Pop Culture Junkette

Addicted to pop culture.

Monday, July 30, 2007


Technically, more of a senryu:
Dear Breadline. Bring back
the Nicoise salad. Even
without hard-boiled eggs.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I guess their ban is over

Remember when Us Weekly put a moratorium on any blog posts about Paris? It almost lasted a month. Twenty-seven days later, their break their silence to report that Paris and Cisco Adler smoked pot, sang karaoke and made out in a club.

Waiting for this song to change

Of all songs that So You Think You Can Dance could have chosen to use as its "solo song," they had to choose John Mayer's "Waiting for the World to Change?" It played ten times, once for each dancer. Actually, it probably played more because they showed it in the previews when Wade Robson was teaching them the dance.

Clearly, I'm not a fan of the song. Nor was I a fan of hearing it over and over. The show didn't do this "everyone dances to the same song and routine" thing last year, so I was surprised to see it. I didn't much like it, but that could be because I am a really bad judge of dance and I didn't see many differences in each routine. I did think that Lacey's and Danny's were particularly good. And I didn't see the big deal about Sabra's. It seemed fine, but not the standout performance everyone else thought it was. But again, I can't judge dance.

The routine I really liked last night was Pasha and Lauren's, but I suspect that was an all-around favorite. I am usually a big fan of the Shane Sparks routines. He did Benji and Donyelle's first pairing last season, which I (and just about every other fan) just loved.

I wasn't clear on whether they are going to continue this same solo routine deal, but if they do, I really hope that next week they pick a song I can stand hearing.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

RIP, Ulrich Muehe

Ulrich Muehe, the star of The Lives of Others, died over the weekend at the age of 54. As I commented here, I thought the film was outstanding. Even without understanding a word of German, I had no problem catching the subtleties of Muehe's performance as aStasi agent who goes from being a cipher of the state, who can observe but not live, to a human forced to recognize the inhumanity of East Germany. That Muehe has gone so soon after this triumph is its own tragedy, but he has left us with an amazing work of art.

Breakup over the phone

Ouch. A phone call breakup: it might not be so bad if you have been dating a few weeks, but after two and a half years, it's pretty cold.

But apparently that's what Jessica Alba did to Cash Warren. Told him she didn't love him anymore on the phone. And then, a few hours later, had an assistant move all of his belongings out of the home they shared.

Who knows, maybe there is more to the story. There have been rumors they were over for awhile now, and were just making public appearances for show (but really...for show? Who cares if Jessica Alba and Cash Warren are dating? He's only famous because of her, and she's only really famous because she is pretty, no matter how much she might say she wants to be considered a serious actress).

This doesn't do much to negate the rumors about her...stellar personality.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Lohan DUI/cocaine bust

You have all probably already read that Lindsay Lohan was busted for DUI, possession of cocaine, and driving with a suspended license this morning.

Not good for Lohan. But...and this is embarassing to admit...I was kind of surprised. Sure, I had read that she was dropping e, but I'm still surprised that she was already driving drunk so soon after her stint in rehab.

Of course, the major question remains: why was she driving at all? Can't she hire a driver? She already had charges pending against her, why would she possibly run the risk of being pulled over for DUI?! And I won't even go into the bright idea that it would be smart to chase someone down the highway at 2 a.m., even if you knew the person.
Most depressingly, doesn't Lindsay look a lot like Dina in her mugshot?

I'm guessing we'll see a plea bargain pretty quickly.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

So here is my promised post about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Holt asked me not to post spoilers because she has an RSS reader and would have to skip through it (I don't RSS any of the blogs I read, so I'm uncertain how this works), so I told her I had to post spoilers, but would make sure everything was well-labeled before that point came.

I got the book at midnight. Well, not quite midnight. I was in line at Borders (luckily, I had gotten my bracelet early that morning on my way to work, so I was in the first grouping of people: you lined up based on your bracelet color, so although I got there much later than most people--around 11:30--I was still near the front of the line) when 12:01 came around. And the line didn't move. 12:02: line isn't moving. 12:03: no progress. 12:04: still standing still. 12:05: Borders employees walk through the store with cases of the book. At 12:05 a.m.! Couldn't they have set up the cases of books near the registers at some point before 12:01?! Did I mention there was no AC in the Borders? And that Gobo had been texting me from about 11:40 p.m., asking if I had the book yet?

