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January 2007 Archives

January 31, 2007

Celebrity rehab: one-stop redemption shopping

Mark Foley, alcoholic

The Guardian has an essay today chronicling our favorite trend of 2006: celebrities checking into rehab to try to redeem themselves when they get busted for doing something idiotic or illegal that doesn't actually have anything to do with addiction.

So far we've got:

Mel Gibson
Screw-up: Anti-semitic tirade, resisting arrest, "sugar tits"
Went to rehab for: Alcoholism

Mark Foley
Screw-up: Dirty IMing with teenage Congressional pages, probably illicit sex with same
Went to rehab for: Alcoholism

Isaiah Washington
Screw-up: Fighting with co-stars, using homophobic slur
Went to rehab for: some unidentified problem, possibly anger management?

And let's not forget old favorite Jim McGreevey
Screw-up: putting his secret boyfriend on the state payroll in a made-up job that he wasn't qualified for
Went to a "treatment center" for: an "addiction to being adored by strangers", whatever that is.

And this Guardian piece alerted me to two others.

Jade Goody, from the UK's recently ended Big Brother season
Screw-up: racist comments about another contestant, Shilpa Shetty--called her "Shilpa Poppadom" and "Shilpa Fuckawallah" and was generally an odious tv-famous moron
Went to rehab for: "stress and depression", hopefully at the same made-up rehab clinic that Isaiah Washington is at

The essay also claims an arguable trendsetting example, from way back in 2002:

Winona Ryder
Screw-up: shoplifting, denial of shoplifting despite being recorded shoplifting on store camera
Went to rehab for: actually was sentenced to get counseling instead of getting jail time

If only Robert Downey, Jr. had been so lucky.

But, as the essayist says, "the question remains: how much of an atonement is it when you admit yourself and you're not even really addicted to anything?" Checking yourself into rehab as a self-created punishment for unrelated sins doesn't do anything to solve your real problem (racism, pedophilia, sticky fingers, etc.) and comes off as a pathetic attempt to make the public feel sorry for you. No one had any hard feelings toward Winona, whose crime probably only made more people feel like they could relate to her (especially teenage girls, who love to shoplift), but Mel and the rest of these guys don't seem to have anyone fooled.

January 29, 2007

Democrats will definitely start getting tough any day now

Hillary demands that the US leave Iraq within this century

At a campaign event in Iowa yesterday, Hillary Clinton took her political cues from one of our all-time favorite Tom Tomorrow cartoons [thanks, ADM].

The headline says it all--Clinton: U.S. out of Iraq by January '09.

The Modern World cartoon is from 2002, and so far all his predictions have been forehead-smackingly accurate.

January 23, 2007

Greg's List 2006: A compilation and analysis of 90 "Top Ten Albums of Year" lists from around the world, plus additional commentary and lots of videos

Every year, our friend Greg takes all the "Top 10 Albums of the Year" lists from around the world, adds up all the rankings, and determines the 50 most critically acclaimed albums of the year. Being an incredibly voracious and dedicated music listener himself, he also offers his commentary on each of these albums, provides his own Top 20 list (with commentary), and this year has managed to link to YouTube videos for virtually all the artists mentioned. He even threw in an obituaries section.

As in previous years (2004, 2005), we are stunned by the amount of information he has assembled, and by the amount of music he listens to and comments on. Pazz & Jop and the new Pitchfork survey are great, but we love that Greg -- who is just one guy with no interns, no inside connections, and a roommate who only occasionally pays the internet bill -- is out there finding all these lists and listening to all this stuff, and compiling it for the benefit of music fans everywhere, including you.

Here's Greg's List 2006.

Hi friends,

Here's what I've assembled for my 3rd Annual "Year in Music" write-up.

First, as always, is the aggregated list, my attempt to rank the year's most acclaimed albums according to thousands of critics from around the world, though through a system of indirect representation. This year I collected 90 Top Ten lists from magazines and webzines around the world.

Continue reading "Greg's List 2006: A compilation and analysis of 90 "Top Ten Albums of Year" lists from around the world, plus additional commentary and lots of videos" »

Greg's List 2006: Obituaries

Greg supplied so much information for his list this year, we couldn't fit it all in one post. Here are his obituaries for some notable artists who died last year.

