jeudi, août 31, 2006

this film is not yet rated

In 1968, the MPAA implemented a ratings system to keep the government from stepping in and regulating the film industry. It's a secretive and imperfect system, with many high profile critics, including Roger Ebert.
He argues that the system places too much emphasis on not showing sex while allowing the portrayal of massive amounts of gruesome violence. Moreover, he argues that the rating system is geared toward looking at trivial aspects of the movie (such as the number of times a profane word is used) rather than at the general theme of the movie (for example, if the movie realistically depicts the consequences of sex and violence).
One director, Kirby Dick (apparently his real name), has made a movie about what happened when he tried to find out who actually sits on the ratings board. I think it's interesting that the board members felt like they were being stalked. Apparently, the watchers don't like being watched.
New film attacks Hollywood's "censorship" system
By Arthur Spiegelman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - When director Kirby Dick wanted to learn the identities of the most secretive group in the film industry, he resorted to a time-honored Hollywood tradition. He hired a private eye to follow them and go through their garbage.

Dick, whose movie, "This Film is Not Yet Rated," opens in New York and Los Angeles Friday, was carrying out what he considered a noble mission. He wanted to expose the secret "censors" of Hollywood -- the people who view movies before they go into theaters and classify them according to content.

Their decisions -- denoted in numerals and letters of the alphabet, like "PG-13" (parents warned that content may be inappropriate for children under 13) and "R" (restricted, under 17 admitted only with a parent or adult guardian) -- determine who sees which films.

Dick argues that the process amounts to censorship because it forces filmmakers to tone down -- maybe even gut -- their works rather the incur the wrath of the Motion Picture Association of America's ratings board.

The group keeps the names of most of its board members secret from the public.

Although not a censorship board in the traditional sense of the term, the board wields enormous power in Hollywood. Few filmmakers, for example, want their works rated NC-17, which bars anyone 17-years-old or under from attending, because newspapers and TV stations often won't accept ads for such films, and many theaters refuse to show them.

Moreover, NC-17 carries the stigma of an "adult movie," which in many people's minds translates into "pornography."

Many ratings board decisions stem from the nature of sex scenes in films, including such factors as the length of an on-screen orgasm. Dick's movie illustrates the point with steamy shots that were cut from several films -- "Where the Truth Lies," "Boys Don't Cry" and "Storytelling" -- to meet ratings requirements.

Dick's decision to hire a private investigator named Becky Altringer and film her following ratings board members from their MPAA workplace to their cars came at a curious moment in Hollywood.

The whole town is currently abuzz over various investigations of another private eye -- Anthony Pellicano, the former "private eye to the stars" accused of wiretapping and other illegal activities on behalf of his A-list Hollywood clients.

Dick said he did nothing illegal in hiring his own investigator and filming her at work, scenes that help form a dramatic arc in his production.

"That was the only way I could get their names. They have been kept secret for nearly 30 years. If what they are doing is in the public interest, then the information about who they are should be public."

The MPAA says it keeps their names private to protect them from public pressure. The board members that Dick followed did not know he was making a movie and thought they were being stalked, a source close to the board said.

The MPAA has said its ratings board consists mostly of average Americans whose mandate is to provide guidance for parents on the nature of films' content, such as the level of violence and sexuality.

The board was established in 1968 to replace a more rigid system.

Dan Glickman, the head of the MPAA, denied any suggestions that the film industry trade association would go after Dick's movie in a counter-campaign. "Hey, this is a great country and the First Amendment is great" Glickman said,

"He raises some issues that we are looking at, but the essence of the rating system has been profoundly helpful to parents," Glickman added.

Dick said he would like to see the current ratings system replaced by one that gives more detailed information about what a film contains so that parents -- and parents alone -- can determine what their children see.

As for his own film, he submitted it to the ratings board and it received an NC-17 classification. But he decided to release it as an unrated movie, and thus avoid the stigma of NC-17.

mercredi, août 30, 2006

free katie

It's not just about the ethics of retouching photographs. It's about the motives behind the retouching. Check out this gallery of retouched photos.

My first thought as I read about the Katie Couric issue was: "would they have done the same thing if it were a male host?"

CBS resizes Couric in promo pic
August 30, 2006 5:48 AM PDT
An image of Katie Couric, originally released in May by CBS, was slimmed down for reuse.
The doctored photo appears in the September issue of Watch magazine, which is owned by CBS, according to Mediabistro, which first reported on the alteration. The New York Post and several blogs soon followed with coverage.
As photo-editing software becomes more available to the general public, the public has become more conscious of altered photography. The software with which average Americans can change themselves has gotten easier to use, with many reality-altering options built into the cameras themselves. A technique, which gives the same effect as the Couric photo, is available as a "Slimming Mode" on several Hewlett Packard cameras. (See a photo gallery of doctored photos, from altered Iraq battlefield scenes to a mash-up of Jane Fonda and John Kerry.)
Couric is scheduled to begin her job as anchor and managing editor of "The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric" in September. She replaces Dan Rather in the position. (Bob Schieffer also served as interim anchor.) Couric will be "the first female solo anchor of a weekday network evening news broadcast," according to CBS.
A brief search found no stories of doctored photos or weight issues related to Couric's male predecessors.


"When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be."
-Lao Tzu

mardi, août 29, 2006

yale, schmale

Unique? Check.
Funny? Bwahahaha.
Gimmicky? Dude, they're giving away SMART cars and PSPs!
Sustainable? Not so much.

In short, they've got a point, but I'm not sure how far it will get them. (Thunder Bay must be a really tough place to live if you have to give away PSPs and SMART cars to get students there. )

And then there's the whole fact that this campaign is probably not the best way to bolster your credibility as a University ...
Canada university in campaign row
A small Canadian university has sparked controversy with its recruitment drive by using posters and a website mocking US President George W Bush.

Lakehead University in northern Ontario set up in a bid to attract potential new students.

It shows a picture of Yale graduate Mr Bush with the caption: "Graduating from an Ivy League university doesn't necessarily mean you're smart."

The president of Lakehead's student union called the campaign "repugnant".

The university has issued posters bearing the black and white image of Mr Bush, who graduated from Yale in 1968, encouraging people to visit its campaign website.

Once there, users are invited to click on a link if they agree with the caption, and are taken through to a page promoting Lakehead, which is based in Thunder Bay and has 7,600 students.

"There are universities and then there are universities. So let's not beat around the bush," it says.

"Lakehead is different. We believe the person you become after you graduate is even more important than the person you were when you enrolled."

There is then a further link to take users through to Lakehead's official site for potential students.


The university has defended its campaign, which also includes prizes of a car lease and handheld computer games consoles, saying it has had a positive effect.

"It was literally a tongue-in-cheek way of getting attention," university president and vice-chancellor Frederick Gilbert told Reuters news agency.

The website had received more than 7,000 hits, he said on Monday, and online comments had been 95% positive.

But he acknowledged the university had received e-mails which were "running in the opposite direction", which was a concern.

"Older generations" and some of Lakehead's students considered the campaign inappropriate, he said.

The university would not retract its campaign, however, although it would try to respond to individual concerns, he said.

Student union president Isabelle Poniatowski told Reuters the campaign was low-brow and lacked class.

"It still strikes me as being very repugnant," she said. "Lakehead has so many positive attributes that you could really sell to people that live down south."
Via Tess

no boom-boom lately

Locals know that the quiet boom of SeaWorld fireworks in the summertime means that it's almost 10 p.m. I haven't heard them lately, but now I know why.

I can't help but point out how ironic and hypocritical I think this is. Does anyone else think it's odd that an organization whose mission is about environmental stewardship is polluting waters in violation of the federal Clean Water Act? Hmmm.

In case you're curious, SeaWorld's mission is:
Based on a long-term commitment to education, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, and Discovery Cove strive to provide an enthusiastic, imaginative, and intellectually stimulating atmosphere to help students and guests develop a lifelong appreciation, understanding, and stewardship for our environment.
Specifically the goals are...
  • To instill in students and guests of all ages an appreciation for science and a respect for all living creatures and habitats.
  • To conserve our valuable natural resources by increasing awareness of the interrelationships of humans and the environment.
  • To increase students' and guests' basic competencies in science, math, and other disciplines.
  • To be an educational resource to the world.
I'm Zoo member, but have no plans to visit the Anheuser-Busch-owned circus better known as SeaWorld.
SeaWorld suspends fireworks show
Environmentalists raise issue of water pollution
By Terry Rodgers
August 24, 2006

SeaWorld has suspended indefinitely its nightly fireworks show over Mission Bay and will apply for a potentially precedent-setting permit that would regulate pyrotechnics as a water pollutant.
SeaWorld has stopped the shows since Sunday to avoid a lawsuit from San Diego Coastkeeper, an environmental group that contends the chemical and paper residue falling into Mission Bay from spent fireworks constitutes a discharge of pollutants under the federal Clean Water Act.
“There are pollutants being discharged and the law says you need a permit,” said Marco Gonzalez, an attorney for Coastkeeper.
If water-quality regulators approve SeaWorld's application for a discharge permit, they could require others who display fireworks over bodies of water to apply for similar permits. Coastal cities that shoot pyrotechnics from piers, the San Diego Unified Port District, the fairgrounds in Del Mar and a host of other places could be affected.
“The implications of this are very significant,” said John Robertus, executive officer of the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board, the agency that will weigh the merits of SeaWorld's application.

