Friday, March 18, 2011

Cinema Notes From All Over (Paying the Piper Division)

SAN FRANCISCO, Ca.--Product placements in movies have been our personal bete noire since the 1980s, when the practice exploded. There are arguments for them (they help finance movies) and against them (they're a prime example of corporate greed), but they are, at this point, inevitable.  
   YouTube user FilmDrunkDotCom has put together this fabulous compendium of product placement examples. Though it is by no means comprehensive--remember the Mars Today news box in the space-located Arnold Schwarzenegger film Total Recall, a play on the newspaper USA Today?--but it's telling nonetheless. 
   (On a side note, one is saddened that the film creators' graphics chalkboard evidently lacked spell-check.)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

LIVE FROM JAPAN--At the Epicenter

TOKYO, Japan--Early this year our college-aged niece boarded a flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo, realizing her dream to spend six months studying in Japan. 
   Alas, dreams have a way of crashing into reality. And/or vice versa. 
   In the past few days, in concert with her folks and school officials, she's been weighing what to do, including whether or not to return home from her quake-ravaged adopted country. 
   And she has been blogging. 
   Her take on the quake and its aftermath is harrowing and riveting and moving. 
   Read it now. You'll find it here. (Scroll down to Saturday, March 21: "Homework Undone, Love Unrequited, and YES, It Is the End of the World This Time...." 
   (If the "here" hyperlink fails, go to:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Because the Rolling Stones are Awesome II

SAN FRANCISCO--More in our irregular series of images highlighting history's most amazing rock and roll band. 

"All Down The Line," Hawaii or Australia, early 1973. Left to right: Bobby Keyes, Mick Taylor, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts. 

Stargazing, Madison Square Garden, NY, July 1972.

Shouting it out, somewhere in America, summer 1975. 

Keith Richards' and Mick Taylor's guitars backstage, somewhere in America, 1969

Getting it Done in the Capitol

   This is the most emotionally avoidant city on earth. It naturally attracts people who have been fleeing from their emotional lives and into their professional lives. 
              --David Brooks, New York Times columnist, on Washington D.C. 
                 Newsweek, Mar. 21 edition

   Hello, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, among many others.

On the Road Again (A Nice Way to Get There Division)

THE WEST COAST--We have a car-buff friend--well, okay, it's our brother--who lives in Los Angeles, the land of legendary automobiles and surgically enhanced breasts.
   He has sent along a couple of photos we thought it worth sharing. The first is of a 1964 Chevrolet Impala, auto of choice for 1960s suburban corporate employees and 1990s/2000s urban gang-bangers. The second is of a Star Wars-themed car, odd in the extreme, although perhaps not so in L.A., where fantasy is a business and reality a bother. 

Proud to be an American (Loving the Little People Division)

LOS ANGELES--In case you hadn't noticed, a UCLA student named Alexandra Wallace recently posted a two-plus-minute YouTube video in which she criticized Asian students for having close-knit families and talking on cellular telephones in the library.
   If the internet has unloosed the unbridled id (people will say anything when anonymous), YouTube has unloosed unbridled--well, in this case, unintentional comedy.
   Inevitably, Ms. Wallace's observations have spawned a host of parodies and responses, not to mention the usual raft of replies, most written by men of great gallantry, criticizing her body parts and wishing death upon her.
   We have not inspected the parodies; life is short. You'll find them aside Ms. Wallace's video, which you'll find here (if the hyperlink disappears, it's: or here:

UPDATE: The Associated Press ran a story Saturday saying Ms. Wallace will be leaving UCLA. In a statement to the Daily Bruin, the campus paper, Ms. Wallace said the following: "In an attempt to produce a humorous YouTube video, I have offended the UCLA community and the entire Asian culture. Especially in the wake of the ongoing disaster in Japan, I would do anything to take back my insensitive words. I could write apology letters all day and night, but I know they wouldn't erase the video from your memory, nor would they act to reverse my inappropriate action." 
   Ms. Wallace added that her decision to cease studying at UCLA came in the wake of "the harassment of my family, the publishing of my personal information, death threats and being ostracized from an entire community." 
   In light of Ms. Wallace's apology, it would seem kind to remove the video from this post, or, indeed, the post itself. However, there is a broader point to be made here. 
   Modern technology has made it easy for anyone to communicate anything to anyone. This is not, in itself, either good or bad. The problem is, humans can be impulsive. When impulsivity meets modern communication technology, the result can be aggressive and hurtful. 
   When you add the protection of anonymity, anyone's capable of saying unkind things without fear of normal social strictures or reprisals. (By way of example, read the comments below stories on newspaper and magazine web sites.) 
   To her credit, Ms. Wallace eschewed anonymity. But she did post her rant. And her attitude and delivery in it appear not much different from those in some reality TV shows, wherein snottiness passes for wit and manners lose ground to bitchy self-centeredness. 
   Ah, well. Ms. Wallace has learned a lesson or two, and has done it the hard way. Will anyone else?

The Friendly Skies (Toying With the Paradigm Division)

UP IN THE AIR--Somewhere along the way, Southwest Airlines policy evidently encompassed encouraging flight crews to insert little bits of inanity into the standard safety announcement at the beginning of each flight. 
   Or maybe it had nothing whatever to do with corporate policy. Maybe the crews just got bored and decided to amuse passengers while informing them of the hundreds of ways to fool themselves that they might somehow survive in the event of a catastrophic crash. 
   Either way, the announcements offer some unexpected delights. Take the one on Flight 2717, from San Francisco to San Diego, yesterday. 
   After making reference over the P.A. to "designer oxygen masks," the flight attendant said, "If you are traveling with a child, or someone who acts like one, with the release of the masks be sure to put one on your husband first, then put on your own." 
   She then alerted passengers that "your lovely flight attendants are coming through the cabin to be sure your shoes match your outfits, and also that your seats are in their upright and most uncomfortable position," and next thanked them for "pretending to give us your attention." 
   She concluded, "We are now going to lower the lights in order to enhance the beauty of your traveling companion." 
   It is always nice to have a chuckle before dying in a fiery crash, we think, or is that just our dislike of flying shining through? 

UPDATE: Our brother, in Los Angeles, reminded us of this--another example of Southwest Airlines crew whimsy: