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August 30, 2006

It's not about politics

Now that a brief visit to an embarrassingly non-recovered New Orleans is over, Bush is back to more familiar and secure territory: the war on terror.

There is a nationwide Congressional election coming up in two months, and the fifth anniversary of The Administration's Favorite Holiday, September 11, is even sooner (it's gonna be better than Christmas and Thanksgiving combined!) However, our President insists that the series of speeches he is planning to make about the war on terror are by no means political speeches.

From the NY Times: “These are important times, and I seriously hope people wouldn’t politicize these issues I’m going to talk about,” Mr. Bush said after a fund-raising event at a private home in Little Rock before flying to another fund-raiser in Nashville. “We have a duty in this country to defeat the terrorists.”

AP reports that the closed-door fundraiser in Little Rock for the Republican nominee for Arkansas Governor, Asa Hutchinson, was expected to raise an estimated $400,000 for Hutchinson's campaign. Before he arrives in Salt Lake City tonight for his first terrorism speech at the American Legion convention, Bush is stopping in Nashville to attend a $2,100-a-plate fundraiser for Bob Corker's Senate campaign. I seriously hope people don't politicize those events either.

Also not to be politicized: Rumsfeld's comments yesterday about detractors of the war in Iraq, suggesting that they "seem not to have learned history's lessons" and then alluding to appeasement of Nazi Germany.

August 28, 2006

Plan B ad campaign

Last week the FDA announced that Plan B emergency contraceptive will now be available over the counter to women 18 and over. Great news!

However, I was surprised to learn that Barr, the company that produces the drug, doesn't expect to turn much of a profit on Plan B sales, which it expects will be around $60 million per year after it goes OTC.

In an effort to make Plan B as lucative as possible for Barr, I've designed an ad to promote the benefits of Plan B. If Barr is really going to rake in the cash with this product, they've got to target those people who engage in less than 100% responsible sex. So for everyone who likes to just jump right in and keep their fingers crossed: Plan B is for you!

Plan B ad campaign

[Thanks Cushie]

August 27, 2006

Talib Kweli Puts on a Show

talib kweli

Note: Most of the links in this post go to pages with auto-playing soundtracks. Turn down your speakers if you're at work, etc.

On Saturday, Talib Kweli performed for free at City Hall Park as part of the J&R Music Festival.

Talib has the potential to be one of the best MCs ever, so his name alone was enough to get me down there, but his long-time friend and collaborator, Jean Grae, was slated to appear, too, which turned this into a don't-miss event.

What made the show really remarkable, though, was the slew of unannounced guests who took the stage. The special appearances began with DJ Hi-Tek (Talib's collaborator on the excellent Reflection Eternal project), continued with the Phil Da Agony, Ras Kass, and some other underground stars, but then got crazy when Will.i.am and Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas took the stage. Will.i.am let loose with an extended freestyle, supplying his own reverb effects while Taboo stared at us menacingly [video]. But even B.E.P. had to step aside for the final guest, Common, whose arrival in his trademark earth tones and green slouch cap spontaneously taught the underground hip-hop heads in the crowd to be multi-orgasmic. Thank God Mos Def didn't show up...people would have started engaging in carnal acts with each other right there.

I took a bunch of pictures and shot some murky video, so if you're interested...

Here's a video slideshow. (The backing track is "Eternalists", from Kweli and Hi-Tek's Reflection Eternal.)

Here's some other stuff:

August 26, 2006

The Descent

The Descent

I realize that The Descent came out three weeks ago, but its box office suggests that not that many people have seen it yet. When I went to see it right after trying rock climbing at the gym for the first time, all I knew about this movie was that it was about a group of women who go caving or something and then all kinds of horrible shit happens to them and at least one of them ends up covered in blood and screaming at the sky/caves (see photo.)

But I didn't know that most of the active stuff these women do in the movie that doesn't involve getting eaten by cave monsters is basically rock climbing. So if you go see it, I recommend you try some rock climbing right before you go, because it's really cool to see these women doing a much harder and more dangerous version of what you were just doing. For the first half, The Descent is a surprisingly exciting outdoor adventure movie about some gutsy Scottish, Irish, English, and American women whose hiking trip in the Chattooga forest runs into some unexpected problems, and they have to rely on their own bravery and skill to work their way to safety. Or not.

Because in addition to rock climbing and caving, these adventuresome women also do horrific, bloody, and merciless battle with swarms of slimy, albino cave monsters! Many shocking things happen in relation to the "horror" aspects of the movie, which kicks in suddenly half way through. I really am fond of genre-shifting movies, the best and most extreme example probably being From Dusk Till Dawn (Tarantino crime-psycho flick suddenly becomes vampire movie.)

