amyscoop.com

JUNE 2001

Friday, June 29, 2001
Some weeks are good for certain things, and for me, this was a good week for salad. Yes, salad.

It started on Saturday when Mike and I went to the farmer's market a few blocks away. We were walking around and looking at all the produce on the different stands. When we stopped at one of them, the man behind it started talking to us about the salad mix he was selling, and how it was unbelievably fresh, organic, had three kinds of lettuce including baby beet greens -- baby beet greens! -- and was just picked two days ago, and on and on and on. Finally, we just bought a bag so we wouldn't have to listen to anymore. But you know what? It was really, really good. In fact, I've had some every day this week and am feeling super healthy because of it. So now I have to go to the farmer's market tomorrow morning and find the guy and admit that he was right and buy another bag.

Then today, I had lunch at a restaurant in the neighborhood. I ordered a salad that had normal salad greens (not as good as the farmer's market salad, but still good), blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, yellow peppers, red onions, gorgonzola cheese, and some kind of citrus-y dressing. I think it was the best salad I've ever had. I couldn't really enjoy it right, though, like I would if I were with friends or with Mike, because I was having lunch with someone who was talking business and offering me a job. So I kind of picked at it, took most of it home, and polished it off within ten minutes of walking through the door. Good salad!

After reading back over what I just wrote, I'm kind of depressed that salads were the highlight of my week. Maybe next week will be more exciting.

Thursday, June 28, 2001
Watched Before Night Falls last night. It was pretty good, and Javier Bardem does an excellent job. It also reminded me of one of my biggest movie pet peeves: unnecessary accents. It seems to me that if you have a movie about people from Cuba (like the movie I watched light night), they shouldn't be speaking English with a Spanish accent. They should be speaking Spanish! Oh, what? It's a movie for predominantly English-speaking audiences? Fine. Then either put subtitles on it or have the actors speak English without the accent. I guess the accent makes the movie seem more authentic to some people, but it just pisses me off.

The worst instance of this bad accent thing is in the made-for-tv version of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment that was on a few years ago. This sounded like a mistake from the start, since made for tv movies usually suck, it's kind of hard to squeeze that story into two hours (with commercials), and putting existentialism on film leaves a lot out because so much of the narrative is the characters' thoughts. But anyway, they did it, and with Noah Wylie, and not only was it god awful, but the fake Russian accents made me cringe. It was just a bad movie all around, and I only mention it here because it's so bad. If I've stopped only one person from renting it this weekend at Blockbuster (because the blasted thing is available on video), then I've done my job. Crime and Punishment is a rather fine book, though, and I'd highly recommend reading it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2001
Even though it's not on their website yet, Celestial Seasonings has started making iced tea and juice products. They come in twenty ounce bottles. One of them is called Magic Energy. It contains a bunch of tropical-ish fruit juices and caffeine, two kinds of ginseng, and something called guarana. I had one at the meeting I was at yesterday afternoon because I was kind of zonked. It tasted pretty good.

Warning: Celestial Seasonings Magic Energy beverage will mess you up. Yes, you. I was up until one last night -- very late for me. I had to get up early and was less than chipper. Went to work this afternoon and -- surprise! -- there were some in the help-yourself fridge. So I had half of the bottle this time. I got home about fifteen minutes ago, and boy do I have the shakes. I feel like my lungs are vibrating or something. Magic Energy, my ass. It's fruity speed. Beware. (Unless you're into that kind of thing.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2001
This New York animation site rocks. The Wall Street, New Jersey, and "Rest of the USA" sections are exactly what I expected. Link courtesy of...well, what do you know...my brother.

After reading in about two dozen places that Dave Eggers is "the voice" of a generation, blah blah blah, I finally read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I don't know about Eggers being a voice for anyone -- that kind of high-pressure label can get slapped on a writer way too early -- but it is an entertaining read. I sort of wanted to not like it, especially after having to wade through several pages of gushing, lavish praise, but it actually was as good as the critics said. One of the more interesting parts of the book for me was the goings-on at Might Magazine, since I used to really enjoy reading it in college and have kept the famed and fabled issue devoted to cheese (my favorite one).

