Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Blagojevich Picks Obama Successor

Wow, this is incredible. What hubris! I'm surprised Blagojevich got anyone to agree to be appointed by him. I'd think everyone would be afraid of his taint. Defiant Governor Picks Obama Successor

Thursday, December 25, 2008

This way to good TV on Christmas

The Brits actually have good TV on Christmas. Otherwise known as the Dr. Who Christmas specials, being shown on BBCAmerica today starting at 4 pm EST. There's a brand new one showing in the UK today, but no plans to air that here and I don't have any info on how to watch it online yet.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

NY Times Prints Fake Letter from Mayor of Paris Blasting Caroline Kennedy

Yesterday I thought about mentioning a letter to the New York Times from the Mayor of Paris which criticized Caroline Kennedy for trying to get appointed as Hillary Clinton's successor in the Senate. I thought it was amusing that the Mayor of Paris was so vociferous about this issue. The letter talked about political dynasties. I'm still irked about this whole thing, as it seems like she feels she's entitled to be a Senator without paying her dues. Anyway, today the New York Times reported that the letter was a hoax! Hahaha. Here's the fraudulent letter and the Editor's Note

Of course, Hillary Clinton didn't really pay her dues either when she ran for NY Senator. That was the first elective office she ever ran for. On the other hand, she'd at least been a public figure and a prominent attorney for a long time. Kennedy has been basically a private person, although apparently she's been very successful at raising money for the New York public schools. (I'm sure her children didn't attend them, though.) And it's been pointed out that several of the other people mentioned as being in the running for the Senate position also are part of political families in New York (most prominently, Andrew Cuomo, son of Mario Cuomo, the long-time governor of New York).

Monday, December 22, 2008

Come January, I'll Be Watching TV

January TV I'm Looking Forward To:

* The L Word - Final Season. For some reason, Showtime has let out that a major character is killed and I won't say who on the extremely slim chance that anyone reading this actually watches The L Word. Suffice it to say that it's the character I hate, so I'm thrilled. This is a pretty silly show, all things considered, but it's fun and soapy and the only decent TV show about lesbians. (There are a couple of other ones that aren't very good at all.) The characters are completely inconsistent and their personalities seem to change every episode, and there are way too many fluffy dresses for a show about lesbians, but I wouldn't miss it.

The L Word

* 24 - I've already posted about this. Can't wait.

* Big Love - HBO. This is the show about a Mormon polygamous family, outwardly normal, living in the suburbs. It's a fascinating look at how the wives interact, the husband's relationship with the separatist cult in which he was raised, how the family deals with the "regular" world. I'm waiting, probably in vain, for two of the wives to get involved with each other. Haha.



* Flight of the Conchords - HBO. This show is about a quirky New Zealand folk-rock duo who've moved to New York City to make it big. Their manager works at the New Zealand consulate and they have ridiculous meetings that are like something out of Beckett. The boys navigate the city, love and their music "careers" in stylized, eccentric scenes that often devolve into 70's soul songs, yet contain convincing details about being young in New York. Their one fan is more like a stalker who hilariously shows up wherever they go. I love it.

Season 2 premiere episode here

Parents Foregoing Day Care in a Bad Economy

Yet more evidence that the US needs more government involvement in day care. The Washington Post yesterday reported that more parents are pulling their children out of day care because they can't afford it. Squeezed on All Sides, Parents Forego Day Care: Education, Safety Sacrificed in Fiscal Crunch Instead, they are leaving their children in potentially unsafe situations such as staying home alone or in unregulated day care. The negligence of this country with regard to children with working parents is astounding. It's sink or swim, everyone's left to their own, when the price of day care is astronomical. According to the article, even parents who get subsidies for day care are increasingly unable to afford it. (The article was somewhat vague on the source of these subsidies, which I wasn't even aware existed. Not sure if they're from city, county, state or federal government.) The health, safety and education of children should be a national priority, not something left to chance or the vagaries of the marketplace. Other industrialized countries find a way for society as a whole to bear the cost of children and not leave it to individual families. On the one hand, yes, children can be seen as an expensive and unnecessary accessory, but at the same time, they are the future. Improving their lives is an investment in the future, not to mention guaranteeing basic safety while parents are working. I hope the Obama administration plans to put some energy into solving our country's drastic work/life problems.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Very Crabby Christmas (Scrooge lives!)

crabby, crabby, crabby...that sums up my attitude these days. I think if I didn't have children, I'd just try to ignore Christmas (and Hannukah, which we also celebrate). I find it hugely annoying. I'm not sure why. I think part of it is because it just sucks up all the energy, every thing and every body, EVERYTHING, is taken up by Christmas. Now it starts right after Halloween and goes into high gear after Thanksgiving, giving us weeks and weeks of all Christmas, all the time. In my opinion, it should start no more than two weeks before, then I might actually appreciate and enjoy the season, instead of just enduring it.

