Zhaba Zhournal
Saturday, July 31, 2004 
Girls: wild; customers: riled; lawsuit: filed 
The producers of "Girls Gone Wild" have to pay a $1.1 million settlement for sending people "Girls Gone Wild" videos they didn't order and then not refunding the shipping costs when the people returned them.

Sorry, people who intentionally bought "Girls Gone Wild" videos don't qualify for refunds, no matter how much they feel they deserve them.

(By the way, if you're wondering how you wind up with a sexually-explicit video that you didn't order, it's because you signed up with one of those "continuity" programs that say "get this great DVD for 99 cents and then get lots of other DVDs and videos and pay for them whether you want them or not and there's no easy way to cancel the program ha ha ha." Which is certainly not a clever thing to do, and to some extent you deserve what you get, but no one deserves "Girls Gone Wild" videos. I think it's in the Geneva Convention somewhere.)

[ at 1:19 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Misreading of the day 
On the TV Guide channel, where program titles are shortened to fit into the small half-hour boxes: "Paris & Nicole/Blond." Which I read as "Paris & Nicole/Bland," and briefly thought was a very appropriate and unusually candid title.

(The actual, full title: "Paris & Nicole: A Blond Farewell." There's one extremely welcome word in that...)

[ at 12:59 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Friday, July 30, 2004 
Amusing headline of the day 
Teaser headline in the "what's inside" sidebar on the front page of the Philly Inquirer: "Less talent for Miss America." Perhaps not the best way of condensing "Less televised coverage of the talent competition for the Miss America pageant," but certainly a snarkily amusing one.

P.S. No link because I refuse to succumb to the Inky's overly-intrusive registration requirements.

[ at 3:05 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Retitling of the day 
A bibliography item in the Bible commentary I'm working on:
C. J. H. Wright, Living as the People of God (IVP/UK, 1983), published in USA as An Eye for an Eye (IVP/USA, 1983).
Um, that's a pretty substantial title change; what, do they think Americans are too bloodthirsty to buy a book without a violent title? "The heck with living devoutly as the faithful people of our revered Lord, when do we get to poke somebody's eye out?"

[ at 1:00 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

A man, a plan, a cabal, Manchuria 
Here's something interesting: the original "Manchurian Candidate," that classic film that people have been predicting the remake (which I say isn't really a remake) wouldn't be better than, or even as good as, actually didn't get a very good review from the New York Times when it came out in 1962. Some excerpts (from the non–registration-requiring NYT review archive):
With the air full of international tension, the film The Manchurian Candidate pops up with a rash supposition that could serve to scare some viewers half to death—that is, if they should be dupes enough to believe it, which we solemnly trust they won't.

Its story [...] is as wild a piece of fiction as anything Alfred Hitchcock might present, but it could agitate some grave imaginings in anxious minds these days, especially since it is directed and acted in a taut and vivid way.
Basically, they say it's well-directed, well-acted (except by that Frank Sinatra guy), but hey, what kind of stupid people allow themselves to be suckered into political paranoia, anyway? All is well with our government, thankyouverymuch. Move along, there's nothing behind that curtain, keep shopping.

True, the book and original movie's version of brainwashing is, at the very least, suspiciously rapidly achieved (review: "We are asked to believe that, in three days, a fellow could be brainwashed to the point that two years later, he would still be dutifully submissive to his brainwashers' spell"), but the realism has less to do with it than the concept that the government, military, and other powers-that-be might have ends in mind for us little people that they aren't mentioning and means to achieve them that they aren't revealing. But, ha ha ha! Nothing to see here. Really. Bay of Pigs? Never heard of it. Korean War? Totally necessary. No, we're not telling you why. Didn't we tell you to keep shopping? By the way, we hear Vietnam is lovely this time of year.

(Yes, I graduated with a major in film studies and a minor in sarcasm...)

By the way, today's NYT review of the new movie has this to say about the 1962 version:
The first "Manchurian Candidate" was an exemplary piece of liberal paranoia, imagining the nefarious collusion between foreign, Communist totalitarians and their most ferocious domestic enemies, a conspiracy of the political extremes against the middle. That film, which climaxed at the 1956 Republican convention in New York, looked back from Camelot at an almost-plausible alternative history with a mixture of alarm and relief. The center, in the solid person of John F. Kennedy's pal Frank Sinatra, had held.
And, later:
The uncanny implications of Frankenheimer's "Candidate"...came into focus long after its initial release, when it re-emerged as a curious period artifact in the waning years of the cold war.
Regarding the current movie, this sounds like an interesting and well-conceived update:
"Manchurian" no longer refers to a region in China, but rather to a multinational defense conglomerate whose mind-control techniques are much more high-tech then the Maoist-Freudian brainwashing methods that were popular back in 1962. (The queen of diamonds is redundant when you can implant subcutaneous chips [...].)
Doesn't even take three days! Three seconds, probably, after you've got the guy on the table or in the chair or wherever you do your secret mind-control...Look! A squirrel!

