Archive for October, 2006

So says this new study.

“If a person reduces the weight in their car, either by removing excess baggage, carrying around less weight in their trunk, or yes, even losing weight, they will indeed see a drop in their fuel consumption.”

First off, a big screaming Duh! to these guys. Second off, how much federal grant money did it take for them to cook up this nugget of common sense? Third off, how much do those dudes weigh?

Tell me this isn’t yet another bit of propaganda in the anti-fat war. Just when I thought “they” couldn’t come up with one more reason for me to hate myself, the skimforces cook up this little gem. Okay. We get it. Being fat isn’t the best thing for a person. But honestly, do these long drawn out exercises in duh actually accomplish anything other than reemphasising an existing stigma? Not to mention the fact that the actual results of the study show that the increase in fuel consumption is negligible at best.

The lost mileage is pretty small for any single driver. Jacobson said the typical driver – someone who records less than 12,000 miles annually – would use roughly 18 fewer gallons of gas over the course of a year by losing 100 pounds.

This isn’t worthy science. This is yet another excuse to scream “get ’em up against the wall” a la Pink Floyd. Who let all of this riff-raff into the world?

I guess we can forget the whole problem of cow farts destroying the ozone. I see a plan here. We all lose weight by eating less meat, so there is less need for farting cows to feed us. Wow! The entire planet has been saved. Of course those of us who are allergic to soy are up a creek I guess.

Then we run into the biodiesel conundrum. Wouldn’t that be ironic? We solve the fossil fuel dilemma by discovering that used french fry grease is a viable alternative fuel source just in time to discover that the fat butts we earn through lifelong french fry consumption are complicit in rising fuel consumption.

Do we eat our way to cleaner energy or not? Life, you is a funny mistress.

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I am in love with the My Virtual Model service.

The internet is a wonderful place for all of us who are phobic about dressing rooms. I have a little fake me that I can dress up in real clothes.

How cool is this?!?

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I like sweet bagels. My husband likes savoury bagels.

Why do the bagel-packing people ALWAYS put our two different kinds in the same bag? Do you know how awful it is to get a bite of garlic with your cinnamon crunch bagel?

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I consider myself a writer.

I know my life is long stretches of bore, punctuated by the interesting trauma of sickness, job turmoil and cars that won’t start. I’m not complaining. If I wanted sex, drugs and rock and roll I’d have joined the French Foreign Legion. But I’m a writer. I like to sit back, watch Interesting happen to other people and write about it. In lieu of it actually happening I’ll make something up and call it “fiction”. If I were James Frey I could combine the two for a rollicking good time and a spot on Oprah.

But I truly believe that the majority of writers are more like me and less like Hemingway. We don’t really crave too much excitement for ourselves.

Which is why so many writers have this overreaching fondness for The Hollywood Blacklist. It’s one of the few times in history that being a writer actually had some drama about it. Frankly, I don’t consider the Blacklist anything more than an historical artifact. It holds about as much interest for me as the size of Algier Hiss’ pumpkin. I know that it existed as part of our society, but I don’t view it as the American equivalent of the Holocaust.

I finally made it through this week’s Studio ZZZZZZ. Surprise, surprise. The old guy was a hero! For being blacklisted! I’m sorry, but this is like the Twentieth Century Hollywood Writer’s equivalent of scoring the touchdown in the big High School game. The character in question had to be at least 80 years old. He fought at Normandy, for crying out loud. But I and the rest of the audience are to believe that the most pivotal part of his life was being fired in the Blacklist?

The worst untruth about the Blacklist Legend is to me the way it is constantly framed as the government beating down the free spirits. As a matter of fact, there would have been no chance at a blacklist had there not been folks willing to name names. By “folks” I mean other actors, writers, directors and such free spirits. It was a purely cannabilistic time that has been twisted by modern mythos to present the face of a bad government versus an innocent and righteous cabal of talented and unique gifts to mankind. We the Average are presumed to have squandered these talents on our altar of conformity. What B.S. It was this very backstabbing and self-serving world that turned in upon its own.

Writers may have been the victims, but writers were also the perpetrators. I wish they’d remember that when they sit around the old Remingtons and toast the magnificence of those bygone days.

I also wish Studio ZZZZZZ would stop thinking that my failure to be part of the Hollywood Scene means that I have no more than a first grade education.

Oh, and one more thing: Writers of the world, here’s a shock. There are black people who are successful in life that didn’t rise up from the ‘hood and just come out of a gang. Sorkin slayed me with this episode. First we see Willy Willz do the prototypical “Black people are different from white people because…” routine. Then we get this speech about how that stereotypical comedy is demeaning to black people. Fast forward to Simon Styles and Matt Albie at the bar. Simon gives a long speech about how he was part of a gang and watched some dude get shot and almost shot another dude yadda yadda the ‘hood yadda yadda prison yadda yadda really rich now yadda yadda debt to the community.

