Friday, January 30, 2009

Something's Fishy

From Word Journal:


adjective • /ˈskɒmbrɔɪd/ • resembling the mackerel

I think this is going to become a new favorite insult.

"His face? Totally scombroid!"

Second Semester!!!


I am obsessed with this web series. The writing is great, the actors are fantastic, and I need to see what happens with these hallmates.

Although it does make me want to go back to college like crazy. Anyone need a roommate?

A Team Player

Obama's all about working with Democrats and Republicans, but when it comes to the Superbowl, he had to make a choice.

Steelers fans rejoice!

28 Exits Later

Drivers in Austin are warned about the usual things--construction, accidents, icy roads.

And oh yeah, zombies.

Someone hacked into the electronic road signs' computer system so it flashed phrases such as "CAUTION! ZOMBIES AHEAD!!!" and "RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!"

Personally, I think that's pretty awesome. They're not warning about a serial killer or a pile-up or dangerous road conditions. It's zombies, people. Have a little fun with it. (Until the day the dead rise up, of course.)

But not everyone thinks it's a good joke:

"'Even though this may seem amusing to a lot of people, this is really serious, and it is a crime,' said Austin Public Works spokesperson Sara Hartley. 'And you can be indicted for it, and we want to make sure our traffic on the roadways stays safe.'"

Really? Did they cause any problems? I hope they're just saying this and aren't planning to really go after these people.

Or maybe the sign was just warning people about their fellow commuters. I know I feel like a zombie when I have to get up and go to work.

Let the zombies run free!

Oh You're My Stock Advisor, Baby

Topical and pop-ical.

Investment tantalizer!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow

Sometimes Thursday can feel like you're in prison--so close to the weekend, yet so far away. Break out with the Soggy Bottom Boys.

I love the funny George Clooney dance.

A Good Dog Story

I think Disney is ready to option this story about Daisy, aka "the Dooze," beloved dog of sports writer Bill Simmons. It's one of the sweetest pet stories I've read. You might cry at your desk. I have a heart of ice and I almost lost it by the end.

The Dooze is the dog you hope to get. She's vivacious, independent, and occasionally saves the day. Forget that Marley puppy. Fall in love with the Dooze.

Also, I love how Simmons approaches it kind of like a sports article. Except here, the sport is throwing/chasing/catching a ball.

You've (Not) Got Mail

It's a tough time for the postal industry, what with these fancy new emailer machines around. They've got to figure out ways to save money. First it was raising the price of stamps every 48 hours. Now the Postmaster General is suggesting that mail delivery be reduced to five days a week, possibly cutting out Saturday or Tuesday. Postmaster General John E. Potter said:

"If current trends continue, we could experience a net loss of $6 billion or more this fiscal year."


It sounds like a reasonable solution to save money. (Although I do wonder about the post office employees and who is going to be fired/have to take a pay cut because of this.) Generally, these days people do so much with email that not a lot of people are waiting by their mailboxes on any given day. Plus, people are thinking greener, so they're not getting as many catalogs and choosing to pay bills online.

I'm still one of those people who doesn't pay bills online, so if this happens, I'll have to think more carefully about when I race to the mailbox to pay my rent.

(Not So Guilty) Displeasures

I hate when magazine interviewers ask celebrities about their guilty pleasures, which inevitably are chocolate/tacos/shoes/something else really ordinary. Sorry guys, those aren't guilty pleasures. Those are just things normal people tend to like. Why feel guilty about enjoying that new handbag? Know what you should feel guilty about loving? The Mary-Kate and Ashley straight-to-video movies. That's just weird. Chocolate? Not so much.

But the fine people at A.V. Club have shifted the focus a little. They're looking at the things they don't like that everyone else is gaga over. The guilty displeasures, if you will:

"Maybe you never understood why critics go apeshit for The Velvet Underground and Nico. Or maybe you didn't think that No Country For Old Men was that great. Whatever it is, everyone has at least one work of art that they just don't understand the hype about. What are yours?"

Good question! Two repeat choices were Judd Apatow movies and There Will Be Blood (aww). Others included the Beach Boys, Forrest Gump, and comic books (double aww).