While fireworks firms routinely obtain permits from local fire departments, pyrotechnics have not been regulated by water-quality agencies.
“It has not been done anywhere in the U.S. that I am aware of,” Robertus said. “Locally, we have not seen a need to regulate that.”
Coastkeeper's attorney said he hopes the SeaWorld controversy will prompt the State Water Resources Control Board in Sacramento to require a permit for fireworks.
“The state (should) create a general permit for fireworks displays with standardized monitoring and reporting requirements,” Gonzalez said.
San Diego and the state Coastal Commission currently allow SeaWorld to have as many as 150 fireworks shows annually. The marine-themed park typically conducts 120 to 125 shows per year, said SeaWorld spokesman Dave Koontz. Most of its pyrotechnic displays occur between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
During each “Summer Nights SkyBlast” show, which lasts about six minutes, some 240 fireworks shells are launched and exploded over Mission Bay from a barge.
Residue from the spent shells consists primarily of heavy metals, including copper, which is toxic to marine life, Robertus said.
“It's pretty clear that these are pollutants; the key question is whether the levels in the water are significant,” he said.
Five years ago, the state Coastal Commission required SeaWorld to monitor the water and sediment in Mission Bay to determine if the fireworks affected the environment.
No adverse effects have been detected, SeaWorld officials said.
But in June, Coastkeeper notified SeaWorld that it intended to file a lawsuit to force the park to apply for a discharge permit with the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board.
In response, SeaWorld suspended its fireworks shows and agreed to apply for the permit.
According to Coastkeeper's notice of intent to sue, its officials are worried about hazardous compounds found in fireworks, which can include perchlorate salts, arsenic, chromium, copper, strontium, mercury, cadmium, lead and zinc.
“Of particular concern are arsenic, mercury and lead. These metals are extremely poisonous to human and marine life and can lead to serious long-term illnesses such as cancer,” the document states.
SeaWorld officials said their fireworks contain only the salts and copper and not the other toxins listed by Coastkeeper.
After each fireworks show, SeaWorld litter crews motor into the bay to pick up paper in the water left from the exploded shells. The next morning, crews also clean the shoreline in front of SeaWorld and across the bay on Fiesta Island, Koontz said.
Had Coastkeeper not intervened, the shows would have continued nightly until Sept. 4. Koontz said he has fielded about a dozen phone calls and e-mails from local residents disappointed that SeaWorld has stopped its displays.
“We never asked for the cancellation of the fireworks,” said Bruce Reznik, executive director for Coastkeeper. “We just want to make sure they are used responsibly.”

dimanche, août 27, 2006

"everyone pretend to be normal"

Tonight, I met D and Ophy for dinner at Ichiban and then we went and saw "Little Miss Sunshine" (starring Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin and Alan Arkin).
Written by Michael Arndt, this is the story of the Hoovers, one of the most endearingly fractured families ever seen on motion picture screens. Together, the motley six-member family treks from Albuquerque to the Little Miss Sunshine pageant in Redondo Beach, CA, to fulfill the deepest wish of 7-year-old Olive, an ordinary little girl with big dreams. Along the way the family must deal with crushed dreams, heartbreaks, and a broken-down VW bus, leading up to the surreal Little Miss Sunshine competition itself. On their travels through this bizarrely funny landscape, the Hoovers learn to trust and support each other along the path of life, no matter what the challenge.
It probably comes as no surprise to anyone that I despise beauty pageants. This film actually handles the subject matter quite well. The music is also excellent, especially DeVotchKa's score.

As Gorilla vs. Bear put it:
Forget that the soundtrack features two Sufjan songs AND Rick James (bitches), the DeVotchKa songs are the highlight.
Listen to "The Winner Is" and "How it Ends."

If they sound familiar, it's because you've heard them before — in "Everything is Illuminated."

jeudi, août 24, 2006


"Some forms of reality are so horrible we refuse to face them, unless we are trapped into it by comedy. To label any subject unsuitable for comedy is to admit defeat."
-Peter Sellers (8 September 1925 - 24 July 1980) born Richard Henry Sellers: British comedian and actor

mardi, août 22, 2006

the pragmatic punk

I hate hearing the term "sell out" for any artist who goes from indie to popular. It is possible to grow up (and to have mainstream appeal) without losing yourself or your cred. And I think Dave Grohl's done it rather well.
Foo Fighters Unplug, and a Frontman Shows His Practical Side
Published: August 23, 2006
“The nicest guy in rock” is what the common rock journalist says about Dave Grohl. It’s probably the dumbest thought in rock. Niceness, from a total stranger who is also a rock star, is usually just the star’s way of closing his transaction with you more quickly. Let’s settle for something more measurable: Dave Grohl is one of the more practical guys in rock.

As the singer and bandleader of Foo Fighters, Mr. Grohl seems like a paperboy doing his rounds, doing his work assuredly, almost plainly. Even when he’s screaming his head off, he’s adhering to his craft, with a confidence that anyone can admire. His is a shapely scream, empty of terror. (Before he works up to it, his voice is strangely anonymous, in the Dave Matthews, regular-dude-with-feelings ballpark.) Mr. Grohl came from punk — he was the drummer in Nirvana, of course, and before that the Washington bands Scream and Dain Bramage — but he isn’t hobbled by credibility issues; he’s not doing what the Clash called “turning rebellion into money.”

His paper route is recording hit rock songs about personal feelings, and he seems to live happily in the middle ground between punk probity and song hooks good enough for an iPod hit. (And don’t forget the obvious fact: he was an incredibly good rock drummer who let go of drumming to stand in front of his band with a guitar.) He has figured out his game to an exhilarating degree. Practicality is his charisma.

Foo Fighters celebrated their 10th anniversary last year with a gesture that indicates how rock stars live large now. They built a new studio and recorded a two-disc set, “In Your Honor,” with rock songs on the first disc, acoustic songs on the second. And after a rock-show tour last year, the band is now performing the acoustic songs in theaters more appropriate to nuance. These songs are sweet, not great. And the acoustic Foo Fighters show at the Beacon Theater on Monday night didn’t come off as pompous, just as gold-plated common sense. “It’s all about the catalog, dude,” Mr. Grohl joked in between songs. Of course he’s right, and maybe it’s even kind of punk to cop to it. But is that all there is?

Mr. Grohl fronted an eight-member version of the band at the Beacon, and true to the ethos of “MTV Unplugged,” all the musicians were sitting down as they played. Their set was most of the acoustic songs from “In Your Honor,” with three guitars, violin, keyboards, bass, drums and percussion; one song by the group’s violinist, Petra Haden; and some old Foo Fighters songs — “Times Like These,” “Everlong,” “My Hero” — that were easily enough adapted to acoustic sounds. They weren’t stripped down at all; the opposite, in fact. They were just pop songs with acoustic guitars and no screaming, and they often showed Mr. Grohl as a student of other practical guys, like Tom Petty and Paul McCartney.

Shows like this, no matter who’s doing them, are opportunities for the star to sit in one place and talk directly to the audience. Mr. Grohl has no problem in that department: he’s almost too good at it, too ingratiating. His raps were fatuous — guffaws about members of the band or why he wrote a certain song — but his timing is good, and in delivering them he channeled many overwrought comic gestures from his friend Jack Black.

It wasn’t until one of the encores, the uneasy, dirt-simple “Friend of a Friend,” that he seemed to unwind. He described the circumstances under which it was written: not long after he had joined Nirvana and moved into a house in Olympia, Wash., with Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic. He took his time telling the story, didn’t turn it all into an absurd joke and then just played the song, alone onstage. What a relief.

Frank Black, who opened the show, is Mr. Grohl’s character opposite: he didn’t say a single word to the audience, just appeared alone with an acoustic guitar and bashed through a little under an hour of his own songs, with a rougher guitar tone and a more alienated view of human nature. “Sing for joy,” he sang, unsmiling, in a kind of kaleidoscopic murder ballad with that title. “If nothing else, sing for joy.”

the armpit of southern california

I grew up in the (909). Actually, when I was growing up, it was the (714).

My parents still live in the lovely Inland Empire. I got the eff outta Dodge for college and I have to say that I was in no rush to move back to MoJack City after escaping.

But don't take my word for it.

From Urban Dictionary
909: The area code in Southern California for Riverside and San Bernardino County; usually associated with white trash.

From the OC Weekly
Despite cheap property, not to mention a rich array of trailer parks, white supremacists, cows and cold medicine, the Inland Empire—"909" to the kids—has somehow managed to become a punchline on everything from The O.C. to countless blogs and bumper stickers.

Still, the people love their trailers and ’tussin, which is why people keep moving to the 909, which is why there aren’t enough phone numbers to go around in the 909, which is why, on Oct. 30, western Riverside officially ceased being the 909 and became the 951, a change residents no doubt hope will have a transformative effect on their image.