WHAT THE H&*^%&^%&^%?!??!?! How is that speech any less degrading to black people? Do black people only come in two flavours? Gangsta and Bling? You know what would have been far better writing, far more interesting and challenging? To have the black character be the one with the bland midwestern background and the brother in Afghanistan. There’s some real conflict.

Yes, the life of a writer can be boring. I wish Sorkin would quit trying so hard to sex it up. It rings false.

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Opry Mills is a ghost town on Monday afternoon. This is our year to have a low-key (i.e. stay at home) vacation in lieu of the hilarity of Disney World. So yesterday it was off to The Mills Corp. Entertainment Mall Experience for a bit of vacation-away-from-vacation activity. We haven’t been there all summer, so the current state of affairs was eye-opening.

Some observations–

~The public restrooms at the Food Court are nas-tee. Out of all the stalls there (I think there are 15) only one of them was flushed. And that door was broken. I went to the bathroom in Barnes & Noble. (Hey, I bought two books there. I paid for clean toilets!)

~It’s kind of sad to see Tower Records going out of business.

~Apparently “Jillian’s” is now “Dave & Buster’s”. I have no idea what the other difference is. I imagine neither Dave nor Buster decided to lower prices, so it probably still costs $30 for two people to glow-bowl for an hour. This is not Lebowski’s bowling.

~Farethewell, Alabama Restaurant. When we were there yesterday, work crews were pulling the “Alabama” off the wall. I never ate there, so I don’t know if I’ll miss the food. Apparently I’m not alone in the “never ate there” category, seeing as they’re shutting down. I do know that I will not miss the sketches of the band members that hung in the entry way. They seemed cartoonish and a bit amateur–as though they were drawn by a 17-year old relative who has some art talent but very little training.

~The Banditos Mexican restaurant next to Barnes & Noble is not that great. And they got a 67 on the health inspection. I didn’t know you could stay open with a 67. Oh well. The food was still okay….not fantastic though. And we had a coupon.

~I love the Stingray Reef experience, but they need to clean the tank. That entire stage area surrounded by B&N, Aquarium Restaurant, Banditos and the Reef smells like urine. Somehow I doubt that drunk uncle/sick cat odor comes from the bookstore.

~The Prestige is an awesome movie. It was smart, entertaining and atmospheric. The perfect fall film.

~The theatre is bragging about showing the original Halloween on halloween. But the print in the trailer looked like catsick. I’m not sure I’d be rushing out to see it blown up to extra graininess.

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On the earlier Madonna post, bekah asks a very good question that deserves a good answer.

I honestly don’t care whether Madonna “went around the rules” to “buy a child” or not, my problem is with the father making a huge deal out of this – if he didn’t want someone to adopt his son, why in the hell was he living in an orphanage?

The child was in an orphanage for the same reason that many AIDS babies are in African orphanageseven though they have living family members.

Orphanages in Africa are not completely analagous to what we think of when we hear “orphanage”. In America and Europe an orphanage is simply a place where parentless children are cared for while they await adoption. However in Africa, orphanages more typically serve the function of a day care, drop-in hospital and food centre.

In a culture where the father must work all the time if the mother dies or is very ill, sometimes the only alternative is to place the child in an orphanage. Parents do this, often reluctantly, just to ensure that their children are able to eat. It is far from atypical for a child to be in an orphanage while having quite a large network of extended family living in a nearby village.

I have no doubt that David’s father truly believed that Madonna’s intentions were exactly the same as what he’s come to expect from the orphanage system in his country–someone to look after and feed his child while he’s busy working. In short, he thought Madonna was wanting to be a type of nanny.

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Spoilers Wanted

I saw the movie, but I could not get into the books.

I understand that the last book in the series has been released.

So, for the love of sanity, if you are a Lemony Snicket fan, please feel free to tell me all the important things (who is Beatrice, what happened to the Baudelaire parents, do all the children survive?) so that I can requite my desire for knowledge without wading through 13 books. In exchange I will tell all of you whether or not Harry dies once Book 7 comes out.

Thank you.

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Mark Joseph has a new opinion piece over at Fox News that is the very definition of damning with faint praise.

Entitled “For Evangelicals, a Newly Sophisticated Approach to Politics” the rest of the piece continues in the same arrogant, patronising vein. As one of those Newly Sophisticated believers in Christ allow me to humbly point out that I don’t think the sophistication is new–outsiders merely have a different perception.

When Evangelicals first burst onto the political scene two decades ago, those outside the camp were of the very mistaken opinion that the only issue motivating these obstinate Jesus Freaks was the legality of abortion. Granted, that’s the plank upon which we all came out swinging, yet we were educating ourselves in the ways of the political arena. Most of us came for the abortion but stayed for the guns rights, social justice, states’ rights or any one of a dozen other planks in the two main parties’ platforms.

