Sunday, November 30, 2008

Milk

The Oscar race is on with most of the potential contenders being released in the next few weeks. Gus Van Sant's portrait of gay activist and political martyr Harvey Milk is sure to scoop up its share of nominations.

First and foremost would have to be Sean Penn's terrifically subtle and sensitive portrayal of the title character. Vocalization, mannerisms, facial expressions--all the small details add up to a performance where Penn's natural charisma is focused and channeled in such a way that he doesn't just play the role, but inhabits it.

But Penn's character study is not the only uncanny likeness in the film--as the subtitled epilogue wraps up the film, pictures of the various cast members are flashed along with photos of the actual person they were portraying. Some of the resemblances are amazing...

James Franco is deliciously adorable as Milk's partner, Scott Smith and Emile Hirsch plays an impishly mischievous Cleve Jones. Everyone in the cast is top-notch and their ability to convey the sense of the times and place historically is matched by the great production design of Bill Groom and costumes by Danny Glicker.

Through the talents of Groom and Glicker (along with set decoration by Barbara Munch) combined with archival footage, we are transported back to the 70s where times seem completely alien and yet not so different from today. Back then it was Prop. 6--today it's Prop. 8. But while the numbers have changed, the basic issue of gay rights--human rights--is the torch that Harvey Milk carried.

The movie provides a solid history lesson--to those of us already seeming condemned to repeat it. Unfortunately, that may be its biggest flaw. For in trying to accurately convey the events leading up to Milk's election to San Francisco city supervisor, the script by Dustin Lance Black gives short shrift to the intriguing characters, personalities and relationships which fueled the movement.

Although much detail went into illuminating Harvey Milk's life (or at least the last eight years of it...)--from the recreation of the Castro Camera Shop which was the birthplace of his activism to the real-life Danny Nicoletta and Cleve Jones acting as consultants for the film, many of the supporting characters ended up being drawn in broad, impressionistic strokes.

Still, it's a good film and an important film--one that measures not only how far we've come, but how far we still have to go as well.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

No Shortage of Nuts Here...

A while back I posted about my run-in with a rather brazen squirrel. Then I read about my friend Jennifer's experience with an aggressive bushy-tailed creature and I'm thinking, "I know that squirrel!"

(But seriously, I live in West Los Angeles and Jennifer's over in Venice so it's doubtful the little guy traveled seven miles or so to harangue her as well...)

This article in the Washington Post may have the answer to our squirrelly squirrels: No nuts makes them nutty.

Forget the birds, people--feed the squirrels!

(Only not by smearing peanut butter on your window screen! That's just asking for trouble...)

And while we're on the subject of squirrels, my sister sent me this Dilbert strip which is highly relevant to my life right now:

Dilbert.com

The Entourage Marathon - part 2

Since I don't have cable, I'm forced to watch some of my favorite shows in marathon sessions. Well, "forced" is not quite accurate as I actually prefer immersing myself in a whole season in one fell swoop.

Thanks to the generosity of my buddy Davey K., I got to catch up with season five yesterday. When I last saw the boys, Vince's passion project Medellin was an unmitigated flop at Cannes. Season five traces Vince's (along with his trusty pals Eric, Johnny and Turtle) journey from oblivion to getting back in the game.

One of my favorite things about watching the show is all the inside jokes and insider info, the backstabbing and the behind-the-scenes of the Hollywood machine. But this season the show veered all over the place--so instead of Malibu and Rodeo Drive, we got Mexico and Joshua Tree.

Changes in season two: Drama's up while Vince is down; Eric's got two new clients at his management agency--in addition to Vince, a young comic named Charlie and...um, someone else (Last season he was briefly managing Anna Faris, but she ended that after he admitted he was attracted to her...); Turtle's got a girlfriend (Jamie-Lynn Siegler of The Sopranos...right--like we're supposed to believe that!) and Ari is Ari--except for a brief moment where he almost succeeded deceased nemesis Alan Gray to become head of the studio.

Actually, there was an attempt to show a more warm and fuzzy side of Ari Gold this season: devoted father, protective husband and loyal friend. But let's face it--Jeremy Piven's Ari Gold is most fun when spewing his vindictive rants. Usually in the direction of long-suffering assistant Lloyd.

It was good to see Rex Lee getting billed with the rest of the regular cast members this season (along with Perrey Reeves who plays "Mrs. Ari"). Piven's Gold is nothing without Lee's Lloyd. Whether he's talking Ari down from a mushroom-induced hallucination or talking him out of taking the studio head position, Lloyd is more than just a foil or straight-man.

Well, he's certainly NOT a straight-man...

While Entourage has always been a bit of a fantasy-land, there were a couple of missed notes by the writers which had me irked: in addition to the highly unlikely hook-up between Turtle and Jamie-Lynn Siegler (sorry Jerry Ferrara--I'm just not buying it...), there was the scene where Turtle is looking at the classified ads in a newspaper to search for a job. The only thing more astonishing than Turtle looking for a job, is the fact that anyone would use classifieds in a NEWSPAPER to find one. In L.A. no less!

Have the writers not heard of Craigslist?

Earlier in the season, the writers made use of Drama using an Apple MacBook to converse via webcam with his French girlfriend. So obviously the writer are aware of the internet, etc. Another outdated piece of technology was Turtle's use of a landline to have phone sex with girlfriend Jamie-Lynn. How many times have we seen Turtle attached to his cellphone? It seems an odd stretch just to make the pay-off of Turtle's mother listening in on the other extension...

While as always there were cameos galore--Ben Silverman, Gus Van Sant, Martin Scorcese, Jeffrey Tambor, Frank Darabont, a blink and I missed it Michael Phelps and even Mark Wahlberg himself (executive producer of the show loosely inspired by his Hollywood experiences...), the most intriguing performance was Stellan Skarsgard as Werner Vollstedt.

Watching Skarsgard as the tempestuous, mercurial, genius, fictional director, I couldn't help but wonder who he was REALLY supposed to be. Werner Herzog? Some people on the IMDB message boards wondered the same thing. The consensus seemed to be that it was Wolfgang Peterson, who directed Wahlberg in The Perfect Storm, who was being lampooned.

Another intriguing moment: when Vince asks Ari if he thinks he's a good actor. And Ari, without spinning as he usually does, replies that he signed him because he thought he'd be a great movie star, not because he was a good actor. That moment inspired an interesting post at The Daily Beast on whether or not Adrian Grenier is a good enough actor to play a bad one.

Whether or not Grenier--or Vince Chase for that matter--is a good actor or not is beside the point. Entourage is an ensemble piece--and the ensemble works. It's a testosterone-charged version of Sex and the City. Same penchant for designer clothes and assorted bling. Same comraderie. Instead of bitchiness, you get macho posturing and practical jokes.

It's a boy thing.

It was nice to see Debi Mazar reprising her role as Vince's PR agent Shauna and the brief reunion between E and Sloane (Emmanuelle Chriqui), Beverly D'Angelo's ball-busting Barbara Miller and most especially, Constance Zimmer's Dana Gordon being promoted to studio head, but all in all, Entourage--like Hollywood--is all about the boys.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Vicariously Salivating...

Back east, this was what my sister prepared for Thanksgiving dinner:

"We had a turkey that I brined for two days and basted with maple syrup.

A dried fruit (figs, apricots, and tart cherries) stuffing.

Shallot and mushroom gravy with a ton of sherry and marsala for good measure.


Brussel sprouts roasted with butternut squash, cipollini onions and pancetta.


Sweet potato casserole (no mini-marshmallows here, I top it with apple wedges caramelized with brown sugar and butter and then top that with a pecan crumb topping… then I had more for breakfast this morning!).


Spinach casserole with a parmesan, gruyere gooey topping.