Was at a board meeting for a few hours late this afternoon. I usually keep my mouth shut at these things, mainly because I don't want to get called out as an obnoxious New Yorker who won't shut up. I probably take the paranoia too far.

Monday, June 25, 2001
One of the themes at this year's Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington, DC is New York City. Exhibits, interactives, and regional "cuisine" include Wall Street Traditions, Egg Creams, something called Backstage Broadway, and stick ball. Stick ball! As in baseball but with a stick and in the middle of the road. As in the Billy Joel lyric, "I learned stick ball as a formal education." Stick ball. Stick ball! This is all pretty weird, but it's good to see that visitors from around the world will finally understand what an egg cream is. (Hint: no eggs.)

I went to the Folklife Festival a few years ago. Two of the themes were one of the smaller Russian republics (I forget which one, but not one of the obvious ones like Belarus or Latvia) and Wisconsin. We ate some fried cheese, and I got to do this weird Russian-republic folk dance with a stocky blond guy. So maybe the Folklife Festival is always weird.

Saw Momento and O Brother, Where Art Thou? this weekend. Momento was amazing and I can't wait to see it again. Well, I'll wait until it comes out on video, so maybe I can wait a little while. Oh Brother Where Art Thou was also surprisingly cool, and I liked all of the connections with The Odyssey, even though Mike had to point a lot of them out to me. I haven't read it since maybe sophomore year of college, so while the sirens were pretty obvious, I still needed him to tell me that -- duh! -- John Goodman was the Cyclops. Anyway, cool flick.

Saturday, June 23, 2001
Went grocery shopping today and actually found fresh lychees, my all-time favorite fruit. If you've never tasted a lychee, it has a unique sweetness. It tastes sort of tropical, but not as strong as mango or papaya. Lychees are one of the few fruits that taste about as good canned as they do fresh, which is good, since they're hard to find fresh. They also cost about the same: around three bucks for a pint of fresh or a can, which is pricey. You can frequently find canned lychees in the Asian aisle of your local culturally-conscious supermarket. Their flavor is also used well in candy (usually from Asia and usually with very little English on the package). Last time I was in New York, I found lychee-flavored gummi bear-type things at Urban Outfitters, and they tasted exactly right.

I feel the need to share this possibly useless information ("But Amy, we don't even get pineapples where I live") because it may drum up business, and then I would be able to get lychees year-round and for a somewhat reasonable price. So, if you've never tried a lychee, please do! And tell a friend! Together, we can make lychees as popular as apples!

Friday, June 22, 2001
As seen on the CBS Early Show: This month at the Smithsonian Institute Museum of American History: a paint-by-number exhibit. From the website:

"Although many critics saw 'number painting' as a symbol of the mindless conformity gripping 1950s America, paint by number had a peculiarly American virtue. It invited people who had never before held a paintbrush to enter a world of art and creativity."

An interesting point -- but does it belong in a museum? Well, when the New York Guggenheim has an exhibit of Armani suits, who's to say? Next month at the American History museum? A display of those dinosaur skeleton models made of thin wood pieces that snap together.

As it turns out, Ironminds updates on Fridays now. So I'm glad they're not folding, but I feel kind of silly for yesterday's comments. (Except for what I said about Will Leitch. He's younger than me and he has a book deal!)

Thursday, June 21, 2001
What's going on with Ironminds? They haven't updated in like a week. I hope they're not going under, because I really like some of their writers. Especially that Will Leitch guy. I hate that he's younger than me and has a book contract (a book contract! and he's younger than me!), but I guess he deserves it.

If it weren't for all the SUVs and pick-up trucks on the road, I'd want one of these bad boys. Low price, kickass mileage, sporty, and a cinch to parallel park (you could probably do it front first). Plus, if you get sick of the color, you can always buy new side panels; I think they just snap on. Don't think Smarts are legal in the states yet.

