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June 2007 Archives

June 29, 2007

Joan Jett kicks ass

Joan Jett at River Rocks

[photo by classicgrrrl79]

Last night Joan Jett & the Blackhearts played River Rocks at Pier 54. Joan was as wiry and fiesty as ever, wearing a black vinyl top that probably would have fit her in 1980 when her first solo album came out.

And of course, they rocked. In addition to a handful of songs from her new album, Sinner, the band played literally every single Joan Jett & the Blackhearts song I have ever heard. Hearing all their hits together like that, I realized how many of their biggest songs were actually covers: "I Love Rock 'n Roll" (The Arrows), "Do You Wanna Touch Me" (Gary Glitter), "Light of Day" (Bruce Springsteen), "Crimson and Clover" (Tommy James).

But one of her best songs, "Bad Reputation", is one that she wrote. Though it was actually never released as a single, I suspect that "Bad Reputation" has had somewhat of a resurgence in popular culture recently because it's the track used in the opening credits of "Freaks and Geeks", the beloved but short-lived TV show from the '90's that I also bet has enjoyed newfound popularity because of the wild success of The 40 Year Old Virgin and more recently Knocked Up, which were created by the almost all the same people that did the TV show. I couldn't help thinking that the biggest reason that Joan Jett played "Bad Reputation" as the very first song of her set last night was, weirdly enough, Judd Apatow.

"Bad Reputation" was also used in a promo for TLC's "American Chopper" earlier this year.

June 27, 2007

Hey kids! It's summer! Time to get drunk with the NY Times!

underage drinking

Today's Dining section of the Times features a selection of personal memoirs called "Reflections in an Ice Cube: The Drinks of Memory". The feature is intended to be a nostalgic look back at refreshing and delicious summertime cocktails that some writers enjoyed in their younger years, and some of the entries very nicely achieve just that.

And some of the entries are about teenage girls getting wasted.

Here's Monique Truong, whose very classy and respectable summer drink is white sangria, but the drink of memory that inspires her choice is, and this is just a guess here, Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill:

White sangria reminds me of the bottles of convenience store wine coolers that my girlfriends and I consumed in alarming quantities in the back seat of cars while stuck in Texas in the prime of our teenage years. Sweet, cheap and perversely and resolutely not beer (long necks being the patriotic drink of the Republic of Texas), wine coolers were our fast ticket out of sobriety and the confines of our suburban youth.

And Gabrielle Hamilton still loves her Long Island Iced Teas, which she first enjoyed as a 13 year-old, first helping herself to her parents' liquor cabinet, then hitchhiking into New York and going to a bar:

We found ourselves — such is the power of the teenage sense of immortality — perched on bar stools at an Upper West Side restaurant saying, “Um, I think I’ll have a Long Island iced tea, please.” It was the only drink we knew to order. We’d been getting blitzed on them for some time by siphoning off our parents’ liquor and replacing it with tap water. I remember being curled up on the orange shag rug, feeling the whole planet spin.

The bartender did not card us. The bartender did not roll his eyes to the heavens. He filled — freehand — two giant tulip-shape glasses that could have doubled as hurricane lamps with well liquors, prefab sour mix and cola from a sticky soda gun. And set them down in front of us.

Then much later they get a ride home, drunk, with some random man they meet on the train and oh my god are teenage girls morons. These girls probably grew up watching Sarah T: Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic in middle school health class, too.

These stories are told with a rapturous tone that makes teenage drinking sound not just appealing but totally irresistibly fun and adventurous; if I was a 14 year-old reading these stories at home, I would wait until my parents had gone to bed and march right over to the hall closet and start pouring Seagram's 7 into my mouth with a funnel.

I can't wait to see the dismayed letters from concerned parents who have been noticing their own bottles of whiskey have been getting a little bit... paler lately.

There's also a tamer, but still technically illegal drinking anecdote about a journalist in Iraq who talks with an Army captain there about how much he misses beer, and then the journalist sneaks him a case of Carlsberg in a garbage bag.

