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August 31, 2010

FDA knows all about the cough syrup, kids

cough syrup

The FDA has noticed that kids everywhere are chugging cough syrup because they're making themselves sick: 8,000 kids ended up in the emergency room due to cough syrup abuse in 2008, which is up 70% from 2004. There's some talk of regulating the world's easiest drug for a high school kid to get, though making cough syrup prescription-only would be incredibly irritating during cold season. It might end up behind the counter, which would mean that you'd have to be 18 to buy it and would significantly compromise the offerings at many a drama club cast party.

In reading about kids drinking cough syrup, I found a wonderful Wikipedia entry, "Recreational use of dextromethorphan", the dissociative drug in many cough syrups, which is the last thing you should let any 16 year-old read if you're trying to prevent them from ladling this stuff onto their Cheerios.

A few excerpts from the various stages of intoxication one experiences on too much cough syrup:

* First plateau: effects include a sensation of alertness, stimulant effects such as restlessness, intensification of emotions, general euphoria, and euphoria linked to music.

* Second plateau: effects include entering a dreamlike state of consciousness, a heavier "stoned" feeling than with first plateau, and/or closed-eye hallucinations.

* Third plateau: effects include dreamlike vision, inability to comprehend language, abstract hallucinations, feelings of peace and quiet, and/or feelings of rebirth.

* Fourth plateau: an individual may experience a perceived loss of contact and control with their own body, out-of-body experiences, perceptions of contact with "superior," supernatural, or other archetypal beings (e.g. gods, aliens, vampires, etc.)

* Plateau Sigma: users have reported encounters with aliens and gods.

Maybe those last ones are only when you're on Ayahuasca-flavored Robitussen.

One clarification: the regular robo-tripping cough syrup that the FDA is concerned about is not the same as the stuff that southern rappers drink. That's drank. Sizzurp. Promethazine-codeine. Wikipedia has an extensive entry for that, too, with examples of about 35 different guys (and Nicki Minaj) who have referenced it in their songs. To be honest, prescription cough syrup doesn't sound nearly as crazy as the regular stuff, even if it can kill you: Wikipedia describes the high as "extreme somnolence" rather than vampire hallucinations.

No one seems to write songs about over-the-counter cough syrup, probably because its fans are mostly suburban 9th graders.

August 25, 2010

Movie trailer by anti-Muslim cab stabbing guy

Last night a "very drunk" 21 year-old guy was arrested for stabbing the driver of his cab after asking him if he was Muslim.

From the Times article:

After falling silent for a few minutes, the passenger began cursing and screaming, and then yelled, "Assalamu alaikum -- consider this a checkpoint!" and slashed Mr. Sharif across the neck, and then on the face from his nose to his upper lip, the alliance said. ("Assalamu alaikum" -- "peace be with you" -- is a traditional Muslim greeting.)

The assailant, Michael Enright, was an SVA film student who had recently been in Afghanistan shooting his documentary, Home of the Brave, about US soldiers.

The trailer is on YouTube:

It features young soldiers talking about what inspired them to enlist (9/11) and what it's like to be part of a tight-knight group of soldiers (they've got your back) and, actually, makes being a soldier in Afghanistan look pretty fun. There's basic training and motivational speeches in an auditorium, and also Christmas and birthday parties and playing with a friendly dog. Doesn't look like the film includes combat, probably because as a film student he wasn't allowed to see any action.

But clearly Hollywood has defined what we think war is supposed to look like, because there's a trailer for another movie called Home of the Brave that looks far grittier and more violent. This one is about Iraq, not Afghanistan, and it stars Samuel L. Jackson, Jessica Biel, and 50 Cent, but when you watch the trailer, the on-the-ground scenes look a lot more war-like than the documentary. It was directed by the guy who produced all the Rocky movies.

More bombs, fewer birthday cakes.

Anyway, it seems like Michael Enright was deeply attached to the US soldiers he met and other friends who were deployed, and somewhere along the way he went nuts. Interestingly, he was also a volunteer for Intersections International, a nonprofit that works to overcome racial and religious boundaries, in their veteran's dialogue program.

The cab driver is going to be OK.

August 23, 2010

Cee-Lo's surprise TUSH

Cee-Lo Green

Just when I was about to give up and admit that 2010 would be a year without a suitable Totally Ubiquitous Summer Hit, along comes our old friend Cee-Lo Green, who blows away everything you've heard all summer in the first 15 seconds of his new single, "Fuck You".