Wednesday, June 20, 2001
Mike and I went to get frozen custard earlier tonight at this place a few miles down the road. There were, of course, a hundred kids milling around and screaming that they wanted chocolate, or a cherry sundae, or whatever. There was this group of people from some local church, and they all had their church tshirts on. Every time another one would join them at their table, one of the ones already at the table would look at their ice cream and say something like, "I don't know, Myrna, that waffle cone looks pretty sinful!" Church humor, I guess.

A small group of their kids were sitting on the side closest to the street, a four-lane road near a fairly major intersection. They were waving to passing cars, and most of the drivers were waving back. This one car drove by, slowed a little, and this college-aged girl stuck her head out the window and said in a weird, scratchy, maniacal voice, "Ice cream is good for your soul! Yumyumyumyum!"

Dude, the suburbs are weird.

Tuesday, June 19, 2001
Buick now makes an SUV. Yay. I guess it was only a matter of time. Even Saturn, the touchy-feely car company whose customers go to see where their car was born, is coming out with one.

In the most guilty-pleasure way possible, I really like Outkast's Stankonia CD.

Monday, June 18, 2001
We had a tornado warning at six this morning! You know how they say a tornado sounds like a train headed for you? Yeah...well, so do the city's tornado sirens. And so do the dozen or so trains that roll through town every night.

Two of the guys in the band and I played a graduation party on Saturday night, just kind of noodling around. It was outdoors, so of course it was buggy. No one had bug spray (!), but one of the women said that if you put vanilla extract on your skin, it keeps the bugs away. There were all these little bottles of it around the yard. My mom used to douse me in that Avon stuff, so I figured vanilla might work too. But it doesn't. All it does is make you smell like cake. After getting eaten alive for an hour, one of the kids showed up with a big can of Off, which I promptly grabbed. Lesson learned: Vanilla extract is good for making things taste vanilla-y, but bad for fending off mosquitos. In hindsight, it's totally obvious.

Saturday, June 16, 2001
Okay, I know I'm probably the last person to figure this out, but the host of ABC's new gameshow You Don't Know Jack is Pee Wee Herman! All week long I've been seeing the ads for it and thinking the host guy looked vaguely familiar, and all of a sudden it hit me last night that it's Pee Wee! I thought he was in jail for beating off in a porn theater?

One of the clubs downtown is having a classic metal fest all afternoon and all evening. I was downtown near the club a few hours ago, and there were all these people with dyed black hair, black tshirts, acidwash jean shorts, and white high tops milling around. It was like high school.

Friday, June 15, 2001
The local weather forcasters are really starting to annoy me. I think they're fine as tv people, but coming on with a "severe" weather alert because it's going to start raining in a few minutes is just excessive. Oh, and there will be lightening, so it's okay to interrupt shows with their warnings and watches and radar. And then they show you the map of the area, and there's this big red blob with greenish edges, and holy crap, it's headed right for us! Then they tell everyone to take cover, stay away from windows, and limit your use of electric appliances (funny, they never tell you to turn off the tv). And in five minutes it's raining. And in six minutes it's stopped.

I wish people with customer service jobs had this same sense of urgency. It just seems wasted on a little summer rain.

Thursday, June 14, 2001
From an MTV News ("news") story, commentary by Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst:

"There is so much Hatorade being drunk out there," Durst wrote in the message. "Every magazine, paper, band, etc. is on a Limp hating rampage and it is really giving us the fire. We have so much built up inside and we wanna let it all out on the new album."

Now: While I have to admit that no one has done more for men's fashion in the past three years than Mr. Durst -- that white tee, those baggy jeans, that backwards red Yanks cap -- a red Yanks cap! where did that come from? -- his complaint that there is so much animosity toward his band is a bit much. Hatorade? Hatorade? Oh, I get it. He's being clever.

