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May 2008 Archives

May 30, 2008

Times readers are very interested in tripping

NYT most popular stories

Yesterday's Times story about "flavor tripping", a newly popular recreational activity involving a magical berry that makes everything you eat taste sweet, is still at the top of the paper's most emailed list.

While the fruit, called a miracle berry, produces an effect that isn't really psychotropic or mood altering, it has a sensory effect that the article describes like it's Ecstasy for people with oral fixations--"tasting under the influence". Clearly, Times readers want that disco berry-biscuit:

[Tripping party host Franz Aliquo] believes that the best way to encounter the fruit is in a group. "You need other people to benchmark the experience," he said. At his first party, a small gathering at his apartment in January, guests murmured with delight as they tasted citrus wedges and goat cheese. Then things got trippy.

"You kept hearing 'oh, oh, oh,' " he said, and then the guests became "literally like wild animals, tearing apart everything on the table."

"It was like no holds barred in terms of what people would try to eat, so they opened my fridge and started downing Tabasco and maple syrup," he said.

Sure, they're natural, safe, legal, non-narcotic berries, but the Times sure makes them sound like really fun drugs! Expect to see a lot of these berries at Bushwick loft parties all summer, in between rounds of fire-spinning. Added bonus for party hosts: you can buy super cheap booze and it will all taste like heaven to your berry-eating guests.

May 26, 2008

As if bedbugs on the subway weren't bad enough


Today, in its quest to make OCD into a contagious disease, the Times tells us about all the nasty diseases you can get by walking barefoot in city parks. And you don't even have to have cuts or scratches on your feet to catch hookworm or pseudomonas. "In the worst case, pseudomonas bacteria — which Dr. Militello says has a “very pungent, vinegary smell”— can be fatal if it gets into the lungs or bloodstream."

Photo by Smallestbones

May 23, 2008

Happy Birthday, Brooklyn Bridge!

I love you, Brooklyn Bridge

Photo by SimplySchmoopie

The Brooklyn Bridge is 125! Older than all of our presidential candidates. The bridge cost 15.1 million dollars to build in the 1870s and 80s, which would be about $320 million in today's money. When the bridge first opened, pedestrians had to pay a penny to walk across (NYT, PDF). Here's the Times (PDF) piece on the opening ceremony, which totally disses the festivities saying:

The impressiveness of the pageant with which the bridge was opened lay in the appeal which it made to the imagination and in the numbers and behavior of the crowd. It certainly was not inherent in the pageant itself, which, as a spectacle was from from successful and differed little in its outward aspects from the ordinary Fourth of July "exercises."
You can celebrate with a bunch of fun events all weekend, including a screening of It Happened in Brooklyn, where Frank Sinatra relentlessly (and musically!) mocks Brooklyn. There's a great, brief, history of the bridge, written for the 100th anniversary, available from the Brooklyn Museum (PDF). Please go out and enjoy the bridge, and remember, it's not just for hipster T-shirts.


May 21, 2008

Anti Smoking Campaigns work, maybe

Nasty artery

So the smoking rate in NYC is actually going down, to 16.9%, the lowest rate in 50 years. Even smoky old Staten Island had a massive drop in smoking. Maybe the drop is caused by the seriously scary ads featuring amputees.

There's this lady, Marie, who seems to be on TV constantly with her missing fingers. There's also Skip, who had his right leg amputated but still smokes. Skip says:

"I don't tell anyone to quit smoking. I tell people the effect smoking does to me and people I've been in contact with."

I still think the nastiest anti-smoking ad is the British TV ad linked above, featuring gross fatty clogged arteries.

May 20, 2008

Almost-mythological R. Kelly child-porn trial is actually happening

R. Kelly at the Grammys

Over the past six years, you may have heard about successful and deranged R&B singer R. Kelly and how he was charged with having sex with (and maybe also peeing on) a teenage girl/girls, and taping himself doing so. Finally, the judge, the lawyers, and Kelly himself all showed up at the same time, a jury was selected, and opening statements are happening today.

Even though the judge in R. Kelly's case has forbidden access to sealed documents and closed hearings, there are so many weird details about this case, including all the other instances in which R. Kelly has had sex with underage girls, that the media is still finding plenty to talk about.

The Chicago Sun-Times published a long story in 2000 about R. Kelly having sex with teenage girls, and two years later, the incriminating videotape was sent anonymously to one of the authors of that story. The paper's website has has an incredibly thorough special section dedicated to the case. Recent headlines include "R. Kelly angrily hurls basketball at reporter at rec center" and "Potential juror: R. Kelly's 'not very smart'".