This is the most sunshiny, ebullient song I've heard all summer, and since the world first heard it at the end of last week and over the weekend, it has become absolutely unavoidably everywhere. It's been remixed by 50 Cent. It's been written up by the Wall Street Journal ("vulgar but catchy").

It's also been reviewed on Pitchfork: "It's beyond happy. Cathartic. It could be the new Sesame Street theme. It could play at a wedding, and your grandmother would hobble to it. It's post-censorship." It really is.

That's it! Katy Perry, you're outta here! Eminem, go beat girls up someplace else! At least for today, Cee-Lo's got this year's TUSH. And you can't even buy it until October 4.

Gnarls Barkley (Cee-Lo + Danger Mouse) had the TUSH in 2006 with "Crazy", which grew to ubiquity over several months. While the world took many listens to get into the wistful musings of that song, as of your first listen, "Fuck You" is burned into your brain forever. It's so catchy it feels like you already know it.

By the way, radio is playing a clean version of the song ("Forget You"), which as Pitchfork says, "may as well not exist."

Here's Cee-Lo's Twitter, and here's his website where you can hear a few of the songs that will be on his new album, Lady Killer.

August 19, 2010

The male Brazilian: a country with no boundaries

40 Year Old Virgin waxing scene

Male waxing is nothing new. Over the last decade or so (or last century for gay guys) more and more men have gotten some various part of their chest, back, shoulders, or legs waxed, gaining a personal understanding of suffering for beauty, and perhaps a new way to bond with women.

The new frontier: Brazilians for men. Christopher Hitchens did it a few years ago, and today Salon has a first-person account, "Why I got the male Brazilian wax" by a brave fellow who sounds like he was bullied into it by his girlfriend's waxing technician, a brusque Russian named Irena.

Hetero male waxing of the nether regions isn't exactly new territory (Newsweek reported that "it's the straight guys who seem to be doing the more extreme waxing" back in 2004) but now that it's become as common as flossing, I started to think about it. Like, what a male Brazilian actually means. I understand it for the ladies. It means everything is gone.

For what about for men? For most women, hair in tender areas tends to stop at some point. If you're going to remove all of it, there is a somewhat clearly-defined area with boundaries that "all of it" lies within. But a lot of men out there have hair that just goes on and on like an endless follicular ocean. There's no hair horizon. If you're going in deep around the entire crotchal area, that's fine, but where do you stop? Clearly, balls are involved. I don't want to get too graphic, here, but I can imagine situations where once you start waxing down there, you wouldn't necessarily encounter a natural stopping point until you reached the soles of the feet.

I really wish at least one of these articles was a lot more explicit about the parameters of the male Brazilian. I want to know.

Anyway, there are some wonderful moments in today's Salon article, like the response the writer got when he asked his bros about getting Brozilians--"they were, in a word, appalled. They became almost angry at my suggestion that it had ever been a trend."

Also: a story about tazing an inappropriate customer, and the no-nonsense Ukrainian spa aesthetician who says: "We hire only older women for the waxing, like your grandmother. We don't hire the model drop-dead gorgeous girl. Otherwise men become uncomfortable and afraid." Makes sense. You're pretty vulnerable down there with your legs up in the air, though a Ukrainian grandmother brandishing a pot of hot wax sounds terrifying enough.

[tx Jess!]

August 18, 2010

Bed bugs and the end of the world

Bed bugs and movie theaters

Today's news that the AMC 25 movie theater on 42nd St is closed due to bed bug infestation is just one of many increasingly alarming reports of bed bugs that have been plaguing the city for the last few years.

It's bad enough that the Brooklyn DA's office, the city's counsel, and the Park Slope Pavilion movie theater all reported bugs lately, as well as 10% of apartments in New York City and "Broadway theaters, judges chambers, health clubs, stores, and movie theaters," according to exterminators.

But there are some months that I spend a major portion of my waking hours at the AMC 25. I'm a card-carrying MovieWatcher Club member. I saw Scott Pilgrim at a $6 matinee (best deal in town!) a mere 4 days ago. My world has been invaded.

No one is safe. You may have thought the world as we know it would end with nuclear warfare, or we'd run out of clean water, or a giant tsunami would flood the earth. But you would be wrong. Because the end of world is coming, and it's bed bugs.

When I first read the reports of the AMC 25 infestation, I thought, you know, in five years, the entire city is going to be totally overrun with bed bugs. They'll be everywhere. We're all going to be hypervigilant maniacs wrapping our bodies in garbage bags to go to restaurants and ride the subway.

Then I was like, hey, wait.

Now that the apocalypse is here, the best way to cope is by embracing reality, being proactive, and planning your 2010 Halloween costume.