Is it really that hard to be Fred Durst? I guess once you get over the millions of albums you've sold and the bajillions of dollars you've made despite your total and utter lack of talent, and all of the late teen male automatons who really relate to all of the anger you put forth, you need to complain about something. So sure, complain about all the people who hate you, even though you're probably talking about the parents of these teens, and deep down you probably want them to hate you so you can go on about how you're the counterculture and bringing in the next big thing, etc. etc. Or better yet...you know...build it up inside and make an album about it and -- yeah! -- make more money, get more sheep to follow you, help the Yankees sell more red -- red! -- caps, and father more children you'll really never see because you're out on tour with your crappy band promoting the album containing all of the rage you've built up from people not liking you.

I will be so happy when this rapmetal nonsense goes the way of cheesemetal (though I should confess that I did own a Poison album, or cassette rather).

Wednesday, June 13, 2001
Yes, working part time has drawbacks. The money, for one, and the lack of benefits like health insurance and paid vacation, for another. But the flexibility can't be beat. So I decided that I'd take tomorrow off and go to the beach, since it's supposed to be 92 and sunny. By beach I mean Lake Michigan, which I guess is pretty okay for a beach, but not nearly as good as the ocean.

Queen of cross-pollination: Martha Stewart, of course. Her magazine hypes her tv show, her tv show hypes her magazine, and her website hypes everything Martha, including her tv show and her website. Multimedia? It's a good thing -- probably.

Tuesday, June 12, 2001
More of the same: "Working to make a difference. The people of Philip Morris." We give away lots of money! We make Kraft Dinner! We help the needy just like the Red Cross! Philip Morris is the best! Oh, by the way, we also knowingly make a highly addictive product that kills people and tell everyone it's harmless. Heh heh.

Actually, according to the site, Philip Morris is one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the country, donating money to dozens of causes. Guilty conscience? Or distracting people from the truth?

Monday, June 11, 2001
Well, we don't want you to kill yourself, but if you feel you must, do it with our brand! The British American Tobacco website, like other tobacco companies' websites, I'm sure, is heavy on the truth-twisting. An excerpt:

"Our business is not about persuading people to smoke; it is about offering quality brands to adults who have already taken the decision to smoke. We strongly believe that smoking should only be for adults who are aware of the risks."

It just seems to me that if you're aware and living, you should be aware of the risks. This kind of "quality brands" rhetoric is just a touchy-feely way to mask their objective and, frankly, to clean their hands of any publicly perceived wrongdoing. Come on. If they were so concerned about underage smoking and people taking on this "risky" habit, they'd voluntarily go out of business. But they make cigarettes, and at the end of the day, just like everyone else, the money makes or breaks the business. They need to sell cigarettes to survive as a company. This crap about only offering cigarettes to adults who have decided completely on their own to smoke is ridiculous. They're offering cigarettes to anyone who's buying. If I go to buy a pack of one of their brands, the person selling it to me isn't going to ask me if I've made the decision to smoke all by myself and without the influence of the company. Even if I say that it's all B.A.T.'s fault that I'm addicted, I'm pretty sure I'll still get the pack. Not that I smoke or anything, but just as an illustrative point.

I landed on this page, by the way, because we had a bat in the house again last night. If anyone has any good methods of getting rid of them, please please please tell me.

Saturday, June 9, 2001
Just watched Best in Show. Why can't all comedies be like this? Intelligent and subtle, in a laugh-out-loud kind of way.

Not in a writing mood. Sorry. It's finally hot out, and besides, game 7 is on!

