Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sometimes a Scarf is Just a Scarf, or Sorry, the Hoi Polloi Isn't Buying the Rachael Ray, Terrorist Spin

If you haven't heard this story, it goes like this:

1. Rachael Ray has an ongoing gig hawking Dunkin Donuts.
2. A stylist dressed her in a fringey scarf for a commercial.
3. Right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin (and others) claim that Ray is wearing a "jihadi chic keffiyeh." (No linkee to Malkin. Not gonna do it.)

In other words, Ray is adorned in unpatriotic terrorist garb, etc. and so forth. In response to the criticism, DD pulled the ad.

When these things happen -- and by the way, nothing much did happen except a well-known woman did a donut ad in a scarf until Malkin put her special spin on it -- what the right will say is predictable. So too with the left.

What's not so predictable is what people who aren't looking at the donut ad from a political angle will say.

I stumbled on a Donutgate article while looking for Lost articles, and what interested me -- I'm a sucker for news story comments -- is that in comments almost everyone decried the Rachael-Ray-dressed-as-terrorist spin as the pure and total nonsense it is, and they criticize Dunkin Donuts for overreacting, allowing themselves to be manipulated, etc.

During moments like this I have hope that our country's critical thinking skills haven't left us completely.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Mad for Mad Men and More

To stave off my Lost withdrawal, I found a killer article on Mad Men on EW. (This is for Alanna and Bee!) The Golden Globe-winning show returns July 27 and I can barely wait.

If you're not watching this show, you should be. You have been admonished.

The article contained another gem: series star and Golden Globe winner Jon Hamm spent his off-time filming a movie. I'm happy for Hamm, but not sure how I feel about this. The inevitable has happened (and this is for Phil): The Day the Earth Stood Still has been remade, with a December release date. And it stars...Keanu Reeves as Klaatu.

Well, I guess Reeves knows how to act like someone from outer space...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

It's Lostday!!!

Good news: Two-hour Lost finale at 9:00
Bad news: Beginning of long Lost drought at 11:00

Guardian Columnist Unsuccessfully Attempts Citizen's Arrest of John Bolton

Guardian columnist George Monbiot unsuccessfully tried arresting John Bolton at a literary festival in England:

Security guards blocked the path of columnist and activist George Monbiot, who tried to make the arrest as Mr Bolton left the stage.

The former ambassador - a key advisor to President George W Bush who argued strongly in favour of invading Iraq - had been giving a talk on international relations to more than 600 people at the literary festival.

Mr Monbiot was blocked by two heavily-built security guards at the end of the one-and-a-half hour appearance, before he could serve a "charge sheet" on him.


Mr Monbiot said moments later he was "disappointed" that he had been blocked from making the citizen's arrest.

"This was a serious attempt to bring one of the perpetrators of the Iraq war to justice, for what is described under the Nuremberg Principles as an international crime," he said.


A citizen's arrest can be carried out under certain circumstances by a member of the public, if they believe a person had carried out a crime, under the Serious and Organised Crime and Police Act 2005.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

We're All Samuel Pepys Now

We’re all Samuel Pepys now.

I’ve had that thought dozens of times, but I never wrote it down until today, in response to Brave Sir Robin's prodding that we go read a post on his friend’s site, about knitting. And other important things. Then my comments on his blog blossomed into this post.

This story of knitting and crisis and love is just one example of why I love blogging. We're all Samuel Pepys now, all working to make sense of our individual corners of the world, documenting those thoughts, and enriching each others' lives in the process.

The art of letter writing may be dying as people e-mail one another instead, and then delete rather than put the precious words in a shoebox or a file cabinet drawer. We’re losing the intimacy of our correspondents’ handwriting, the fragrance of the scented stationery, the little oil stains from the lunch carelessly eaten above the note – perhaps by both writer and reader.

But what we lose when we lose that old way of doing things, we gain tenfold through blogging. Not only can we continue to connect with our friends, we form new friendships with people we’d never meet otherwise, even though we may never “meet” them face-to-face (in some cases we may never even know their “real” names or faces). These are friendships just the same, and I cherish mine. We know they love cats, or their favorite foods, or why it’s bliss for them to get out of town on the weekend. We worry about their health crises. We revel in their zany, lovable way with words. We live abroad with them vicariously. Or in the big city. We watch them manage their money with panache. We hear their powerful voices and see through their eyes the beauty in the smallest things (really, you should sample this blog!). Other times we just peek in once or twice on people who remain strangers, but who still allow us and anyone else who cares to drop by a casual intimacy that we simply couldn’t get in the face-to-face world where in a crowd we’re mostly a little stand-offish, fiercely maintaining our personal space.

Pepys didn’t aspire to be a writer of importance for centuries. He was simply observing, just as we bloggers are. I sometimes wonder where our blogs will be in 10, 20, 100 years. Somewhere still archived, I hope. Here lie riches for the sociologists, folklorists, anthropologists, and historians of the future, those scholars who will want to know how people lived their lives in the early 21st century.

Because we’re all Samuel Pepys now.

I'm Wearing This

(Not actually Bitty, unfortunately.)