That got me thinking about mine own guilty displeasures. Although generally, I don't feel too guilty about hating things. Take Hemingway--people love this guy. They always list him among the best. Me, I can never find emotional resonance in his books. (Hills Like White Elephants is another matter, probably because it's about a page long.) But I also tell people all the time how much of a hack I think he is.

Other guilty displeasures:
  • Southpark. Maybe it's just because every frickin' kid quoted it when I was in middle school. But I think it's also the fact that the voices really grate on my nerves and the animation is poor. And yet somehow I'm the only one (aside from another AV Club writer) who doesn't get what's so funny.
  • 27 Dresses. Usually I romantic comedies, even the lame ones. They're at least entertaining. But I've never been more upset than when the credits rolled after this movie. I thought I'd start a fire or tear someone's face off. And yet every other girl I've talked to thinks it was at least "cute."
  • The Beastie Boys. If you were under the age of 15 in the 90s, you probably bounced around to one of their songs. But I think they're kind of obnoxious and (again) grating. "You've gotta fight for your right to party?" No wonder people thought teenagers were nothing but selfish slackers. Fight for your right to not be a drain on society, ass.
  • Tom Waits. His "my voice has been soaked in bourbon and lighter fluid" thing seems kind of like a schtick to me. And I don't want to listen to that for over three minutes. Although he does seem like he's pretty funny, so I can't hate him altogether.
  • I'm going to go out on a limb here with LOL Cats and FAIL blog. Because sometimes they're absolutely fantastic and will send me into a fit of silent laughter. But it takes a specal kind of person to get it right. Most of the time, people don't. Leave it to the professionals, people.
Have your own (maybe not so) guilty displeasures? Disagree with mine? Leave 'em in the comments.

Ms. Pac Man

Here's a tribute to a lady worth honoring.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

When Words Come to Life

This reminds me of something that would be on Sesame Street, to help kids learn words, except even cooler.

Some favorites:

Slankets are lame.

I know there are people who are big fans of the snuggle and the slanket, but this spoof-mercial is essentially what I thought the first time I ever saw the product. And they're right, the flashlight looks stupid and pointless.

There's No Waving in Drumline!

Sometimes, when you're faced with someone famous and important, you forget where you are and what you're doing. Like at the inauguration. Everyone was excited about Obama. Including Ohio drum major John Coleman, who was part of the Cleveland Firefighters Memorial Pipes & Drums band, which performed at the inauguration parade.

Apparently, during the nationally televised parade, Coleman was seen nodding toward Obama, and waving a few steps later. Not exactly protocol for marching bands, unless it's the St. Martin's Elementary School Band. Coleman says this slip was because he made eye contact with Obama:

"Contact was made with our eyes both together and he smiled and waved at the band. And just as a gesture, I nodded my head. I gave him a slight wave and went on."

Unfortunately, this eye contact has cost Coleman his position. First he was suspended for breaking with military protocol; now he's resigned altogether.

Poor Coleman. I know that wasn't the most professional moment of his life, but I probably would have freaked out a little, too. Once, when I was four, I took ballet and we had a little recital at this nursing home. When I saw my brother wave to me, I stopped mid-dance, waved, and then realized I missed a couple steps. In other words, I feel you, drum guy.

Run Rabbit!

In case you haven't heard already, John Updike, Pulitzer prize-winning novelist and short story writer, passed away yesterday. He was 76 and had been battling lung cancer.

I always feel a little guilty when a major writer dies and I don't go prostrate with grief. Like Kurt Vonnegut died a couple of years ago. I'm all about the books. Shouldn't I feel something?

Of course, I would freak my brain out if JK Rowling died. She'll just have to live forever.

The Two Worst Words in the English Language

Wintry Mix

Not as fun as snow. Not as easy to get through as rain.

This is basically what the view from my office looks like. Can we go home now?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Break My Heart

You know Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, that adorable couple of from the movie Once? Who got Oscars for their song "Falling Slowly?" And who put together the Swell Season?

Yeah. They're not together anymore.

