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July 2007 Archives

July 30, 2007

Best news from Iraq I've heard in four years

Iraqis celebrate football win

One of the best things about reading Iraq-related news today is all the pictures of jubilant Iraqis with smiling painted faces, waving flags (and, OK, sometimes guns) and whooping it up over their country's inspirational victory in the Asian Cup soccer tournament on Sunday.

In addition to the obvious horrors of daily life in Iraq, the country also hasn't played in the World Cup since their sole appearance in 1986. Saudi Arabia, who Iraq beat in the final, usually dominates the Asian league. This win has made some Iraqis feel more hopeful for a unified, peaceful country. From the Times: "Ayad Aziz Nader, a bare-chested Baghdadi sweating from the exertions of his celebration, said, 'This football team has given Iraqis happiness and everything which has been missing for them.'"

The pictures of happy Iraqi soccer fans are great.

Iraqi football fans

Iraqi football fans

And Iraqi-American soccer fans, too!

Iraqi American football fan

It's not the most meaningful event in recent Iraq history, maybe, but there's no better PR than a lot of happy young Iraqis having a big nationwide party to boost the country's image. Go Iraq!

I heart Iraq!

July 25, 2007

Whiny teenage girls are driving even themselves nuts

teenage girls talking

A couple of surprising pieces of news today about the risks of friendship.

First, researchers found that when teenage girls sit around and moan nonstop about how hard their lives are and how they're so depressed, it turns out that they really are making themselves depressed. A little sharing of your problems is OK, but when girls "co-ruminate" excessively (about how much they totally hate their moms and no boys will ever like them and omg their hair is so flat and hideous) it often leads to "persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness or worry." Yeah, shocker.

So this means long-suffering, sullen, complaining, self-obsessed girls really do need to shut the hell up--for their own and everybody else's mental health. Hopefully this study will lead to a public health campaign that also forces them to stop writing poetry.

Interestingly, this phenomenon doesn't appear to happen to boys, who get positive emotional results from sharing their problems with friends. The scientists say they believe the same trends may apply to adults.

And in the popular story that is sure to undermine relationships all over the nation, if you have a close friend of the same sex who gains weight, your chances of becoming obese go up by 71%! By comparison, the same study found that stopping smoking seemed to have no influence on risk of obesity. I know! Incredible.

So I guess the lesson is, yeah, your friends might make you fat, but as long as you don't bitch about it too much, you should be fine.

July 23, 2007

McDonald's introduces the Hugo

Hurley, aka Hugo, aka McDonald's drink size

After some well-publicized flirtation with healthy food options, McDonald's has returned to doing what it does best, which the New York Times describes as "making people fat." After phasing out its Supersize menu in 2004, they have now started offering basically the exact same insulin-busting drink size of 42 oz., and they're calling it "Hugo".

A brilliant marketing strategy. Hugo, aka Hurley, is one of Lost's most lovable characters, maybe the most appealing morbidly obese person on television. OK, drinking a lot of Hugo-sized sodas (410 calories each! Before you even eat a single fry!) will definitely make you fat, but you'll be an adorable, funny, cuddly, Hugo kind of fat.

Now McDonald's can rebrand their ranch dressing--no more of that lame 170 calorie Newman's Own crap! And since we're all just giving up on salads and apple dippers, they might as well start selling candy bars, too.

July 20, 2007

Friday reading

Tom Cruise in Valkyrie

Lots of great stuff on Page Six today. Some highlights:

  • David Frost recounts the grossest conversation-starter of all time: As they were sitting down to their famous TV interview, Richard Nixon turned to him and asked, "Well, did you do any fornicating this weekend?" YUCK YUCK YUCK. What's even more disturbing than being asked a question like that by Richard Nixon is that Richard Nixon obviously thought of himself some kind of slick, winking, ladies' man. Puke.
  • Tom Cruise in his fetishiest/campiest movie outfit yet (above), on the set of Valkyrie in Germany.
  • During her first show in 2 weeks not to be canceled due to exhaustion, a troubled Amy Winehouse spit on the crowd. Crying onstage and hitting herself in the head with her microphone also reported.
  • A bizarre story from Moby about getting a funny letter from Karl Rove, after Moby joked that maybe they were half-brothers. The letter suggested that maybe James Carville was a more likely secret relative. Moby might actually not be joking about this.
  • And A.M. Homes, a writer we still love even though her latest books are maybe not as good, is reportedly doing an HBO series about the Hamptons, which hopefully will be as perverse and sick as her very best stories.

