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Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Very powerful!


Monday, July 30, 2012

Job creation paradox

I've been saying this in arguments with people lately, so I was tickled when I saw this cartoon.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Weekend movies

Been busy, so I haven't seen too many movies lately.

Lockout - Larry and I finally watched this On Demand, after missing it in theaters (though he fell asleep halfway through, which is not a reflection on the film - he does that a lot). Although the laws of physics were suspended for the duration, it was very entertaining - not too gory and I laughed a lot. Only complaint - I felt very cheated by no kiss between the leads (Guy Pearce and Maggie Grace), especially since they had decent chemistry.  :(

Ice Age: Continental Drift - I saw this with the kids and it was pretty durn entertaining - cute with some very funny moments; I'm impressed that they manage to keep the story fresh, considering the rather flimsy premise.

A Turtle Tale: Sammy's Adventure (2010) - Alana and I watched this on video; it's actually a Belgium film, made in French, and later dubbed with well-known American actors for US release (including Melanie Griffiths and Ed Begley). It's quite an entertaining little story about a sea turtle born in 1959, but it's also specifically designed to educate kids about some of the difficulties that confront ocean creatures due to human actions, including oil spills, fishing techniques, and dumping trash. Alana enjoyed it, but I'm not sure she completely caught the lesson. They're working on a sequel.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Twilight cast career prospects

This is a very interesting and fun analysis.  Though I take issue with some of the people he uses as the "floor" - Helen Hunt directed her own movie just a couple years ago, and Jennifer Beals has continued to act steadily despite being dimissed early and often by critics.

Also, the underlying premise of this assessment is somewhat flawed - Kristen Stewart at least has never shown much interest in being a "movie star" - she has consistently chosen small, independent projects and by all accounts, directors love her and rave about her talent. The original Twilight movie was supposed to be a small film made for a small audience - nobody expected the juggernaut it became.

Finally, many of these actors, including Lutz and Greene, are making scads of money as pitchmen/women - doing campaigns for makeup, clothing, etc. So, for example, Greene may not have "many interesting projects lined up" because she's busy getting paid to be incredibly beautiful.

The Twilight Saga' Cast Power Rankings

Perhaps the only media types who enjoy speculation more than entertainment writers are sports journalists. They're constantly trying to out-predict their colleagues on which team will win the World Series, where Dwight Howard will be traded, which rookies will become all-stars, etc.

A popular format to grade teams and players on where they are and where they are headed is the Power Rankings.Grantland borrowed this device to recap "Mad Men" episodes, positioning the characters each week in order of how well they handled themselves in the episode.

I'm going to borrow the concept from Grantland and apply it the young stars of "The Twilight Saga." We're still months away from the final installment, "Breaking Dawn – Part 2," but we already have a sense of where the actors stand and what their careers should look like when they move on from vampires.

Below I've ranked eight celebrities who owe their stardom to 2008's "Twilight" by how powerful they currently sit in Hollywood. I omitted the older actors since we already have a good sense of what their legacy will be. I've also provided a "Floor" and "Ceiling" for each name as a comparison to the careers theirs may resemble if they miss their potential or reach it.

1. Kristen Stewart

Kristen Stewart in Breaking Dawn - Part 2
Floor: Elisabeth Shue
Ceiling: Nicole Kidman

Until recently, you could have argued that Robert Pattinson should be in the top spot, but his girlfriend has proven she can carry a blockbuster ("Snow White and the Huntsman") on her own while his projects ("Bel Ami" and "Cosmopolis") have floundered. K.Stew's critics claim she's just a pretty face with limited acting range, but she does take bold roles. Many had the same criticisms early in Kidman's career, but she was daring with her roles and now has a Best Actress Oscar as well as two more nominations.

2. Robert Pattinson

Robert Pattinson in Breaking Dawn - Part 2
Floor: Christian Slater
Ceiling: Johnny Depp

My younger readers may balk at a Christian Slater comparison, but in the early '90s his poster hung on young girls' walls – right next to Kurt Cobain and Luke Perry. Slater never broke out of his teen heartthrob stage as Johnny Depp did after "21 Jump Street." Pattinson should keep looking for unique roles as Depp has and not settle for easy schlock as Slater did.