Hansard says:

"I think it was just a very natural part of what we were doing together. We had made the film. We had gone through so much with the Oscar. Of course, we fell into each other's arms. It was a very necessary part of our friendship but I think we both concluded that that wasn't what we really wanted to do. So we're not together now. We’re just really good friends."

I hope it was a mutal, decisive thing, because I love the result when they work together and I'd hate to see them stop playing together just because they're no longer dating. Plus, Hansard is much older than Irglova. (He's 38, she's almost 21.) I wonder if that--being at different places in their lives--had something to do with it.

Even so, I'm a little crushed. They were so cute together!

Oh well. Keep making the music, guys.

They'll Claw Your Face Off at Night

Usually, I like to think that crazy people have their own, unique ideas. Some guy wants to dress up his dogs in Star Wars costumes, that's his own problem. But most people like their pets to be pets...right?

Wrong. And Pets Who Want to Kill Themselves is here to document this particular breed of insanity. Just a few favorites:

Come on, people. Pets aren't toys. They're not little humans. They're not your babies. They're animals. They have dignity.

Even though I find all of this really funny.

Just Look at This, Richard

Quite possibly the best complaint letter ever, sent to Virgin Atlantic after a Mumbai-to-London passenger was unable with his meal. It starts out good and gets even better.

"Look at this Richard. Just look at it.

I imagine the same questions are racing through your brilliant mind as were racing through mine on that fateful day. What is this? Why have I been given it? What have I done to deserve this? And, which one is the starter, which one is the desert?"

A problem we've all faced, I'm sure. But wow, this guy comes out with the best metaphor for disappointment I've seen in years. I'm not even going to quote it because it's so great in context. You'll have to read it for yourselves; totally worth it.

Those Kids Today

It's one of those big fears that never goes away. Kids are having sex! All over the place! All kinds of sex! Without protection! With multiple partners! Your child will turn into Juno! Except not as funny!

But it turns out that teenagers today are actually not having as much sex as they've had in previous generations, despite recent alarm about teen sex/pregnancy being on the rise. Of course, if you're a parent I'm sure you'd rather your child didn't have sex at all, maybe until he or she turned 45. So even statistics like "47.8 percent as of 2007, according to the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, down from 54.1 percent in 1991" might not look fantastic. But even so, it goes against the recent fears about kids having more and more sex in risky situations.

That said, teens today are engaging in less "relationships" and having more casual encounters that might not lead to a full-blown relationship. Take that as you will. I think that, as long as teens are safe, that's not as much of an issue. (After all, how long do high school relationships even last?) But sometimes emotional triggers can make those encounters way more complicated--no matter how old you are.

One note I found interesting:

"The latest rise in teenage pregnancy rates is cause for concern. But it very likely reflects changing patterns in contraceptive use rather than a major change in sexual behavior. The reality is that the rate of teenage childbearing has fallen steeply since the late 1950s. The declines aren’t explained by the increasing availability of abortions: teenage abortion rates have also dropped."

Maria Kefalas, Associate Professor of Society at St. Joseph's University, claims, "This creeping up of teen pregnancy is not because so many more kids are having sex, but most likely because more kids aren’t using contraception."

Another reason why 'Abstinence Only' education doesn't work. If teens are going to have sex, they're going to have it. Better that they know about contraception and use it the right way. But again, it looks like more teens are waiting until their late teens or 20s to actually have sex anyway. Maybe because they're more aware of consequences or less inclined to feel pressured by their peers about the sex issue.

It's not exactly a turn back to Puritan values. Of course, even in previous generations that were supposedly "waiting for marriage," most people still had sex before that. So it's not like teens today are having a lot more sex anyway than their 1950's counterparts. Hopefully they just have a better sense of what sex means and how to protect themselves.

Game Shows Today Suck in Comparison

Does Deal or No Deal have surrealist artists? No, it just has models with suitcases. Lame.

What's My Line rocks for asking on really wild people. Also, Dali thinks he does a little of everything.

Boom De Yadda

Who doesn't love xkcd? It's quite simply one of the best webcomics ever. And now someone made a video for it!