Kevin and Bean of KROQ dubbed the area The Valley of the Dirt People after I left, but I still think of it as the armpit of Southern California.

Sidebar: Leo's Saturday night comment about gerrymandered area codes was strangely prescient. Take a look at the (760), yo.
Via Diana

england: ditch the fags, tom and jerry

Sure, kids are impressionable. And yes, I hate cancer sticks, er, cigarettes.

But sanitizing old cartoons? C'mon. If you removed all the "bad" messages to kids, there'd be no violence left in them, and then where would Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner be? Have you watched "Dumbo" since you were a kid? That film is filled with racist stereotypes — Jim is the name of the crow, for pete's sake. Don't even get me started on the militaristic propaganda angle. And would Pepé Le Pew's unwelcome advances pass our present-day sexual harassment muster? I think not.

Seriously. Some (if not most) kids are sophisticated enough to figure out what's what. Having said that ...
Do I want Joe Camel advertised next to a playground? No.
Do I want new Hanna-Barbera cartoons put out with Yogi smoking? No.
Do I want an episode where Boo-Boo teaches us all why smoking is bad? No.

Showing how things were portrayed (cigarettes, minorities, women, etc.) and then having a conversation about what's wrong with those portrayals is a good opportunity for a great parenting moment. In some ways, removing the images almost absolves parents of their duty to talk to their kids about what's on-screen. It also whitewashes the past. I'm uncomfortable with both.

Fer chrissakes, leave the old stuff alone. It is what it is — pop culture that represents a time and a place (albeit a less-than-perfect one) in our civilization. Thankfully, we've moved on. Or at least most of us have ...
England wants Tom and Jerry to cut back on the smokes
LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Turner Broadcasting is scouring more than 1,500 classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons, including old favorites Tom and Jerry, The Flintstones and Scooby-Doo, to edit out scenes that glamorize smoking.
The review was triggered by a complaint to British media regulator Ofcom by one viewer who took offence to two episodes of Tom and Jerry shown on the Boomerang channel, part of Turner Broadcasting which itself belongs to Time Warner Inc.
"We are going through the entire catalogue," Yinka Akindele, spokeswoman for Turner in Europe, said on Monday.
"This is a voluntary step we've taken in light of the changing times," she said, adding the painstaking review had been prompted by the Ofcom complaint.
The regulator's latest news bulletin stated that a viewer, who was not identified, had complained about two smoking scenes on Tom and Jerry, saying they "were not appropriate in a cartoon aimed at children."
In the first, "Texas Tom", the hapless cat Tom tries to impress a feline female by rolling a cigarette, lighting it and smoking it with one hand. In the second, "Tennis Chumps", Tom's opponent in a match smokes a large cigar.
"The licensee has ... proposed editing any scenes or references in the series where smoking appeared to be condoned, acceptable, glamorized or where it might encourage imitation," Ofcom said, adding that "Texas Tom" was one such example.
Akindele said cartoons would only be modified "where smoking could be deemed to be cool or glamorized", and that scenes where a villain was featured with a cigarette or cigar would not necessarily be cut.
"These are historic cartoons, they were made well over 50 years ago in a different time and different place," she added. "Our audience is children and we don't want to be irresponsible."
Turner Broadcasting in the United States could not immediately be reached for comment.
Ofcom said it recognized smoking was more generally accepted when cartoons were produced in the 1940s, '50s and '60s, but argued that the threshold for including such scenes when the audience was predominately young should be high.
About 56 percent of Boomerang's audience is aged four to 14 years old.
Early reaction to the review on Web logs broadly attacked Turner's decision.
"Have to dig out all those photos and films of [Winston] Churchill and airbrush out the cigars," said a message posted on the "Organ Grinder" forum on the Guardian newspaper's Web site.
The review was not the first time a famous cartoon character was forced to give up smoking.
Belgian cartoonist Maurice de Bevere replaced his most popular creation Lucky Luke's ubiquitous cigarette with a blade of grass, winning him an award from the World Health Organization in 1988.

lundi, août 21, 2006

human history, from the top

shortly after the dawn of time: This guy kills that guy.
341: This group slaughters that group.
927: Land dispute. Thousands die.
1095: Religious dispute. Millions die.
1365: Famine, looting, raping, killing.
1861: Empires crumble, civil war (again).
1914: World War.
1939: World War II.
1951: Rampant industrialization = Global Warming.
2006: The Middle East, in its entirety, explodes.
2276: Rampant conservation = Global Cooling.
3287: Earth versus Mars.
30,998: Milky Way Galaxy versus Andromeda Galaxy.
2,683,988: The universe implodes; Second Big Bang occurs.

shortly after the dawn of time: This guy kills that guy ...

Inspired by Suzi and pseudomatt

dimanche, août 20, 2006

torremolinos 73

I've decided that I need to go into most movies with no expectations. Case in point: "Torremolinos 73". I had no expectations about it and I enjoyed it a great deal.

Javier Cámara
and Candela Peña are perfectly cast in this softcore comedy that begins with the most unlikely of premises. Fernando Tejero is also a great foil.
Alfredo Lopez is a tired encyclopedia salesman, and Carmen is his faithful wife. The lives of this married couple change forever when the Montoya publishing house, in which Alfredo works, makes a proposal to them to make erotic films that will sold in the Scandinavian countries, under the guise of being a false encyclopedia about reproduction. Unknown to them both, Carmen has become an adult film star in the Northern countries, and a Danish crew flies in to help Alfredo make an Ingmar Bergman inspired feature film called "Torremolinos 73." Instead of a career in show business, Carmen is eager to have a baby, and the tension between the artist and his muse grows.
The witty dialogue (counterbalanced with appropriate drama) made this film more than a fun romp. What I like most is the playful manner in which the writer/director, Pablo Berger, celebrates sex and filmmaking. In the end, the interesting characters, complicated situations, and Berger's lighthearted touch left Leo and I with smiles on our faces.

vendredi, août 18, 2006

soccer and the greater good

Leo's take on why soccer will never take off in the U.S.

this is why soccer rules: because it's a team game, and i don't mean that "you do your part, i do mine, don't bother me i'm busy, isn't it great to be part of the team" bullshit americans think of as "teamwork." which, by the way, is the essence of baseball. soccer is the one sport where you most share credit and blame. it's the socialist sport par excellence. and that, my friend, is why soccer has no future in the states. it's not the low scoring, it's not the lack of commercial breaks, it's not the long attention span required. mainly, it's that in order to be good at it you have to subjugate to the collective in a true and meaningful way, and you have to spread the action around.

jeudi, août 17, 2006

life in the nl

Kendall made it to Amsterdam. Sadly, her big suitcase didn't.

She's living her dream, going to graduate school abroad.

getting hopped up the guaraní way

Despite claims by some that mate is gaucho stuff (yes they drink it), it was the Jesuits who popularized the tea that the Guaraní drank.
A Cupful Puts Wings on Wheels
The latest buzz among endurance athletes isn’t from caffeinated energy gels, but from a South American tea called yerba maté — maté for short. Cyclists and distance runners claim that imbibing maté before a workout gives them long-lasting energy, though no studies have proved it’s good for the long haul.

Yerba maté gets its pep from caffeine. But it also contains theobromine, the stimulant in dark chocolate, and theophylline, tea’s pick-me-up. “Because caffeine isn’t the sole stimulant,” said Timothy Ferriss, a neuroscientist who has studied the effects of natural stimulants on athletic performance, “maté drinkers don’t experience the rapid upward trajectory and then the quick crash of coffee.”

Our tester, Lisa Sher, a mountain biker who won the 2002 United States National Downhill Championship, drank each maté product before riding for 90 to 120 minutes. None of the products were “miracle workers,” she said. But with two that actually gave her the best buzz — Guayaki and Eco Teas — she felt “a constant steady energy level” and didn’t experience the gut churning that some coffee-drinking athletes experience.

welcome to 'merica

dem·a·gogue n.
A leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace.
I was in first grade when my dad taught me that it wasn't okay to use racial slurs.

I came home and my dad asked what I'd done at school that day. I recounted math and reading and building a "Jap trap" in the sandbox with Mark Smith at recess. My dad stopped me and asked me if I knew what a "Jap trap" was. I told him it was a trap to catch the enemy. He asked if I knew who those enemies were. (I didn't.)

He then explained that "Jap" was an ugly way to refer to Japanese people and that he never wanted to hear me say it again, because it was hurtful. He also said that it isn't nice (or fair) to be mean to people who look, dress, or sound different than we do.

To this day, I remember that lesson and the power of words. And it's why I'm so disgusted by this demagogue's use of language.
Allen Quip Provokes Outrage, Apology: Name Insults Webb Volunteer
By Tim Craig and Michael D. Shear
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
RICHMOND, Aug. 14 -- Virginia Sen. George Allen (R) apologized Monday for what his opponent's campaign said were demeaning and insensitive comments the senator made to a 20-year-old volunteer of Indian descent.

