Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Daily Zen - Wednesday, February 29

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.

                        - Buddha

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Toys-R-Us, Stand Tall and Don't Back Down

The "Just Married" Issue
Dear Toys-R-Us,

I applaud and support the continuing sale of the "Just Married" issue of the Archie comic book in your stores.

Because this edition of the series involves the wedding of a gay regular character to his male partner, the bigoted watchdog group "One Million Moms" has launched an online campaign asking that you remove this comic book from your shelves. In light of this action, I implore you to be brave and hold your ground.

Certainly, the idea of "One Million Moms" speaking out against a toy store sounds intimidating, but it's much less so when you pause to consider the facts. 
  1. "One Million Moms" isn't really one million moms. According to the group's own website, they are "searching for one million moms" to join their fight against perceived "filth", but in reality, even on Facebook they only have 45,000 "Likes." This is a small group of moralists trying to impose their views on others.
  2. You're taking the high road. You have customers, employees, and shareholders who are gay, or who have gay friends and family. There are kids shopping in your store everyday who will grow up to be gay (with or without the "Just Married" Archie comic). By not discriminating, you help all of us feel more proud and more respected. 
  3. This is not about indecency. Rest assured, you are not selling something pornographic, or obscene. Keep it real. This is about a comic book with a wedding on the cover.
  4. Fighting intolerance is ultimately good business. Facing down discrimination takes guts and leadership, and those attributes are ultimately rewarded in the marketplace. Those who refuse to evolve with the changing world will be left behind by it.
The "One Million Moms" organization challenged JCPenney's choice of Ellen Degeneres as a spokeswoman, and when JCPenney refused to reverse their decision, the company enjoyed an enormous groundswell of support and appreciation from regular folks, some of whom were already JCPenney loyalists, and many of whom vowed to become new customers.

Unlike the American Family Association's "One Million Moms" project, I don't falsely claim to represent one million of anything. But let me say that on behalf of reasonably intelligent, tolerant, ordinary people everywhere (all of whom have to buy toys for their kids, nieces, nephews, and others) - thank you. Keep up the good work. Stand tall, and don't back down.

Jeff McKown
San Carlos, CA

Daily Zen - Tuesday, February 28

Our task must be to widen our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
                      - Albert Einstein

Monday, February 27, 2012

Turn of Phrase - Seth Rogen as Oscar Host

"I was committed to watching all of your movies. That’s one of the things you have to do when you host. I made it through the first five minutes of every single one of them. Some of them start pretty slow. I will tell you that right now."

- From Seth Rogen during his recent stint as host of the Independent Spirit Awards, an awards show that is traditionally held in a beachfront tent in Santa Monica, CA on the Saturday before each year's Academy Award ceremony.

Maybe the Academy should consider inviting someone like Rogen to host next year's ceremony. The 2011 Oscar show was a forced low-energy affair from start to finish (Cirque du Soleil notwithstanding), in large part due to the staid and unoriginal performance of Billy Crystal as host. In his defense, Crystal was inserted as a safe "last-minute" substitute, after original plans to have Eddie Murphy emcee the show fell through (which honestly, only leads me to imagine how much worse it could have been). Nonetheless, Crystal added an air of nostalgia to the broadcast when what it needed was an element of comedic creativity and an infusion of energy.

The Academy is nothing if not cautious (boring? traditional? staid?), and with a broadcast that is essentially the same year after year, they must endeavor to find a host who genuinely freshens things up.

Moviefone put out their wishlist of potential hosts, including Rogen. Let's just hope that next year we can let the awards themselves deliver the tradition while the host is someone a little edgier and more interesting like Rogen, or Maya Rudolph, maybe?

Daily Zen - Monday, February 27

Worrying is like a rocking chair; it gives you something to do, but gets you nowhere.
                          - Billie Holiday

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Our Oscar Contest Winner Is...

Congratulations to Raquel Matta who won our Online Oscar Pickin' Contest.

We had three other "finalists" who finished in a tie for second place - Bei Li, Karla Schmidt, and Tony Meredith.

I'll be sending Raquel's $50 Gift Card out this week, but thanks to all who played.

Here are some fun contest facts.