Anyway, by 12:20 a.m., I had the book. We went home and I started reading immediately. I stayed up until 5:45 a.m., at which point I took a nap for a few hours, then woke up, told Gobo "I have to power through," and finished by about 3:15 p.m.

In the time I read the book, I lost two pounds. I'm not joking--I weighed myself before reading and after reading, and I was two pounds lighter. I'm guessing I cried those two pounds away.

And now for THE SPOILERS (I don't think that a traditional review will do this book justice, so I'm just kind of laying out my favorite moments, in the order in which they happened in the book):

I started crying at page 56. When a book is over 750 pages long, this isn't a great sign for my tear ducts. Page 56 is when Hedwig died, which was just so devestating to me. Of course, as I sit there and sob my cat looks at me, turns around, and walks away. The loyalty of pets.

I was hoping for a reprieve from tears, but that was in vain. I started crying again a few minutes later (at page 74) when Fred sees George with his ear cut off. Something about the idea of seeing your identical twin physically injured was very sad to me. I also had a brief cry for poor Mr. Ollivander, prisoner in the Malfoy's basement, but that one didn't last long.

But my next cry was a big one (page 97): Hermione modifying her parents' memories so that they didn't even remember they had a daughter, so they would (hopefully) be safe in Australia as she helped Harry to fight Voldemort. So much of the Potter books are about loyalty and sacrifice, and losing your relationship with your parents so that they could live (and you could fight for humankind) seemed like a pretty big sacrifice to make.

What made this book so great, though, was that there were not only the (very, very) sad moments, but also light, funny ones, which is something Rowling has managed to do with all of the books in this series. There was Hermione telling Ron that she was washing his underwear (page 115) and then Ron giving Harry a book about girls and how to talk with them. Throughout the book, Ron would give Hermione really obvious compliments, and she would fall for it every time. But my favorite part was when Harry gave Mrs. Weasley a genuine compliment and Ron, thinking it was something Harry had picked up in the book, tells him "good one!" (page 119). And any reference to Ron as a "ginger" made me laugh, but that was really more because of how much I love South Park.

One of my absolute favorite humorous parts of the book, however, was when Luna and her father were at Bill and Fleur's wedding, and Luna's father was encouraging Luna to be her totally kooky self and to do whatever she felt moved to. It was so great to see Luna with someone who really understood and appreciated her.

It wasn't long until I was crying again--there were definitely tears at page 312 when Hermione cried herself to sleep after Ron abandonned them, and Harry looked at the Marauder's Map just to see Ginny's name. But those were pretty quickly followed by laughs a few pages later when Harry joked that he had never opened "A History of Magic" and Hermione fell back into her old know-it-all routine. It was nice to see life a little bit normal just for a few minutes. Ron's return was great, as was his vote for whether they should visit Luna's father, Xenophilius Lovegood (he sided with Hermione to get back in her good graces, making the vote 2-1). I also loved Ron excitedly telling Harry and Hermione who was speaking on the radio, even when it was incredibly obvious.

But then followed what may have been my biggest cry of the book (it had a close competitor--it's tough to call which one I cried more for): Dobby's death. I didn't even like Dobby all that much. I always thought of him as the Jar Jar Binks of the Harry Potter books. But when the ever-loyal Dobby, who would do anything for Harry, died, I lost it. And I lost it even more when everyone donated clothes for Dobby to wear, and Dean Thomas provided a woolen hat for him. It reminded me of how Dobby had collected all of the clothes Hermione knitted for the house elves when she was working on S.P.E.W., and Dobby proudly wore them all. I finally thought that I was done cying over Dobby, but then Harry wrote on his gravestone "Here lies Dobby, a free elf," and I was sobbing again. Pages 475-81 were not easy ones for me.

