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December 2007 Archives

December 20, 2007

Argentina's awesome president

Cristina Fernandez de Kirschner

This is a picture of Argentina's president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, at a graduation event at a military school outside Buenos Aires.

Look at her. That fan, the pose, the exposed thigh.

Now think about Hillary Clinton, and to what lengths she would go to make sure that no picture of her sitting like this while holding a fan at a state function ever surfaced.

Like Clinton, Kirchner is the wife of a former popular president, to whom she owes pretty much all of her political success. Nestor Kirchner stepped down from the presidency earlier this year so that she could run. She won easily, all the while wearing gobs of mascara and flashy suits and loud jewelry.

As the Times of London wrote in comparing the two women, "While every fashion move that Clinton makes is relentlessly analyzed for its potential impact on voters in Iowa – from her latest hair-style to whether or not she laughs too loudly - Kirchner has gaily shrugged off accusations that she is 'frivolous'."

In keeping with her usual aesthetic, which my friend Trash Rock describes as "retired cheerleader", Kirchner wears suits like this:

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

and adopts poses like this in TV interviews:

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

And nobody cares! Can you IMAGINE Hillary Clinton with this body language, looking all languorous and kittenish on the air? Americans would flip out. Sure, Kirchner got elected mainly because voters assume that her policies will be nearly identical to her husband's, but many Clinton supporters probably feel the same way.

The problem is, American campaign strategists seem sure that if Hillary looks good on purpose, she opens herself up to criticism and stereotyping. Obama looked great on the cover of GQ, and I would have been glad to see Hillary in that non-dowdy Vogue photo shoot she backed out of last month. You can bet she would have gotten shit for it, even without holding a fan. Poor Hillary, stuck with her pantsuits.

December 19, 2007

The future of music, according to David Byrne and Thom Yorke

David Byrne and Thom Yorke hanging out

The good folks at Wired completely understand what people like me want in this world: they got David Byrne to interview Thom Yorke about the digital release of the Radiohead album, the future of music, and pretty much everything that's strange, wrong and/or interesting about the music industry.

It's not too long, worth reading. There are also lots of audio snippets of their conversation. But here are a few highlights:

  • Radiohead made about $3 million from download sales of the "In Rainbows" album, which is more than they have ever made from all digital sales of their earlier albums combined.
  • This is probably because EMI, their former label, gave them exactly $0 for digital sales of their music. Wow.
  • David Byrne makes most of his money from licensing. Radiohead make most of theirs from touring. Albums sales hardly enter into it.
  • In spite of everything, both guys still think releasing albums, rather than a song here and there, makes sense. Yorke: "Songs can amplify each other if you put them in the right order." He says it would have been snobby not to release an actual CD of their album.
  • This is probably already obvious to everyone, but Thom Yorke explains it well: The old system where labels sent advance copies of CDs to the media so the albums could be reviewed in the press pre-release was all for the goal of making albums chart high in the first week they were released, which nobody really cares about besides labels--bands or fans sure don't. And this very practice is what allowed (and encouraged) people to leak and download music pre-release, which has largely brought about the nosedive in CD sales over the past few years. You manipulate the fans, they bite you in the ass.
  • Best part of the interview: both guys realizing that record labels are spending all their time worrying about distribution and DRM and licensing and suing people if they think they're getting ripped off-- which is all just "the delivery system". They have forgotten why people buy music in the first place. Byrne says, "people will still pay to have that experience"--connecting with music they love. Yes, yes, yes.

Great stuff.

In related news, MTV calls 2007 The Year The Industry Broke, with a blow-by-blow recap of all the events signaling the end of the music industry as we know it. There are a lot.

December 17, 2007

Southland Tales: most mental movie of the year

Southland Tales

Southland Tales came out a month ago. Even though it's not that relevant anymore, I think it's safe to assume that hardly anybody has seen it: so far it's made something like $250,000, so I'm guessing that roughly the population of a small county in Maine has seen this movie.

