Pop Culture Junkette

Addicted to pop culture.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Fugging great

I love year-end retrospectives, and this one is by far the best I have seen in...well, ever.

Not that I should be surprised. After all, these are the same women who wrote the best thing I have ever read in my entire life: a tribute to Jessica Fletcher. (And anyone who knows me will vouch for the fact that I am not being sarcastic here and that I do, in fact, record two episodes of Murder, She Wrote everyday, and I would record more if A&E would come to its senses and run the show more often.)


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Children of Men

I finally saw Children of Men, and it is easily, by far, the best movie I've seen this year (although if you look back at the movies I've posted on this year . .. low bar). Set in 2027 and based on a P.D. James novel of the same name, the premise is that the entire female population of the world has gone infertile, and no children have been born in the past 18 years. In this distopia, the entire world has descended into either chaos or brutal police states. But here's why the movie is so great, not only is it brutal and really really dark, it has some really funny moments. Aside from one niggling question that drove me crazy throughout the movie (why are humans infertile, but animals don't seem to be having any trouble reproducing?) it felt so real. There were very few if any false notes. The screenplay was beautiful, the cinematography was gritty and dark, Clive Owen's hair was believably mussed, and the entire cast was just fantastic. Two very enthusiastic thumbs up. A

(On a side note, I'm about to be without regular internet access for the foreseeable future. But I'm not leaving the blog, just broadband (and that very reluctantly).)


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Other Laura's Movie Reviews

As I mentioned below, I was thwarted in my goal to see 3 movies in 3 days by unanticipated crowds at the theater yesterday, but now that I'm jobless, I think I can make up for it. I saw 2 movies this weekend, neither of which will ever be nominated for an Oscar, but both kept me entertained for a couple of hours.

We Are Marshall - if you're one of those unfortunate people (like Cameron Diaz's character in The Holiday) who can't cry, this movie should cure you of that. Since the preview made me cry every time it played, I came prepared with a hankerchief. But one wasn't enough. I cried at least 4 or 5 times. And as Bailey and I were sniffling our way out of the theater, we overheard a guy saying that he'd counted himself tearing up 8 times. So . . . be warned.

Night at the Museum - It was a fun movie, it was funny, it wasn't brilliant. Museum was playing next door to Rocky Balboa, and I have to admit I expected that the large group of body builders in line in front of me were headed for that. I was wrong. Oops. It was just the first instant judgment that was overturned by this little movie because I didn't find the Ricky Gervais character even a little amusing, but I found Robin Williams' character charming. What the hell? That's not the way this is supposed to go!


Monday, December 25, 2006

Movie Reviews Part I

So I've done exactly as I planned for my weekeend away in Boston - I've seen a movie a day since Saturday. And I hope to continue my movie-a-day streak in the coming week as I'm off, yes off!, from work thank god.

Here are my reviews so far, following in my father-in-law's tradition of grading movies on an A-F scale:

1. Pursuit of Happyness -- B. Will Smith's performance was surprisingly good and the direction was impressive, but it's hard to give a movie this predictable a much higher grade.

2. The Good Shepherd -- B+. Even though it is close to three hours, it held my attention the entire time. I actually thought Matt Damon was miscast and Angelina Jolie was a waste. And even the other star roles -- a tiny one by Joe Pesci, a somewhat larger one by Robert DeNiro - were nothing special. So I guess it says something about the movie itself that I thoroughly enjoyed it despite most of the acting.

3. Dreamgirls -- B+/A-. As far as musicals go, this was pretty awesome. It had some flaws as a movie, but I was entertained and got goosebumps every time JHud opened her mouth to sing. Eddie Murphy was particularly good too.

What did others think of these movies? Next on my list for this week: Notes on a Scandal, Children of Men, Volver, Babel, and The Painted Veil. Grades to come.



I haven't been living under a rock, I did know that many people have a tradition of going to the movies on Christmas day. But having never done it myself, it didn't occur to me that I might have trouble getting a ticket for the 1:50 showing of what looks like, by far, the most depressing movie of the season. I mean, I was at this same theater on Saturday, and it was empty. EMPTY I tell you. Bah humbug I say as I go back to my private Indiana Jones marathon.


James Brown, 1933-2006

The godfather of soul has died. May he rest in peace.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Best line ever

This is for any current or former Days of Our Lives fans out there (or really for anyone who can look at the photo to the left).

Steve "Patch" Johnson to his wife Kayla, when she asks him whether she can believe him:

"Look into my eye."


One Day Early, But

A Happy Festivus to All! I hope you took your poles out of the garage, have thought about what grievances to air, and been limbering up for the feats of strength.

This will likely be my last post of 2006 as I will be incommunicado for much of the remainder of the year. It has been a pleasure, and hope to see all of you (yes, the two of you who read this) in 2007.


In A Legal Interlude

Prosecutors in Durham appear to have dropped rape charges against the three Duke lacrosse players. Still pending, however, are kidnapping and sexual offense charges, which makes no sense to me. This prosecution has been one of the worst I have ever seen. When the late Ed Bradley and Duke Law Prof. James Coleman are strongly against the prosecution in a case such as this, the DA has big problems. And that the entire theory of the case involved trusting the complaining witness (whose credibility keeps getting less and less), I don't see how any charges can stick if the prosecution does not believe it can go forward with the rape counts.

This travesty appears to be reaching its denouement, and I imagine all charges will be dropped in the coming weeks or months. The only remaining questions will be: (1) can the Durham County DA Mike Nifong keep his job (he shouldn't) and (2) how will the 3 accused players be affected in the coming months and years. (I will leave aside criticizing the many who rushed to judgment and said truly absurd things about how to treat these individuals because of their race/social class/athletic status.) On the second question, I do not believe that "their lives have been ruined" as some have said. While what they have gone through is awful (assuming they are innocent as appears quite likely), I don't think they will have much trouble getting a job/getting on with their lives due to the sympathy they receive for having been railroaded. This is not an OJ situation where he may have been acquitted but virtually no one thinks he is innocent. And now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The personalized holiday card

Back in my youth, I used to go door-to-door in my neighborhood, shilling holiday cards from a catalogue. I made brisk sales, as these cards could be personalized with a message and the senders' names. This was a rare option at the time, as the only other choice was to go to a store and buy boxes of cards, filling everything out by hand.

