30 January 2007

The Science of Buzz in the Blogosphere and the Unbearable Lightness of K-Fed

In a Yahoo news story about the Nationwide K-Fed commercial, I came across the following sentence:

Indeed, media research firm Nielsen BuzzMetrics recently
found that the ad represented about one-quarter of all blog conversations
related to Super Bowl advertising -- more than any other subject.
Now I'm not surprised at the fact, except that I would have guessed it would be a higher stat than 1/4. I am interested in the fact that Nielsen is now evaluating Buzz by content checks on blogs. Huh. I guess I am in some sense what they used to call a "Nielsen family" by the very fact that I have a blog and Technorati, among other places, logs it. I took a look at Nielsen BuzzMetrics and found... more blogs, what else?! Blogs on word-of-mouth advertising, summary of what's creating buzz in the blogosphere, etc.
I guess I've just upped K-Fed's buzz count, too. I'm assuming his buzz is about to become a fizzle... then maybe a fttt... and then maybe the sound of a cricket off in the distance... getting squashed by someone wearing a very soft moccasin.

29 January 2007

Little Miss Sunshine (Movie recommendation)

Just saw "Little Miss Sunshine" on Pay-per-View and loved it. Funny and touching at the same time. Now we know why it's got so much award buzz. The entire ensemble (Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Alan Arkin, Paul Dano, and, of course, Abigail Breslin as the sweetly hopeful Olive) are brilliant as a family of well-intentioned whack jobs. Multiple dysfunctions merged with love and kindness make for a lot of ups and downs and a fantastic movie.

4 out of 4 jujubees. JoeBob says "Check it out!"

The Warehouse (Brunch review)

We went to The Warehouse on King Street in Old Town Alexandria for brunch Sunday and were very pleased. We were seated by the window which gave us a great view of the passersby and the snow flurries. They serve excellent seafood with a New Orleans slant, have elegant seating in a pretty space (particularly for a place called "The Warehouse"!), offered prompt service, not to mention very tasty champagne with strawberries. :) There were a few classic breakfast style meals (french toast, eggs, etc.) for those not inclined toward seafood. I gotta tell ya, though, the shrimp and crawfish beignets were quite decadent and the pecan crusted talapia with balsamic glaze over mixed greens was excellent. Not on the cheap side but we've paid more and not been as happy other places.

So... for brunch, since this is our only experience, I'd say out of possible 30/category:

Ambiance: 25

Service: 24

Vegetarian Options: 15

Food: 26 (it would be 27 if the bread had been warm)

Cost: 22

Overall: 22.4

Marching for Peace

Hey, we made the front page of the Sunday Washington Post! Lead story! Above the fold! Color photo (that's much better than mine :) ) ! I was really glad to see so many, many people out there marching to stop the war! Way to go!!

26 January 2007

A New Goal for the New Congress (Cracking the Disney Vault Issue)

Why are we bickering about the war and health care and such when there's clearly a bigger issue: Who is in charge of the Disney vault? You'd think in an era of such stress, they'd be pushing out videos fast and furious but no! Disney ads all talk about... available for a limited time before it goes back in the vault. Why?? Who decides on how long a video can actually be out of the vault? Is there an ogre minding the door? Can't congress do something about this so our children can watch Cinderella one more time?!

Seriously, folks, does anyone still fall for this style of time pressure selling? Next Disney will be doing infomercials...

"I'm Jane TalkingHead and welcome to this edition of Family Health. Today we have expert psychologist, Dr. John Medic, a real live doctor with a diploma, to tell us why our children are so troubled."
"Hi, Jane. Yes, it's true. Our children are stressed. They're depressed. Why this fancy graph alone shows the terrible state our children are in."
"Why that's terrible, Doctor! Look at those squiggly lines."
"That's right, Jane. Scientific research shows that our children are a mess."
[Jane looking concerned] "Doctor, what can the average American parent do?"
"I'm glad you asked that, Jane. For a limited time, Disney, a well know and respected company that has been in business for well over 75 years, has the solution! Children who watch animated Disney movies show marked improvement! Oh, sure, they drool a little and they can't stop singing the movie songs, but look how happy they are! Jane, right now, parents can order these very same videos for their children but in order to take advantage of this special offer, they need to order in the next 30 minutes!"
"What happens after that?"
"I'm sorry to say the vault closes."
[Jane looking concerned] "Oh dear..."
[Doctor looking concerned] "That's why it's especially important that parents call right away! Operators are standing by..."

Sales of Singles/H Street Gentrification

The following is from this week's City Paper. I'ts interesting from the perspective of knowing where H Street is going as we were just at the H Street festival a few months ago. But it's also interesting to consider if people should have the right to buy a single drink without going to a bar...

ArtsJan. 26, 2007
Take It Inside
Authorities target outdoor drinking on a booming stretch of H Street.
By Jessica Gould

Just outside the Rock and Roll Hotel around 11 p.m. on Jan. 20, a group of friends pulled a drunk young woman away from the crowd outside the club and hoisted her onto the hood of a car. You could call it an example of public drunkenness, but it’s not the kind that the local advisory neighborhood commission is crusading against.

“Right now, we’re not getting a lot of calls about drunkenness from the bars and clubs,” says Mary Beatty, chair of the Alcohol Beverage Licensing Committee in the ANC representing Northeast Capitol Hill.

Instead, the commission is appealing to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board for a moratorium on single sales of alcohol, inspired by a successful effort to do the same in Mount Pleasant.

Oh, yes, single sales—those individual containers of beer and liquor that are the bane of rapidly revitalizing neighborhoods. In 2001, advisory neighborhood commissioner Laurie Collins went toe-to-toe with several businesses in Mount Pleasant to rid the area of single sales. She says calls for service to the police department have decreased in the three blocks covered by the moratorium from approximately 1,500 in 2000, the year before it went into effect, to less than 650 last year.

Now, the local ANC wants to do the same thing for H Street NE. If approved, the H Street moratorium would prevent single sales of beer and malt liquor, including 40s, by businesses with Class A or B liquor licenses—liquor stores and grocery/convenience stores. The moratorium would extend from 700 H Street NE to 1406 H Street NE, Beatty says, and would include seven businesses, although only six of them are active. The effort has Mayor Adrian Fenty’s support: On Jan. 16, he sent a letter to the alcohol board backing the request. The comment period on the proposed moratorium ends Jan. 26. The board will make its decision sometime thereafter.

The goal of the proposed moratorium, Beatty says, is to reduce “quality of life” crimes like littering, loitering, and public urination along H Street, particularly as the District Department of Transportation prepares to pump $27 million into the H Street/Benning Road NE corridor as part of its Great Streets initiative.

It would also promote H Street nightlife, Beatty says, which has been spurred by entrepreneurs who have opened up a handful of watering holes along the corridor. “We really think these two things work hand and hand,” says Beatty. “The sale of singles contributes to public drinking and really acts as a deterrent to those who might want to shop, go to the restaurants, or to one of the bars along the corridor.”

Among the movement’s supporters is Joe Englert, who owns (or co-owns) H Street nightspots Showbar Presents the Palace of Wonders, the Red & the Black, the Rock and Roll Hotel, and Argonaut Tavern. In the next four months, he says, he plans to open two more establishments on H Street: Dr. Granville Moore’s, a Belgian beer house, and the H Street Country Club, which will feature indoor miniature golf and billiards. With all these bars to juggle, Englert says, he would rather not spend time chasing after litter and loiterers. “From a guy who has to clean up every day and pick up trash all over the street, I like it,” he says of the moratorium. After all, “H Street looks like a totally different place during the day than it does at night.”

Every day, Englert says, H Street witnesses an unofficial changing of the guard. In the afternoon, the place is packed with “dozens and dozens of guys hanging out on the corners drinking beer.” At night, he says, they’re replaced by people swarming the area’s bars. Asked whether he envisions the moratorium driving diurnal beer guzzlers into his establishments, Englert says, “No. You either drink in a bar or drink outside. I don’t think ever the twain shall meet.”