One thing that I had missed about this book was all of our favorite characters. We got to see many of them only in bits and pieces, and so I was thrilled when I turned to page 570 and Neville appeared! And I absolutely loved that Neville finally came into his own--he was a resistance leader at Hogwarts!

Another think I love about the Potter books is Rowling's ability to describe moments we have all been through. It was great when Fleur asked Lupin "'ow eez little Teddy," to try to break an awkward moment.

And I love her ability to stay true to her characters. Sure, we knew that Ron and Hermione were in love. But we didn't see a kiss between the two of them until page 625. And why did Hermione finally grab Ron and kiss him? Because he was worried about the house elves in the Hogwarts basement and thought someone should warn them of the fight that was about to take place.

That moment of happiness didn't last long, however, as the fight within the castle began and the casualties started mounting. I was so happy to see Percy finally come back into the Weasley fold. Which made it even sadder when Fred laughed at a joke Percy made while they were fighting, and was killed, "the ghost of his last laugh etched upon his face." I expected at least one Weasley would be killed in this book, but having the perennially happy Fred killed while laughing was so very sad. And so along with Dobby, I cried more than I had for any other death in the book.

One would think that when, only 24 pages later (on page 661), we were told Lupin and Tonks had both died, I wouldn't have had any tears left. Alas, I managed to cry for them as well, although perhaps not as much as I would have if all these other deaths hadn't happened. Lupin was always one of my absolute favorite Potter characters, and it would have been nice to see one of the Marauders make it (well, as between Sirius, James and Lupin, that is--I didn't care to see Pettigrew survive, and his death was a great scene). And Lupin and Tonks' death was even more tragic because their son, like Harry, would be orphaned as a baby. But Rowling just told us that their bodies were among the dead, instead of recounting their death scene, which probably made it a little easier for me to take.

However, by the time we were told that little Colin Creevey had died, I didn't shed one tear. Maybe I didn't have any left? Because between Lupin and Tonks' death and Colin's, there were two more huge sobbing moments. First was Snape's memories of Lily. I really loved this part of the book.

I always suspected that Snape and Lily had some sort of relationship before James and Sirius hung him upside down in front of their classmates, but I loved seeing them as children and best friends (and I loved getting some background on Petunia and learning that she had desperately wanted to attend Hogwarts). I cried when Snape sat outside of the Gryffindor common room, saying he would sleep there until Lily came out, to beg her forgiveness (which she didn't give), and I cried when Snape realized that he might end up being the cause of his beloved's death. Snape was such a tragic character throughout all of these books, even if he was also horrible to Harry. He could never get past his hatred of Harry's father to realize that Harry was really so much like his mother. Or perhaps acknowledging that would have been too painful? In the end, Snape was always alone: obviously alone in his home life as a child, alone at Hogwarts (going to the dark side to fit in with his Slytherin friends), and alone as an adult. The only true friend he ever had was Lily, and it was his fault that he lost her.

And then there was Dumbledore's revelation that Harry was an inadvertent Horcrux and therefore must also die. At this point in the book (page 691) I didn't want to continue reading, because I didn't want Harry to die. The next fifteen pages were torture, as Harry walked to his death, catching one last glimpse of Ginny, telling Neville to kill Nagini (in case Ron and Hermione didn't make it), thinking of his times visiting Hagrid. I was pretty much in constant tears at that point. And then he talked with all those he had cared about who were dead. At about that point I began to hope that Dumbledore knew something he hadn't told Snape when he informed him Harry must die. And on page 708, my hope came true, as Dumbledore told Harry that he probably wasn't dead. It was also interesting that the fact that he was alive was hidden from Voldemort by Narcissa Malfoy, although she certainly didn't save Harry because of her love for him--she did it because she wanted to know whether Draco was safe. But regardless, she did it.

Of course, the fact that Harry was alive didn't stop me from crying when Hagrid thought Harry was dead on page 727. But after that point, things got pretty great, particularly with Neville killing Nagini and then, finally, with Harry killing Voldemort.