Now, of course, the internet has changed all that, allowing people to not only personalize their cards, but also upload photos to put on the cover of those cards. The result is that about half of the cards I receive have personal photos on the front of them.

For the most part, these are cute. Pictures of little kids? Cute! Pictures of furry kids? Cute! Pictures of two adults, somewhere between the ages of 25 and 50? Totally not cute.

I have a number of friends without pets or children who somehow think I want to see photos of them. I don't. If these photos were tongue-in-cheek, like those I see yearly from a family friend who puts herself in strange places (dressing up as Elvis; sticking her face in a Keira Knightly cut-out, between a cardboard Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp), I could get behind them. But two 30 year olds in front of a Christmas tree? A 45 year old smiling next to Santa? A couple of 28 year olds skiing? It's not cute, it's not witty, and I have absolutely no interest.

Am I a Scrooge? Or being totally reasonable?


The Perfect Gift For the Holidays

This week's SNL was fairly funny with host Justin Timberlake. (Calling him JT is almost as bad as calling any football player LT other than Lawrence Taylor.) The Barry Gibb Show is one of those rare SNL skits that remains extremely funny each time it is done, and it is an even rarer skit in that Jimmy Fallon is very funny in it. (I don't know where he finds the time, but he manages to return whenever Timberlake hosts.) But the skit that is getting all the buzz is this digital short, a worthy successor to last year's Lazy Sunday. WARNING: THIS IS THE UNCENSORED VERSION OF THE SKIT! THE ONE THAT AIRED ON NBC WAS FILLED WITH BLEEPS.



It is starting. The first airline, Emirates, will be allowing cell phone calls on planes. And the FAA is considering allowing it in the US. I have no problem with people using PDAs in flight (assuming there is no safety issue). Heck, I don't really have a problem with PDA in flight unless it involves the couple sitting next to me and they start entering my personal space. But I like being able to relax on a flight, do some work, or, as is my usual wont, get in some good reading. Now if everyone can jabber while on board . . . . Well, it will be a nightmare.

The Rosie v. The Donald

Guess who I'm rooting for in this fight? Apparently Donald Trump is threatening to sue Rosie O'Donnell over her mentioning on air that he has a shaky financial history. That's really cause for a lawsuit? Seriously?!? I'm sure a suit won't actually be filed and this is just a PR salvo, but . . . lame.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Who Could Bring These Two Together?

Just to be clear, that's Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul and Kid Rock. (Gul is on the left.) Talk about two people unlikely to be mentioned in the same sentence, but if you read yesterday's New York Times, there they were.

And where were they? Istanbul, of course, for the funeral of Ahmet Ertegun. (I have already given great praise to that magnificent city.) Ertegun was a musical icon, perhaps the most famous Turk in the United States, and yet unknown to most of the general public. For many, if he was known at all, it was most likely from Ray where he was played by Booger. Yet this founder of Atlantic Records was a guiding force behind Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Led Zeppelin, and the Rolling Stones among many others. He even wrote popular songs including Chains of Love (as A. Nugetre--Ertegun spelled backwards). He also was a founder of the New York Cosmos.

Perhaps fittingly, he collapsed at a Stones concert in October in honor of President Clinton's 60th birthday, never to regain consciousness before passing away last week at 83. A giant has left us.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

If you think you've reached the end of the internet . . .

you haven't. Take a gander at this. Thanks to mamapop for ruining what little chance I had of being productive today.

Any Guesses

on what Tara Conner did so that Trump would not remove her as Miss USA? We're thinking . . . we're thinking . . .

Monday, December 18, 2006

Guess Who This Is?

Justin Guarini! What a difference a haircut makes. Via Go Fug Yourself.

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Growing Respect for John Mayer

No, this has nothing to do with whom he is dating. Much more important: He is a Dundie award winner! (Have I mentioned that you need to watch The Office?)


Saturday, December 16, 2006

I WON!!!!

Yes, I'm Time's Man of the Year. And so are you and you and you.

This is really a new low for the award The editors of Time used to find an individual or two who most shaped the news in a given year for good or bad. Now, like so much in our lives, the device is simply used to sell more magazines. Heck, Hitler (rightly) won twice, but you won't see Osama Bin Laden or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad winning because they have a bad q-rating. I guess if everyone who won buys the magazine, it will be the best selling issue ever.

Look I agree with TO when he says "I love me some me," but this year's award is just plain lame.

Friday, December 15, 2006


I don't have any lengthy analysis of Survivor strategy to offer, just wanted to say how ridiculous grateful I was at the end of last night's episode that Parvati did not manage to turn the Aitu-ites on each other and ended up with her ass on the jury. The editors really had me worried there for awhile. The end.


I Am Right

The Onion came out with its list of the year's 25 best albums, and guess which album was the "runaway winner"? The Hold Steady, Boys and Girls in America.

Intriguingly, LCD Soundsystem's, 45:33, came in at No. 21. I really liked their self-titled album last year, and I like the idea that it was written specifically for running to, but does the world really need a 45 minute long song? I'm skeptical.

For Minnesotans, there's also a special Loon State edition, featuring a bunch of bands you've probably never heard of, plus Prince. Mysteriously absent: Tapes 'n Tapes, The Loon.

Statement of Sacha Baron Cohen re Golden Globe Nomination

"I am extremely honored. I’m very proud as well for my fellow writers as well as our director Larry Charles, and our producer Jay Roach, and am very thankful for the HFPA’s belief and acknowledgment of our film. I have been trying to let Borat know this great news but for the last 4 hours both of Kazakhstan’s telephones have been engaged. Eventually, Premier Nazarbayev answered and said he would pass on the message as soon as Borat returned from Iran, where he is guest of honor at the Holocaust Denial Conference.”

I really hope he wins for best actor, and there is a very good chance he will. The acceptance speech has the potential for high comedy, as I imagine it will be Borat and not Baron Cohen in attendance.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

These lists always suck

I know that very few readers of this blog care about sports, let alone hockey, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to critique this list of the top 50 forwards of all-time, compiled by ESPN "experts."