When Alanna and I go to see Sex and the City next week, I'll be wearing this, although I won't look quite so fabulous in it.

Just so you all know.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Oh, Noes! A Girly Film!!

"There's no getting around that this is a film oriented to women and gay men...It will be very hard to get past that, especially with a lot of testosterone-driven films out there this summer."

Earlier today I wrote this post, put it up for about 10 minutes, and pulled it down. My original discussion MIGHT have been a little unkind to he who uttered those words, one movie analyst named Jeff Bock of Reel Source (for which I can find no website), because I rained all my sarcasm down on his head. Bock's words appear in an AP article that asks the musical question, "Can women alone make 'Sex and the City' a hit?" Bock didn't write the piece, doesn't deserve all the blame, and may well have been taken out of context. (Setting the piece's title and Bock's quote aside, the article seems to be suggesting that interest in the film is wide and deep. In other words, here we seem to have another media-created controversy where none otherwise exists.) Regardless of where or how the idea originated, the suggestion offered in Bock's words set me off. So here I go, slightly revised:

Understandably, Sex and the City is not a film that will appeal to most men. And while Bock didn't write the whole piece and may well have been quoted out of context, he seems to be suggesting that a film that doesn't appeal to men (he oddly calls this film a "paternity test") couldn't possibly make money.

If Bock has not been taken out of context, I'm not sure what, exactly, it is we need to "get around" or "get past" besides nineteenth-century notions about women and agency. Bock appears not to offer his analysis based on anything particularly concrete, such as the enormous following the HBO series had in its original run and continues to have on TBS even in its eviscerated (cleaned up) state, or the clamor for this film that began before the series even ended, or the DVD sales -- currently the 6-season box set (not the "luxury package") is #26 in DVD on Amazon, an interestingly high stat considering that many fans bought the series long ago. The point Bock seems to be making is based on the faulty premise that without men in the seats, movies can't make money. Yet the series has been hand-over-fisting it for years, despite its girly nature.

Anyway, any Hollywood accountant worth her billing hours knows that the box office, which yes, may fall off after the first weeks as is true of many films, is only a small part of the story: it's a film's afterlife that often brings the windfall, and the Sex DVD, which I predict will be released just in time for holiday gift-giving, will bring that windfall.

I think that Bock is equating "hit" with "competition," as in "who makes the most money?" not "who makes money?" (What a testosterone-driven idea!) However, my analysis, based on the excitement I know exists around the film is this: the backers of this film will not regret their investment.

Here's an idea that Bock apparently hasn't factored in: Sex and the City will appeal to many people who have no interest whatsoever in "testosterone-driven films," people whose money would otherwise remain tucked away in their checking accounts. People who are women.

I know two of those people well, and we've already made our girly-date to go see the film on June 3.

(For another take-down on this article, see Melissa at Shakesville.)

(Another SATC analysis, although not based on this article, comes from Philosophy Factory, who is currently vacationing in a different city, Sin City.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I'm Not an Attorney, But I Played One on TV

...and that lack of real-life experience isn't stopping Dylan McDermott, formerly attorney Bobby Donnell on The Practice, from serving as his own divorce lawyer.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I've Got a Secret

It occurs to me that it's really quite unethical to tell someone something -- and then AFTER the fact say that it's a secret and not to tell.

The person who does this essentially asks the receiver of the message to lie, and this without giving her the opportunity to refuse to hear the secret.

This has just happened to me, and while in the end, the person being kept out of the loop is eventually going to be told the secret, my job (my lie) is to remember that I didn't know it first, even though I did.

I don't like being asked to lie, and upon reflection, it occurs to me that this person, who shall remain even pseudonymously nameless, frequently says, "don't tell So and So" when little (usually dumb, insignificant) things happen that she'd rather he not know.

Am I right, or am I overly sensitive?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

One Week Later

I was gone a week and a day. In that week:

My cat, Baby, decided that, with spoilsport me out of the way, the dining table is now his domain. I have no idea how I'm going to keep him off it.

Baby shedded about 1/4 of a cat's worth of fur.

My outdoor potted plants did not die, although the Weather Channel told me every day that it was very dry here.

Apparently we had quite a windstorm at least once because said potted plants are blown all over the place and I need to go out and find where my Sirius antenna went.

A mystery and why I'm really posting on this topic: my neighbors, whose mailbox has been in one position the 32 years they've occupied their home, have planted a second mailbox (apparently not a replacement) five feet away from the old one, and rather low to the ground.

I Don't Play Favorites

I just searched my own blog and can't believe I've never ranted about this:


I despise them to the core of my being (the one rare exception: the website that allows you to ask and answer your own questions). Why do I hate them?

They rarely ask answerable questions.

For instance, I had to set up three security questions to get into my bank account. I did NOT get to choose these questions. They were:

Favorite restaurant?
Favorite drink?
Favorite person?

I have no single, favorite restaurant, nor do I usually have an answer for the questions like them: favorite TV show? movie? song? actor? etc? etc? (I actually do have a favorite drink: diet Pepsi. But rarely do I have a single answer to a question like this.)