  • 59 people participated.
  • 17 people (amazingly) tied for first with 7 of 8 correct picks.
  • 4 finalists emerged after the tiebreaker was applied (their end-time guesses were each off by one minute).
  • Having exhausted our official tiebreaker, we resorted to a coin toss flip-off to determine the final winner.

We definitely know our stuff - our group's "majority pick" was correct in every category except Best Actress (who would guess that Meryl Streep would be the dark horse candidate to fool us all).

Critics felt the awards show itself was a bit lackluster this year, with no performances of Original Song nominees, few surprises among the winners, and a dearth of overly-memorable acceptance speeches, Octavia Spencer notwithstanding. Most of us also wouldn't mind if this were Billy Crystal's last year hosting (and I bet it is).

Having said all that, I had tons of fun Live-Tweeting and Facebook-ing about the Awards show and providing online updates about our contest. The creativity and humor of the online community constantly amazes and entertains me. I can't wait for the next opportunity to host a contest or online event.

Thanks again to everyone who participated! We hope you had as much fun cheering for your picks and watching the Oscar show as we did!

Our Oscar Pre-Show Favs

Thanks to all who entered our Oscar Contest!

Here's a quick peak at some fun facts and pre-show favorites based on the best guesses of the folks who entered our contest.

Best Picture - The Artist was our overwhelming favorite with 73% of the votes.

Leading Actor - Our closest category with 44% of us selecting Jean Dujardin, and 41% guessing George Clooney. 

Supporting Actor - Based on our votes, this will be the biggest runaway category with Christopher Plummer garnering 78% of the vote.

Total Broadcast Time - The average of our guesses - 3 hours and 18 minutes. 

I'll be announcing the winner(s) of the contest here on the blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter after the show tonight.

Good luck everyone!

Week In Review - February 25, 2012

After an Indiana state lawmaker accused the Girl Scouts of being a radical left-wing conspiracy group, I found ten indisputable signs online that the Girl Scouts do in fact love both gays and abortion. ESPN, another pop culture juggernaut, also came under fire this week as they published a racially charged headline about Asian NBA player Jeremy Lin. I argued that their handling of the resulting PR nightmare was perfection, although a few readers pointed out that their expertise comes from having made this type of mistake before.  

The Way Things Turn joined in on all the Oscar celebration this week with an awesome Best Picture video mashup, an analysis of the incredibly weak pool of original movie songs in the 2000s, and the launch of the long-awaited Oscar-Pickin' Contest. If you're reading this before 4:30PM (Pacific)/7:30PM (Eastern) on Sunday 2/26, you can still enter the contest here. It's free, and you might win a $50 Gift Card to the movies!

Maya Rudolph cracked us up this week on SNL, joining Amy Poehler (and another surprise guest) for a hilarious reprisal of their Bronx Beat skit. Not nearly as funny, but almost as entertaining - we showed a video of a guy getting dressed in his new spray-on t-shirt.

Lastly, we remembered Kurt Cobain on what would have been his 45th birthday. His disturbing handwritten suicide note was a creepy reminder of his death, but we also recalled his sage advice on the value of being true to ourselves. 

As always, thanks for reading!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Academy Awards Zen, February 25-26

Asa Butterfield as Hugo
Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured, if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn't be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason. 

- From the Academy Award nominated film Hugo

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Oscar Pickin' Contest Is Ready to Go!

The very first Way Things Turn - Oscar Pickin' Contest is open for business, and the online survey is linked below and ready for you to make your picks!

Choose the most correct winners in the eight pre-selected Academy Award categories, and win a $50 Gift Card to the movie theater of your choice!

The rules are simple and the contest is free. You may enter only one time, and we can accept only the first 100 respondents so don't wait until the deadline or you may miss out!

Here's all you have to do:
  1. Click the survey link below before 7:30PM (Eastern) / 4:30 PM (Pacific) on Sunday February 26. After the cutoff times listed, the survey will be closed and no more entries will be accepted.
  2. Follow the electronic survey instructions and mark your answers for ALL ten questions listed; be sure to provide your name and email address in the space provided. 
  3. Click "Done" at the end of the 10 question survey.
  4. Check The Way Things Turn blog site on Monday February 27 to see if you won.
You'll want to be sure to record your answers for yourself to track your progress during the Awards show. Here's a link to a printable list of nominees in all the categories for your reference.