My favorite thing about the new review, by the way, is the description of the reasons behind the R rating:
It has some intense violence, and a lot of the kind of language politicians use when they think the public isn't listening.

P.S. Am I the only one who has a slightly embarrassing thing for Liev Schreiber? He's no movie-poster idol, but I'm just fascinated by his combination of facial fullness and sharpness, those narrow but not quite squinty eyes and that deep smooth voice with a whiskey-rough edge. (Maybe I like his voice so much just because he narrates a lot of nature programs on PBS. Mmm, tell me again about the role of ocean current fluxes in climate changes leading to mass extinctions.)

[ at 12:31 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Thursday, July 29, 2004 
Steal this soundbite 
Listening to Edwards's speech last night; when he started talking about "values":
You know, we hear a lot of talk about values. Where I come from, you don't judge somebody's values based upon how they use that word in a political ad. You judge their values based upon what they've spent their life doing.
J.: "He didn't need to be born again, he got it right the first time."

(He said it in an oratorical Southern-accented voice, as if he were Edwards trying out slogans in front of a mirror, or the Saturday Night Live satire version of the speech; but it's a great quote as a non-satire. Someone steal this soundbite, okay?)

[ at 10:14 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Wednesday, July 28, 2004 
Kerry actually did stand on the Rocky Steps for his speech at the Philadelphia Art Museum; but at least he didn't talk about Rocky, or, worse yet, try to run up the steps or jump up and down at the top. (Which puts him in a distinct minority among out-of-town visitors to the Art Museum. [No, I don't have statistics to back that up, but you can't go to the Art Museum without seeing some yahoos doing a Rocky impersonation on the steps. Then again, when I was in Odessa, I spent at least an hour taking pictures on the steps of "Battleship Potemkin" fame; but then again again, I was only taking pictures, not trying to reenact the movie by pushing a baby carriage down the steps or something.])

[ at 12:02 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Tuesday, July 27, 2004 

Oh my God, it's sunny. Sunny. (After being gray all weekend, raining all day, and being going to be raining all week [and don't tell me I can't use a future imperfect imperfective, even if it doesn't exist].) I think this is a cosmic sign telling me to leave the office right this minute if I don't want to have another rainy commute.

Okay, I can take a hint.


[ at 5:45 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Ben in Beantown 
Katie Couric in Boston, touring the town with Ben Affleck; asks if he's planning on getting into politics. He gives the usual "well, maybe, never know" answer, concluding with "I'm not interested in being an actor for the rest of my life."

J.: "There are millions of people who aren't interested in you being an actor for the rest of your life."

(J. again, a bit later: "I have four words, which get increasingly frightening: 'President Affleck. It's Casey.'")

[ at 1:55 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Gonna not fly now 
John Kerry's going to be in Philly tonight, speaking at the Art Museum. My first thought: "Please, let this not involve the Rocky Steps." My second thought: "Oh, yeah, it's George Bush who indulges in the pointless shows of bravura masculinity." (Like landing on aircraft carriers in a flight suit, or mountain biking even though he keeps falling off.)

[ at 1:49 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Monday, July 26, 2004 
What doth a remake make? 
Aha: as I suspected, "The Manchurian Candidate" is based on a novel (by Richard Condon, published in 1959). So Movie #2 is just Adaptation #2 of the book, not a remake of Movie #1. (I firmly believe that just because there are two movies based on the same novel (play, short story, epic poem) doesn't mean the second one is a remake; not of the first movie, anyway. You never hear about remakes of "Hamlet," do you?)

[ at 9:46 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

"Ferris Bueller's Day Off" was on TCM—yes, that's Turner Classic Movies—last night. (Right between 1937's "Nothing Sacred," with Carole Lombard, and 1923's silent "Safety Last," with Harold Lloyd.) I am officially a million years old.