The third question is the worst. It reminds me of the old "philosophical" question: your child and your spouse are drowning. You can only save one. Which one will you save and why?

Cookies, I don't have a favorite person. The people in my life bring me joy in different ways. I'd like to think they feel the same way about me in relationship to the other people in their lives.

Today I had to set up a new charge card for online payment. I had to answer FIVE security questions. They gave me about 20 to choose from, but at least 15 of them were "favorite" questions. Several others were "it depends" questions: e.g., where did you meet your spouse? (Are you asking specifically where we were [in the hallway between the old building and the new], or generally [high school]? Am I going to remember which answer I gave or, more importantly, how I worded it?) I was barely able to find five answerable questions. I already keep a notebook with passwords. I'd hate to have to start another for answers to security questions.

And the bank account problem? I had to solve it just that way: make a decision -- not entirely true because these are not my "favorite" restaurant and person -- and write the answers down.

Which seems to me not so secure after all.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Bugging Out

I'm off to my daughter's in NC for about a week. She just happens to live in my daughter-in-law's hometown. DIL and her (and Marine Son's) son are there, so off I go for a family-fun-filled Mother's Day weekend, complete with a pig pickin'. (I don't quite know what that is, but I can guess, and I'll know for sure soon enough.)

I may or may not get to check in -- everyone have a great Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Bad Career Move

Big drug bust at San Diego State University today.


Those arrested included a student who was about to receive a criminal justice degree and another who was to receive a master's degree in homeland security.

This won't look good on the resumes.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Isn't It Ironic?

Regarding the report that Scarlett Johansson and Ryan Reynolds are engaged, CNN reminds us that Reynolds, who formerly -- and relatively recently -- was engaged to Alanis Morissette, "recently starred in 'Definitely, Maybe.'"

Scattergories Meme

Picked up at kona's place.

All questions must be answered by using a word that begins with the same letter as your name. I'm not willing to use my "real" name, so let's go with Bitty, shall we?

1. What is your name? Bitty
2. A four-letter word: both
3. A vehicle: bus
4. A city: Baltimore (near where I grew up)
5. A boy's name: Bobby
6. A girl's name: Barbara
7. Alcoholic drink: beer
8. An occupation: brain surgeon
9. Something you wear: bra
10. A celebrity: Brigitte Bardot
11. A food: bread
12. Something found in a bathroom: bathtub
13. Reason for being late: boredom (ok, so I had to stretch on this one, but if I'm not motivated to go wherever, it might take me a while to get there...)
14. Something you shout: BINGO!!!
15. An animal: badger
16. A body part: brain

More fun (and in a few instances, harder) than I expected.

If you like, have at it.

What I hope to be my one and only post about the sick-o who raped his daughter and imprisoned her and their children for DECADES

The man is pleading insanity. Well, yes. It is "insane" to do what he has done. But that doesn't mean it's unpunishable.

His lawyer, Attorney Rudolf Mayer said he believed 73-year-old Josef Fritzl had a mental disorder, The Associated Press reported.

Mayer said: "I believe that the trigger was a mental disorder, because I can't imagine that someone has sex with his own daughter without having a mental disorder," Mayer said in an interview broadcast late Sunday.

Since his attorney can't imagine it, it must be so.

But that’s not why I’m posting on this. One thing has been bothering me since the beginning. This man imprisoned his family and presumably no one knew of their existence in the cellar.

What would have happened had he died? He is, after all, in his 70s. Had he left papers behind instructing someone to rescue his family? Would his wife have finally gone to the cellar and, finding the strange locked door, asked someone to help her find out what was behind it? Or might she have been so afraid of his insistence that she never go there that she would have left it alone?

In other words, would Elizabeth and the children have simply starved to death, abandoned in their prison?

And if this thought occurs to me, I (having perhaps a little more imagination than Fritzl’s attorney) imagine that it had occurred to Elizabeth. And she had to live with that fear on top of all the others.

Life in that basement was a nightmare in so many more ways than one.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Grades are not Pizzas

A student sent me an e-mail today asking me what his final grade is. He asks, he says (and not nearly as grammatically correctly as I recreate it here), because he needs a 3.0, which he says means he needs a B plus in my class to keep his car insurance discount.

Friends, he has not done B plus work.

The time for students to get the grade they "need" is the 16 weeks of the semester, not final-grading weekend.

This e-mail is typical of the pressure we get from some students who have decided what grade they want or need in our classes and continually push us in that direction, sometimes subtly and sometimes not. Well, I NEED an A, they insist. Despite the fact that I give class instruction in what the elements of an A, B, C, etc. are and I have posted samples of A papers, they think that because writing is (in their eyes) not as cut and dried in its grading as in many classes, where they are often asked multiple-choice questions and are graded by a scantron machine, grades are negotiable, or worse: orderable, like a pepperoni pizza. No anchovies, please.

But grades are not pizzas and are earned, not ordered.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Lost: Something Nice Back Home

Checking in long enough to say...

this was the first Lost episode in ages that provided more answers than questions.

Plenty of questions, too, though.

(Nice way to mislead us in the previews by saying "the island takes one survivor for its own..." Ha! I fell for it.)