Good luck everyone!

Click here to take survey

An Incredibly Thin Year for Oscar Songs

2011 was not a banner year for original songs in movies. In fact, it might be the worst year in the eighty-four year history of the Academy Awards.

This year only two songs were nominated in the "Best Song" category - "Man or Muppet" from The Muppets and "Real in Rio" from Rio - and to be brutally honest, not only is there a lack of nominees, but these nominees are lacking. 

I'd describe the two nominated tunes as cute and full of kid appeal, but neither is particularly catchy, poignant, or memorable. Songs from prior years have been helped out by superstar performers, successful musical formulas (a string of Disney classics won in the 80s and 90s), or music/dance-oriented movie themes, but this year there is nothing of the sort. For that matter the last decade's meager crop of songs, offers little by way of comparison.

Consider some of the classic winners from previous years. These songs are not only synonymous with the movies in which they were featured, they are often representative of an era.

Among the "Best Song" winners from the 70s:
- Theme from Shaft (1971)
- The Way We Were (1974)
- Last Dance (1978)

Winners from the 80s include:
- Flashdance (1983)
- I Just Called to Say I Love You (1984)
- I've Had the Time of My Life (1987)

In the 90s, there was an impressive string of Disney winners (songs from Beauty and Beast, Aladdin, Lion King, Pocohantas), and we had popular hits like:
- Streets of Philadelphia (1993)
- You Must Love Me (1996)
- My Heart Will Go On (1997)

Now, can you name any Best Song winner since 2000? Well, "Falling Slowly" from Once was a beautiful song that won (but do you remember it?). I did dig that "Jai Ho" song from Slumdog, and Eminem's "Lose Yourself" was a winner, but in total, the quality and popular appeal of hits coming out of Oscar nominated films since 2000 has significantly diminished, when compared to prior decades.

Even the Academy appears underwhelmed by this year's song choices, and for the first time in my memory, none of the nominated songs will be performed during the awards show broadcast. Having said all that, you might still be curious to hear this year's nominees. You can listen to both tunes in this YouTube clip. If you get bored with the Muppet song, the Rio track comes in around the 3-minute mark. 

The big lesson I'm taking away from this year's Oscar nominated songs - we can't let Randy Newman take any more time off.

Daily Zen - Friday, February 24


              - Joseph Campbell

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Daily Zen - Thursday, February 23

This is the path we take in cultivating joy: learning not to armor our basic goodness, learning to appreciate what we have. 

                   - Pema Chodron

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

10 Signs Girl Scouts Are Pro-Abortion, Pro-Gay

State lawmaker Bob Morris (R-Indiana) has unearthed internet evidence proving that the Girl Scouts organization is a radical group that promotes homosexuality and abortion.

While Democrats and others with a modicum of intellect and common sense have discredited Morris' accusation, I believe there may be something to the lawmaker's conclusion.

After a little online digging of my own, I found these damning facts, which I submit are indicative of the Girl Scouts' subversive ultra left-wing, pro-abortion, pro-gay agenda.
  1. Five new controversial cookie flavors added. 
    • Birken-Choc  crunchy outside, chocolatey good inside
    • Fudge Packers  baked in a quaint refurbished 19th century Connecticut farm house
    • Sponge Biscuits  safe, effective, and oh so tasty
    • Thin Men  just like Thin Mints only more judgmental
    • Granola Munch  not just for college girls any more
  2. Neil Patrick Harris and Gloria Steinem deemed honorary Super-Daisies and hired as organizational spokespeople.
  3. Cookie drive supported with new TV ads featuring a k.d. Lang jingle which will air during episodes of Glee.
  4. Food coops, feminist bookstores, and the Cubbyhole on 12th Street added to the acceptable list of volunteering venues.
  5. New Planned Parenthood award - given to any girl who successfully builds a campfire while reciting the legal text of Roe v. Wade. 
  6. Emblem update - American eagle image replaced with Subaru Outback.
  7. New slogan for the annual cookie campaign - "Now with more placenta."
  8. Softball and golf added to camping and backpacking on list of core activities.
  9. New badge created - the Two Girls Tie One Knot badge, currently authorized in only seven U.S. states and Canada.
  10. Fashionable uniform re-design - all flannel, all the time.