3. Anna Kendrick

Anna Kendrick in Twilight
Floor: Helen Hunt
Ceiling: Straight Jodie Foster with comedy chops

AK-47 has taken her relatively small role in the "Twilight" franchise and spun it into the Power Ranking's third spot. After an Academy Award-worthy performance in "Up in the Air," Kendrick has become the go-to cute girl-next-door type with serious acting chops. Like Helen Hunt, she's proven her worth in both drama and comedy. While Hunt has fallen off the earth, it's easy to imagine Kendrick having a long career like Jodie Foster, albeit she's a more affable version.

4. Taylor Lautner

Taylor Lautner
Floor: Richard Grieco
Ceiling: Mario Lopez

Lautner got his opportunity to star in his own action movie, just like former teen star Richard Grieco did in "If Looks Could Kill." "Abduction" did about as well as Grieco's movie, which the world has since forgotten about ever existing. Lautner's fate may be similar unless he admits to himself that he's not a great actor and his strength is being the likable guy with dimples and an uncertain ethnic background. Mario Lopez has turned that into a career, after all.

5. Kellan Lutz

Kellan Lutz and Kristen Stewart in Breaking Dawn - Part 2
Floor: Ian Ziering
Ceiling: Brotastic Mickey Rourke

I'm going to be honest. I don't know if Kellan Lutz can act his way out of a paper bag or not. He hasn't taken roles that push him too far emotionally. That may be smart, waiting until he sharpens his acting chops before taking any chances. Once he does, he may just turn into a beefy Mickey Rourke without the bad plastic surgery. Or he may follow in the forgotten steps of Ian Ziering, the fourth banana jock from "Beverly Hills 90210."

6. Ashley Greene

Ashley Greene in Twilight
Floor: Jennifer Beals
Ceiling: Demi Moore

I place Greene below Lutz in Power Rankings because she doesn't have many interesting project lined up for her post-"Twilight" career. Greene seemed to have more heat a year ago, but I'm starting to think producers are realizing there may not be much to her. She's another pretty face who can act, but her emotional well may be shallow.

7. Nikki Reed

Nikki Reed in Twilight
Floor: Ally Sheedy
Ceiling: Michelle Rodriguez

Nikki Reed had boundless potential in 2003, when she co-wrote and starred in Catharine Hardwicke's disturbingly familiar indie, "Thirteen." However, she hasn't done much with it besides becoming "that bitchy Cullen girl." I compare her to Ally Sheedy, as she was one of the most interesting young stars of the Brat Pack and then faded away. The projects she has lined up seem like action-dramas that the likes of Michelle Rodriguez would take. I can see her making a solid career as a tough-girl like Rodriguez.

8. Jackson Rathbone

Jackson Rathbone in Twilight
Floor: New Kids on the Block member you don't remember
Ceiling: Brad Pitt

Rathbone is the biggest enigma of the cast. In person, he's arguably the most charismatic of them all. You'd think that would translate into more screen time on more projects. Maybe he hasn't been given any memorable roles outside of "Twilight" because he's busy with his band, 100 Monkeys? If he dedicates himself to acting over anything else, I could see him eclipsing everyone else on this list.

Confessions of a (Male) Twi-Hard is a "Twilight" humor column by Ryan McKee that publishes every other week on NextMovie. Read Ryan’s introductory post here or follow him on Twitter.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Gun debate, post Aurora

Listening to the gun control debate the last few days is so discouraging - nothing will change.  This graphic sums it up perfectly for me - I have no problem with people owning guns, but can't we have a little sanity???


Monday, July 23, 2012

"You didn't build that"

Romney has been trying to make political hay from Obama remarks last week about not doing it alone (his comments are virtually identical to Elizabeth Warren's speech a few months ago - see below).  While he did say "you didn't build that," I'm sure he meant, "you didn't build that all by yourself."  (He should have been more careful!) Some people are saying that Obama is against success. Silly, I know.

Tonight, I saw this covered on the Rachel Maddow show - Romney has a new ad with a man bragging about building his business without all that dastardly government interference.  Turns out the guy got a loan from the Small Business Administration and also got defense contracts.

I know it won't penetrate the conservative fog, but I feel like this ongoing Republican argument doesn't hold up - the government does actually help people, and everyone who is successful got some kind of support. Individual success is basically just a cherished American myth.

"If you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own. You didn't get there on your own. I'm always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. 

"If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet." 


