Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Did somebody order some change???

So Pres.O. had this nicely timed remark in his speech to Congress...
"I intend to hold these banks fully accountable for the assistance they receive, and this time, they will have to clearly demonstrate how taxpayer dollars result in more lending for the American taxpayer. This time, CEOs won't be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks or buy fancy drapes or disappear on a private jet. Those days are over."
Meanwhile back at stately Wayne Mansion (actually Beverly Hills), Northern Trust Bank just finished up a week of expensive hard partying. Yes, the Northern Trust Bank that accepted $1.6 billion in bailout money is living it up in La La Land (on your c-note, btw).
Northern Trust flew hundreds of clients and employees to L.A. and put many of them up at some of the fanciest and priciest hotels in the city. We're told more than a hundred people were put up at the Beverly Wilshire in Bev Hills, and another hundred stayed at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel. Still more stayed at the Ritz Carlton in Marina Del Rey and others at Casa Del Mar in Santa Monica.

Here are the highlights:
  • Wednesday, Northern Trust hosted a fancy dinner at the Ritz followed by a performance by the group Chicago.
  • Thursday, Northern Trust rented a private hangar at the Santa Monica Airport for dinner, followed by a performance by Earth, Wind & Fire.
  • Saturday, Northern Trust had the entire House of Blues in West Hollywood shut down for its private party. We got the menu -- guests dined on seared salmon and petite Angus filet. Dinner was followed by a performance by none other than Sheryl Crow.
There was also a fabulous cocktail party at the Loews. And how's this for a nice touch: Female guests at the Chicago concert all got trinkets from ... TIFFANY AND CO.
In their defense, there's no indication that Northern Trust spent money on the 450 employees they laid off just before Christmas last year.

But thankfully, according to Pres.O. these days are over. Yeah. Right.

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Venice, Italy, Sponsored by Coca-Cola®
A row has broken out in the Italian city of Venice over a new $2.7 million sponsorship deal between the authorities and Coca Cola.

Venice's mayor said the funds raised by allowing vending machines to sell the drink across the city would be used to safeguard its artistic heritage.

Venice has strict rules on the sale of food and beverages to tourists. In St Mark's Square, picnicking is banned.

The Italian newspapers claim that Venice is not only being swamped with mass tourism and threatened by floods from the Adriatic Sea, but will soon also be awash with fizzy drinks.

Sixty vending machines will sell the drink all over the city, including at the main waterbus stations and reportedly even St Mark's Square, where a city ordinance already forbids picnicking by tourists.

The Mayor of Venice, Massimo Cacciari, has complained loudly about the lack of state funding to conserve the crumbling palaces and churches of the city and has strongly defended his decision to accept money from the US company.
It's nothing new in the U.S. to see city-owned assets sponsored by corporations -- usually sporting and entertainment venues like KC's own Tony's Kansas City Cock Fight Auditorium.

But those clever Italians have now taken it to the next level. It makes sense. An entire city sponsored by a corporation is the next logical step.

And, as the economy gets worse and the Obama government continues to pour billions more dollars into digital teevee converter boxes for the masses, it's obvious that the trends are due to intersect sooner rather than later.

As our nation goes deeper into a hopeless debt, we'll be forced to take on a corporate sponsor at the national level.

My prediction is that before Obama takes the Sony Oath of Office® for his second term, the entire United States will be a fully owned subsidiary of Brawndo®, The Thirst Mutilator.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Movie Mini Review: He's Just Not That Into You

Title: He's Just Not That Into You

Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Kevin Connolly, Scarlett Johansson, Bradley Cooper, Justin Long, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Connelly

Plot summary:
Young couples struggle to find love in Boston. It's basically Sex In The City with more characters and not in Manhattan.

My thoughts:
Being the romantic sunuvabich I am, I took my Supermodel Wife out to a romantic movie for Valentine's Day. I suggested this movie since she'd had to cancel previous plans to go see it a few weeks earlier at a girls' night out with some of her friends.

Now let me be clear. I fully expected this movie to live down to my low expectations. I'd seen enough of the trailers to know basically what the subject matter was. And I've seen enough episodes of Grey's Desperate Private Brother's and Practices to know that I'd have to turn my sap filter way up.

Still, with a cast featuring Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Aniston and other reasonably recognizable names, I thought it might not be too craptacular.

Turns out, for once in my life, I thought wrong.

With stereotypical, two-dimensional characters and an off-the-shelf, cliché of a plot that had fewer twists and turns than I-70 west of Salina, not even the considerable acting genius of Ben Affleck could save this film.

I realize the movie is based on a best-selling book that I've never read, and I can only assume that the only thing it has in common with the best seller is the title.