Daily Zen - Wednesday, February 22

To question as a wise man is the beginning of wisdom.

                - German Proverb

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

SNL's Bronx Beat Skit with Maya Rudolph

Saturday Night Live always manages to break out their very best material whenever they have a former cast member at the helm, and this past week's show, with Maya Rudolph as guest host, is a terrific case-in-point.

Rudolph was perfect in her dry and stuffy portrayal of Maya Angelou hosting her own Punk'd-style prank show, and she was equally hilarious as pop star and new mother Beyonce', introducing newborn Blue Ivy to a bizarre cast of fellow pop stars. You can see both of those clips here, if you like.

The reprisal of the "Bronx Beat" segment managed to best all other skits. With Rudolph's sister SNL alum Amy Poehler and another very special guest, "Bronx Beat" was the hands down high point of the show. Enjoy!

Daily Zen - Tuesday, February 21

A mind that is burdened with the past is   a sorrowful mind.

                         - Krishnamurti

Monday, February 20, 2012

Oscar Contest Update and Best Picture Mashup

I'm putting finishing touches (or as some people would call it, getting started) on the e-survey we'll use to record entries into The Way Things Turn's first-ever Online Oscar Pickin' Contest. By Friday, you'll be able to access a link through the blog and make your selections in the eight major categories we'll use to award cash and prizes (okay, just prizes) to the participant who knows their movies best.

If you're a regular, responsible, and gainfully employed adult (as opposed to say, a blogger), then the odds are you haven't managed to see as many of this year's Academy Award nominated films as you would like. It's not too late to squeeze in a few more movies this week though, and I'm even giving you a cheat sheet to help you prioritize your last-minute movie watching.

If you're too lazy to click the link and use the cheat sheet, here's a quick mashup that features all nine of the "Best Picture" nominees. Good luck, everyone!

Turn of Phrase - The Wisdom of Kurt Cobain

"I'd rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not." 

- From Kurt Cobain, lead singer of grunge-rock band Nirvana, who died of a self-inflicted shotgun wound in 1994 at the age of 27.

A hand-written letter believed to be his suicide note was discovered near Kobain's body, although only the bottom portion of the letter appears to be related to the rocker's intent to kill himself.

Today is Cobain's birthday. He would be 45 years-old.

Scientists With Too Much Time On Their Hands

The spray-on t-shirt?

Interesting and utterly impractical, but a fun two-minute video to watch.

All you need is multiple colors of the paint/fabric product, a sprayer, a decent physique (with no body hair), a spacious garage or other large open room, a helpful friend, 15 minutes, and presto!  You have something you could have slipped on over your head in 5 seconds.

Once it dries, the garment can actually be taken off, so it won't prevent you from aggravating your spouse by tossing your dirty t-shirt on the floor. Believe it or not, it can actually be washed and re-worn.

(Hat tip to my friend Brian for sharing the video clip.)

Daily Zen - Monday, February 20

This is the sum of all true righteousness: deal with others as thou wouldst thyself be dealt by.

                   - The Mahabharata

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Week In Review - February 18, 2012

With the release of more positive economic news this week, Republican presidential candidates seem about as useful as a snow plow in the midst of this balmy completely-not-global-warming-related winter. Romney continues throwing wet noodles at the economy hoping something will stick, while Santorum and company foolishly push for an all-out attack on issues the GOP can't win. Governor Chris Christie is bravely leading the charge (on to the sword) by rejecting a gay marriage bill approved by the NJ legislature. In response, I've compiled my ten favorite Tweets about his veto.

All joking aside, I wonder if Governor Christie would regret his veto decision if he understood the subtle but genuine connection between the second class citizenship he is imposing on the gay community and the current proliferation of gay teen suicides. I'd wager that Dharun Ravi, whose cyber bullying led to the suicide of Tyler Clementi, probably regrets the choices he made, as his legal trial is now underway.

Beyond politics, we featured lots of pop culture on the blog this week. A charming video of Salvador Dali on What's My Line  offered us something old (but classic), while my review of The Artist offered something new (but made to look old). Musical performances like a new track from Bruce Springsteen and a Glen Campbell cover of a Green Day song showed us that some of the best things are neither old or new, but timeless.