June 26, 2007

If you take the 4, 5, or 6 to work, you are justified in hating your life

crowded subway

[photo by Cresny]

You are also entitled to throw regular hissyfits about your commute if you take the E, L, 2, 3, F, 7, or V.

Because all of those lines' cars are either full beyond reasonable capacity every day during rush hour, or those lines' tracks are filled to capacity with trains so that no more can be added during rush hour, or for some extra lucky New Yorkers, both.

In what the Times describes as "an unusually candid effort at self-examination for a habitually insular agency," NYC Transit released a study that reveals how much car and track capacity each line is running at, and how often each line runs on time. And they admit it: it ain't pretty. The MTA has concluded via carefully analyzed data that many subway trains are often crowded. (I know!) The east side lines are the worst, with the 4, 5, and 6 carrying over 100% capacity in passenger loads, and running trains at 100% of their 27 trains/hour track capacity. The L is at over 100% of its maximum passenger load too, but the article's graph suggests that a few more trains could be added to help disperse all those L riders.

I generally think of New York as having a pretty thoughtful approach to city planning, but in the case of development, traffic, and public transportation, the system is clearly on the verge of breaking down. Enormous development is still going on in the upper east side and in Williamsburg, and the subway lines that support those neighborhoods are already stretched beyond capacity. Yeah, yeah, the 2nd Avenue line is going to be breathtaking and will totally transform public transportation as we know it; I'll just say that there is no way I would ever move to any neighborhood accessible only by the 6 train between now and 2014.

Also Bloomberg's congestion pricing proposal that assumes that people who opt not to drive into Manhattan will just ride the subway instead needs a major rethinking for drivers who would theoretically start riding any of the above lines.

Lines that have the emptiest cars on average and also, not surprisingly, most often run on time: B, C, D, G, J, M, Z, and W.

June 25, 2007

"Vaya con dios, brah. 18% gratuity included."

Johnny Utah's

This full-page ad in Time Out turns out to not be a joke. Johnny Utah's is the new restaurant opening in July at the Rockefeller Center Hotel on West 51st St.

Although Johnny Utah is the undercover FBI agent portrayed by Keanu Reeves in the landmark 1991 California-Buddhist-surfer-bank-robber heist-buddy movie Point Break, for the purposes of midtown fine dining, the name is meant to evoke the old American southwest. From the hotel website about their "urban cowboy experience": "It was a time in which food and drink dictated the mood and voracious appetite of outlaws, gunslingers, cattle barons, and muleskinners."

I'm not sure how those voracious muleskinners would have felt about the Lone Ranger tofu salad or the Coyote Ugly burger at Johnny Utah's. Actually, the "food of the vaqueros" selections on the menu suggest that by "old west", the managers of Johnny Utah's seem to mean "any part of American culture that isn't the northeast." They've got southern pulled pork, Mexican tequila, a "Wyoming grilled" steak sandwich, and a breakfast item called the "Buffalo Bill Granola Bowl", which even makes this city slicker wince.

Just a little background, in case you missed Point Break the last 35 times it was on TBS: Johnny Utah, non-cowboy, was a quarterback at Ohio State; an injury forced him out of football; he's an FBI agent who's a lot more bored with the straight and narrow life than he's willing to admit, and gets seduced by the free-spirited surfer lifestyle represented by the mystical and insane bank robber Patrick Swayze, aka Bodhi, with whom he develops a complex guru/father-figure-but-cooler relationship, and the two share many scenes of intense non-homosexual man-love and questionable acting.

The movie also features the greatest skydiving action sequence of all time, in which Johnny Utah jumps out of the plane without a parachute, catches Bodhi mid-air, then has to decide between letting go of his gun and pulling the ripcord of the parachute strapped to Bodhi, or holding onto his gun and falling to a sure death, because he can't do both and Bodhi WILL NOT PULL THAT RIPCORD.

But anyway, surfers aren't cowboys.

Related: IMDb's extensive collection of memorable quotes from Point Break. Wikipedia's Point Break page includes references to the movie, such as this one from Hot Fuzz: "Have you ever pointed your gun up in the air, shooting wildly shouting 'Aaaarrrggghhh' because you were friends with who you had to shoot?"

