Sunday, July 31, 2005

For The Love Of God, People ...

It's "millennium."

M-I-L-L-E-N-N-I-U-M.

Two Ls, two Ns. (Two Ms and two Is, for that matter, but not next to each other.)

If I see one more billboard, street sign, or service vehicle with "millennium" misspelled on it, I'm gonna lose it.

Some might argue that I already have.

You don't even have to haul out the dictionary to look it up. Run spell-check. Done.

Friday, July 29, 2005

'Must Love Dogs' ...

Yes, yes, it's a romantic comedy, and therefore, by definition, it's completely predictable. (Work Pal David, bored on a plane one day, created the romantic-comedy flowchart. I'm sure this movie would fit the structure he created.)

But John Cusack is cute. (He eerily reminds me of a guy I used to work with, just a taller, younger version.) And I like Diane Lane. And I like dogs. And I'm working on a screenplay, so an afternoon at the movies isn't slacking, it's research.

There is one outstanding line in the movie, which I'm going to share, so if you're dying to see the film (!), consider this a spoiler alert. Stop reading now. I mean it. Stop reading. Why are you still reading this? Really, stop it.

OK, don't say I didn't warn you: So John Cusack's character, Jake (ah, it's a good manly name, Jake) watches "Doctor Zhivago" repeatedly. This is to alert the audience, of course, that he's a man of substance and character, because if he were like the other men in the movie, all the losers Diane Lane -- Sarah (ah, it's a good girly name, Sarah) -- has to endure, he'd be watching "Die Hard" or "Porky's" or porn, but who are we kidding, not in that order. One day, as he's watching with his less-than-enlightened friend (a necessary character in any romantic comedy, as the male lead has to have someone to commiserate with about how hard it is to find a good woman, just as the female lead needs several women to commiserate with about how hard it is to find a good man), Unenlightened Friend says, "They need to remake this with a happier ending and some nudity."

WOW. That's a good screenwriting moment.

As for the rest of the movie, yes, you've seen most of the good parts in the trailer. You can wait for the rental, I'm sure. (Oh, and for Doreen: There's a David Cassidy moment. He's not in the movie -- thank GOD -- but I laughed when his name came up and thought of you.)

What's Our Problem? ...

The AP informs me that police in London and Rome today arrested the final suspects in the botched bombings in London on July 21. My calendar informs me it's July 29.

Eight days. What stellar policework. Eight days to find men hiding out in large, densely populated cities where, if I were on the lam, I'd think it would be pretty easy to get lost in the crowds.

So how is it that nearly four years after September 11, Osama bin Laden is still cavorting around the deserts of Afghanistan, Pakistan, wherever he may be? Still plotting, no doubt, and I'm sure laughing at the Americans he's been able to elude for so long.

Are we really looking for him? Or is it all just pretense, like O.J. vowing to find the real killers, and stealing satellite TV instead?

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Hair Today ...

Today I made a long-overdue visit to the salon.

J-D, my stylist for the past -- yikes! -- 13 years (with a few small interruptions) is a genius. Really. I call him a hair architect. He's brilliant.

We chatted for a moment about what I wanted done -- fix the color (i.e. get rid of the gray), trim up the ends, keep the overall length -- and he went off to mix his bowls of glop.

Soon my head was a mass of foils with assorted strands hanging out, onto which he applied a new shade of glop, until my hair looked like nothing but foils and dreds.

"Did you see 'Battlefield Earth'?" I asked him.

"Oh, you do not look like John Travolta!"

But, I kinda did.

He had me sit by the dryers while the glop worked its magic and I started flipping through Vogue.

I saw the most amazing ad with a woman with the most amazing hair. I tore out a reply card to use as a bookmark.

When J-D came to get me, I opened up to the page.

"I like *this*!"

So did he. He creased the magazine open so it would lie flat.

After all the shampooing and toning and cutting, he went to town on the style.

And damn if my hair didn't look a fair amount like the picture when he was done.

Walking back to my car, I called Dave. Voicemail. Told him I had just seen J-D and that this was his best work yet. (Dave always notices when I've done something to my hair, even if I don't say a word. He's rare that way.) But he wasn't at work.

I hopped in my car and headed north on Lake Shore Drive to meet Jay for coffee.

Dave called just before Irving Park Road. Said he was sorry to miss the hair.

"It's for the best," I said, "because you would *fall over.*" (Dave has back trouble. Falling over is not a good idea.)

"Rock-star hair," he said.

"I'm trying," I said.

"Oh, you have it."

But it's not really rock-star hair. It's more like girlfriend-of-a-rock-star hair.

Now all I need is the rock star.

I Still Think Richard Roeper Is A Jerk ...

(I posted this entry Thursday morning. If you're looking for the post I wrote to you about last night, scroll down and read "Richard Roeper Is A Jerk ..." first, please.)

If you click on the title of this post, you'll be linked to Roeper's follow-on column about the Dove ad he finds so offensive, and all the angry e-mail he received from readers -- women readers, of course -- about his craptacular column item a week before. (Thanks to Jeff for pointing me to it.)

He defends himself mightily. Good for him. I still think he's a jerk.

I'm all for the First Amendment. God knows it's becoming an endangered species in this country. And so I'm behind Rich 100 percent when it comes to his right to write whatever he wants.

But the thing I don't understand about this is that the item that's raised so much ire in women was part of a column. Not a whole column. Part of a column. Which makes me wonder: Didn't he have a good idea for a column that day? Couldn't he fill the whole space? Was it piecemeal on purpose? Was he just dying to get in his dig about the offensive billboard outside his high-rise window?