I don't want to give away details, but there are some jaw-dropping and inventive scenes of violence. Not all of the acting is great, but some of the women can hold their own, and give really awesome performances of toughness and grit.

In many ways, this is like a female version of Deliverance--a group of women go out into unfamiliar country in the middle of nowhere, filled with hubris and confidence, then they start having trouble with the elements. Someone gets a compound fracture. Then the deadly things lurking out there in the woods start pulverizing them. Except in The Descent, it's much, much worse. Deliverance was filmed around the Chattooga River in Georgia and South Carolina, where The Descent is set, though The Descent was actually filmed in the UK. There are also references to Carrie and Alien (sort of).

Great movie.

August 24, 2006

Christian Coalition's state affiliates split off, enraged at new liberal agenda

The Christian Coalition, which at its height had an active presence in every state of the nation, has lost three state affiliates so far this year--Iowa, Ohio, and most recently Alabama. These departures were precipitated by some focus issues the Coalition has adopted in recent years, which the states perceive as a drift from their core values.

The traditional, "good" Christian Coalition issues: keeping gay marriage illegal, making abortion illegal, keeping stem cell research from developing.

The new, "bad" Christian Coalition issues: net neutrality, protecting the environment.

Well! How dare they work on issues that might actually help people instead of just restricting rights and preventing innovation! Check out this great quote from Chris Long, the leader of the defected Ohio chapter, about the Coalition's recent lobbying for net neutrality: "We were surprised that the national office took such a lead role on such an obscure issue, at a time when marriage protection and stem cell research were being debated."

Of course, the recent demise of Coalition founder and former leader Ralph Reed's political career might have something to do with their sliding popularity too.

August 22, 2006

Update: TUSH 2006

Gnarls Barkley Crazy

About a month ago I claimed that the Totally Ubiquitous Summer Hit of this year was Rihanna's "S.O.S". While this more or less made sense at the time, I can't let this stand. It's been a weird summer with a lot of big hits, slow builds in popularity, and other surprises in the science of pop ubiquity assessment, and around late June, "S.O.S." looked like it had firmly grasped the TUSH designation.

But now that the summer is ending and we have some perspective, it's clear that the real TUSH that everybody hears all the time without seeking it out, and that will keep being played on the radio for years to come (have other people been hearing "Hollaback Girl" as often as I have this summer?) is "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley.

I had previously thought that "Crazy" was an indie kid's unrealistic dream of a big hit that would never achieve the popularity and ubiquity of, say, 2002's "Hot in Herre". But Emily has been hearing it at her gym all summer long, it's now on the radio on a seemingly hourly basis, and last week it came on over the loudspeaker at Better Burger and non-stylishly-dressed teenagers sitting in the booths were mouthing the words.

Yeah, it was released way back in March, but the song is still #2 on the charts (beating goddamn Nelly Furtado!)

Actually it's probably about time to start winding down the saturation of this song so everyone doesn't get really sick of it.

August 21, 2006

Movie review: Snakes on a Plane

Snakes on a Plane

Not enough snakes.

OBL: saving all his love for Whitney

To demonstrate just how pervasive celebrity worship has become in our world, Page Six today has quotes from a new book by Kola Boof, Osama bin Laden's alleged mistress/slave, in which she describes Osama's obsession with Whitney Houston.

Boof writes in Diary of a Lost Girl, "[He would say] how beautiful she is, what a nice smile she has, how truly Islamic she is but is just brainwashed by American culture and by her husband - Bobby Brown, whom Osama talked about having killed, as if it were normal to have womens' husbands killed." Sounds like love!

Perhaps his devotion to Whtney is tied to her (ongoing?) affiliation with the Black Hebrews and her visit to Israel in 2003 during which she repeatedly stated, "This is MY land!"

It seems that Whitney's coquettish looks and unconventionally Zionist tendencies may have been enough to make Osama want to overcome his racism and become a giving, generous lover: "He said he wanted to give [her] a mansion that he owned in a suburb of Khartoum." Though he told Boof that "African women are only good for a man's lower pleasures," he said "he would be willing to break his color rule and make [Whitney] one of his wives."

Hey, CIA: now is the time to secretly reopen Alec Station and get over to Pakistan with some copies of the unrated version of The Bodyguard!

August 18, 2006

Gnarls Barkley and Peeping Tom, SummerStage

Gnarls Barkley at SummerStage
(photo by Dan Dickinson)

Last night was the end of this year's SummerStage concert series, and also the final show of Gnarls Barkley's summer tour. With all the hype they've gotten since the spring, and their non-stop touring schedule since then, I was a little concerned they would already be burned out. They totally weren't at all. Their costumes were from School of Rock (Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse in short pants and red kneesocks) and they raised their goblet.