Both Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin are on this list. Sure, they had great rookie seasons, and I do think Ovechkin is the most exciting player to watch in the NHL right now. But rookie seasons are all they have had--they are only in their second year of NHL play. Do they really deserve to be ranked above one of the grittiest scorers of all-time, Cam Neely? How is it that Pat LaFontaine (my all-time favorite player, along with Mike Bossy) deserves to be on the list but his former teammate, league MVP, Stanley Cup finals MVP and six-time Stanley Cup winner, the supremely mustachioed Bryan Trottier didn't make the cut?

I really hate lists like this.


Pretty Pathetic

First, Michael Crowley is a friend. (Yes, I'm only posting about my friends today.) Yet regardless of my knowing Mike, Michael Crichton's "revenge" on him is pathetic beyond belief. I would give the background, but Mike's article on ths subject provides all you need to know. Just to be safe (and per the advice of a mutual friend), I will be keeping Mike away from Isaac, Jr.

Update: The NY Times also has an article on this saga.

In Memoriam

RIP, Peter Boyle.


How 'bout them apples

Matt Damon is actually an old college friend (although, sad to say, not someone I have seen or spoken to since college), and this clip of him on Letterman doing Matthew McConaughey is pretty funny. And is it me, or are Matt and Patriots QB Tom Brady separated at birth?



Isaac may not want to talk about the TV nods on the Golden Globes, but I do, if only to start ramping up for my inevitable rant when it's time again for the Emmys. No nominations for The Wire, Friday Night Lights, or Battlestar Galactica? I'm completely and totally appalled that the three best shows on television - by leaps and bounds - didn't merit mention in a single category. Don't get me wrong, I love me some House, but Kyle Chandler on FNL is a revelation. And if I think for more than the time it takes me to write that EVANGELINE LILLY and SARAH PAULSON are nominated for a Golden Globe while Mary McDonnel, who can shred my heart with a lowered eye, is not, my head might just explode.

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Oscar Warm Ups

This morning, the Golden Globe nominations came out. The complete list is here. I am not going to bother discussing the TV nominations because the big deal involves the movies.

First, I am happy to say that even with the arrival of Isaac, Jr., back in April, Mrs. Bartender and I have seen a pretty good number of the nominees including The Departed, Borat, Little Miss Sunshinine, and The Queen. (Every year, Mrs. Bartender and I try to catch all of the best picture Oscar nominees, and we have seen all of them since at least 2000. We do not plan to let Isaac, Jr., break our streak.)

I am thrilled but not surprised to see the success of The Departed, Little Miss Sunshine, Helen Mirren, and Forrest Whittaker in receiving numerous nominations. Martin Scorsese may finally win an Oscar this year for his outstanding film (even if it is not as good as Goodfellas or Raging Bull but those are pretty hard standards to equal). Moreover, the two nominations for Borat for best picture (comedy/musical) and best actor (comedy/musical) for Sacha Baron Cohen are well deserved, and I would love to see the film or him receive an Oscar nomination. It was amusing to see Jessica Biel and the audience laughing as she said, twice, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

As for films I haven't seen, the one seemingly certain to receive an Oscar nomination is Dreamgirls, which my sources (along with almost everyone else's) say is fantastic. I also would like to see Little Children if for no other reason than to see Kelly Leak's performance that may get him an Oscar nomination. Chico's Bail Bonds must be so excited. And if you have no idea what I'm talking about, you really need to watch the Bad News Bears. Yes, the movie was made before the version with Billy Bob Thornton.

A few surprises: First, that Bobby received a best picture (drama) nomination shocks me and is unlikely to be repeated next month. The reviews were mediocre to poor and our own Laura Holt concurred in this bleak assessment. Second, I was surprised by the massive success of Babel, which received 7 nominations despite mediocre reviews. However, the awards are voted on by the Hollywood Foreign Press and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, the film's director, has a lot of attraction overseas. (I'm not trying to criticize him, only to point out that his influence may be greater over the voters of these awards than the Academy.)

My greatest disappointment was that the outstanding United 93 received no nominations. That the film won the NY Film Critics award for best picture a few days ago made me optimistic, but it was not to be. This film, by the way, while difficult to watch is extremely powerful and done in a realistic and non-exploitive way. I urge you to rent it if you have not seen it.

Of course, all of this is just a warm up for the Oscar nominations next month.

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The Duel

MTV's newest Real World/Road Rules Challenge is entitled The Duel, and it features more of an every-person-for-him/herself concept than in the past. As with most other seasons, however, each episode ends with two people competing against each other, with the loser going home.

Spoilers ahead

This past week, Wes, who has been forced to compete (and has emerged successfully) in a number of one-on-one challenges, due in large part to his unpopularity, took on small but scrappy Derrick, who beat four men larger than he in last year's Gauntlet II. Wes was victorious, sending Derrick home. After being eliminated, Derrick interviewed that "I'm gonna go home, and reevaluate what I wanna do with my life."

Really? You lose a round of Real World/Road Rules Challenge and you need to reevaluate your life plan? Although maybe that's not such a bad idea when your life plan appears to be "Compete in Real World/Road Rules Challenge indefinitely."


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

With Your Help, We Can Make Millions!

You've all received them. You've all laughed at them. And you've almost all deleted them. Yes, those e-mails (often from Nigeria) telling you how with your brief assistance, you will wind up with millions. Well, one man decided to respond to these con artists and here are his fascinating back and forths with his would be defrauders. Hat tip, Randy Barnett at Volokh.

In a similar, albeit much more serious, vein, there is also this fascinating New Yorker article from May in which it discussed a psychotherapist fell for such a scam and his subsequent legal woes.

Is It Just Me . . .

. . . or is MM not so cute anymore? At all.

And these are some relatively good pictures of him, compared to the heinous, sweaty shots taken over the summer.


Bloody lies?

According to Us Weekly, Nicole Richie is telling friends that she is not addicted to Vicodin, but rather takes it once a month to help alleviate the pain from mentrual cramps.

Am I the only one who finds it very hard to believe that Richie menstruates at all? Most women who are severely underweight don't, or, if they do at all, it is very rare and not at all on a regular monthly cycle.

Of course, none of this explains why she then drove a car after taking the Vicodin. Or how the marijuana factored into the equation at all.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The First Computer

This really isn't pop culture related. But this article in yesterday's Post was fascinating.