Mashed potatoes (I don’t eat them, but I figure that they are tradition to some).


And my intensely, immensely addictive cranberry sauce made with pinot noir, OJ, and spices including juniper berries!
"
On the west coast, this was my Thanksgiving dinner:

A take-out turkey sandwich from Cafe 50s, coleslaw, diet ginger ale and some squares of dark chocolate for dessert...

At least I don't have a food hangover...

Better than Retail Therapy!

It's Black Friday and the masses have descended on the malls. We all know retail therapy can make you FEEL good, but I've found a different kind of therapy that makes you LOOK good as well.

Therapy Systems.

I've been using two products from the recently re-formulated Line Tox line: and Line Tox for EyesLine Tox for Lips. Although the clinical sounding name represents the innovative and effective combination of ingredients in their products, the newly revised formulations of the Line Tox products eliminates parabens, mineral oil and phthalates so it's kinder and gentler to your skin and the environment as well.

In addition, Therapy Systems products are never tested on animals.

The Line Tox for Eyes claims to reduce puffy eyes in 15 days. It definitely made the skin around my eyes smoother! I was tempted to slather the rest of my face with it given how great the area around my eyes looked...

Apparently the active ingredient in Line Tox for Eyes is Eyeseryl®--a fast-acting, super-peptide complex specifically developed to reduce the appearance of puffy eyes and dark circles. In combination with hyaluronic acid, extracts of grapeseed, green tea and eybright and vitamin A, Line Tox for Eyes is a potent product for fighting the signs of aging where they show up first: the delicate skin around our eyes.

Line Tox for Eyes smells great, too. According to Therapy Systems:

"While most of our products do smell great, they do not have added fragrance or synthetic perfumes. Whenever any of our products have a scent, it is because that product contains an ingredient that smells good but that also actually does something."
I'm guessing the source of the scent in Line Tox for Eyes is the neroli oil.

Line Tox for Lips combines Argireline® and hyaluronic acid to increase collagen and elastin production. Imagine--increasing collagen without the injections! Nourishing moisturizers such as shea butter, aloe and allantoin are also featured ingredients--soothing and hydrating lips.

I definitely feels a slight tingling action when I apply this to my lips. Not a stinging Lip Venom irritation, but a more subtle feeling of activity. It makes my lips look smoother--and smoother lips look fuller and plumper.

Like the Line Tox for Eyes, Line Tox for Lips is a winner--and a keeper!

You can find Therapy Systems products at Henri Bendel, Blue Mercury stores, The Cosmetic Market and online at TherapySystems.com.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Pushing Daisies - Robbing Hood

Ned's father hasn't yet resurfaced on Pushing Daisies, but at the end of last night's episode Chuck's Dad was about to make an encore appearance after being dead for twenty years.

The potentially gruesome reunion between Chuck and her Dad was precipitated by the ongoing presence of the mysterious Dwight. Dwight, in the process of romancing Chuck's Aunt Vivian, discovers the perky waitress at the Pie-Hole is Vivian's recently deceased niece. He presents the evidence of his discovery--a laminated obituary--to Olive Snook who in turn alerts Ned and Chuck.

While Vivian is enchanted by the dashing Dwight, Lily is less than enthralled by the ex-con. "I don't trust him further than I can spit. And I can spit!" she declares to Olive. Later, she chases him off by aiming a shotgun at him telling him, "It's time to nip you in the budding romance."

Following Dwight's exit, she goes to visit niece/daughter Charlotte's grave only to be distressed to find freshly overturned dirt. She assumes--correctly--that Dwight dug up Chuck's grave to retrieve the pocketwatch that was buried with her. Dwight is in possession of Chuck's father's watch--but the only thing he found when he dug up her grave was an empty coffin.

Lily goes to Dwight's hotel room and finds the watch and steals it back. Upon seeing that the watch is missing, Dwight assumes Chuck took it and sets out after her--armed with a rifle.

My favorite parts of the show:

Olive Snook channeling Zsa Zsa Gabor as she plays the part of a Hungarian heiress to set a sting.

Chuck explaining to Ned and Emerson why she let Rob Wright go: "It was an act of charity--there were puppies involved!"

Ned sulking while the trio spies on the widow Hofer: "Stakeouts are only fun when there are binoculars for everyone."

Next week's episode seems to be taking a page from Seinfeld--but instead of the "Soup Nazi" it's the "Waffle Nazi."

Only six episode left. Sigh.

No waffles for you!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Things to be Thankful For

1. My siblings: James who calls and never fails to amuse me, David who reads and comments on my blog regularly and especially Laurie, who sent me a bunch of Christmas music CDs to get me in the mood for the holiday season.

2. My health: After just getting over a nasty cold, I am once again reminded about how we often take being healthy for granted. Breathing (unimpeded) is such a joy...

3. The fact that the USA has collectively regained its sanity after 8 years of George W. Bush.

4. Craigslist--which has provided me with a new job, new TV and endless hours of amusement...

5. Sweater weather. We're not quite there yet here in Los Angeles--but it's coming!

What are you thankful for this year?

Spin City - Season One on DVD

Hard to believe it's been only a little over 10 years since Spin City debuted on ABC. Now Season One of Michael J. Fox's return to network TV is available on DVD. Not so coincidentally, the 4 DVD-set of the comedy about politics was released on November 4th...Election Day.

I got to experience a bit of nostalgia in re-watching what was one of my favorite shows in the 90s. I mean, how could you not love Alex P. Keaton all grown up in the form of Deputy Mayor Michael Flaherty? The great cast also included Barry Bostwick as the clueless mayor Randall Winston, Alan Ruck (Ferris Bueller's Day Off), Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights) and Richard Kind (Mad About You).

The series was nominated multiple times for the GLAAD Media Award and won in 1997. Michael Boatman's stereotype-busting (as opposed to the predictability of Will and Grace) portrayal of Carter Heywood was one of my favorite parts of the show. Indeed, Heywood's railing against the inequality in regard to the issue of gay marriage seems particularly timely 12 years later.

The DVD-set contains all 24 episodes of season one, all-new interviews with Michael J. Fox, the series creators and the ensemble cast, 7 episode commentaries and Highlights of The Paley Center for Media Seminar featuring Gary David Goldberg and Michael J. Fox in 1996. It was a painful contrast to see the likable actor at the height of his popularity in 1996 vs. a more current interview where the ravages of his struggle with Parkinson's disease is evident.

All in all, however, the trip down memory lane is a pleasant one. Before the earnest idealism of The West Wing, there was this light-hearted look at politics. Smart, witty with a super ensemble cast and the impeccable comic timing of Michael J. Fox, Spin City still stands the test of time.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Save Billy!

This is from my friend Dave, who works at the Los Angeles Zoo.

How cool is that? How many people do YOU know who work at a ZOO?!!!

(If your workplace SEEMS like a zoo, that doesn't count!)

Without further ado, I give you Dave:

KEEP BILLY THE ELEPHANT AT HOME!

Dear America:

Right now, pretty much as we speak, animal rights people are on the verge of elephant-napping. Billy the Elephant, who has lived at the Los Angeles Zoo for decades, was just weeks away from moving into his new home at the Zoo when people whom I disagree with somehow managed to get the Los Angeles City Council to rethink the move.

How the heck did they do that? Two years ago the Mayor asked the council to look into whether Billy should move and the council voted 10 to 2 to leave him be.

What changed? Nothing. It’s just that the zoo is close to providing Billy his new home and I don’t know how the heck they have stirred the pot again.

But it’s our job as elephant supporters to stand up for Billy and be counted. Let him stay in the world he knows. The zoo has spent $10 million of a total of $40 million or so to give him a new home. We must finish Billy’s home for his sake.