He lives in Chicago. On any given day, there must be, oh, about a million things to write about. City Hall alone is always good for a few hundred column inches. So would it have killed him to just pick one of the other 999,999 goings-on? Did he have to gripe about Dove's billboard?

We get it, Rich: You dated a Bacardi girl you once saw on a billboard. How lovely for you. So get the panels from that billboard and have someone paste them to the inside of your window. Then you can look at her lovliness forever.

Oh, right: But she's an ex.

Nevermind.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Richard Roeper Is A Jerk ...

I used to work at the Chicago Sun-Times.

I was in college. I had just started summer break. I needed to find a job.

I was sitting on my mom's bed eating cereal out of the box, watching daytime TV.

I needed to find a job, if only to spare me from three months of that.

The phone rang.

It was Jeff Zaslow. Jeff was an advice columnist at the Sun-Times at the time. He wanted to know if I wanted a job. His assistant had to go on emergency leave.

Uh, sure.

So I spent the summer in Ann Landers' old office, answering phones, filing Jeff's column to the syndicate in New York (syndicate as in "newspapers," not as in "gangsters," though that's a funny thought), ghostwriting replies to readers (Jeff liked to answer every piece of mail, if not in the column, then as a personal letter).

Richard Roeper was pretty new to the Sun-Times then. Women were swooning: He was young! He was cute! He could write a coherent sentence!

Jeff threw a singles' party every year -- the Zazz Bash, as it came to be known. Readers writing in for tickets wanted to know if Richard would be at the fete.

Hell if I knew.

I tucked a few tickets and a note into an interoffice mail envelope, inviting Richard to make an appearance.

Which he did. Nice guy, then. He stopped by Jeff's office once or twice. I'd see him in the now-razed Sun-Times building. He'd say "Hi." I'd say "Hi."

Over the years, he's become "Richard Roeper," columnist, local news personality.

And then he took over Gene Siskel's chair, opposite Roger Ebert.

Recently, I saw a news item that Rich inked a seven-figure deal.

He's a millionaire. Good for him.

Just saw this item from his July 19th column, snipped from the Sun-Times:

***

Chunky women in their underwear have surrounded my house.

Billboards of chunky women, that is. If you've been downtown lately, you've no doubt noticed the ads for Dove soap, featuring regular-sized women in bras and panties. It's part of a nationwide "Campaign for Real Beauty," and it's drawing waves of attention from the media. (For a major debate on this issue that's sure to sever some friendships in our Features Department, check out Pages 44-45.)

There's no doubt the ads are attention-getting. Let's put it this way: this is the first time in 3,000-plus columns that I've ever mentioned Dove soap.

Now here's where I'm supposed to say that I find it refreshing to see "real people" on billboards, given that our culture is so obsessed with youth and beauty, and that most billboards feature impossibly gorgeous, ridiculously thin women who have been airbrushed to a level of perfection that 99.9 percent of the population can never reach.

But the raw truth is, I find these Dove ads a little unsettling. If I want to see plump gals baring too much skin, I'll go to Taste of Chicago, OK? I'll walk down Michigan Avenue or go to Navy Pier. When we're talking women in their underwear on billboards outside my living room windows, give me the fantasy babes, please.

If that makes me sound superficial, shallow and sexist -- well yes, I'm a man. And I'll have to point out that most of the men who appear on billboards and in magazines and on TV commercials are just as genetically blessed as their female counterparts.

***

"Superficial, shallow and sexist." You betcha. Because here's the thing, Rich: Men who appear in ads are "genetically blessed," too, but by and large, it's women who suffer in this image-obsessed society. Yes, there's the occasional token story about men who suffer from eating disorders or poor body image, but in our culture, it's much more acceptable for a guy to look less than perfect.

There are too many girls and women on this planet who have internalized the daily visual assault on their senses that tells them they have to look like Britney or Jessica or they're just not worthwhile human beings. This isn't just column filler, Rich. Many women succumb to eating disorders. Many of them die.

So good for Dove for recognizing that it's time to stop making women feel like crap for not living up to impossible ideals. (And for those who don't know me, yes, I'm just like the women on the billboard. I wear a 14. I'm also 6'3". Sure, I can lose a few pounds, but I will *never* be a size 4.)

Excuse me, Rich, if I don't give a shit that your high-rise view is marred by a lack of "fantasy babes."

Here's a thought: Billboard campaigns don't last forever. In the meantime, close your curtains.

On Ideas and Junk Food ...

Every so often, I open up my file slugged "Memoir Ideas" when I need a writing prompt.

Today I decided that I would choose something at random, so I put my cursor on the scroll bar, closed my eyes, slid my mouse up and down a few times (to be more random), then moved my mouse to the left and clicked and dragged to highlight some text. Whatever was highlighted would be what I would write about.

I opened my eyes and saw my cursor between two entries. Funny. Odd.

I tried again. Slide, slide, slide, slide, highlight.

Once again, my cursor was between two entries. What the heck?

I tried a third time. Slide, slide, slide, slide, highlight.

"Mint Meltaways." The entry is about my mom's sister, Marlene, bringing me a box of Fannie May Mint Meltaways years ago when I was sick. (Who brings sick people candy?) The point of the entry is that I ate the whole box of candy and then felt really bad about it.