H Street liquor- and grocery-store owners, however, oppose the moratorium, citing negative impacts on their establishments—and on businesses hoping to locate in the area. “[The moratorium] sends the wrong message to future merchants when a neighborhood tries to micromanage the businesses,” says Paul Pascal, an attorney who represents five H Street establishments opposing the ANC’s effort. Pascal rejects the notion that a moratorium on single sales would reduce crime. Calling the moratorium a “draconian” response, Pascal says the neighborhood could successfully regulate single sales by brokering voluntary agreements through the “normal renewal process.” But Beatty says the ANC spent more than two years trying to negotiate voluntary agreements with the H Street business owners, who worried about being placed at a competitive disadvantage if they stopped selling singles. “We’re not in a battle with store owners,” Beatty says. “It’s the sale of the single we’re focused on,” and the neighborhood’s “very diverse group of residents.”

So what about the customers? Patrons at Argonaut Jan. 20 said they sympathize with the drinkers who would be disenfranchised by the single sales moratorium. Darryl Bennett, a Northwest resident, says, “Sometimes all you can afford is one beer.” Added friend Corri Taylor, “Sometimes that’s all you want.”

At the Red & the Black, patron Simon van Steÿn said, “I don’t like to see the footprint of gentrification making a dent on how people have lived here for so long.” Van Steÿn, who was drinking a whiskey (“I bought it here. I didn’t bring it in.”) says he could envision himself being a victim of the proposed moratorium. “The worst thing is that it could affect me one night if the crowd at the Rock and Roll Hotel was too big and the price was too exorbitant and I wanted a drink. I’d be cursing the city.”

25 January 2007

Support Our Troops: Stop the War


The polls say that most Americans disapprove of the war in Iraq. Don't just be part of the silent, disapproving majority. Let your voice be heard! This Saturday, January 27th is the anti-war march in DC. I hope to see you there!

LOGISTICS: Assemble on the Mall, between 3rd and 7th Streets, at 11 am. March will kick off at 1pm.

24 January 2007

Bumper Sticker Curiosity

Out at lunchtime today in the greater Greenbelt, MD area, I saw a car with a bumper sticker that read, in its entirety:

i enjoy sneezing

I've seen a lot of bumper stickers in my day, but I've never seen this. Could someone really be so passionate about sneezing that they'd have a bumper sticker made? Are there sneezing clubs? Is this a subtle signal to those in the know of a problem a la "I'm a friend of Bill W."? Are these snuff-a-holics? Is sneezing a euphemism for huffing or some other vogue high? Is this the name of a band and, if so, are they percussive? Is this working the power of suggestion and providing subtle marketing for Puff's or some other tissues? Talk about low key influence peddling.

I went to the web, of course, and searched for the phrase. What I found is that a lot of individuals enjoy sneezing enough to blog about it in just those words. Go figure.

I went to technorati and found references to a blog belonging to Michael Mintz that seems to no longer exist but has been replaced by a similar one. Hence the intro:

"In a world without ienjoysneezing.com, this website,
ienjoysneezing.blogspot.com attempts to fill the void. Yes, it's a blog, but it will still feature travel stories and photos from the life of Michael Mintz."

Turns out Michael in in the DC metro area. Which makes me wonder, was I perhaps behind the Michael Mintz? Or just one of his minions? Have I just been hooked by an advertisement for a blog?? Or is this totally unconnected?

The world may never know.

22 January 2007

9 to the Left, 11 to the Right, Stand Up, Sit Down, Fight, Fight, Fight!

Well, according to Wikipedia, now there are 11 likely Republican candidates for president and 9 likely Democratic candidates for president. Plus a few more who have sent out murmurs of interest. At least that's what it looked like an hour ago. Have I missed the latest? Have 27 more people thrown their hats in the ring? How 'bout Liza. We haven't heard anything from her lately. And where's Jesse Ventura?