I love the internet.

Monday, January 26, 2009

My Heart Is Melting

I love the Obamas. How adorable are they? Click through for more pictures from the first 48 hours of Obama's presidency.

We Have a Winner!

The ALA awards were announced today--arguably the biggest awards in contemporary children's literature. Take a look at the winners and honor books:

2009 Newbery Winner:

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman

2009 Newbery Honor books:

The Underneath, by Kathi Appelt
Savvy, by Ingrid Law
After Tupac and D Foster, by Jacqueline Woodson
Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle

2009 Printz Winner:

Jellicoe Road by Marlene Marchetta

2009 Printz Honor Books:

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves by M.T. Anderson
Nation by Terry Pratchett
Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

2009 Caldecott Winner:

The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson and Beth Krommes

2009 Caldecott Honor Books:

A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee
River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet
How I Learned Geography by Uri Shulevitz

Now I have a ton more books to add to my reading list. Congratulations to all the authors and illustrators!

Bringing Some Life Back to Animation

Although I love the work of Pixar and the pre-21st century Disney stuff, I have a special place in my heart for stop-action animation (usually claymation). You know, the stuff in The Nightmare Before Christmas and the Wallace and Gromit movies. It actually takes a lot of time and effort to put together a full feature-length film using stop-action animation, so you don't get to see a lot of these films anymore, especially with all the wonders of computer animation.

But this year Coraline is taking us back to that old-school of animation. The creators are using whatever they can get their hands on to make a visually fantastic experiece:

"A quarter-million pieces of popcorn are transformed into cherry blossoms, superglue and baking soda are whipped into snow, and black fishing line becomes creepy chest hair.

In all, the crew hand-built 150 sets and 250 jointed puppets, as well as plants and toys with countless moving parts."

That's dedication to your film. I'm really excited to see how it all turns out. And since it has director Henry Selick, who did The Nightmare Before Christmas and the charming James and the Giant Peach, I'm hopeful.

Check out what the art team did to make Coraline's world come to life.

Celluloid Ceiling

From Film Experience:

"Another note regarding snubs. No cinematography mentions for either Australia or The Wrestler means the record still stands: no female DP has ever been nominated for that particular honor."

What the hell? No female DP has ever been nominated? Film still really is an old boys' game. Forget Clinton and the glass ceiling in politics. It's even harder to get ahead as a woman in Hollywood.

Of course, the Oscars have been reduced to insignificance anyway.

Spelling Bee

From World Journal:


noun • a nonexistent letter of the alphabet which some children think comes between ‘k’ and ‘p’

Love this. (But is it in the OED? If not, it should be.)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Waiting for Public Transportation

This is in Finland, but at first I was sure it would be Boston.

At least winter is lovely to look at.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Gotta love Pat Buchanan.

I just can't get enough of this...

Still a sucker for a good nom nom

How can you say no to the cute?

Snack Time

I made coconut biscotti recently, and brought some into the office yesterday. Definitely one of the biggest hits so far. One professor asked for the recipe, and another described them as "the best biscotti ever" with a "subtle" flavor. This recipe is amazing with coffee or tea.

Biscotti is actually a lot easier to make than you'd think. Plus it makes you'll have a treat with your afternoon coffee that doesn't cost more than your actual coffee.

I drizzled/dipped them with both white and dark chocolate. Double fisting!

The recipe is from Annie's Eats (no, not this Annie), another favorite cooking blog. Try it out! (The picture is hers.)

Did Bush Use Carrier Pigeons?

The Obama campaign was all about using current technology--contacting people through emails. Asking people to donate little amounts online, matching people up with similar online donors, etc. Obama loves his Blackberry and doesn't want to let go. So when the Obama team moved into the White House, they were not happy with what they found:

"Obama officials ran smack into the constraints of the federal bureaucracy yesterday, encountering a jumble of disconnected phone lines, old computer software, and security regulations forbidding outside e-mail accounts. What does that mean in 21st-century terms? No Facebook to communicate with supporters. No outside e-mail log-ins. No instant messaging."