Now some people say this new home isn’t big enough. But this new home is as big as the one at the San Diego Zoo but they’re not trying to close them down—yet. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums supports this new home at the zoo. And if you would take the time to educate yourself about this, you would too!

Let’s stop tearing our zoos apart and build them. Let’s provide zoos the resources they need to help the animals of this world survive. And thrive. And educate. And perpetuate.

Once they take Billy away who will be next? The lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

Billy is a living symbol of what we can do to help others like him. Elephants are disappearing from this world, and Asian elephants more than the others. And in order to help get the word out we can have Billy help us. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Check out—L.A. Zoo.org.

And then write to your council members and let them know you want Billy to stay home, and not be elephant-napped.

Or you can see the Council Meeting at YouTube.

Take a stand for Billy.

I know that if he could take a stand for you he would. He’s that kind of elephant.

Sincerely,
dave k."

Heroes - The Eclipse, Part 1

Somehow they're planning to drag this storyline out over two episodes. Last night was about the Heroes (and villains) losing their powers. No doubt next week, their powers will return.

Claire wasn't the only one who realized she was the catalyst--Arthur enlists Sylar to retrieve the indestructible teen. Elle volunteers to tag along and help. "Let's go get the cheerleader!" she says.

Not quite the same ring as "Save the cheerleader, save the world"--I guess villains aren't as good with slogans.

Over in the camp of the good guys, Nathan and Peter are off to get the Haitian, Matt Parkman needs to find Hiro and Claire is delivered to the care of dear old Dad.

Matt has the easiest job as Hiro and Ando deliver themselves right to his doorstep. Ando asks Matt to "fix" Hiro--who still thinks he's ten. Matt attempts to do his brain mojo thingy but he can't read Hiro's mind 'cuz it's all in Japanese.

Kind of a limited ability there, Parkman.

Meanwhile, Daphne's surprised to see Ando alive. And Ando is just as surprised to see the Nemesis at Parkman's place. "I'm not a nemesis, I'm a good guy now," Daphne tells him. But Daphne freaks out when Hiro shows no hope of improvement and she speedsters right back to Lawrence, Kansas. Hiro, Ando and Matt teleport to a corn field outside of Daphne's family home and then the eclipse comes and strips them of their powers.

Hiro and Ando set off in search of a comic book store in order to see what's coming up next for them. At Sam's Comics they not only find the latest issue of Hiro's adventures, but Seth Green as well. Back at Daphne's farm, Matt gives a sappy speech through the door (thank god it didn't include the line, "You complete me...") and Daphne tells him to come in. Without her powers, she's not only not a speedster, she can barely walk and needs leg braces and crutches to even move about.

The eclipse also affects Nathan and Peter who plummet into a body of water on their way to track down the Haitian. The Haitian is tracking down a Level 5 escapee by the name of Samedi. As it turns out, Samedi is the Haitian's brother. Which begs the question:

How is it that the Haitian's brother has a name, while the Haitian is merely known as the Haitian?

Even without his powers, Samedi is powerful enough to capture Nathan. He was waiting for Senator Petrelli's arrival having been tipped off by Nathan's Daddy Dearest, Arthur. Arthur in turn was tipped off by the duplicitous Tracy. But Angela seems to know what Tracy is up to...

The only one experiencing positive benefits from the eclipse is Mohinder, who stops molting. After peeling off a gooey slime, Mohinder appears to be cured. He still has to deal with Arthur and company--who are pissed and want their powers back.

Claire and Noah hide-out at Stephen Canfield's (aka Vortex Man) house and have some father-daughter bonding time as Noah teaches Claire how to power kick ass. Sylar and Elle are re-enacting their own twisted version of True Romance, but when they show up to snatch Claire they are left powerless by the eclipse. Elle grabs a gun and shoots the cheerleader--who can no longer heal herself.

Noah kicks the $@#% out of Sylar and scoops his daughter up and runs out the door. Noah manages to get Claire home and stop her bleeding, but when he leaves to take care of some unfinished business she starts hemorrhaging badly again.

Elle helps set Sylar's broken bone and they two share a passionate kiss (Like we didn't see THAT coming!) while Noah Bennet trains the scope of a high-powered rifle on them.

Monday, November 24, 2008

My Shopping Spree

Did a bit of damage at Martin + Osa yesterday. I love their clothes--but although they're not too expensive, they're usually priced just a bit more than I'm willing to pay.

But today they were having an extra 25% off clearance items. Yay! I bought this Textured V-neck sweater in Raffia Cream. It was originally $69.50, then it got marked down to $49.95. Still too rich for my blood--but with an extra 25%, I finally gave myself permission to buy it.


This 2 x 2 rib Henley sweater was also a steal. Originally $59.50, it was marked down to $24.95 with an extra 25% off. The lightweight knit will make a great layering piece underneath a jacket or over a camisole.






With the weather cooling down finally in L.A., I guess I've got sweaters on the brain. I love the soft warm red color of this Ultra-Soft Soy V-neck sweater called "Juicy Red." It's not quite red, not quite coral. It's made of cotton, rayon, soybean and 2% cashmere.






The last piece I acquired was this Silk Charmeuse Skirt. This one I'm not so sure about...It's very pretty, but I'm not sure how much wear I'll get from it. I bought it to go with a pretty sweater that I got from the Gap earlier this fall, but it may be going back.

So while my closet is fuller with my new acquisitions, my wallet's a little bit lighter.

What can I say? I'm a sucker for a good sale!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Quantum of Solace

Although a critical disappointment, the latest installment in the James Bond franchise has managed to rake in over $100 million domestically. For those jazzed by Daniel Craig's debut in the reboot, Quantum of Solace offers more of the same: car chases, boat chases, chases on foot, chases in the air, blood, carnage and a brawling, badass Bond.

Quantum fills the bill as far as it goes with the bombardment of set pieces starting with a car chase through a narrow tunnel on a Italian mountain road and capping it all off with flames and pyrotechnics of an exploding Bolivian enclave. It's BAM! POW! ZAP! right out of the gate and the action doesn't let up--until a bit of a lull in the middle of the movie and a relatively anti-climatic ending.

Critics whined about the darkness of this vengeful, grief-stricken Bond. The double-entendres, the hedonistic misogyny, the high-tech gadgets are largely missing from this version of the franchise. Frankly, I don't miss any of that.

What I did miss was a sense on the edge of my seat tension. Marc Forster's forte is not action, and it shows. The action sequences were intricate and well-choreographed. But, the way they were shot and edited made it confusing to watch. Too bad. A lot of talent and effort went into the construction of these set pieces--Daniel Craig even sustained injuries during filming. But what ended up on screen was such a muddled jumble, the fabulous stunt work and special effects couldn't be fully appreciated.

Forster also was obviously profoundly affected by the Kristallnacht scene in Cabaret. He uses the cross-cutting technique twice in Quantum. But instead of heightening irony or illuminating paradoxical parallels, it just adds to the confusion.

Also missing from the film was a worthy villain. Mathieu Almaric was suitably slimy but he was no match for the charisma of Craig's Bond. This installment revived the super-secret evil organization--known as "Quantum." It's the same-old spy shtick complete with a world domination agenda, double-agents, elite membership and secret decoders rings. (Okay, not decoder rings--but hidden earphones deposited in special opera swag bags. Yeah--it didn't make much sense to me either...)

And finally, Stevie was right: The theme song sucks. Alicia Keys' and Jack White's voices do not blend well together making for a oddly clashing dissonance. I doubt this one will make it onto a Best of Bond collection...

It wasn't a bad action movie, but it didn't live up to the promise of Casino Royale. Hopefully now that avenging Vesper's death is out of Bond's system (and perhaps with a better action director), his future adventures will get back on track.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Kid-Snapping Cell Phones

I've always thought it would be cool to have GPS embedded into my belongings. That way if another walks off with one of my items, I can track them down and kick their ass.