Since you can't tell the players without a program, here they are:

Official candidates who have filed with the FEC for the Democratic Party:
Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut (Campaign Site)
Former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina (Campaign Site)
Former Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska (Campaign Site)
Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio (Campaign Site)
Former Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa (Campaign Site)
Candidates who have formed exploratory committees:
Senator Joe Biden of Delaware (Unite Our States PAC)
Senator Barack Obama of Illinois (Exploratory Committee)
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York (Exploratory Committee)
Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico (Exploratory Committee)
Candidates who have expressed serious interest:
Retired General Wesley Clark of Arkansas (WesPAC - Securing America)[5]
Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts (Keeping America's Promise)[6]
Reverend Al Sharpton of New York [7]

[edit] Republican Party
Official candidates who have filed with the FEC for the Republican Party:
Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas (Campaign site)
John H. Cox of Illinois (Campaign Site)
Michael Charles Smith of Oregon (Campaign Site)
Candidates who have formed exploratory committees:
Former Governor Jim Gilmore of Virginia[8]
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani of New York (Exploratory Committee)
Representative Duncan Hunter of California (Exploratory Committee)
Senator John McCain of Arizona (Exploratory Committee)
Representative Ron Paul of Texas (Exploratory Committee)
Former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts (Exploratory Committee)
Representative Tom Tancredo of Colorado (Exploratory Committee)
Former Governor Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin (Exploratory Committee)
Candidates who have expressed serious interest:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia (Winning the Future)[9]
Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska (Sandhills PAC)[10]
Former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas (Hope for America PAC)[11]
Former Governor George Pataki of New York (21st Century Freedom PAC)[12]

What say we put them all in a cage match and see who emerges victorious. Bound to be more entertaining than the upcoming thrashing and posturing and (oh, god!) the debates. Ack!

It Never Fails

The weather is dicey but I have a critical meeting to get to. I put on my boots, scrape the ice off the car windows and make my way in to work. The meeting gets canceled. It never fails.

The heck with this one inch stuff. Come on, snowstorm!!

19 January 2007

Is the TV Changing or Am I?

When I was a little kid we had four channels on TV, some of them snowy. It seemed like there was ALWAYS something on that I wanted to see, except when the President was addressing the nation, which would be carried by all four channels and be painfully boring to my five-year-old sensibilities. Other than that, TV was GREAT!

Now I have a satellite dish, get hundreds of channels and there is rarely anything I want to see. What's that about? Has television gotten so lousy? Am I not interested because I'm no longer the target demographic and things aren't geared toward entertaining me? Maybe as I've grown up I realize how TV pales next to the real world. Nah, that ain't it.

The preponderance of TV sitcoms and variety shows when I was five have largely vanished. Now we get reality/shock shows and they just don't sing to me. How many of these horrors can you gape at before you walk away feeling like you need a shower?

Thank god for shows like "The Class", "Two and a Half Men" and "The King of Queens."

Yeah, I'm watching "American Idol" and, yes, the judges are getting crueler. I'm not proud of it but there it is. It's better than watching people eat rats and bugs on "Survivor". At least I think it is. I dunno.

Lately we've been turning off the TV more and more. Shocking, I know. We play Scrabble. We play Boggle. We go out with friends. Last night we popped in a DVD of British sitcom "My Family". We've seen it before but it's still preferable to 99.9% of what's on.

In the words of Bruce Springsteen:

We switched 'round and 'round 'til half-past dawn
There was fifty-seven channels and nothin' on
Fifty-seven channels and nothin' on
Fifty-seven channels and nothin' on

17 January 2007

Invincible (Movie Review)

Saw a strange movie called "Invincible". I guess if I'm still thinking about the movie days later, it's got some power. This is the 2001 "Invincible" about real life Jewish strong man, Zishe Brietbart and his experiences in Berlin in the early 1930s, as the Nazis are rising to power. This is not to be confused with the 2006 Disney release about football also entitled "Invincible".