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Latest movies

Watched a couple of movies with Alana this weekend~

The Lorax - quite well done, entertaining, and of course I loved the message (especially, people will buy anything that you put in a plastic bottle); catchy songs too

African Cats - Another Disney Nature film, like Chimpanzee, with just astonishingly intimate footage; fun and fascinating


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Muppets take a stand

This is getting a lot of play on FB - the CEO of Chik Fil A made some very aggressive statements against gays and gay marriage, and the Muppets very publicly ended their association with the company!


Friday, July 20, 2012

Maternity leave debate

When recently-appointed Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer, 37, announced that she was 6 months pregnant when she was hired, and said she planned to take just a few weeks maternity leave, and would work during them, the blogsophere blew up with commentary, many noting (fairly, IMO) that she was setting a rather bad example for other women, who are fighting for more leave, not less. Of course, she's welcome to do whatever she wants, and many many women do not have the luxury of paid leave, so they do what they must. But the larger issue is still a concern - that women deserve some time off to care for new babies, without having to apologize for it.  If we really support families, maternity leave is an essential part of expressing that.
I enjoyed the conversation on Tell Me More (as always) - one woman noted that Ms Mayer has never had a child and has no idea what it entails (made me think of Leo's plans to put an addition on their house during their leave with their first child; I also remember reading a terrific essay about a woman planning to learn French since she'd have so much free time during her leave).  Another said that she feels discouraged that the conversation rarely includes paternity leave, and said that her husband took a scant 3 days off when their first child was born, very much to her detriment (Larry took the obligatory one week for both our children, but spent most of the time dealing with Matthew).


Thursday, July 19, 2012


Totally captures my perspective!


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Rage, outrage and other Jewish topics

Weird Lunch and Learn today.  Rabbi F had sent a couple of news reports about how the International Olympic Committee had rejected a request for a minute of silence for the Israeli athletes slain in Munich (it's the 40th anniversary this year).  This request had come from 2 of the widows of those athletes. Several of my Jewish FB friends had posted about this, so it's not just an Israeli issue - plenty of American Jews are hot about it.

There were 10 people at the discussion, plus the 2 rabbis, and of course several people said nothing, but the consensus seemed to be a collective shrug - what's the "big deal," why are we "crying" about this? I was so taken aback.  This group of older, mostly male, Jews usually goes to the mattress for anything having to do with Israel, but they didn't seem to care.  One guy (who totally dominated the conversation) even said, "well I suppose this matters to the families"- implying that it doesn't matter to anyone else.

I don't think you're going to change anyone's mind with a minute of silence (another point raised), but that's not really the reason for memorials anyway. I don't go to lots of sporting events, but they seem to be an endless stream of recognitions for one thing and another.  A minute of silence to mark the anniversary of something terrible doesn't seem outside the normal course of activities. You'd think this crowd would be a bit more put off by the IOC's apathy. Not at all.

Then we somehow got onto Penn State and Joe Paterno, I guess because they're both related to getting outraged over bad things happening, and this same guy, Mike, was so dismissive, something about "people always going to DEFCON 5 over everything." I got really pissed and said some crap about a special level of hell reserved for people who don't protect kids.  I don't know what Mike thinks warrants going to "DEFCON 5" (though that's really the lowest level -  DEFCON 1 is the highest level; this is a mistake almost everyone seems to make), but I would think turning a blind eye to a colleague raping 10 year olds down the hall over the course of several years should get you close, regardless of how many football games he had won for the organization.  

Bottom line for me was the appalling lack of moral compass displayed by virtually everyone in the discussion, between dismissing the most outrageous things as not worth bothering about on the one hand, and the general acceptance of vengeful murder on the other hand (we discussed the movie Munich too), I was thoroughly repulsed for the entire hour (one generally dove-ish member even went to lengths to explain that while murder for revenge, a la Munich, is hard to justify, assasinating Iranian nuclear scientists is completely justified - the mind boggles).  Though Rabbi P made several comments suggesting that our collective conclusions were not generally "Jewish" (citing several Biblical examples), there was otherwise not a single voice for universal (let alone Jewish) ethics in the room.  Ick!!!

I saw this on FB when I got back to my office after the meeting - how fitting!!

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Glee Project

We didn't watch this show last summer, but since we watch Glee, we thought we should see who's going to join the cast in the fall. As it turns out, the show is pretty compelling (and quite fun), and Alana and I are die hard fans (Cal sort of comes along for the ride).