Man. That's like going to work one day and finding out that your office has disconnected you from Youtube, Facebook, and (worst of all) G-chat. (I know. Terrifying, but it happens.)

The new administration wants to be all up on technology and using that to connect with citizens, which I think is great. It encourages people to be informed because they feel like part of the process. It may even lead to people doing more research about a topic that inspires/enrages them and contacting their local government official about changes. But apparently it's a long way to go to get the White House set up to that level.

"It is kind of like going from an Xbox to an Atari," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said of his new digs."


I actually find it kind of amazing that, even in the last eight years, "Laptops were scarce, assigned to only a few people in the West Wing." I mean, I know Obama represents a new (tech-savvy) generation taking control, but Bush entered office in 2000. Even my family had the internet by then. How did most people in the White House survive without a laptop? Did they only have one available at meetings?

Of course, I also like to imagine Bush, Cheney, and Rice sending smoke signals, calling for the Pony Express, and writing long, wordy letters. It might explain a lot of our foreign relations problems.


As former UVA students Annie and I are always quick to make a jab or two at Virginia Tech. The rivalry between the two big state schools has a long history. Unfortunately, I can't say I even know how to make a joke about this one. Not two years shy of the massive Blacksburg campus killing spree, we've had another bone chilling act of violence. A graduate student decapitated another graduate student in front of other people (in the middle of an Au Bon Pain)

Seriously. What the fuck is going on down there that kids are doing shit like this?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Holy Shit

Who knew whale seals had such fury?

I could watch this over and over.

Some Previous Oscar Winners/Nominees

What's the big thing today? The Dark Knight and Wall-E got shut out of the major Academy Award categories. Not a surprise. But I'd like to look at some films that have won/been nominated that probably wouldn't stand a chance today just because they're not about serious people doing serious things.

It Happened One Night, 1934:
It's sassy. It's hysterical. It's sexy, especially when you consider it was made in 1934. (Clarke Gable takes his shirt off.) It wouldn't get nominated today. (Also nominated that year was The Thin Man, a comedy-murder-mystery with two of the coolest detectives ever, Nick and Nora Charles.)

The Adventures of Robin Hood, 1938:
Errol Flynn is a jovial, thoughtful Robin in this swashbuckling adventure. Is it particularly deep? No. Is it a lot of fun? Hell yeah. It's everything you want Robin Hood to be. (Compared to this, The Dark Knight is basically No Country For Old Men in terms of big, dark themes.)

Roman Holiday, 1953:
A beautiful princess (Audrey Hepburn) needs a day to herself and runs away in Rome. A reporter (Gregory Peck) finds her and shows her around, knowing he's got the best scoop in town. Romantic tension follows. It's one of the most charming movies ever. But apparently charming isn't good enough for an Oscar these days.

Annie Hall, 1977:
It's one of the best looks at relationships ever. It's hard to even call it a romantic comedy--it's about a relationship and it's funny, but there's nothing cutesy about it. Woody Allen and Diane Keaton nail their parts. And even though the ending is bittersweet, most viewers will agree that everyone "needs the eggs." (Also, it's the last time a comedy has won. Over thirty years ago. How fucked up is that?)

My point is that the Academy has forgotten that not all "great movies" are intense movies. Sometimes they're comedies. Sometimes they're action films. Sometimes they're romances. Sometimes they might even be animated. If we can't acknowledge different kinds of greatness, what are we acknowledging?

Nerds Take Hollywood

One of my pet peeves: celebrities who complain about being celebrities. Of course, it would be pretty annoying to go get milk at the grocery store and be followed by people shouting and snapping your picture. But remember those free designer clothes in your closet? And that multi-million dollar paycheck you got for your last film? Yeah. That's the exchange.

But some celebrities are cool with the fame. They like their fans. They're nerds, just like the rest of us. They don't do coke with Lindsay Lohan; they play Halo with Nathan Fillion. Here are a few of Hollywood's hippest celebs:

Kristen Bell:
I haven't seen Veronica Mars (I know), but everyone says it's right up my alley. And even though she's technically part of the Gossip Girl cast, she eschews drama. Plus, she loves nerds:

"The bottom line is, everyone's a loser in their own right. Here's why I like geek culture: People like what they like because they like it. They're not trying to fit into any mainstream likes or dislikes. You want to dress up like a Star Wars character and go to Comic-Con? Do it, if that's what makes you happy. People might look at you as super-weird, but if that's your obsession, go for it."