I've never had any willpower. I purposely don't keep junk food in the house. Chips, ice cream, cookies, any of that stuff. If it's here, I'll eat it. If it's not here, I'll sometimes go to the store and buy it, but apathy usually wins out in those situations, because I usually want to nosh on crap around 10 p.m., and that would require changing into presentable clothes, getting in the car, driving to the store ... Do I really want Cheetos that bad? Nah.

It's a good system.

If I do find myself with junk food in the house, after I've had some, I purposely throw the balance of it in the garbage, because, unlike George Costanza and the eclair, I won't take anything out of the trash.

I might not have willpower, but I have boundaries.

Calling All Sheep ...

Please, please, for the love of God please, people, before you forward e-mail that sounds completely sensational, that makes you think, "If this is true, oh my God!", take an extra five seconds to Google some keywords from the e-mail in question.

I can just about guarantee you that 99.9 times out of 100 you'll find your earth-shaking e-mail listed on a hoax site.

If what you're reading in your e-mailbox was really true, don't you think you might have heard about it, oh, on the news?

I used to work for several major news organizations. Believe you me, if Hillary Clinton really had an evil hand in the death of a Black Panther, the mainstream media would have picked up on it by now.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

'Born Into Brothels' ...

Wow.

Oscar winner for Best Documentary. One of the most powerful films I've seen in ages.

The spirit of the kids, born into the most bleak of conditions, is amazing.

Meet them at www.kids-with-cameras.org. You can buy their photographs on the site. I love the shot of all of them. They're all gorgeous, so full of optimism while living lives that should leave them shattered shells of children. They inspire me.

See the film as soon as you can.

Climbing My Family Tree ...

I've known for some time that I'm distantly related to Nikola Tesla.

But it wasn't until the 4th of July when my friend Doreen was here and overheard someone -- my mother, must have been -- mentioning it that I really bothered to find out much about him. Doreen wanted to know what I knew about him.

Um, not much. He's credited with developing alternating current. Edison was the man behind direct current. AC is better, but Edison made better business decisions and got all the money and glory. (Tesla worked for Edison for a time, on the promise of $50,000, which Edison reneged on. Nice)

But Doreen's interest sparked my own, so I've been poking around the Web, reading up on him here and there. (There's a Tesla coil in the Smithsonian with a bust of Edison next to it. How's that for unfair?) I'm a big fan of electricity (I have AC adapters all over my house!), but the coolest thing I've come across about my cousin is that he didn't have many close friends (we share that trait), but one of his closest was Mark Twain.

Mark Frickin' Twain! Hello! What kind of a hoot would it be to travel back in time and hang out in New York with Mark Twain?!

Sadly, Tesla did not invent a time machine.

Reading further about him, on more than one occasion, I've run across the word "crackpot." This guy was the human condition, all wrapped up in one person: Revered by Nobel scientists, adversary of Thomas Edison, close friend of one of the most famous authors in history, crackpot.

Monday, July 25, 2005

J.K. Rowling's Most Amazing Spell ...

... must be her ability to get children and grown-ups alike to plow through a 652-page book in two days.

I bought my copy of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" on Saturday (I thought I'd let the frenzy die down for a week), read the first couple pages Saturday night before promptly falling asleep (not because of the book, but because I can only manage a couple of pages of anything at bedtime before promptly falling asleep), so I started over on Sunday. It was going to be hot as hell, and reading seemed like a fine way to while away a 100+-degree day.

Got to the halfway point Sunday, finished up today. Monday.

I have a book from the library that's been checked out since July 6. I'm on page, oh, 40, maybe?

But put 652 pages of Rowling in my hands and I'll turn the last page 33 hours later.

As someone who thinks she fairly sucks at writing fiction, I marvel at this woman's talent. How can she ever have been a mom, struggling to make ends meet, writing longhand on notepads, nursing single cups of coffee? Her life's story is its own novel.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Why I Might Never Be Famous ...

Every morning, I read the New York Times online.

I usually read the Times' e-mail push in my mailbox, scanning for interesting links, but this morning, I went right to the site. Read about John Roberts' wife's pro bono work for an anti-abortion group. Read about the shooting of the terror suspect in London yesterday on a subway train. Enough with the serious news. It's 8 a.m. Scrolled down and saw a blurb from the Style section about dating. Click.

It's a story about Stephanie Klein, a blogger in New York who writes about her dating exploits, among other things, who's just inked deals for a book and a television show. The power of the Internet. It's a star-maker.

I went to her site, wondering what kind of crazy spike in traffic she'll see today. My friend Jeff's photo blog was mentioned in the Times a couple years ago and activitiy on his site went through the roof for a day or two.

So I read. One of her posts nearly took my breath away. It said, so perfectly, what I've been feeling about a situation in my life, I was stunned that someone out there could articulate the feelings so well. Then again, I've never tried to write about that situation that way. I like to think I could do as well.

"So good for Stephanie Klein," I thought. Jealousy does not become any of us, as Steph sagely points out in her blog. Envy is OK, jealousy is not. So I envy her book and TV deals.

Before I left her site, I clicked on the "More Pictures of Me" link.

Oh.

She includes pictures of some of the articles that have been written about her, but mostly, it's shot after shot of herself, her and friends, her on a boat, her on a park bench being kissed by her dog.

How many pictures?

72.

Neatly arranged, six shots across, 12 shots down.