Syd Barrett

Acid-gobbler extraordinaire who masterminded Pink Floyd's first album, the goofy-demented-kaleidoscopic The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. 3 years later he released 2 druggy solo records and then basically disappered, but he'd cemented his reputation as one of rock's most eccentric and mysterious voyagers.

Watch a performance of "Jugband Blues" link

James Brown

Here's one of his finest moments from an on-air interview w/ Sonya. Amazing. link

Here's a live performance from '67. Without question one of the greatest performers ever. link

Ruth Brown

Rock & Roll Hall of Famer "Miss Rhythm" was a sensation for Atlantic in the '50s and, along with Etta James, helped bridge the gap from Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan to Aretha Franklin.

Here's a live perforrmance of "Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean." What a voice. link

Desmond Dekker

Iconic Jamaican singer who began recording in the ska era, though some of his best work was rocksteady. He also had a comeback during the late '70s ska revival in Britain, where he had first enjoyed the adoration of mods a decade before.

Here's the hilarious video for "Please Don't Bend" link

Arthur Lee

Leader of '60s L.A. cult band Love, whose masterpiece Forever Changes consistently shows up in the top 20 or 30 in "Best Albums of All-Time" lists. Love's sound was psychedelic but also relied on sophisticated song structures, with elaborate horn and string parts and fuzzy guitars, in contrast to the spacy, jam-oriented aesthetic of NorCal psych bands Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead. Lee's weird, weird lyrics were way ahead of their time and way cooler than fellow L.A. "poet" Jim Morrison's.

Here's a vintage video for "Your Mind and We Belong Together" link

Grant McLennan

One half of the songwriting team for The Go-Betweens, the Australian R.E.M. McLennan also lead a solid solo career in the '90s.

Here's the video for "Easy Come, Easy Go." Perfect pop song. link

Wilson Pickett

Southern soul singer, a contemporary of Otis Redding and Solomon Burke in the '60s. Never really a critical favorite but a great singer nonetheless. Here's a live performance of "Everybody Needs Somebody." Now this is feel-good music. If you're not wearing Wilson's smile by the end of the song, you've got a heart o' stone. link

Gene Pitney

'60s teen idol with an absolutely heartrending voice, best known for bringing more than a few Bacharach/David songs to life. Not the genius that Orbison was, but certainly better looking.

Here's some TV performance of "I'm Gonna Be Strong" link

Ali Farka Toure

Malian blues guitarist whose instantly recognizable style was one of the signature sounds of West African music in the '90s.

Here's some live performance. "King of the desert blues." link

James Yancey (J Dilla a.k.a. Jay Dee)

Detroit beatmaker J Dilla was one of hip-hop's greatest producers, fashioning a style as unique and progressive as those of Dre, RZA and Timbaland. Dilla supplied beats for the likes of Common, Q-Tip, Erykah Badu, Ghostface, and D'Angelo, but his 2 solo albums, this year's Donuts and the incredible Welcome 2 Detroit, really showcased his best work. Like The Meters, he could do more with a simple beat and some bass (maybe a little guitar, a little organ) than most producers could do with 24 tracks, and his beats thus had a loose, live, spontaneous feel (it's no wonder The Roots worshipped him). But as many others have noted, it's really all about the drums, often played by Dilla himself, which always seem to dance right around the pocket.

Here's the video for "McNasty Filth" (Dilla in the Astros hat) link

January 19, 2007

Study: Kiev lake more effective than Proactiv for smooth, blemish-free skin

Yushchenko, with surprisingly clear skin

We've been following the political career, and the dioxin-related skin problems, of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko since the near-deadly post-election poisoning/bad sushi scandal. And I'm glad to say he's looking very handsome and un-Creature-like these days while swimming in a pore-evaporatingly cold Kiev lake as part of an Epiphany ceremony.

Here's a before and after shot from right after the poisoning:

Yushchenko, before and after

Related: Dioxin: The Modern Prometheus; Look out, Condi!; Robert Redford Syndrome; greatest Low Culture caption of all time.