Archeologists found parts of a machine in a ship wreck off of Crete. The machine -- called the Antikythera Mechanism -- was built in roughly 100 B.C. It had more than 30 gears and was used to show how the sky would have looked on a given date. It was more complex than anything made for the next 1,000 years.

Mysteries abound: who made it? what happened to the technology? are there more like it?

I think the explanation is obvious: Rambaldi.

But Why Can't He Be Funny?

Not to intentionally continue today's political theme (started by Bailey in her post below on Pinochet (and if I really wanted to bore you, I could explain why I mildly disagree with her position)), but I can't resist continuing somewhat with politics.

It seems that the creative genium behind Mallard Fillmore, the right wing's response to Doonesbury, seems to have a wee bit of a drinking problem. A few months ago, he was arrested for public intoxication, and now Edward Bruce Tinsley has been arrested for DUI. All I have to say is that whether or not you agree with Gary Trudeau's politics, Doonesbury is not only frequently quite funny but often extremely moving. Moreover, Trudeau goes after power--these days it certainly focuses on Bush, but he was brutal in satirizing Clinton in the 90s. There is a reason the Washington Post runs it in a location apart from the comics. And yet whenever I bother to read Mallard Fillmore, it is simply right wing pablum that is not funny. Right wingers can be funny, but this stuff is brutal. Maybe Tinsley needs to drink less . . . or a lot more.

Hat tip, Jason Zengerle at the Plank.


The Holiday

Holt and I went to see The Holiday yesterday and the verdict is: disappointing. I had such high hopes for this movie.

[Spoilers ahead.]

First of all, Cameron Diaz is not the world's greatest actress. And it makes her character very unsympathetic and just weird for the first half hour or so.

More importantly, everything is just taken a little too far. Like it's not enough that Cameron Diaz's character is a successful, ambitious woman, with intimacy issues. She's also physically incapable of crying. But guess how she figures out that she loves Jude Law's character? She cries as she's driving away! I never saw that coming. It's like Chekhov's lack of tears.

And it's not enough that Jude Law is a single parent. His wife died!

And it's not enough that Kate Winslet is a doormat who has been strung along for three years by a guy who announces his engagement in the first scene. (At the office Christmas party, natch.) She then agrees to edit pages from his book while she's on vacation, even after she explicitly asked him not to contact her.

And it's not enough that the four main characters end up together on New Year's Eve. It's the type of intimate New Year's Eve get-together where people spontaneously start dancing.


The family Jolie-Pitt

Perez Hilton has posted photos of the family Jolie-Pitt, including two of a totally adorable and not-often-seen Shiloh Nouvel. (Note that Maddux is being carried in two of the photos. And I thought he had finally learned to walk on his own!)

You Cannot Be Serious

Okay, this is not a political blog, but it is within our purview to criticize the Washington Post. One of the sad things in the past few years has been witnessing the decline of the Post's editorial page under its current editor, Fred Hiatt. His unquestioning advocacy of the war in Iraq and all of the accompanying chicanery has been particularly dismaying. It's as if they don't read their own paper, particularly the excellent reporting by Dana Priest.

But this morning's editorial about the death of Augusto Pinochet is a new low. Sure Pinochet staged a military coup that overthrew an elected president (resulting in his death). He killed more than 3,000 people. He tortured tens of thousands more. And he sponsored terrorist acts on American soil. But he advocated free market reforms and is therefore responsible for Chile's current economic success.

The evidence for this? That in the past 15 years (in other words after Pinochet left office in 1990), Chile's economy has grown faster than those of other Latin American countries.

But the most galling passage has to be this one:

The contrast between Cuba and Chile more than 30 years after Mr. Pinochet's coup is a reminder of a famous essay written by Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, the provocative and energetic scholar and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who died Thursday. In "Dictatorships and Double Standards," a work that caught the eye of President Ronald Reagan, Ms. Kirkpatrick argued that right-wing dictators such as Mr. Pinochet were ultimately less malign than communist rulers, in part because their regimes were more likely to pave the way for liberal democracies. She, too, was vilified by the left. Yet by now it should be obvious: She was right.
Seriously? So, by the same token, does the contrast between, say, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Slovenia show that Ms. Kirkpatrick was full of shit? Or could it be that any degree of current political stability does not really justify any amount of past torture?

Rant over.


Hardy Perennials

Despite the pretty lights and shiny ornaments, December can be a bit grim what with the appalling lack of new episodes of many of our favorite series, leaving the Tivo now playing list sadly sparse. (Oh, how I miss you already Greys, Heroes, Veronica Mars, and yes, even Jericho!) But what keeps me going through these dark days, in addition eggnog and iced sugar cookies, is that stack of movies that, no matter how many times I've seen them, I can always sit through one more time. Now, these aren't the best movies of all time; they're comfort movies. Movies to which I know almost every line, and that are perfect for popping in when I have laundry to fold or presents to wrap (or an apartment to pack into boxes). My personal list is oddly heavy on British accents, pretty men, and Christmas scenes: About a Boy, Love Actually, While You Were Sleeping, Bridget Jones's Diary, Pride & Prejudice (the second DVD of the BBC miniseries and the recent Keira Knightley version), Ocean's 11, and, um, Die Hard. I have a friend whose list includes: Brown Sugar, Honey, Keeping the Faith, and The American President. And another friend would throw Speed and Dirty Dancing into the mix (and I would second these as well).

I'm curious, what are your perennials?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Celebutard DUI

Nicole Richie was arrested and charged with DUI early this morning. Check out the mugshot. It's not very glamorous, but the girl doesn't stop posing. The paparazzi photograph Paris, Nicole, Lindsay et al driving themselves to and from bars, where they've clearly been drinking, on an almost nightly basis. If a cab is too plebian, surely they can afford a car service! It's just beyond me why they keep getting behind the wheel.

As a side note, the booking information lists her height as 5'1" and her weight as 85 pounds. YIKES.

