenderness too, which comes as a big surprise compared to the way the main characters normally express themselves, which is by throwing beer cans. The movie follows two Germans from Turkish families, Cahit and Sibel, from their initial meeting in a psychiatric institution where they both land after half-hearted suicide attempts. Recent reviews (NYT, Voice) go into a lot of detail about the plot, but I don't want to give away too much. Suffice to say that at their wedding (it's a marriage of convenience to satisfy Sibel's oppressive and traditional Turkish family) when the couple goes into their private room where they're supposed to consummate their marriage and eat their special wedding foods, they instead each do a line of cocaine and sit there staring blankly at the wall.

What follows is an impressively screwed up love story that doesn't follow any script or pattern we're used to seeing. As Edelstein writes, we're accustomed to seeing movie couples fall madly in love, "but there's madly and there's infuckingsanely." Sometimes intensely bleak movies end up being somewhat uplifting, at least because they make your own more mild dysfunctions seem perfectly acceptable by comparison. This one does that, and also ends with a sense of redemption that can be visually understood by Cahit's physical transformation, from this:

Cahit shabby

to this.

Cahit hot

Hubba hubba.

The movie also features many club scenes shot in Hamburg. German-Turks really like to dance to Sisters of Mercy.

When Editors Flip Coins

star brad jen cover

us weekly brad jen cover

Maybe those two kids will work it out after all.

Earlier: Divorce is the Pitts

February 3, 2005

Oh my god, the service industry is sooo hard!

The Times profiles a disturbing trend in confessional-style web forums: bitching waiters. Another recent article in Time Out about all the horrible tortures that restaurant patrons inflict on the waitstaff also suggests that waiters are reaching a breaking point. I certainly agree that any job in the service industry involves special challenges and a lot of frustration with rude, impatient, and ungrateful customers, and I think that good waiters should be very well-paid.

However. The tone of the Time Out piece was basically this: You people who come into our restaurants are so thoughtless and uncivilized that you should be thankful that we even deign to bring you your goddamned herb-crusted tilapia, so here are some things you should do to make our lives as waiters easier and less stressful. Then they include some suggestions like "Don't ask for substitutions on menu items" and my personal favorite, "Don't make a reservation and then not show up." Yeah, maybe if the time of one's reservation bore any relation to the time at which one actually gets seated at many Manhattan restaurants, patrons might take them more seriously.

A chef who likes to complain about his job on one of these complaining waiter sites says, "I don't think civilians really have any idea how the staff really feels: namely, that they just can't wait to turn the table, get their tip and see the back of you. Let's be honest."

OK look, bitching waitstaff: first of all, the only reason that waiter jobs and the restaurant industry exist in the first place is that people are willing to pay $15 for a plate of penne with pesto, as long as somebody else makes it and brings it to them and does the dishes afterwards. When people are paying you to serve them, then you more or less have to do what they want--it's the nature of the industry. Some customers are rude and surly, but if you're a waiter, you still have to serve them. Sorry. It's your job. (Though customers should think carefully about being rude to people who have access to their food. As one waiter says, customers generally forget how vulnerable they are to the good will of servers. "I can never understand why anyone would be even the slightest bit rude to someone who is about to touch your food.")

One of the bitchy waiter sites that I do admire, however, is bitterwaitress.com, which features a list exposing really bad tippers. The waiter-patron social contract centers on waiters serving patrons, and patrons paying for service. Waiters don't have much of an excuse to complain about the nature of their jobs, but if you want to be a stingy jerk, make your own dinner.

February 2, 2005

State of the Who, Now?

Phew! It's lucky all those flying pieces of rhetoric and loose metaphors didn't take out one of Barack Obama's eyes! With such skillful wordsmithing, who even knew what our President was saying in his 2005 State of the Union address? Luckily, we've already had some experience in translating Bush's talking points. A few highlights:

"America's prosperity requires restraining the spending appetite of the federal government...My budget substantially reduces or eliminates more than 150 government programs that are not getting results, or duplicate current efforts, or do not fulfill essential priorities."
My staff tells me there are poor people around here somewhere, but honestly, folks, I've never seen them. I don't even know what HUD stands for!

