Friday, January 31

For those of us (females) who are more or less expected to wear make-up, it's alarming how little we know about the contents of those products. The other night I watched an illuminating show on the CBC (Canada's version of, um, PBS?) about carcinogens in cosmetics, and how little Canada's government is doing to regulate the industry or even to ensure that all products are thoroughly labeled. To offer an analogy, about 400 carcinogenic substances are banned from Britain's cosmetics industry; about 40 are banned in Canada. For you Americans, here's a list of substances flagged as carcinogenic by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, but it is not cosmetics-specific. Here's a list of cosmetics products to avoid. Or maybe, ladies, it's just time for us to stop wasting time, money, and our well-being on lifestyles that for centuries have been expected of one sex and not the other.

Wednesday, January 29

To follow up on Rosie's blog of January 22nd, regarding McDonald's legal victory over a 19-year-old girl who blamed the chain for her obesity, I've just read a thoughtful account in The Toronto Star arguing the story ain't over yet. Apparently the judge in the case (aptly named Judge Sweet) has given the plaintiffs 30 days to tweak their complaint. If they can prove "that McDonald's products have been so altered that their unhealthy attributes are now outside the ken of the average reasonable consumer," (and how hard will that be?) they might just win. In principle, I think it's misguided to blame weight gain on the food rather than the food consumer, but with the majority of Americans still getting their daily ration from what Judge Sweet called "a McFrankenstein creation of various elements," how else are you going to regulate a megachain's version of "food"?
This just in from the “Did I Really Just Hear That?” Department: CNN-TV reports that Britney Spears walked out of Robert Downey Jr.’s new film, The Singing Detective, debuting this year at Sundance Film Festival. She referred to the Festival as “weird” and said she walked out of Downey’s film (and didn't care for other films at Sundance) because “you actually have to think about the movies when you watch them.” Ladies and Gentlemen, I present you with Pop Culture USA and further evidence of the Dumbing Down of America.

Tuesday, January 28

The subject for today's Working Assets Radio is Preempting Bush’s State of the Union, sounds like a better use of my time.
The world continues, whether we blog about it or not.

Friday, January 24

To keep yourself from dissolving, to stay human, keep your sense of your place.
Yesterday up here in Canada, our prime minister made a statement about Canada's position on a U.S. war with Iraq. This morning, two major newspapers print the story. But what is wrong with this picture?

From the national paper, The Globe and Mail, we get this front-page headline: "PM to Bush: Hold off on war."

From The Toronto Star we hear that "Chretien supports U.S. push for war."

It's my favorite kind of journalism -- Choose Your Own Adventure!

Thursday, January 23

What's wrong with this sentence: The perverse charm of "Joe Millionaire" is that it's so upfront with viewers about its dishonesty -- which makes it among the most honest of the reality-TV genre.

Please, journalists, don't put the words "honest" and "reality-TV" in the same sentence. Thanks.

Wednesday, January 22

This blog is for my old friend Andy in Boston. I'll lay off the SUV bashing today for you, okay, and go to my next favorite topic: Food.

Who's to blame here? Fast food industry? Society? Individual responsiblity? Everyone wants to blame someone. Even though I can't stand the fast food industry, I do agree with the judge's dismissal of the case involving two overweight girls under 20 - one of whom said that a McMuffin for breakfast and a Big Mac meal for dinner was her regular daily diet. I'm immediately thinking, "Hmmm, if I'm 19 years old and weigh 270 pounds, eating this way every day might cause a bell to go off somewhere in my head that it's probably not good for me." Then there's the father, who believed McDonald's was "healthy for my children." While I agree with the issues in the story regarding billion-dollar advertising which targets mostly children, what the hell kind of dream world is he living in?

The judge ruled, ""Where should the line be drawn between an individual's own responsibility to take care of herself and society's responsibility to ensure others shield her? The complaint fails to allege the McDonald's products consumed by the plaintiffs were dangerous in any way other than that which was open and obvious to a reasonable consumer." Gotta go with the judge on this one.

Why can't we be like the French? This summer, McDonald's in France placed an advertisement in the popular magazine Femme Actuelle that said, "There is no reason to eat excessive amounts of junk food, nor go more than once a week to McDonald's." C'est bon.