I know that Rowling had stated she wrote the last chapter of the final Potter book before she wrote any of the series, but I hadn't expected it to be an epilogue. In the end, I'm not sure it was needed: was anyone surprised that Ron and Hermione and Harry and Ginny ended up together? I doubt it. And we didn't get much more out of the epilogue than that. We learned they had children, that Harry named one of his sons Albus Severus (and his other two children after his parents), that Teddy Lupin seemed to have grown up just fine (and that he was getting it on with Bill and Fleur's daughter), and that Neville was the Herbology professor at Hogwarts.

But it was nice, after reading through so much death and sadness, to see a happy ending for our main characters and the wizarding world.

So in case you haven't figured it out, I loved this book. My true favorites are probably still The Prisoner of Azkaban and The Goblet of Fire, but I'm not sure. I definitely have to go back and re-read it. I also listen to the Potter books on audio, and playing in my car on Sunday was the tail end of The Sorceror's Stone. And at one point, Ron asks Hermione "Have you gone mad? Are you a witch or not?" when she comes up with a difficult, non-magic solution to a problem. And I realized that Hermione asked Harry the same thing in Deathly Hallows: "Have you gone mad? Are you a wizard or not?" when he comes up with a non-magic solution. It's easy to miss those references, especially when you are worried that Hermione might die on the next page, so I definitely have to go back to make sure I didn't miss any nuances.

I'm sad that there will be no more Potter books. Rowling really managed to stay true to her characters through seven books, and she expertly mixed humor, sadness and mystery. I hope she writes more books, hopefully outside of the fantasy genre.

I suspect I will remember a ton I meant to include in this post and forgot, and so this might not be my last word on The Deathly Hallows.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Will Harry live? Will Harry die?

In just a day and a half I can begin reading the final installment of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I guess I could actually begin reading now, since apparently a New York Times reporter got a copy of the book (and managed to read it and file her story in about 12 hours), and the internet is rife with spoilers about how the series will conclude (in fact, in an abundance of safety, I'm not going to read any potential comments to this post until after I am finished reading the book).

I have already told friends that I can't do anything this weekend because I have to read the Harry Potter book. I have scheduled a grocery delivery for Saturday, because I know there is no way I won't be home. I have arranged to pick the book up at a downtown Borders at midnight. I chose this store after scoping out the area bookstores and determining this will be the least busy (they told me the last person on line got out of there at 12:20 a.m. when book 6 was released). I'm feeling prepared.

I must be done with the book by Monday, because otherwise I am sure to hear some sort of leaked information in the hallways at work. I have just reacquainted myself with the first six books of the series, so I am hopefully aware of any potential loose ends that have yet to be tied up.
I'm feeling ready! Look for a post on Monday, full of spoilers.


Why The Fascination with Turkmenistan?

Sure, it's megalomaniacal President ides last year and other than for people living in North Korea, it's government seems amazingly bizarre, but why so many articles about Turkmenistan? Let's even ignore the article The New Yorker ran a few months ago (here's the abstract), and turn to the the New York Times' (and more specifically Moscow bureau chief C.J. Chivers') is obsession with this nation. See here, here, here, and here (although you need TimesSelect to see some of these articles). That's right, four articles on the nation of 5 million people by Mr. Chivers in less than a month. Finland, a nation of an almost identical size, has had no articles written about it this entire year in the Times. (Sure, it's been mentioned, but not any articles analyzing it.) What's the story with Mr. Chivers and his fascination with this admittedly unusual nation? And how much longer can he get these articles published? (Note: I almost wrote about this last week, forgot about it, but it came back to life with today's Turkmenistan article.)