We must be willing to change with the times and the technology, or we risk being as irrelevant as bookstores and publishers may be some day soon. On the other hand, who wouldn't still want a beautifully designed private library full of actual printed books? The one thing that never changes is our love of laughter. Hopefully, this clip of "Bein' Quirky With Zooey" (Deschanel) from last week's SNL will get you giggling.

As always, thanks for reading!

ESPN Offers Quintessential Apology

NY Knicks guard, Jeremy Linn
Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images
Before I explain what I respect about ESPN's apology for this weekend's "Chink in the Armor" racist fiasco, let's all take note of my restraint in not producing yet another Jeremy Lin pun. As the plethora of abominable and obnoxious "Linsanity" puns demonstrates, resistance isn't easy - but it also isn't futile.

There, I did it. I made it through my intro with no new puns on Lin's last name. 

Now, on with the apology analysis.

Media outlets, businesses, and organizations of all varieties should take note of the approach ESPN has employed in managing the controversy surrounding racist comments made through their online and on-air channels. After circulating an immediate apology on Saturday, along with a promise to complete a full investigation, the network released the following statement on Sunday.

What makes the network's apology so effective? I can sum it up in three words: quick, decisive, action.

Quick: The on-air comment and online headline in question occurred on Friday night and in the early hours of Saturday morning, respectively. Within hours, by the time I climbed out of bed on Saturday, the network had already issued a general apology, and by mid-morning Sunday, they released a more formal statement which re-iterated their remorse and outlined the steps they had already taken to rectify the situation.

Decisive: ESPN appropriately owned this debacle from the start. The network took full responsibility, completed a quick investigation of the facts, and decided within 48 hours of the initial on-air racial slur how they would proceed. No dilly-dallying or mucking about. No excuses or blame game.

Action: The immediate mea culpa on Saturday, the rapid additional follow-up, one employee terminated, one employee suspended, a clear and concise public communication of the network's actions, and an indication of steps they are taking to make sure this doesn't happen again. 

CEOs - there's your template for damage control. You don't need anything else.

Final proof of ESPN's savvy is the network's decision to broadcast the Knicks/Mavericks NBA game on Sunday afternoon. Featuring Lin and the Knicks demonstrates that ESPN is not afraid to climb right back in the ring, and it provides the network with an opportunity to quickly and neatly crate up the Lin controversy, while they appropriately re-direct the the focus of the conversation to Lin's on-court performance. 

The kicker is that network executives are also keenly aware that showing the Knicks game on Sunday will prove....Lin-strumental to their weekend ratings success.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

20 Private Libraries With Dreamlike Design

What would you do if you suddenly had millions of dollars to spend?

What would you buy? What would you build?

I'd like to think I'd do great things for the many non-profit organizations I believe in and the charities I support (and I would) ...

...but I'm pretty sure I'd also do something like this.

This picture shows the library at George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch in Marin County, CA. Click here to see photos of other beautiful and unique personal libraries.

Former booksellers - remember this question as you click through the pics. Karl Lagerfeld, how do you keep that mess alphabetized?

Weekend Zen, February 18-19

Whenever there is attachment, association with it brings endless misery.

                         - Gampopa

Friday, February 17, 2012

Turn Up the Sound - Springsteen Representin'

In light of the negative attention garnered by their Governor's veto of a gay marriage bill today, I decided to end the blogging week with some musical love for the people in the Garden State.

Bruce Springsteen, New Jersey's most popular son, is scheduled to release his new album Wrecking Ball on March 6. The first single released from the album is "We Take Care of Our Own."

Note to Governor Christie: Some of "our own" that Bruce refers to are gay folks. The boss can school you on respecting people who aren't like you if you need some assistance.

Top 10 Tweets - Christie's Gay Marriage Veto

NJ Governor, Chris Christie
Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill today that had recently passed the New Jersey legislature which would have legalized gay marriage in the Garden State.

Christie, who many speculate is planning a run for the White House in 2016, attempted to justify his veto, explaining that issues of this magnitude should be decided by a public referendum.