I've noticed that while the cast of Season 2 was very diverse in the beginning, the elimination process seems to have culled most of the people who are not conventional and conventionally good looking (by which I mean Blake, Michael, Ali, Aylin and Shanna) - the two androgynous women, Dani and Nellie, are both gone, and the black guy, Mario, and the transgender guy, Tyler, are also gone. The only unconventional looking contestants left are the heavy girl, Lily, and the androgynous guy, Abraham (and they've both been in the bottom 3 more than once, so their prospects to actually win are somewhat low).

To be fair, Samuel Larsen, last year's winner (he played Joe Hart on Glee), was not conventional looking, and the runner-up last year was a transgender black guy.  But it seems like this year's trend is toward conventional, which is sort of a shame and sort of a surprise.  There's only 4 weeks left (and 7 contestants), so we'll know their final decision(s) soon enough (they said there will only be one winner this year, so they have a lot of people to eliminate in a fairly short time).


Monday, July 16, 2012

Try to understand

This is so arrogant, but I found myself thinking about it a lot after I saw it on FB:

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Recent movies

Watched several movies over the last week and a half - these are in reverse order of how much I liked them:

A Thousand Words - Alana wanted to see this, though it was not as funny and not as kid-friendly as the promos suggested.  Not a bad movie; it seemed to rather go over the head of the person in our family that it was most relevant for . . .

The Pirates (Band of Misfits) - Durn cute animated tale sort of about a group of pirates trying to win Pirate of the Year for their captain, though there's a bunch of other stuff crammed in there too.

Mirror Mirror - I found this quite charming, and I was somewhat surprised because there was a lot of grumbling about this movie when it came out - not sure what the fuss was about.

What to Expect When You're Expecting - Quite enjoyable movie about having babies, with lots of winning performances from A listers and character actors alike

Moonrise Kingdom - What can you say about this thoroughly quirky and rather surprisingly sentimental offering from the king of whimsy himself, Wes Anderson?  Lots of silliness, but also so much charm in this offbeat story of love and loneliness and fitting in (or not).  A cinematic delight.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Favorite books

With some regularity, people ask me to recommend books.  I thought I would create a favorites list that I could return to when I get inquiries:

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
When She Woke by Hillary Jordan
Divergent by Veronica Roth

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Fire by Kristen Cashore
Poison Study by Maria Snyder
The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Dysfunctional families (aka abandoned by mother)
How to be Lost by Amanda Eyre Ward
Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz
The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman
White Oleander by Janet Fitch
Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Fault in our Stars by John Green
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood
A Changed Man by Francine Prose
Second Heaven by Judth Guest
Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant
Historical fiction
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
Pope Joan by Donna Woolcroft
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Rose by Martin Cruz Smith
All Other Nights by Dara Horn

Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
A Promising Man by Elizabeth Young
Asking for Trouble by Elizabeth Young

Anything by Elinor Lipman
The Diamond Lane by Karen Karbo

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Into Thin Air by
Under the Banner of Heaven

Older books/Classics
A Wrinkle in Time
Fahrenheit 451
Brave New World
Mila 18
The Stand
The Dead Zone
The Chosen
The Pearl by John Steinbeck
Books for younger readers
That Quail Robert
Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack by ME Kerr
The 13 Clocks by James Thurber


Friday, July 13, 2012

Collect my dreams

I would LOVE to be able to do this!


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Romney and Capitalism

I heard Howard Dean on MSNBC this morning comment on Romney, saying that the way he is refusing to submit tax returns and be upfront about his role at Bain goes to the core of why people are reluctant to vote for him - basically that they don't trust him.

But I think this is are much more than an election issue - it goes to the core of what's wrong with capitalism:

Romney is a very, very rich man. He hasn't worked at all for several years, and he owns multiple homes, and has created trusts for all 5 of his sons with large amounts of money in them. And I don't care that he's rich.  But even though he is probably in the 1% of the 1%, he still feels the need to HIDE HIS MONEY so that he does't have to pay taxes on it - offshore accounts in Switzerland and the Caymans, and god only knows what else.

My question is why? Why does he need all that money? Why does he have to protect it from being taxed? He has more than he could ever use in a dozen lifetimes, but still he he hoards it.

And the system is designed for exactly his type of wealth - our tax code is full of rules and loopholes that allow the super rich to protect their money from being shared.  Why?  It's the fundamental flaw in our system.  I love entrepreneurship.  I love the opportunity that America offers.  But why, when you get to that level, do you still have to protect all your loot?

I understand no one wants to pay more taxes, but when you're that rich, what the hell is your reason?


