Being in Rome withdrawal back in 2010, I was anxious for another good historical series from HBO (and those in Rome withdrawal may have noted that Ray Stevenson, who played Titus Pullo, surfaced this season as a Ukrainian bad guy with a British accent on Dexter, another favorite show of mine). Plus, no Quentin Tarantino fan would turn down the opportunity to watch Steve Buscemi headline a series. To be honest, I almost didn’t make it through the first episode, which was directed by Martin Scorsese and relied on self-indulgent historical recreation boardwalk shots.
Season Three started well, but the personal subplots that carried the mob family in The Sopranos became a drag for Boardwalk. Nucky Thompson (Buscemi) was annoying as he paid ill attention to his business while trying to “rescue” yet another woman, this time a flighty actress who fell victim to that ill attention when she was killed by a bomb meant for Nucky at the supper club. Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale) began the season on a scary note, but as his reign of terror continued he was often a comical stereotype of an Italian gangster. Micky Doyle (Paul Sparks) was annoying because he’s supposed to be, but got a head-scratching amount of business responsibility this time around (one of the season’s best lines came from Eli Thompson, played by Shea Whigham, when Mickey was sent to pick him up from prison: “Let me ask you something, Mickey. How the f*@k are you still alive?”). And Margaret Thompson (Kelly Macdonald) was annoying as all get out as she squabbled with Nucky, went on her family planning crusade, then ironically didn’t think about her own birth control when she had sex with her husband’s handsome Irish right-hand man.
There simply wasn’t enough of the best characters this season, though some got their story arcs broadened a bit.
Retail stores are opening earlier than ever to try to catch the wave of Black Friday shoppers — see disgruntled Wal-Mart employees for more information and kvetching — but a scan of the ads thus far isn’t offering too much incentive to risk life and limb at a midnight — excuse me, 8 p.m., whatever — store opening. A few retailers even started their deals online today (probably a boon to public safety), and many more will put their deals online starting Thanksgiving so shoppers can sit at home in PJs bloating on turkey instead of sitting in a pup tent outside Best Buy.
There are the standard cut-rates on third-tier flat-panel TVs. Wal-Mart is selling an iPad for the same price that the Apple store charges, but is throwing in a $75 gift card with purchase. Other stores are offering “doorbusters” that amount to 25-50 percent off or so. In other words, nothing you can’t find in winter and summer clearance periods.
Yes, I’m a huge fan of off-season shopping. I’m also a longtime advocate of the bargain hunt, considering I’ve always been a fashionista label-snob but have always drawn a journalist’s salary. And even when I started making more money, I was set in my ways: Why buy regular price when redlines exist? Hunting for bargains, with years of strategy and wins under one’s belt, is a sport of sorts. Unfortunately, days like Black Friday are turned into a full-contact sport — see the case of the Wal-Mart worker trampled to death in 2008. And there’s a bit of disappointment, as a fiscal conservative, to see people throwing things in the cart en masse that may not be the best deal after all.
So in the interest of shopping diplomacy, here are a few things to watch as you shop.
Here’s Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), looking good as a 2016 contender, on rap in the December issue of GQ:
GQ: Your autobiography also has to be the first time a politician has cited a love of Afrika Bambaataa. Did you have a favorite Afrika Bambaataa song?
Marco Rubio: All the normal ones. People forget how dominant Public Enemy became in the mid 80s. No one talks about how transformative they were. And then that led to the 90s and the sort of East Coast v. West Coast stuff, which is kinda when I came of age. There’s a great documentary on Tupac called Resurrection about the last few years of Tupac’s life and how he transformed. And, ironically, how this East Coast rapper became this West Coast icon, back when all that Death Row/Sean Combs stuff was going on. Hip Hop’s 30 years old now and it’s crossed over and sort of become indistinguishable from pop music in general. You know, many people say Nicki Minaj is a rapper, but she’s also a singer. Kanye’s another guy who’s also a rapper, but his songs aren’t pure rap anymore. There’s also all these collaborations going on, which confuses everything. You know you’ve got the guy from Miami, Pitbull, who’s on TV selling a car and then he’s advertising for Dr. Pepper.
GQ: Your three favorite rap songs?
Marco Rubio: “Straight Outta Compton” by N.W.A. “Killuminati” by Tupac. Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”
GQ: Is there a song you play to psych you up before a vote in the Senate?
Marco Rubio: I’m not like an athlete. The only guy that speaks at any sort of depth is, in my mind, Eminem. He’s a guy that does music that talks about the struggles of addiction and before that violence, with growing up in a broken family, not being a good enough father. So, you know that’s what I enjoy about it. It’s harder to listen to than ever before because I have a bunch of kids and you just can’t put it on. But in terms of psyching yourself up, I don’t have time for that. You know you can’t put on earphones and the storm the floor and vote [laughs].
GQ: So, Pitbull’s too cheesy?
Marco Rubio: His songs are all party songs. There’s no message for him, compared to like an Eminem. But look, there’s always been a role for that in American music. There’s always been a party person, but he’s a young guy. You know, maybe as he gets older, he’ll reflect in his music more as time goes on. I mean, he’s not Tupac. He’s not gonna be writing poetry.
I feel totally bonded with Rubio now — N.W.A. made No. 3 on my 20 Best Rap Songs list and Eminen made #5. “Killuminati”? Rubio is totally gangsta. That can’t hurt on the campaign trail.
