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May 2006 Archives

May 31, 2006

Sweet Cherry: the immovable object of strip clubs

Sweet Cherry topless bar

The NY Times has an unbelievably extensive article today on a Brooklyn strip club, Sweet Cherry, that has been under attack by city council, local residents, and state politicians for years, yet refuses to close. Back in the '90's with the introduction of Giuliani's new "zoning laws" (aka rampage of sanitized Disneyfication,) a lot of strip clubs, topless bars, and porn shops closed down. Apart from a stretch of 8th Avenue in the 40's, most of the city's smut has been banished to industrial areas like 11th Avenue, and Long Island City in Queens.

But the intrepid Sweet Cherry just won't quit, despite an impressive criminal history. The Times says,

Sweet Cherry is a great champion, brazen and near untouchable. The authorities have documented an in-house narcotics trade, pronounced the club a brothel and charged the manager with rape. (He has pleaded not guilty.) Once, patrons repeatedly stabbed an off-duty police officer, who lost partial use of his right hand. Once, a manager of bouncers for Sweet Cherry was shot dead in his apartment.

But despite two civil actions by the Police Department, voluminous criminal charges and neighborhood protests, the club has been closed for a total of just six days this year. Eleven days after its latest reopening, two dancers were charged with breaking a beer bottle over somebody's head.

The bar is in compliance with zoning laws, so the city has tried to go after it for all its other, very plentiful violations. And failed every time. Now that some small-scale industry and more families are moving into the area, they're stepping up their consistently ineffective efforts.

The article is a great read, with exhaustive details on the many drug busts that have happened at the bar, the employment and possible harrassment of underage dancers, the off-duty cop who mowed down three people after leaving another strip club on the same street, and the dancers such as "Diamond, whose real name was Jennifer, and Chastity, whose real name was Chastity."

There's also an interesting map of the still-standing strip clubs, topless bars, and peep shows in the city that have also resisted closure. Still a few hanging on in Times Square/Hell's Kitchen. My favorites are Wiggles and Goldfingers in Queens.

May 26, 2006

Victoria Principal, "Skin Care Queen" +

One of our favorite sources for link, the World Entertainment News Network (WENN), which provides the daily gossip for IMDB, today ran an item that starts like this:

Actress-turned-skin care queen Victoria Principal has filed for divorce from her husband of 21 years...

But next to it is a picture of a woman who looks nothing like Victoria Principal! Have a look:

victoria principal looking stretched out

Queen of skin care? Are you kidding me?? It looks like the only skin care she's had is the Katherine-Helmond-in-Brazil Brow Lift™ she got from her favorite plastic surgeon.

And who is her favorite plastic surgeon? Why, according to the item posted above, it's -- surprise! -- her HUSBAND whom she is divorcing after 21 years. This guy must've gone to the Arkham Asylum School of Plastic Surgery. Just to keep things in perspective, take a look at the "before" picture.

So here's old Victoria Principal, touting her great skin care products, all the while getting nipped, tucked, stretched, sliced, and diced by her husband. Gross.

Here's a tip, ladies (and gentlemen): "Younger" and "Permanently Surprised" are not the same thing. I'm talking to you, Nancy Pelosi!


  • Pelosi denies getting "facelifts," but she might be arguing semantics here. I think she got a "brow lift."
  • WENN carries this great item today: "Former Dallas star Victoria Principal's estranged husband has attacked the actress for making him look like a monster after filing for divorce." Haha, but he made her look like a monster before their divorce!

May 23, 2006

24 season finale: slow boat to China

Kiefer gets busted

Some of my very favorite scenes on 24 are the ones where Kiefer has to help someone unskilled in murder to violently kill someone, which he often does over the phone. "Now fire the gun again, Kim," he said to his screechy daughter in season 2, when she had to shoot her child-abusing old lecherous bastard of an employer. But his failure to say, "... and now turn that gun on yourself, Kim," sort of ruined the moment for me.

Last night's season finale included an excellent iteration of this scene, this time on the phone with Petty Officer Rooney, a naval engineer who said he wasn't trailed in combat. Kiefer talked him through slitting the throat of a Russian terrorist, telling him just how to pull his head back and how to move the knife: "Do it fast; do it deep." Rawrr! Petty Officer Rooney slit that Russian's throat like he'd been doing it his whole life, adding a few Adam's apple stabs for good measure. Way to go!

And even though it came a season late, I was delighted to maybe finally get my wish to see Kiefer break out of a Chinese prison camp--something I'd wished for at the end of last season. When a guy like Kiefer begs the Chinese guys who are holding him "Kill me. Just kill me," you know it's serious.