Yes. TWO main parties. The myth about us Evangelicals is that we are a sort of Republican Zombie Army, devouring the brains of our children and marching in lockstep to Karl Rove’s orders. Not so. Of the Evangelicals I worship with on a weekly basis I would say there’s about as much political variety as there is in the world outside our experience. We have yellow dogs for both parties, single-issue voters, centrists and not a few like me who tend to sit outside party lines and pick and choose our candidates with an irritating know-it-all grouchiness.

We’ve grown older, we mix in the arena more and the rest of the world is finally realising that a belief in Jesus doesn’t necessarily require checking your brain and political opinion at the door. Our sophistication isn’t new. The outside world’s realisation of our personhood is.

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I’ve taken a lot of heat in the past two weeks for being a vocal critic of the Madonna baby purchase adoption. This article does nothing but bolster my opinion that this was nothing more than crass manipulation on Madonna’s part.

Banda said his understanding was that “when David grows up he will return back home to his village.” He said the director of Child Welfare Services, Penston Kilembe, and the retired pastor who heads the orphanage where David spent most of his life never told him by “adoption” it meant David will cease to be his son. … Banda said he was illiterate and so had no idea of the significance of the adoption papers he signed in the High Court in the capital, Lilongwe.
“Mr. Kilembe and the pastor explained to me that Madonna would take care of my son; I am just realizing now the meaning of adoption,” he said, claiming that he has no copies of documents pertaining to the adoption. “All the documents are with Mr. Kilembe,” he said.

How is this different than the slave trade of centuries ago? I mean, other than the fact that there’s no sugar cane involved.

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Two lonely and lovelorn girls, growing up in squalor–Mayella Ewell and Merope Gaunt are literary sisters in many ways. I have come to believe that Chapter 10 of The Half-Blood Prince is JK Rowling’s tribute to Harper Lee’s classic To Kill A Mockingbird.

When we first see Merope Gaunt, she is cowering in her father’s kitchen, surrounded by grime and filth. Yet Harry notices that Merope has made an effort to be clean and presentable. I was instantly reminded of Mayella’s efforts to keep tidy, and of her struggling red geraniums.

Mayella and Merope have the misfortune of sharing a father. Seperated by magic, an ocean and a couple of decades, Bob Ewell and Marvolo Gaunt are nevertheless the same man. Dirt poor and ill-regarded by their neighbours, Gaunt and Ewell both consider their race and lineage to be their chief source of pride. As long as Bob Ewell is white, in his mind he has character above the black workers who trundle past his tumbledown junkyard house every day. As long as Marvolo Gaunt is a pureblood wizard and a direct descendant of Salazar Slytherin he can hold his head above muggles and wizards alike. In both sagas the pervasive racism of these small-minded men becomes the undoing of all those around them and in fact sets in motion all events of each story.

Our heroines also share an obsession, after a fashion. Tom. Mayella’s Tom is Tom Robinson, the handsome and gentle-hearted black man she watches through her window every day. Mayella Ewell grows to lust after Tom Robinson, knowing that his very blackness would make him a forbidden lover in her house. Merope’s Tom is Tom Riddle, the handsome and hard-hearted Muggle she watches through her window every day. In her world the love for Riddle is the same as Mayella’s love for Robinson, yet it’s Riddle’s non-wizard nature that makes him forbidden to her. Both Mayella and Merope see their love as an escape from the tyranny of drunken and abusive fathers.

Each girl sets her obsession in motion at the absence of her family. Mayella takes “a slap year to save [seven] nickles” to send her younger siblings for ice cream. We are not witnesses to the further action, but the story would seem to prove out the following events. Mayella lures Tom Robinson into the Ewell shack and throws herself at him. Bob Ewell comes upon the scene and beats Mayella fiercely. Due in part to her beating and in part to her shame at being rejected by Tom, Mayella levels the accusation of rape that tears apart Maycomb county and ends the lives of Tom Robinson and Bob Ewell.

In Merope’s Little Hangleton hovel events are somewhat inverted but have similar outcomes. Like Bob Ewell–his muggle counterpart–Marvolo Gaunt beats and strangles his daughter upon discovering her obsession with Tom Riddle. Unlike TKAM, the reader is a witness to this beating. I surmise that this is JK Rowling’s subtle way of confirming Tom Robinson’s version of events and offering Robinson a postmortem exoneration. In HBP, the beating results not in Tom Riddle being falsely accused but in Marvolo Gaunt and his worthless son Morfin going to prison. At first the reader is relieved to see Merope finally have some peace. But just as Mayella couldn’t resist seducing her Tom, Merope used her freedom to the same ends. Unlike Mayella, however, Merope has the means to concoct a love potion that enslaves Tom Riddle to her. The child born of this bitter obsession becomes the boy Tom Marvolo Riddle and the man Lord Voldemort, who reigns evil and chaos over both the Muggle and Wizarding worlds.

Two sad, lonely, lovelorn girls. Both seem inconsequential yet both prove the far-flung disastrous outcomes of obsessive love.

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