What’s the most wonderful thing about this time of year? Is it putting Brach’s Pic-a-Mix at the top of the Halloween candy bowl to save the Kit-Kats at the bottom for one’s self? Is it dressing up as Big Bird with a binder full of bayonets (so I’m guessing will be the Beltway costume of choice this year)? Is it enjoying one last fun holiday before the Holidays With Pressure arrive?
It’s the TV, of course. It’s several straight nights or even a whole month (thanks, AMC) of getting to watch Donald Pleasence face off with Michael Myers.
The one. The only. The Donald.
Pleasence, of course, played Dr. Sam Loomis, archenemy to evil-brat-all-grown-up Michael Myers, in John Carpenter’s original Halloween (1978), 1981′s Halloween 2, 1988′s Halloween 4, 1989′s Halloween 5, and Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995).
I give you 10 reasons why Donald Pleasence is that awesome — besides, obviously, being a great actor bringing a touch of class to a low-budget enterprise.
- The person in a horror movie who always knows what’s afoot while other don’t believe him always deserves a modicum of respect.
- He knows bullets can’t take down Michael Myers, and advises others of the same, but still keeps trying. Determination.
- How many other shrinks in trenchcoats do we have as movie action heroes?
- The best lines. Sheriff: “I have a feeling that you’re way off on this.” Dr. Loomis: “You have the wrong feeling.”
- The delivery. “We are talking about evil on two legs” sounds more awesome coming from Donald Pleasence than anyone else.
- His indestructibleness rivals Myers’, who can’t seem to kill his childhood psychiatrist with explosions, window tosses, etc.
- He never descends into weepy hysterics at the sight of Myers, but confronts and even challenges him: “Now you’ll come, won’t you, Michael?”
- You really root for Donald Pleasence. (And Jamie Lee Curtis, as well.) Whiny camp counselors being stalked by Jason in the Friday the 13th series? Not so much.
- He’s a man about it. “Michael? Why now? You waited ten years. I knew this day would come. Don’t go to Haddonfield. If you want another victim, take me. But leave those people in peace. Please, Michael?” Before he curses at Myers and pops .50 caliber slugs at him.
- He was the inspiration for Dr. Evil yet is the best fighting force against “evil on two legs” Myers.
Each year at the AIPAC policy conference in Washington, the packed house is reminded of the scientific and intellectual contributions Israel has made to the world. I’d suggest adding Oren Peli to the list for creating a horror franchise that has actually remained satisfying and reasonably fresh (and oh-so-profitable) through three sequels.
The Paranomal Activity series has remained a guaranteed box-office success without recessing into the torture-porn subgenre — exactly where the Saw franchise went after the first film had a suspenseful twisting storyline. Nor does the PA family rely on pricey special effects to deliver the spooks: The first film — directed, written, and edited by Peli — cost a whopping $15,000 to make and raked in nearly $200 million worldwide. Peli returned to produce the next three while handing the directing reins to others.
Many have tried the found-footage genre with widely varying degrees of success. The original Paranormal Activity was released a decade after the wildly successful Blair Witch Project, which made nearly $250 million worldwide as one of the most successful independent films ever. Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 didn’t fare so well, and plans for another sequel fizzled. Cloverfield used the found-footage framework for a monster attack; Quarantine for a runaway apocalyptic virus. Most attempts at the style have found cult followings at best, like the gem Grave Encounters that riffs on the explosion of ghost-hunting shows on TV today, most notably Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel.
In the PA series, the ghosts have often been effects that you could pull off with fishing line, and they’re still scary. They don’t exactly reach the dramatic sweep of The Shining, or the apocalyptic terror of 28 Days Later, but they do the job for which they were created — being a creepy popcorn movie sans a comical Jason or Freddie running around.
In Paranormal Activity 4, which opened at late screenings last night to the tune of $4.5 million (and it cost $5 million to make), a new subgenre is introduced to put a twist on the classic PA formula: the creepy child.
The creepy kid has a hallowed tradition in horror films, from Damien in The Omen to Toshio in The Grudge and the Children of the Corn. Paranormal Activity 4 serves up another creepy little devil in the form of Robbie, the kid from across the street who wanders into the neighbors’ treehouse, and meanders robotically with a blank face.
There’s little mystery as to who Robbie’s “mom” is, as we’re reminded at the beginning of the film that Katie split with her nephew Hunter at the end of Paranoramal Activity 2. But there are even twists from this assumption.
Who says Hollywood isn’t wading into political terrain anymore? Before the start of Argo today, my local theater showed a trailer for a remake of Red Dawn. But instead of Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen fighting red commie Soviets who invade their town, teens including Tom Cruise’s son Connor will be fighting off an invasion of red commie North Koreans.
Hooray for the implausible scenario but at least plausible bad guys in a town that has reduced the pool of politically acceptable villains to the milquetoast bad generic Europeans with Julian Assange hair (a la Alias) and the occasional Somali pirate. Pyongyang’s buttons will burst with pride at the thought of bringing Washington state (not Colorado, as in the original, but I guess it’s closer for a financially strapped fighting force) to its knees, and Kim Jong Un will likely screen the movie in Kim Il-Sung Square in honor of dear old departed movie-buff Dad (editing out the ending where they invariably lose).
So I was especially intrigued to see how Ben Affleck and Co., institutional Hollywood to the core, would handle the Iran hostage crisis.