All that stuff about "we Chinese have very long memories" was pretty awkward though. What, they hadn't forgotten about this guy who got their consul killed a whole 18 months later? Wowee. At least they didn't add any more lines like "Our people have been producing the finest porcelain vases for thousands of years! And who do you think originated all those delicious noodle recipes? You gotta get up pretty early in the morning to pull one over on us Chinese, the people with very long memories!"

Next season: maybe Audrey will finally die.

May 22, 2006

Healthy food: a new low in consumer self-delusion

From an article on the struggles many Americans face when trying to lose weight:

On a mission to whip herself into shape, Kate Kowalczyk tossed out the junk food and stocked up on her idea of good-for-you staples like yogurt and low-fat cookies. Despite her persistence, the 35 pounds she was trying to shake wouldn't budge.

It turns out those "healthy" foods were just as fattening as the chips and soda they replaced: The yogurt was filled with Reese's Pieces and the low-fat cookies were brimming with sugar that kept her hunger on razor's edge.

Her healthy yogurt had Reese's Pieces in it?! Why, that's candy! How ever did that candy get into her healthy yogurt?

Some consumer product research suggests that the yogurt that Ms. Kowalczyk selected as one of her "good-for-you" purchases was this:

Yogurt with Reese's

which as you can see has a big REESE'S logo right smack on the front of the packaging. "It's all in the advertising — you see this bright packaging that says it's good for you," said Kowalczyk, 34.

That's where I have to disagree with you, Kate. That bright packaging doesn't say it's good for you, it says CANDY. Plus you can totally see the Reese's Pieces right there in the lid of the yogurt.

Dieticians say that people will pretend that all kinds of ridiculous things are a good to eat while trying to lose weight: "Some weight watchers manage to convince themselves blueberry pie has its place in a diet — simply because it features a fruit, said Marlene Clark, a registered dietitian at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles. 'Just because the basic thing is healthy doesn't mean it's a healthy dish,' Clark said."

The article then goes on to point out that just because a snack food item may be organic or all-natural, it may still have the same number of calories as the regular variety (example: an ounce of Pringles potato chips: 160 calories, an ounce of Barbara's Bakery chips: 150 calories.) It's no secret that food companies work hard to maintain an illusion of healthiness in many of their products, but people, please. That defense only goes so far. Deciphering deceptive packaging and obsessively comparing fat content can be tedious, so let me make it really simple.

If you want to lose weight, don't eat chips. Or candy. Or cookies. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but Kraft and Snackwell are a bunch of liars. Tough love!

May 19, 2006

Do Not Anger the Gods of The O.C.

marissa cooper rip

We haven't written here about The O.C. in some time, due to its increasing irrelevance to cultural life, but last night's season finale, "The Graduates," does require some comment.

Luckily, we were able to sneak into a secret production meeting toward the end of this season to bring you this secret transcript:

Mischa Barton: This show is so stupid. I'm a real actress. I want out of this contract.
O.C. Producers: Oh, awesome. Can you have your trailer packed up in ten minutes?
MB: Oh - well, I mean, maybe Marissa could just go work on a boat or something, and then I'd totally guest a couple of episodes if things don't work out.
O.C. Producers: Yeah, whatever. Say hi to Neve Campbell and Jessica Biel.

(exit MB)

Producer 1: Car crash?
Producer 2: Yeah. And let's give her a big fucking head wound too.


Interestingly, the AP piece on this was written by a Sandy Cohen.

May 18, 2006

I wonder which catchphrase demographic the Republicans are targeting this year?

Nascar RNC

Bush speaks at a Republican National Committee gala in Washington May 17, 2006.

May 17, 2006

Are you Lost? Maybe it's because of the giant magnet.

lost magnet

[Don't read this if you haven't seen tonight's episode yet.]

Does anyone else have any theories about the giant magnet on Lost? We don't read enough forums to know if other people have come up with this theory, but we think there were three big clues in tonight's episode:

  • Eko's cross getting pulled up by the magnet.
  • The Hanso Foundation ad that said, "Let your compass guide you [dot com!]."
  • The sailboat showing up at the end.

If you put this together with the other available facts about who has accidentally turned up on the island -- the Oceanic flight, the Nigerian drug smuggler's plane, Rousseau's research vessel, and the real Henry Gale's balloon, it sure seems like the Dharma Project guys are using the gigantic magnet to tamper with the perception of magnetic north in the area, so that the compasses and guidance systems on these various crafts go haywire and lead everyone to the island.

