Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ford is a Dinosaur

In last Friday's Marketplace section of he Wall Street Journal, two separate reports--one on Ford Motor Co.'s crisis in truck production, and another on Toyota Motor Corp.'s production of lithium-ion batteries for their hybrid vehicles--shows exactly how America is just no on the same page as other developed nations.

I wont summarize too much of the articles other than to say Ford's executives are just now meeting to decide what to do with a truck inventory that is, not to mention environmentally damaging for a slew of reasons, but that has also dropped in demand. Explorers, Expeditions and F-150 trucks have dropped a combined 79%. Bu from the report in the Journal, it doesn't even seem Ford executives have an idea of how to stop making trucks and keep up their revenue. One option mentioned was to "include using laid-of workers to boost output at a plant that assembles the Focus compact." Not only is our nation's automaker just now dealing with dinosaur vehicles, but out economy is in a situation where Ford has a supply of out-of-work employees they can pluck out of the air to divert a crisis in production. Sounds bad.

Meanwhile, Toyota "can't keep up with demand." Not only are their hybrids in huge demand, but they are continuing to improve their product with a battery that will out perform the old one.

These two reports appeared on the same page, the Ford article above the Toyota one.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

RIP Sydney Pollack

Cancer claims another victim. Sydney Pollack died Monday, which is pretty unfortunate. Though he hasn't directed a movie in a while, he was still giving memorable performances as an actor. Like in that 'Please silence your cell phones' commercial before movies (sponsored by AT&T), and as Patrick Dempsey's dad in Made of Honor.

No, but seriously. This is sad. What's with all these celebrities dying this year? Heath Ledger, Charlton Heston, Sydney Pollack... if Woody Allen dies I'm just going to flip out. Knock on freaking wood.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Two Quick Reviews

Two movies I saw recently:

Made of Honor was pretty bad. Charming main characters, but I couldn't help wondering why I had to watch them go through everything in the movie when they could have, and should have, been together three minutes after the opening credits. Some decent moments, but overall nothing special. Rating: 3/7

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, on the other hand, was very enjoyable. A great sequel to the original film, Prince Caspian brings the series toward some darker themes. But there are still the standard deus ex machinas and characters that exist simply to help further plot and nothing else, so the movie is not flawless. But for what it is and how it brings the source material to the screen, I give it a rating of: 6/7

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

In Theaters May 16

A quick week here, yet again. It seems we're down to only a single wide release in theaters May 16th.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian || IMDb

It seems the general consensus here is either love or hatred. Same as with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. But I enjoy movies in all genres, and the first Narnia movie was a good adaptation of the beloved series. We have the same director and writer as before, so I think this will be another good movie. Who am I kidding, though. You are already set on if you want to see this movie and nothing I say will sway your opinion.

Jon's Pick of the Week: Narnia

DVD Release of the Week: Oh God, do I really have to pick one? The Great Debaters, I guess.

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Top Chef -- Serve and Protect

I love the drama coming out on my TV show. Since Top Chef is getting further into the season I like seeing people talk shit.

Reinventing the salad for the Quickfire Challenge is a pretty hot topic. I love a good salad, as do most people. But as Padma said, the salad is in a slump

Lisa saying, "There are people here who don't deserve to be here," is ironic because I think she's the worst person still on the show. Seriously, STFU. That's why you were in the bottom three of the Quickfire [and later the Elimination Challenge].

I'm pretty psyched Spike won the Quickfire. Of course he finally wins it when there is no more immunity. Oh well, my boy is tearin' it up. And what a sweet advantage. He gets ten extra minutes to shop, as well as choosing an ingredient in each food group no one else can use. Sweet.

So the Elimination Challenge is to make some unhealthy food into a healthy meal. Spike picks bread, tomatoes, chicken, and lettuce. Thank you Andrew for saying that, "Most of the people in the house are stupid. Wahh to them, they aren't creative enough to make something. Will they have to now." I like this guy more each episode.

Whereas Antonia pisses me off more and more each episode. Sure, I'm mainly spiteful, but she bugs me even when she says things that are normal. Though I like her reading my mind and saying all Dale does is make Asian dishes. Seriously, Dale needs some variety.