July 19, 2007

It's the middle of July. Anyone seen a TUSH?

Rihanna umbrella single

Most summers, a pop song has emerged by now that so saturates our environment that you hardly go a day without hearing it somewhere. Car stereos, bars, the Gristedes PA system, radios at the beach--it's everywhere. It's the Totally Ubiquitous Summer Hit.

I've been listening hard every time I go into a Rite Aid or a bodega to identify the song that will be the definitive hit of summer 2007, but I'm still waiting. What is this year's TUSH? Today, the NY Times' Kelefa Sanneh wonders the same thing. He comes down strongly supporting Rihanna's "Umbrella" [video], which was auspiciously released right before Memorial Day, and only got knocked off #1 on the charts this week. Of course, in his review back in June, he predicted that it would be this year's Song of the Summer, and whaddaya know, now he says he was right!

I should also note that Kelefa Sanneh suggests that the 2005 TUSH was Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together", when everybody knows it was "Hollaback Girl", obviously.

"Umbrella" is catchy, sure, and I like it OK, but it lacks the warmth and energy of your ideal summer hit. Plus it's not so great to dance to. Last year's TUSH, "Crazy", was unconventional too--a consideration of mental illness and death somehow lacks the buoyancy of "Macarena" or "Good gracious, ass bodacious", the opening of "Hot in Herre".

There's still a lot of summer left, but so far I'm not quite hearing non-stop, unavoidable, ubiquitous "Umbrella" airwave saturation. Or maybe I just need to go to bars more. So what else would qualify? Sanneh offers "Beautiful Girls" by Sean Kingston [cute video], and earlier WNYC suggested a few other songs that seem off base now, such as Ne-Yo's "Do You", which I rarely hear and in my opinion is a pretty terrible song.

Last year you could have picked one of at least 4 or 5 songs and declared it TUSH 2006. This year's a little trickier. It will all be clear in another month--what's it going to be?

July 17, 2007

Republican identity crisis

Republican candidates

What is going on with the Republican party? The Democrats are more or less rolling along just fine with a handful of interesting yet predictable candidates that voters seem pretty happy with. Meanwhile, all hell is breaking loose for the Republicans.

I don't even care that much which Democrat gets the nomination; the Republicans are a thouasnd times more interesting. Who are those people going to nominate? No idea. AP reports today that 23% of registered Republicans don't like any of the candidates, which is up from 14% who said the same thing in June.

Here's what's going on with the leading candidates:

  • Giuliani: His popularity has been in steady decline, from 35% in March, to 27% in June, to 21% now. Still the front-runner, but time is not on his side. Republicans are more likely to say they like no candidates than that they like him.
  • Romney is spending more money than he's raising, and last quarter he loaned $6 million to his campaign from personal funds, something he said would be "akin to a nightmare". His support is at about 11%.
  • McCain is in free-fall. Almost completely out of money, and his staff is out the door. It's over.
  • That leaves Fred Thompson, whose support has been steady at about 19%. He'll probably get a surge when he finally announces he's running. But really: an ex-Senator? Pretty doubtful.

The biggest Republican candidates are all so different from each other that they seem to have split the base into fragmented clusters that won't unite behind any one person, and also created a growing base of dissatisfied voters. Without some Karl Rove figure pressing the hot buttons, it's going to be hard to mobilize these people next year.

So who's going to get the nomination? Some are guessing it'll be a Giuliani/Thompson ticket. Your guess is as good as mine.

July 16, 2007

The ugliest cruise in New York

Newtown Creek cruise

Tourists have the Circle Line and harbor cruises. New Yorkers have tours of Newtown Creek.

Brooklyn Center for the Urban Environment hosted their annual Newtown Creek tour, which for $50 takes passengers up our city's most polluted waterway, which separates Brooklyn and Queens. I love the Times photo of cruisers snapping photos of the scenery [full article].

It's not pretty, but it's a part of the city that can't be seen any other way, and it's valuable to be reminded of how blighted much of our natural environment is. Highlights of the cruise include oil storage facilities, abandoned chemical plants and barges, scrap metal fields, and abandoned cars.

metal heap, Newtown creek cruise

One of the least ugly sites you'd see is actually the Greenpoint Sewage Treatment Plant, as photographed by The Gowanus Lounge last year.