I don't even do that much for it. I grudgingly put up a tree, this year artificial because I can't be bothered to deal with a live one (not after last year - hauling it inside from the top of the car, drifts of needles, hand sawing it to even out the bottom, water spilling, cats drinking yucky piney water; yes, the smell is nice, but is it worth it?). I wait until the last minute to buy gifts. We might or might not get around to doing a card, which invariably ends up being a New Year's card. ( Yeah, we're totally lame.) Only 6 more days to go, as my son keeps reminding me. I get the gleeful daily countdown from him, me grimacing and glaring in response.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Truth is Stranger than Fiction: random odd news

* Caroline Kennedy interested in Hillary Clinton's N.Y. Senate Seat

For some reason, I find this annoying. Is she qualified for Senator? Does every Kennedy have to run for office? She’s a lawyer – so is everyone. She’s on a bunch of boards, she’s written a few books that don’t sound very weighty or important. Her main qualification seems to be that she’s JFK’s daughter. This quote sums it up: "United States Representative Gary Ackerman, a Queens Democrat, said last week that he did not know what Ms. Kennedy’s qualifications were, “except that she has name recognition — but so does J. Lo.”" Trivia note: she went to a private high school in my home town. I recall seeing her once with long, shaggy 70's hair parted in the middle.

* Iraqi Journalist Throws Shoe at Bush and Denounces Him on TV as a "Dog" I'ts hard to know what more to say about this, except a giant LOLOL. But I actually like Bush's plug for free speech: "He also called the incident a sign of democracy, saying, “That’s what people do in a free society, draw attention to themselves,” as the man’s screaming could be heard outside." Reaction among Iraqis was varied, as this N.Y.Times article thoroughly documents.

Dick Cheney says Guantanamo should stay open as long as the "war on terror" continues. As victory in the "war on terror" is undefineable, which Cheney admits ("Nobody knows [when the "war on terror" will end], I guess that means forever. He also doesn't think harsh interrogation techniques such as waterboarding went too far.

McCain now says he can't promise to support Palin for president . Just further evidence that his pick of Palin for VP was pure politics and he really didn't think she was qualified to be president.

First bees, now acorns. More environmental creepiness: a shortage of acorns in some areas of the East Coast. (Still plenty where I live.)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Broccoli-loving cat

As a cat lover, this cracks me up. I've never personally witnessed a cat that likes vegetables of any sort.

Friday, December 12, 2008

L Word Funny

If you're not familiar with The L Word on Showtime, this character, Shane, is supposed to be the more "butch" of the regular cast of lesbian characters. And therein lies the joke.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Shoe Fairy

This totally cracks me up. tencrush on LiveJournal posted this along with her discussion of the stuff in Straight Actors and Gay Kissing, below, as an antidote to all of the rampant homophobia in American media. If you didn't know, this is Neil Patrick Harris, who's openly gay, and he's playing The Shoe Fairy on Sesame Street! (God, I hate that phrase, but unfortunately, we have to distinguish openly gay people from closeted ones. Sigh. I can't wait until it's an anachronism.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New Hampshire Suspends Civil Jury Trials

This is kind of amazing. Civil jury trials will be suspended for a month in New Hampshire to save $73,000. Surely there's another way of saving this money. On the one hand, does one month make that much difference to the parties? On the other hand, "it could have a harsh impact on plaintiffs, many of whom have already waited years for a judgment in their case," says Ellen Shemitz, executive director of the New Hampshire Association for Justice, apparently the state's trial attorney organization. I imagine it will have an impact on cases that don't yet have trials scheduled also, simply slowing down the pace of litigation. Maybe it's time for New Hampshire to institute an income tax, if it can't even provide a reliable judicial system.

Straight Male Actors and Gay Kissing

Amusing article about male actors who've had to kiss other men in movies, focusing on James Franco, who plays Harvey Milk's boyfriend in the new biopic, "Milk". Why Can't a Kiss Be Just a Kiss? This article by Hank Stuever, who's always funny, talks about how such male actors are always grilled incessantly about "what it's like" to kiss another man (shock! horror!). And that they invariably must hate it, and that "a gay kissing scene must be the worst Hollywood job hazard that a male actor could face". The assumption is that everyone, including the audience, is totally grossed out. Yet, it's not that funny to gay people. The article quotes Corey Scholibo, entertainment editor for The Advocate, a gay magazine: "At a certain point, the joking about it...just isn't funny anymore...And it's disappointing for gay people. [especially since Prop 8 - paraphrasing]."