What I didn't like about the movie:
Werner Herzog, the director, decided to use a non-actor, in two of the three key leads. The part of Zishe, the strong man, is played by an actual strong man, Jouko Ahola (he has earned the title of "World's Strongest Man" repeatedly). The part of Marta, the pianist, is played by Anna Gourari, a concert pianist. Where this lends authenticity to the tasks they perform, it's very distracting to have bad acting. Zishe is played with one emotion throughout the movie: innocence. This is better than the overacting that Gourari does. In a critical scene she is playing the piano and looks like she might faint with each note.

Also the accents are all over the place. Although Zishe is supposed to be from Poland, he has a Finnish accent and his little brother, also from the same shtetl, has a British accent. If you can get past these weird incongruities, the movie does have some redeeming merit.

What I liked about the movie:
The third lead, Hanussen, the abusive showman who has the Nazis mesmerized, is played brilliantly by the actor, Tim Roth.

Also, I like myth and imagery and Herzog uses both.

The mythology of god choosing a small number of "unknown just" men in each generation to shoulder the burden of the injustice in the world and martyr themselves, is one I had not heard before.

The imagery that Herzog employs is very compelling. For example, in one dream sequence, the use of bright red crabs, crawling across a black beach until it is impossible to step anywhere because there are so many of them, is a compelling symbol of the upcoming Nazi overrun.

Plus, there were a lot of interesting juxtapositions raised in the movie. Personal identity versus group identity. Personal evil versus group evil. Physical domination versus mental domination. The ability to know something versus the ability to communicate it in a way that other people get it. Whether it's better to believe you have a divine mission or not. Lots to think about.

I give this movie 3 out of 4 jujubees and it makes me curious to see other Herzog films.

16 January 2007

Friday and Sunday (this is why I spend the week eating carrots and logging miles on the treadmill)

In addition to the phenomenal meal we had Saturday night, we met old, dear friends Friday night at the Chevy Chase/Friendship Heights Clyde's. Clyde's offers a great deal for happy hour: a $7.50 crab cake sandwich, fries and slaw that is quite tasty. More crab than cake! In fact I'd say 80% crab. Yum! Yummy appletinis, too. :)

Sunday we met cousins in Rockville at an old favorite: Yuan Fu. They do great fake chicken as well as a variety of other totally vegetarian chinese meals (as in [fake] "General Tso's Chicken".) Excellent!

And now I am back to carrots and running--sighhhhhhhhhh-- in hopes of meeting my goal weight for Cozumel in March. Well, it was worth it. Good people, good food, good times. Yup, definitely worth it.

A Meal to Remember (Tasting Dinner @ Bebo's)

Saturday night we treated ourselves to a tasting dinner at Bebo's Trattoria in Crystal City, new creative home of the famous Chef Roberto Donna, whom we had the pleasure of meeting about a month ago. The private room for the tasters (about 30 of us) was elegant, candlelit and a little quieter than the din of the regular dining room. We had dedicated waiters, sommelier, etc. Chef Donna created a WONDERFUL 7 course meal, which was tailored to our dietary restrictions.

Compliments of the chef, we started it all with Prosecco Brut Vidor, a basket of bread, and hot fried dough that was kind of like funnel cake but salted and peppered instead of sweet.


Chick Pea Cream with Porcini Mushrooms

Potato Leek Agnolotti with Salted Code and a Garlic Sauce

Risotto with Clams, Shrimp, Lobster, Squid "Montecato Alla Crema"

Roasted Filet of Black Sea Bass with Braised Rapini served with a Red Wine Sauce

Basil Crusted Tuna served with a Basil Sauce, Fingerling Potatoes and Artichokes

and finally

Passion Fruit Souffle with Passion Fruit Ice Cream


Bomboloni (tiny doughnut holes)

Incredible! Each course was better than the last! In addition to sparkling water (Italian, of course), we popped for the wine pairing, too. So in addition to the Prosecco, we had:

the Vadum Caesaris Vallarom, 2004 -- a blend of Reisling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco

the Campi Sarni Rosso Vallarom, 2000 -- a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot

and the Moscato Ca'della Rocca, 2005

all of which paired beautifully with the meal.