Especially as Iran is currently up to more dastardly (nuclear) deeds and time has shown that the Islamic Revolution has only sown hatred, anti-Semitism, and global insecurity.
Especially as time has shown that the Islamic Republic still holds Americans hostage — see the 2009-2011 detention of hikers Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer, and Joshua Fattal after they likely didn’t cross the border in Kurdish mountains.
One couldn’t have predicted this in scheduling the film’s release date, but the opening scenes of protesters burning the American flag and scaling the walls of the embassy in Tehran are eerily reminiscent of scenes we saw just weeks ago out of Cairo, and the storming of the compound brings a chill when thinking of Benghazi.
The film opens with an abridged timeline that points the finger at the U.S. for installing Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who ushered in “an era of torture and fear” and began “a campaign to Westernize Iran.” This mini-history left out the role of the Islamist movement and its motivations to forge a theocratic state.
The opening sequence of Argo, as the Iran hostage crisis begins, is similar to the sequence of terrorists storming the Israeli athletes’ dorm in Munich. Whatever one thinks of the substance or direction in the rest of the movie, these scenes stand on their own, displaying the chilling brutality of terrorism without any further explanation needed.
The militants ransacking the Tehran compound find an Ayatollah Khomeini dartboard, which is pretty awesome and predictably infuriates the bunch. They also find the documents hastily shredded when embassy staff couldn’t get an incinerator to do its job, and the Revolutionary Guards task a bunch of children to piece together the shreds, sweatshop-style. What Washington fears they’ll soon realize is that six staffers slipped out in the chaos and made their way to the Canadian embassy.
The reaction from a head spook back at the CIA wanders into the “but we must’ve deserved it” territory – also familiar territory these days.
“What’d you expect?” one character says. “We helped a guy torture and deball their entire population.”
The agency comes to the conclusion that they must “send in a Moses” to extract the six Americans — exfiltration expert Tony Mendez.
While watching Return to the Planet of the Apes, Mendez, played extremely well by Affleck, comes up with the “flamboyant cover identity” through which he believes he can get the Americans out of Iran. He enlists the help of veteran make-up artist John Chambers, played by John Goodman, to set up the fake sci-fi film Argo that would need a Middle Eastern landscape. “So you want to come to Hollywood and act like a big shot without doing anything?” Chambers quips. “You’ll fit right in.”
With the not-so-subtle timing of its theatrical release, would The Campaign pick Barack Obama or Mitt Romney for president?
Actually, if you went by the strongest political theme in the surprisingly bipartisan script, this movie would cast its ticket in favor of a Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent who comes ready with every catchphrase in the book about cleaning up Washington: former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer.
After all, the villains in this tale are a pair of bankrolling Motch Brothers (subtle, eh?), played by John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd, who hatch a cockamamie plan to get a pet candidate into Congress so they can “insource” Chinese sweatshops into a rural North Carolina district.
But for being directed and produced by Jay Roach, who also made the HBO movie Game Change, the mega-happy ending (as Wayne’s World would call it) doesn’t favor the side you might expect it would. In fact, the film takes great pains to keep both sides of the aisle in the theater seats, as it’s one thing to show a message movie on pay cable and quite another to compete for summertime crowds at the box office.
The cameos, however, are like a who’s who of MSNBC primetime, with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer as the moderate anchor (in a rather funny performance, considering the “stories” he deadpan reports) and Dennis Miller coming from the right. (Missing: politician cameos, even as small as John McCain in Wedding Crashers or as plenty as in Dave.) Instead of blatant hyperpartisan digs at either side, the script puts Hangover-style humor first, mocking recent political incidents second, and any political message further down the line.
From the previews, I expected a send-up of the Christine O’Donnell vs. Mike Castle or Joe Miller vs. Lisa Murkowski races. Instead, it was more along the lines of a folksy Tea Partier (implied, but not implicitly stated or inferred by any Gadsden flags or “mama grizzly” lines) vs. John Edwards-meets-Anthony Weiner.
Rep. Cam Brady (D-N.C.), played by Will Ferrell, begins by repeating his mantra for a standard campaign stump: “America, Jesus, freedom.”
“What does that even mean?” the Democrat says. “Shit, I don’t know.”
Brady pays $900 for a haircut and texts photos of his pubic hair to his groupie mistress. He kisses up to voter constituencies by telling each one that they alone are THE backbone of the nation. He’s a lush with a potty mouth, temper issues, and the morals of a peanut. And, coincidentally, he’s mentioned as a possible pick someday for vice president.
Marty Huggins (Zach Galfianakis), a small-town tour guide in fair-isle cardigans with little to recommend him other than a powerful dad, is hand-picked by the Motch Bros. to be a Republican challenger to Brady, who expects that, as usual, he won’t face any challengers at all — but whose favorability ratings become vulnerable when he accidentally leaves a racy message for the mistress du jour on a churchgoing family’s answering machine.
I once chatted with an actress at a wrap party in L.A. who was around 80 years old and had just done a goofy spot in a TV commercial. “I just like to do fun roles,” she said, beaming, clearly enjoying every minute of it.
And that is a huge key to the charm of TNT’s Dallas reboot, which wrapped up its first season with a bang last night. The veteran actors who reprised their roles from the long-running soap — Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing, Patrick Duffy as Bobby Ewing, Linda Gray as Sue Ellen Ewing (who’s now running for Texas governor), Ken Kercheval as Cliff Barnes — are having such a blast doing it that their enthusiasm is infectious. The series has a quick pace, is nicely written with some cheesy lines but good twists and turns, and is perfect guilty-pleasure fare for a Wednesday night.
But the best thing about the show by far is the return of the original J.R. The ten best things about Hagman’s character, then, have been each of the ten episodes of this first season (with new episodes due in January).
I was too young to watch the original run of Dallas. Because it was so culturally ingrained, though, I still felt the palpable suspense about who shot J.R. (though I didn’t know exactly who DID). Still, I wasn’t all that jazzed when TNT announced a reboot of the classic primetime soap. At first, the greatest value was in seeing energy reporters on Twitter criticizing whether the show was accurately portraying drilling and methane harvesting. But I broke down and caught some on-demand episodes — and watched the first three all in a row.
The show has evil Venezuelans, an alternative-energy subplot that isn’t politically pushy (Christopher Ewing, the brains behind that, turns out to be just as devious as the others), and a gentle reminder that if one ever gets a facelift to tell the doc not to pull as tightly as Gray’s doc did.
I figured I would know what was supposed to fill the cage of my late rat, Red, when I saw the furry little critter. And if you just fell in love with the mug above, you’ll understand.
I didn’t expect to get another guinea pig, though the cage that Red came with at the shelter is technically a guinea pig cage. There was already the G-Pig caucus in my casa, Sen. Furry Reid (D-Nev.) and Rep. Piggy Hoyer (D-Md.). They fuss and fight over hay and have a stuffed elephant toy that they throw around. They’re a hoot.
And then I came across the little guy above. He had been kept in one of those little solo glass display boxes in a pet store for a year. A year.
At the end of last month, I took the puppacita on her first plane ride. She did a great job, of course, and wasn’t freaked out by any of the noises or newness. I discovered that a tiny, sweet chihuahua with her tongue hanging out the side of her mouth snaps TSA agents out of their grumpiness and that meaty treats for pups make it through security — and, for some reason, both at Dulles and LAX I was singled out for the explosive-residue-on-hands test while holding the puppacita (no full-body puppa scans). On the way out to L.A., the flight attendants (and the other passenger in the row) let Chi-Chi sit in the middle seat; she only went under the seat for takeoff and landing. Passengers in surrounding rows started passing me their iPhones to show off pictures of their dogs. And the puppacita slept most of the time, until the flight attendants came around with the basket of JetBlue snacks — she’s a fan of popcorn and the like, so the opening of bags made her perk right up. Unfortunately, Dulles was the only airport on our stop with a doggie bathroom area past the security checkpoints, but the puppacita managed to hold it through our Boston layover on the way back and make it home.
While waiting for a red-eye at LAX, though, I started to see tweets about some evil storm that had whipped through the D.C. area. I messaged my pet-sitter to see if there was anything I should know; her last stop at my place had been that Friday evening before the derecho and she was leaving on a camping trip the next morning. Little did I know at that point that staying in L.A. — or, like my pet-sitter, running off to the woods — would have been a better option that flying home.
I wasn’t too worried because my place never loses power, even during the 2010 Snowmageddon. After arriving at Dulles (and letting puppacita use the fake fire hydrant), I was almost to the parking garage when a TSA agent told me there had been a furious storm the night before; parking payment machines weren’t working and neither was cell service at the airport. Driving home from the airport, I had to stop for multiple traffic lights that were out. I noticed cars stranded along the side of the road. My car started to flash a heat warning. Even though the A/C was cranked up, puppacita started to pant — which she never does unless she’s overheated, a rare occurrence. Nothing helped until I took a bottle of water in the car and poured it over her.
At home, I discovered that my whole complex was out — though the condos and adjoining center of restaurants and shops next door had power. A transformer that fueled my complex had been taken out by the storm, and with a quick trip around the corner I saw the pole and wires at the edge of a wooded area littering the ground. The temp was only 79 when I walked in, but would get much worse. I arrived back when all of the neighbors had fled and filled up local hotels, when local friends were also out of power, and when my pet-sitter was no longer around to help with care.
I got into L.A. a few days before Bryan did last week, and I confess that In-N-Out wasn’t the first place I headed. Since I flew into Long Beach, I swung by my old ‘hood and a fabulous dive called Casa Sanchez for some real, honest-to-God, why-doesn’t-this-exist-out-East Mexican food. What a relief to hear the person in line before me order cabeza tacos. What a delight to sip the first Orange Bang I’d had in four years. And how delish my chorizo con papas taco (a whole $1.20) and asada quesadilla were.
So I was a bit full heading into dinner, now soaking up some ocean breeze near my hotel at LAX. PJM’s Aaron Hanscom and I headed over to the In-N-Out to continue my journey through the myriad tastes of L.A. remembered but not duplicated anywhere across my new East Coast stomping ground. I didn’t even attempt the neapolitan shake — one of the In-N-Out code words (and yes, I did share some with Bryan, including the 4×4, before he and the Daves went) for the three flavors together — and didn’t finish my Double-Double animal style with animal-style fries (cheese, grilled onions, thousand island — like the burger). But as Patrick Poole noted in his pithy response to Bryan’s review, need one say more than “animal-style”?
Note the broken french fry hanging off the edge. The puppacita was sitting on the bench there, with the lovely view of planes landing at the Westchester/LAX location. Before I knew it, she had the fry sticking out of her mouth and tried to spirit it away. She’s never tried to steal a Five Guys fry, though that’s likely because I order the cajun ones just to get some flavor.