Which is too bad, because it is by far the weirdest movie I have seen all year. It's already gotten a fair amount of press about how crazy it is, how it got trashed at Cannes, how the distribution company and studio totally disowned it by being hyperclear that the movie is nobody's fault but writer/director Richard Kelly's (the same guy who made Donnie Darko in 2001), and the best thing most critics had to say is that the movie has "a certain delirious lyricism", in the case of David Edelstein. Manohla Dargis liked it, or at least strongly admired it, and actually compares it favorably to No Country For Old Men for how many risks it takes.

It's well documented that this movie is really crazy and that Richard Kelly is a lunatic, so all I have left to talk about is the cast.

In Southland Tales, Richard Kelly leaves his former stunt casting abilities in the dust. Casting Patrick Swayze in Donnie Darko was pretty good, but Southland Tales actually achieves 100% stunt casting.

You know how with some actors, like Meryl Streep, even if you've seen them in dozens of roles, they are still able to disappear inside their characters so that you aren't left thinking "There's Meryl Streep" when you see her on the screen? This movie was like the opposite of that. Different actors come on the screen, and all you think is "There's Buffy!" or "There's Justin Timberlake!" or "There's the guy from "Night Court" and the whole past and present cast of SNL!" This has to be on purpose. The overall effect is the sense that you are watching some compressed apocalyptic version of our entire pop culture all together at the end of the world in Southern California.

I think the best way to describe the overall story and feel of the movie is this: one scene features the guy from The Princess Bride, the scary little-girl-voiced medium from Poltergeist, and Booger as a group of scientists who hold a press conference for their new energy-generating machine called Fluid Karma that creates a rift in the space-time continuum, and that this group also launches a giant glowing Mega-Zeppelin, accidentally generates a clone of The Rock, and makes a secret drug that Justin Timberlake smuggles back from Iraq to create some sort of telepathic communication. Bai Ling also vamps around with the scientists as an even more outrageous self-parody than usual, and enthusiastically makes out with Wallace Shawn. Awesome.

I was really impressed by how imaginative and wacky the movie is, but it's pretty clear that Richard Kelly also ripped off some other filmmakers. Rebekah Del Rio singing an impassioned Spanglish version of "The Star Spangled Banner"? Hm, just like David Lynch did in Mulholland Drive, when Rebekah Del Rio sang an impassioned Spanish version of "Crying". And the hallucinatory Busby Berkeley-style song-and-dance number with Justin Timberlake in the arcade to a Killers song sure was a lot like the Busby Berkeley number with Jeff Bridges in the hallucinatory bowling alley in The Big Lebowski.

Pretty obvious steals, but they're good scenes to lift. Trying to understand the plot of Southland Tales and make sense of the goofball dialogue won't get you anywhere, but it's a really funny freakshow of a movie. There are so many other subplots that are really good: Sarah Michelle Gellar and her "The View"-inspired talk show with her porn star pals are especially hilarious, as is Amy Poehler's brief scene as a new bride having a screaming match with her husband about all the men she's cheated on him with.

It's still playing at the Village East cinema on 2nd Ave.

December 14, 2007

Resting in peace


Yesterday at the inquest into the death of Princess Diana, one of her close friends revealed that she could not have been pregnant.

"While we were on this boat she had her period and that was just ten days before she died."

I'm sure that Diana is resting, happy in the knowledge that the entire world knows all about her menstrual cycle.

December 11, 2007

Networks are screwed

30 Rock Judah Friedlander

The WGA strike has been going on for over a month now, and nothing's going on with negotiations to suggest we'll get our TV back any time soon. The Daily News gave a rundown today of how many episodes are left for a bunch of shows.

It's mostly looking pretty bad. For shows that you might actually watch, we've got "30 Rock" with 2 remaining shows, ""Ugly Betty" has 3, "My Name Is Earl" has 1, and "The Office" and "Heroes" are already out. "Scrubs" has 5. Shows that I can hardly believe are still on the air, like "Smallville" (7 episodes) and "Las Vegas" (8!) seem to be doing OK. And two new shows that I don't believe anybody in America has ever watched, "Cavemen" and "Carpoolers", are both good through February with 8 episodes left each, but I think we can assume that once those run out they'll be gone forever.