Greenpoint sewage treatment plant

In the 1950's, the Greenpoint Oil Spill leaked 17 million gallons of oil and gasoline (50% larger than Exxon Valdez!) into the creek and surrounding land; passengers on the creek tour detected "an oily smell" coming from the water.

Still, many New Yorkers are interested in seeing unfamiliar parts of the city. "It’s interesting to see in person. It’s a place that is even new to New Yorkers," said the tour coordinator. And optimistic passenger Allan Bentz-Letts said, "It looks ugly with all the scrap metal around, but think about what it could be with parks, cafes and a river walk."

July 12, 2007

NY Times reveals unbearable new office stress you probably didn't realize you were suffering

Marilyn on two phones

I'm beginning to think the NY Times' weekly "Life's Work" column by Lisa Belkin exists solely to drive me up the wall.

Today's column is about how totally impossible it is to get anything done at work because of all the different newfangled ways there are to reach people nowadays. Instead of just having phone numbers, some people that you want to contact also have email addresses. And not only that, some people also have cell phones! And one or two sadistic monsters of the corporate world who want nothing more than to trample upon your human spirit even make use of text messaging!

Seriously, this weekly column is supposed to be about navigating the complexities of the world of work, and this one is about the struggle to figure out whether you should email someone or call them.

It's especially bizarre because in most cases she mentions where a person has more than one form of contact information, they actually come right out and tell her and everybody else how they prefer to be contacted. Some have voicemail messages that say "I don’t check messages here too often, so if you want to reach me in a timely fashion please e-mail me."

Is that really so confusing?

Apparently it is. Belkin writes, "Does he or she hate e-mail, letting it build up in the inbox, but quick to answer the cellphone on the first ring? Does the person refuse to carry a cellphone, but grab the office line through the Bluetooth that is literally attached to one ear?"

Then she answers these frantic questions with an example of one of these she-demons of modern communications, Jeni Hatter who works at Rollins College in Florida: "I prefer to be contacted on my cellphone. It is immediate, and it is always with me." HOW DARE SHE?!

Actually, like most of her examples, it seems like Belkin personally has no problem with just telling people the best way to contact her. She describes an anecdote in which her voicemail message encouraging callers to email her for a faster response prompted one man to leave a message saying "That is so rude. Who do you think you are?"

Maybe Belkin is onto something, here. Maybe the world really is full of easily-offended, helpless people unable to cope with the labyrinthine world of office communications. John Corzine announced today that he will no longer be using email, at all, after realizing through an investigation that emails written from public office accounts are public record. He says he's going to shun not only email, but apparently also telephones, fax machines, dictaphones, and two aluminum cans with a piece of string tied between them: "We'll go back to the 1920s and have direct conversations with people," he huffed.

Seriously, Does Anyone Have a Better Life Than Jack Nicholson?

As a public service, we're bringing you perhaps the best paparazzi photo of all time, which was featured in Monday's New York Post.

Jack Nicholson enjoys a sandwich

This is really what the telephoto lens was created for. Not for pictures of Jessica Simpson shopping, or Eva Longoria taking out the garbage. It was created so that we can all enjoy special moments like this.

July 11, 2007

Patton Oswalt is everywhere

Patton Oswalt on Ratatouille set

You've probably seen him a couple of times on Conan and maybe a stand-up set on Comedy Central at one in the morning. Hopefully you were lucky enough not to see him in bit parts in unfunny comedies that nobody saw like Taxi and Failure to Launch. But all of a sudden, it seems like Patton Oswalt is everywhere.

His breakthrough from late-night comedy to the big time is his starring role as the voice of Remy the rat in Ratatouille, one of the best animated children's movies that grown-ups also think is funny that I've ever seen. He's hilarious and great.

(I realize he was also on The King of Queens for 9 seasons, but I cannot figure out who watched that show. Families, I guess, judging from his blog post about the end of the show this spring.)

He also had a live CD/DVD come out yesterday called Werewolves and Lollipops. And he's going to be at Brooklyn's Sound Fix Records venue tomorrow night doing a free performance to promote it. If you can't make it to Brooklyn, he's going to be back on Conan tomorrow night, too.

Go Patton Oswalt!

A few notable TV appearances from the last year or so:

  • On Conan talking about old people having babies [video] (very funny, not really safe for work)
  • On Conan talking about the "Physics for Poets" class he took at William & Mary [video]
  • On Jimmy Kimmel talking about getting engaged and comics [video]
  • and there are about a thousand recent promotional appearances for Ratatouille on YouTube.