Vice President Joe Biden began his address to the National Education Association today with a few minutes for love — and marital advice.
“Ladies and gentlemen, my name’s Joe Biden, and I’m in love with a teacher,” the veep said to applause. “Oh, am I in love with her!”
“You know, I was told by a news commentator that when we did an event on — an interview on Valentine’s Day, this commentator, a national — from one of the networks says, people say you and your wife have a love affair,” Biden continued. “And I said, yeah, I said, but I love her more than she loves me, and she looked at me and she said, yeah, that’s what everybody says.”
He then imparted the key to his wedded bliss.
“She went on to say, you know, I did a study — a three-part series on what makes marriages last the longest and happiest. And I said, well, what was the conclusion? She said, when the husband loves the wife more. So I’m going to be married for a long time as long as I’m alive.”
Biden can be quite romantic when he’s not making lube jokes:
I don’t want kids. Never have. I won’t go into the reasons, as it’s simply enough to recognize and accept that being a parent isn’t for you. To each his or her own, I think the majority of PJ Lifestyle readers have agreed here this week, even if disagreeing with another person’s choice.
But I love animals, as you’ve figured out by now. I mean, to the point where I stopped and watched in fascination a northern brownsnake basking on the sidewalk the other day (he wasn’t so sure about me and eventually slowly slithered into the bushes). The animal kingdom is magnificent, and I can’t imagine life without pets in it.
Pets are not substitutes for kids, and I don’t know anyone who views them this way. They are their own distinct beings with own distinct personalities and behaviors. I do often, however, hear and completely understand statements like what one higher-up at AEI would gush every time I brought the puppacita into the office: “I don’t like people, but I sure like dogs!” Having been a criminology major in college and covering the crime beat as a reporter makes one appreciate all the more these bundles of fur and feathers that won’t grow up into serial killers. The political beat doesn’t reveal much different in terms of human nature, frankly, which is probably why an increasing number of lawmakers now bring their dogs to the office to get through the day (stay tuned to future Furry Fridays for profiles).
But there’s little to stop the dark side of humanity from inflicting itself on the animal world. It tears my heart out when I hear stories of animals being abused or neglected, and punishments for those crimes should be about tenfold what they are now.
Season 5 of True Blood premiered tonight with an episode called “Turn! Turn! Turn!” — and it’s as appropriate to describe new vampires as it is to describe this mid-stop in the annual run of HBO’s better series. Last week was the season 2 finale of Game of Thrones, ending with a bang as the White Walkers procession headed toward the wall to Death Star-esqe music. And before True Blood tonight we got a look forward at the third season of Boardwalk Empire, which will begin after the vampires finish their season. It looks like Boardwalk is going to jump ahead a couple of years additional development of some of the more intriguing characters, like a young Al Capone, and Nucky will have his demons from having killed Jimmy.
True Blood seems to be an either love-it-or-hate-it series. For some, it’s a fun way to unwind before the work week. For others, it’s just trampy vampy vampire porn. OK, both sides admit it’s vampire porn. HBO Sunday night has long been detox for overworked, overstressed journalists (which is why we have no need for that new Newsroom series), so I go with the fun way to unwind — it definitely doesn’t require as much concentration as what’s often needed to keep up with the characters as GoT, and I don’t stay up afterward checking the history vs. Boardwalk mobsters. And for those who have kept up with the other seasons of True Blood, one of its apparent strengths this season is bringing back a couple of characters from seasons past: Rev. Steve Newlin, who’s now a shady vampire, and Russell Edgington, whose vampire version of Howard Beale created one of the more classic moments in the series.
A lot was packed into the season opener. Tara was shot defending Sookie at the end of last season, and Pam happens along to the house after it happened. Lafayette and Sookie desperately beg Pam to turn Tara into a vampire to, well, “save her life,” if you can call it that, even though Tara hates vampires. Into the ground they go. Newlin shows up at Jason’s house, tricks Jason into inviting him inside, then admits he’s a gay vampire and in love with Jason. “This dog don’t bark that way,” Jason says as Jessica shows up to claim him and scare off Newlin. Sam took the fall for killing the pack master — and those dogs do crazy things with their dead — but Alcide showed up to save the day. Alcide also tried to save Sookie from Russell, but again the only normal guy to speak of gets spurned.
There once was a Sex and the City episode that dealt with the SSB: Secret Single Behavior. Those quirky things that are fine to do when you’re single but a partner would find just weird. Drinking straight out of the bottle and leaving one’s jeans at the front door if the legs got a soaking from a sudden downpour are a couple, but they’re not all “I get to be messy” behaviors. Examining one’s pores in the mirror, an obsession with the VS Semi-Annual Sale or eating odd snackage (like pretzels and havarti) for dinner qualify.
When the puppacita climbed on top of me in the middle of the night last evening, snuggled up and went to sleep — thus ensuring that she’d found a place in today’s Furry Friday — I began thinking about the Secret Dog Owner Behaviors. They don’t really cross into the SSB, because obviously the men I get involved with must love animals, too. People often randomly ask if the puppacita (Chi-Chi, my 5-pound Chihuahua) sleeps in the bed with me, and perhaps it’s odd that I find that an odd question: Why would she NOT? I don’t even know what crate training is. I just know that the puppacita belongs curled up with me, not in curled up in a box.