The People's Paper

Finally, a New York Times lifestyle story just for me!

Did you know that there are literally tens of New Yorkers out there facing a heartbreaking ordeal? They can't get the high-end appliances in their weekend homes serviced, because all the bumpkins in upstate New York and Vermont shop at Sears!

Oh, the tragedy of installing a "luxury Australian-made Regency VSA oven" and not being able to get the hinges fixed! The horror of "spending about $1,000 [to cajole] Sub-Zero into sending a repairman on the 40-minute drive from Albany!" And what if your vacation home is on Fire Island? Did you know they don't even have cars there?!

Sadly, many of these folks are now turning to sub-par brands like KitchenAid and G.E. (which seem, curiously, to not break down as frequently). I mean, why even bother being an "executive vice president for luxury real estate sales" or a "vice president at the Corcoran Group real estate company" if you have to keep your Berkshire pork cold under a fucking block of ice in the backyard?

Oh, boohoo. Relevance aside, this article isn't even interesting. Appliance repair? How did this pitch even make the first editorial cut?

Congratulations, New York Times, for the most useless news article of 2007 so far! And to think I had my money on New York Magazine.

January 18, 2007

What you say about his company! Is what you say about society!

knights of prosperity!

Most TV shows that want to be successful try to pick soundtrack music that suggests a certain fashionable coolness that will appeal to today's young generation of trend-setters. You've got Neko Case getting played on Veronica Mars and some po-faced acoustic guy named Josh Kelley showing up on Smallville.

Most shows decide not to include, for example, Rush on their soundtrack, because doing so would label your show as being hopelessly lame and out of touch with key marketing demographics.

But for ABC's wonderful new Knights of Prosperity? No problem.

You can see Eugene Gerkin, Rockefeller Butts, and Gary Subramaniam jamming to "Tom Sawyer" in the first minute and a half of last night's episode (the 1/17/07 one) on the ABC website. [You probably have to sit through an ad, but it's worth it.]

January 16, 2007

Is Fat The New Black?

Jennifer Hudson

There is a time-honored tradition at televised awards ceremonies of cutting to appropriate racial and gendered reaction shots during winner's speeches. For instance, when a lady of a certain age wins an award, we see a quick shot of Diane Keaton or Meryl Streep applauding. When a black person wins, we cut to Lou Gossett, Jr.

As Hollywood gathered to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. last night - I'm sorry, the Golden Globes - the tradition continued. When Jennifer Hudson won her Best Supporting Actress Award, it was only natural that the cameras would immediately cut to - Ugly Betty's America Ferrera.

hot America Ferrera

Congratulations, Jennifer Hudson! You've moved beyond the world of racial typecasting! Just like in Dreamgirls, fat and plain cut across all barriers, even if you've got pipes.

Sidenote: Since we have a deep love for America Ferrera - especially after her charming acceptance speech - I should mention that for "ugly fat girls", both she and Jennifer Hudson were smokin' last night.

Whereas Beyonce -

Vegas beyonce

Well, she mostly looked like a Solid Gold dancer.

24: season 6 premiere

Kiefer with cellphone, saving the world

You know, sitting down to watch the premiere of the sixth (!) season of 24 made me think for a brief moment about the psychological phenomenon of learned helplessness: when victims of systematic abuse begin to believe that they are truly powerless to fight against whatever's being done to them. Like my life was about to start sliding away into a void of half-assed characters and sloppy writing all over again.

Then Kiefer killed a man by ripping out his neck with his teeth, and the world seemed like a brighter place again.

But it turned out that good old Kiefer is experiencing some learned helplessness himself after spending the last two years getting beaten to within an inch of his life by the Chinese. The most interesting parts of the first four hours of this season have been about Kiefer questioning his own abilities. The best scene was the one where he tries to extract information out of one of Assad's traitorous men, then gives up after looking in his eyes and "seeing" that the guy wasn't going to break. Certainly, having empathy for your torture victims isn't a very strategic tactic.