Yes--some fantasize about achieving greatness, I dream of vigilante justice for misdemeanors.

In today's Washington Post, there's an article about the unplanned ramifications of cellphone thievery--which involves the thieves using the cellphone's camera (which are obviously much better than the camera in my cellphone!) to take photos of THEMSELVES!

With some cellphone cameras having the ability to automatically upload the photos taken into the owner's Flickr account, there now exists a way to track your stolen cellphone other than trying to dial your own number--or even GPS!

" How tantalizing, to think that while we continue to live our lives, our phones go on entirely new adventures...David McDonald of Melbourne, Australia, was...more curious than angry, when he logged onto Flickr earlier this year and found that his phone, pickpocketed a few days before, had recently attended a street festival. There it was, "having its own little field trip," cavorting with guys McDonald didn't know, in a neighborhood he'd never been."
Hmm--If I stole someone else's cellphone, all they'd probably have to look forward to are pictures of my thumb...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ugly Betty/The Office - When Betty Met YETI/Frame Toby

Okay, a couple of weeks ago Betty bonded with Amanda and now during last night's episode our favorite misfit shared a warm and fuzzy moment with Marc. Hmm--if Betty's becoming friends with the Besties, who will her nemesis be? Especially given the exit of Kimmie Keegan earlier this season...

Wilhelmina's set her sights on Connor. "He's me," she tells Marc. "He's the Male-a-mina!" Marc gushingly agrees. Willie's plan involves getting Connor alone--a meeting with advertisers located in Florida. After the meeting, she plies him with wine. But Connor resists temptation and remains faithful to fiancee Molly. Much to Willie's chagrin. While Connor's away on business, Daniel stands in for him with a presentation to Molly's elementary school class.

The love quadrangle continues...

But the main focus of the episode was Betty's attempt to get accepted into the Young Editors Training Initiative aka Y.E.T.I. Unfortunately she's gotten a late start and has only 48 hours to create a magazine. Against the better judgment of her friends and family, she choose fashion as the subject. But when she finds out that Marc is also submitting a presentation for the program, she quits.

Ignacio convinces her to continue with her presentation--but to change from fashion to a magazine concept that better reflects her personality. After staying up all night, Betty finishes the presentation--but, not only is Daniel not available for her run-through, he misses the deadline to submit a letter of recommendation.

Her presentation, however, goes off without a hitch. Betty pitches "B Magazine"--instead selling women an image of how they should be, her magazine celebrates women the way they already are. I think I'd subscribe to that! She's riding high after the presentation--until Marc enters, entourage in tow. His glossy concept is "A-List Magazine," a smart and insightful exploration of celebrity culture. He's even got an article by David Sedaris and the sponsorship of Badgley-Mischka.

Betty sees her chance to rise in the publishing industry stall in a fantasy sequence where she imagines herself still working as Daniel's assistant in fifty years. But a call from the Y.E.T.I. people brings the good news that Betty has been accepted into the program. The bad news is that Marc has not--because Y.E.T.I. never accepts two applicants from the same magazine.

Marc lashes out at Betty claiming she was accepted to fill a racial quota. Betty calls Y.E.T.I. and they don't deny the claim. She is unable to take joy in being accepted to the program under those circumstances, so she drops out in order that Marc may attend.

Better late than never, Daniel intercedes to set things right. By telling the committee that Betty worked for Player magazine, he's able to circumvent the one applicant per magazine rule and his effusive six-page letter of recommendation didn't hurt either.

And so Marc and Betty will be attending Y.E.T.I. together. Former nemeses turned BFF.

Speaking of nemeses, Toby returned to The Office last night. Actually, he'd been back for a week before Michael noticed--but when he witnessed the former and now current HR manager back from Costa Rica, his howling could be heard blocks away.

So Michael and Dwight conspire to come up with a plan to--as the episode title suggests--Frame Toby. Before coming up with the plan to get Toby fired, Michael makes an attempt to be friendly. "But that is like trying to be friends with an evil...snail," Michael bemoans.

First they try to set Pam up to be sexually harassed by the hapless Toby, but Pam reads the note she was supposed to hand Toby and refuses. Next they try to goad Toby into fighting. But that doesn't work either. So, as a last resort, Dwight convinces Michael to buy drugs and plant them in Toby's workspace.

After Michael clumsily negotiates a drug deal for $500 worth of weed, Dwight tips off the police using Andy's name. But when they show up, Michael has second thoughts about the plan and backs out at the last minute, admitting the bag of green is his. Or more accurately, the bag of GREENS, as what Michael bought for $500 was a plastic baggie of Caprese Salad. "Welcome back, Jerky Jerk-face," Michael tells Toby.

But while Michael and Toby may have reached a shaky detente, Ryan dumps Kelly to go to Thailand. But he wants to have sex one more time--and if she can give him some money, that would be amazing. Maybe he's just trying to avoid cleaning the microwave. Maybe he's trying to avoid Kelly. In any case, Kelly agrees.

On the Jam-front, Jim buys his parents house for him and Pam--without telling her. "You haven't told the missus about the castle?" Andy says incredulously. When Creed finds out that Jim's new (old) house is near the quarry, he tells Jim that they're neighbors. "We should hang out and throw things in it," he says.

When Jim presents the house to Pam, he shows her how he's converting the garage into an art studio for her. He hopes this will mitigate the shag carpeting, the unmovable clown picture on the wall, the creepiness of sleeping in his parent's master bedroom. But Pam loves the house.

Ugly clown picture and all.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bridging the Gap

Received a special offer from the Gap the other day. I just have to spend another $441 on my Gap credit to be upgraded to Silver status. The benefits of Silver status include:

  • Free online shipping
  • Choose your own Sale Day
  • Special Gap Silver events like Triple Rewards
According to the missive sent to me by the Gap, I am "so close."

One needs to spend $800 on their Gap card to qualify for silver status. I'm not even halfway there, and yet I'm "so close."

Guess you don't need basic math skills to be in marketing...

Pushing Daisies - Oh Oh Oh...It's Magic

My only quibble with last night's episode of Pushing Daisies is that they didn't find a way to work the Pilot song it was named after into the show.

Reunited with his two half-brothers, Ned is reluctant to be play the role of big brother--or as he puts it, "Big HALF brother...once removed by the fact that until last week you didn't know I existed."

Somehow Maurice and Ralston cajole Ned and company to see a magic show featuring their mentor and surrogate father, The Great Herrmann (played with panache by the great Fred Willard). Herrmann welcomes Ned warmly, he rebuffs Olive's embrace saying, "I'm not made of hugs."

Herrmann's warm-up act is the Geek, who eats and regurgitates a variety of items. "I'm working my way up to a kitten." Herrmann's big act is called "Cementia," where he escapes from a block of solid concrete. Except for the time he doesn't.

At first it looks like Herrmann has pulled off a disappearing act similar to the one Ned and the twin's father pulled years earlier. But as it turns out, someone switched the cement blocks to make it look like a disappearing trick.

The killer turns out to be none other than the Geek--who swallowed Herrmann's magic magnets which were what enabled him to escape from the box. The Geek uses Olive as a human shield as Emerson points his gun at him. The Geek tells him that he has a gun, too. In his stomach. "I'm cocking it with my stomach muscles right now. When it flies out of my mouth it's going to shoot you in the face!"

The experience leads Ned to perform a little magic of his own for Chuck. Rigging Olive up with an hidden earpiece and microphone, he gives Chuck the chance to ask her mother Lily all the questions she's always wanted to know via Olive. It was a really touching scene.