The final pit stop on a race around the world

Spoilers ahead

When the competitors on The Amazing Race learned their final pit stop would be in Garrison, NY, I found it funny. I had just been in Garrison a few hours earlier, at a family party. But when Phil said it would be at St. Basil's Academy, my jaw literally dropped. Although I grew up only a few minutes from St. Basil's, almost no one where I am from has ever even heard of it. And it was the final pit stop on a race around the world?!

I am very familiar with St. Basil's. It is a boarding school for underprivileged children of Greek descent in Garrison, NY. Three of my cousins attended St. Basil's through the eighth grade and my grandmother worked (and for a time, lived) there as a dorm supervisor.

There is also a Greek Orthodox church on the grounds, which my family goes to every year for Easter services (and sometimes midnight mass on Christmas). As I said to Gobo, if we were in the final three on the Race last night, we would have totally won because I would have had zero problems getting us to Garrison. It was particularly cool when the cabbies were talking about directions and I knew whether they were going in the right direction (they were).

A few other thoughts on last night's race:

I was surprised to feel this way, but I was sad that (Kar)lyn didn't make that final plane. They didn't even get their chance to really compete for the prize. It was impressive that they were the first female team to complete the race, although "making history" might have been a bit of an overstatement.

Rob's fixation on not being able to skydive was incredibly annoying. Here's a thought: when you get home, sign up for a tandem skydive, and just do it. You can find companies that take you out in almost any city and it isn't that expensive. It's not like Rob missed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity there. So just shut up.

I found the sewing challenge interesting, although it was unsurprising that two people who are often fitted and probably watch seamstresses do their work regularly and two moms who probably sew a good deal beat out Rob and Kimberly, who probably have very little experience with a needle and thread. I do think Rob and Kimberly would have been faster had Kimberly allowed Rob to help, but obviously she thought it was easier to do it her way. James and Tyler's reaction to finishing first ("we're models!") and Rob's reaction when Kimberly was shocked that they finished ("they're models!") was the most comedic moment of the night.

So much of this final leg of the Race came down to flights. I will never understand how (Kar)lyn passed Rob and Kimberly when their flight got into Paris an hour and a half later. Sure, Orly may be closer to the city than Charles de Gaulle, but it isn't that much closer. Of course, (Kar)lyn's travel inexperience was apparent when they returned to Orly to get an international flight and found out that de Gaulle was the way to go. Most travelers who have been to France know that de Gaulle is the international airport. And in the end, it might have been that mistake that cost them the ability to compete in New York, as they were the last team to get to the airport, the last on the waiting list, and the only team not to make the flight. Having said that, I do wonder how much pull the producers of the Race had in getting James and Tyler on that final flight. Had Rob and Kimberly been the only team to make it, the entire final leg of the race, from NYC to St. Basil's, would have been very anti-climactic.

I also think that this is the first time a long-distance run has ever really factored into the final leg(s) of the race. Running two miles from Times Square to Union Station isn't that easy, and it struck me that I had never seen teams do something similar in the past.

I know a lot of people thought that the final episode was boring, but I didn't. I was totally stressed the entire time, and the St. Basil's inclusion completely made my day. I hear that All-Stars will be premiering in February (I was so sad they didn't show any scenes from it at the end of the episode). I am so happy I only have to wait two months!

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Friday, December 08, 2006

New Couple Alert

Since the unfortunate Rachel Bilson/Adam Brody break-up I have been reading rumors that he is now interested in/hooking up with/dating Ashlee Simpson. Can this be true? Because if so...yuck! Rachel Bilson is totally adorable, and by all accounts is nice and normal. She doesn't strike me as the type who would go into McDonalds and refuse to take a photo with a fan unless he kisses her feet, while cavorting all over the counter tops of the store.

Which we all know is exactly how Ashlee likes to spend her time.

If the rumor is true, Brody really took a huge step down. Yuck, yuck, yuck.

Survival strategy

After taking more than a few seasons off, I began watching Survivor again this season. I admit it--I was intrigued by the premise that people would be split into tribes based on their race, and I wanted to see how it would pan out. Of course, the experiment didn't last long, as the tribes were reshuffled only a few episodes into the season, but the season has nonetheless proved quite interesting.

Spoilers ahead. After last night's episode, there are only six castaways left to compete for the million dollar prize, and I am starting to wonder what the best strategy would be to get to the final two. On one side are the former Raro tribe members of Parvati and Adam, and on the other are the Aitu members of Ozzy, Yul, Becky and Sundra. To throw a wrench in the situation, Yul has "the [not-so] hidden immunity idol," which means if he is voted off he gets to live another day.

The previews from next week's episode imply that Ozzy is considering switching over to Adam and Parvati's side. Would this be a good choice? I don't think so. If Ozzy switches over, the votes will be evenly split, which means that he has a 50-50 chance of being on the losing side of the equation (unless he wants to assume that the tie-breaker will be previous votes against, which it has been in the past--he has one vote against, and Adam and Parvati each have none, which means they would come out on the winning side, as the other three people have two or more votes against them). Since he is currently in the majority, taking that chance wouldn't make sense. But as the strongest person remaining (actually, he has been the strongest person since the show began), he knows he will soon be a target. So what to do? I think he should stick with his Aitu tribemates for another week, voting off Adam (or Parvati, if Adam wins immunity). The next week, he has to convince Sundra to come to his side. Everyone knows that Yul and Becky are going to stick together until the end, so Sundra needs to make a move if she doesn't want to come in third (of course, she could win final immunity, but she should try to up her chances as much as possible). With Sundra on his side, Ozzy can join with Parvati to vote off Becky, 3-2.

But then a problem arises. The next person Ozzy, Sundra and Parvati would want to vote off would be Yul. But they can't, which means one of them will have to go home. And really, that's going to be the case regardless, because Yul can play the idol until there are only three people left on the island. The only way to get Yul off earlier than the final three would be to vote him off in one episode, force him to play the idol, and then vote him off again in the very next episode. But in doing so, either Ozzy, Parvati or Sundra would go home (probably Parvati, since Becky and Yul would presumably still be gunning for her). Parvati probably wouldn't be very big on being a sacrificial lamb.