Chef Donna certainly deserves all the accolades he receives! Bravo!

Stop the War! Join the Demonstration Sat., Jan. 27

From http://www.unitedforpeace.org/


With support from MoveOn.org, True Majority, Working Assets, the RainbowPUSH Coalition, the National Organization for Women and hundreds of other national and local groups, word about the Jan. 27th antiwar mobilization is reaching far and wide. Momentum is building and people from all walks of life and every corner of the country will be marching on Washington, DC, on Saturday, Jan. 27th. Our message will be clear, our voice will be strong: End the war in Iraq, Bring all the troops home now! We urge you to join us!
LOGISTICS: Assemble on the Mall,between 3rd and 7th Streets, at 11 am. March will kick off at 1pm.
On Mon., Jan. 29th, we will take our message directly to the new Congress during our lobby day.

11 January 2007

"I thank the lord for the people I have found"--Elton John/Bernie Taupin

Today was the retirement party for my first boss in this part of the organization.

Jim brought me in 11 years ago, mentored me and consistently looked out for my professional development. This wasn't because I was special--he did this for everyone--this was because of the person he was and is. Yes, it's supposed to be what a boss does but so few do it properly and consistently. Jim brought tremendous integrity to everything he did and, as such, became a model for many people in the organization.

But enough of talking about him in the past. Happily this isn't a eulogy.

He's a relatively young man (in his 50s) and he's decided to move into the next phase of his life. His kids are young and he's happy he can spend more time with his family now plus he wants to reinvigorate an old passion, stained glass, into a business.

It's strange to think about coming to work and not seeing Jim but the reality is that Jim has touched so many lives and developed so many important initiatives that everywhere I look, he's there in one form or another.

I wish him the best. Nobody's more deserving of a happy retirement!

10 January 2007

21,500 Moms/Dads/Brothers/Sisters/Sons/Daughters

Bush is talking about a "surge" in troops in Iraq. 21,500.

I live in a neighborhood in northern VA that has a large number of military folks. On my little court alone, we've already had two neighbors head out to Iraq and now we have another being called up. This one has two little kids (~ 2 and 5 years old.) I know that they knew they might be called up when they signed up for the military. And they haven't complained. I guess I'm complaining. This seems like an incredible waste. It seems that the rules have changed. By all accounts, we aren't giving our troops adequate armour, we aren't winning, and we don't have a clear exit strategy after all this time. As a neighbor said, "We leave now, Iraq is in civil war. We leave in two years, Iraq is in civil war." The US created this mess by sheer stubbornness. Let's not NOT learn from our mistakes.

08 January 2007

Virginia Wine Distribution Status

For a good analysis of the current status of Virginia wine distribution, check out the 1/5/2007 story at http://vinespot.blogspot.com/

Hmph. Maybe All my Taste IS in my Mouth.

The folks we dined with last night didn't make it through a viewing of Clerks II either. Hm. Maybe I shouldn't become a professional movie critic. Nahhhhhhhhhhh, they're just wrong.

Layla Restaurant in Old Town (Restaurant Review)

There's a new Lebanese restaurant in Old Town Alexandria called Layla. It's right next to The Majestic. We met friends there last night and I was impressed with it. Seems like overnight, it took the place of a lovely Vietnamese restaurant, Non La. Let's hope Layla fares better in this very competitive area.

Here's my review on a 30 point scaling...

The ambiance hasn't changed much since it was Non La--the restaurant is small and simple. They've added a few photographs of Lebanon and a hooka and such. Not unpleasant just nothing fabulous. Ambiance: 18.

Service was good without being obtrusive. We were seated by the kitchen but that's better than being seated by the bathroom. Did I mention it's a small place? :) Our waitress kept our pita basket well stocked and our glasses full and she was knowledgeable. Service: 25.