But while Chuck was delving into the past she never knew, Dwight Dixon was digging up her grave. And finding an empty coffin.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Singing Revolution

Gandhi led India to independence through non-violent civil disobedience, Martin Luther King inspired others with the passionate words, "I have a dream...," a lone rebel faces down a tank in Tiananmen Square and the nation of Estonia overthrows 50 years of Soviet rule through the power of song.

The Singing Revolution tells the story of the Estonian struggle to maintain hope and solidarity through years of foreign occupation. That hope came in the form the Song Festival, “Laulupidu”, founded in 1869. In 1969, 30,000 singers took the stage to sing one exceptional song—“Land of My Fathers, Land that I Love” with lyrics from a well-known 100 year-old Estonian poem.

This simple act energized the freedom movement--a quiet revolution that joined thousands of voices with the power of song.

The powerful documentary The Singing Revolution is now available in a 3 disc DVD set Collector's Edition. The set includes:

• "The Singing Revolution" film

• Over four hours of additional interview outtakes, categorized by subject for easy review.

• The 32-page Instructor's Guide with additional background, suggested curricula, instructor questions, and full index of additional materials.

• Filmmakers’ commentary

• 15 maps of Europe from 180 A.D. until 1997 that interactively illustrate Estonia's history.

• 7 newsreel stories from the 1930s - 1950s

• Stalinist propaganda film clip

• Estonian history timelines

• 30 printable historical documents (totaling over 150 pages)

• Interview with filmmakers

• Production stills and other images from the film
Also available is 178 page hardcover book. Based on the film, the companion piece written by noted National Geographic author Priit Vesilind along with filmmakers James and Maureen Tusty includes more than 150 photographs.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Heroes - It's Coming

Looks like the "meet cute" between Elle and Sylar last week WAS to set-up a potential romance. They sure did bond while locked together in that cell at Pinehurst. Arthur throws the two together after telling Sylar that his hunger is for power, not murder. And that he can take any power he wants without killing, via empathy.

Well, we know that is Peter's gift--turns out it's Sylar's as well. Arthur, on the other hand, certainly doesn't seem like the warm and fuzzy empathetic type.

He certainly wasn't empathetic while wiping Hiro's mind. Ando lunges at Arthur to save his friend, but is halted in mid-air. Arthur is distracted by the newly beheaded tribal guy's painting of an eclipse. Ando manages to crawl to Hiro and tells him to teleport them out of there. Hiro, mind wiped clean, has no idea what Ando is talking about. Ando physically squeezes Hiro's eyes shut to make him blink so the two can be teleported to safety.

(So Hiro's power is like I Dream of Jeannie now? How lame is that?)

Hiro thinks he's ten--which isn't surprising since he mostly acts like he's ten. Ando has to explain to him about his teleportation ability and how to do the Jeannie blink thingy. "You have to try harder! Make your cheeks wobble!" implores Ando.

Hiro teleports the two to a comic book store where they find the comic book of Hiro's adventures. Turning the pages, they come across a picture of an eclipse--just like the tribal guy's painting. The caption under the picture: "It's Coming..."

Mohinder works to get the formula to work properly--but he can't create powers without a corresponding adverse reaction. He notes that our current crop of heroes had their power manifest during the eclipse. Arthur tells Mohinder that the formula is missing a catalyst. When Mohinder asks what the catalyst is, Arthur tells him it isn't something but someONE.

Nathan comes face-to-face with dearly departed Daddy who tells him that he is his favorite. But Nathan isn't up for being manipulated--by Arthur anyway. Tracy strikes a deal with Arthur to get Nathan to come over to Arthur's side. But who is she playing--Nathan or Arthur?

More romantic sparks (although not the electrical kind) flying between Matt and Daphne. At Primatech, Matt runs into the tribal guy--with head intact. Then he and Daphne stumble upon the catatonic Angela. Matt uses his "brain mojo thingy" to enter Angela's mind and free her. He comes up against Arthur inside Angela's mind, but Daphne manages to intercede by telling Matt she cares about him.

Awww!

Matt and Angela escape Arthur's grip--and then Peter and Claire show up. Angela explains that Arthur had retrieve both halves of the formula--but he's missing the third piece. The catalyst resides in the blood of a human host. Claire recalls how Sylar said she was different from the others--special--when he opened her brain.

She realizes SHE is the catalyst.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Eeeewww!

No less than 16 people have come across my blog today using the search "mark cuban shirtless."

What is WRONG with you people?

I could understand Daniel Craig shirtless or maybe Michael Phelps shirtless.

I know this can't be ALL Elisabeth...

Frankly, I'm baffled...

Mark Cuban? Shirtless? Really?

P.S. If you're out there Mr. Cuban, looks like I will be needing that picture of you shirtless--if the offer's still open...




Desperate Housewives - City on Fire

Well, it wasn't the whole CITY on fire in last night's episode of Desperate Housewives--just Warren Schilling's nightclub where the Battle of the Bands is being held. If you were expecting a tornado-level episode, not doubt you were disappointed. But some of the storylines got pushed along--and we got a brief appearance from Bob and Lee to boot!

Julie comes back to Wisteria Lane for a visit with her new boyfriend. Or more accurately OLD boyfriend. Played by Steven Weber (who could leave crumbs in my bed anytime!), the age difference between thrice-married and divorced Lloyd gives Susan pause. She has conniptions when Lloyd reveals to her that he plans to surprise Julie with an engagement ring.

Susan's lame attempts to thwart Lloyd's plan are unsuccessful--but it turns out Julie has no intention of marrying Lloyd. Or anyone. Ever. Susan's disastrous love life has turned Julie off to the idea of marriage forever. Susan has a heart-to-heart talk with her daughter about her own reversal in remaining open to romance and happily-ever-after.

Lloyd wasn't the only visitor to Wisteria Lane in last night's episode: Sandra, an investigative reporter shows up to interview Bree about her cookbook. Bree manages to maintain the illusion of perfection--until Orson's parole officer calls and leaves a message on the answering machine. "Now can I be gay?" Andrew asks Bree.

Then the muckraker starts digging up the dirt: Bree's alcoholism, Orson's attempt to kill Mike, Bree's first husband (remember Rex?) affinity for S&M hookers. Sandra is all set to expose Bree's massive imperfections--until an impassioned plea from Bree that her cookbook is not her attempt to lord it over the masses, but rather a way to give woman SOMETHING they can get right gives her another angle for her article.

In the "unwelcome visitors" category would be the return of Virginia Hildebrand. After including making the Solis' her sole heir, the psycho heiress insinuates her way into their lives again. She also wrangles an invitation to the Battle of the Bands when she shows up to pick Gaby in a limo. Gaby sucks it up for the sake of the future millions--but she balks when Virginia insists on sending the girls to private school. Gaby tells Virginia just what she can do with her money.

Who would have thought materialistic Gaby would walk away from millions?

Also making an unwelcome visit was Lynette to see Porter's paramour, Anne Schilling. After Porter's twin Preston alerts Lynette to the fact that Anne is pregnant and planning to run away with Porter, Lynette confronts the cougar. Unfortunately, her accusations are overheard by Warren Schilling who asks her to leave so he can have a word alone with his wife. Anne begs Lynette not to leave and she is torn.

Before she reaches her car, she turns back and discovers Warren kicking the $@#% out of Anne. She starts throwing candlesticks at him and threatening to call the police. Schilling stops beating his wife, but is less than scared by the threat of law enforcement given that Anne is guilty of statutory rape.

Porter confronts Lynette at the hospital and then runs off to deal with Warren Schilling. Lynette chases after him and catches up with him at the club where he's fighting with Warren. Lynette intercedes, telling Warren: "Hitting women and children...you must be so proud." Porter threatens to kill Warren before being hustled off by Lynette. He stomps off--but later returns with a gun.