So then when Assad casually picks up a kitchen knife and slides it in right below the guy's kneecap, and immediately gets the info they need, Kiefer looks at Assad with something like adoration and nausea. Assad still has the ability to do whatever it takes, which is the very quality that's made Jack Bauer one of the best characters on TV these past few years.

Even though Kiefer delivers a couple of speeches about how he doesn't think he can do this anymore, when it comes right down to it, he pulls through every time after this one botched torture scene. Sure, he staggered off and puked his guts out after shooting Curtis, but at the moment, he did the right thing. It started to get tedious last season when Kiefer was so completely accurate in always knowing the correct course of action--and it got really frustrating when other characters resisted just doing whatever he tells them to do. Haven't they figured it out by now? Kiefer is ALWAYS RIGHT, people! So watching Kiefer screw up a little bit at least creates some interesting room for doubt this season.

Though after the smoking gun did in fact take the form of a mushroom cloud (damn you Fox!) I think we can assume that Kiefer's going to shed that self-doubt like he did his mountain man beard and get back to full-time world-saving.

Couple of other interesting things: I really loved Zach Braff Kumar Kal Penn as Ahmed, hamming it up as the teenage suburban terrorist throwing back a whole bottle of pain pills. Assad looks like an older, more haggard Nick Stahl, and though he was only around for a few brief moments before detonation, nuclear engineer and enemy combatant Hassan Numair had the same doe eyes and chipmunk cheeks as little Sam on Freaks and Geeks. And my favorite part of the show, apart from Kiefer, is still when regular people suddenly become murderers when they're thrown into extreme situations, such as Mr. Ray Wallace, who killed the suitcase bomb parts dealer with a lamp, a cement floor, and his bare hands.

I can't believe this stuff gets shown on network TV.

Anyway, pretty good start for the season. Looks like the show's producers have figured out that torture scenes + civilian deaths + bombs = good ratings. But in every single season, the Palmer family seems to be cursed with boring plotlines. Every time a Palmer family member is on screen, you know it's the best time to go to the kitchen or switch to the Golden Globes. Those people just cannot get a break. And how about that electronic shredding program that the Palmer sister used to destroy the Islamic-American Alliance's personnel records? Wouldn't any organization also keep paper W-4's and stuff like that on file? Please.

January 11, 2007

In-flight movies


If you've been on a lot of long flights, you've probably seen some interesting choices in in-flight movies. Most likely, they were edited like crazy (what is the point of showing The Crying Game if you're going to cut the infamous shot?) and sometimes not in the way you would expect. Some Air New Zealand travelers were surprised at in-flight screenings of The Queen and The Departed, in which the word "God" was edited out, but everybody could hear Matt Damon say that "the guys in the fi-uh depahtment are a buncha facking quee-uhs."

Virgin, on the other hand, is one of the few airlines to screen unedited movies. And the story is that on their first flight, they cheekily showed Airplane!.

But there are movies out there that even Virgin might decide not to show on their flights. Air Force One, Red Eye, Flightplan--movies whose post-theatrical sales were never intended to include airlines.

Or, I guess, why the hell not? A friend of mine recently flew to Australia on Quantas--check out the movies that were actually shown in-flight:

1) Snakes on a Plane (OK, it's a spoof, still surprising)
2) The Aristocrats (8 year-olds could sit there on the plane and watch Bob Saget talk about skull rape?!)

and you are never going to believe this one:

3) UNITED 93

Yes, really.

January 9, 2007

CES vs. Macworld

The latest products from Apple were just announced at Macworld, and they're as sleek and gorgeous as you would expect. And functional! The iPhone combines phone, iPod, and PDA, and appears to automatically switch functions when you want it to by reading your mind.

Take a look at the new hotly anticipated iPhone, which as ADM says, looks like something out of Minority Report.


Lots more pictures.

Meanwhile, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas, the rest of the world is unveiling some nice new stuff, and also some clunky, unstylish pieces of crap. A photo of the VenMill Industries "Skip-Away", courtesy of Wired.

Skip-Away, unbelievably hideous

The "Skip-Away" is apparently supposed to fix your CDs so they don't skip, but the title also serves as a warning of what you should do to get away from this hideous thing "quickly, or the ugly may rub off on you," as one commenter puts it.