Would Paris Hilton ever say that? Hell no. More power to Bell.

Wil Wheaton:
I'll admit it. I had a crush on Wesley Crusher when I was six. (Bald Captain Picard wasn't my style.) He was a teen in space--how cool is that? And apparently Wil himself is cool, too. He blogs and has written books like Just a Geek, which Amazon says includes: "Discovering the joys of HTML, blogging, Linux, and web design." Adorable.

Felicia Day:
Yes, my secret big sister. Aka--Penny from Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog. Aka--Potential Slayer. Aka--creator of the online web series The Guild. Aka--that totally awesome redhead. Could she be any cooler?

Nathan Fillion:
I want to hang out with Nathan Fillion. He's an awesome actor--check out Firefly, Dr. Horrible, and Waitress. He likes comic books and holds Halo tournaments. He would post on fan forums, signing off as "The Cap'n." I love him singing anything on the Dr. Horrible soundtrack. I would put him in my imaginary family tree, but I crush too hard to do that.

Everyone on this list should totally be my friend. We'd have an awesome time together. No coke snorking with Lindsay,

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What Was the Editing Like?

Sometimes books are made into movies. Sometimes movies are made into novelizations. Sometimes novels in movies are made into novels.

Like the novel Jack Torrance is working on in The Shining. Everyone wants to read that.

Stephen King/Stanley Kubrick fan and New York artist Phil Buehler did. He's self-published the book he thinks Torrance put together.

You know, the one that was pages and pages of "All work and no play make Jack a dull boy."

Fortunately, he doesn't just write page after page of that. Cut and paste can do that for me. Buehler actually thought about the process of going crazy in relation to that phrase and its representation on the page, using different formatting--shapes, zigzags, spirals, etc. He even used the same formatting he'd have to if he were working on a typewriter, just like Jack. Just like any other writer, Buehler had his moments of block:

"I thought 'if he continues to get crazier, what would those pages look like?' I hit writer's block about 60 pages in, and I had to get to 80 - that went on for about a week."

I'm writing my thesis this semester. Maybe if I get stuck, I can just go this route--play around with one phrase and the formatting.

Even though I'm not going to shell out money for this project, I always like when people have fun with books. Break them apart. Put them back together. Get active. Just don't try to axe your family in the process.

More Mariners and Chimneysweeps, to Be Sure

Colin Meloy talks about the Decemberists' upcoming album, The Hazards of Love.

So excited! The Crane Wife, their last album, was amazing; the Decemberists just keep getting better and better.

Meloy describes Hazards as more narrative and a little darker than some of the singles they've released lately. He calls it a "folk opera." (Not in the Broadway fashion.) What other band would do that? Awesomeness.

Next Year's Last Minute Halloween Costume

Death via papercut? Revenge is the lemon juice?

Tiny Trunk

If the Republicans had used this tiny elephant as their mascot, they might have won. (Save the baby elephants for next time, guys.)

He's so bitty!!!

You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth

Obama is a great speaker. From the campaign trail to interviews to his inaugural address, he knows how to connect with people through his words. But he doesn't come up with his speeches at the moment. In fact, he has help, just like any other politician. He has speechwriters. And at the forefront of this team is Jon Favreau.

Jon is 27.

I know. It makes me feel like a failure, too.

But it also makes me realize how the baton is really being passed in this administration. The baby boomers are on their way out of the political sphere, and a new generation is taking over. Sure, Jon is the youngest speechwriter ever in the White House, and he's done such impressive things for his age, but hopefully it's also a sign of other good things to come--that more people their twenties and thirties will be taking an active role in politics and the world at large.

When talking about Favreau's writing on the campaign trail, it mentions that he "would be up most nights until 3am, honing the next day's stump speeches in a caffeine haze of espressos and Red Bull energy drinks, taking breaks to play the video game Rock Band." I think that's what most people did writing papers in college. So maybe he's not so different.