June 20, 2007

"Mayor to GOP: We're through"

Bloomberg in California

As the Daily News headline tells us, Bloomberg has finally ended all his capricious and opportunistic dancing back and forth among party affiliations and quit the Republican party once and for all. Yeah, no more aligning himself with a particular party when it helps raise funds or bring money to the city or generally serves his own political purposes.

Of course, this move to Independent status is just one more example of Bloomberg running roughshod over our country's two-party system and using whatever aspects of "Republican", "Democrat", or "Independent" are most convenient for him at the time. More and more voters say they're fed up with the two-party system and consider themselves independents, and whaddaya know, now that's what Bloomberg thinks, too.

But I don't care. I still think it's a good move. The two-party system is a disaster; it oversimplifies all the complicated issues that politicians face into an increasingly meaningless set of prescribed stances. Partisanship has degraded open and respectful political debate. And for the Republican party especially, there isn't even any clearly identifiable party line or philosophy anymore: there are the Giuliani-Schwarzenegger-those two senators from Maine-(and fomerly Bloomberg) Republicans, and there are the Bush-Cheney-McCain-most of the 2004 Congress Republicans. The notion of a "big tent" party is transforming into a big incoherent contradictory mess.

So good for Bloomberg. Yeah, he exploited the two-party system to his best advantage all these years, but it's a system that deserves to be exploited and ultimately dismantled. Becoming an Independent is a blatant strategy to court moderate voters who are frustrated with both parties, but these days, that's most people.

When he announced his new-found no-party status yesterday, he said, "We're here not to represent parties. We're here to represent the people and that's what we have to do every single day and that's the way we get judged." Every politician makes idealistic statements like that, but few get behind those words, probably because being unaffiliated with either of the two major parties is political suicide. As the NY Times says, he won't be saddled with the ideological burdens of the Republican party anymore, but he's also setting himself up for full-scale assault from two powerful political machines should he decide to run for president.

But still! Burn that mother down, Michael Bloomberg!

June 18, 2007

This ad is too sexy

Trojan pig ad

Trojan, which already has a whopping 75% of the condom market, has developed a new ad campaign featuring a bunch of pigs trying unsuccessfully to hit on women in a bar, and one handsome man with a condom in his pocket who looks like he might get lucky. This is a picture of the print ad (the version that will run in women's magazines), and you can watch the TV ad at the Trojan site.

It's a cute ad, maybe a little hard on unprepared guys while not expecting that women should carry condoms of their own, but it's hardly salacious. CBS and Fox, however, both thought it was unsuitable for their viewing audiences. CBS said it was inappropriate even for late-night audiences, and Fox's prim little policy for condom ads is this: "Contraceptive advertising must stress health-related uses rather than the prevention of pregnancy."

This is so funny, and so insane. If only there were some way to prevent the spread of HIV and other diseases without violating the precious culture of life so sacred to Fox viewers! The VP of Marketing for LifeStyles says, in a NY Times article about the ad, "We always find it funny that you can use sex to sell jewelry and cars, but you can’t use sex to sell condoms." Fox had no problem with Paris Hilton selling burgers by washing/fucking a car in heels in the goofy-sexy ad that they aired during "The O.C." [video].

For the benefit of CBS and Fox's delicate audiences, let's keep promotion of condom usage on the same public health PSA level as having your cholesterol checked or getting a flu shot. Sex is for making babies, right? Just look at shows such as CBS' "Two and a Half Men" (Parents Television Council's Worst Show of the Week for a genuinely offensive episode last year.)

June 15, 2007

What security looks like in the new Hamas-ruled Gaza

A Reuters photo from the security area of the customs hall at the border between Gaza and Egypt.

security at the Gaza/Egypt border

Yikes. I'm guessing that you don't have to worry about packing your shampoo in a 3 oz. bottle when you run your bags through this scanner.

