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August 27, 2012

Next deadly campaign in Iraq: American food

Iraq fast food

The US military may have ended its war on Iraq, but US pizza is just getting started. In the most promising indicator that Iraqis are ready to end their chapter of violence and conflict, Baghdad residents have embraced the kind of high-calorie, artery-busting fatty fast food that Americans have shoved into their gaping pieholes for decades. As the leader of a local private equity firm opening new restaurants says, "Iraq is a virgin market."

The restaurants serving this food have created some delightful new names to market the previously unknown levels of gluttony that Iraqis can now enjoy while they slowly destroy their health. The AP reports:

Among the latest additions is a sit-down restaurant called Chili House. Its glossy menu touts Caesar salads and hot wing appetizers along with all-American entrees like three-way chili, Philly cheesesteaks and a nearly half-pound "Big Mouth Chizzila" burger.

"We're fed up with traditional food," said government employee Osama al-Ani as he munched on pizza at one of the packed new restaurants last week. "We want to try something different."

The traditional Arabic restaurants long popular here now find themselves competing against foreign-sounding rivals such as Mr. Potato, Pizza Boat, and Burger Friends.

And my favorite Baghdad restaurant, which demonstrates the durability and ingenuity of American branding: Florida Fried Chicken.

A doctor at a Baghdad hospital warns of the downside of the fast food craze, probably after watching the Americans occupying his country stuff their faces with crap for the last 10 years: "The opening of these American-style restaurants ... will make Iraqis, especially children, fatter."

Welcome to the first world, Iraq! Manufacturers of hypertension medication and elastic-waist pants share your enthusiasm for Western culture.

August 21, 2012

GOP quietly thanks Todd Akin, gets back to business

Men and Women in Congress

While the world gets enraged about insufficiently horrific characterizations of rape and made-up biological claims, do you see what the GOP is doing over there? Party leaders get to join the firestorm and sternly condemn Todd "legitimate rape" Akin, even though he's just repeating the same argument against access to abortion for rape victims that other members of his party have been using for decades. And then they go right ahead and add a plank to the party platform which exactly represents what Akin was talking about all along: a call for a constitutional ban on abortion that makes no allowance for rape.

That's what this is about: making abortion illegal in all circumstances. Something that no one with a credible understanding of our legislative process actually thinks will ever happen -- but it sure is effective at getting the base fired up! God help the Republican party if abortion ever really does become illegal in this country and they lose one of their most sure-fire hot buttons to push every four years.

Here's an interesting theory about how voters might respond to the Republican shift to the right on this issue, which was written even before Akin articulated the GOP platform on abortion and the GOP pretended to reject it. Democrats will likely attract a lot more moderate voters, who are learning with surprise how non-moderate the GOP's attitude toward women has gotten.

August 14, 2012

The Dennis Hopper-ification of McConaughey

Matthew McConaughey in Killer Joe

2012 is the year of Matthew McConaughey. Not the McConaughey of bland romantic comedies co-starring Kate Hudson or Jennifer Lopez, but the McConaughey of strange, surprising, dark, dirty movies where his Texan charisma has a serpentine streak, and audiences get unprecedented exposure to his ball sack.

I watched Killer Joe last night. McConaughey plays the title character, a Dallas detective who moonlights as a hired killer. This movie got an NC-17 rating, which we hardly ever see anymore, but this one really deserves it. There's a ton of brutal violence and leering menace, with clear shots of the aforementioned McConau-junk, but I'm guessing what earned the rating are a couple of scenes of sexual engagement that are at times so disturbing and inexplicable that I can't say for sure if I understood what was going on, but I'm positive it was filthy. McConaughey delightfully describes his character as a "black panther", by which I think he means a mysterious and dangerous animal, not a '60's revolutionary leftist. He's a sadistic sociopath, but at the same time he's so controlled and dominating that he's magnetic to watch.