They did every song on the album except for "Online", as well as covers of The Greenhornes and The Doors, with pure energy and style. Cee-Lo Green is an unstoppably awesome front man--genuine, charming, funny, and soulful. He asked the crowd several times if we could dig it. We could. Danger Mouse stayed up on a raised platform, busy with his keyboards and other machines, but laughed with everyone else at Cee-Lo's banter and got down to the music now and then.

The crowd was a weird mix of slack-jawed scenesters, enthusiastic crinkly-faced music fans, and a lot of teenagers. I saw several sets of braces in my immediate vicinity. Gnarls Barkley have been such a sensation this summer, I guess it's not surprising that they attract a wide spectrum of people, but it was still sort of strange to see so many white high school kids grooving with grown-up rock fans to what is essentially radio-friendly gospel and soul.

The opening band was Peeping Tom, which is Mike Patton from Faith No More's new band. Mike Patton is as much of a maniac as ever, and still likes to do his crazy vocal stylings, screeches, yowls, grunts, and chants--my concert companion described him as a heavy metal human beatbox. A lot of the crowd went absolutely nuts for this band (the crinkly-faced rock fans) while the teenagers stood around looking like they had no idea what was going on. Mike Patton still has the same spasmic energy as he's always had, and at one point grew frustrated with the weak response he was getting from the audience, telling us we were a "Starbucks crowd". That got people all riled up, and he seemed pleased. When he yelled "Central Park, middle fingers in the air!" we happily obeyed.

Rahzel, the beatbox from The Roots, is also in the band, and performed an incredible solo interlude. He introduced himself, for all the people who only knew him as "a black guy in a white suit", then performed a scratched-up version of Busta Rhymes' "Touch It" using only his mouth and a mic. It was the coolest part of the night.

The band's, or supergroup's, DJ is Danny Elfman-loving turntablist Mike Relm.

August 17, 2006

Three good trailers

Just before watching The Devil Wears Prada (finally) last week, I saw trailers for three movies that looked interesting. Although we all know that the trailers almost always make the movie seem better than it is, I am uncynically hoping that these movies will be as good as they appear to be.

the departed

The Departed. The latest from Martin Scorsese features Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Jack Nicholson in a contemporary piece about the Irish mob in Boston. If you're familiar with the story of Whitey Bulger, the plot elements might seem somewhat familiar: One cop is undercover with the mob; another is leaking information about the investigation to the criminals. Nicholson is the Bulger figure, and the young'uns are the two cops. Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin, and Martin Sheen turn up, too. From what I could see in the trailer, it's a Scorcese film that at times looks like it was shot by Michael Mann: sleek, modern, and teeth-grittingly tense. Trailer.

children of men

Children of Men. Set in the near future, Clive Owen occupies an almost-apocalyptic world that seems to draw in equal parts from 28 Days Later, War of the Worlds, and V for Vendetta. But instead of zombies or aliens who haven't gotten their flu shots, humanity faces a more passive problem: Women can't have babies. The youngest human is 18 years old, and there are no more in the queue. Looks like we're going the way of the dinosaurs and dodo birds until Clive's ex-wife Julianne Moore shows up with a surprise: newcomer Claire-Hope Ashitey (I think) is in tow, looking very lovely and very pregnant. Clive's job? He has to escort the world's only expectant mother to the safe harbor of "The Human Project," a bunch of M.D./Ph. D.'s who've been trying to figure out why nobody can get knocked up. Apparently, there are those who don't want Clive to accomplish this mission, and he has to come up with ordinary-man-in-extraordinary-circumanstances maneuvers to get Mary to the manger in time for Christmas. Let me guess: he makes it. Despite the extreme probability of a happy ending, I think the fun in this one will be in the journey and the "What if...?" nature of the basic plot. Trailer.


Babel, aka We are Totally Fucking Fucked. It's Syriana meets Midnight Express meets Home Alone in this insane-looking international thriller starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. Brad and wife Cate are in an Arab country where they don't speak the language. Then Cate gets shot, they can't communicate with anyone, she's bleeding to death, and they are totally fucking fucked. But it gets worse: back home, their kids' nanny attempts to take them across the border to Mexico where they'll be safe, but instead she gets arrested by border control and no one knows what the hell is going on with the kids, including Brad and Cate. The trailer almost had me in tears in the first 60 seconds. Trailer.