Friday, June 8, 2001
Spent most of the afternoon in the archives room of a library in a small Michigan town on the Indiana border to do research for a client at work. (I'm entering that sentence in a "Most Prepositions Used In A Single Sentence" contest.) I have this weird fascination with archives rooms, and archivists in general. I like the rooms because looking through stuff in one is like going through a well-organized basement. There's all this information I had no idea even existed that someone took the time to put together so that I could flip through it and find the facts I need. Okay, maybe not just me, but you know what I mean. I like archivists because they usually know so much about their topic. The archivist at the University at Buffalo library, for example, knew everything about the school, the city, and just about anything else related to Western New York. She's one of the most interesting people I've ever met. I didn't really get to know her until I was almost out of college, but in a short time I learned a ton from that woman. Facts, sure, like the date a certain building was completed, but archivists have a way of looking at a chunk of time and making connections; things like which of the university's plans worked and which didn't, and why. And while knowing these things will be great if I ever want to start a major state university (not bloody likely), knowing them is mostly helpful just in understanding why things are they way they are anywhere. And it puts things in perspective.

The woman today wasn't quite as good as the UB archivist, but was still helpful and knowledgeable about the county, even though she hadn't lived there long. And, I had called her yesterday and told her I was coming, so she pulled all the relevant files for me and had them waiting on a cart when I came in. Unfortunately, I don't think archives people get the recognition they deserve. (Because many of them are women?) Every archivist I've met -- not a lot, but a few -- has been cool. In a nerdy way, but still cool. Maybe not my first choice for a drinking date, but they're all good people to talk to for a few hours. Plus, they usually have tons of cool photos to show you. Anyway.

So, after spending the day with hundred-year-old newspaper ink on my fingertips, I came home, ate mashed potatoes, and did what any self-respecting fact-digger would do: I watched Making the Band. Dude, those guys crack me up. "I want to talk about my feelings." "No, I want to talk about my feelings." "Guys, we have to record this song." Wow -- campy.

Thursday, June 7, 2001
Lesson learned today: Pay attention to how hot your iron is before you use it on your favorite shirt. I was so pissed. I had the iron on 7 instead of 4 (granted, it was 7:30 in the morning and I was tired), and it just melted right through the fabric! Hell, I'm still ticked off...and a little disturbed that I can just melt clothing like that. Even Mike, who I thought would take an it's-just-a-shirt attitude, sympathized with me. If my boss hadn't taken my whole office out for lunch, my whole day would have been ruined. Free food=better day. But I'm still pissed.

Wednesday, June 6, 2001
Boom. A disturbing story on 60 Minutes II last night about The Missiliers, or the people who still train for nuclear attack. According to the report, the United States still has around 6,000 nuclear warheads. Russia has about the same. These numbers are just that -- numbers -- especially in light of the fact that a dozen or so detonations from each side will more or less destroy the planet. (Imagine how much you could blow up with 6,000!)

I used to want a poster of this photograph when I was in high school. I'm still not sure what the hell I was thinking. One day I found one while poking around some store in the Village. When I found it, I quickly decided that a blooming mushroom cloud was the last thing I needed to be looking at before going to sleep. Haven't wanted one since.

Switching topics: I saw Kathy Lee Gifford on The View this morning. I kind of feel bad for her. Besides all of the Frank-found-with-other-woman crap she has to deal with, Kathy Lee so desperately wants to seem deep and insightful, but whenever she tries to make a big, grand, profound statement, it's just laughable. Quote from an interview a year or two ago (yes, I remember these things): "I can be bitter or I can be better. It all comes down to 'I': I decide if I'm going to be bitter or be better." See?

Tuesday, June 5, 2001
Both of our stereos blew fuses during the last windstorm. That was about a month ago. I hadn't gotten around to going to Radio Shack to get new ones until today. We put one stereo back together immediately, and boy, it's good to be able to play CDs again!

Also picked up two news discs. I figured as long as I have the means to listen to them without dinky little headphones or through my iMac, I'd splurge. I got Amnesiac by Radiohead and Poses, the new one by Rufus Wainwright. (Here at amyscoop.com, we heart Rufus Wainwright.) I've listened to each once so far. Radiohead is good, and like all of their other CDs, I think it will take me a few listens before I really love it. The Rufus Wainwright one is beautiful: a lot less show-tune-y that his first recording, and something in the production sounds smoother, though I'm not sure what it is. The song "California" alone is worth the price of the disc. Rufus rocks. Did I mention that?