Here are a few of my favorite Tweets on the topic.

The Sad Death and Short Life of Tyler Clementi

Tyler Clementi
Tyler Clementi was a gay eighteen year-old freshman at Rutgers University who was struggling to come to grips with his own sexual identity.

Dharun Ravi was Tyler's roommate, who along with his friend Molly Wei, used a hidden webcam to secretly record a dorm room sexual encounter Tyler had with another man.

Upon learning that Dharun and Molly planned to broadcast the video online, Tyler jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge in New York.

Today, nearly a year and a half after the suicide of Tyler Clementi, jury selection begins in the trial of Dharun Ravi, who is charged with bias intimidation, invasion of privacy, and hindering prosecution.

It's natural to be angry at those who bully others, and it's easy to be enraged by the continuing onslaught of gay teen suicides. What's far more difficult is to look closer at the real lives of those young people, who in the face of ultimate desperation, believed that only one path remained for them - and they killed themselves.

For us to honestly grasp what is sacrificed each time a young gay brother or sister believes suicide is the only way out, we must first seek to truly understand who we have lost.

James Clementi has recently published a series of short letters he wrote to his younger brother Tyler. His letters are not easy to read, but they are too important not to read, and they do a beautiful job of helping us fully realize what we all lost on September 22, 2010 - when Tyler jumped off that bridge and drowned in the Hudson River.

The letters from James to Tyler can be found here.

Related Posts: A 14 Year-Old Boy Is Dead, Jamie Hubley - Another Gay Teen SuicideWhen "It Gets Better" Isn't Good Enough,

Daily Zen - Friday, February 17

As the sun is not sullied by the defects of external objects, so the inner soul is not sullied by the misery of the world. 

                      —The Upanishads

Thursday, February 16, 2012

5 Things Republicans Should Stop Attacking

1. Economy/Jobs - Sorry, it's improving. Hard to accept, but you can't win this one.
2. Gays - Seven states have legalized gay marriage. Not enough bigots left for this to matter.
3. Birth Control - Seriously? Even Catholics are on the pill.
4. The Teleprompter  - Get over it. The President is an inspiring speaker. Also, in a sing-off, Obama's voice delivers a solid ass-whooping to Mitt's voice.
5. Iran - Did GWB teach you nothing about fucking up foreign policy? Besides, no one wants to pay for another war. 

With apologies to my friend Selene (who has reminded me more than once to stop feeding good suggestions to the GOP), I feel obligated to send this simple message to my Republican friends - it's the trillion dollar budget deficit, stupid!

Republicans find themselves faced with these facts: Under President Obama, the economy and job market have shown consistent growth, and they continue to move in the right direction. The U.S. is now out of Iraq, and the troop draw down is underway in Afghanistan. Oh yeah, did I mention that whole killing of Osama bin Laden thingy?

So, here's all you have left GOP. I'm a fairly hardcore Democrat, and even I can't stand that the President's current budget proposal, if adopted, would guarantee another year of $1 trillion deficit spending. Think about it - for four straight years, our government will have spent $1 trillion more than they collected. And what's worse, we would make minimal reductions in the next six years, adding at least another half trillion dollars per year to what we already owe. Not acceptable. Bill Clinton must be rolling over in his satin bed sheets.

The Obama administration will argue that these deficits are the price we must pay to repair the damage done to our economy by the Bush administration, and they may be right. But honestly, other than a somewhat related argument the GOP can make against Obamacare, there are no other significant issues around which they can rally enough Americans to actually beat Obama.

The sad fact for the even sadder right wing is this - if the economy continues its slow and steady improvement, Obama will win. But hey GOP - at least I'm offering you something to legitimately complain about.

Headlines the GOP Hates On Road to Michigan

Photo: Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg
The next major Republican primary contest is scheduled for Michigan in less than two weeks.

As Santorum and Romney battle it out in the state that should have easily been Romney's, it may not matter who wins the primary - or even the GOP nomination.