The article points out that no one ever asks gay actors what it's like to have to kiss women when they're playing a role. And I have the perfect clip of a gay actor making this very point. This is John Barrowman talking about Torchwood, which features a few male/male kisses, about which the straight actors are quizzed repeatedly (he's the only gay actor on the show). Barrowman makes the point that no one ever asks him what it's like for him to kiss a woman.

video

And here's an interview with Gareth David-Lloyd, a straight actor who plays Ianto Jones, the love interest of Barrowman's character on Torchwood. He has a refreshingly non-homophobic attitude.

Part of what sets 'Torchwood' apart from 'Doctor Who' is the fluid sexuality of each of the characters, and the matter-of-fact same-sex relationship that Gareth's character, Ianto, enjoys with John Barrowman's Captain Jack Harkness.

The relationship has translated into a large gay fanbase for Gareth, including a spot on AfterElton.com's annual Hot 100 List. When I bring up the list, Gareth's eyes light up mischievously. "I did beat Brad Pitt and David Beckham. Just for the fucking record."

Not too shabby for a man who wasn't even on last year's list.

He's also very proud to be known as a gay icon, even though he's straight. "As a straight man, I'm just as flattered being a gay icon as I would be being a straight icon or whatever," he shrugs. "I'm of a mindset and philosophy that same sex relationships just aren't a fucking issue for me."

To his credit, he doesn't shy away from the subject; in fact, he's pretty passionate about making his opinion known. "It's not as much of an issue [in the U.K.] at all. I don't get it, I don't understand why it's controversial, I don't understand why it's anyone's business or why it becomes anyone's problem where you stick your dick," he states, with bracing candor. "Because it's not an issue for me, I don't really see us as pioneers. If we are viewed as pioneers, I just feel sorry for the people that are just coming 'round, because the wankers should have grown up much longer ago.

"There's nothing wrong with [two men kissing] and the fact that people are interested in [Jack and Ianto's] relationship – I'd like that to be because of the chemistry. That's the reason I want it to be popular, not because, oh my God, it's a SciFi show with a gay relationship. I know people are going to be like that, but because it's not an issue for me, I sort of haven't got time for people it is an issue for."


Trailer for "Milk", which has gotten fantastic reviews:



Here's Franco on the David Letterman Show, in which he now famously kisses Dave on the cheek and talks about kissing Sean Penn. Funny quotes: "I never dreamed that I'd be kissing Spicoli." (Sean Penn played the stoner Spicoli in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High"); Dave says, "We're registered at Target."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Review of "24 Redemption"

I mentioned "24 Redemption" as something I was looking forward to watching in November. I finally got around to watching it last night. Wow. It was fantastic. Riveting from the first shot. Completely absorbing. At first, I was a bit taken aback by the scenes of children being brutally forced to become soldiers in a fictional African country. But this is the reality in some places, and it made for some gripping scenes. You soon find out that Jack Bauer, the hero of "24", is hiding out at a boy's school being run by an old spy friend of his. I won't give away the plot, but you come to empathize with the boys and Jack's need to protect them. The U.S. Congress has issued a subpoena for Jack to testify about mistreatment of prisoners and Jack is trying to avoid the subpoena. (Jack? mistreat prisoners? no way. LOL) I was quickly reminded of what I love about "24," which is watching Jack get out of one ridiculous situation after another. It's nothing for Jack to single-handedly get rid of 10-15 heavily armed men. At one point, some bad guys are torturing Jack to get information. Clearly, they don't know Jack, because that is impossible.

The story shifts between Africa, where Jack, his friend, and the boys struggle for safety, and the U.S., where a new president is about to be sworn in. The American scenes are wonderfully intriguing, with lots of mysterious shenanigans by behind-the-scenes schemers. There's a great scene between the president-elect (played by Cherry Jones) and the current president (played by Powers Booth), in which Booth sort of awkwardly hands over the reins of power to Jones. Booth has a great voice (he was great in this role, which he played in last season) and Jones is perfect as the new president. She conveys wisdom, power and naivete all at the same time. Great stuff.

There are interesting contrasts between the inauguration scene and Africans trying to get into the American embassy to escape a civil war. The Americans are definitely not always the good guys in this prequel.

This 2 hour prequel did the job for me. I absolutely can't wait for the new season to begin in January.

Watch "24 Redemption" here. It looks way better on the website than it did on my crappy old TV.

Here's the trailer for Season 7:

Truth is Stranger than Fiction: random odd news

* Fran Dreschler considering Clinton's New York Senate seat Remember "The Nanny"? If she becomes a senator, that spells that end of televised Senate sessions. (her voice is the opposite of dulcet and soothing.)

* Proposed Bailout of U.S. Auto Industry involves a "car czar" - giggle. How ironic that the administration that was so obsessed with privatizing government functions is now forced to practically nationalize entire segments of the economy.

* D.C. Council Passes "emergency" legislation to allow bars to stay open until 5 a.m. during Inauguration Week I guess alcohol keeps the economy going, or nothing says "important historical moment" like staying up all night getting completely pissed.