Perhaps inspired by my favorite of the John Hodgman Get A Mac commercials ("I have some very cool apps. Yeah, calculator. Clock.") non-Apple electronics companies displayed bold new innovations such as a CD player and a clock radio at CES.

Way to go, guys! How about getting a reel-to-reel tape deck into next year's show?

January 8, 2007

Top movies of 2006

It probably says something about the world's collective psychological state that the best movies of the year tended to be the darkest ones, too. The most memorable movies also had the highest body counts and lots of gruesome images that, months later, are still burned into my brain. Actually, maybe I need some counseling.

There were a few lighter moments too--Almodóvar came through with a glorious ode to the strength of women in general, and the industrial cantilevered wonder of Penelope Cruz's cleavage in particular. The best horror movies were equally scary and funny. Borat and Little Miss Sunshine were wicked and hilarious. But mostly, I think we can definitely say that the unifying theme of 2006 was people getting shot in the head.

Here's the list, not particularly ranked.

Pan's Labyrinth
Only in a Guillermo del Toro movie would a little girl see a giant flying praying mantis-like bug and say with delight, "Are you a fairy?" A children's movie that no one under 18 should see, the fantasy world in Pan's Labyrinth is just about as scary and painful as real life. Also, Maribel Verdú is awesome as Mercedes, the gutsiest character of the year, and Sergi López, as usual, rules.

Children of Men
Two of the best movies of the year were by Mexican directors, and this one specifically addresses the persecution of migrants as one of the biggest ways our society is screwing itself over. Set in a not-so-distant future in which the whole world is totally fucked, this movie has the most incredible continuous tracking action shots I've ever seen. Clive Owen may not have gotten to be the new Bond, but he's still a great action star. Also features the best car chase scene with a non-running car.

The Descent
This movie was already really awesome and engrossing when it was just about some women in over their heads (haha!) on a caving expedition gone wrong. Then when the slimy albino flesh-eaters start crawling up the walls, it's like an added bonus. Truly shockingly gory and depraved. Loved it.

Half Nelson
A real sock to the gut. It's hard to do a character like this one: a drug-addicted, self-pitying, spectacular disaster of a man who hates everything in his whole life, but is also a gifted teacher and does it all for the children. Sounds awful, doesn't it? Somehow, Ryan Gosling (?!) pulls it off. The most unlikely great movie of the year. And Shareeka Epps as the student he befriends is amazing--watching her become older and wiser is the best part of the movie. I'm sure she'll really blow all our minds in Alien vs Predator 2.

United 93
It's hard to talk about this movie strictly in terms of its artistic merit, since it used original source material for much of the script, and so many people played themselves in the military and ATC scenes. Here's what I liked about it: I delayed watching this movie for a long time because I thought I'd be a total mess watching it, but in reality, it was so exhilarating and consuming that there wasn't any time to cry. This movie is the opposite of sentimental. United 93 is about regular people struggling to do the right thing in an impossible situation, and not an attempt to lionize American heroes or make a political statement. Those last 15 minutes or so, when everybody on the plane is equally terrified and desperate, are jaw-dropping.

The Departed
Leo still thinks scrunching up his face = acting. Jack Nicholson is a tap dancing orangutan of a self-parody. But hey! Martin Scorsese! Good to have to you back. Thank you for making a fun, exciting movie instead of trying to start a cult. And for casting Alec Baldwin.

Casino Royale
Now that's more like it. None of that prissy Bond who looks like he's posing for a cologne ad. The new, improved Bond isn't so suave, but he's tough and funny and looks great when he's sweaty and naked. Ahem.

Spanish women are the toughest people on the planet (see also Pan's Labyrinth). I honestly can't remember that much about what actually happened in this movie, or what it was about, but I loved the characters almost as much as Almodóvar does, so I don't think it matters. A big step up from Talk to Her and easily as good as All About My Mother, even if there aren't as many trannies.

Inland Empire
The meaning of this movie is a mystery locked away somewhere in the horrorshow amusement park of David Lynch's mind. Oh wait, right, it's about a woman in trouble. Anyway, it's bewildering and creepy as hell and somehow adds up to something that is really interesting, if not coherent.