[ at 9:42 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Wednesday, July 21, 2004 
How about some shallots? 
Okay, The Onion is seriously pissing me off these days. What the heck is up with the News in Brief items being frickin' hyperlinked to their own little pages? The whole point of News in Brief is that it's a collection of short items all on one page that you can read all at once without clicking links (or, in a physical newspaper, turning pages). Perhaps I'm just catastrophically lazy about my entertainment these days; but really, clicking to get to every single 200-words-or-less News in Brief item? (I'm especially annoyed because it seems the "More News in Brief" link they used to have is gone, and that implies that the archives are gone too, unless you sign up for "The Onion Premium.")

Several minutes later: Yup, the free archives are gone, as the Onion FAQ tells us:
Where did The Onion archives go?

All Onion archived content is now only available through an Onion Premium membership. The Onion Premium Archives contain all of the Onion content from the past six years, from January 1998 through the present. Nearly 300 complete issues are now available, with more coming soon. You can browse by issue, by topic, by section, or search the entire archive by keyword. Click here to join Onion Premium.
Grr snarl snap humph. I probably will wind up subscribing to it; and being able to get the full archives, instead of just selected articles, is an improvement, even if you have to pay for it; I'm just annoyed that it snuck up on me. And I'm annoyed about the News in Brief no matter what. Hell, maybe I should subscribe to the print edition; at least there wouldn't be frippin' hyperlinks...

[ at 12:13 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Works and Days Dep't. 
Part of a title of a New York Times article: Bush Plans No Rest in Next Month.

Well, that's new.

(A quote from a Fahrenheit 9/11 transcript: "In his first eight months in office before September 11th, George W. Bush was on vacation, according to the Washington Post, forty-two percent of the time." If I were a really good person who didn't have to actually start working imminently, I'd go look up the actual Washington Post story; but I'm not. Gotta, you know, work. Like I do, and most of us do, for months on end. I think the last time I was on vacation for more than a three-day holiday weekend was last July. Anyone else planning "no rest in next month"? Yeah, that's what I thought.)

[ at 9:24 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Tuesday, July 20, 2004 
Tropes, de trop 
After a TV news story about a shooting that "left three innocent bystanders wounded":

Me: You never hear about "guilty bystanders." Like, "the shooting injured two innocent bystanders and this man, who was on his way to rob a bank."

J.: "The last bullet killed a young Austrian watercolorist, who had entertained all of Berlin that summer with his anti-Semitic ravings." Ah, history's lost chances...

[ at 8:56 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Friday, July 16, 2004 
From Sun to sun 
This just in: Ms. Spears's postprandial guzzle was ginseng extract, not booze, as had been previously reported by the Sun. (I only believe this, by the way, because the liquor store clerk who sold it to her said so.) Okay, she's not a midday open-container boozehound, but she's still been wearing the same clothes for four days in a row and snarfing junk food like there's no morning-after. (And getting a freakishly dark tan. Ewwwww. Get some sunblock, girl. I've seen Thanksgiving turkeys that were less bronzed and basted.)

[ at 1:34 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Thursday, July 15, 2004 

Does anyone else think it's odd–bordering-on–inappropriate that the song "Come on-a my house, I'm gonna give you candy" is being used in a commercial for Martha Stewart housewares, inasmuch as Martha Stewart is, in all probability, on her way to the Big House where people get traded for candy?

(Although maybe that's what the people who did the ad are going for, in which case it's funny, but still inappropriate, at least if they're getting paid for the ad by any part of her corporate empire.)

[ at 11:05 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Next time you feel like your life is too exciting, try spellchecking the Bible. Hours of fun. Hours of something, anyway.

(This one was especially fun because the translator's very keen on "authentic" transliteration of proper nouns, so in Deuteronomy 32:48-49 you've got Moshe atop Mount N'vo looking across the River Yarden to the land of Kena`an, which ADONAI promised to the people of Isra'el.)

It's probably not entirely unrelated that I have a headache...

[ at 4:36 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

I smell a brat 
Now, everybody knows that I'm not exactly a fan of Britney Spears, and I would be more than secretly gratified if she were to gain thirty pounds and wind up in rehab, which this article in the Sun suggests she's headed for as she scarfs down junk food and swigs miniature bottles of whiskey for lunch. (And I don't see her wearing a knee brace or using a crutch; what happened to that tour-cancelling injury of hers?) I do, however, have one issue to take up with the Sun: just because she's been wearing the same bikini for four days doesn't mean said bikini is "stinky." It's possible—not probable, but possible—that she, or one of her minions, has washed it between wearings. That's what I'd do, anyway; wash it in a sink with Woolite and hanging it up to dry on the shower curtain rod overnight. Who says you have to wear a different thing every frickin' time you leave the house? (I'm a little oversensitive here because I do wear the same pants to work more than once a week; but it's not like I go home and do aerobics and roll around in the mud in them. And I'm not even going to mention how often I wash my hair, because then no one would want to associate with me anymore.)