So is there any way to get rid of Yul? I don't see it. If Ozzy could convince Sundra to go his way in the coming episode, making an alliance of Ozzy, Adam, Parvati and Sundra, you would still have the Yul problem, and someone from the O/A/P/S alliance would be sacrificed. Knowing that, if I were Adam and Parvati, I would flip and vote against Ozzy that week, taking out Sundra the next week and going to the final three with Yul. It would be the only real chance for both remain in the game. And that's why none of the former Aitu members should work with Parvati and Adam just yet. With the two of them still in, they retain some power. But when only one is left, that person will be far more dependant (also, Adam and Parvati don't have any votes against them in tribal council, so if that is a tie-breaker, they will win).

Becky will surely ride with Yul for the rest of the game, and will have to hope that Sundra and Ozzy stick with their alliance. Sundra might decide to stick with Yul and Becky, as it looks like Ozzy will probably be voted off before her (as long as he doesn't win immunity).

Yul's smartest move of the game could have been revealing he had the immunity idol. As a result, it doesn't make sense for anyone to vote against him, which basically guarantees he will never have to use the idol and he will have a spot in the final three. I would personally like to see a Yul-Ozzy final, as they are by far the strongest players in the game. It would be interesting to see whether the jury would preference Ozzy's physical abilities or Yul's strategic play. Of course, this is assuming there will even be a final two. There are currently six people remaining in the game, and six members of the jury. Which means if there were only two people in the end, there would be an even number of jurors, which could result in a tie. The game has never been set up that way before, making me think that there will either be some sort of competition among the jurors, resulting in someone getting a second vote (or someone getting kicked off), or there will be three players left at the end, rather than two (of course, this could still result in a tie).

Definitely an exciting season to be watching. I'm glad I picked it back up.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Capital City Market

I have mixed feelings about the news that they are planning to "redevelop" (read, destroy) the Capital City Market area, which is aptly called a "gritty" warehouse district.

On the one hand, that's some prime real estate, located as it is between the up-and-coming H Street Corridor of bars and clubs and the new New York Avenue Metro stop.

On the other hand, change = bad. And where are we supposed to go for our Italian subs?

The always-relevant Grammys

Imogen Heap has been nominated for a Grammy Award as Best New Artist. After releasing her first album in 1998.

And we wonder why Homer Simpson gave his Grammy to a bellhop, who immediately threw it off of a balcony.

No Tim Gunn for Runway?

It appears that Project Runway has not signed Tim Gunn for next season. I can't imagine the show with out him. Seriously people.

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Least Essential Newspaper Section

Thursday Styles. Breaking news from the front page of today's edition:
  • Small dogs that people can carry around with them are popular.
  • Carrying around a heavy bag will hurt your neck. And shoulders! (No word on the health consequences of carrying around popular little dogs.)
  • People feel pressure to say clever things when responding to Evites.

The last article contains this mind-boggling passage:

Just last week Carolyn Fitzpatrick, 32, a retired lawyer from Wollaston, Mass., spent 20 minutes drafting a “no” response to an Evite.

“Twenty precious minutes,” said Ms. Fitzpatrick, the mother of a 3-month-old and a 2-year-old. “Do you have children? You don’t understand what 20 minutes to yourself is.”

So why bother?

“There’s pressure,” Ms. Fitzpatrick said. “You’re on stage.”

Her Evite reply had to indicate she was glad to have been invited. It had to illustrate she had good reason for not attending. Most of all, it had to be so witty that invitees she did not even know would find themselves wishing she was coming to the party.

“There is a self-image issue with the Evite decline,” she said. “You want people to be sad if you’re not going to be there.”

And so she wrote: “With a boatload of in-laws in town, I unfortunately will be doing nice nice in my own home when I’d much rather be doing eggnog shooters at yours. Please keep us on the guest list. With luck, I won’t be pregnant, traveling or hosting extended family who hate me next year! (Bah Humbug.)”

No offense to Ms. Fitzpatrick, who I'm sure has done nothing to deserve our enmity other than being the reporter's college roommate or something. But seriously? It took you 20 minutes to write that?

More importantly, in what sense can a 32 year old be "retired." I feel like my life has taken a seriously wrong turn.


A few words from the youth of America

After being laughed at for misspelling the word "adequate" in her eulogy for Robert Altman, you would think Lohan would have learned the correct spelling before firing off another e-mail that was sure to end up in the press. Alas, she didn't. But the e-mail that is floating around the internet today shows that it is more than just her spelling that is inadequite. Added to the list would be grammar, general coherence and a grip on reality. I really can't do the e-mail justice, so you should read it in its full form here.

I'm really not sure what she is saying. It appears she is angry with the press for making up lies about her, although she doesn't seem to know what these lies are, but is willing to find out. She also expects Hillary and Bill Clinton and Al Gore to help her in this crusade. At times it seems that perhaps she is thinking about issues bigger than what the tabloids say about her, but then I'm not so sure.

The ultimate irony is that she claims the purpose of the e-mail is "[s]imply to state my oppinions [sic] on how our society should be educated on [sic] for the better of our country." I think that sentence tells us everything we need to know about education in America.

One impressive aspect of the e-mail: it was sent from her Blackberry. And as a Blackberry user, I can tell you it isn't easy to type a ton on those things. Lindsay put a lot of words in that e-mail, so kudos to her for typing a lot.

But Lindsay isn't the only celebrity sharing her thoughts with us today. On her blog, Britney Spears has tried to explain her partying, letting us know that "[i]t's also been two years since I've even celebrated my birthday." Which would mean that she missed...one birthday celebration. Okay, then. Luckily, Britney tells us that "I'm just getting started" and wishes us all happy holidays. Indeed.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006


I was at Border's last night buying The Animal Years, by Josh Ritter -- which is really good, by the way -- when I saw that Ryan Star has a cd out called Songs from the Eye of an Elephant. Hmm.

Updated: When you look up the Ryan Star cd, Amazon thinks that you might also want the new cd by Chris Daughtry, er "Daughtry" (you can tell he's super authentic by the fact that he only goes by one name now) or the forthcoming TBD by Katharine McPhee.

The Season So Far: Tuesday

How great is Friday Night Lights? Oh my gosh, I love this show. It's really not like anything else on television. Mostly it looks totally different -- from the way people to dress, to the cars they drive, to the lighting, which looks like actual daylight. For those of you who have not been watching, you can watch all nine episodes here.