I don't have any photos posted with this blog, because the photo-posting software is for PCs and I'm a Mac girl. But if I could put my mug on here, I like to think I'd post one picture. My headshot, sure. If you're going to post one picture, you make it the best picture you've ever had taken. But still, I'd stop at one. Maybe 2. Definitely fewer than 10. Certainly not 72.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Cookie In My Face ...

I was watching Food Network and something made me want Chinese food.

When dinnertime rolls around, I rarely know what I want, so when I want something, I really want it.

Trouble is, Chinese in Northwest Indiana sucks.

I mean, it sucks. It's awful. But then, I haven't tried every place.

So I hauled out the phone book and looked for a new Chinese experience.

SUPER Chinese Take Out Restaurant leapt off its yellow page.

All righty, then. Let's find out how super it is.

(The best Chinese food in my life can be had at New Life on Irving Park Road in Chicago. It's known to me and mine as Mama's, because every time I go in there, the cutest Chinese lady in the world asks, "How's your mama?" My mama -- she's fine, thanks -- shares my love for New Life. But I wasn't in the mood to drive the 50 miles tonight. The Chicken with Pea Pod is worth the trip, but not today.)

I got in the car and drove to SUPER. The menu, 11 x 17 and printed in festive red and green, offers standard Chinese fare. I ordered a Chinese litmus test: egg roll, one pint Chicken Almond Ding.

"Five minute," the Chinese man said.

I took a seat. Ten minutes later, he called out my order. Chopsticks are on the counter with a sign that the first pair is free, the second pair will cost me. Chinese Man made sure I took just one pair.

Home, I unpacked. One fortune cookie, one packet of soy sauce, one packet of duck sauce (sweet and sour sauce, in these parts), egg roll in a waxed-paper bag, a tiny container of rice, and a not-much-bigger container of chicken almond ding. "This is what I paid five bucks for?" I actually said out loud.

I dumped the duck sauce into a small dish, unwrapped the egg roll, dipped and bit. Yeah, that would be the greasiest egg roll in the history of ever. Got a wad of paper towels and tried to wring it out. Slightly more edible. But Mama's egg roll would kick this egg roll's ass.

Onto the entree, then. Nice handful of almonds on top. Good. Don't go skimpin' on the almonds in chicken almond ding. I went easy on the soy sauce, readied my chopsticks, and dug in.

First of all, if you're going to put celery in a dish, you have to allow enough time for the celery to actually begin to cook. Second of all, baby corn has no place in chicken almond ding, nor do straw mushrooms. Something, though, was missing. What was it ... what was it? Oh, right: FLAVOR. I doused my plate with more soy, just so I'd be able to taste something, even if it was just salt.

I ate it. I was hungry. But I won't be going back. SUPER, following proudly in the long tradition of Chinese joints in Northwest Indiana, sucks, too.

My fortune cookie wrapper was sporting a picture of a rather coquettish-looking young thing, sort of Betty Boop-ish. Oooookay. Still, I'm a sucker for fortune cookies, and was well aware that this morsel might just be the best part of this crappy meal. So I cracked it open, pulled out the fortune and read: "You are capable, competent, creative, careful. Prove it."

Called out by my fortune cookie. The cookie gauntlet has been thrown down.

I accept.

Some Of My New Favorite Blogs ...

... are about particular professions by the people who, uh, profess them.

Opinionista chronicles the daily absurdity of working in a law firm.

Waiter writes about exploits at his eatery.

Both of their blogs have made me realize that a blog in which I write about writing wouldn't make much sense. For one thing, I don't work with anyone. I have editors and clients, but day after day after what-day-is-it? day, it's just me, in my office, clacking away on the keyboard. No witty anecdotes here about someone popping by my office. I keep my doors locked, after all. Anyone popping by my office would probably be here to cart off my TV and stereo, and any conversation would be with a 911 operator, not my office visitor.

When I tell people I'm a writer, their expressions always change. "Really?" they ask. "What do you write?" It *sounds* interesting, being a writer. But the day-to-day reality of it is pretty damn boring, nothing to write about.

So I'll stop.

(This post, I mean. I'll stop writing this post. But I won't stop blogging. I find it far too self-indulgent and calorie-free to stop!)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Introspection Overload ...

Don't ask me where it's coming from tonight, but I'm writing it down.

A couple Sundays ago, I was at a bridal shower for a cousin who I haven't seen since his brother was married three years ago. I was standing in a room full of people I haven't seen since then, and we were making the expected polite small talk.

"So, what are you doing these days?" they all asked.

And so I told them: I'm still writing freelance, I'm doing some editing for an IT consulting firm I used to work for, I'm still working on the screenplay, I'm taking voice lessons.

"That's great," they all said. "You look happy!"

And later, at home, I thought, "Maybe I'm looking at my life the wrong way."

Yesterday, I was at my sister-in-law's sister-in-law's, returning some sunglasses that her husband left at my house on the 4th of July. The kids were asleep, so we plopped down in the living room to chat.

Those of you who know me know that I don't talk about myself much. In a group setting, I'm the one most likely to be listening. Many conversations with Dave contain the question: "But what's going on with you, Beth?" I'm perfectly content to let people talk and talk and talk. I feel weird talking about myself. Chalk it up to years of conditioning. Mom raised me to be humble.

But yesterday, in the living room, I was talking. And my sister-in-law's sister-in-law, in her comments back to me, had a view of my life that I never see. Like the people at the shower, she was hearing tales of a worldly, interesting existence.

Do I not see it because I'm in it? Because humility dictates that I don't boast, so when I actually tell people a story of something cool that's happened, they mirror that back to me in their responses, and I see it through someone else's eyes?