"Lost" has 8 episodes done, so when the next season finally starts we'll all have plenty of time to start watching, get into it for a week or two, become disillusioned when it inevitably starts sucking again, vow to stop watching, and then maybe grudgingly catch the last episode before it goes off the air again. Just like last year. The website doesn't list a season premiere date, but suggests it might be sometime in February.

Meanwhile, advertising is tanking. Maybe the viewing public has already given up on the networks and is devoting all its time to watching the Superbad DVD and trying to sit through that terrible "Tin Man" miniseries on SciFi. Poor beleaguered NBC has had to pay its advertisers back $500,000 for each show that failed to make ratings, which I think is pretty much all the shows it has. The only show they have that makes the Top 20 is "Law & Order: SVU", and they only have 4 episodes left of that one.

Reality shows are still going full speed ahead, since those writers aren't in the union. But surprisingly enough, a TV marketing exec tells Reuters "too much reality just doesn't play well with advertisers," so NBC can make all the "Celebrity Apprentice" episodes it wants and still not bring in much money.

Some good TV news: "The Wire" will be back on HBO in January, and CBS is going to air a new miniseries in January called "Comanche Moon". It's based on a Larry McMurtry novel, the prequel to "Lonesome Dove", and stars Steve Zahn and Karl Urban as the two rapscallion Texas Rangers Gus and Woodrow. It's by the same director as the "Lonesome Dove" miniseries from 1989, and should be pretty great.

December 10, 2007

Who'dat?™: Rock legends

Today's installment of Who'dat?™ features a performer on stage at a recent concert. It's a tricky one because you can't actually see this person's face, but the outfit conveys this legend's stage presence, charisma, and long history of womanizing and drug addiction.

To play, look at the picture below and try to figure out who it is, then click on the picture to see if you are right.


See you on December 21!

December 6, 2007

GOP screws up its sneaky Latino seduction ploy

Latino marchers

For a minute there, it was looking like the Republican strategy to win over Latino voters was working. They went on about family values and religion and being against abortion, hoping to appeal to the millions of Latinos who might agree with them on those issues. In the 2000 election, Bush got 35% of the Latino vote, and in 2004, he got 44%.

But somewhere along the way, probably around the time all the Republican presidential candidates started arguing loudly about who could keep more Mexicans out of the country, they wised up. A recent poll of Latino registered voters finds that after a brief shift, they're back to favoring Democrats over Republicans at the same rate they did in 1999 (57% to 23%.)

There are expected to be 8.6 million Latino voters in the next election, 1 million more than in 2004. And a lot of them are in big, important swing states like Florida and Nevada. It was a clever idea for the Republicans to try to win them over, but it looks like they blew it. If all those "Hoy Marchamos, Mañana Votamos" marches last year didn't make it obvious enough, Latinos are noticing that the Republican party doesn't even bother to pretend that it wants them anymore. If you side with the "build a fence!" morons instead of the fastest growing population in the country, you lose elections.

December 5, 2007

Hot For Teacher Debra Lafave: update

Debra Lafave, booking shot

Debra Lafave is currently serving a 3-year probation and house arrest sentence for having sex with her 14 year-old student in 2004, as part of a special No Jail Time for Hot Female Teachers statute. By all accounts, she's doing well, and her lawyer hopes to convert the last year of her sentence to probation only.

Though she was arrested yesterday for talking privately with a 17 year-old girl she works with at a restaurant, which technically violates her probation, no one seems to think this is cause for concern.

But what about that t-shirt that Lafave was wearing at the time of her arrest (above)? The one that looks like it was vomited up by a hallucinating My Pretty Pony? The rainbow, unicorn, and, weirdest of all, Rubik's Cube design is straight out of a 10-year-old little sister version of Delia's. Hm. Maybe not the best wardrobe choice when you've already been convicted of preying on boys whose voices haven't changed yet.

During her creepy interview with Matt Lauer, Lafave said she "didn't feel like an adult" while she was going after this young kid, and essentially blamed him for her Bad Love behavior by saying he was "flirtatious" with her. Like she believes it was normal for her to have sex with her 14 year-old student. She may claim she's "not a sex offender", but she looks like she's ready to start trolling MySpace once she's free.