Update: It seems that I'm not the only one who has noticed this bizarre trend. See here. But you read it here first.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Scott Baio is 45 . . . And Single

I don't have cable at the moment. In fact, when I tried to use my old rabbit ears I couldn't even tune in basic network television over the airwaves. I say this not to make you feel sorry for me (though feel free) but to explain why I not only downloaded the premier of Scott Baio's new reality show, (free on iTunes) but did so with no small measure of excitement. And guys, it may be the television withdrawal talking, but I liked it. The premise is that Scott Baio is starting to think about marrying his current girlfriend, and wants to find out why he hasn't gotten married up to now, and figure out whether he's really up to it. So he hires a lifecoach. I tuned in expecting a train wreck, and it . . . sort of was and sort of wasn't. There are definitely a lot of pre-packaged moments (the initial set-up of Baio interviewing wacky and clearly unsuitable (not to say unhinged) life coaches was ridiculous), but Baio is charming and self-deprecating and his confrontations with former girlfriends are cringe-inducing, (as they get some of their own back for his philandering and generally obnoxious ways) sad, and kind of funny. It premiers Sunday on VH1 and I'd love to hear what other people think. Am I out of my mind or is this really not a bad show as celebreality goes?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Who Cares

Your neighborhood bartender has returned from a short vacation. While away, Mrs. Bartender and I often found ourselves watching Sportscenter. Okay, it was usually my call to put it on. Last week, they launched a new segment called "Who's Now" in which they selected and seeded 32 athletes to determine, and I quote, "the ultimate sports star by considering both on-field success and off-field buzz." They then have the athletes, based on seeding, face off against one another and three panelists (they must have pretty incriminating pictures of Michael Wilbon to get him to do this) and an online vote determines which athlete "wins." This is beyond inane. Yes, I know that the only sport right now is baseball, but there is more than enough going on there to spend most of the hour show on the subject. Heck, some Cincinnati Bengal probably got arrested which would fill up 5 minutes or ESPN could rerun, for the 80th time, the segment on how Pacman Jones is actually a good guy. But Who's Now is ESPN trying to do something that must turn off a large number of their core viewers. (Remember ESPN Hollywood with Mario Lopez? Where were you that week? (To be fair, it lasted 6 months.)) As Mrs. Bartender said, "This is awful; you should blog about it." She's right, and I have.

Update: I see that Bill Simmons agrees with me and Mrs. Bartender about this wonderful new segment: "I called Time Warner to ask them for the ESPN package that didn't involve "Who's more now?" and they said it doesn't exist. So I think we're stuck with it. "

In related news, Dan Patrick is leaving ESPN in August after 18 years with the network. It was the Big Show that first made me a Sportscenter devotee. (That's when Dan and Keith Olbermann would host.) I wish him well and hope that the two of them continue to interact on the radio (or tv).


Monday, July 09, 2007

Tan lines are not in vogue

Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton has decided that Bea Schaffer, daughter of Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, is this summer's new "it" girl. No one really has any idea why Perez has chosen to run multiple photos of Schaffer a day, but she is cute and not emaciated, so it could be worse.

But then he ran this post, with the accompanying photo:

And I'm just shocked. How could Anna Wintour, a woman reportedly so mean that she inspired Meryl Streep's character in The Devil Wears Prada, allow her spawn to appear in a strapless dress when she has bathing suit tan lines?

I can't be the only person who hates strap lines with a strapless dress, can I? Certainly I can't be more demanding than a woman who is allegedly nastier than Wilhemena Slater, right?

And I'm not even going to discuss all of those flowers. Sure, it's Valentino, but it still looks like something from a wedding, circa 1988.


Not Really Pop Culture

This photo essay of what families in different countries eat and how much they spend on food is pretty interesting. One thing that really struck me when I was in Morocco last year was how much fresher all of the food looked than our food does. This essay bears that out.

But it's also cool to see the people and where they live.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

"I guess a baby really is the new accessory in Hollywood"

The title of this post can be attributed to my friend Carol Seaver, and was the last line in an exchange of e-mails between the two of us today about Nicole Richie's pregnancy.

Sure, we had both heard the rumors for weeks now. But neither of us believed them. The reason was quite simple: we couldn't believe that Nicole could possibly be pregnant because we couldn't imagine her body weight would permit ovulation. I was so skeptical that this biological process was occuring, in fact, that when Nicole arrested for her DUI and claimed she was on Vicodin to alleviate the pain from her menstrual cramps, I posted that it couldn't possibly be true because she couldn't possibly menstruate.