Last night's episode was so good, it was almost excruciating to watch -- especially the Julie and Matt story line, from Matt's Members Only jacket, to Julie's hoochie dress, to Matt's singing "Mr. Sandman" to his grandmother.

I'm not a big fan of the Smash-using-steroids storyline. It's a little too afterschool-special for this show. So, I was glad to see Smash's character being more developed last night.

I've been a little disappointed in Veronica Mars this season. I think it's partly the realization that it's never going to be as good as the first season, but then how could it be? It's not really possible to have another mystery that's as integral to the emotional heart of the show as Lily's murder and Veronica's rape. You can't kill off Veronica's best friend every season.

But also Veronica's not as likeable. The hostility and sarcasm that made sense when she was in high school -- after all these people turned on her and her dad -- is overkill in college. She really needs to give people a chance. In the same vein, some of the new characters are a little cartoonish, especially the feminists and the greeks. I don't think any of the high school cliques were so crudely drawn.

That being said, I still like the show. As sad as it was, I'm glad that Veronica and Logan broke up. More evil Logan please. And more Wallace and Mac.

I've also been watching House, about which I have very mixed feelings. On the one hand, I love Hugh Laurie. But I think the show is caught in a bit of a bind. If they stick to one-off episodes, it gets formulaic: patient gets sick with mysterious illness, someone suggests lupus, they run all sort of tests, they settle on a diagnosis, that turns out to be wrong, House has an epiphany. But when they do the multiple-episode story arcs, they don't really work, I think because we know that in the end nothing is really going to change.

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Be Adequite

This is old news, but it has come to my attention that some people have not read Lindsay Lohan's statement regarding Robert Altman's death. A careful textual analysis reveals that grammar and spelling are not Lindsay's strong suit. Or making any sense whatsoever.

Jen and Vince Officially Kaput

Was there really anyone out there who thought that these two were still together? They finally admitted their split to the venerable People Magazine.

Not-so-blind items

Yesterday's Page Six blind items were too obvious not to share.

WHICH recently separated celeb has a new habit to go along with her new friends? The cutie is spending way too much time in the bathroom of the many clubs she visits, hoovering down cocaine that her pals supply her with . . .

WHICH hard-partying Hollywood starlet has club cocktail waitresses fueling rumors of rehab by whispering that the actress cuts her coke with strawberry Quik? . . .

WHICH new pair of best friends are actually more? When they get back to their hotels or homes, the clothes come off.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Holiday movies

I rarely go to see a movie in the theaters, but this holiday season I am really committed to seeing two: Rocky Balboa, which I have already blogged about, and Dreamgirls.

There has been great buzz about Dreamgirls for months now, and it is finally time for the movie to hit the theaters. For those who don't know, it stars Beyonce Knowles as the Diana Ross-like leader of a Supremes-like singing group, and also stars Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy. The Eddie Murphy addition is a great one, because it means Gobo, who never says no to a movie with Eddie Murphy, will come with me to the theaters.

The reason I'm so excited about the film? American Idol's Jennifer Hudson. I was never the biggest fan of Hudson while on Idol, mainly because the make-up artists would elongate her eyes with eyeliner and it looked very strange and more than a little scary. I was always more of a LaToya London fan. But I did think she was robbed when she didn't make it past the final six contestants, and the reviews of her work in this movie have been uniformly excellent.

More intriguing, however, is what's going on behind-the-scenes. Reports have been emerging that Beyonce was very difficult to work with, and that she is now jealous of the great press Hudson is receiving. In an effort to quell these rumors, Beyonce spoke with reporters this weekend, telling them that there was no rivalry between her and Hudson, and saying that she knew when she took the part that her character wasn't as intense as Hudson's.

But not only is her role not as meaty as Hudson's, her body isn't either: "I mean, I wish I could've gained 20 points and played Effie [Hudson's character]."

She does go on to commend Hudson for her great work in the role, but...well...that doesn't sound very nice, does it? And then Perez Hilton ran this photo of Hudson, Knowles and their co-star Anika Noni. And really, Beyonce looks a little left out, doesn't she?


Chris Rockadamus

See Chris Rock predict the future. Is it more or less funny because it's true?



The title of this post on Gawker made me laugh: Crack Now Basically Legal in UK for Pete Doherty.

Strange, strange list

TV Land has come out with its 100 greatest TV quotes and catchphrases. Without starting a general debate about what was included/excluded, I simply do not understand the inclusion of advertisements and, even worse, statements by "real" people that simply happened to be on TV. Hence, JFK's inaugural address ("Ask not . . .") does not belong on a list that also contains "Yada, yada, yada." Same with Neil Armstrong upon landing on the moon. It's just bizarre.


In defense of the Beauty Queens

Last week, I posted about the Beauty Queens on The Amazing Race, saying that they were my favorite team, but I cringed every time they called (Kar)lyn "The Sistahs" because of its clear racial implications. At the time, Bailey suggested that perhaps (Kar)lyn call themselves sistahs off-camera, and that the Beauty Queens were just picking up their own term.

And after this week's episode, it looks like Bailey was right (how could I ever doubt her?). More than once, (Kar)lyn referred to themselves as "sistah" or "sistahs." When they were heading toward the pit stop, one of them said "come on, sistah!" to the other, and later there were cheers of "yeah, sistahs!"

Other thoughts on this episode (spoilers ahead):

I was obviously sad to see the Queens eliminated, although I was happy they landed in last place this week as well: it made me feel less bad that they didn't make it to the final three, since they were in the bottom two weeks in a row. Having said that, I have to agree with Bailey and Holt that the entire leg didn't really give any one team a real opportunity to make up a half hour of time. Which I guess really just means that the Queens would have had to land in first to stay in the race, which they obviously didn't. And before leaving, the Queens actually managed to say something nice about (Kar)lyn. When (Kar)lyn got out of the maze before everyone else and the other three teams were wondering why it happened, one of the Queens explained that (Kar)lyn beat everyone else depsite walking (instead of running) because "they are calmer. It's pretty smart, actually." This is what I loved about the Queens--they were nothing if not practical.