December 4, 2007

Led Zeppelin reunites, faces prospect of playing "Stairway to Heaven"

Slow dancing to Stairway to Heaven

[middle school slow dance photo from Asphalt Jungle]

Every time there's the tiniest bit of news or rumor related to Led Zeppelin's upcoming reunion concert in London, the world goes nuts. Some news has been genuinely exciting, like the potential tour next year with the Cult, a rumor that was started by Cult singer Ian Astbury himself, who said they were going to tour with a band that begins with "L" and has a "Z" in it. (Though maybe he meant Limp Bizkit.) Some news has been more mundane, like the coverage about Jimmy Page's broken pinky finger, which postponed the show originally scheduled for November.

I was glad to see that someone more knowledgeable than I am did some analysis of Jimmy Page's off-hand comment that they were planning to play a song that they had never played live before at the show, guessing that it might be "For Your Life" from their final album Presence. Which is not exactly the kind of song that compels music critics to call Led Zeppelin the greatest rock band of all time, but still, it's news like this that fans want to hear.

But the best article I've read lately is one on Slate today, that focuses entirely on the question of whether Led Zeppelin will play "Stairway to Heaven" at their reunion concert or not.

That is a great question. "Stairway to Heaven" is undoubtedly the Led Zep song that many people heard first, hear most often, and is the song that devoted classic rock radio listeners request the most and, consequently, that others least want to hear. It's the most radically overplayed of all overplayed songs. Anyone playing "Stairway to Heaven" runs the risk, as the Slate writer says, of "sounding like a lame cover band."

It also doesn't help that a lot of people will forever associate it with middle school dances and all the humiliation that goes along with trying to slow dance for the first half, then deal with the awkward segue into the fast part at the end. Just the association with any aspect of middle school makes it a song that's difficult to appreciate on its own merits.

Plus, it's a weird song. The author of the Slate article writes, "It was "Stairway" that branded Zeppelin as spaced-out mystics," with those hokey, pretend pagan, potentially-Satanic hedgerow-bustling faerie lyrics. It's not until the last third that it gets good and starts sounding like a song that nobody but Led Zeppelin could have made, and as hard as it is to listen to such a familiar song and really hear it, let's admit it: it rocks.

The band has already played it a billion times, and Robert Plant has basically disowned it, though they still played it at their earlier reunion concerts, Live Aid and an Atlantic Records anniversary concert in 1988--concerts that Jimmy Page admits sucked. So yeah, I bet they'll do "Stairway to Heaven", but Robert Plant will be rolling his eyes the whole time.

December 3, 2007

How you can help with the national debt

National Debt Clock

AP tells us today that our national debt is growing by $1 million every minute. This rate is so fast that about a year from now, the debt clock pictured above that used to be on West 43rd St (it was moved recently to make way for fancy new green building One Bryant Park) won't even have enough digit spaces to express the whole number.

That's $10 trillion! $10,000,000,000,000.00! God bless America.

Since we're obviously a totally irresponsible bunch of financial reprobates, and considering that rising interest rates are only going to make things worse, this makes me wonder: What kind of idiot is still willing to lend us money?

According to AP, part of our debt is held by U.S. citizens who live here and read the paper every day and still think that buying government bonds is a good investment. But a lot of investors are foreign: 44% of our publicly held debt we owe to foreign governments and investors. Japan has the biggest share.

Former Congressional budget anaylst Stanley Collender is concerned. "The first day the Chinese or the Japanese or the Saudis say, 'we've bought enough of your paper,' then the debt — whatever level it is at that point — becomes unmanageable," he says.

Our individual debt allocations are already $30,000, so what the hell--we might as well be patriotic consumers and start buying as many products as possible directly from the countries that our government owes money to. Go ahead and stand in the huge, crazy line that forms outside the Nintendo store at Rockefeller Center at 7:30 AM every time they get a new shipment of Wii consoles in. It's good practice for the bread lines we'll all be standing in when we're old and Social Security is a distant memory.

And while you're at it, support our nation's fiscal philosophy and get some new credit cards. With a few more big credit limits, your salary is doubled!

About December 2007

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

November 2007 is the previous archive.

January 2008 is the next archive.

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

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