I don't know if I would want to judge this competition. I'd have to spend like 40 minutes microwaving all these dishes. And again, this episode we have Ted Allen to judge, and no Gail. And I love Padma's jacket. And Padma.

It bugs me that Dale won the challenge. Yay, let's keep making Asian food until final three. Oh well, Stephanie was top two, so I can't complain.

I feel sorry for Andrew, getting chewed out at judging. Sure he studied nutrition and made a dish, but he didn't follow all the rules. But the worst was he kept arguing. Maybe humility would be a better way to go?

Spike handled the situation not well either. Chef Tom had to put him in his place, which also bugs me, but hey, Chef Tom was correct. His opinion is the one that matters. Not the ones of the officers.

And Lisa is just a bitch. No one messed with your burner. I'm glad the judges don't care.

I'm not surprised Andrew got sent home. He had a worse dish and didn't follow the rules. But God, this means Lisa is around for another week. Fucking shit.

Ideal top 3, and my prediction: Stephanie, Richard, Spike.

And because I didn't say it yet, I'm going to marry Padma.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Box Office Trends -- No Love for Original Dramas

Lately I've been wondering: When was the last time an original drama movie had huge box office success? It seems like everything these days are adaptations, remakes, sequels, or based on true events. When it's not those, it's often a comedy with big name stars. I think it's interesting how the stats pan out since the year 2000. Note: All numbers taken from Box Office Mojo.

Movies not counted will include: Remakes, sequels, adaptations, and biopics. I'm not going to count Pixar movies either. Pixar makes exceptional movies, and I think they are in a league of their own. Let's just not count animated movies, either.

We'll start with 2007 because 2008 is young.
-Highest Grossing Movie: Spider-man 3. Then we have the Shrek sequel, Transformers, some Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter, etc etc. The highest original movie is Ratatouille, which placed 11th. 13-15 are Wild Hogs, Knocked Up, and Juno. Three comedies. It's not until we get to 31, The Bucket List (which some may still consider comedy), which grossed a mere $93 million. Not until rank 55 do we see Michael Clayton, which is the first movie on the list to be original, critically acclaimed, and not a comedy.

-The top movie here is Pirates of the Caribbean 2, which is no surprise. Though next we have Night at the Museum, which had the second highest gross. Yay for original content, but this is a comedy with big stars. If we consider Click a drama, that takes the prize at number 13. Inside Man wins for the original, critically acclaimed drama award, at number 22 with $83 million.

-Star Wars Episode III, Narnia, and Harry Potter take the top three spots. Wedding Crashers comes in at number 6. Again, a comedy with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn. Mr. and Mrs. Smith broke into the top 10, but we all know why. I thought the flick was awful, but America apparently didn't. Other notables is Hitch at 11.

-Shrek (2), Spider-man (2), and Jesus (The Passion) are the top three. The Incredibles has a high ranking, but also we see The Day After Tomorrow at number 7, which as far as I can tell is an original screenplay. Potentially our best year yet.

-Lord of the Rings, Finding Nemo (which I love), and Pirates of the Caribbean. Bruce Almighty and Elf rank highly, but it's not until The Last Samurai at number 20 where a drama comes into play. But then again, I'm not sure how original that story is. We'd have to go a long way down the list though to find anything else, so we'll stick with that.

-Spider-man, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter... do we see a trend here? My Big Fat Greek Wedding hits number five--a comedy I did not much appreciate. Signs comes in at number 6 though, which is a high score so far. I'm not too big into Shyamalan, but I still give him props for being sort of an auteur.

-Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Shrek, Pixar. Our highest original is Spy Kids, which I'm not enthusiastic about counting. But alas, it's number 17. The Others comes in at 21.

-How refreshing! This seems to be the year before some trends came around. Number one is The Grinch, but number two is Cast Away. Sure it had Tom Hanks in it, but we have an original, dramatic film at the number two spot. Also, Gladiator at number 4. This will be a good stopping point.

The top grossing movies of '97 and '98 were Titanic and Saving Private Ryan--both original screenplays, though Titanic was based on actual events.

So what have we learned? It seems we're in a new age for the money-making movies. Adaptation has always been around the movie, but recently it's a large trend of remakes and sequels. They're safe bets and will always bring home the cash. But I'll tell you what. Spare The Bourne Ultimatum, I would take Before the Devil Knows You're Dead over any of the top 10 grossing movies of 2007.