Monday, June 4, 2001
Haven't really felt like eating today, which is weird for me. At 3:30, though, I was starting to feel pretty lightheaded, so I had a can of Del Monte Cinnamon Pears. Have you tried these? They're really good!

So two days ago I posted about JumpTheShark.com, and today Slate did. I still say that dating among main characters equals bad sitcom, although the addition of Ted McGinley is intriguing.

And regarding yesterday's post about censored cartoons: a nifty link from Diana containing a list of scenes that got snipped out before recent airings. (She was careful to point out that she lifted it from MetaFilter. I appreciate the honesty, but I don't care. I mean, if you can't lift links from MetaFilter, where can you lift links from? And yes, I know I ended that sentence with a preposition. And no, I don't care about that either.)

Sunday, June 3, 2001
From today's New York Times: Rascal or Racist? Censoring a Rabbit. The Cartoon Network is running a 49-hour Bugs Bunny marathon to celebrate their securing the rights to all Bugs Bunny cartoons ever made. However, the Cartoon Network won't show 12 of these cartoons because they say they contain "racially offensive material." The article goes on to talk about how Disney has self-censored some of their animated features and shorts to be more politically correct. PC, yes, but what about acknowledging our past so that we don't repeat it? From the article:

"Cartoons have always played to our most unfiltered, primal selves. 'We're prone to cartoon stereotyping because that's how we think, how we hold images in our heads,' said the comic artist Art Spiegelman. 'It's preliterate thinking. They scare us because they cut deep, through all our layers of verbiage. It makes them seem charged and dangerous, and they are. But that just means you have to treat them with respect.'"

From what I understand, this is what media literacy is all about: taking in media with a critical eye, or understanding the bad to understand the good. The Cartoon Network is taking a small step toward this by having a documentary made that includes clips of the 12 censored Bugs 'toons. They nixed the idea of showing them with a disclaimer. I think they should be shown as part of a discussion, maybe with a panel to discuss the cartoons, but definitely as some kind of family program with continual acknowledgement of the offensive content.

My feeling is that they're part of the historical record. Sure, they're only cartoons, but they're documentation of media from that time period, and they shouldn't be ignored. (Not to compare Bugs Bunny to Shakespeare, but I wouldn't want to censor " The Merchant of Venice" just because it contains blatant anti-Semitism.) The past may be shameful, but that doesn't mean we can't learn from it.

Saturday, June 2, 2001
Saw this on the local NBC news, of all places: Jumping the Shark, a phrase for the moment when a tv show starts to go downhill. The site chronicles the "jumping the shark" moment for just about any show you can think of, as well as a list of shows that haven't jumped (not yet, anyway). Remarkably thorough. By the way, the phrase "jump the shark" comes from a "Happy Days" episode.

One of my favorite sitcoms that went downhill in a hurry was "Caroline in the City." The moment was pretty obvious, I think. As soon as Richard and Caroline started sleeping together, everything got god-awful. I think the earlier episodes had some decent writing, and the tension between the characters was usually interesting in a Sam and Diane way, but once two main characters get together, it's boring as all hell because that's usually where the tension ends. Reading any Jane Austen novel will teach you this. Anyway, it seems like "Friends" is heading in the same direction, though I've only seen two or three episodes this season so I'm not really sure.

Friday, June 1, 2001
Feeling all sinus-y and woozy today. I hate summer colds. They seem so out of place.

For some reason, every June 1 I think of my second grade teacher. I remember that June 1, 1982 was a particularly dark and rainy day, and there were all these black clouds outside. As soon as class started, my teacher wrote the date on the blackboard and said that it didn't look like June at all, and that she hoped the rest of the summer was sunny. I'm not sure why I remember this, as it doesn't seem like it should be a poignant moment or anything, but still, I've probably thought about it every June 1 since. Weird.


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