But then I think, no, it's not my life that's so interesting. It's the lives of the people I know. I know a former advice columnist and senior feature writer at the Wall Street Journal, but I'm not that accomplished. I know an actor who gets more than his share of work in Hollywood, but I'm not a celebrity. I know a composer who's friends with a rock star, but I'm not the rock star's friend.

So I can tell good stories, but they're not my stories. Is my life interesting by association?

Portrait of the Artist as a Young, Young Woman ...

Once I get an idea in my head, it's hard for me to let it go. I'm remembering a picture from my childhood, and I can't find it. But my search has taken me to a box full of childhood papers that mom gave me years ago, and I just looked at my kindergarten "report card."

In my grade school, everyday grades were checks: a check was good, a check plus was better, a check minus was worse. Term grades were C, G, S, and NI (commendable, good, satisfactory, and needs improvement), but for kindergarten, checks sufficed.

I received one check plus in my second semester of kindergarten: contributes to discussion and planning. My perfectionist tendencies were already showing. I'm a big planner.

What disturbed me, though, was my lone check minus, first semester: meets new situations and challenges.

To be fair to myself, I started kindergarten when I was 4, and I'm not sure how many 4-year-olds are especially gregarious.

But I often feel as though I'm not meeting new situations and challenges, so maybe Mrs. Lang's assessment of me in 1974 wasn't altogether premature.

It's odd to look back at your life, 30 years wiser, and realize that nothing much has changed.

But it's a good life illuminiation.

I have a quote on my office wall from Sophocles: "Look and you will find it -- what is unsought will go undetected." I think that applies here, like someone overcoming an addiction: You have to admit you have a problem before you can fix it.

Time to begin turning this check minus into a check plus.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Help Wanted ...

I was poking around job listings online today. Ran across this:

Telephone Invitationist
NO sales. Just old. Invite people to our location. Relaxed atmosphere. Hourly and daily cash bonuses. Earn up to $10/hr and more. Easy work. Located in Merrillville near Westfield Mall. Call 219-756-7432.

In all my years of job searching, this is the first time I've ever seen that title. And by the way: "Just old"?

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Oh. No? ...

One more observation about the Rickster:

I saw him perform on "Live with Regis and Kelly" on Friday. He sang "Jessie's Girl." It didn't sound great, but his voice didn't sound like a gravel quarry. Maybe that "sound" was just schtick? Bad schtick, sure, but schtick?

'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' ...

I love the book. I own it.

I love the 1971 film starring Gene Wilder. I own it, too.

I was chargrined when I first learned of another version of the film, until I heard that Tim Burton was at the helm. If any director has any business making another "Chocolate Factory" movie, it's Burton. And as Burton and Johnny Depp are practically joined at the hip, and their joint efforts are always worthwhile, I signed on.

Yesterday, after a crazy week of work, I treated myself to a 4 p.m. show. There were lots of kids there, as there should have been. One little guy, who ended up sitting next to me, even tried to worm his way into my popcorn. (I had no problem with the idea of sharing, but I didn't let him have any. It's never too soon to teach a child that it's probably ill-advised to eat a stranger's food.)

It's hard to watch this film. And not because Depp's Willy Wonka reminds me of Michael Jackson. Honestly, that thought never crosssed my mind until a few weeks ago when I started seeing the stories pop up everywhere in the media. (Thanks for ruining that for me, guys.) If you're a fan of Gene Wilder's version, it's hard to watch this movie you spend all your time comparing what you're seeing on the screen to what you're remembering in your head of the first movie and of the book. I consciously tried to watch the film as a new experience, but I don't know that I was ever able to disengage.

To be sure, it's a Tim Burton film. It's beautiful and whimsical and dark and odd. Deep Roy, the lone Oompa Loompa, did a great job in all his roles. (He played all 165 Oompa Loompa roles in the movie.) The new Augustus, Veruca, Violet, and Mike are all well-cast. Freddie Highmore as Charlie knocked me out. I wouldn't be surprised if Depp taps this kid to be in every one of his movies in the future. The adults were mostly suitable, though it was a bit unnerving to watch Violet's mom flirt with Wonka. As he would say in the film: "Ew."

Critics are raving, but I left the theater not sure how to feel. I was never able to watch this movie as a singular experience. I brought too much past love and knowledge to it, I guess. Worthwhile viewing, surely. Maybe a bit too dark for very young viewers, like my popcorn-loving toddler seatmate.

The chocolate river rapids were pretty cool, though.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Oh, I Can't Help Myself ...

I just gotta say, about the whole, big, ugly Karl Rove nastiness:

Tee hee hee.

Reliving David Cassidy ...

Doreen and I saw Mr. Cassidy a couple years back. This is what I sent to friends after the show. (Since Doreen suggested, based on my Rick Springfield ire, that now would be a good time to slam DC again.)


I have never been to a concert during which the performer was so openly, brazenly a jerk. Or "a pissy queen," as Doreen referred to him, after THE FIRST SONG.

When he wasn't barking at his sound guys about the audio (um, it's called a sound check, or it's called working out some hand signals so you can be subtle), he was literally standing on the stage, arms folded, scolding the audience for not being quiet. "I don't get it," he whined. "People come to a show and then they're like, 'So, I'm gonna get my nails done tomorrow at 5 ...' " And it wasn't shtick. He told us to shut up, basically, more than once.