Next, he's going to be appear in goofy sports-comedy Balls of Fury (looks like Dodgeball) later this summer, and then takes a surprising detour into pre-teen drama in something called All Roads Lead Home which according to IMDb is about a young girl who befriends a puppy after her mom dies in a car accident. Hmm.

It looks like Patton Oswalt might be developing a split career, sort of like Bob Saget did, where he does a lot of mainstream family-friendly stuff that wins the hearts of America's 10 year-olds, and simultaneously keeps going with adult-themed stand-up comedy where he got his start. The thing is, he's really good at both, and Ratatouille is a great movie. As long as the comedy for grown-ups keeps coming and he can pay the bills with the kids' stuff, he should be unstoppable.

July 9, 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning

Bronx is Burning

Tonight at 10 is the premiere of ESPN's original miniseries The Bronx is Burning, based on the book of the same name by Jonathan Mahler. It runs for 8 weeks, and will air on Tuesdays at 10 after this week.

It's going to be awesome. The book, whose subtitle is "1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City" is an incredibly thorough portrait of the nadir of New York City's troubled history. 1977 represented the culmination of poverty, poor governance, racial tensions, and general urban dysfunction; there were the Son of Sam murders, a nasty mayoral election, the blackout, and ongoing, slow recovery from the 1975 fiscal crisis. Outside the city, New York was seen as a national embarrassment: as the book says of the looting and mayhem that went on during the blackout, "America had expected the worst, and New York had not let it down."

But the real narrative of the book, and the focus of the miniseries, is the rise of the Yankees and Reggie Jackson, culminating in his famous 3 consecutive home runs in the 1977 World Series against the Dodgers. Not surprising that ESPN chose to devote the most time to the sports story, and as Mahler says in an interview in this week's Time Out, "Reggie's three home runs is as much a symbol of New York's resilience as its rebirth," though he says identifying it as the point at which the city's fortunes started to change would be an oversimplification.

But this is ESPN: the reviews suggest that the TV show has no problem with oversimplification. It emphasizes the Yankees story and maybe doesn't deal as much with all the other stuff going on in the city (Daily News review says they've "taken on several major, meaty stories at once, reducing them to their essences and intertwining them.") But it looks like we'll at least get to see Jimmy Breslin covering the Son of Sam murders. He's played by Michael Rispoli, who played Jackie Aprile on The Sopranos, and was also in Spike Lee's Summer of Sam, which covers the same historical territory as this miniseries. No mention of hat-loving agitator and mayoral candidate Bella Abzug in the cast list, though, which is too bad, since she is at least as larger-than-life a character as Billy Martin.

Which brings us to the fantastic Yankees cast: John Turturro as Billy Martin, the Yankees' legendarily hot-tempered manager (Daily News reported he maybe got a little too Method during the shoot,) Oliver Platt as George Steinbrenner, and Daniel Sunjata as Reggie Jackson. Sunjata is also on Rescue Me, where he plays firefighter Franco Rivera. On Rescue Me, his character typically has a lot of lady troubles, and he plays his dramatic scenes with intensity as well as restraint, which is especially impressive considering how outrageously tragic the storylines of the show often are.

Now's his chance to lose the restraint and cut loose as the preening, egomaniacal Jackson, who always seemed at least as concerned about his image off the field as he was about his baseball games. I hope they recreate the interview he did for Sport magazine where he dropped the "I'm the straw that stirs the drink" bomb. In the Bronx is Burning book, Mahler writes that Jackson later said that interview was "the worst screwing he ever got from the press."

Anyway, Sunjata looks like he's heading into casting territory currently occupied by John Turturro and Tony Shalhoub, where he can convincingly play any number of ethnicities. Also interesting is that in 2002 John Turturro played Howard Cosell, whose quote inspired the title, in TNT's Monday Night Mayhem.

The Daily News has a good special section on the summer of 1977, and the Post has a great article on the chaos of the blackout, part of a five-day series of articles leading up to the 30th anniversary this Friday.

July 2, 2007

Vladimir Putin, Mr. Cuddly

Putin nuzzles dog

Putin nuzzles the Bush's dog yesterday during his visit to Kennebunkport.

Related: last July's stomach kiss of a young Russian boy, who Putin said made him want to "squeeze him like a kitten" [video].

About July 2007

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

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