Veg options: Plenty. Although we are not completely vegetarian anymore (we've been eating fish/seafood for the last month or so--but that's another story), there are plenty of yummy options for vegetarians. We ordered an apetizer tray to share and everything on it (hummus, baba ghanoush, tabouli, falafel, stuffed grape leaves, spinach pie) was wonderful and well presented. Certainly plenty more veg options on the menu. Veg options: 27.

Food: Everything we had was delicious and well presented: 27.

Cost: Very reasonable. Hubby and I each had two drinks, our 1/2 of the appetizer tray, an entree each, and hubby had a Lebanese coffee (thick as tar and kept him awake all night so beware this is the real McCoy!) and it cost us only $30. That's almost unheard of in Old Town. Cost: 28.

Overall: A very nice experience! Overall average: 25.

JoeBob says "Check it out!" and let's give Layla a chance to make it!

You, Me & Dupree (Movie Review)

In keeping with the slacker theme from the last movie we saw, we rented "You, Me & Dupree" Friday. Owen Wilson is Dupree, the well-intentioned screw-up best friend/best man who has no place to go and winds up living with newlyweds Kate Hudson and Matt Dillon. Throw Michael Douglas into the mix as Kate's father who hates her new groom and you've got the movie. Seems to me this could have been better than it was with this much talent and a solid premise. It was just all right at best. Worth the $3.99 pay per view total cost for the two of us but not more. At turns we're led to believe that Dupree is an inconsiderate idiot and also the only one who gets what life is about. I opt for the first interpretation. I guess the one thing I'm glad of is that Matt Dillon is still out there and getting leading roles in films. I give this 1 & 1/2 jujubees out of 4.

05 January 2007

Clerks II (Movie Review)

Saw "Clerks II" last night and I have to say I enjoyed it even more than Clerks.

This is the sixth film in Kevin Smith's intricately interconnected View Askewniverse series (the others being Clerks. (1994), Mallrats (1995), Chasing Amy (1997), Dogma (1999) and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001)). The movies are all linked by characters, themes and events and each contains numerous references to the others.

The ending is easily predictable but the plot wasn't really the reason to watch the film. I laughed a lot at the well-written, well-timed dialogue, but, hey, any movie that uses the expression "ass to mouth", as in "you never go ass to mouth!", 16 times is a special one. It has the usual bunch of whack job slackers, including Jay and Silent Bob, of course, and lots and lots of details in the background and on t-shirts that add to the hilarity. Kevin Smith does a wonderful job writing, directing and playing Silent Bob, but the stars are really Brian O'Halloran (Dante), Jeff Anderson (Randal) and Rosario Dawson (Becky). Lots of cameos, too--especially enjoyable was Wanda Sykes.

Is Clerks II vulgar and juvenile? Absolutely. It's still VERY, VERY funny. I totally don't get that Clerks II is the first movie that Joel Siegel walked out on in 30 years. Come on!

And to top it all off, check this:

Kevin Smith auctioned off a walk on role on the film for funds to go to the Red Cross for aid to Hurricane Katrina victims. The final bid was $16,000 which Smith matched to give to the Red Cross.

So that's very cool.

I give it a solid 4 (of 4) Jujubees for being exactly what it promises to be--a good natured slacker romp.

04 January 2007

S.F. group enjoys shopping sabbatical

From Yahoo News...