I guess original dramatic stories, at this moment, are plagued with a home in the independent film circle. Unless they luck out, but we all know how that always ends up. Or doesn't.

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

In Theaters May 9

Again, there's only two major movies opening May 9th. One looks to be super entertaining, yet potentially very awful. The other looks boring and certainly awful. Oh, where to start?

Speed Racer || IMDb

When I was a kid I loved me some Speed Racer. The cardinal problem is: Can the Wachowski brothers conjure up enough material to fill a big screen time slot? They did give us 'The Matrix,' but also forced us to sit through two crappy sequels. The Coen brothers, they are not. Yet I'm sure this will be a joy to watch, regardless of the inevitably bland plot. Plus I like Emile Hirsch a lot more since Into the Wild, and I've had a thing for Christina Ricci since she was in Casper (and I was 10 so that's not as creepy as it sounds). What is it with this movie bringing back childhood memories? Nostalgia, here I come.

Rating: Opening Weekend

What Happens in Vegas || IMDb

I like Ashton Kutcher a lot. To be honest he's never done any good movies, but I can't help liking the guy. Unfortunately my man-crush is canceled out by Cameron Diaz, who I think is quite possible the least attractive star on the Hollywood A-List. But besides that, I'm also spiteful against the movie for its excessive advertising well before it came out. I don't mind seeing trailers for The Dark Knight or WALL-E dozens of times, but I think trailers should be more to promote awareness than brainwash viewers with thousands of repetitive showings. I shall coin this term Movie Trailer Tact. Over-promoting a movie makes people sick of it, and this is just one example.

But honestly, like every other movie of this nature, we can all safely assume a pile of unfunny material peppered with occasional joke that is genuinely funny.

Rating: Download

Jon's Pick of the Week: Speed Racer

DVD Release of the Week: I'm Not There (haven't seen it, but it's a lesser evil)

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ethiopian dinnertime.


Dinner is like this. You get together with a group of fellow eaters. You gather around a plate of wat. Wat just means stew. You might think that limits your options. You’d be right, it does…it severely limits your options for eating. But don’t worry, Ethiopia makes wat out of everything. Well, everything that has to do with eggs. And chicken. And sometimes beef, and chickpeas.

You sit around the giant plate, with all the eaters. Your face and arms are caked with clay from a day hanging out the window of a land cruiser. A raccoon tan on your face from the African sun pounding away mercilessly on your sunglasses. A small woman walks from eater to eater, pouring water over your right hand. It doesn’t clean much. Also, unlike the locals, you tend to eat with two hands, so you slyly pass around the hand sanitizer. Thank you Purell corporation. I wish I bought stock in your organization, I wish I had a trashbag full of Purell that I could jump into, with only my eyes above glycerine-gel level. Just for a minute. Once a day.

After the cleaning, the woman brings out the injera on a huge round platter. It’s usually laid flat, a few layers of sourdough flapjacks. Good injera is the color of my cheeks when I get seasick. Greyish, like badly trampled, low grade carpet. The lighter the color, the better quality tef used. Good tef is the key to great injera. Supposedly highlanders laugh at the inferior quality of lowlanders injera. I’m afraid that the world’s best injera would still taste like a spoilt crepe to me. A spoiled crepe that you kind of get used to after a while. You kind of even like it a little bit after a while. Limited options.

The woman dumps some sort of wat all over the injera, it’s looking like your living room floor after a flash flood. I mean she douses it, pouring bright orange pungent doro wat coast to coast across the two foot wide frisbee of injera. Then she steps away, maybe brings you another bottle of harar beer or a cold ambo water.

Then you eat.

Right hand only. Try tearing a pancake into manageable pieces with only ole righty. It’s ridiculous. Not so pretty. You take the soggy injera and dab it into the wat. You wrap it around the pieces of meat. You smush the hard-boiled eggs into pieces and you cram it all into your mouth. You do not lick your fingers, culturally inappropriate. Your hand has a lot of food on it.
Now if you are someone’s honored guest, they will do something that will probably make you feel uncomfortable. They are probably going to take a piece of meat and finger-feed that straight into your mouth. They are gonna do it, you should get used to it. Try not to lick their fingers, that’s extremely awkward.