But the most unwelcome visitor of all--at least as far as Dave Williams is concerned--would be Dr. Heller who shows up on Wisteria Lane just as Karen McCluskey and sister Roberta are discussing going to Boston to track him down and get more info on Dave. Heller runs into Edie, who unwittingly invites him to the Battle of the Bands event.

Heller shows up at the club and confronts "Dave"--who apparently is using an alias (no doubt the writers figured out that Mike might recognize the name as being the same as the guy he killed in self-defense in prison). Dave sweet talks the doctor into letting him play the gig, but when Heller sees the band line-up includes Mike Delfino he insists on talking to Mike.

Dave gets the doctor alone in a storage room and strangles him and then using alcohol as starter fluid, sets the room on fire to cover up the murder. He also locks Jackson in the men's room since he saw Dave leaving the storage room. As Blue Odyssey (who follow the band "Cold Splash" aka Tokyo Police Club) performs Mustang Sally, Edie notices flames and screams fire. There is a rush to the door--which had been locked by Warren Schilling to keep Porter and Lynette from re-entering.

Dave throws a chair through the window and starts helping people out. Tom helps Carlos, Gaby assists Virgina. Jackson, who was locked in the men's room, does busts a window and escapes as well. Susan, not seeing Jackson, freaks out ('cuz that's what she does best!) and Mike runs back into the club to save him. Then Jackson shows up safe and sound, and Dave runs into the club and rescues Mike.

Since Dave's plan was to harm Mike, why would he go back and carry him out? He leans over and whispers to the unconscious Mike as he lays on the stretcher: "Hang in there. I'm not done with you yet."

Apparently no-one ever doubts a hero. Although I'm sure Karen McCluskey would disagree.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Memos to Morons - part eight

TO: Los Angeles Landlords

RE: Posting on Craigslist

Please note that using the word "homely" to describe your rental means something completely different than what you were aiming for.

Look it up.

I believe the word you are searching for is "homey"--which, despite being only one letter different from "homely," means almost the exact opposite.

Synecdoche, New York

I've been fascinated by the twisted and brilliant mind of Charlie Kaufman ever since I saw Being John Malkovich. To be sure, Kaufman is not for everyone and even though I appreciate his offbeat and unique sensibilities, I am often bewildered and baffled by his movies.

Synecdoche, New York is no exception.

In fact, in the conglomeration of Kaufman films (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), Synecdoche, New York stands head and shoulders above the rest in its weirdness, oddity and eccentricity.

It makes Being John Malkovich look like Sesame Street.

Like many Kaufman tales, Synecdoche, New York features a self-reflective to the point of self-absorption hero who is muddled and befuddled and struggling to find meaning in this strange ride we call life.

Philip Seymour Hoffman does his usual terrific job as Caden Cotard, a theater director whose mid-life crisis is characterized by an obsession with bodily functions along with regret, self-loathing and a fear of aging that manifests in a series of odd physical ailments and mental frailities.

After Cotard's wife takes his daughter and abandons him, he is gifted with the opportunity to do something important with his life in the form of a grant funding a creative endeavor. Cotard decides to create a piece of theater that is blatantly and brazenly truthful and real and over the course of 40 or so years, the project grows and morphs and stumbles and sputters--much like life itself.

Cotard's play, like Kaufman's film about it, is like life--with art imitating life and life imitating art. The play--and the film--is a celebration (if one can use that word for the excruiating process) of the awkward and mundane, the grotesquely scatalogical, the profound and the profane. The fleeting moments of joy offset by the pain of loss and grief.

Hoffman is joined by a top-notch cast of women--a veritable "who's who" of the indie film circuit:

Catherine Keener plays his faithless wife, Adele
Michelle Williams, actress and second wife Claire
Hope Davis, therapist Madeleine Gravis
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Adele's best friend Maria
Samantha Morton plays Caden's long-time friend and soulmate, Hazel
Dianne Wiest plays Millicent Weems, an actress playing the part of Ellen Bascomb
Emily Watson plays Tammy, an actress playing the part of Hazel

So you have actors playing the people in Cotard's life (including several who play Cotard himself). For all the people who find Samantha Morton and Emily Watson to be part of a group of indistinguishably interchangeable actresses, Kaufman takes advantage of this by having Watson playing an actress playing the part of Morton's character of Hazel. (It's quite a mind-fuck and had me confused...) And then on top of that, you have actors playing the actors who are playing the people in Cotard's life.

And then it gets really weird.

As the play and film and Cotard's life progresses, he becomes so tired and infirm that he cedes his directorial role to Millicent, who was playing Ellen but now takes over the part of Caden. And, along with directing the play, she also directs Caden in his performance of the role of Ellen--and his life.

Like I said, really bizarre.

I can't say that I understood everything Kaufman was trying to convey. There were some of his usual oddities (like Adele's miniature art work which requires the use of magnifying glasses to view it or Olive's full-body tattoos), metaphorical surrealism (Hazel's continuously smoldering house--perhaps a symbol for her long-held passion for Caden?) and the just downright strange like the voyeuristic Sammy who initially seems to be a character out of a David Lynch movie.

At times Kaufman--and Caden--rises out of the mire of self-absorption with a brief epiphany:

"There are nearly thirteen million people in the world. None of those people is an extra. They're all the leads of their own stories. They have to be given their due."
Or the brief moment where Caden and Hazel are able to connect intimately, exposing both their passion and their vulnerability.

But much of the film--and the play--is about the waiting and the repetition of a life marching relentlessly to its inevitable and inexorable conclusion: death. I'm not sure if Kaufman was cautioning against living in the past or the perils of a too examined life, but there did seem to be one thematic element that was readily understood: The Theatre of the Absurd is Life.

Or vice versa...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

PUPPIES!!!

I'm not much of a baby person. Oh, occasionally I'll see an adorable young person, toddling along and think, "How cute!"

But more often than not, it's some whiny brat that makes me grateful for birth control.

But the way some people get over babies--cooing and ah-ing and awing, I get with puppies.

So does my sister.

Compliments of Laurie, I present the ultimate time-suck: The Shiba Inu Puppy cam.

When I first started watching, the six puppies were hudded in a mass sleeping.

I started working on a blog post.

When I returned to the browser tab with the puppy cam, they were gone! But soon they bounded back into the frame, tussling and scrapping with each other. Then they scattered off, leaving one puppy behind. With no-one to scuffle with, he (or she) started chasing his (or her) tail--catching it and biting it!

Sooooo cute!

Ah, puppies! The economy is rocky, the wildfires are raging, the war still marches on in Iraq, but a cute puppy is the cure for almost anything.

Join the Revolution!

Organics are all the rage in the beauty industry these days. It can get a bit overwhelming with all the products one can choose from.

So how about we narrow it down to just one?

Revolution Organics has an all-over body balm that claims to be "the ultimate moisturizing multi-tasker."

Packaged in compact tube, it's perfectly portable. Whether you're slipping it into your purse or tucking it into your luggage or tossing it into your gym bag, it's a handy little product for keeping your skin soft and smooth.