See that black leather jacket McConaughey's wearing above? Check this out:

Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet

It took Dennis Hopper decades of cultivating his particular brand of wild, unpredictable genius to become the only actor who could play Frank Booth in Blue Velvet. We knew he was talented (Easy Rider, Cool Hand Luke, a million Westerns) but we also knew he was a maniac (Apocalypse Now, a seemingly impossible daily drug intake, the time he blew himself up with dynamite.) Then in 1986, David Lynch cast him as Frank Booth. Next he was in River's Edge as Feck, a reclusive delusional murderer in love with a blow-up doll. Dennis Hopper was back.

I feel like McConaughey is having a similar moment. He's spent all these years cementing his brand as the flamboyant golden-boy stoner, shirtless in a do-rag, holding a surfboard, playing the bongos, and supporting his lifestyle with endless disposable crappy movies that make tons of money. But all the while, he was building that charismatic energy into a force field of gonzo intense star power. Enter: Steven Soderbergh and Magic Mike. McConaughey plays the owner/MC at a male strip club who is actually named Dallas, a role so consummately made for him that it would teeter into self-parody if McConaughey wasn't so irresistibly, sleazily charming. Plus, the ball sack.

Next we'll see him in The Paperboy, where the Times says he's "playing a closeted gay reporter with a taste for rough sex and a raging death wish." Keep riding that wave, MM.

August 9, 2012

Next celebrity to get weirdly naked in a Lars von Trier movie: Shia LaBeouf

Shia LaBeouf in Sigur Ros video

Today we learned about an exciting new collaboration between two people who are into nudity that's kind of arty, but if we're being honest, is mostly just freaky and unsettling: Lars von Trier and Shia LaBeouf. Von Trier is known for emotionally apocalyptic movies involving gang rape, genital mutilation, and the end of the world, and Shia LaBeouf is a super rich and famous action movie star whose current relationship with celebrity is either estranged or outright hostile.

LaBeouf's latest role is in an arty, inexplicable 8-minute Sigur Ros video for an instrumental song, in which he appears totally naked, bearded, and getting busy with a blonde (above). Clearly this is an actor who's not afraid to get naked in front of the camera for a director who's into taking risks and/or being nuts.

Enter: Lars von Trier's new movie, Nymphomaniac! Shia LaBeouf is in talks to appear in this movie, which will follow title character Charlotte Gainsbourg through a lifetime of sexual exploits, including during completely inappropriate ages, such as infancy. There will apparently be both "hardcore" and "softcore" versions filmed, though I sense that the softcore version will be no less bizarre and perverse.

In the meantime, Shia LaBeouf will appear in some movies that don't include full-frontal, including Robert Redford's The Company You Keep (assuming Redford hasn't made a radical genre shift since The Legend of Bagger Vance.)

August 6, 2012

Obsure Olympic events

Women's handball, 2012 Olympics

Have you seen the Olympics photo collections that the NY Times has been publishing every day? They're really amazing. It's a more interesting and varied way to see what's happening everyday without all the extra stuff on TV like backstories about athletes' moms and Ryan Seacrest.

NBC is doing an OK good job in their coverage, but they focus so heavily on American athletes that any sport without a leading American contender or team doesn't get much airtime. Plus, have you noticed how long it takes them to show the scores in women's gymnastics? Everyone on the floor starts reacting to scores that none of us can see, and they're hugging and crying or pursing their lips in stoic resignation, and I'm sitting there shouting SHOW US THE SCORE ALREADY! It's frustrating.

Also, there are all the cutesy little features that NBC produces, like last night's bit with Mary Carillo talking about props in the James Bond movies, then riding around in an Aston Martin and screaming, which they show instead of, say, women's handball. Which thanks to the NY Times I have learned is an incredibly tough and hardcore sport where players do things like this to each other:

Women's handball, London Olympics

Wow! And I thought handball was that game Latino guys play in the area of the park with half-size tennis courts, though Wikipedia says the Latino guys are playing something confusingly called "Gaelic handball". The Olympians are playing "Team handball".

And there are other sports I would have no idea about without the Times photo streams. For example, did you know men's field hockey is an Olympic sport? Maybe I missed this because American men don't typically play field hockey, so NBC's coverage is minimal.

men's field hockey, London Olympics

And how about women's trampoline gymnastics?

Women's trampoline gymnastics, London Olympics

News to me.

About August 2012

This page contains all entries posted to Amy's Robot in August 2012. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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