Meanwhile, one man living in Gaza takes an ambivalent, and depressingly pragmatic, approach to the new local bosses. "Today everybody is with Hamas because Hamas won the battle. If Fatah had won the battle they'd be with Fatah. We are a hungry people, we are with whoever gives us a bag of flour and a food coupon," said Yousef, 30. "Me, I'm with God and a bag of flour."

June 13, 2007

But will they remind us to spay and neuter our pets?

Old wrinkly bob barker

This Friday marks the end of Bob Barker's 35-year reign as host of The Price Is Right, and there's no question that the show just won't be the same without him. CBS sure knows - they still haven't found a replacement, although names like George Hamilton and the ever-popular John O'Hurley have been floating around. Rumor has it that even Rosie O'Donnell is trying to get in on a little Plinko™ action.

Obviously, Bob can never be replaced. Any new host will have to be someone with character, charm - and of course, someone who needs a job. Allow me to humbly suggest some candidates who may currently be looking for work:

James Gandolfini looking for work


Gary Busey hosts price is right


Now, my clear front-runner is another animal lover - and someone that could be just what middle America needs to spice things up a little.

Crispin Glover next host of the price is right

Crispin Glover!

A while back, we asked you to help us find a new host for another American institution, Family Feud. We didn't get that one right - the job went to the aforementioned O'Hurley - can we do better this time? Please add your suggestions to the comments.

June 12, 2007

The other life of Joanna Kerns

Joanna Kerns in Knocked Up

While watching Knocked Up the other day, I knew I sort of recognized the actress who played Alison's mom--she was hazily familiar, but I couldn't identify her. It turned out to be Joanna Kerns, the mom from "Growing Pains", a show I never watched regularly, but the show was so popular for so long that of course everybody knew who she was.

Joanna Kerns' second career as a TV director has been a lot like that: she's directed an episode or two of popular shows that I've rarely or never actually watched, but could still probably name a lot of the actors on them and all the main plot developments. She directed her first TV episode on her own show during the last season of "Growing Pains", then went on to lots of soapy drama of the '90s: "ER", "Ally McBeal", "Boston Public", and more recently "The Ghost Whisperer". Teen dramas like "Dawson's Creek", "Felicity", "Joan of Arcadia" and "One Tree Hill". Two episodes of "Scrubs". An episode of "Medium" from last month. She's never been a regular series director, but she's clearly made a name for herself and is getting regular work--pretty cool for a sitcom mom.

The Times points out that Joanna Kerns' scene with Katherine Heigl in which she tries unsuccessfully to convince her daughter to "take care of" her pregnancy (the closest anyone gets to saying the word "abortion" is Seth Rogan's pals saying "shmashmortion" a few times) is part of a larger Hollywood trend in which abortions are essentially a non-option. It was a little freaky to watch Maggie Seaver play the pragmatic devil on the main character's shoulder, but I probably should have known she had some range as an actress: in 1983 she was on "V" (sci-fi allegory for the Third Reich), "Laverne & Shirley" (screwball comedy), and "The A-Team" (screwball action).

Another interesting thing I just learned about Knocked Up: the two little girls that play Leslie Mann's and Paul Rudd's kids in the movie are Leslie Mann's and Judd Apatow's daughters in real life. The older girl delivers probably the most adorable reading of the word "penis" in the history of film.

June 8, 2007

Good news! The G8 summit has solved all the world's problems. Again.

Bob Geldof at G8

Well, Bob Geldof's pissed.

Another G8 summit meeting of the leaders of the world has come and gone with the usual ambitious goals, legions of protesters, and meetings with Bono. Here's what they accomplished this year:

The countries promised to spend $60 billion to fight AIDS, malaria, and TB in Africa. Spread out over "the coming years" with no actual timeframe. And also, that money was already pledged two years ago at the 2005 G8 summit.

Also, they pledged $25 billion in aid to Africa over the next 10 years. But they'd already made that same pledge, also in 2005, and apparently have already fallen behind on promised payments.

Some other accomplishments:

  • The countries issued a "message of firmness" to Iran that it had better stop enriching uranium, or else!
  • They agreed to "seriously consider" trying to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50%. By 2050. Which is over FORTY YEARS from now.