It would seem that the Dharma team is doing this sort of thing whenever they need new test subjects for their project. As Amy puts it, they are using the magnet to "fish" for whatever happens to be out there. Another way of looking at it is that they've created their own man-made Bermuda Triangle.

One interesting exchange from last night's episode, though, suggests they may have been doing more than just randomly fishing: When Michael asks who "James Ford" is, Ms. Klugh responds, "You know him as Sawyer." To me, this suggests they may have known who was on the airplane before it crashed, and perhaps they brought it down to get specific people (most probably Walt). (Can't you just see the scene where Jack confronts ole Beardy: "But dozens of people died!" "It'll all be worth it, Jack, if we can prove mankind can blah blah blah....") Maybe they get them out there on the island so everyone can be free from psychic interference or some such. Who knows.

The show's creators have been making a big deal of saying that next week's episode will answer all kinds of questions, and I suspect the purpose of the magnet will be one of the things explained.

May 16, 2006

Readers: dumber than you think they are

Da Vinci Code maybe taken a little too seriously

If you're like me, you probably think the Catholic church and Catholic-affiliated organizations are making way too big a deal out of The Da Vinci Code and the ways its story deviates from Biblical assumptions about Jesus. I mean, come on. Nobody really thinks that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had children together, or that Opus Dei are a bunch of power-hungry murderers, just because that stuff is part of the plot of some popular airport novel.

But the chuch has gone so far as to appoint an archbishop to counter all the non-factual elements of the book, produce a documentary called The Da Vinci Code: A Masterful Deception, and Opus Dei wants a disclaimer about the fictional nature of the story to be shown at screenings everywhere. Which is ridiculous--doesn't the Vatican have bigger issues to worry about than a movie? Don't they know that people can tell the difference between a novel and a history book? How stupid do they think the general public is?

Well, pretty stupid, as it turns out. A group of Catholic leaders in the UK recently sponsored a survey to compare the beliefs of people who have read The Da Vinci Code and those who haven't. It turns out that the book does appear to influence what people believe about Jesus and Catholic institutions.

A Reuters piece on the survey says, "They interviewed more than 1,000 adults last weekend, finding that 60 percent believed Jesus had children by Mary Magdalene -- a possibility raised by the book -- compared with just 30 percent of those who had not read the book.

"The novel, which has sold over 40 million copies, also depicts Opus Dei as a ruthless Machiavellian organization whose members resort to murder to keep the Church's secrets. In the survey, readers were asked if Opus Dei had ever carried out a murder. Seventeen percent of readers believe it had, compared with just four percent of non-readers."

Considering that over 20% of the adult UK population has read The Da Vinci Code, maybe the Catholic church has some basis for concern. We all know that surveys can be biased and skew results in favor of a particular position. And I don't believe that writers and movie producers should be held responsible for some viewers' beliefs being overly influenced by their work. But if that many people out there don't understand that movies and novels aren't real, maybe Dan Brown is actually a frighteningly powerful figure in modern theology.

May 12, 2006

Poseidon reviews


My favorite part of A.O. Scott's funny and dismissive review of Poseidon, the probably pointless Kurt Russell remake of The Poseidon Adventure, is this:

"Kevin Dillon, plays a creep who goes by the name of Lucky Larry. 'You don't just get the nickname Lucky Larry,' this fellow observes, swigging booze from a hip flask as he prepares to cross a narrow catwalk over a pool of flaming oil. 'You gotta be lucky!' Gee, I wonder if he'll make it back to dry land, or even across that burning fuel. I also wonder if the black and Hispanic characters will outlive their white counterparts, or if the winner of an Oscar for best actor will give his life to save a mere SAG award winner for a supporting role on television."

Stephen Hunter of the Washington Post liked it even better than the original, though. After all, it's shorter! And doesn't have Red Buttons in it! And, I might add, Wolfgang "Das Boot" Petersen directed it, and that man knows from claustrophobic oceanic disaster movies.

Here's why Stephen Hunter likes it:

"The movie is not about being, it's about doing. It's basically an ordeal by ordeal. It's one damn thing after another, and the personalities emerge from the action, they aren't imposed on it. There's no intra-squad politicking, no coups or revolutions. The movie, unlike the quasi-religious gimmickry of the first, is utterly uninterested in metaphor. The movie isn't about anything except seven people trying to survive a disaster, and some make it and some don't."

Predictability I can deal with. Poseidon, you got a date, baby.