"We must free small businesses from needless regulation and protect honest job-creators from junk lawsuits. Justice is distorted, and our economy is held back, by irresponsible class actions and frivolous asbestos claims."
That's right, freeloaders. Don't go thinking you can sue government contractors just because you got asbestosis building our naval fleets!

"Year after year, Americans are burdened by an archaic, incoherent federal tax code...you and I will work together to give this Nation a tax code that is pro-growth, easy to understand, and fair to all."
After all, what's hard to understand about "No taxes?"

"I have a message for every American who is 55 or older: Do not let anyone mislead you. For you, the Social Security system will not change in any way."
Your children, however, might want to start stockpiling cans of cat food now.

"Instead of 16 workers paying in for every beneficiary, right now it's only about three workers — and over the next few decades, that number will fall to just two workers per beneficiary. With each passing year, fewer workers are paying ever-higher benefits to an ever-larger number of retirees."
And then the operator says, "The call is coming from INSIDE THE HOUSE!"

"And every year afterward will bring a new shortfall, bigger than the year before. For example, in the year 2027, the government will somehow have to come up with an extra 200 billion dollars to keep the system afloat..."
I mean, seriously, where could we ever come up with an extra $200 billion?

"Because a society is measured by how it treats the weak and vulnerable, we must strive to build a culture of life."
Man, Dana Reeve looks pissed.

"Now we need to focus on giving young people, especially young men in our cities, better options than apathy, or gangs, or jail. Tonight I propose a three-year initiative to help organizations keep young people out of gangs, and show young men an ideal of manhood that respects women and rejects violence."
I call this program "the Army."

"During this time of war, we must continue to support our military and give them the tools for victory..."
Did C-SPAN really have to cut to Rumsfeld when I said "tool?"

"In the long term, the peace we seek will only be achieved by eliminating the conditions that feed radicalism and ideologies of murder...And to the Iranian people, I say tonight: As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you."
God, I love that line. I hope nobody remembers I used it already. Shit, man, this Iran invasion is going to be awwwwwesome.

Other Empty Gestures Wealthy Americans can make, Besides Inking their Fingers, to Show Solidarity with the Iraqi People

congress ink fingers

  • Listen to "1812 Overture" turned up very loud on stereo.
  • Drink tap water
  • Drive around on really, really, hot day with windows of Lexus down, and no A/C
  • Take wife to dinner at that place she likes, with the chicken - really? That place is Turkish? But, they've probably got chicken in Iraq too, right?
  • Rent Not Without My Daughter. Yeah, I know it's Iran, but we'll be spreading liberty over there pretty soon, too.

February 1, 2005

World leaders not doing very well with doves lately

pope dove

"GIMME PRETTY BIRDIE!" [Pope looks at a dove from the window of his private apartment]

Related: Yushchenko tries to eat a dove at his inauguration. [Low Culture]

Wonderfalls on DVD

Wonderfalls was one of the many shows last year that a lot of people, including me, really liked but got cancelled in less than one season. Now it's been released on DVD. Wonderfalls aired for only 4 episodes last year on Fox, but the DVD contains 9 more episodes that were never shown.

A few things the show had going for it: characters who have deadend jobs and no direction in life, who like to go to bars on weeknights. This is the kind of show I can get behind. It's one of the only shows I've ever seen on network TV in which characters order more rounds of drinks when they're already obviously drunk, and it's not part of a morality lesson about how alcohol destroys your life, and doesn't end in a car accident. It also featured lesbians cruising each other in a hospital on, like, the second episode. Yeah, and I wonder how a show like this could get cancelled.

Some Wonderfalls commentary by Rungu and his theory that it was created with more of a Canadian perspective.

About February 2005

This page contains all entries posted to Amy's Robot in February 2005. They are listed from oldest to newest.

January 2005 is the previous archive.

March 2005 is the next archive.

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

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