At a campaign rally in southwest Virginia on Friday, Allen repeatedly called a volunteer for Democrat James Webb "macaca." During the speech in Breaks, near the Kentucky border, Allen began by saying that he was "going to run this campaign on positive, constructive ideas" and then pointed at S.R. Sidarth in the crowd.

"This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt, macaca, or whatever his name is. He's with my opponent. He's following us around everywhere. And it's just great," Allen said, as his supporters began to laugh. After saying that Webb was raising money in California with a "bunch of Hollywood movie moguls," Allen said, "Let's give a welcome to macaca, here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia." Allen then began talking about the "war on terror."

Depending on how it is spelled, the word macaca could mean either a monkey that inhabits the Eastern Hemisphere or a town in South Africa. In some European cultures, macaca is also considered a racial slur against African immigrants, according to several Web sites that track ethnic slurs.

"The kid has a name," Webb communications director Kristian Denny Todd said of Sidarth, a Virginia native who was born in Fairfax County. "This is trying to demean him, to minimize him as a person."

Todd added that the use of macaca, whatever it means, and the reference welcoming Sidarth to America were clearly intended to make him uncomfortable.

Reached Monday evening, Allen said that the word had no derogatory meaning for him and that he was sorry. "I would never want to demean him as an individual. I do apologize if he's offended by that. That was no way the point."

Asked what macaca means, Allen said: "I don't know what it means." He said the word sounds similar to "mohawk," a term that his campaign staff had nicknamed Sidarth because of his haircut. Sidarth said his hairstyle is a mullet -- tight on top, long in the back.

Allen said that by the comment welcoming him to America, he meant: "Just to the real world. Get outside the Beltway and get to the real world."

But the apology, which came hours after Allen's campaign manager dismissed the issue with an expletive and insisted the senator has "nothing to apologize for," did little to mollify Webb's campaign or Sidarth, who said he suspects Allen singled him out because his was the only nonwhite face among about 100 Republican supporters.

"I think he was doing it because he could, and I was the only person of color there, and it was useful for him in inciting his audience," said Sidarth, who videotaped the event for the Webb campaign. "I was annoyed he would use my race in a political context."

Told of Allen's apology, Todd added, "I hope Allen realizes that Virginians come in all colors."

Allen is running for a second term in the Senate while planning a possible presidential bid in 2008. Webb, a Vietnam war hero and former Navy secretary under President Ronald Reagan, is working to derail those plans with an underfunded campaign based principally on Webb's early opposition to the war in Iraq.

Virginia Commonwealth University politics professor Robert Holsworth called Allen's comments a gaffe that probably wouldn't change the Senate race but could hurt his presidential ambitions.

"This doesn't turn the race around at all," Holsworth said. "But for a guy running for president, this is likely to be regularly aired this year and maybe beyond."

House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith (R-Salem), who represents southwest Virginia, said the Webb campaign is just "grabbing for stuff" to gain traction against Allen. Griffith said he doubts anyone at the rally even picked up on Allen's use of the word macaca.

"Not many people in southwest Virginia would think it is derogatory," Griffith said. "I didn't have a clue what it meant, and I doubt Allen did, either."

Sidarth, who is entering his fourth year at the University of Virginia and is an active Democrat, had been assigned to trail Allen with a video camera to document his travels and speeches for Webb, a common campaign tactic.

Steve Mukherjee, a spokesman for the Washington chapter of the Association of Indians in America, said Allen's comments were "hurtful," and he chided the senator for not being more sensitive.

"The world is so volatile and so delicate," Mukherjee said. "You have to be careful what you say and how you say it. The U.S. is no longer black and white."

Asked what macaca means, Mukherjee said: "What it means, I don't know. But it's going to cause him some grief."

It's not the first time Allen has confronted charges of insensitivity to race or ethnicity from minority leaders and longtime political opponents.

Before he ran for governor in 1993, Allen was criticized for keeping a Confederate flag in a cabin near his Charlottesville home, part of a collection of flags, he has said. He stirred controversy as governor by issuing a proclamation noting the South's celebration of Confederate History Month without mentioning slavery.

This year, the New Republic magazine published a photo of Allen wearing a Confederate flag on his lapel during high school.

"It wasn't a racial statement; it was a statement about his rebellious nature," said John Reid, Allen's communications director.

Allen campaign manager Dick Wadhams also went on the offensive, accusing Webb of mailing an anti-Semitic flier during his primary this year that contained a caricature of Webb's Jewish opponent.

Todd said Wadhams is trying to change the subject. "The flier was never meant to be anti-Semitic," she said. "That was a charge levied by our opponent at the time to drive voters away from Jim Webb, much like Allen's trying to do today."
Via Leo

mercredi, août 16, 2006

where have you gone, grisha perelman?

I'm not an egomaniac, but I've gotta admit that if I had ever solved an impossibly difficult problem in my field, I would be hard-pressed to fade into the woodwork just as the accolades came pouring in.
Elusive Proof, Elusive Prover: A New Mathematical Mystery - New York Times
Published: August 15, 2006
Three years ago, a Russian mathematician by the name of Grigory Perelman, a k a Grisha, in St. Petersburg, announced that he had solved a famous and intractable mathematical problem, known as the Poincaré conjecture, about the nature of space.

After posting a few short papers on the Internet and making a whirlwind lecture tour of the United States, Dr. Perelman disappeared back into the Russian woods in the spring of 2003, leaving the world’s mathematicians to pick up the pieces and decide if he was right.

Now they say they have finished his work, and the evidence is circulating among scholars in the form of three book-length papers with about 1,000 pages of dense mathematics and prose between them.

As a result there is a growing feeling, a cautious optimism that they have finally achieved a landmark not just of mathematics, but of human thought.

“It’s really a great moment in mathematics,” said Bruce Kleiner of Yale, who has spent the last three years helping to explicate Dr. Perelman’s work. “It could have happened 100 years from now, or never.”

In a speech at a conference in Beijing this summer, Shing-Tung Yau of Harvard said the understanding of three-dimensional space brought about by Poincaré’s conjecture could be one of the major pillars of math in the 21st century.

Quoting Poincaré himself, Dr.Yau said, “Thought is only a flash in the middle of a long night, but the flash that means everything.”

But at the moment of his putative triumph, Dr. Perelman is nowhere in sight. He is an odds-on favorite to win a Fields Medal, math’s version of the Nobel Prize, when the International Mathematics Union convenes in Madrid next Tuesday. But there is no indication whether he will show up.

Also left hanging, for now, is $1 million offered by the Clay Mathematics Institute in Cambridge, Mass., for the first published proof of the conjecture, one of seven outstanding questions for which they offered a ransom back at the beginning of the millennium.

“It’s very unusual in math that somebody announces a result this big and leaves it hanging,” said John Morgan of Columbia, one of the scholars who has also been filling in the details of Dr. Perelman’s work.

Mathematicians have been waiting for this result for more than 100 years, ever since the French polymath Henri Poincaré posed the problem in 1904. And they acknowledge that it may be another 100 years before its full implications for math and physics are understood. For now, they say, it is just beautiful, like art or a challenging new opera.

lundi, août 14, 2006

i know i'm not alone

Leo and I listened to the new Michael Franti and Spearhead album, "Yell Fire," quite a bit this weekend. It felt like a new album, but also not like a new album, as much of the music is in his documentary, "I Know I'm Not Alone." Anyhow, the album and the film are both amazing.

We saw "I Know I'm Not Alone" a few months ago. In it, Michael Franti travels to Iraq, Palestine, and Israel to explore the human cost of war with a group of friends, some video cameras, and his guitar.

The film pulls you into these war zones — and via Michael's guitar, eloquence and wit— you feel the humanity, artistic resilience and sometimes horrific experience of what it's like to live under the bombs and military occupation.

With its guerrilla style footage captured in active war zones, the documentary is unlike the many academic and politically driven pieces in the marketplace, instead offering the audience a sense of intimate travel and the opportunity to hear the voices of everyday people living, creating and surviving under the harsh conditions of war and occupation.

femme mentale

Sure, men and women have different plumbing. So it's no surprise that we are also wired differently.