I like keeping it on my nightstand and rubbing a bit into my dry, flaky elbows and rough, ragged cuticles. The balm is full of luscious ingredients:

  • Organic Cocoa Butter - Fortifies skins moisture barrier, high in vitamin A, B, C, & E. Penetrates deeply to push antioxidants & nutrients, calcium, potassium & iron into skin layers. Softens and lubricates skin.
  • Organic Shea Butter - Superb moisturizer. Extremely high in Vitamin A which may improve many skin conditions: wrinkles, eczema, dermatitis, insect bites, sunburns etc. High in Vitamin E benefiting anti-aging, increasing micro-circulation.
  • Organic Beeswax - Forms protective skin barrier without pore clogging. Hydrating properties, increases skins essential moisture retention. Thickens cosmetics naturally.
  • Organic Olive Oil - Softens, stimulates & moisturizes skin. Scars are reduced, inflammation is calmed. Has regenerating power on skin tissue and is able to regulate natural moisturizing system of skin. Anti-aging properties, vitamin A & E, powerful antioxidant.
  • Organic Coconut Oil - Prevents destructive free-radical formation. Deters age and sun related spots. Assists in prevention of sagging & wrinkling by strengthening skin connective tissue. Healthy glow to skin, Healing & deep moisturizing properties.
  • Organic Apricot Oil - High in vitamin E C & A. Skin softening, penetrates without an oily finish. Rich in fatty acids to retain moisture and elasticity in skin.
...and it smells heavenly! Kind of fresh and citrus-y.

So I've come up with two uses for it, but you could also use it on calloused feet, as a lip balm, to smooth flyaways or even tame unruly eyebrows!

Revolution Organics products are: free of chemicals, parabens, synthetics and artificial ingredients, formulated with the highest level of organic certification, free of fillers--including water--so each product is highly concentrated, and not tested on animals .

They are also available exclusively at Beauty.com.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ugly Betty/The Office - Tornado Girl/Business Trip

It's the first issue of Mode that Betty has responsibility for approving while Daniel and the rest attend an Editors Retreat. But right after giving the word to ship out the issue, a massive tornado strikes the heartland making Mode's "Fashion Storm" cover look heartless.

Up at the retreat, Claire gets the bright idea to yank Willie's chain by having all cellphones and PDAs confiscated so that the participants can focus on matters at hand. While Daniel's out trying to "focus," a woman tumbles out of a tree nearly knocking him over. The spunky blonde named Molly turns out to be Connor's fiancee. So while Willie is pining for Connor, Daniel develops a crush on Connor's girl.

Looks like a love quadrangle is forming here...

Since Betty cannot reach Daniel on his cellphone, she decides to track him down at the retreat. "I smell pluck!" Marc says and instantly invites himself along. Not to be left out, Amanda joins the group who take Cliff's car upstate. Betty is freaking out because time is running out to stop the issue from hitting the stands. "Easy doesy, fuzzy wuzzy!" Marc reprimands.

When Amanda finds a receipt for wedding rings in Cliff's glove compartment, Marc freaks and drives off the road, damaging Cliff's car. But the unstoppable Betty finds another way to get a message to Daniel: she hires a skywriter to write "Daniel Call Betty" in the sky.

Her celebration at adverting a PR disaster is short-lived when the offensive issue hits the newsstands despite her efforts. It's a calculated ploy by Daniel and Willie who use the controversy to sell issues. The plan backfires when Betty is blamed for the snafu, earning her the nickname of "Tornado Girl" and all the hate mail she can handle.

Daniel is conflicted about the turn of events, but Willie handles it with her usual cold-bloodedness: "Taking the blame is what the little people are for," she tells Daniel.

Betty can't even find respite from the controversy at home: Justin sports a "Tornado Girl" t-shirt explaining, "There just hasn't been a t-shirt worthy scandal since Winona had her troubles!"

Hilda's weathering a storm of her own--her beauty salon permit was denied. She and Betty confront Councilman Archie Rodriguez (aka The Karate Kid) who tells them there's nothing he can do about it. He manages to find a loophole for Hilda, however, if she sells products, she can qualify as a "boutique."

Marc pulls Betty aside to tell her, "Not all birds fly south in the winter" and other cryptic comments. He directs her to Phil on the loading dock if she wants to find out how the Mode issue ended up being shipped out. Phil tries to avoid her questions telling her, "You're like a gnat in glasses!" but finally he caves and admits that he wasn't told NOT to ship the issues, he was directed to SHIP them.

Betty confronts Daniel who apologizes for her taking the heat, but that's not good enough for Betty. He grows a pair at the press conference and takes the fall for the controversy and promises to donate all the profits from the issue to a tornado relief fund.

The Office revolved around Michael's big international business trip to Winnepeg. Canada.

He brings Andy along as a translator--and Oscar. He's especially excited about the hotel Concierge because in Canada, a Concierge is the equivalent of a geisha.

Um, yeah right...

Meanwhile, Ryan tries to flirt with an uninterested Kelly. "This looks like where I'll do my push-ups every day," he tells her. She tells him she's with Darryl, but moments later the two are locked in a passionate embrace. Ryan convinces her to text Darryl and break up. Darryl's response: "It's cool." At that, Ryan cools a bit as well. He didn't seem quite as interested when it turned out Darryl wasn't upset. But in the end he says, "I realized that for whatever reason, I just couldn't do better than Kelly."

Kelly takes this as a compliment.

While Michael hooks up with the Concierge (Hmm, maybe they ARE the equivalents of a geisha in Canada!), Andy and Oscar get drunk on Long Island Iced Teas--which apparently are much stronger in Canada. Oscar asks Andy what in the world he sees in Angela. He is shocked to find out that Andy hasn't had sex with Angela yet, and convinces him to call her. Andy's too drunk to notice that Dwight is in the background while he drunk-dials his fiancee.

The next day, he has totally forgotten that he called until Oscar reminds him. His punishment: a return to first base. "What's first base with Angela?" Oscar asks. "I get to kiss her forehead," Andy replies.

In Jim and Pam news: the writers tried to fake us out that Pam would have to stay in New York City another 3 months to make up a class she failed. Everyone in the office goes from being psyched for Jim, to commiserating with him. Of course at the end of the episode, Pam was waiting for Jim as he left the office.

Aw!

Leave it to Dwight to normalize the moment by handing her a sheaf of papers to make copy of.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Not Towering Over the Rest

I'm a big fan of all things Neal Stephenson. One would think after the nearly three THOUSAND pages that the three books of The Baroque Cycle consisted of, I would be sated for quite a while. But when I heard he had a new book out, I excitedly ordered online from Tower.com.

Big mistake.

Not the book--I'm sure it's going to be fascinating. But Tower.com has to be the most inept organization EVER!

I ordered the book on July 29th. It was an advance order since the book's publication date wasn't until September 9th.

Not a problem--I could wait.

And wait I did. Tower e-mailed me on September 5th to notify me that my book had shipped (Yay!):

Dear Valued Customer,

We wanted you to be the first to know!

Your item, Anathem (Hardcover) / Neal Stephenson (Author), has just shipped from our distribution center and is on its way to you RIGHT NOW!

Shipping Information for Domestic Orders:

Standard Shipments are expected to arrive within 8-15 business days upon shipment...

Sincerely,
Tower Customer Care Department

I waited and waited. Then I contacted Tower:
Dear Tower,

As excited as I was to hear that my order was arriving imminently, I am just as disappointed to report that after 15 days of waiting, my book has not arrived.

Any idea what might have happened? I was really looking forward to reading it...

Regards,

Stella
The reply:
Dear Stella,

Yes your order was shipped on 09/05/2008
Anathem (Hardcover) / Neal Stephenson (Author)
Standard US Postal Service.
It usually takes 8-15 business days.

Regards,

Kieran
Tower Customer Service
After waiting some more:
It has now been 15 BUSINESS days since my order was shipped and I still have NOT received it. Could someone please track it down for me?

Thanks,

Stella
The response:
Dear Stella,

Sometimes the USPS may take 21 business days. If you have not received your order by 10/14/2008 please contact me.

Sincerely,

Kieran
Tower.com Customer Service
Are you KIDDING me? It doesn't take 21 business days to deliver a book! And October 14th wouldn't be 21 buiness days, it would be 31 business days!