 Republicans woke up to these three headlines today:
The economic news is once again very good for America, but horrible for the GOP. The number of Americans who filed new unemployment claims last week is the lowest it has been since March 2008, almost a full year before George Bush left office. General Motors, whose Obama-backed bailout was opposed by both Romney and Santorum, has reported its eighth consecutive profitable quarter. This will result in profit-sharing bonuses of up to $7,500 for nearly 50,000 eligible hourly workers at GM. The impact of the auto industry resurgence is lifting the entire Michigan economy, and tax revenues in the state have risen so dramatically that the state now has a $450 million budget surplus.

Romney and Santorum can argue all they want over who can best put things back the way they were in the first eight years of this decade, but no one wants to revert to a proven failed way of doing business, when the new way works.  

It doesn't matter which Republican wins the GOP primary on February 28. With headlines like these, Michigan will vote blue in 2012.

Daily Zen - Thursday, February 16

I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers.

                          - Kahlil Gibran

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Artist - Good, But Not Best Picture-Worthy

Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo,
stars of The Artist
I readily admit to feelings of dread and despair when I first heard that a new silent film had been released and was receiving universally rave critical reviews. A French director making a movie about the decline of the silent film era and using no spoken dialogue in the process? None for me, thanks. Call me skeptical by nature, and you would be right; call me shallow, and you wouldn't be entirely wrong. I imagined The Artist to be a haughty artsy thing, filled with cryptic imagery and laced with industry insider references, an esoteric critic's wet dream (albeit in black and white), that set out to prove something. As it turns out, my fears were mostly unfounded. 

The Artist revolves around the tragic demise of a silent film star named George Valentin and the smoldering passion of starlet Peppy Miller, his secret love interest. Third billing goes to Uggie, George's wonder-dog and constant companion, who provides charm and laughs, and a save-the-day rescue effort that would make Lassie proud. With these three stars, a more-than-adequate supporting cast, and a team of technical wizards, director Michel Hazanavicius does a phenomenal job of creating a film that manages to look like the films that were made eighty years ago, without feeling dated or out of place. 

There is no doubt that The Artist should be a major Oscar contender in the "style" categories - art direction, costumes, musical score - stuff like that. The performances of the lead actors, Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, are also sublime and noteworthy. Considering the boldness of the concept and the aforementioned technical prowess of the film, Hazanavicius should be a top contender for Best Director as well. 

Having said all that, it's only logical for The Artist to be my choice for Best Picture, right? Not so fast.  For all that is has going in its favor, there are a few gaping holes in The Artist that all the style and technical mastery in the world just can't fill.

Salvador Dali as a Guest on "What's My Line"

I'm too young to remember the original airing of the 1950s game show "What's My Line," but I have to imagine that surrealist painter Salvador Dali was among the most unique and enjoyable guests to ever appear on the show.

Watching the witty and blindfolded celebrity panel try to pin down the specific occupation of a bonafide renaissance man is amusing. Dali stumps the panel for almost 10 minutes as he legitimately answers "yes" to almost every question posed about what he does for a living.

The ability to find clips like this (thanks Flavorwire) and then share them is just another reason I love the inter-webs!

Daily Zen - Wednesday, February 15

The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows. 

                         - Buddha

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Monday, February 13, 2012

Turn of Phrase - The Irrelevance of Bookstores

"Treating authors like shit, when authors are essential to the process, is bad business.

Treating readers like shit, when readers are essential to the process, is bad business.

Bookstores and publishers and distributors are NOT essential to the process. You should have evolved."

- From author Joe Konrath, in a recent blog post about the book industry ("Amazon Will Destroy You"). In his "open letter," Konrath declares that bookstores, publishers, and distributors have no one to blame but themselves for their own irrelevance in the future of bookselling.

As a longtime bookseller and wannabe published novelist, I am intrigued by differing opinions on the evolution of the book industry. Konrath, whose work has been published in both traditional and electronic formats, is a huge advocate for digital publishing, largely because of the more equitable treatment (and payment) authors receive from Amazon. He also argues that Amazon owns the future of bookselling for two simple reasons: they listen and they innovate.

In the full blog post (linked here), Konrath pulls no punches, as he rightfully reminds the traditional book industry that no one likes a whiny loser, and that victors have always gotten the spoils.

Turn Up the Sound - Glen Campbell Covers Green Day

Glen Campbell was honored with a much-deserved Lifetime Achievement award at last night's Grammy Awards show in Los Angeles, and once again, I find myself digging into iTunes and YouTube to hear more of his music.