p.s. Let's hear it for the 22-second hug.
Femme Mentale
San Francisco neuropsychiatrist says differences between women's and men's brains are very real, and the sooner we all understand it, the better
Joe Garofoli
Sunday, August 6, 2006
Louann Brizendine's feminist ideals were forged in the 1970s, so the UCSF neuropsychiatrist is aware that some parts of her new book, "The Female Brain," sound politically incorrect.
Such as the part about how a financially independent woman may talk about finding a soul mate, but when she meets a prospective mate her brain is subconsciously sizing up his portfolio. Or the part describing the withdrawal pains moms feel when they return to work and can no longer cop a hormonal high from breast-feeding their babies.
Women have come a long way toward equality over the past 50 years, but the Yale-trained Brizendine, 53, says her research indicates that human brains are still wired for Stone Age necessities.
Male and female brains are different in architecture and chemical composition, asserts Brizendine. The sooner women -- and those who love them -- accept and appreciate how those neurological differences shape female behavior, the better we can all get along.
Start with why women prefer to talk about their feelings, while men prefer to meditate on sex.
"Women have an eight-lane superhighway for processing emotion, while men have a small country road," she writes. Men, however, "have O'Hare Airport as a hub for processing thoughts about sex, where women have the airfield nearby that lands small and private planes."
Untangling the brain's biological instincts from the influences of everyday life has been the driving passion of Brizendine's life -- and forms the core of her book. "The Female Brain" weaves together more than 1,000 scientific studies from the fields of genetics, molecular neuroscience, fetal and pediatric endocrinology, and neurohormonal development. It is also significantly based on her own clinical work at the Women's and Teen Girls' Mood and Hormone Clinic, which she founded at UCSF 12 years ago. It is the only psychiatric facility in the country with such a comprehensive focus.
A man's brain may be bigger overall, she writes, but the main hub for emotion and memory formation is larger in a woman's brain, as is the wiring for language and "observing emotion in others." Also, a woman's "neurological reality" is much more deeply affected by hormonal surges that fluctuate throughout her life.
Brizendine uses those differences to explain everything from why teenage girls feverishly swap text messages during class, to why women fake orgasms to why menopausal women leave their husbands.
So the next time parents scold their daughters for excessive text messaging, consider Brizendine's neurological explanation:
"Connecting through talking activates the pleasure centers in a girl's brain. We're not talking about a small amount of pleasure. This is huge. It's a major dopamine and oxytocin rush, which is the biggest, fattest neurological reward you can get outside of an orgasm."
Part road map for women looking for scientific explanations for their behavior, part geeky manual for relationship woes, "The Female Brain" already has become fodder for the morning chat shows. On the "Today" show this week, one critic downplayed the book's explanation of gender differences, saying men and women are "more like North Dakota and South Dakota."
Brizendine's goal isn't man-bashing (despite snippets like "the typical male brain reaction to an emotion is to avoid it at all costs"). Instead, she celebrates the differences.
"There is no unisex brain," Brizendine writes. "Girls arrive already wired as girls, and boys arrive already wired as boys. Their brains are different by the time they're born, and their brains are what drive their impulses, values and their very reality."
Brizendine's book offers a 2 1/2-page appendix on the female brain and sexual orientation, but she doesn't mention transgender folks. Sexual orientation, she writes, "does not appear to be a matter of conscious self-labeling but a matter of brain wiring." All women are wired for a sexual orientation during fetal development, and "the behavioral expression of her brain wiring will then be influenced and shaped by environment and culture."
That's not to say either sex is more intelligent. Just different, Brizendine said. Nor do she or other scientists who study the brain, like Bruce S. McEwen, a Rockefeller (N.Y.) University brain researcher, dismiss the role that parenting and environment and experience play in shaping a person.
"The basic idea is that men and women approach the same problems in somewhat different ways, at least in part because of the biological differences in the brain, which in turn interact with experience -- the nature-nurture story," said McEwen.
"This does not imply whether either sex is superior ... but it does provide the basis for such cultural sayings as 'Men are from Mars, and women are from Venus.' "
Indeed, "The Female Brain" covers ground that has been tilled, to various degrees, in books from 1993's "Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus" to 1999's "The First Sex," to last year's "The Mommy Brain: How Motherhood Makes Us Smarter." Brizendine takes the research a step further and stretches it to cover a female's life from womb through menopause.
Katherine Ellison, author of "The Mommy Brain," said Brizendine represents a trend among neuroscientists who have been inspired by their experiences as parents to investigate what scientists have recently dubbed "the maternal brain."
"It has become more OK to talk about brain differences between genders over the past few years, whereas before, if you said men and women were 'different,' it seemed to imply women were at a disadvantage," said Ellison, who lives in San Anselmo. "Now scientists are pointing out some clear advantages of the female brain, and in particular the 'mommy brain.' "
Among the more controversial subjects addressed in Brizendine's book is: Can new mothers successfully juggle career and family life?
Perhaps not, writes the onetime single mother. And that's OK, Brizendine said, if the workplace can be reshaped to better accommodate new mothers.
"This book is a call-to-arms for women and society to rework the social contract that women have with employers throughout their childbearing years," said Brizendine, while sitting in the Sausalito home she shares with her second husband of 10 years and teenage son. "We cannot afford to lose half the brainpower in this country. Our intelligent women are getting completely out of the loop for five to 10 years, and they cannot get back in.
"The message is that women can't stay at home 100 percent of the time and cut themselves off from their careers. The workplace should realize that women are wired to take care of children, and they want that time and need that time."
It is a sentiment that wasn't around when she was born in Hazard, Ky., a poor Appalachian mining town, where her parents, Protestant missionaries, were stationed. Her father, a minister, was active in the civil rights movement of the late 1950s and early 1960s, often appearing as a guest preacher in African American churches throughout the South. Despite Brizendine's mother being the valedictorian of her high school class, Brizendine's maternal immigrant grandparents believed that women should not be educated and refused to give their daughter any money for college.
"One of the things that has been passionate in my life is to have a profession that would allow me to support myself," Brizendine said. "Watching my mother, an intelligent woman, have limited choices because of the culture -- and because she was married to the typical male of that time in the 1950s in this country -- it was clear to me that I had to find a different way myself."
She attended UC Berkeley on an academic scholarship, initially in the nearly all-male world of architecture majors. But in her junior year, she switched to neurobiology, fascinated by experiments where manipulating the hormones of an animal produced different behaviors.
"To me, that hit pay dirt," Brizendine said. "To have that kind of explanation for behavior that wasn't based on how your family raised you -- or how the stereotypes of society were set on you."
From there she went to Yale Medical School, less than a decade after the undergraduate campus went coed. One day in class, Brizendine asked the professor why females weren't used in the study they were reviewing. She recalled him saying, "We don't use females in the study because their menstrual cycles would mess up the data."
"To be honest with you, the reason that this astounds me to this day," said Brizendine, "is because I didn't argue with him." But back then it was unthinkable to say, "Well, how can you then make medications, and how can you make assessments that you'll apply to female patients when you don't really know?"
Next, Brizendine hopes to expand her clinical work.
In the next month, she will open a satellite branch of the Women's and Teen Girls' Mood and Hormone Clinic at San Francisco General Hospital, which will focus on issues of most concern to African American women, Latinas and lesbians -- a further attempt to see how cultural issues affect the female brain.
For all women -- and those who love them -- she offers a tip.
Research shows that the female brain naturally releases oxytocin after a 20-second hug. The embrace bonds the huggers and triggers the brain's trust circuits. So Brizendine advises, don't let a guy hug you unless you plan to trust him.
"And if you do," she said, "make sure it lasts 20 seconds."

Head cases
A few neurological differences between women and men from Louann Brizendine's "The Female Brain":
  • Thoughts about sex enter women's brains once every couple of days; for men, thoughts about sex occur every minute.
  • Women use 20,000 words per day; men use 7,000 per day.
  • Women excel at knowing what people are feeling; men have difficulty spotting an emotion unless someone cries or threatens bodily harm.
  • Women remember fights that a man insists never happened.
  • Women over 50 are more likely to initiate divorce.
Via Arts & Letters Daily

dimanche, août 13, 2006

how to survive a freestyle rap battle

This reminded me of a night at the Nuyorican Poet's Cafe in NYC with Ben last year.

Happy birthday, Ben. Enjoy your freestyle, flowing, and battling.

  1. Listen to previous freestyle flows and battles by great artists (e.g., rappers like Jin, Jay-Z, Yusaf, Benefit, Rakim, Eminem, and any other great artist that spits hardcore rap).
  2. Understand the techniques those artists use to flow and battle, which will help you enhance those techniques yourself.
  3. Start writing rhymes. Write down anything that comes to mind and try to rhyme it. Using your emotions is a good way to describe what you're feeling when you spit or write lyrics. Make sure you eat a hearty meal before attempting a battle.
  4. Practice free-styling -- anytime, anywhere, as much as you can. Even if you run out of things to freestyle about, just continue spitting, no matter how wack you think you sound. It helps you develop better rhymes and your mind becomes more focused on what sounds good when you spit. It's like a mental workout. So always practice spitting anywhere.
  5. Once you've noticed you can spit on spot (when you want to), try to spit about more specific things. Direct your raps toward things that bother you or upset you. Anything you dislike or want to talk about, try to spit about it. Once again, practice this until you feel you've got it down.
  6. Start freestyle battling. The first step to freestyle battling is to practice the first 5 techniques in a battle against a friend or someone who it wouldn't matter to if you messed up. Constantly battle like that with people, especially if you can find a friend who is actually good at battling so they can teach how to improve what you lack. Again, continue to practice this until other friends you know (especially those into hip-hop music) think you're pretty good.
  7. Have your first real battle against someone you at least somewhat dislike. If you can find someone who just gets you emotional or who angers you, it makes it easier to flow about them. You want to make sure when you flow about them you include 3 major things.

    • Metaphors - Making comparisons with your target (the person you're battling) to something that denigrates them.
    • Disses - Saying things that either make fun of them in general (e.g., how they dress, speak, spit, look, walk, talk, act, or their personality) or about them personally (e.g., the way they live, their past, their lifestyle, weaknesses about them, anything that directly goes against them in a way that makes fun of them).
    • Punch-Lines - a Punch-Line basically is a bar (2 lines you spit) that incorporates a Metaphor, Dis, and/or anything else to enhance the flow directed at your opponent.
  8. Don't worry if you lose your first few real battles, the point is to constantly practice spitting. Continue practicing until you've got it down. And pay attention to how other people spit whom the crowd/judges enjoy. There are many techniques to battling, but these are just the basics.
  • If someone beats you in a battle and it gets to you, practice more until you think you're really ready. Then challenge them again: if you win, you will earn a lot of respect back. It's a great feeling, and chicks or dudes will dig your system and flair.
  • When you think you lost it, don't worry - just relax. The worst thing to do is freak out. Just relax and keep going. You might still ace it.
  • While your opponent is rapping, think how you can come back to what he says, so you get a better punchline.
  • "Spit" as used in the context of this article is a synonym for rapping, not the forcible expulsion of saliva from the mouth. Please do not practice the latter kind of spitting; it does not make you look nearly as cool.
Related wikiHows
Via wikiHow

vendredi, août 11, 2006

straight but not narrow

I really hope they're joking ... and, yes, straight is great. But queer is f-a-b-u-l-o-u-s!

From Heteropride®'s Web site:
A tremendous amount of new attention has been brought to Heteropride® recently. The in-your-face media coverage of gay marriages has prompted heterosexuals everywhere to promote the Greatness of Straightness!

It is difficult for many of us to admit publicly that we are heterosexual. It can make us feel vulnerable--worried that people will subject us to undue scrutiny. Nonetheless, Heteropride® supporters must make public appearances and make their heterosexuality known.
And check out these Straight Eye for a Queer Guy Cooking/Eating Tips:
Occasionally let food hang out of your mouth
Don't cook phoofy food. Go to In-N-Out Burger and get a double double!
Via Leo

henry rollins' open letter to ann coulter

This slayed me.

Note: Henry's a feminist. And very sarcastic.


I had a bad experience with Tequila in college. And ever since then, it's been my least favorite alcohol. To be fair, I was drinking a crappy mixto, but it has made me reluctant to go there again.

Leo took me to El Agave (the best upscale Mexican restaurant in San Diego) for my birthday. It is famous for serving several hundred varieties of tequila. I enjoyed the reposado tequila we ordered and today's Times article on Refined Tequilas taught me a bit more about it:
Tequila is made from the distilled sap of the blue agave, which is a succulent (but not a cactus). The best tequilas are 100 percent agave, while lesser mixto tequilas can squeak by with a minimum 51 percent agave. If the label does not say 100 percent agave, it is a mixto.

The second requirement was that they be reposados. Tequilas have three levels of aging. The youngest tequilas are called blanco, or sometimes plato or silver. They are essentially bottled without aging. The oldest are the añejos. They must be aged at least a year in oak barrels, though they generally spend three to five years in oak. In the middle are reposados, which rest in oak barrels from two to 12 months.

[Blancos] offer an undiluted taste of what tequila is all about, with pronounced citrus, mineral and herbal aromas and flavors in varying proportions depending on whose tequila you’re tasting ... a great blanco tequila is almost like a margarita without the cocktail additions — the salt and citrus flavors are built in. All it lacks is sweetness. I have nothing against añejo tequilas, but it seems to me that barrel aging diminishes the qualities that make tequila singular. The rough edges are all smoothed out and the tequila sometimes takes on a caramel flavor, more like a Cognac or an aged rum. Yet many fans swear by the sipping virtues of añejos, and I do not doubt them. Añejos are generally not for mixing into cocktails.

That leaves reposados, which are... what? Somewhere in between, I guess. Reposados account for more than half of all tequila sales in Mexico, but in the United States they are something of an enigma.

jeudi, août 10, 2006

the waffle house

I was in Nashville, Tennessee last year. After the show I went to a Waffle House. I'm not proud of it, I was hungry. And I'm alone, I'm eating and I'm reading a book, right? Waitress walks over to me: " Hey, whatchoo readin' for?"

Isn't that the weirdest fucking question you've ever heard? Not what am I reading, but what am I reading *for*? Well, godammit, ya stumped me! Why do I read? Well... hmmm... I dunno... I guess I read for a lot of reasons, and the main one is so I don't end up being a fucking waffle waitress.
-Bill Hicks (December 16, 1961 – February 26, 1994), born William Melvin Hicks, Hicks was a controversial American stand-up comedian, satirist, and social critic.
We tried, but didn't make it to a Waffle house while in Tennessee for Bonnaroo. Ash (a native of Tennessee) assured us that it would be an unforgettable experience. And after reading this Bill Hicks quote, I'm thinking that she's right and that I won't be missing a thing if I never make it into one.

mercredi, août 09, 2006

counting me down

How well do you know me?

Ten movies I would watch over and over:
1. The Princess Bride
2. Amelie
3. City of God
4. Strictly Ballroom
5. The Big Lebowski
6. Best in Show
7. Dune (David Lynch version)
8. Priscilla Queen of the Desert
9. The Shawshank Redemption
10. Amadeus

Nine places I'd like to visit:
1. Peru (Machu Picchu, Cuzco)
2. China (all over)
3. India (Agra/Benares, all over)
4. Egypt and the Holy Land (Israel, Jordan)
5. Ireland (all over)
6. Cambodia (Angkor wat, etc.)
7. Kenya (Maasai Mara)
8. Turkey (Istanbul, not Constantinople, Cappadocia)
9. Spain

Eight of my favorite foods:
1. Wine (it is a food, right?)
2. Cheese
3. Pastries
4. Beef
5. Potatoes
6. Pasta
7. Ripe, fresh fruit and veggies from the farmer's market
8. Bread

Seven people I'd invite to dinner:
1. Julia Child (she's invited early, for obvious reasons)
2. Eleanor Roosevelt
3. Che Guevara
4. Stephen Biko
5. Zheng He
6. Margaret Bourke-White
7. Leo

Six things I could never do without:
1. Food
2. Water
3. Oxygen
4. Sleep
5. Travel
6. Hope

Five jobs I've had:
1. Embittered teenage fry schlepper at Burger King
2. Au pair
3. Salesgirl (and scooper of dead fish in the aquaria) at Pet Kingdom
4. Freelance writer for Leapfrog
5. Web lackey

Four places I've lived:
1. Norfolk, VA
2. Madrid, Spain
3. Paris, France
4. San Diego, CA

Three TV shows I loved watching:
1. Six Feet Under
2. The Daily Show
3. Yan Can Cook

Two adjectives that describe me:
1. irreverent
2. relevant

Something I would rather be doing right now:
1. Travelling
Via Diana

mardi, août 08, 2006

aka hizzle asdizzle, fo shizzle

Some of my alter egos ...

Your porn star name: Coco/ Tita Clarion (your first pet, the name of the first street you lived on)

Your movie star name: Cesarina Chocolate Caramel (grandfather/grandmother's name, your favorite kind of candy)

Your fly girl/guy name: Hizzle Asdizzle (first initial of first name followed by "izzle", first two or three letters of your last name followed by "dizzle")

Your detective name: Forest Greendog (favorite color, favorite animal)

Your Star Wars name: Hapvez CasCas (first 3 letters of your name- last 3 letters of mother's maiden name, first 3 letters of your pet's name repeated twice)

Your superhero name: The Green Camry ("The", your favorite color, the type of car you drive)
Pinched from Cizzle Badizzle


"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
-Albert Einstein

lundi, août 07, 2006

pants-off dance-off

There's so much to say about this, but I'll let Tad Low, the show's creator, speak about it instead:
"I'm not going to lie," he said. "It is kind of cool."

"I don't know what that says about the culture at large," he said. "But we've certainly made it easier to watch. Less reading."
Which probably explains why it's so damn popular in 'merica.
Nude dance show is what market will bare
Fuse's 'Pants-off Dance-Off': 'Dumbest show on TV' unlikely hit

Monday, August 7, 2006; Posted: 3:31 p.m. EDT (19:31 GMT)
NEW YORK (AP) -- Not every idea has to be smart to make it on TV. Sometimes stupid works, too.

At the end of busy days in his New York production office, Tad Low will sometimes crank the music loud for his staff to take a dance break. One day someone observed, "How hilarious would this be if we did this in the nude?"

From that offhand remark came "Pants-Off Dance-Off," which has quickly become the Fuse network's most popular series ever. No more complicated than its title, the competition features people dancing in front of a screen playing their favorite music video, while slowly shedding clothes.

"Why hasn't anybody put naked people and rock music together on television before?" said Low, who created the "Pop-Up Videos" series for VH1. "It seems so obvious, like peanut butter and jelly."

Five dancers are featured in each show, from Tuesday through Friday at 10 p.m., and viewers vote online for each night's favorite. Those choices then compete in Saturday's "dance-off." The series is in repeats now until the second season starts September 26.

Once Low came up with the idea, he persuaded his girlfriend's friend to dance in front of a screen in his office so he could film a pilot episode.