Karlyn is just mean, mean, mean. I was impressed with Lyn in the last episode: her mom skills finally came in handy as she totally smoked Kimberly in grinding and seasoning the camel meat like a real pro. And she was so nice despite Karlyn's endless sniping at her. Karlyn really comes across as nothing other than nasty. Of course, when the crisis is over, she apologized. But what good is that? It's easy to apologize when things are going well.

Rob and Kimberly did the same thing this week, apologizing to each other once they found the clue in their huge pile of tomatoes. Crisis over, apology comes. I guess it doesn't really matter as long as they are both okay with it, but it doesn't bode well for whenever they have a crisis in their future relationship (Rob certainly seems convinced they will have one, kids and all).

So now I am completely rooting for the Addicts. Sure, it would be nice to see two women, one of which is overweight, win this race. But I can't root for nasty Karlyn, and I do like the Addicts. Their best moment this week was when Tyler got all pumped up and asked James "are you gonna dig deep?!" and James just gave him a quizzical look and said "Yeah, of course," very matter-of-factly.

I'm also hoping that the Queens are included in All-Stars, although since we already know David and Mary will be playing, I doubt that will happen.


The Season So Far: Monday

First, I have a confession to make. Remember how I said that I wasn't going to watch Prison Break anymore? Well, that didn't really work out. I blame my secretary, who loves the show, and was appalled at my decision to abandon it. So, I made a deal with myself that I could only watch it on the treadmill at the gym. Yes, I have entered the third stage of grief -- bargaining. The question is what am I grieving? Prison Break or my self control? Only time will tell.

Anyway, it's so much better this season now that they're out of prison. Stuff actually happens. And the addition of William Fichtner as Agent Mahone has really improved things. Also, Wentworth Miller is incredibly good looking.

Heroes is one of my favorite new shows. Yes, there are the mysterious forces that draw the characters together a la Lost. But the characters are so entertaining. And the plot advances from week to week. And you have the sneaking suspicion that the writers actually know where the story is going. And there's Hiro!

Oh, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, you frustrate me. You are so self-righteous, and full of yourself, but mostly just not funny. But then last night, amid the self-righteousness (see FCC subplot) and full-of-yourself-ness (see New Orleans subplot), I actually starting caring about the relationship between Danny and Jordan. And I think I even laughed.

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Say it Ain't So!

According to Life & Style (via PopSugar) Rachel Bilson and Adam Brody have split. But they were so cute! Like skinny little puppies!

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Season So Far: Sunday

Now that November sweeps are over, I thought I'd look back at how the TV season has shaped up. First up: Sunday night.

The Good:

I'm happy to say that The Amazing Race is back in top form. Most importantly, the casting has improved. I can't say that I love all of the teams, but there are no evil people, attention whores, or totally disfunctional couples, like we've had in recent seasons. But also, the challenges are so much better. Last season, there were so many needle-in-the-haystack challenges, which were so tedious and rewared luck rather than speed or intelligence. And I'm so glad that they changed the consequence for coming in last in a non-elimination leg -- no more begging!

On that note -- spoiler alert -- I was disappointed to see Dustin and Kandice go last night. I was rooting for them. It sucked that after they made up more than an hour on the other teams, there was a blatant equalizer in the middle of the leg. I don't see how anyone could have gotten ahead by half an hour with just one task remaining. Unfortunately, my two favorite remaining players -- James and Lyn -- are on different teams, so I have no clear rooting interest. As for Rob and Kimberly, they seem like they would be nice enough people in ordinary life, but as soon as they face any stress they just lose it. The tomato thing was classic. What exactly did Rob hope to accomplish by throwing tomatoes? And how did he know that the clue wasn't in one of the ones he threw?

I can't say enough good things about Dexter. I haven't seen last night's episode yet, but the last few weeks have been excellent. As you may recall, Dexter is a serial killer, whose foster father taught him to channel his homicidal urges by preying on other killers -- he calls this "the code of Harry." Dexter's nemesis/potential partner-in-crime, the Ice Truck Killer, is trying to free him of this limitation by undermining Dexter's faith in Harry. He started last week by killing Dexter's biological father, who Harry had told Dexter was long-dead, leading Dexter to discover that Harry had lied to him. Also, he's dating Dexter's sister, who brings him along to help Dexter pack up the bio dad's house. The montage of Dexter and the Ice Truck Killer packing with duct tape and rope -- the tools of their serial killer trade -- is a classic.

It was a one-off (well, technically, a two-off), but the finale of Prime Suspect was heartbreaking. Poor Jane Tennison. She has to come to terms with fact that she's an alcoholic, her dad dies, she alienates everyone in her life, she's about to retire and clearly doesn't know what to do without her job, and her colleague is shot and killed coming to her rescue. Talk about hitting rock bottom. Despite all of this, it doesn't feel like the show is punishing her for being successful, as is so often the case with female characters. Particularly poignant is the relationship between Tennison and Penny, the friend and neighbor of the murdered girl, in whom Tennison sees a lot of herself. The last half hour was just gut-wrenching, and it was sad to see Tennison walk out of the station, and out of our lives forever.

The Bad:

Why am I still watching Brothers and Sisters? I really don't know, because it's bad. It's sort of misleadingly bad, because the cast is great, and the acting is good, and the production values are excellent. But it's so preachy, and superficial, while thinking it's deep. I seriously need to stop TiVoing this show.

The Unwatched:

I have come to the conclusion that, as much as I love The Wire, I can't watch it as a regular TV show. It's just too intense. So I'm waiting for a long weekend, to finish watching season 3 on DVD and to watch season 4 on demand.


Album of the Year

I know it's only December 4, but I think I'm ready to declare my album of the year: The Hold Steady, Boys and Girls in America. Lordy, I love this cd.

How to describe it? Well, it's good old fashioned indie rock. It's about people who drink, use a lot drugs, and hang around in bars. And they all live in Minneapolis! You can listen to my favorite song -- "First Night" -- here.

I wouldn't call all of the songs successful. In particular, "The Chillout Tent," a duet that I would have derisively called a "Summer Nights" for the hipster set, until I read in today's Pitchfork interview that it actually was inspired by "Summer Nights." Oy.

Missteps aside, I recommend it. I'm curious to hear what cds others have liked this year.

Friday, December 01, 2006


Lindsay. Lindsay. Lindsay. This report is just depressing.