August 16, 2006

Janis Joplin biopic struggles back to life, looking worse than ever

Janis and Zooey

Now that the planned Janis Joplin biopic Piece of My Heart, starring Renee Zellweger, has finally bitten the dust for good, some movie producers seem to have overcome monumental inertia and re-started talks for the other Janis Joplin biopic, Gospel According to Janis.

Back in 2004, Pink was planning to star in this movie. While this was almost as crazy-sounding as casting Renee Zellweger, at least Pink has some key features in common with Janis. Namely: she has a big, noisy, booming voice, she's got a tough-girl swagger, and she's not very pretty. Gospel According to Janis was a movie I would watch. Sadly, Pink pulled out, declaring that the casting process had turned into "some circus pop contest - who's the 'it' girl who wants to play Janis".

True to Pink's words, today's news reveals the radical, innovative new direction the producers of this movie have decided to take. Get this: they cast a really young, really pretty girl to play Janis. I know! It's crazy, but who knows, it just might work.

After considering Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, and maybe the least-Janis-like actress ever, Scarlett Johansson, to play the leading role, they have now settled on the willowy, sugary-sweet Kewpie doll Zooey Deschanel.

Well, maybe some of Zooey's rivals for the part can help her explore her degenerate drug-addict side.

August 15, 2006

More bad press for Slough

The Office's Slough Trading Estate

Slough Trading Estate is the home of "The Office"'s fictitious Wernham Hogg paper company. Like its analog on the US version of the show, Scranton, PA, Slough is accurately depicted as a soul-crushingly dull and ugly place.

It's also where British police just raided two internet cafes in connection with last week's foiled plan to blow up a lot of planes.

Terrorist cells might even be a step up for Slough's public image, based on David Brent and John Betjeman's 1937 poem ("Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough".)

August 9, 2006

Redevelopment for the Masses

world leaders on governors island

Ever since Governors Island re-opened, I keep meaning to go out there some weekend and look around. But since only a small portion of the island is even open to the public, and it's conveniently open um, almost never, I just haven't gotten around to it.

But it's one thing to go look at historic military buildings - and quite another to visit the Nickelodeon Family Suites themed resort complex!

When New York state bought the island from the federal government for $1 in 2003, they agreed that 40 acres would remain parkland, 20 acres would be used for education and 30 acres would be used for public benefit. Now the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corp. is determining how those areas will be redeveloped. Nickelodeon is one of 10 finalists whose proposals to redevelop the education/public part of the island are under consideration - but please. You really think the GIPEC is going to go with CUNY's lame "CUNY University Village" and "Leadership Park" or a camp for teenage substance abusers?

That's what I thought. And since the feds expressly forbid building casinos on the island - I'll see you on the Historic Jimmy Neutron NickToons Blast!

August 8, 2006

Iraq, cellphones, and black humor

Iraqis love their cellphones

The New York Times explores new depths of dark humor in today's article about the popularity of cellphones in Iraq, and the new and inventive ways Iraqis use them to avoid being killed, or to try to cope with the horror of their daily lives. Giving different phone models nicknames like the Allawi, the Apache, or the Humvee, many kids and adults trade in their old phones for a newer model every few months. As the article says, "It is the relentless violence — which now claims dozens of Iraqis every day — that seems to have fertilized the industry’s growth."

But the tone of the article is so dark it's hard to tell if it's meant to be funny, or just wry commentary on how precarious life in Iraq is today. This stuff is insane:

Jabar Satar Salaum, 50, the owner of a cellphone store on a busy street in the middle-class Shiite area of Karada, said he used his phone mostly to tell his wife that he was safe. On the ride to and from work across Baghdad, he said he called every few minutes.

His sons, Amjad, 17, and Muhammad, 15, said that cellphones were desirable not just because they were cool but also because they provided one of the country’s only safe forms of teenage self-expression. In May, a tennis coach and two of his players were shot to death in Baghdad because they were wearing shorts. Cellphones, in contrast, have attracted little religious outrage.

That teenage self-expression often takes the form of death-oriented jokes:

One of the most popular text messages making the rounds appears onscreen with the image of a skeleton. It says, “Your call cannot be completed because the subscriber has been bombed or kidnapped.”

Iraqis also use their phones to record torture and attacks, or to make jokes about torture and attacks:

Omar al-Jabouri, who heads the human rights office for the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party, said he often received pictures of men tortured or killed by death squads, many of them taken with the cellphones of witnesses or the victims’ relatives. At bombings, Iraqis are often seen recording the carnage in pictures or short videos...

...A popular video captures young men trying to decapitate a victim with a fake, dull knife and failing.

In case readers don't get these hilarious jokes, an Iraqi teenager helpfully explains the irony for us.