What are some other SDOB? Swallowing my pride, which is overshadowed by the love for my pup, here are several I’ll admit to:
- Dog Adventure Day: This is usually a Saturday, or when I similarly have the time to take her out for “adventure,” which to a 5-pound dog means something wild and crazy like the park or pet store, shopping or sightseeing, and often culminates in a shared meal like a turkey burger at a patio restaurant. How do these begin? I say to her in the morning, in a certain tone of voice that she probably recognizes, “Are you a dog who loves adventure?” Wag, wag, wag, wag. “You ARE a dog who loves adventure. I KNEW it!” Happy dance and she runs for a leash. And there’s a jingle that accompanies this, as well. And, of course, a hashtag: #DogAdventureDay
When I see hipsters packing the Whole Foods parking lot, I just want to mock them. Because down the street is the natural, gourmet grocery where the cool kids have been going for a long time — and spending a fraction of what Whole Foods takes out of your pocket for organic or preservative-free noshables.
I’ve been eating Trader Joe’s food since at least high school, and the California staple has also become a necessity here on the East Coast. Alas, at my midway stop between L.A. and D.C. — Denver, for a stint at the Rocky Mountain News — there were no Trader Joe’s stores. My, how I missed ‘em. Since its opening in Pasadena, 1958, the California-based chain has expanded to 30 states and D.C.
There are so many things to love about Trader Joe’s besides the food, which is reason enough. Even the flavored seltzer water to which I’m addicted tastes fruitier, crisper and more natural for 79 cents a liter. They don’t have sales or coupons, or store cards that track your purchases, because they don’t need them: their light sour cream, the best hands-down, is $1.79 per pint. Not to say inflation doesn’t happen — the two-buck-chuck Charles Shaw wine is three-and-a-quarter-buck chuck out here on the East Coast (not like many are complaining — I also know I can always go here for more wines from my home state, as well).
In short, they’ve built the all-American business model. Offer products that people love at good prices, friendly staff instead of grumps, clean and bright stores, and you create an extremely loyal following. As TJ’s puts it, each of its products must “stand on its own” to stay on the shelves, and develop demand. You can also count on the staff to have tasted all of the new products and give advice, if not a free sample at a store cooking station. Per square foot, these stores generate more than twice the sales as Whole Foods. Depending on the store and when you go, they can get pretty crowded, but you can’t blame a business for being popular.
Ah, being a woman rocks. Especially this time of year, when the Victoria’s Secret Semi-Annual Sale rolls around. This morning, Angel cardholders received the email invitation to dive into the online sale early. Being a shopping ninja, I’ve learned some tips and tricks over the years to make the most out of this little-unmentionables bargain-a-thon.
1. The winter sale is better than the summer one. Why? Because the week after the in-store sale starts, it’s major closeout time with all clearance bras dropping to about $15 — even if the bra was a $125 Christmas special edition — and panties going for $2.99. In some stores, like Connecticut Avenue in D.C., all sleepwear is also half off the last marked price, so you’re getting the Pillowtalk Tank PJ, regular price $49.50, for $15. Prices also drop late in the online sale. Because the summer sale is shorter, doesn’t have as good of a selection, and is not as price-dropping as the winter one, get the things you want quickly in the summer one.
2. Shortly before the sale begins, Victoria’s Secret will start teasing loyalists with sale offers — hold fast and save up for the real deal. The only one that’s a better bargain than the SAS is the 7 for $26 panty sale that VS held in store and online this past weekend — they come out to $3.71 per pair, better than the $3.99 sale price.
3. When the online sale starts, pick up matching sets first and any neutrals you may want. While Victoria’s Secret has gorgeous colors and prints, these will be in plentiful supply both later in the online sale and in stores. And later in the sale, it’s more of a hunt to find matching bras and panties.
4. The sale is the time to try one of the new lines of bras that you hadn’t wanted to try at full price. But buy that sample piece early enough so that there are still others colors left if you’re smitten and want to go back to buy more.
5. The in-store sale, which begins nearly two weeks after the online sale begins, generally has better deals on beauty products (like 75 percent off fragrances) and on sleepwear. If there are prints you want in the Angel sleep T’s, though, the 2 for $39.50 deal online is comparable to the $19.99 markdown in stores.
I don’t think I’m alone in saying that, even though I’ve never been into the fantasy genre, I really enjoy Game of Thrones. And I’ve enjoyed this season better than the last, proving that there is life after killing off your main character before the first season is even over. The production value is like watching a movie, and at no time has that been more apparent than in tonight’s episode, where Stannis invaded King’s Landing and got smacked with some night-is-dark-and-full-of-terrors napalm.
A few observations…
- WHY didn’t Stannis’ Demon Baby swoop in and kill Joffrey like it did Renly??
- Hell is, apparently, being stuck in a siege with Cersei and a bottle of wine
- Your wet-work guy will apparently only put up with being called “Dog” in a snarling tone so many times before he bails in the middle of a battle
- After all this time GoT can come up with new dwarf jokes: In this one, Joffrey snarls about cutting Tyrion in half, prompting the quipmeister to quip, “That would make me a quarter man.”
- Dwarves apparently have low-angle tactical advantages on the battlefield
- Tyrion was one pint of blue facepaint away from giving a Braveheart rallying speech there
- Varys was this close to telling his how-I-became-a-eunuch story. I hope nobody missed it.