My irate comeback:
You know, the original promise was 8-15 business days. In order for an item to take over a month for me to receive it, USPS must delivering to me on foot. At a rate of only 5 miles per day.

This is ridiculous--I have sent items via USPS and it takes no longer than a week. Please trace the item or re-ship it using a more reliable carrier. I should not have to wait 6 weeks to receive a book.
Three days later Tower responds:
Dear Stella,

It has been 21 business days since Anathem (Hardcover) / Neal Stephenson (Author) has shipped out. We will now consider this item lost in the mail, would you like a full refund or replacement?

Thank you for choosing Tower.com,
Kieran
Tower Team Member
I immediately reply:
Replacement. ASAP Please.

Thanks.
That was the 6th of October. More than three weeks later I had not received my book. I e-mail customer service on the 28th:
Has this been shipped out? Because I STILL have not received it.
A day later:
Dear Valued Customer,

Thank you for contacting Tower.com.

Please let us know the title of the item in question.

If you have any further questions, please reply to this email or forward your inquiries to info@tower.com.

Thank you for choosing Tower.com,
Mike
Tower Team Member
Hmm--wonder what happened to Kieran?
Neal Stephenson Anathem. If you had scrolled down the email, you would have
seen that.

It was originally shipped out on 9/5. It never showed up. It was supposed
to have been re-shipped weeks ago.

This is really irritating. I doubt I'll be ordering from Tower.com again.
Mike replies:
Dear Customer,

Sorry for the frustration! I have now ordered you a replacement.

I have ordered you a replacement for Anathem (Hardcover) / Neal Stephenson (Author).
We will contact you via email once it has been shipped.
Thank you for your patience.

Sincerely,

Mike
Tower Customer Service
I love being referred to as "Customer."

A week later I'm notified that my book has been shipped out:
Dear Valued Customer,

We wanted you to be the first to know!

Your item, Anathem (Hardcover) / Neal Stephenson (Author), has just shipped from our distribution center and is on its way to you RIGHT NOW!

Shipping Information for Domestic Orders:

Standard Shipments are expected to arrive within 8-15 business days upon shipment.

We hope you enjoy your order!

Thank you for choosing Tower.com - Your site for EVERYTHING ENTERTAINMENT!

Sincerely,
Tower Customer Care Department
Yeah--I've heard this before!

Now, a little over a week later (exactly one week if you account for the Veteran's Day holiday) it has FINALLY arrived!

It only took over TWO MONTHS from when they initially notified me about the shipment.

Idiots.

P.S. And, to add insult to injury, I've just noticed the copy they sent me is DAMAGED!!!

I hate Tower.com.

Even the Piemaker might not be able to revive this one...

Normally I'd be writing a recap/review of Pushing Daisies for this morning's post, but the quirky show has been preempted the past two weeks: last week by the election and this week by the CMAs.

Unfortunately, the show--which has been struggling to find an audience--may be drawing its last breath. There have been rumors of cancellation. If that's the case, creator Bryan Fuller is prepared to complete the story's arc--perhaps via cable or even through comic books.

If the series does suffer an untimely death, no doubt the talented people associated with it will land on their feet:

Fuller may return to writing for Heroes, Lee Pace is poised to be a major movie star (I know I will go see anything he's in!) and Kristin Chenoweth will go out and win yet another Tony award on Broadway.

So the only ones who will mourn the loss of the show are its fans.

Sigh.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Grace Under Pressure

They say men work
from sun to sun
but a woman's work
is never done
I seem to get
less than I give
but it still beats
the alternative
And I don't know
why men lie
I guess that's why
women cry...
You think by now
I'd know better
to stay or go
grace under pressure

I want to be
in control
and sometimes I want
to be controlled
And I don't know
how you intend
to determine
which and when
And I don't know
why men don't cry
they always have
an alibi
You think by now
I'd learn my lesson
to stay or go
grace under pressure

Seems to be too late
before I realize
Halfway's too far away
and so we reach no compromise

Like Diogenes I am
searching for an honest man
The effort seems to be
an exercise in futility
And I don't know
why men lie
I guess that's why
women cry
You think by now
I'd know better
to stay or go
grace under pressure...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Heroes - Villains

This whole season (Part Three) has been about "Villains." Why they felt the need to title last night's episode "Villains" and even change up the show's logo, I'm not sure. 'Cuz the only villain on the show last night was Arthur Petrelli.

Even good ol' Linderman was warm and fuzzy compared to the ice-water that runs through Papa Petrelli's veins. His plan to kill off son Nathan was thwarted when Linderman healed the scars in Angela's mind created by Arthur's mind control. (Hmmm, seems like Arthur's power is a bit like the Haitian's....)

I was pretty sure the soup Angela served Arthur was poisoned and I was right. "I lied. It's not your mother's recipe," Angela tells Arthur. The Haitian is there to help dispose of the body, but Nathan's arrival prevents that. Although the doctor tells Angela and Nathan that Arthur is dead, Arthur--even paralyzed--is still alive and able to use his mind control on him.

And that's the backstory of how Arthur Petrelli--who allegedly died in Season One--is back wreaking havoc in the world of the Heroes. It also explains why he's so pissed at Angela...

The rest of the episode focused on some of the other so-called villains' pasts--but by the time the show was over, you feel even more sympathy for Angela, Elle and even poor manipulated Sylar. At times it seemed a bit retrofitted and reverse engineered, but we got to revisit the car accident where Nathan's flying powers manifested--re-edited to include a confrontation with Arthur.

Claire's bio-Mom Meredith was featured prominently--which leads me to believe she'll be playing a much larger role this season compared to seasons past. Eric Roberts--looking pretty damn hot!--was also back as Agent Thompson. But he was killed at the end of season one, so it's doubtful he'll be seeing any more action this season.

But even his character was inbued with a softer side--as he cut Meredith free after learning that she was told Claire was dead. Flint, the fire guy who was one of the bad guys who escaped from level five at the beginning of the season, is Meredith's brother. With the exception of his fire-powers, he's not the brightest bulb in the world. "They're tricking you 'cuz you're dumb," Meredith tells him regarding his belief that the company is going to make him an agent. "God gave you a big sister instead of a brain."

The biggest piece of re-engineering was the Sylar plotline: it appears none other than Elle and Noah Bennet helped create the monster out of mild-mannered Gabriel Gray. Yes, so distraught over killing his first victim, Gabriel was about to commit suicide. Only to be rescued by Elle, who shoots a bolt of electricity and severs the noose. There seemed to be some sparks between Elle and Gabriel--and not just the ones that shoot out of her fingertips. Perhaps we'll see a romance between the two later on this season...

Electricity girl was not there by accident--she was working with Noah Bennet to get Sylar to demonstrate his powers. After the contrived crossing of paths, Bennet snarks to Elle, "Cute meet."

(Uh, it's "meet-cute"--aka the standard initial contact used traditionally in romantic comedies.)

While the meeting with Elle and Sylar may not have been random, the episode featured several paths crossing (Mohinder as a cabbie for Noah Bennet, for one). Seems like Heroes is taking some cues from LOST...

The whole episode was part of Hiro's spirit walk--and upon awaking, Hiro is compelled to warn Nathan and Angela about Arthur. Uh, note to Hiro: You're too late! But he found that out soon enough, making the gruesome discovery of the beheaded tribal guy. (Aw, poor tribal guy! We hardly knew ye! Perhaps Hiro will go back in time and fix it...) The killer? None other than big baddy Arthur Petrelli--who turns his mind control towards Hiro in an attempt to make his head explode (At least that's what I THINK happened to poor tribal guy!).

Yeah, Arthur's a villain all right...I'm predicting Ando will somehow come to the rescue. Maybe by waving those hallucenogenic fumes under Arthur's nose?