Sexy Bed Bug! Bed Bug Zombie!

sexy bed bug

zombie bed bug

Gonna be a truly terrifying Halloween.

August 15, 2010

Scott Pilgrim and the new Michael Cera

Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim

I had exerted monumental effort to keep my expectations in check for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. The cast, the music, the style, Michael Cera, Edgar Wright--I was getting really excited about this movie, and it would have been easy to walk in expecting (Shaun of the Dead x "Arrested Development"), only to be confronted with (Run Fatboy Run - Year One).

But there was nothing to worry about--this movie is completely wonderful and is the best time I've had in the theater this year (even if the fight scenes get a little samey.) Edgar Wright understands his genres so completely, and is unapologetically of, by, and for his own generation and its pop culture. Even though this movie is about people in their early 20's, the references, music (both the soundtrack and original songs by Beck), clothes, and video game style are a lot more early 90's than 2010. If you're approximately Edgar Wright's age (36) you will totally get this movie, even if you've never read a comic book and haven't played a video game since Zelda.

I have no idea if actual 22 year-olds will like or get it or not. I would guess they would be a little puzzled by love interest Ramona Flowers and her personal style, which is sort of late-80's goth with a touch of early-90's riot grrrl and really has no point of reference to how cool young women in movies dress now. But she made me want to dig out my old boots and A-line miniskirts from college.

All the stuff about relationships, evil exes, and trying against all odds to get that one person who is far cooler than you are to go out with you is universal. As is the realization that, no matter how wronged and heartbroken you may feel, there are also times that you're the heartbreaker asshole.

Which brings me to something else that's great about this movie: Michael Cera gets to play a dick. For the last 6 years or so, Michael Cera has pretty much played variations of George-Michael Bluth: an earnest, sweet kid, socially awkward, a romantic, sort of a loser with sincere intentions. He's so good at it that he's had to play this same role over and over again. Sometime around Juno, this started to get a little tedious.

But in Scott Pilgrim, he's not necessarily the nicest guy in the world. He knows how to play the sweet, sincere puppy-dog type, but sometimes it's an act. Some of the time, Pilgrim is manipulative, selfish, and petulant. He's got a long, unflattering history with the ladies, and he's a little bit of a jerk.

It turns out Michael Cera is great at playing a little bit of a jerk! It was such a relief. It reminds me of that period in the 90's when Hugh Grant played one stammering, awkward, floppy-haired, increasingly annoying romantic after another (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, etc.) Then he did Bridget Jones and About a Boy and played unrepentant pricks in each movie. He was phenomenal. Such a relief to see him break out of his type, and such a surprise to see how good he was at playing selfish assholes, even if they come around by the end.

So hopefully Michael Cera will get more opportunities to embrace his inner jerk.

Note: despite my own love for this movie and the monumental marketing behind it (I think I've seen an interview with Edgar Wright or Michal Cera in every single publication and website I read [good one in The AV Club]) it didn't do that well this weekend at the box office. Everybody's been watching Eat Pray Love and The Expendables. Too bad: I'm willing to bet Scott Pilgrim is a lot more fun and will make you feel much cooler than either of those.

August 9, 2010

3rd grade = puberty

3rd grade class, 1984

[photo: Mrs. Ford's 3rd grade class, 1984]

A new study was just released in Pediatrics magazine that measures when American girls are hitting puberty to see if it's happening at an a younger age than it used to. It's definitely happening earlier, but what I found alarming is that for the purpose of this study, "earlier" means "at an age when I was still wearing jammies with feet."

The study included girls ages 6 to 8 in New York, San Francisco, and Cincinnati, and checked them to see if they had breasts yet. We're talking 1st to 3rd grade, here. The target demographic for My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake.

And Giant Gazongas Barbie, apparently. Because it turns out lots of these 7 and 8 year olds have breasts--like 18% of white girls, 31% of Latina girls, and 43% of black girls!

For a late bloomer like me, this is completely insane. I associate that first bra purchase more closely with learning to drive than with learning to add. It's entirely possible that, if I were a teenager today, I would be babysitting a 7 year-old whose boobs were bigger than mine. I can't even imagine how girls who are still figuring out how to avoid wetting the bed are dealing with suddenly having pubic hair.

The causes aren't completely clear, but everyone suspects it's mostly due to obesity and chemicals in food and the environment like xenoestrogens and bovine growth hormone that mess with your endocrine system and do crazy things like make 7 year-old girls develop breasts. It was mostly the overweight girls in the study who were reaching puberty at such early ages, and the scientists say they're going to measure all the girls' hormone levels and see what chemicals they'd been exposed to.