I was kind of hoping that it would be Rob Stark to be the surprise invader on the invaders, but when we last left him he was a little busy with the woman who amputates legs. It was a nice twist to see Tywin ride in, but he needs to knock his snooty little grandson off the Iron Throne pronto.
The teaser for the season finale showed Sansa talking with Lord Baelish, so here’s hoping that The Hound didn’t smuggle her out of the palace and into the whorehouse. We also see that Daenerys will take some concrete step toward getting her dragons back (will they grow up already?), and Arya hooks up again with her death genie, “The Man” Jaqen, so we get to close out the season with some more awesome conversation in the third-person.
I’m sure everybody’s pooches will be getting a fair share of fun in the sun this weekend. (Here in hellish humid hot D.C., that will mean less time outside for the puppacita.) I though it would be a good Furry Friday, then, to throw out some of the favorite dog products I’ve discovered in my past year of dog ownership, and let readers add their own pawesome products.
I came across this product at the last local pet expo, when the puppacita adamantly refused to leave their booth after a sampling. Yeah, dogs may clamor for the cookie bar at the pet store, but I’ve increasingly been on the lookout for natural treats after I’ve seen what natural dog food has done for the puppa’s coat and energy level. Most important for my three-toothed baby, treats like these are soft and easily torn into tiny pieces. This family operation in Lancaster, Pa., uses only grass-fed beef, no throwaway cuts, with no grains or fillers. I see on their site that they’ve since added free-range applewood smoked chicken bites — those can only be scrumptious.
Ready to support an all-American start-up business? I’ve been buying dog clothes for my Chihuahua that gets cold when it’s 68 degrees, and am constantly looking for clearance sales as they can be pretty overpriced. This business, started by an employee at one of my local pet stores, offers sweaters, collars and more for extremely good prices. And for those with dogs big and small who can’t find the perfect fit, Lindsay will knit to your specifications. We love entrepreneurship, we love good quality American-made products, so give Little Paw a shot.
A local pet boutique only stocks goods and treats made in the USA, and that’s where I found this gem of a dog treat. And the boutique owner tells me she can barely keep them in stock. These substantial sticks — and they sell 3-foot versions for the big pups, as well — are delightfully soft and easy to tear. But I can put one in my pocket and it won’t crumble, either. When I have a bag of this, I’m like the pied piper of neighborhood dogs. But the puppacita gets the first bite.
This is for the small dogs, of course. It’s a front carrier with a pocket to hold your pup — great for when the dog insists on being close to you, or if you’re out on a day trip and you know she can only walk so far. I gave this a test run while outlet shopping and was able to juggle all bags while puppacita happily stayed put, her head and front paws perched out. It has a leash hook and nicely padded bottom so she was good and comfy.
5. CVS discount doggie
To say I’ve been impressed by CVS’ pet products is an understatement. First, I was wooed by last winter’s dog sweaters — cable-knit turtlenecks with rib-knit sleeves that cost a fraction of pet store sweaters ($6.99 regular price, and 75 percent off after Christmas), are among the puppa’s favorites, and hold up nicely after washings. Then I tried the doggie stairs, at $9.99, to let the puppacita climb on and off the ottoman. Easy to assemble and work like a charm. Then I was looking for a nice travel bed that could flatten a bit for my suitcase, but was still plush enough to her liking. I recently found a pink furry bed, perfect in proportions and plushness (with sequin trim!), for $9.99 here when I was stopping to pick up Tylenol. Next time you’re stopping in for sale Blue Diamond almonds, check out the pet section here.
I should add that the puppacita is recently smitten with Trader Joe’s chicken jerky — American-made, all natural, and a whopping $1.99 per bag. Now… some of your favorites?
I’m not one to judge a film based on politics. I want to sit down, hear a good story, see some good acting, laugh at a great comedy or feel stirred by an epic drama, and leave who went to whose fundraiser at the door. But when that rare movie comes along that touches on every political theme a foreign policy junkie loves, it’s the politics — or in this case, the unabashed political incorrectness — that makes the film.
For all of the mocking they invite, not enough films have really goofed on dictators. Team America: World Police did an utterly classic dressing down of Kim Jong-Il (still mad they never sold a stuffed doll in movie merchandising), UN weapons inspectors (Hans Brix!), terrorists in Dirkadirkastan, and Alec Baldwin.
When The Dictator opened with a dedication in loving memory of Kim Jong-Il, I had high hopes for this latest Sacha Baron Cohen outing. And for the most part, it didn’t disappoint, pulling the eccentricities of the era’s goofiest tyrants such as Gadhafi (and his all-female bodyguard squad) into one character.
Past punking people as he did as Borat and Bruno, Cohen is Admiral General Aladeen, dictator of the fictional North African country Wadiya, which is squeezed next to Sudan on a cable-news map (he calls blacks in America “sub-Saharans”). In a classic speech, he tells the country and the world that their nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and for medical purposes only. By the time he gets to the part about not wanting to take out Israel, he can’t contain his laughter.
And as he promptly goes to visit his secret nuclear weapons facility, it’s clear that the main target is Iran — in a later scene, supervising a store in Brooklyn, he makes employees call him the “Supreme Grocer.” He refers to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a guy who looks like a “snitch on Miami Vice.” (I’d always thought B-movie director, myself.) His nuclear missile is called the “Beard of Doom.”