"I was thinking, 'What is happening here? What has gone on with my life that I'm sitting here behind a camera directing a woman to remove her clothes?' But when I put it together in the edit room, it was one of those moments where you say, 'This is so funny and mesmerizing.' "

Don't expect models or strip club refugees. Low purposely sought ordinary folks, men and women, as a way of striking out against airbrushed culture. The models have included a 58-year-old retired male teacher and a woman dressed in a clown suit.

Pop-up factoids appear on the screen during the dance ("As a child, Masta Wong wanted to be a subway conductor") along with comments from host Jodie Sweetin.

Catherine Mullen, Fuse's new general manager, recalled finding the pilot originally titled "Dance Without Pants" hilarious, but admitted to many doubts about how it should be done.

"We didn't want it to be predictable," she said. "We didn't want to make it salacious. We didn't want it to be 'College Girls Gone Wild.' We wanted to make it like 'The Gong Show.' "

After she saw the pilot in February, the show debuted on Fuse in April -- a ridiculously short period of time in television. It has given the 3-year-old network a buzzworthy program, something it has lacked in trying to emerge from the large shadow of MTV and its siblings.

Contestant: 'I just went with it'
Fuse doesn't pretend "Pants-Off Dance-Off" is anything more than it is. After TV Guide called it the "dumbest show on television," Fuse proudly trumpeted that quote in the headline of a news release.

The "pants-off" part of the show is a bit of a tease. When the clothes are finally off, Fuse covers up the bodies with an electronic version of a towel. Viewers who want to see more are directed to the network's Web site, where breasts and genitalia are pixelated.

The conservative approach has annoyed some fans, and Low wishes Fuse would do a late-night version of "Pants-Off Dance-Off" that would show some of what is seen online. Mullen said it was part of Fuse's strategy to have different content available on different platforms, like online and on cell phones.

Howard Wong, a 33-year-old computer worker from New York City, saw an item in a nudist's magazine about the show. He had piled up some $200 in parking tickets, so the opportunity to earn $200 to dance for an obscure TV network appealed to him.

"I didn't know what to say or what to do," he said. "I just went with it. It was a total adrenaline rush. I knew I had made a total fool of myself. The whole thing was absurd, but I think the creator of the show knew that."

Maybe it was his androgynous dance style, or the washboard abdominals, but Wong -- who uses the name Masta Wong -- became a three-time champion.

Wong briefly worked in California as a photographer shooting pornographic videos. Now he's occasionally getting recognized on the street for his time spent stripping in front of the camera.

"I'm not going to lie," he said. "It is kind of cool."

For Low, "Pants-Off Dance-Off" completes an odd trilogy of programming about music videos. After "Pop-Up Videos," which became popular for its image-busting snarkiness, he created "Video IQ" for Fuse. On that show, viewers were invited to solve puzzles inserted into the promo clips.

"I don't know what that says about the culture at large," he said. "But we've certainly made it easier to watch. Less reading."

It's his belief with "Pants-Off Dance-Off" that ordinary people can be more interesting to watch than the Paris Hiltons and Lindsey Lohans of the world.

"Who hasn't danced around in their underwear to their favorite song?" he said. "It's one of life's moments of unbridled enthusiasm, and the notion of this show is to make that contagious."
Via Leo

unions say e.p.a. bends to political pressure

Last Friday's NPR story on this had the best quote, from an EPA bigwig who chose to remain anonymous. The gist of the quote was: "Personally, I buy organic. And I wash all produce with soap and not just with water."

I continue to be amazed at how we, the American people, let our government ignore the links between disease and the pesticides in our food sources / environment. Barbara Ehrenrich's "Welcome to Cancerland," makes the most cogent arguments about the connection between our environment and cancer.
Hence suspicion should focus on environmental carcinogens, the feminists argue, such as plastics, pesticides (DDT and PCBs, for example, though banned in this country, are still used in many Third World sources of the produce we eat), and the industrial runoff in our ground water. No carcinogen has been linked definitely to human breast cancer yet, but many have been found to cause the disease in mice, and the inexorable increase of the disease in industrialized nations —about one percent a year between the 1950s and the 1990s — further hints at environmental factors, as does the fact that women migrants to industrialized countries quickly develop the same breast-cancer rates as those who are native born. Their emphasis on possible ecological factors, which is not shared by groups such as Komen and the American Cancer Society, puts the feminist breast-cancer activists in league with other, frequently rambunctious, social movements — environmental and anticorporate.
So here I am, pleased to see that Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has taken a public stand against the E.P.A. I hope that the media attention isn't just a blip for the already media-fatigued and bad-news-saturated American public.

Meanwhile, I'm washing my organic produce with soap and water.
Unions Say E.P.A. Bends to Political Pressure
WASHINGTON, Aug. 1 — Unions representing thousands of staff scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency say the agency is bending to political pressure and ignoring sound science in allowing a group of toxic chemicals to be used in agricultural pesticides.

Leaders of several federal employee unions say the chemicals pose serious risks for fetuses, pregnant women, young children and the elderly through food and exposure and should not be approved by Thursday, the Congressional deadline for completing an agency review of thousands of substances in pesticides.
“We are concerned that the agency has not, consistent with its principles of scientific integrity and sound science, adequately summarized or drawn conclusions” about the chemicals, union leaders told the agency administrator, Stephen L. Johnson, in a newly disclosed letter sent May 25.
The leaders also wrote that they believed that under priorities of E.P.A. management, “the concerns of agriculture and the pesticide industry come before our responsibility to protect the health of our nation’s citizens.”
Nine union leaders representing 9,000 agency scientists and other personnel around the country signed the letter. It was given to The New York Times on Tuesday by environmental advocacy organizations working on their behalf in the hope that it would arouse public outcry and increase pressure on the agency to withdraw the chemicals from use.
The chemicals at issue are organophosphates and carbamates, long a matter of controversy over their environmental and health risks. They are in such pesticides as chlorpyrifos, methyl parathion and diazinon.
The advocacy organizations that released the letter, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the Pesticide Action Network, also provided the agency’s response, on June 27, from Susan B. Hazen, acting assistant administrator. Ms. Hazen assured the scientists that her agency was applying proper scientific review for the use of all chemicals in pesticides.
Ms. Hazen did not deny the accusation that industry positions were taken into account. She welcomed information “from all interested parties,” she said.
In an interview on Tuesday, Jim Jones, director of the E.P.A.’s pesticide office, described the scientists’ accusations as inaccurate, saying the agency examines the effects of various chemicals and adjusts recommendations for public use according to what the science dictates.
Risk assessments of the pesticides cited in the unions’ letter, Mr. Jones said, have been “aggressively regulated” through steady reviews of their use over the last six years.
The complaints from agency employees are the latest to come from within federal agencies that accuse the Bush administration of allowing politics or industry pressure to trump science on issues like climate change and stem cell research.
In this case, they also echo concerns raised by the E.P.A. inspector general in January in a report that suggested the agency had not done enough to protect children from exposure to pesticides, which can affect the development of the brain and the nervous system. That investigation was prompted, in part, by published reports of a Florida program in which parents would be paid for letting their children participate in an effort measuring the effects of pesticides in the home. The program was quickly shut down.
The inspector general’s report fueled a growing desire among union leaders to take a more active role in shedding light on what they say is a flawed system.
“More and more, the unions are coming together to confront the agency’s unwillingness to make the appropriate use of science to show risks to public health and the environment,” said William Hirzy, a senior scientist at the environmental agency and a union official.
Despite the agency’s insistence that pesticide regulations follow scientific guidelines, several agency scientists said industry determined how chemicals were regulated.
“It’s how the game is played,” said an E.P.A. specialist involved in the pesticide program who spoke on the condition of anonymity because, he said, critics within the agency often lose choice assignments.
“You go to a meeting, and word comes down that this is an important chemical, this is one we’ve got to save,” he said. “It’s all informal, of course. But it suggests that industry interests are governing the decisions of E.P.A. management. The pesticide program functions as a governmental cover for what is effectively a private industry licensing program.”
Another senior E.P.A. scientist who also spoke on condition of anonymity said the agency often ignored independent scientific studies that contradicted the industry-subsidized study that supported many regulations on pesticides.
She cited a North Carolina researcher who found that chlorpyrifos might have a more damaging effect on developing brains than other studies. “What we heard back from headquarters was, ‘No, he’s wrong,’ ” the scientist said.
“Chemicals like these can be harmful to children in ways we don’t understand yet,’’ the scientist said. “If there is disagreement, doesn’t that cry out for further research?”
Mr. Jones said the agency had addressed chlorpyrifos in complying with a 10-year Congressional mandate to review 9,741 pesticide ingredients by Thursday.
Work has been completed on 9,637 of them, or 99 percent, he said, and “all are protective of children.”

putting it all into perspective

In case you were wondering.

Learn even more about The Size Of Our World.

qui perd sa langue, perd sa foi

It means "who loses his language, loses his faith."

Welcome to my linguistically schizophrenic world. Spanish is my mother tongue, but I haven't formally/ regularly studied, written, or read it since my freshman year of college. Instead, I've been off learning French and getting my M.B.A.