Even though this new research suggests lucrative new product lines for busty elementary schoolers, I'd rather not see displays of Dora the Explorer training bras at Target.

August 6, 2010

Who's not supporting Wyclef for President

Wyclef Jean performing at Haiti benefit

Wyclef Jean says he didn't so much decide to run for president of Haiti, but that a groundswell of his fellow Haitians are demanding that he become their new leader. "People say, 'Are you running for president?' I say no, I am naturally being drafted by my country to serve my country," he told the Daily News.

Let's look at the response to his presidential draft:

Pras, ex-Fugee and Wyclef's estranged cousin, says he's supporting Michel Martelly instead of Wyclef because "he is the most competent candidate for the job." Martelly is also a Haitian musician who performs under the name "Sweet Micky". From Sweet Micky's Wikipedia page: "Outlandish and outspoken, Martelly has been known to drink publicly while performing in wigs, costumes, diapers, and Scottish kilts, and occasionally remove his own attire while performing." He's also friends with current president Rene Preval. Here's his MySpace page.

If Sweet Micky is the most competent candidate, it's going to be an entertaining few years for people who don't have to live in Haiti.

Also not a Wyclef supporter: Sean Penn. Last night on CNN he called Wyclef a "non-presence" in Haiti since the earthquake and says that for the next president, "I want to see someone who is really willing to sacrifice for their country and not just someone who I personally saw with a vulgar entourage of vehicles that demonstrated a wealth in Haiti that -- in context, I felt a very obscene demonstration."

Sean Penn's views on Haitian politics are actually more relevant that you might think: he's spent most of his time since the earthquake managing relief services for 50,000 people at a camp he co-founded, the J/P Haitian Relief Organization.

The Daily News interviewed some Haitians living in Brooklyn for their thoughts on Clef. A shipping company manager in Flatbush says, "Wyclef is a musician. He's not fit for the job."

But the Times found at least one Haitian who's enthusiastic about his candidacy:

Sitting on a cracked stoop in a battered neighborhood called Bas Peu des Choses, Linda Joseph, 36, clapped her hands in delight and said she probably would not have bothered to vote if Mr. Jean had not decided to run.

"Other people make promises and don't deliver, but Wyclef has heart," she said. "If he says he'll do something, we'll trust him. And besides, he already has all the money he needs. So he won't steal from us like the others.”

Oh, really, Linda? Clef's financial track record has more in common with other recent Haitian leaders than you might like.

He owes over $2 million to the IRS, which he talks about like it's a good thing: "owing $2.1 million to the IRS shows you how much money Wyclef Jean makes a year," he says, demurely referring to himself in the third person. And as we all heard about in January, he used his foundation, Yele Haiti Foundation, to pay himself and his other businesses, which is illegal. It also turns out that he's 40, not 37 as he used to claim.

At least now that Wyclef's in the race, everyone will pay attention to Haiti again for a few minutes. I hope his debates with Sweet Micky are televised.

August 2, 2010


Clive Owen in Trust

The Toronto Film Festival is starting to announce its movie lineup, and one of the premieres is going to be a revenge thriller called Trust. The trailer just came out, and it reveals a few interesting things:

  • It stars Clive Owen and Catherine Keener as a married couple, so it's automatically cool
  • It's about this cool married couple trying to deal with a terrible thing that happens to one of their kids (the trailer gives away lots of details about this, so don't watch it if you don't want to know. What is it with these trailers? Better question: why do I keep watching them when they bug the hell out of me?)
  • The movie seems to focus in particular on Clive Owen's descent into obsessive and possibly homicidal thirst for revenge, featuring lots of wild-eyed rage that doesn't even begin to diminish his rumpled, doughy-faced handsomeness
  • Supporting cast includes Viola Davis and Noah Emmerich, who I just now figured out is one of my favorite character actors
  • It's directed by David Schwimmer! Huh? Run, Fatboy, Run, the US version of "Little Britain", and now this. Who does he think he is, Edgar Wright? Now that he's anchored himself firmly behind the camera, that guy has done pretty well for himself.

Here's the trailer (it keeps getting taken down from YouTube: hopefully new versions will keep getting posted):

One other thing: there are a LOT of movies out there called Trust. IMDb has three of them coming out in 2010 alone. So far my favorite is Hal Hartley's, which also premiered at Toronto back in 1990. But really, it's time to retire this title.

About August 2010

This page contains all entries posted to Amy's Robot in August 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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