So when he had the AUDACITY to sing three Beatles songs -- acoustically! -- and talk about how he had to "reteach" them to John Lennon one night because John was drunk (as was he, he admitted, but not as drunk as John, cuz he could remember how to play the songs, he pointed out) and the amp input (or is it a mic input?) on his guitar went out during "Blackbird," I laughed to myself, thinking, "It's John Lennon saying, 'What the FUCK are you doing to my song?!' "

Doreen was standing near the stage. I hung back near the boards in the middle of the room.

She walked up to me after about an hour and said, "We can go whenever you want, because he's an asshole," I said, "Let's go," because I had just been thinking, "I can't take too much more of this."

It was pathetic. Face it, David, people were there to hear you sing, "I Think I Love You" and "C'mon, Get Happy." You and Danny Bonaduce are co-executive producing a new Partridge Family show? That's because "The Partridge Family" is your stock and trade. Like it or not, that was the best you had to give. So just give it, and be glad that the House of Blues was able to sell enough tickets to fill half the room.

So hold onto your memory of loving David Cassidy when you were 12, because you'd hate David Cassidy at 43.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

What?, Do I Live Under A Rock? ...

There's going to be a sequel to "The Usual Suspects"?! Why the hell didn't anyone tell me this sooner?!

And Kev is bald, head shaved for his role as Lex Luthor in "Superman."

Bald and a reprisal of Keyser Soze. I am in Kev Heaven.

Oh No, Oh No, Oh No No No...

On Henry's suggestion, I went to iTunes to listen to Rick Springfield's cover of "Human," the ginormous Human League hit from the '80s.

Honestly, before I rip into this guy too bad, has he had throat surgery or something? What happened to his voice? "Jessie's Girl" was fluff, but it was fun fluff.

I recently mentioned to Music Dave that Tom Waits sounds like Springsteen if Springsteen drank heavily and smoked four packs a day, but turns out that Tom Waits sounds like Rick Springfield. Or the other way around. I think Tom is older.

Some things I can let slide, but not when Rick and his Quick!-Get-Me-A-Sucrets! voice bastardize "Eleanor Rigby." No, I've gotta draw the line. Kill the bad guitar, Rick. Please. I beg of you. Beatles' tunes are sacred.

Do an iTunes search for Rick Springfield and arrange the tracks alphabetically and you know what comes up after "Eleanor Rigby"? "Every Night I Wake Up Screaming."

Maybe that's why he's so hoarse.

Oh, but wait. It gets worse. The album that "I'm Not In Love" and "Human" come from is "The Day After Yesterday." (That'd be today. Get it?)

This is the song list.

The Day After Yesterday:

I'm Not In Love
Under the Milky Way
Life In a Northern Town
Broken Wings
Human
Holding On to Yesterday
Baker Street
Waiting for a Girl Like You
Lets Go Out Tonight
For No One
Miss You Nights
Blue Rose
Cry
Imagine

Look at the last track. LOOK AT THE LAST TRACK.

The ONLY thing more sacred than a Beatles' tune is "Imagine."

If you'll excuse me, I have some garments to rend.

Oh No ...

Rick Springfield was just on "Good Morning, America" croaking out a cover of "I'm Not In Love," the 1975 track by 10cc. Is he trying to sound like Rod Stewart?

Early-Morning Television ...

What do you do when you're up at 4:30 in the morning and you've read through all your e-mail?

You watch infomercials, of course.

Flipping between two stations, I was watching Kevin Trudeau spouting indignancies seconds apart, one station then the other. He's touting his "book" (it is indeed book-shaped) "Natural Cures 'They' Don't Want You To Know About." But knowing how much trouble good ol' Kev's been in with the FCC and the FDA, I fired up the computer and Googled him and his book.

From what I've read, the book is an infomercial unto itself, directing readers to his Web site (for a fee) to access any useable information.

I have one question: How does this guy live with himself?

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Explain Something To Me ...

I don't mean to sound like a bitch here, but I may, so consider yourself warned.

Can someone explain to me why our government continues to grant federal aid to those residents of coastal towns whose homes and businesses are repeatedly battered by hurricanes?

The news is rife with stories of families who are finally rebuilding after Hurricane Ivan, and now they're once again bracing (or have braced) for Hurricane Dennis. Is it bitchy of me to yell at my TV, "MOVE!"

I'm all for aid for families who are caught unaware by some freak natural disaster. But for people who live in hurricane-prone regions?

I'm not suggesting that we let these areas become desolate wastelands, but if people want to live in areas that see high hurricane activity, should they receive federal dollars year in and year out? It's their prerogative to live there. Is it my responsibility to help them rebuild? We're not assigned to states and towns. They can move to a part of the country where their house is less likely to be destroyed by 120-mile-per-hour winds. Or they can stay put. It's their choice. But how many times do we literally bail them out?

Wherefore Art Thou, Ice Cream Truck?

I was just out running errands, and found myself behind an ice cream truck. But it wasn't playing the usual ice cream truck music ("Pop Goes the Weasel" seems to be what I remember most, or maybe "The Entertainer"). It felt familiar, the tune, but I couldn't quite place it. A theme. From something.

I started humming it, so I wouldn't forget it, but then thought, "How will I look it up online when I get home?"

Luckily, I had my phone with me, so I called L.A. Dave, Knower of All Things Movie, and "sang" it for him: "Da da da da, da da, da da da da, da da da da, da da da da da ..."

"It's the theme from 'Romeo and Juliet,' the 1968 Franco Zeffirelli version starring John McEnery as Mercutio."