Everyone seems to enjoy laughing at Mr. Hussein. His propaganda has literally become a joke: a 2003 broadcast from Iraq’s state-run station, just before the war, shows a gaggle of soldiers with machine guns dancing and singing along with Khasim al-Sultan, an Iraqi pop star. “If you want the stars, we will reach out for the stars,” the men sing. “We will wipe America from the map!”

Firas al-Taie, 19, after showing the clip, laughed and tried to explain why Iraqis find the segment entertaining. “It’s not matching the reality,” he said, in halting English. “They said this thing and then something else happened.”

Hahaha! They said they would wipe America from the map, and now they're the ones being wiped from the map!

As a sociologist at Baghdad University says, “In Iraq, there is such an accumulation of frustration. If an Iraqi does not embrace humor in his life, he’s finished.”

Sadly, a lot of Iraqis with great senses of humor are finished, too.

August 7, 2006

The Ten--a comedy about sin

A new movie called The Ten is currently in production, and features ten short stories based on the Ten Commandments. It's sort of a rip-off of Kieslowski's Dekalog, but since it's by two of those formerly funny guys from The State who directed Wet Hot American Summer, it's probably a comedy and won't be all that good.

But it's got an impressive and growing cast, including Paul Rudd, Famke Janssen, Jessica Alba, Winona Ryder, Rob Corddry, Gretchen Mol, Adam Brody, Liev Shreiber, and many others. How can these particular actors be best used in this movie exploring the nature of sin?

Adam Brody as a self-obsessed skateboarder who thinks that his gnarly 360 flip makes him a god? Famke Janssen as a woman who spends her Sundays wantonly writing legal briefs? Ruddy-faced Liev Schreiber as a man in a jealous frenzy over his neighbor Justin Theroux's invisible pores?

I'm hoping that Oliver Platt and Rob Corddry get to appear together in the "Thou shalt not kill" story and plot the death of Ron Silver. And Winona's contract likely explicitly states that she will not appear in the story for "Thou shalt not steal."

August 2, 2006

Tzameti--now on tour


Last Friday, Tzameti (13) opened at Film Forum. As far as I can tell, this is the only place where you can see this movie in the US. It's by first-time Georgian director Gela Babluani, takes place in France, and is one of the most tense movies I've ever seen. 86 Minutes, black and white, in French and Georgian.

It's hard to know what else to say about this movie, apart from little bits of information about its production (for example, the star of it is the director's brother) because I really recommend that you see this movie, and because the less you know about it before seeing it, the better.

Seriously, don't read the IMDb or official site info too closely, don't read any reviews (the one in Time Out is appropriately secretive about the plot, but others reveal too much) and definitely don't watch any trailers. The one on the Palm Pictures website consists of the entire scene in which you first find out what is going on in this movie, and ruins the whole thing. What the hell are people thinking?

What I found so impressive about this movie is the way it uses violence (but not gore), slow-pacing, the sudden, stark revelation of what's really going on, and a few select moments of lightness once it starts unfolding to enhance the building intensity. It doesn't go for shock value in the same way that a movie like Saw does: it relies more on the straightforward, matter-of-fact acceleration of dangerous thrills than creative or elaborate violence. I've probably already said too much. Great movie. It made me gasp.

Though it's currently only playing in New York, Tzameti is going on tour to some other cities. Maybe someone's packing up copies of the film in a suitcase and bringing them from town to town, I don't know. Anyway, here's the screening schedule:

Fri Jul 28, New York, NY, Film Forum

Fri Aug 11, Los Angeles, CA, Nuart Theatre

Fri Aug 25, Washington, DC, E-Street Cinema

Fri Aug 25, Cambridge, MA, Kendall Square

Fri Sep 08, Chicago, IL, Century Centre Cinemas

Fri Sep 08, St. Louis, MO, Tivoli Theatre

Fri Sep 15, Atlanta, GA, Midtown Art Cinema

Fri Sep 22, Tucson, AZ, Loft Cinema

Fri Sep 29, Seattle, WA, Varsity Theater

Fri Oct 06, Scottsdale, AZ, Camelview Plaza 5

August 1, 2006

Man, I was so wasted Friday night!

Drunk Mel Gibson

Nobody likes to see drunk pictures of themselves taken shortly before they did something really regrettable. Which is why we take such pleasure in this photo of Mel "I own Malibu" Gibson taken on Friday night at Moonshadows in Malibu, a few hours before his arrest and career-incinerating tirade.

Check out the defensive raised fist and scared eyes of the woman on the left. It's like she almost senses the nearness of racist, megalomaniacal, violent, hypocritical, alcoholic bigotry or something.

About August 2006

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

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