When you’re done, you chat.

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Top Chef -- Wedding Wars

This week the Quickfire Challenge was a relay race, which is pretty epic. I love when Dale was talking to the group, and people were complaining about making mayo. And he's like, "Why are you here?!" Brilliant, I was wondering the same thing about Nikki and Lisa.

Pretty sweet though, seeing how much work it is to peel oranges, deal with artichoke, slay that monstrous dragon into filets, and make your own mayo. However, Dale going into a tantrum upon losing is not cool.

Andrew is growing on me. I like how honest and ridiculous he is. "I have a culinary boner right now." Brilliant. I'm also a big fan of Padma's jacket. Mainly because she's wearing it, but it is still pretty fabulous.

The Elimination Challenge is a Wedding Wars theme, and I agree with Spike and his comments on Team Stephanie (I will call them that because I like her) picking the bride. Are you kidding me? The Bride Team would probably be harder, but hey, whatever.

Antonia really bugs me. "I feel like I'm in the army... peeling potatoes." GTFO of my show.

Dale kind of bugs me. He complains a lot, but honestly, most of the things he says are true. I don't like Nikki, and he's right -- she just wants to control things but not to take responsibility. Yet on the other hand, Dale needs to not bite off more than he can chew.

It's pretty ridiculous how long they cook for for this challenge. All night, yes, but all morning, as well. They have until 11:00 AM to cook, and we can assume they got up, at the latest, about 10:00 the following morning. I think no matter who you are, that would be exhausting (obviously?). Plus they have to sit through the wedding and serve at reception. Ridiculous.

Why is Ted Allen not on this episode. Seriously, this is getting old. And, WHAT is with Padma's red dress? I mean, I love me some tight clothes on beautiful women, but I think I'd rather see her in jeans and an airman jacket. The flower in her hair helps, though. Actually, we could put her in a wedding dress in preparation for our wedding. Wedding Wars for Season Five, I can see it now: Jonathan Beck and Padma Lakshmi.

As for the teams vs. each other, from when the teams were randomly picked, it was clear Team Stephanie had an advantage. It looks like their dishes tasted better, but if one thing is for sure, Stephanie's cake looked freaking awesome. And actually like a wedding cake. Not like a battleship, as Chef Tom said.

Why is Richard winning everything. Honestly, it bugs me. Give me some variety. I'm glad he gave it to Stephanie though. She's my girl. And I guess I like Richard a bit more for sharing his gift certificate.

I think a piece of helpful criticism for the editors of Top Chef would be to, regardless of who is speaking, always have the camera on Padma.

Man, Dale at the Judge's Table is kind of a bitch. Okay, I think I'm just hating cause he went at it with my boy Spike -- who actually stood up for himself, unlike the two girls on the Groom's Team. And the judges liked his dish the best, so.... yay.

Yes, I'm so glad Nikki is gone. Sent home. That was kind of my prediction, since it seems the judge's value people who step up and look down upon people who don't want responsibility, who don't accept everything that comes with their dishes greatness or failure. Remember the episode where Spike stayed and Manuel went home? Prime example.

Oh well, here's to next week!

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Friday, May 2, 2008

ethiopia: part one

i just returned this past tuesday from ethiopia, where i was working as a videographer with charity: water.

charity: water basically does just what it's name entails, they provide clean drinking water for people who don't have it.  

in ethiopia, there are a lot of people who need clean water.

we spent about 2.5 weeks traveling around northern ethiopia, we visited more than 35 villages without access to clean drinking water...all of which will get clean water because we were there.
pretty exciting.

i shot video which will be edited for the website, where people will give up their birthdays to raise money for clean water.  1.5 million dollars.

that was a very poorly written brief's what you should know about ethiopia -

1.  they eat everything with injera; a sour pancake thing.  its not that good...but not that bad, it's kind of weird.

2.  ambo - probably the only third world country with their own internal sparkling water brand, it's called ambo.  its better than perrier or pellegrino, and it's all natural.  they should export...if they decide to export, they should do it with this slogan...third world product - first world taste.

to be continued...soon

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