I knew he'd know.

But how weird is that, for an ice cream truck tune?

"Was it more upbeat?" he asked.

"Nope, it was just like I did it, melancholy. Almost dirge-like."

To paraphrase Tennyson: Ah, when in the summertime a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of suicide.

Who wouldn't want an ice cream from *that* truck?!

Go Read This Blog ...

Defamer.com

I am crying.

First, the quoted exchange between Paris Hilton and Ricky Gervais (the man is a god), and then the item about George Clooney and Brad Pitt getting into the Vegas hotel business, complete with rendering of the hotel by wannabe architect Pitt.

Go find them.

Join me in the hilarity.

(If you're too lazy to type in the URL, just click on the link on the right.)

Saturday, July 09, 2005

'Battlefield Earth' ...

What with all the Tom Cruise-ness going on these days, I finally broke down and Netflixed "Battlefield Earth" for some Scientology insight.

I'd heard it was a bad movie.

I heard correctly. It was bad. Really bad. Exhaustingly bad. Halfway through it, I had to take a nap. Bad. Yet educational. For example, I learned:

-- That to play Terl, John Travolta approached the character as a cross between Bette Davis and the Lucky Charms leprechaun.

-- That fashion is indeed cyclical. One thousand years hence, male humans will once again dress as cavemen. Females will all dress as Barbarella.

-- That Psychlos get wasted on Mountain Dew.

-- That the filmmakers decided to use PowerPoint wipes instead of real transitions between scenes.

-- That we present-day humans are making life easier for future generations by clearly labeling explosives as "EXPLOSIVES" and fuel as "FUEL."

-- That a gold brick apparently only weighs as much as a Wonka bar.

-- That Psychlos, even with their nifty vaporizing guns, are all shitty shots and can't hit a single moving target. Maybe they were distracted by the overwrought film score, or maybe they were thrown off because Jonnie Goodboy Tyler, the leader of the human rebellion and the worst-named character in the history of cinema, was running in slow motion.

Having watched it, I am no closer to understanding Tom Cruise and his brainwashing of Katie Holmes, nor how John Travolta has managed to have a career after this laughingstock.

Roger Ebert gave this movie a half a star and said, "It's not merely bad; it's unpleasant in a hostile way." Or, as Tom Maurstad of the Dallas Morning news put it, more succinctly, "Battlefield Earth is dumb."

Friday, July 08, 2005

Ripped From The Headlines ...

From an AP story about Katie Holmes' appearance in W Magazine:

"During the W interview, the actress wouldn’t part from Jessica Rodriguez, who is described as her 'Scientologist chaperone.' Rodriguez’s role in Holmes’ life remains vague, though Rodriguez says they’re 'just best friends' since meeting around the time Holmes met Cruise.

'You adore him,' Rodriguez told Holmes when the actress was at a loss for words to describe her love."

Is anyone else shuddering?!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Judith Miller ...

So now she's in jail.

Some say she shouldn't be protecting her source, especially if her source is that slimy Karl Rove. And if her source is that slimy Karl Rove, you can bet he's smiling smugly that a member of the oh-so-despised press is sitting in prison to protect his sorry ass. He's a master of manipulation, after all, isn't he?

And some say that she shouldn't be so revered in the news world because, after all, she was part of the problem with the New York Times spoonfeeding the public the administration's palaver (note to W: that's a 50-cent word that means, in part, misleading talk; you might understand "misleading talk" better as "lie") about enriched uranium and Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Well, I hate to be simplistic and all, but none of that matters. The only thing that matters is that she promised a source confidentiality (no matter how repugnant we may consider that source to be), and she's keeping her promise. Period. It doesn't matter what other stories she's written. It doesn't matter if the source is reviled. All that matters is that she made a promise and she's sticking to it. Even if it means going to jail.

For those who didn't understand my Mitch Albom ire when he faked the column about the basketball players, what's happening in this case is a thousand times worse. As one journalist put it, if you take away our ability to promise confidentiality to sources, "we'll all be writing press releases."

And speaking of Albom, in light of what's happening to the media in the Miller case, the Detroit Free Press just might have to change its name.

American News ...

What is it with news outlets in this country?

As I watched coverage this morning from London in the wake of the Tube and double-decker bus blasts, those reporting from central London expressed over and over how well Londoners were taking the attacks in stride. Not complacent, certainly, but with a sense of calm and civility.

I wasn't a bit surprised. It's just like Londoners to queue up for taxis to get to work because they've been driven out of the subway tunnels by coordinated bombings.

So why did I see so many headlines from American news orgs speaking of the "chaos" in London? I didn't witness chaos in London on my television this morning. Even the oft-repeated cell-phone video looked strikingly calm.

The British tabloid press is known for sensationalism. The headlines that leap out from newsstands are stark in contrast to the city, so steeped in history and propriety.

But today, newswriters and -readers America seemed to step right into that role, seemingly intent on making a bad situation even worse.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Allow Me To Say ...

... in the sing-songy voice we used when we were little to taunt other kids:

Paris didn't get the Olympics! Paris didn't get the Olympics!

I am no fan of the French. They're arrogant. They have a sense of entitlement that I frankly do not understand, and that's coming from someone who lives in America, which seems to think it can do whatever the hell it wants anywhere on the planet.

Hooray for London! I love London. Good for London!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

In A Name ...

Don't you think that hurricanes and tropical storms should have serious names?

Tropical Storm Cindy is supposed to make landfall tonight around New Orleans.