It doesn't take much for me to get nostalgic about the country music legend (oddly, this is my second Glen Campbell post in recent months). Growing up in northwest Florida with a family who always listened to music, country and otherwise, I had plenty of opportunity to listen to Glen Campbell. He is a genuinely gifted musician, and I have always appreciated his tender melodies and mournful vocals, but mostly, Glen Campbell just feels sincere to me. An authentic guy, who sings it like he means it.

In 2008, he released an album that featured cover versions of contemporary hits. He did a beautiful job with U2's "All I Want Is You" and "Sing" by the British band Travis. The song I enjoy most though is his cover of Green Day's "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)." What strikes me about "Good Riddance," and for that matter all of the covers on the 2008 album, is that if you listen to them while keeping in mind the many classics he penned forty years earlier, Campbell himself could have written all of these contemporary hit songs.

"It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right. I hope you had the time of your life." 

Daily Zen - Monday, February 13

We can never have enough of that which we really do not want.

                         - Eric Hoffer

Sunday, February 12, 2012

SNL's Bein' Quirky with Zooey

Zooey Deschanel hosted SNL last night. In "Bein' Quirky With Zooey," Michael Cera and Mary Kate Olsen are good, but Bjork steals the show.

"I made a sweater for an octopus. Plus I left one extra hole for its dreams and ideas."

Week In Review - February 11, 2012

With each subsequent primary, the road to the Republican Party’s presidential nomination looks more like a barely trampled grassy path fading into nowhere. Right-wingers look about as confused as a Susan G. Komen executive trying to defend her decision-making skills, while left-wingers fill their arsenal with impressive weapons - like President Obama’s new toy, the extreme marshmallow cannon.

In last Sunday’s Super Bowl the Giants edged past the Patriots on the football field, and NBC’s promo for “The Voice” bested all others on the advertising gridiron. Following the game, Tom Brady’s wife Gisele Bundchen won the award for MVP – most vocal partner – as she stood by her man while throwing his teammates under the bus.

We waxed philosophic about the inter-webs twice last week. First, a video for the Amish Project challenged us to consider what our world would be like if we threw away our smart phones and completely abandoned “the cloud.” Later, we expounded on how social networking enables the kind of online activism that is beginning to impact how things work in our offline world.

We ended the week with a reminder about our first-ever Online Oscar Pickin’ Contest, and with a musical moment of Zen – courtesy of Miles Davis.

As always, thanks for reading!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Facebook, Twitter, and Other Weapons of Mass Instruction

Being an activist used to be hard and time-consuming work. Thanks to the advent of the social network - that's just not so any more.

Back in the day, if you wanted to send a message of discontent to "the man" or needed to disrupt the status quo, your first priority was to determine the best ways to fight the perceived injustice and to inflict harm upon your oppressor, or to otherwise gain attention for your cause. Then, you had to pound the pavement to identify a group of like-minded individuals and organizations who are willing to rally around your vision and objectives. Next, you might have to get busy printing placards, staging protests, organizing boycotts, and finding ways to attract the media. All of this took a lot of time and effort, but it was the necessary work of activism. Because you can't be very effective as a crusader if you're not thrusting your anti-whatever movement into the public spotlight, right?

Social media has revolutionized revolutionizing though. Now, any dick with a blog (eh-hem) can express his opinions, demand change, and publish a widespread call to action with little more than the click of a button (or two). Thanks to the World Wide Web - anyone, or everyone, can pick up the mantle of injustice and be an activist, and you never have to leave the cheap warm comfort of your parents' basement.

The internet enables us to react with blazing speed, and to respond and rebel nearly instantaneously when we have had enough of being held down, put down, torn down, or just gotten kind of ticked off. It provides us with a digital megaphone whose reach, with a bit of well-intentioned sharing, re-posting, and re-tweeting, is practically unlimited. And that's the other thing that makes social media revolutions so awesome - not only are they easy to start, they are incredibly easy to join, allowing for our "active" participation, even if we only give a half-hearted shit about the cause.

Daily Zen - Friday, February 10

Old friends pass away, and new friends appear. Just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend - or a meaningful day. 

                          - Dalai Lama