Like the “ronery” Kim Jong-Il puppet of Team America fame, Aladeen is lonely and wants someone to cuddle — something more than the hooker who quickly gets dressed, noting that she’s due at the Italian prime minister’s. It’s little digs like this that are cleverly woven throughout.
Earlier this spring, I was at a county animal shelter where there was a critter not listed on the shelter’s online adoptables: a chubby black-and-white rat (marked like a skunk in reverse, with a black stripe down his back) who came out of his hidey-hole to come and visit with me. I definitely had to inquire about this little guy, but let’s just say they were shocked that he had an adoption inquiry. The shelter manager was so disgusted by the rat that she offered to give him — and his nice, two-story cage — to me for free.
His backstory was that he was kept by a guy at a group home, who left the rat when he left the home. So I thought of good inmate names to give him — I’ve been calling him Red, a la The Shawshank Redemption. He’s 2 years old, so he won’t be around much longer, but he’ll get spoiled in the meantime. He’s obviously aged, as well — his fur is coarse and scrungy, and he prefers a nap to much running action (he makes really clear he prefers his cage to anywhere else).
(Oh, and he has a nose, just moved for the shot)
Women on the campaign trail, be it candidates or candidates’ wives, are more likely to get into trouble for the cost of their wardrobe if it clashes with the economic realities of the day — stubborn unemployment, a burst housing bubble, recession, on and on.
On the GOP side, it was Ann Romney’s $990 Reed Krakoff bird blouse, and Callista Gingrich’s love for St. John at Neiman Marcus while Newt sat in the Bored Man Chair reading a book and her personal shopper sifted through the racks. The Gingriches, already taking heat for shopping sprees at Tiffany’s, were conscious enough of how this looked politically that they halted the Neiman Marcus trips during the campaign.
Over at the White House, it’s Michelle Obama’s $950 Comme des Garcons skirt worn to meet military families in a mess hall, or wearing $2,000 to $3,000 L’Wren Scott cardigans to mark Take Your Child to Work Day and greet troops at Fort Stewart, Ga.
Taxpayers aren’t footing the bill for these women’s closets, so should it be our business?
It may not be anyone’s business, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a campaign issue. Perception is everything, and when you’re trying to tell the downtrodden that you’re solidly in their corner, standing firmly on your Jimmy Choos, it opens the door for criticism and puts the focus on your pricey couture rather than your policies.
But I’d never tell a woman to give up her couture, as much as I understand that love. I’d simply advise her to acquire it in a smarter way.
I love fashion. I love the drape and feel of label-snob clothes, the smell of a leather label-snob handbag, the craftsmanship and curves of label-snob shoes, and am rarely seen without Dior sunglasses on my face or pushed up on my head. And yet, being a full-time journalist my whole adult life hasn’t exactly left me wealthy. Thus, over the years I’ve perfected the art of fashionista label-snobbery on a real-people salary.
When I made just $35,000 a year in Southern California, I was wearing $300 Emanuel Ungaro tops nabbed at the local Off 5th (Saks Fifth Avenue outlet) for $30. When Isaac Mizrahi launched his first buzzed-about Target line, I was fetching Isaac python flats at that outlet for $10. I got a $600 Oscar de la Renta cocktail dress for $40, a $540 Anne Klein wool and cashmere coat for $35, and on and on.
Why, yes. Those of you who follow me on Twitter know her better as The Puppacita. And as I’m celebrating this chihuahua’s birthday tomorrow — fittingly — this is Chi-Chi’s Furry Friday.
As any dog owner/lover would say about his or her pooch, there is no dog like my baby. She came into my life nearly a year ago — our adoption anniversary is May 15. I found her at a local pound. The owner had left her there with a name, calling her Kiwi, an age (6 or 7), but suddenly claimed not to speak English when asked why he was giving her up. Later revelations would indicate that she was being used for some sort of backyard breeding, and given up when her time in that area was up.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey released his reading list today — what can be described as an annual literary roll call of badass military books to promote professional development in the armed forces.
This is the 18th annual list for the general, who has a master’s degree in English from Duke University and taught English at West Point. Noticeably missing from this year’s list: a certain New York Times columnist who got two spots from Dempsey last year. The general included Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat and The Lexus and the Olive Tree in 2011.
A recurring winner, though, is also my favorite book of all time: The Art of War by Sun Tzu.
“I challenge you to read these books with a critical eye,” Dempsey said. “Challenge assumptions, broaden your perspectives, and look for lessons to apply yourself and to your units.”
Here’s the general’s 2012 reading list:
- A Message to Garcia by Elbert Hubbard
- The Age of the Unthinkable: Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us and What We Can Do About It by Joshua Cooper Ramo
- The Art of War by Sun Tzu
- The Art of War by Antoine Henri Jomini
- The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
- Boyd: The Fight Pilot Who Changed the Art of War by Robert Coram
- Command of the Air by Giulio Douhet
- George Washington and the American Military Tradition by Don Higginbotham
- The Influence of Sea Power on History by Alfred Thayer Mahan
- Maritime Strategy by Julian S. Corbett
- Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power by Robert D. Kaplan
- On War by Carl von Clausewitz
- Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer
- Soldier and the State by Samuel P. Huntington
- The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom
- Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
- Twentieth Century American Biography Series: George C. Marshall by Mark A. Stoler
- 7 Deadly Scenarios: A Military Futurist Explores War in the 21st Century by Andrew F. Krepinevich