Typically, a movie will try to have likable characters, but I couldn't imagine hanging out with any of the caricatures in this film.

You couldn't feel sympathy for any of them (with the possible exception of Jennifer Aniston's character). Kevin Connolly's character was a complete tosser. Johansson was a home-wrecking whore. Justin Long's "Alex" was a cynical douche. Bradley Cooper played a philandering dickhead, and Jennifer Connelly was his psycho control freak wife.

The director tried to make up for the junior high level plot and wooden characters by weaving them together in an interconnected storyline, like the one in Love Actually (a movie that I can tolerate, though it's not a favorite).

Billed as a "romantic comedy" I found it to be neither.

My final rating:
I'm just not that into it.

Favorite quote:
not applicable

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Enemy Mine

As I mentioned previously, I was doing my dudely duty (happily, I might add) by taking my Supermodel Wife out to a romantic movie on Valentine's Day.

We sat in a packed theater munching on Twizzlers and Raisinets, watching the previews of upcoming movies before our feature film started. One movie in particular struck me as interesting -- from a sociological perspective if not an entertainment perspective.

The movie is The International -- a Hollywood retelling very loosely based on BCCI banking scandal of the 1980's.. Characters played by Clive Owen and Naomi Watts try to bring down an evil international bank that specializes in killing people and fomenting war.

It's not surprising that this movie should appear at this time. In the U.S. at least, we have always been able to rely on Hollywood to remind us of who are real enemies are.

In the 1940s, films like Casablanca and Sergeant York clarified that it was the Germans who were the evil race because they were trying to take over the world with their Nazism and sauerkraut.

My grandmother, who was as American as Eisenhower (who grew up a few miles down the road from where she now lives) said when she was a girl other parents wouldn't let their kids play with her because of her German surname, so the WWI and WWII propaganda was working.

Of course, when I was a kid it was the damn dirty commie bastard Russians and their evil empire that we had to defend against. Movies like Red Dawn, Top Gun and cinematic masterpiece Stripes showed the good guys going through trials but ultimately coming out victorious (of course).

How well I remember killing hundreds of Red devils in the woods behind my house as a boy thanks to the inspirational struggle of Patrick Swayze to defend the University of Michigan Wolverines.

The International seems to be keeping up the Hollywood tradition of training the young people of the nation who to hate. It's no longer the Russians or the Germans, nor the Chinese or Japanese, nor the Terrorists or Canadians.

No. Now the enemy is the bankers. The evil Harvard-educated bean counters who, through back-room shenanigans and covert operations, have brought our economy to its very knees.

Conspiracy, corruption and murder? Let's just say there is a substantial penalty for early withdrawal.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

YouTube Tuesday: Bale coming home from the dentist

You've heard Christian Bale completely loosing it on set. You've seen the doped up kid coming home from the dentist.

Now, two great tastes taste great together...

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Ranch Mart dressing

Me being the romantic chap I am, I booked a babysitter last Saturday and took the missus out to a romantic comedy (well, it was billed as a romantic comedy but it definitely missed on the comedy part -- more on that later) at the local neighborhood theater.

The Leawood Theater is part of the Fine Arts Group, a group of entrepreneurs that has salvaged several "legacy" theaters -- the Leawood at 95 and Mission, the Glenwood at 95th and Metcalf and the Rio in downtown OP. What I like about these theaters is that they are very neighborhood focused, as opposed to recent trend of locating cinema multiplexes in very heavily commercial areas.

Anyway, we arrived at the theater at about twenty past five and I was surprised and pleased to see such a crowd of people. The Ranch Mart shopping area has been under heavy construction for the last few months. Before the renovation started, it has a nice retro-70s kind of look.

Now, the parking lot is pretty torn up. About sixty percent of the parking spaces are occupied by construction materials and equipment. But you can see the form of the new, renovated Ranch Mart coming into shape.

Sure, they've got a ways to go. But the point is, for all of this construction the theater on Saturday was very busy. All age groups seemed to be represented, and the screens are offering the newest releases. You're not going to be able to choose from 30 different screens, but I can only watch one movie at a time anyway.

So, even though I was more entertained by the life-sized statue of Gort in the lobby than by the romantic-so-called-comedy we watched in the theater, I'm glad to see our neighborhood cinema seemingly thriving.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Movie Mini Review: Shaun of the Dead

Title: Shaun of the Dead

Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Bill Nighy

Plot summary:
Quintessential loser Shaun decides to finally get his life together. Step one is to get his girlfriend back after she dumps him for being a layabout. Unfortunately, he picks a bad day to make a fresh start. It's hard to get your life together when your roommate's trying to eat you.