We'd like to thank our Blog Team, especially John and Jana, for keeping up the great blogging during Jason's and my transition to a new job and new city. Thanks, everyone, for keeping the 'Sewer fresh.

Friday, January 17

Tom Tomorrow caught a press conference with our president babbling about the cost of malpractice insurance in the state of Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, January 15

Affirmative action seems to be gathering momentum as a hot topic these days. And having spent the past three months applying to various graduate schools across the country, I know a bit about it. There's a section about ethnicity on all the application forms -- and filling out that section is "optional." I chose to not exercise that option, even though my chances of getting into these schools would have been higher had I identified my minority origins as a Czech immigrant. Personally, I found it insulting that the mere facts of my birth, mother tongue, and economic status should be weighed alongside my grades, skills, and experience. So I'm not exactly pro-affirmative action. But I also find it vaguely odious that the Bush Administration is involving itself with a lawsuit on the matter.

NY Times login: opensewer; password: iswatching.

Regarding Jason's blog below, here's a message to all you SUV drivers who tailgate me while I'm stopped uphill at a red light: I drive stick-shift. If I roll into your front bumper because you're on my butt, honey, it's your fault. Keep your distance and we'll all be happy, k?
"I would not put an inexperienced driver in a vehicle that is rollover prone,” says Dr. Jeffrey Runge of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Mr. Runge has resolved to more carefully scrutinize the safety of SUVs and their strong tendency to roll over.

We’ve heard so much criticism of these much-maligned vehicles (a large percentage of it coming from us), but in the end the real victims are the drivers of SUVs themselves. Or perhaps I should say that “they get what’s coming to them.” Do they not realize that when they tailgate those of us who choose to drive smaller cars—when they behave aggressively toward us, when they are oblivious to all other drivers but themselves—don’t they realize that we retaliate?

I can’t tell you how many times Rose and I “mess with” SUV drivers after they behave aggressively toward us. (We’re not instigators, mind you—we’re reactive, not proactive in this situation.) It’s so much fun to drive real slowly when one of those big guys/girls zooms behind you in a hurry, headlights glaring in your eyes, the monster-vehicle wavering from side to side in an angry demonstration of impatience. It’s so fun to trap them at the next red light, or to box them in on the highway. And boy, oh boy, do they get angry. Their blood pressure must be zooming to an even higher level than it was when they first attacked.

Childish? Irresponsible? Perhaps. But no more so than driving an SUV in the first place.

Tuesday, January 14

Somehow Tom Tomorrow consistantly explains the current American condition with a simple comic. This week, "the moon may break out of orbit and crash into the earth."
Here's an article regarding the SUV's loss of popularity and, uh, coolness.
Alternet has a list of its Top Ten Conspiracy Theories of 2002. Full of stories that will make you pause, laugh, or shake yer head in shame and wonder. Or maybe you'll just call them all wacko-nutjobs.(lotsa links in there)

Monday, January 13

So the other day Jason and I were talking about the What Would Jesus Drive? campaign (kick-off story here). There are a million articles, some old news and some new news, for and against. Here's one from The Charlotte World for example, against the entire campaign. I loved the ending paragraph, especially the incredibly misled part about ...As for me and my house, we’re going to be traveling around encased in some serious steel protection, because my four children are infinitely more important than a few extra gallons of gasoline. Uh-huh buddy, you are so much safer in an SUV. (Personally, I'm a bit disgusted with the entire premise of what it is to be a "good Christian" or rather, the "Do As I Do Not As I Say Or Act" method of Christianity that so many seem to practice these days. But I digress.)

Here's one from The Albuquerque Journal that's less biased and even has a good sense of humor about it, while making its point. Take a look at it. And lastly, here's one from The Washington Times.