Cindy?

At the very least, shouldn't the full names be used, like when we were in trouble as kids?

Cynthia sounds a wee bit more serious for a storm than Cindy.

Cindy makes me think of a banana-curled Susan Olsen from "The Brady Bunch."

Or a Hooters Girl. Not that I've ever been to Hooters.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Yesterday Was A Dark Day ...

Not that anybody's keeping score, but add my name to the list of journalists who are deeply chagrined by Time Editor In Chief Normal Pearlstine's decision to hand over Matthew Cooper's subpoenaed documents in the Valerie Plame case.

Pearlstine says that he and Time Inc. are not above the law and he must comply. No, he does not have to comply. He can refuse, and pay the fines, and stand by Cooper as he goes to jail.

I applaud the New York Times for standing by Judith Miller and her refusal to turn over her notes and reveal her sources.

The Search for Truth ...

In a recent post about what I've learned recently about milk (here's a summary: ICK!), I cited several published reports by the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). Henry, a fellow blogger, posted a comment saying that PCRM isn't all it's cracked up to be, and linked to this:

http://www.consumerfreedom.com/article_detail.cfm?a

Serious allegations.

I know Neal Barnard (and his communications liaison Jeanne) and didn't believe my judgment about Dr. Barnard and his organization could be so off. So, as any good journalist would do, I got in touch with Jeanne to ask her how PCRM was responding to the CCF's piece.

She replied today, apologizing for the delay. Her response? She let the Washington Post do the talking for her:

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) Responds to Smear Tactics by Tobacco/Meat Industry Front Group
Criticisms are False and Anti-Public Health

Washington-The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine responds to recent statements by the "Center for Consumer Freedom" (CCF), a group funded by the tobacco, meat, and junk-food industries.

CCF was founded by tobacco lobbyist Rick Berman with more than $3 million from Philip Morris and continues to receive funding from industries that market unhealthful products. Through CCF and other front groups, Berman has fought against stricter limits on legal blood-alcohol levels, improvements in minimum wage, health information for consumers, and other progressive efforts that his commercial clients view as contrary to their interests.

Over the past few years, CCF has escalated its attacks against organizations that warn the public about the health risks associated with alcohol, meat, and other junk food products. Berman has admitted publicly that his MO is to "shoot the messenger" by trying to disparage the credibility of his opponents. His employees do not attempt reasoned discussion of the scientific issues about health. The list of public health advocates in CCF's line of fire includes former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for speaking out against drunk driving, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for tackling food safety, the World Health Organization for addressing obesity, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

A complaint recently filed with the IRS charges that CCF has violated its tax-exempt status by allegedly engaging in "activities with no charitable purpose" and making large payments to Berman. And two recent editorials, one in the Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/01/AR2005050100625.html) and one in USA Today (http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/2005-05-04-name-edit_x.htm) criticized the group for misrepresenting itself. (For an in-depth exposé by best-selling author John Stauber, please visit http://www.prwatch.org/prwissues/2001Q1/berman1.html.)

As to CCF's false statements about PCRM, here's the truth. Founded 20 years ago, PCRM is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization
working to promote good nutrition and higher standards in both human and animal research. PCRM has a four-star rating from Charity Navigator. PCRM both conducts clinical nutrition research and helps educate the public about preventive medicine, especially the multitude of health benefits possible with low-fat and vegetarian diets. PCRM also opposes unethical research. PCRM exposed experiments in which short, healthy children were to be injected with genetically engineered growth hormone in an attempt to make them taller. PCRM also exposed the practice of using massive estrogen doses to suppress height in tall adolescent girls. In addition, PCRM vigorously promotes alternatives to the use of animals in medical education and research through a variety of innovative programs.

PCRM's physicians, dietitians, and scientists are leaders in their field. They publish their work in peer-reviewed academic journals, present their findings before scientific conferences, and serve as consultants on government panels. PCRM's president Neal Barnard, M.D., (http://www.NealBarnard.org), for example, is a respected nutrition researcher whose current work is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. PCRM experts are also popular with lay audiences. PCRM doctors and nutritionists are frequent guests in the national and international media, and popular writers in the lay press.

CCF tries to characterize health advocates, vegetarians, and animal protection groups as radicals or terrorists. However, PCRM's policies would specifically exclude anyone promoting violence or illegal activity from functioning as a spokesperson or having any role in the organization. This sort of name-calling represents Berman's tactic of ignoring facts and attacking critics of the unhealthful industries he represents.

CCF mistakenly charges that the American Medical Association (AMA) has "censured" PCRM: This is patently untrue. PCRM did have disagreements with the AMA in the early 1990s (the AMA supported animal testing, while PCRM promotes alternatives; PCRM favors vegetarian diets, while the AMA was initially skeptical), but the AMA's censure process was never applied to PCRM. In fact, PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D., is a lifetime AMA member. In February 2004, the AMA released a statement saying that its previous criticisms of PCRM's stance on vegetarianism do not represent current AMA opinion or policy. (http://www.pcrm.org/news/statement040218.html).

CCF also alleges that PCRM acts as a "front" for other groups. This is another unfounded and defamatory claim. While CCF is indeed an industry front, PCRM is an independent, nonprofit organization, and has been since its founding in 1985. PCRM often works with a wide-ranging variety of organizations promoting human health, scientific research, medical education, and protection of animals in laboratories, as well as consumer groups, hospitals, universities, corporations, and other health charities.


A good lesson in never listening to one side of a story.