Wow! Global leader in bottomless frustration Bob Geldof called the summit "a pantomime": "Do me a favor, get serious guys, get serious," he said. "This wasn't serious. This was a farce. A total farce."

Sure, he's right. It's a disgrace. But after I saw some sort-of cute photos of Bush, Blair, Merkel, and other frequently loathsome world leaders sitting around in the sun having a few drinks, it was hard to stay too mad at those crazy kids.

Bush and Merkel at G8

world leaders at G8

Come on, Bob, sit down, have a beer! Relax, man. They can always pledge another $100 billion next year.

June 6, 2007

Tyler Perry's media juggernaut keeps on rolling

House of Payne

Tonight is the TBS premiere of Tyler Perry's first TV show "House of Payne", which like his other productions is about a southern black family and their various troubles and successes. There aren't many other people working in entertainment today like Tyler Perry, who has become enormously popular and rich working outside mainstream media channels.

"House of Payne" aired for 10 episodes last spring in New York, Philly, Chicago, Houston, DC, Atlanta, Dallas, Miami, Baltimore and Raleigh, and was popular enough to incite a bidding war among networks. TBS bought an unprecedented 100 episodes of the show, which start airing tonight, and Fox also got in on the deal to air episodes starting next fall.

Not bad for a show totally created by one man (Tyler Perry is director, producer, executive producer and writer) who paid for the production of the first 10 episodes himself at his own studio, then sold those into syndication, then got a network to buy 100 episodes at once. As the New York Times points out in an article about the phenomenal success of every single thing Tyler Perry does, this is backwards from the usual process of getting a network show made, and has allowed him to continue making the kinds of productions that studios may not be quick to recognize as promising: "I went to LA and pitched to a room full of studio execs," Mr. Perry said. "They told me I couldn’t say 'Jesus' on television and nobody would watch it."

Just like his 2005 movie Diary of a Mad Black Woman generated a lot of terrible reviews from critics, some angry statements from black cultural theorists and writers, and gigantic ticket sales (and even led to an exchange between us and Roger Ebert,) how you react to "House of Payne" seems to depend a lot on who you are and what you expect from a sitcom. If you're Jill Nelson, African-American cultural critic who wrote about Perry in Essence, you think it's insulting to women and not funny. If you're the kind of person who writes on the IMDb discussion boards, you either think it's a shameless exploitation of offensive black stereotypes, or you think it depicts important truths about black American families. Or you're just mad that it replaced "Girlfriends" in its time slot.

Either way, enough people who watch TV and buy movie and theater tickets love Tyler Perry, and helped him move off the "chitlin' circuit" to reach a national audience. A lot of people (maybe especially a lot of white people) may not like or understand his style, but he's already shooting a second comedy series called "Meet the Browns", shooting a talk show, two new movies, and is making plans for his own TV network.

Personally, I think the mainstream critical responses to Tyler Perry's productions really demonstrate how far removed those critics are from his core audience. The Times article refers to Niyi Coker Jr., a professor of theater and media studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis:

Perry’s work was filling a void in many mediums. "It’s not sophisticated or theatrical in the Western context," he said, but it strikes a deep chord with Mr. Perry’s audience, which does not see their stories in many places.

It's also interesting to see the creative ways a TV network like TBS markets to an audience that they know is out there and that they want a piece of: they're running a contest on the "House of Payne" website where you can win $25,000 for your church and a trip on a Sheridan Gospel Network cruise. Mm-hmm. How often do you see mainstream secular TV networks offering a donation to a church as an incentive to viewers?

June 5, 2007

Celebrities of the MTA

In the 50th Street C/E subway station:

Robbie Williams, MTA Superintendent

Must be part of his post-rehab personal development plan.

Earlier: reports of Robbie Williams' staggering and not really credible daily intake of legal substances that prompted him to check into rehab--prescription anti-depressants, "36 super-strength double espresso coffees, 60 Silk Cut cigarettes and around 20 cans of energy drink Red Bull."

About June 2007

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

May 2007 is the previous archive.

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