May 10, 2006

Katrina horror stories just keep coming

Michael Brown's hair mousse

In case you've started to forget the jaw-dropping political failure of responsibility we witnessed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, a couple of stories today should freshen up those memories.

First up: what happened to the teenagers in New Orleans' juvenile detention center. The Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, which was working to improve the conditions that incarcerated juveniles lived in even before the hurricane, held a press conference yesterday. 15 year-old Eddie Fenceroy said he spent three days without anything to eat or drink, standing in sewage-filled water that reached past his hips. 150 kids under 17 years old were housed with adult prisoners at the parish prison (minors aren't supposed to have contact with adult convicts,) and were later evacuated with the adults to a highway overpass, where police held them at gunpoint. Which I suppose is arguably a step up from standing in sewage up to your hips.

Next is a report from the Center for Public Integrity, which includes even more embarrassing emails from Michael Brown to various colleagues in the days after the storm. On the day the storm hit, the always immaculately-groomed Brown was getting ready for a TV interview and emailing with his then-deputy, Patrick Rhode:

"Yea, sitting in the chair, putting mousse in my hair," Brown e-mailed Rhode.

"Me too!" Rhode replied.

Of course, FEMA and the rest of the government soon started getting attacked in the press as an inept, racist institution. On September 7, around the time that Eddie Fenceroy was being held at gunpoint on a highway overpass as part of his prison's evacuation, Brown wrote to his press aide: "I am tired, no, angered by charges of racism. You know that neither me nor anyone associated with me is a racist. Grrrr.

"How was that Sonic burger?"

May 8, 2006

Smoking Ban? Not in Astoria

Egyptian Cafe hookahs

New York City's Department of Health claims that three years into the smoking ban in all workplaces, there is 99% compliance citywide. Sure, you probably know a couple of bars that wait until after the time of night when inspectors usually check them out, then put out a few ashtrays. Unless you live in Astoria, Queens, where the "smoking ban" is taken about as seriously as Guilani's campaign against ferrets.

The Post reports today that "nine of the city's 12 worst violators were watering holes and eateries in Astoria that cater to smoke-happy Greek, Slavic and other European ethnics and Middle Easterners." Reporters from the Post went into Croatian bar Cafe Scorpio at Broadway and 36th Street, which with 11 violations of the smoking ban last year is the city's worst offender. They found pretty much everybody in the whole place smoking. The manager said, "My clientele are all smokers. It's a European crowd," during an interview in which a patron handed him a pack of cigarettes. At Cafe Valentino, also on Broadway, just about everybody was smoking, including the bartender, who offered the Post reporter an ashtray.

OK, so Europeans like their cigarettes. But what about the part of Astoria around Steinway Street, where the businesses are more Middle Eastern than Central European? In the multicultural wonderland of New York, people from all over the world can come together around their shared love of illicit smoking. The hookah cafes along Steinway, like the popular Al Sukaria Egyptian Cafe, are full of men smoking water pipes and drinking coffee, and there are so many of them that I had always assumed it was legal to smoke in those places. The smoking ban doesn't apply to establishments that derive a certain portion of their revenue from tobacco sales, though this exemption originally only applied to businesses that also serve alcohol. This mostly meant pretentious, expensive "cigar bars" in Manhattan, like Circa Tabac.

Since the clientele of Astoria's hookah cafes is mostly Muslim and therefore doesn't drink, the city later agreed to a cultural exemption from the alcohol rule. Even though Al Sukaria is supposed to fall under this exemption, the cafe still got hit with 10 smoking violations from the city last year. Like the Croatians and Greeks in other parts of Astoria, patrons at this cafe also claim a cultural right to smoke: "This is our culture. In America people meet in the home. In our culture we meet in a cafe."

It remains to be seen if the city will actually shut a business down for repeated smoking violations. Fines range from $200 to $2,000, and clearly some bars would rather pay up than enforce the law. Back when the ban started, some people suggested that a better solution might be to have a designated class of bar that could buy a smoking license, so that customers (and presumably employees) could choose which kind of bar to go to. Bloomberg would never admit it, but maybe that's what we've ended up with. The city's goal of protecting the health of all workers is admirable, but they probably really don't want to get into a battle of cultural sensitivity with largely immigrant populations in Queens. As long as business owners keep supporting their smoking patrons by paying the city fines, looks like the Euro kids can keep lighting up their Dunhills.

About May 2006

This page contains all entries posted to Amy's Robot in May 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

April 2006 is the previous archive.

June 2006 is the next archive.

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

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