[ at 1:01 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

It's always refreshing when politicians do something that, well, sucks less than the things they usually do: I was extremely heartened that the Senate told the ban-gay-marriage-amendment people to go engage in conjugal relations with themselves. If the enemy of your enemy is your friend, is the defeat of an attempt to defeat you your victory?

[ at 9:40 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Wednesday, July 14, 2004 
That's "Mr. Amok" to you 
I realize this means I'm incredibly easily amused, but how cool is it that there's a guy in the Bible named "Amok"? (When I first encountered it in the index of the book I'm working on, I was really hoping it would be a place name—a city, maybe—because then you could say the guy in charge of it was "running Amok.")

(I always thought that a good place name, especially for a bar or a small resort town, would be "Loose Ends," because then if someone asked where you were, you could say "I'm at Loose Ends" and mean it.)

(Did I mention that I'm incredibly easily amused?)

[ at 11:51 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Friday, July 09, 2004 

Did you ever have one of those days when you get so caught up in your work that you forget to eat until 1:30? Yeah, I usually don't either, but it's happened two days in a row now. Unfortunately, after I remember to take my lunch break and start the afternoon's work, I don't retain/regain that level of concentration...it turns into a long, long slog from 2:15 to 5. (For instance, right now it feels like the past 45 minutes have actually taken an hour and a half.)

Humph. Everyone should be allowed to leave work early on sunny summer Fridays...

[ at 3:14 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Why don't they just go ahead and call the annual event in Pamplona the running of the idiots? (Linking to this particular article because the picture was cited on Fark.com with the headline "If there ever was a running of the bulls photo that epitomized 'total loss of bladder control,' this is it.")

[ at 11:59 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Wednesday, July 07, 2004 
I'm a toolbar tool 
I'd like to be a Mozilla Firefox person, really I would—I've downloaded and installed it and everything—but darnit, I'm a toolbar junkie, and I can only get all my toolbars to work in Internet (H)explorer.

toolbar screenshot
click for bigger image

I've gotta have my Merriam-Webster toolbar so I can look up words on the fly when I'm copyediting (or doing the Times crossword on my computer);

M-W toolbar screenshot

I need my Yahoo toolbar because that's where all my bookmarks live (plus it's the fastest way to get to my primary e-mail);

bookmark screenshot
click for bigger image

and I don't need my Google toolbar, I guess, but I like all the search tools and the extremely aggressive pop-up blocker,

Google toolbar screenshot

and I especially like the option where you can toggle highlighting of search terms on the "found" page.

Google highlight screenshot

Oh, I know Mozilla is wonderful. It handles Unicode brilliantly, and you wouldn't believe how good right-aligned Hebrew looks in it. But...but...my toolbars! I want my toolbars!

[ at 6:22 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

20 Questions to a Better Personality 
Okay, I'm not going to be the last person online to take this...I've found it a few different places, most recently at Tenth Muse.
Wackiness: 32/100
Rationality: 46/100
Constructiveness: 44/100
Leadership: 40/100

You are an SEDF--Sober Emotional Destructive Follower. This makes you an evil genius. You are extremely focused and difficult to distract from your tasks. With luck, you have learned to channel your energies into improving your intellect, rather than destroying the weak and unsuspecting.

Your friends may find you remote and a hard nut to crack. Few of your peers know you very well--even those you have known a long time--because you have expert control of the face you put forth to the world. You prefer to observe, calculate, discern and decide. Your decisions are final, and your desire to be right is impenetrable.

You are not to be messed with. You may explode.
I took it three times and kept getting the same result...okay, okay, so I'm evil. (I'll take "evil" if I can keep "genius." And every now and then I've been know to asplode.) It's a more interesting result to read than the INTP I always get on the Myers-Briggs.

Go take it yourself at Jenny Turpish Slapped Me.

[ at 4:29 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Tuesday, July 06, 2004 
Frozen drinks 
I left off on Friday with a mention of "a freezer full of cosmopolitans and margaritas and rum punch." And while I have (surprise, surprise) other backlogged things I want to post about the weekend, I'll provide, for the time being, a quick Frozen Drink Tutorial:

Never mind all that crap about putting drink mixes and ice cubes in a blender and then having a blender to clean and more ice cubes to make. Frozen alcoholic beverages are easy. Just mix up your drink of choice, preferably in quantity (six servings is a good number), put it in a container—I recommend zip-lock freezer bags, quart or gallon size—and put it in the freezer for six hours or so. The alcohol keeps the mixture from freezing solid, so you wind up with a nice cocktail slush. Scoop or pour or ladle it into a glass, stick in a straw or a spoon, and pretend you're lounging on a lanai watching the fairy terns swoop among the palm trees. Heaven.