They also have a blog about the case, with a recent post suggesting that Kelly's brother might testify against him with evidence that R. Kelly tried to bribe him to say it was him in the infamous video. In an earlier interview, the paper quoted Carey "Killa" Kelly as saying, "And I say to America, the criminal justice system: If you let that n***** off, he's going to do it again, trust me. I bet my life on it."

The Sun-Times has owned this story from the beginning, but the NY Times has a good background article today, too. They interview some media and culture scholars about the case, with a few interesting conclusions. One of them thinks that since 2002, we've all gotten so used to sexed-up teenagers that this dirty video case seems like less of a big deal than it might have at the time.

The Times quotes a professor of black culture at Duke, Mark Neal, who notes that since the indictment, R. Kelly has continued to write songs about having threesomes and called himself the "Pied Piper of R&B", implying that he seduces children with his music. "Either he’s absolutely demonic or stupid or crazy."

Yep, probably. Or, as R. Kelly once attempted to explain the messes he's gotten himself into: "In life, you have people that love to party. That’s me. People that love God. That’s me. People that love sex. That’s me. People that love people. That’s me. And people that make mistakes. That’s me also."

Mm-hmm. Well, he also said at the time of his indictment that "Osama bin Laden is the only one who knows exactly what I'm going through."

I think I'm going to stick with demonic, stupid, or crazy.

May 19, 2008

NY Times on purity balls

Today's Times features a piece on purity balls, evangelical father-daughter dances in Colorado Springs that encourage abstinence in girls and interest in their kids' lives in fathers.

Considering the hokey and overtly sexist subject matter, the article is impressively open-minded and even has some positive things to say about these events. But the accompanying slide show of freaky ceremonial hooey suggests a different attitude, more like "Hey, check out these creepy lunatics!"

Case in point:

purity ball


purity ball with swords

Nice sword, dad.

The part of these events that focuses on fathers having good relationships with their daughters sounds great. But there's also the part illustrated above with the sword-arch stuff and the white roses at the foot of the cross. The fathers make the following pledge: "to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity," like their main function as a parent is to act as a spiritual pair of granny panties.

One of the girls at the dance creepily confirms that slutty girls are just working out their daddy issues. She says, "Something I need from dad is affirmation, being told I’m beautiful. If we don’t get it from home, we will go out to the culture and get it from them."

I can just see "the culture" waiting right outside the event hall in the form of horny pantless 17 year-old boys who don't get to attend a ball, make any pledges, or have their pure genitals covered by their authoritarian moms.

May 16, 2008

State motto bastardization

Williamsburg Edge NH state motto rip-off

This ad for a new luxury high-rise in Williamsburg has been floating around the local press for a while. This week it's in the Onion. It's the most egregious rip-off of New Hampshire's aggressively libertarian state motto I've ever seen, and it definitely makes me want to withhold my tax dollars that are probably subsidizing this steel and glass hunk of hideousness.

In an attempt to discourage the Williamsburg Edge developers from taking a hard-core, no-bullshit motto like "Live Free or Die" and using it as some kind of nonsensical hyperbole to promote their latest yuppie compound, might I suggest a few other state mottos they might use instead:

Paraphrase Ohio's motto: With Trust Funds, All Things Are Possible.

Or update the New Jersey state motto: Liberty and Prosperity (thanks, Dad!)

Better yet, use the original motto of the Republic of Texas: Remember Galapagos!

May 15, 2008

Our awesome justice system

jury duty

Jury duty is an aspect of public life that many people think about only in terms of what strategy will get them out of it. You can try claiming you don't believe in the justice system, saying you're racist, saying your brother-in-law is a cop--everybody has theories about what to say during voir dire so that you don't get picked for a case.

This is totally the wrong approach. The chances are low that you'll get to put away Uma Thurman's stalker, but there are still lots of good things about serving on a jury. Once you get past the boring part of sitting around waiting to get selected, it's sort of cool:

  • For today's TV-loving juror, court rooms have been turned into entertainment venues. Everything that happens in there really is just like what you see on "Law & Order" and "Judge Judy". You'll almost definitely get to hear "all rise" every time you enter or leave the room, lots of objections (often vehement), deal with crotchety old world-weary judges, and maybe even get a few tears from emotional witnesses.
  • If you're dealing with a civil case, you get the opportunity to feel like you're leveling the playing field of our unfair world just a little bit by making corporate America/greedy doctors/unscrupulous landlords/corrupt nail salon owners/your oppressor of choice pay up, big time. This is incredibly gratifying.
  • During deliberation, you get to re-enact your favorite scenes from 12 Angry Men and either coolly persuade dissenters to come over to your rational way of thinking, or play the insane crabby jackass who holds out and almost ruins the whole trial. Not that you would actually change the outcome of the verdict through manufactured drama, but for anyone who enjoys playing devil's advocate, it's kind of fun.
  • Getting a whole jury to agree on a dollar amount for a civil case award is tricky, but everyone loves throwing around other people's money. Why stop at 50 grand? Let's give 100! No, 200! It's like you're on Oprah's show where you compete to give away a million dollars, but you don't ever get eliminated and, as far as I can tell, you can pick whatever huge number you want.
  • And let's be honest here, you get a legitimate reason not to go to work for a few days. Some days the judge will probably release you hours earlier than you would ever be able to leave work, and you should feel no obligation to go into work or use this time productively at all. As long as you're not self-employed, it's not a bad deal.

So go ahead, send in that juror questionnaire! It's not as bad as you think.

May 13, 2008

Third World? Third Helpings!

McDonalds in India

That title was coined by a friend, T-Rock, when reports of growing obesity rates in developing countries emerged a few years ago.

But now it relates to Bush's recent explanation for why we are in the middle of a global food shortage--people in poor countries are eating too much.

This is incredible: in talking about the food crisis, Bush referenced India and its growing middle class. "When you start getting wealth, you start demanding better nutrition and better food, and so demand is high, and that causes the price to go up."

High demand for food is because of India? So if all those people in India would just stay poor and malnourished, there would be plenty of food to go around! Wow.

A representative from a poverty research institute in India hit back, and is quoted by the Times as saying:

"If Americans slimmed down to the weight of middle-class Indians, many hungry people in sub-Saharan Africa would find food on their plates." He added, archly, that the money spent in the United States on liposuction to get rid of fat from excess consumption could be funneled to feed famine victims.

Americans eats an average of 3,770 calories a day, which is more than anyone else in the world according to the UN, and 50% more than what the average Indian eats per day.

Maybe Bush is coming down on India for being such greedy snack-hogs because they've ignored his recent request to stop their plans to pipe gas into their country from Iran. Of course, they'll probably just use the pipeline to blast in more delicious Iranian cakes and halva and kebabs, those piggies!

May 12, 2008

You really oughta know

Dave Coulier and Ryan Reynolds

Alanis Morissette's new album is called "Flavors of Entanglement", by which I think she means "Jagged Little Pill, Pt. 2: I Can't F'ing Believe I'm Going Through This Breakup Bullshit All Over Again".

She tells People that the album is about the "unraveling" of a significant relationship, and "chronicles the rock bottom finally being hit."

There has been much speculation about who she was singing about in "You Oughta Know", her first single about how much it sucks to get dumped, with most theories pointing to Dave Coulier from "Full House" and, more recently, "Skating With Celebrities". It's a lot clearer this time around--she and Ryan Reynolds dated since 2002 and broke up last year. He was with Scarlett Johansson a few months later.

"Flavors of Entanglement" comes out June 10; Scarlett's vanity-album of Tom Waits covers comes out next week (and generally isn't getting great reviews.)

Maybe not that surprisingly, it looks like Alanis is appearing in better movies than Scarlett this year. Alanis has got Radio Free Albemuth, an adaption of a Philip K. Dick novel about an extra-terrestrial resistance movement against a despotic president, and The Other Side, a supernatural mystery with Giovanni Ribisi and Jason Lee.

Scarlett has He's Just Not That Into You, which looks sort of like Sex and the City but with worse clothes. Ryan Reynolds is starring in Adventureland, which is by the director of Superbad and feateres Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, so will probably be at least OK.

May 7, 2008


In today's Who'dat?™, look at the thinning celebrity photo below, try to guess who it is, then click on the picture to see if you are right.


May 5, 2008

Summer movie season

Iron man

When it's 11:00 on a Sunday night and there's a crazy long line outside the men's room at the AMC, you know that summer movie season has started, even though it's barely May.

We bought $100 million of tickets to Iron Man last weekend, which is second only to Spider-Man for the non-sequel opening weekend record.

At the screening I went to, not a lot of viewers stuck around through the credits to watch the very very end of the movie. So in case you missed it, here it is, as recorded on a handheld/cellphone camera:

Iron Man ending

[UPDATE: these videos keep getting blocked by YouTube. I'll keep trying to find new clips to link to, but it's a losing game.]

New franchise! Marvel Studios just announced the sequel will come out in two years. Keep our pal RDJ off the smack, Jon Favreau.

About May 2008

This page contains all entries posted to Amy's Robot in May 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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