S.F. group enjoys shopping sabbatical
By LISA LEFF, Associated Press
Wed Jan 3, 4:12 AM ET
SAN FRANCISCO - It began, as grand ideas often do, over a dinner — risotto, artisan cheese and wine. What would it be like, 10 environmentally conscious friends wondered as they discussed the state of the planet, to go a year without buying anything new?
Twelve months later, the results from their experiment in anti-consumption for 2006 are in: Staying 100
percent true to the goal proved both harder and easier than those who signed on expected. And while broken vacuum cleaners and malfunctioning cell phones posed challenges, some of the group's original members say the self-imposed shopping sabbatical was so liberating that they've resolved to do it for another year.
"It started in a lighthearted way, but it is very serious," said John Perry, 42, a father of two who works for a Silicon Valley technology company. "It is about being aware of the excesses of consumer culture and the fact we are drawing down our resources and making people miserable around the world."
The pledge they half-jokingly named The Compact, after the Mayflower pilgrims, spread to other cities through the Internet and an appearance on the "Today" show.
As it turned out, The Compact was modest as far as economic boycotts go. Several cities in the United States and Europe have communities of "freegans," people whose contempt for consumerism is so complete they eat food foraged from Dumpsters whenever possible, train hop and sleep in abandoned buildings on principle.
The San Francisco group, by contrast, exempted food, essential toiletries like toothpaste and shampoo, underwear and other purchases that fell under the categories of health and safety from their pledge.
But perhaps because its members included middle-class professionals who could afford to shop recreationally, their cause caught on. Nearly 3,000 people have joined a user group Perry set up on Yahoo so participants could swap goods and tips.
Besides thrift stores and garage sales, participants found a wealth of free or previously owned merchandise in online classifieds and sites where people post stuff they want to get rid of, such as
http://www.freecycle.org and http://www.garbagescout.com.
After going through an initial period of retail withdrawal, discovering just how easy it was to score pretty much anything with a little time and effort was an eye-opener, according to participants.
Rachel Kesel, 26, who works as a dog walker, said she was astonished by how often the items she needed simply materialized — the friend who offered a bicycle seat when hers was stolen, the Apple store employees who fixed her laptop at no cost.
Similarly fortuitous timing happened often enough that group members came up with a name for it — "Compact Karma."
After postponing purchases such as a new wind breaker and a different stud for her pierced tongue — she couldn't bring herself to buy a used one — Kesel broke down only twice.
Once was when she was planning a trip to Israel
and couldn't find a used guidebook that reflected current political realities. The other was after her commuter coffee cup suffered a fatal crack.
"I really found a lot of times there were things I thought I needed that I don't need that much," she said.
The pledge provided unexpected dividends as well, such as the joy of getting reacquainted with the local library and paying down credit cards. Gone, too, was the hangover of buyer's remorse.
Perry got satisfaction out of finding he had a knack for fixing things and how often manufacturers were willing to send replacement parts and manuals for products that had long since outlived their warranties.
"One of the byproducts of The Compact has been I have a completely different relationship with the things in my life. I appreciate the stuff I have more," he said. "I don't think I need to buy another pair of shoes until I'm entering Leisure World."
Over the holidays, Compact members gave homemade gifts or charitable donations in a recipients name instead of engaging in the usual Grinch-making shopping crush. Kate Boyd, 45, a set designer and high school drama teacher, visited a new downtown shopping mall and felt like she had just stepped off a flying saucer.
"It was all stuff that had nothing to do with me, yet for so many people that's how they spend their weekends," she said. "It's entertainment and it is the opposite of where I've been for a year."
Now that they know they can do it, Boyd, Kesel and Perry are ready to extend the pledge into 2007. But first, they plan to give themselves a one-day reprieve to stock up on essentials — windshield wipers,
bicycle brakes and tongue studs.

03 January 2007

Yeah, he'll watch it but not on his watch!

"Bush aims to balance budget by 2012"

Why is it that politicians become concerned with budgets only on their way out the door and only in terms of out years?!

Money. It's a funny thing.

Speaking of which... We have an issue with our house being in need of a significant repair. We got two estimates.

Company 1 wants to take 6 months, cost somewhere in the rather large ballpark of 20-70k, and they can start in February.

Company 2 wants to take 1 week, cost 5K, and they can start immediately.

Company 1, although artfully avoiding answering questions in a direct manner, assured me they were the way to go because they provided peace of mind.

Um... yeah... right.

Hmmm... which to choose... which to choose... :)