My thoughts:
I'm not going mince words here. I freakin' loved this movie. Every time I watch it I'm reminded that the first 20 minutes of Sean of the Dead is sheer cinematic genius.

Director Edgar Wright did a masterful job of cleverly and simultaneously introducing the main characters and the primary plot points. Seeing Shaun (Simon Pegg -- he plays "Scotty" in the upcoming Star Trek prequel) going about his morning completely oblivious to the zombie apocalypse happening around him was both hilarious comedy and insightful commentary on modern society.

When Shaun and his best friend Ed (Nick Frost) finally realize they are under attack by zombies -- killing the first one by frisbeeing vinyl records at it -- Shaun quickly formulates a plan: Take the car, pick up his mum and rekill his zombified step dad, go get his girlfriend, then hide out at the local pub until it all blows over.

The situations and dialogue along the way are witty and clever. I always laugh out loud at the way the characters handle all the weirdness with straight-faced matter-of-factness.

One could argue that the movie is formulaic. It does follow the standard "boy meets zombie, boy bashes zombie over head with cricket bat, boy saves girl" template. But Shaun of the Dead shows that, despite the suckage of 90% of the dreck shuffled out of Hollywood for the past 20 years or so, a talented director with a talented cast can successfully take a fresh approach to an old idea.

My final rating:
Five out of five zombie bites

Favorite quote:
"Take car. Go to Mum's. Kill Phil - "Sorry." - grab Liz, go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint, and wait for all of this to blow over. How's that for a slice of fried gold?"

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The average skank can't keep up with that...

In my opinion these reality shows set up an example for America's growing population of skanks to strive for.

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Friday, February 06, 2009

Easterly neighbors

Just catching up on some RSS feeds after a busy couple of weeks in the real world and I wanted to pass on some helpful information I found over at WNBT.

One of my favorite local writers Nick Charles found it within himself to grace us lowly Kansans with a much appreciated bit of automotive advice.

It's solid advice from the logic-based culture that permeates Kansas City Missouri down to the very soles of the bare feet in city hall.

And because Mr. Charles was so helpful (misspellings aside) in his recent column, I was hoping that he and his KCMO/JACO brain trust could give us JoCo cretins a little advice on a few other items.

1) Whenever I venture into Kansas City, Mo, I'm always envious of the awesome steel plates that cover virtually every inch of pavement. How I long for such extravagant luxuries in our little burg of Johnson County. Sure, they're a pain to drive on, and maybe they do shred your car's tires like an Independence Avenue working girl with Lee Press-On Nails.

But certainly a city's wealth and affluence can be measured in it's willingness to destroy it's own transportation for the sake of rusty steel roadways.

2) Johnson County Kansas seems to be way behind the times when it comes to sewer and storm drainage. Currently, we are still in the dark ages of collecting our waste water and filtering it through a multi-stage purification process resulting in the reduction of pollution returned into the natural environment.

How I long for the day when JoCo can be more like Kansas City, Mo., allowing our most foul waste to flow through the creeks and streams of our neighborhoods and shopping districts creating a signature aroma known far and wide as the Kansas City Stink.

3) When it comes down to it, a city is only as good as the people who manage it's government on a day-to-day basis. And I think there can be no argument that Kansas City, Mo., has the best that money can buy.

From the city council, to the mayor's office to the school board, Kansas City government is virtually synonymous with efficiency and effectiveness.

If only the various governments of Johnson County could learn to be a fraction as effective of the Jackson County governments. Then we could have cities and neighborhoods that people actually want to live it. We could have a school system where children feel safe and nurtured.

Yes, we in Johnson County have a long way to go before we can claim to have cities the caliber of Kansas City, Mo. But with the help of people like Mr. Charles, I have hope for great change.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Erudite Ferrets

Unlike many on the Inkernetz, I never got into the LOLCats phenomenon.

For one thing, I really can't stand cats. It goes beyond my extreme allergy to them. In my opinion, cats are kind of like Slinkys. They're basically useless, but still it's fun to watch them fall down a staircase.

So I just kind of cringe a little whenever I see one of the LOLCats images. Thankfully it's rare for something to go unanswered on the intertubes these days, and the originators of Erudite Ferrets have answered the LOLCat meme with aplomb.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

YouTube Tuesday: Take this Job and shove it

Today's episode of YouTube Tuesday is dedicated to a new series over at the Hip Suburban White Guy. Our dear friend and intrepid spiritual mentor Xavier Onassis undertakes a deep penetrating and exhaustive study of serious Biblical texts, starting with the Book of Job.

His serious, studious and not at all superficial treatment of the text is worthy of this comment by well-known spiritual observer John Safran.

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