And a tie for the last spot: Tzameti and Running Scared
Both of these movies are about horrible violence and contain really awful cruelty, so, you know, watch out. Tzameti is impressive in how it maintains high tension even after you know what the mysterious game at the center of the movie is, and Running Scared is just totally relentless and sick action--the cinematic equivalent of having a hockey puck shot at your face over and over again. Fun, right? OK, I guess I do need counseling.

Some other notables: Brick for being so creative and stylish that I think I missed the majority of the dialogue; Little Children for the always amazing Jane Adams, who is in just one brief scene but was my favorite part of the movie, which was good but weirdly stagnant; Babel for the Japanese girl and the club scene; and Notes on a Scandal for Judi Dench's evil predatory glee.

You'll note there is no The Queen or either of Clint Eastwood's WWII movies in here, and also no Nacho Libre. I didn't see them.

Do you realize that TWO Steven Soderbergh movies came out this year (Bubble and The Good German) and basically nobody thought they were any good? Also: Cate Blanchett had three major roles, in Notes on a Scandal, The Good German, and Babel. Kate Winslet was in Holiday, All the King's Men, and Little Children. They can apparently do anything.

Earlier years: 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001.

January 4, 2007

The latest jerky thing our President did

Bush has your mail

The Daily News reports today on the postal bill that President Bush signed at the end of the year--specifically, that he added one of those signing statements he's so fond of to it.

The bill was mostly general stuff about the mail, and reiterated that first class mail cannot be opened by the government without a warrant. But Bush's signing statement contradicts this, saying that he has the right to open people's mail in emergency conditions. The News' caption above pretty much says it all.

Though opening people's mail is still actually illegal, Bush's assertion that he can do it in the case of "exigent circumstances" could certainly be interpreted as an outright declaration that this is already going on. After all, it's the one year anniversary of the uncovering of electronic surveillance, which is supposed to be illegal, too.

Emily Lawrimore, a White House spokesperson, says that Bush was just stating a right that he already has. "In certain circumstances--such as with the proverbial 'ticking bomb'," she said, "the Constitution does not require warrants for reasonable searches."

Help! Help! Save us, Nancy Pelosi!

January 3, 2007

The Knights of Prosperity, tonight

Knights of Prosperity

Some more new television starts tonight, with The Knights of Prosperity on ABC. This show is produced by Donal Logue (a big favorite of ours) and follows the exploits of some guys in NYC who decide to break into Mick Jagger's apartment and steal stuff.

Working titles included Let's Rob Mick Jagger (Mick didn't want his name in the title, though he does appear in the pilot) and I Want to Rob Jeff Goldblum (who was considered for the role of heist target, presumably until the producers realized that Jeff Goldblum isn't funny.)

This show did a lot of filming in Hell's Kitchen and all around Times Square, so I've been excited for it. Tom Shales at the Washington Post falls all over himself to praise it: "knee-slappingly and side-splittingly funny stuff, or as close to that as TV gets these days." He loves characters like frustrated janitor Eugene Gurkin (played by Donal Logue), fatman Rockefeller Butts, and Louis Plonk, the lovable virgin.

And as an added bonus, which gorgeously no-nonsense bitch-queen from 24 makes an appearance? Reiko Aylesworth! Our eyes were glazing at the prospect of having to go watch Alien vs. Predator 2 just to see her again, so we're very grateful to ABC for resurrecting our old favorite.

Alessandra Stanley at the Times likes it too, even if she uses the show to try to make some indecipherable point about women in TV comedies. She notes that The Knights of Prosperity and In Case of Emergency (also premiering tonight on ABC) both feature groups of losery men and one beautiful woman who hangs out with them. My favorite show that fits that formula was The Lone Gunmen, an X Files spinoff that was hastily cancelled after 13 episodes. This show probably won't last much longer (unless they choose Alex Trebek or Willem Dafoe to be the next targets, as one character suggests) but it's already a pioneer in the promising new celebrity heist genre.

About January 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Amy's Robot in January 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2006 is the previous archive.

February 2007 is the next archive.

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

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