After spending more than a week with Leo's parents, I'm realizing that my Español ain't what it used to be, and that it was probably not as good as I thought it was even when I could tell you the difference between the pretérito perfecto compuesto, pretérito pluscuamperfecto, and pretérito anterior.

First off, I should say that Leo's parents both speak English. I should also say that I never consciously decided that I would attempt to speak with them using only Spanish — it just happened. And once it did, I found myself frustrated at my lack of vocabulary. The fact is, I'm someone who loves language, who has made her living as a writer, and who prides herself on her ability to find precise words and properly differentiate arcane meaning and usage (witness my corrective Tourette's).

But for the past week, I felt like ... I ... was ... using ... very ... simple ... phrases ... and ... a ... third-grader's ... sentence ... structure ... more ... often ... than ... not. In short, I felt like I'd lost about 40 IQ points and was often expressing myself like a redneck toddler. To their credit, Leo and his parents were incredibly patient and helpful as I stopped every two sentences to ask ¿cómo se dice "_____"?

It's time to ask my parents to bring me my 501 Spanish verbs book and the big-ass Spanish dictionary that I left at their house in 1992.

But first ... the original point of this post: a Times story on French’s resurgence among French-Americans in Maine.
Long-Scorned in Maine, French Has Renaissance
Published: June 4, 2006
SOUTH FREEPORT, Me. — Frederick Levesque was just a child in Old Town, Me., when teachers told him to become Fred Bishop, changing his name to its English translation to conceal that he was French-American.

Cleo Ouellette's school in Frenchville made her write "I will not speak French" over and over if she uttered so much as a "oui" or "non" — and rewarded students with extra recess if they ratted out French-speaking classmates.

And Howard Paradis, a teacher in Madawaska forced to reprimand French-speaking students, made the painful decision not to teach French to his own children. "I wasn't going to put my kids through that," Mr. Paradis said. "If you wanted to get ahead you had to speak English."
That was Maine in the 1950's and 1960's, and the stigma of being French-American reverberated for decades afterward. But now, le Français fait une rentrée — French is making a comeback.
The State Legislature began holding an annual French-American Day four years ago, with legislative business and the Pledge of Allegiance done in French and "The Star-Spangled Banner" sung with French and English verses.
Maine elected its first openly French-American congressman, Michael H. Michaud, in 2002. And Gov. John E. Baldacci has steadily increased commerce with French-speaking countries and led a trade delegation to France last fall, one of the first since tension with France began after the Sept. 11 attacks. In an interview, the governor, who is of Lebanese-Italian descent and studied Russian in high school, added, "I've been working on my French."
The Franco-American Heritage Center, opened in Lewiston a few years ago, fines guests at its luncheons up to a dollar if they lapse into English — jovial retaliation for the schools that once gave students movie tickets or no homework if they squealed on French speakers.
"Reacquisition classes" and conversation groups have sprung up at places like the South Portland Public Library, giving people a chance to relearn their mothballed French. Census figures show Maine has a greater proportion of people speaking French at home than any other state — about 5.3 percent.
And in South Freeport, there is L'École Française du Maine, a French-immersion program that began as a preschool in 2001 and proved so popular it has added a grade each year. Many students have French-American parents who were estranged from the language, and some commute long distances to the school.
"My dad grew up speaking only French and went to school and got teased by other kids, and he wanted to spare his kids that experience, so both my wife and I are kind of a generation that got skipped," said Bob Michaud, whose son, Alexandre, attends second grade at L'École Française, 45 minutes from home. "I'm doing it because I want Alex to learn more about our heritage and background."
The school has made Anna Bilodeau, 8, and her brother Markus, 7, so fluent that they routinely speak French with their grandmother Arlene Bilodeau, 68, who regrets that she did not ensure her own children were well versed in French.
"It made me feel sad — this was our language," Ms. Bilodeau said. "When I hear Anna and Markus speaking, I just admire what they're doing."
People of French descent poured into Maine and other New England states from Canada beginning in the 1870's and became the backbone of textile mills and shoe factories. But resistance developed, and people began stereotyping the newcomers as rednecks, dolts or inadequate patriots. In 1919, Maine passed a law requiring schools to teach in English.
French-Americans had a saying: "Qui perd sa langue, perd sa foi" ("Who loses his language, loses his faith"). But many assimilated or limited their children's exposure to French to avoid discrimination or because of a now-outmoded belief that erasing French would make learning English easier.
"There was just a stigma that maybe you weren't as bright as anybody else, that you didn't speak English as well," said Linda Wagner, 53, of Lewiston, who takes classes to reclaim language lost as a child.
Suzanne Bourassa Woodward, 46, of South Portland, who recently joined a conversation group and enrolled her 10-year-old daughter in French classes, said "my French went underground" in fourth grade because "I was ridiculed, the dumb Frenchman jokes came out."
"After that," she said, "my parents would always speak to me in French, but I always responded in English."
As recently as the early 1990's, a character named Frenchie, who caricatured French-Americans, was a fixture on a Maine radio show until protests drove him off the air.
The stigma was compounded by the French-American dialect, which can differ from French spoken in France in idiom, pronunciation, vocabulary — like British and American English.
French-American French, derived from people who left France for Canada centuries ago, resembles the French of Louis XIV more than the modern Parisian variety, said Yvon Labbé, director of the French-American Center at the University of Southern Maine.
French-Americans may say "chassis" instead of "fenêtre" for window, "char" instead of "voiture" for car. Mr. Labbé said many French-Americans pronounced "moi" as Molière did: "moé." A saying illustrated French-Americans' inferiority complex about their language: "On est né pour être petit pain; on ne peut pas s'attendre à la boulangerie" ("We are born to be little breads; we cannot expect the bakery").
"We were always told that we spoke bad French, that we were worthless as people because we spoke neither French nor English," said Ms. Ouelette, 69.
Indeed, when Jim Bishop, son of Fred Bishop (né Frederick Levesque), took high school and college classes to recapture French "it was just a nightmare," he said. "At times I would say words and they would turn out not to be real words."
Maine's French renaissance is partly due to the collapse of the mills and factories, which put French-Americans into the mainstream. It was aided by a group of legislators who in 2002 began holding weekly meetings in French.
The revival includes both French-American patois and culture, celebrated at places like the Lewiston center, and Parisian language and curriculum, taught at L'École Française. The government of France is also involved, seeing "very big potential" to "develop trade relations, tourism," said Alexis Berthier, a spokesman for the French consulate in Boston, which is promoting programs and events in Maine and working to establish sister cities.
Most Maine schools, like those elsewhere, teach considerably more Spanish than French. But for those like Norman Marquis of Old Orchard Beach, who takes reacquisition classes, the resurgence of his lost language is profound.
"It's almost like I found religion," said Mr. Marquis, 68, suddenly choking with emotion. "My religion, No. 1, was French. I have a personal movement in my heart for it."
Via the polyglot conspiracy

dimanche, août 06, 2006

reclaim your manhood ... buy a hummer

My apologies to those of you who heard me rant about this two weeks ago, but I was at the gym this morning when I saw this ad again.

The insidious genius of good (or evil, depending on your perspective) advertising is that it isn't selling a product. It's selling a lifestyle /filling an emotional need / psychological deficiency. Take for example, Revlon. It makes no bones about the fact that it's not actually selling make-up: it's selling hope.

I wonder what psychographic GM is trying to appeal to with the new Hummer ad:

Two guys are in the checkout line at the grocery store. Guy #1 has a crapload of healthy foods and a tub of organic tofu. Behind him, guy #2 is buying a bunch of meat (I swear, it's half a cow on the conveyor belt). Guy #1 proceeds to rush through the checkout process in order to get himself to the Hummer dealership. At the end of the ad, the tagline reads (in bold block letters, no less): "Buy a Hummer: Restore your manhood."

Each time I've seen the ad, I've lost my composure and found myself doubled over laughing so hard that I was wheezing on the elliptical trainer.

Let me get this straight— he's gotta buy a hummer in order to be a man? Um, hello, people. Does anyone else smell the (unintentional) irony?
  1. The last time I checked, "hummer" is a metaphor for a blowjob
  2. He buys a monster truck to be a man? How does that not scream that he's (over)compensating for some other deficiencies downstairs?
Apparently, I'm not the only one laughing at the double entendre. The online reactions range from pissed off feminists to those saying "at least they're being honest" to this one:
My jaw dropped and I looked at my girlfriend. We were both pretty much taken back by this display of filth. I couldn't believe it. How could GM step to an all time low like this? Not only are they portraying their crappy, not to mention ugly, contraption of a vehicle, the Hummer, as some kind of manly device, but they are also suggesting that people that eat healthy, like myself, are somehow lesser men. Why don't they just come out and say it, "Drive a Hummer, don't be a fag." It's pretty insulting. If GM wants to make a profit on their crappy cars here is an idea: Stop making gas hogs that people don't need that destroy the environment and further portray the image of an SUV driver as a cool, hip, "manly" person when in all actuality, anyone that wastes money on them, especially the Hummer, is a fucking moron.