As for the inaugural speech:

"Obama is an accomplished writer in his own right, and the process of drafting with his mind reader is collaborative. The inaugural speech has shuttled between them four or five times, following an initial hour-long meeting in which the president-elect spoke about his vision for the address, and Favreau took notes on his computer.

Favreau then went away and spent weeks on research. His team interviewed historians and speech writers, studied periods of crisis, and listened to past inaugural orations. When ready, he took up residence in Starbucks in Washington and wrote the first draft."

And I bet he looked like any other twentysomething working on his laptop. I'm interested to see Obama's speeches over the next four (eight?) years.

The politics of fashion

Here's my lady-fied take on the inaugural evening festivities:

First there was, of course, our new FLOTUS's gown. Beautiful. Stunning. I've heard criticism of the silhouette being less than flattering for her but I think that's being too strict and assuming that the only acceptable silhouette is the one that makes her a skinny mini. The woman would look statuesque in a potato sack, but this made her look sexy yet appropriately elegant and classy. Combine that with the dress we saw this morning and this only helps to increase the Obama's Camelot-redux vibe. And the first dance for the First couple was accompanied by the second biggest diva of the day, Ms. Beyoncé. Not too shabby, B.

And we're getting more than one new well dressed woman in Washington if today is any hint of the future. Dr. Jill Biden had a gorgeous red dress that showed off her great little body. Although Michelle takes center stage, this woman is quite a hottie (and a PhD, what what!)

And from my own personal world, Hoda Kotb was covering the BET Ball for NBC and although she's too humble to even care what the label was, she was an absolute knock out.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

In Case You Missed It

Here's the full text of Obama's inauguration speech.

As always, he was well-spoken, thoughtful, and asked for a call to action on the part of all Americans. We have to make better choices at every level--from the very top all the way down:

"Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task."

The bold is my doing--he didn't speak funny.

And can I just say how nice it is to have a president who speaks well? I love words.

History of (Inauguration) Dress

Politics are great. But this year, there's another big issue on everyone's minds.

What will Michelle Obama wear?

Before we get to see her ball gown, let's look at some of the first ladies of past administrations. And it's a quiz, so it has a fun game element, too. Pretend you're Tim Gunn and choose your favorites.

(History of Dress kids, I expect this one to be fairly easy for you. Make G West proud!)

Get Retro

Before Obama's inauguration speech, you can check out some inauguration speeches from days of yore. Okay, maybe not yore--no periwigs here--but back to McKinley, whose second term inauguration speech was the first ever recorded. (Pretty nifty!) And there are some classics, such as FDR's and Kennedy's. Take notes, compare to Obama's, be nerdy.

Maybe someday you can be as nerdy as ladyface crush Sarah Vowell.

All Day Distractions

If you're like me, you'll be watching the inauguration from your desk. (The joys of the modern workday.) Thankfully, the events will also be covered online. Check out all the options available to people who are stuck at their desks.

It's also available on Hulu. (And then afterwards, you can watch your favorite episode of Buffy and think about how she could be Secretary of Defense.)

Also, check out the schedule of events. Obama's getting sworn in at noon, but there's a ton of stuff before and after to distract you from your usual work.

Monday, January 19, 2009

He's So Scary and I Love It

Lost is coming back. This week. So freakin' excited!

Get yourself all twitterpated by checking out this interview with Michael Emerson. Yep, Ben Linus, the evil genius himself. He's been such a phenomenal character since his introduction a few seasons ago, and Emerson has brought so much to the show.

Also, Ben was never intended to be a full-time character. But what would we have done without all his mind games?

Don't worry--there aren't any spoilers in this brief interview, if you'd seen all of the show up to this point. But one question I love:

Ben is often reading or quoting authors. Do you take the time to read the books he does?
There are no accidents in the world of props on Lost—the books are carefully chosen. This season, there’s a scene where I’m reading Ulysses by James Joyce. It’s on my winter reading list.

Lit nerds out there--any theories?