Scene at Blagojevich arrest this morning


Blagojevich
Originally uploaded by gingerbydesign

This is shocking: IL Gov. arrested on corruption charges


FBI: Blago wanted payoff to give Obama advisor Senate seat; Press Conference details here

If you recall, the U.S. Attorney in Chicago, Patrick Fitzgerald, was the special prosecutor in the Valerie Plame investigation, who successfully prosecuted Scooter Libby for perjury. Wikipedia entry on Patrick Fitzgerald

Update: Blagojevich is saying he's not going to resign. Jeez, what an idiot. But he does have impressive hair. (photo by taekwonweirdo on flickr

Video of Fitzgerald's press conference:

Barney Frank Doesn't Do Chick Magnets


I heard this on the radio and thought it was funny.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Elvis Costello has a talk show!

I'm completely fascinated with the fact that Elvis Costello now has a talk show on the Sundance Channel. Spectacle: Elvis Costello on Sundance Unfortunately, I currently don't get the Sundance Channel, but I'm switching cable providers soon and I'm hoping I'll have Sundance with the new provider. You can watch clips of his interviews at the previous link, and a sample is below. It seems that he's interviewing musicians (Elton John, Lou Reed, The Police), and Bill Clinton (!), of all people.

I've loved Elvis Costello since he made it big in the late 70's as part of the New Wave scene, sporting a kind of geeky Buddy Holly look. He writes wonderful, tuneful songs with clever, articulate lyrics. Listen to Elvis Costello at lastfm.com I've only seen him perform live once. I'll always regret not seeing him when he came to perform at my college in 1978, right about the time he made it big. My favorite albums are his first, My Aim is True, Imperial Bedroom, Trust, and Almost Blue. Gossip Note: He's married to Diana Krall, a fantastic jazz musician.

Follow-up on Melamine in Formula: Trace Amounts Found in U.S. Formula


Awhile back I posted an entry about melamine in Chinese dairy products, including infant formula and how a decrease of breastfeeding in China had exacerbated the problem. Decrease of breastfeeding in China Recently the Food and Drug Administration announced it had found trace amounts of melamine in infant formula produced in the United States. Melamine Traces Found in U.S. Infant Formula While alarming, experts do not believe melamine is harmful to infants in the small amounts found in formula. The melamine in U.S. formula came from contact with melamine-containing products. It wasn't deliberately put in the formula to up its protein content, as it was in China. This is an excellent article from WebMD on the issue. FAQ: Melamine in U.S. Baby Formula However, no one really knows for sure if these amounts of melamine are harmful. Experts are making their best guess. Furthermore, the same amounts were found in all U.S. formula brands, so switching brands won't make any difference in the amount of melamine in the formula. Finally, melamine can be harmful even in trace amounts if combined with certain other chemicals. This is yet another argument for women to breastfeed if at all possible.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Media Consumption Fail

Why haven't the entries in "Media I'm Consuming Now" in the sidebar changed since I put that section up over a month ago? argh. No, I haven't seen anything new movies or finished any books since then. Cripes. Unless you count "Affinity" below. I'm still reading "The Indian Clerk", which turns out to be about real-life Cambridge mathematicians. When did David Leavitt become fascinated with math? (which I hate, by the way) But it's a very well-written book. The Indian clerk of the title is a math genius who writes to a Cambridge math don and is recruited to come to Cambridge to further his genius ways. Takes place in the very early 1900's. I'd enjoyed David Leavitt's earlest books, which were primarily about young gay guys in the US as I dimly recall. And, yes, the Cambridge don is gay. The "clerk" has just arrived in England and is adjusting. We'll see what happens.

(Julie knows what I've been reading instead, LOL.)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Affinity


This needs some serious updating. I blew the Nat'l Blog Posting Month due to some weird black hole of demotivation that sucked me in plus another project I was trying to finish. Ah well. I've got a bunch of ideas for posts and will start putting things up tomorrow. Right now I'm watching Affinity, a 2008 adaptation of a Sarah Waters novel. Affinity




In 19th century England, an upper class woman begins visiting a woman's prison to uplift its residents and escape the restrictions of her life. She becomes obsessed with an inmate who claims to be a medium. Sarah Waters is one of my favorite novelists. She writes lesbian historical fiction. Even if you don't care about the lesbian content, her books are excellent historical novels, from the picaresque to the suspenseful. Her other novels include Tipping the Velvet, Fingersmith, and The Night Watch.
All but "The Night Watch" take place in 19th century England. "The Night Watch" takes place in London during World War II. I've been hoping for another novel from her for ages. "Tipping the Velvet" and "Fingersmith" have also been adapted for television. In the US, they were both shown on LOGO, which is also airing "Affinity".


Wow, you can get "Fingersmith" from Amazon for only .64!

Review of Affinity on afterellen.com

Interview with Sarah Waters about the film here