Now it looks like Carol and I must stand corrected. I still absolutely no idea how her body is going to be able to sustain a fetus. And I'm still just incredulous that this could have happened. I keep waiting for some kind of retraction, but it doesn't appear that's going to happen. But really...how can this be?!

I guess we can look forward to six months of discussions in Us Weekly about Nicole's "baby bump" (could there be a more asinine term?), followed by coverage of the wedding to the creepy Madden guy, the themed baby shower featuring high-priced gift bags for guests, and the happy family strolls with Nicole, Madden, the Bugaboo and the nanny.

Or maybe they'll print that retraction???


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

How Could I Have Forgotten?

One more thing about So You Think You Can Dance? I have studiously avoided having Fergie's "music" enter into my consciousness. So, for example, I am aware that there is a song called "My Humps" that contains the lyric:

My hump, my hump, my hump, my hump, My hump, my hump, my hump, my hump, my hump, my hump. My lovely lady lumps (lumps). My lovely lady lumps (lumps). My lovely lady lumps (lumps).

But, so far, I have been able to deny it. But now I have actually seen Fergie "singing" and "dancing" and "rapping" on TV with my own eyes!! Egad.

John Stamos

I haven't seen the videos of Stamos slurring his words and behaving erratically during some Australian interviews, (though if you search YouTube for "Stamos Australia," you can!) but I love his defense - a combination of jet lag and ambien. Whether it's true or not, (ambien barely makes me sleep, let alone gives me a hangover, but I have done some goofy stuff undrugged but underslept) I found his response charming. I especially love that he hasn't watched the videos himself because he's afraid to. Awww. I am too John!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Notes on Last Week's So You Think You Can Dance?

Yes, I have been strong-armed into watching this show by Holt's extremely coercive technique of saying that she liked it. Damn it!

First, I love Danny, but his appeal is somewhat diminished by his (a) talking (Wednesday's show) and (b) borderline hysterical laughing upon being informed that he's in the bottom three (Thursday's show).

Second, Lauren should have been eliminated simply for the fact that she did her solo dance to a Kevin Federline song. Also, her dance sucked.

Third, people at TWoP seem to be upset that Jesus got elminated but Neil got to stay, but there's no denying that Jesus's dance (not to mention his outfit) was the worst of the three. The show can't seem to make up its mind whether it's basing eliminations on the dance or on the person's track record as a whole.

No show this week. So sad!

Live Free or Die Hard

I had to drive down out of the mountains (where the only movie theater within a 90 mile radius is a single screen 1950s relic showing Surf's Up and Transformers) and into the real world this weekend. During my brief stay in civilization, I took the opportunity to see the new Die Hard, and I enjoyed it with an obscene glee.

I came late to an appreciation of the action genre, but now I like a good old-fashioned, lone hero battling the evil-doers while things explode all around him and he clings to the tops of fast-moving objects in improbable ways, a trickle of blood sexily gracing his forehead, as much as the next girl. And this is a very good example of its type. It's ridiculous and over-the-top, lots of things blow up in delightfully thrilling ways, there's some great (insane) fight scenes, I think Justin Long as John's sidekick is adorable (I may be alone in this, let me know), there are a few genuinely funny monents, Bruce Willis has aged very well and does a good job making you see how much harder this for his character than it was when he was a young guy, the villain was well-cast and the doomsday scenario suitably scary.

Of course it can't top the manic fabulousness of the original, and it loses something by shooting for and achieving a PG-13 rating (namely all the swearing, including all but one of John McClane's "yippee-kai-yay motherf*s".) In addition, there's at least one stupidly boring and preachy scene that if I'd seen the movie with someone else would have prompted me to tap her on the shoulder and make a "gag me" motion, and another scene where the dubbing of a post-filming dialogue change is painfully obvious and distracting. But . . . all in all a big thumbs up from this viewer. Great summertime action flick, perfect for watching with a bag of popcorn in air-conditioned splendor.