Time Europe asks, "Which country really poses the greatest danger to world peace in 2003?" The results aren't surprising.
The War Against the Movie Critics- from In a more general sense -what is the origin of the anti-critical sentiment: Anti-elitism? Feelings of exclusion? Inferiority? And the attacks most often seem to strike movie critics - why? Why do people with no training or background or schooling think they can critically review movies as well as experienced professionals? (Maybe b/c of dumbdown critics like the two thumbs reductionists...) I doubt most people would feel qualified to review literature or architecture. Yet any Joe who's seen The Godfather thinks he knows great movies . And to prove them right, we get such qualified and trained people as Ed Koch doing reviews. (once again, the nytimes login is: login:opensewer; password:iswatching)

Saturday, January 11

It's sad that my favorite magazine publishes so few women, and those who do get a byline tend to contribute poems (the smallest possible offering), and those who contribute poems tend to be the editor-in-chief's personal assistant.
A wise person once told me, “big people talk about things; little people talk about people.”

Of course, it’s natural, even good, to engage in a little gossip, people-watching and stargazing once in a while. Without it, life would be cold and quite boring. And without it, we wouldn’t recognize heroes. We need heroes, or at least role models. We also need meaningful human relationships.

But living vicariously in all its forms—reading People magazine, gossiping about others—is a parasite to stable culture when it goes too far. An existence centered on reactions to other peoples’ lives is an existence that lacks meaning. Pathological schadenfreude is the sign of a weak mind and soul.

(Indulge me—I’m getting to my point here…)

We all had high hopes that Reality Television would die a messy, painful death when lame-ass shows like Big Brother didn’t get the ratings media execs thought they would. But now, according to this article in a Pittsburgh paper (one of many articles like it), it’s been given new life. This, apparently, is largely thanks to American Idol, a show which, according to what I’ve heard people say about it, had some socially redeeming value. (Really?)

But the recent shows (Joe Millionaire, Celebrity Mole) reach new lows, drawing more than ever on desperation, embarrassment and voyeurism as key resources. Joe Millionaire adds a new resource: The Outright Lie. I’d like to think that those who watch these shows are victims of “evil executives” out to steal their money and attention and bent on world domination. But people are ultimately responsible for their own actions, so I guess that makes them (me? you?) just poor, bottom-feeding losers.

Cotton candy tastes good, but too much of it rots your teeth.

Friday, January 10

Last night COPS had some sort of anniversary or something on the only station I receive broadcast from here in hilly Ithaca.... While I didn't watch, I can assure you this story didn't make it.

Wednesday, January 8

Ahh, kids today, lock them up and throw away the key. Zero tolerance, only way to fix them and their drug habits, right? Wrong. It just leads to more drug use - and maybe worse, more addictive use.

This is the kind of thing that scares me for the kids coming into the world. I don't plan to have any anytime soon, but I know people who do, and I fear the schools aligning themselves like this - against children, really - more than "dangerous" teens.

And besides, locking kids up for pot is un-Christian, too.

Tuesday, January 7

This is big news - the kind of news that won't get reported too much in the major media, because, well, it's about the media. The feds are paving the way toward greater media monopoly in your town. This is bad. This terrible. This is the kind of stuff that gets me so angry about this nation I live in - people working hard to mess it up. There are names we call these people, but this is a family website. (freeloader free pass to the free - login:opensewer; password:iswatching)
I simply had to - and I mean, had to - blog this article. I do my best not to be judgmental about this issue but time and time again it proves itself to be true: an author claims in his new book that the SUV is the car of choice for the nation's most self-centered people; and the bigger the SUV, the more of a jerk its driver is likely to be. Love it.

Monday, January 6

What rights do these corporations, these creations, these legal fictions, have? Nike is arguing they have the right to lie, just like people have the right to free speech. But why should an organization have human rights under the US constitution? (from mefi)

Thursday, January 2

In The New York Times this morning, an article on the growing clout of anti-abortion finks in Washington.

The tail-end of the piece is clearly intended to sound chilling, and it does indeed make me shiver: "This agenda reflects a strategic shift among many anti-abortion advocates in recent years: While still committed to ending legalized abortion someday, many have adopted a more gradual, step-by-step approach intended to change attitudes and laws over the long haul."

It's hard to believe women (and thinking men) would allow abortion rights to be eroded, and attitudes to be changed via the passing of outmoded laws, but then I remember an article in The Village Voice last summer, talking about penniless teens trekking to New York and sleeping on people's couches just to get the abortions they needed in a country where one would think such procedures would not entirely disrupt females' lives.