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Report on Penn State/Sandusky case

I feel like crying.

From the report:

"The most saddening finding by the Special Investigative Counsel is the total and consistent disregard by the most senior leaders at Penn State for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims. As the Grand Jury similarly noted in its presentment, there was no "attempt to investigate, to identify Victim 2, or to protect that child or any others from similar conduct except as related to preventing its re-occurrence on University property. [The report says that five boys were assaulted by Sandusky on university property after officials knew about a 1998 criminal investigation.]

"Four of the most powerful people at The Pennsylvania State University -- President Graham B. Spanier, Senior Vice President-Finance and Business Gary C. Schultz, Athletic Director Timothy M. Curley and Head Football Coach Joseph V. Paterno -- failed to protect against a child predator harming children for over a decade. These men concealed Sandusky's activities from the Board of Trustees, the University community and authorities. They exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky's victims by failing to inquire as to their safety and well-being . . ."

The response of the Paterno family:

"One great risk in this situation is a replaying of events from the last 15 years or so in a way that makes it look obvious what everyone must have know and should have done.  The idea that any sane, responsible adult would knowingly cover up for a child predator is impossible to accept. The far more realistic conclusion is that many people didn't fully understand what was happening and underestimated or misinterpreted events. Sandusky was a great deceiver. He fooled everyone - law enforcement, his family, coaches, players, neighbors, University officials, and everyone at Second Mile," his charity for children.
"Joe Paterno wasn't perfect. He made mistakes and he regretted them. He is still the only leader to step forward and say that with the benefit of hindsight he wished he had done more.  To think, however, that he would have protected Jerry Sandusky to avoid bad publicity is simply not realistic. If Joe Paterno had understood what Sandusky was, a fear of bad publicity would not have factored into his actions."


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Truth and the Way

This quote captures my entire philosophy of government intervention - e.g., better schools, fewer prisons.


Monday, July 09, 2012

Abortion rationale

A friend on FB posted something like "How can you be pro-life and not support universal healthcare?" This is the first response he got:

Being "pro-life" has noting to do with keeping living people alive. It is all about allowing fetuses to be born, baptized and thus saved. After that, dying is just fine.

This explains so much that I never understood! It's not about the child or the mother or health or life or anything like that. It's just about saving souls for Jesus. The quality of life, the dignity of life, is irrelevant! (So saith Jesus, NOT.)


Friday, July 06, 2012

More wise words

This should be my mantra:


Thursday, July 05, 2012

Wise words

Another quote that should be my mantra!!

Tuesday, July 03, 2012



Monday, July 02, 2012

People make no sense

I just don't understand people! We've had ongoing trouble with selecting a book for my book club. We nominate books and then vote online, but we seen to end up with books that people don't like, or worse, don't want to read, surprisingly often.  When we sat down tonight, two of the active members, both in their 20s, said they thought we should pick more contemporary books (3 of the last 4 books were at least 20 years old and the next book poll is first-book-of-a-popular-mystery-series, so of course, most of those books are pretty old too). I wholeheartedly agree (and I've repeatedly suggested book club favorites from recent years to try to address this, but that's another conversation). So we discuss the current book for awhile and then get back to considering future books.  We decide to go with a theme mentioned previously - books made into movies.  We brainstorm some titles, trying to stay within the last decade.  Then one of the young women who said we should pick more current books suggests The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (published in 1979 and made into a movie that no one saw) because it's "hysterical."  I said, "I thought we wanted to pick more current books," but she just plowed on, saying how great it was.  This is EXACTLY how we've ended up reading books from 20, 30 and 40 years ago, and it's exactly what SHE AGREED we didn't want to do!! W-T-F???

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Sunday, July 01, 2012

Latest movies

People Like Us - I enjoyed this quite a bit. It wasn't quite what I expected, but I found the acting to be excellent and the story quite affecting.  I had a couple of complaints: watching Chris Pine's character let his half sister think he was romantically interested in her was cringe-inducing and went on too long, and the adults' indulgent attitude toward the son's misbehavior was starting to annoy me; but the ending was so lovely and such a surprise that I'm willing to overlook these imperfections.

Brave - Again, not what I was expecting (the preview is a bit misleading), but a very good film, with gorgeous animation and a wonderful message, and, bonus, a terrific score.

Man on a Ledge - The first half is fine - intriguing, with lots of good performances, but the last 30 minutes are beyond ridiculous and ruin an otherwise entertaining movie.