While I'm here, my recipe for the metropolis, which is a lot like a cosmopolitan but better:
2 parts cranberry juice
1 part each mandarin orange vodka, Triple Sec, and Rose's lime juice
A batch of six fits perfectly into a standard 64-oz. glass Ocean Spray cranberry juice bottle, which is very convenient. I'm never without a bottle in the fridge and/or a bag in the freezer. I've got a good margarita recipe and a luscious rum punch, too; but those would require going downstairs and finding the cards they're written on. Maybe tomorrow...

[ at 11:34 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Friday, July 02, 2004 

I'm probably the last person online with a film degree to have found out that Marlon Brando has died; for someone who spends the entire working day with a Web browser open, I feel fairly pathetic for missing that until now. Of course, I also didn't notice till 3:30 that my boss had sent an e-mail at 2:00 saying we could all go home early. (Um, yeah, I'm still in the office now. I'm leaving soon, though, really.)

(I'm afraid I don't have a lot of Marlon-Brando–related things to say; I have, even more pathetically, entirely missed just about every movie he's made. All those film studies classes mostly involved Italian neorealism and Soviet montage and the French nouvelle vague, rather than the great American films [at least the ones after 1950]. So, yeah, I guess I missed some opportunities there. On the other hand, it's a lot easier to rent or buy "The Godfather" than, say, "The End of St. Petersburg" or "Umberto D.," so I can start filling in some of the gaps.)

Yeesh, it's 4 p.m. and I'm still in the office. Time to go home to the parakeet and the ungrateful plants and a freezer full of cosmopolitans and margaritas and rum punch. Oh, it's gonna be a good long weekend...

[ at 3:42 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Now, honestly 
I stopped at Essene, the local macrobiotic/vegan/organic food store, to get lunch after doing some errands that took me in that vicinity; I got the only prepared salad I could find that didn't have seaweed or mock-meat or something weird like that in it (it did have "hemp nuts"—which were more like millet seeds than nuts), and a Snapple-sized bottle of iced tea from a company called Honest Tea. (Excerpt from the back-of-the-bottle copy: "We brew our tea in spring water and add just a hint of sugar cane juice." Very much just a hint; I drink my tea black, and I think this stuff isn't sweet enough.) Anyway, like Snapple, it has a snippet of text on the inside of the bottle cap; but instead of a cheesy, not-necessarily-accurate "fact," it's a Chinese proverb that runs thus:
If we don't change the direction we are headed, we will end up where we are going.
Um, yeah. You don't say. Does it even count as a proverb if it's just a boring overstatement of an obvious fact? ("If we keep going where we're going, we'll go where we're going.") It makes me miss the depth and incisiveness of fortune cookies.

[ at 2:52 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Thursday, July 01, 2004 
How you, too, can make the terrorists already have won 
Via J-Walk:
At Fuzrock's, you can contribute a saying in the form of:
If _____________, that means the terrorists have already won.

  • If I can't get a decent sugar-free vanilla soy latte in every podunk town in Ohio, that means the terrorists have already won!
  • If reading the words "Sunday! Sunday!! Sunday!!!" doesn't make you think of monster trucks, that means the terrorists have already won!
  • If you land on Illinois ave, and the terrorists have a hotel on it, and all you have is 76 dollars and three mortgaged railroads, that means the terrorists have already won!
My contribution: "If I can't buy a gallon of gas from Saudi Arabia for less than a 16-ounce bottle of filtered tap water from Coca-Cola, that means the terrorists have already won!"

I mean, honestly; they pump the oil out of the ground in Saudi Arabia, put it on a truck, send it to a port, put it on a ship, sail it across the Atlantic, unload it on a dock, put it in a truck, ship it to a refinery, turn it into gasoline (however they do that), put it on a truck, send it to a gas station, and pump it into an underground tank; and, yes, it sometimes costs over $2 a gallon. Get over it.

(Of course, I take public transportation, and haven't had my own car since early 2000; so I'm less impressed by the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth over the cost of gas than I could be. There aren't many reasons to feel good about having to rely on city buses and regional rail trains, so I'll take what I can get.)

[ at 12:35 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Yes, that's me.


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