Readers Are Back

You know what people say: "Kids today play video games, they don't read." "No one cares about books." "People don't want to pick up a book when they can watch TV." "These kids today are illiterate." "Get off my lawn!"

But apparently people are heading back to books. Specifically libraries. This article by author Ann Patchett discusses how more people are returning to reading, and how books are still relevant in our lives. She writes:

"The rumor is we'll play around with a Kindle or an I-Book for awhile but eventually give up on the whole endeavor, the logic being who would want to read a book when there are so many enticing video games to play and Web sites to surf. But I'm more of the Charlton Heston school: you'll get my paperback of "One Hundred Years of Solitude" away from me when you pry it out of my cold, dead hands."

Hehehe. Nice reference.

I feel the same way. There's nothing like a real book in your hands. And now, because of the economy, people are looking for cheaper methods of entertainment. It's hard to go to the movies every weekend, because that's $10 a ticket. And even the television and internet take electricity. But a library card gets you tons of books for free. Plus:

"A movie can give you two hours of entertainment, but a book can go on for days or even weeks."

Of course, I'm still a little scared for the publishing industry. But hopefully this is a good gateway for readers.

Racism and the Classroom

Today is Martin Luther King Day. Tomorrow Barack Obama officially becomes president. And one teacher in Portland wants to cut books from the curriculum because they use the n-word.

Which books? Oh right. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird.

It's not the first time either of these books have been changed, for various reasons. But this is what English teacher John Foley wrote a guest column for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

"The time has arrived to update the literature we use in high school classrooms...Barack Obama is president-elect of the United States, and novels that use the 'N-word' repeatedly need to go."

Apparently, in teaching Huck Finn, Foley consistently runs into the issue of the n-word and how it makes his students--largely white but occasionally black as well--feel:

"With few exceptions, all the black students in my classes over the years have appeared very uncomfortable when I've discussed these matters at the beginning of the unit. And I never want to rationalize 'Huck Finn' to an angry African American mom again as long as I breathe."

That's totally understandable. I'm sure I wouldn't like to teach that part of the curriculum, either. And frankly, I'm not a huge Huck Finn fan. The ending is ridiculous and basically counteracts all the anti-racism revelations Huck experiences early on. But the issue here is largely the use of the n-word, which is, without a doubt, one of the most hurtful and controversial terms in the English language. No matter how uncomfortable it makes people feel, you can't pretend it doesn't exist. Teens hear the word in songs, in comic shows, on tv, everywhere. It's not like they don't know it. I think it would actually be detrimental to allow teens to hear the n-word in some song and not discuss it in relationship to literature that deals with racism.

Especially To Kill a Mockingbird. I thought Foley wasn't an idiot until:

"The character Tom Robinson is very noble, he said, "but again, he's uneducated, inarticulate. I was just thinking, for students here in Washington anyway, wouldn't 'Snow Falling on Cedars' be just as valuable?""

Oddly enough, I read both books in high school. What do I remember about Snow Falling on Cedars? The basic historical context. The novel itself didn't really impress me. Also, it's about the Japanese-American experience. Is he going to cut out the Africian-American experience entirely from his curriculum? And on top of that, I hate the idea that Tom Robinson is "uneducated, inarticulate." Is he a black man in the South in the 1930's, not allowed to have an education? Of course. But that doesn't mean he's inarticulate. Lee specifically compares him and his family to the Ewells, white and uneducated and cruel and racist. The Robinsons may not speak with the best of the English language, but Tom never comes across as uneducated and inarticulate. He's one of the most sensitive, thoughtful characters in the book. His experience is absolutely tragic, and I think American teens would lose so much by not having this book in their high schools.

Basically, I think Foley wants to pretend that problems don't exist. Should teachers constantly reassess the books their students are reading? Of course. New classics come along all the time. (For example, I think the Octavian Nothing books could do very well on a high school reading list, especially when the topic is racism.) But to get rid of To Kill a Mockingbird because you don't like talking about one word? Cowardly, I'd say. We need to confront these issues that are still present in our society. That's the only way we'll ever get passed them.