Friday, August 31, 2007

Jack Bauer Is Loved Outside of US? God Help Us

Another in my continuing series of posts of how 24-is-hurting-America, Amar C. Bakshi, has an interesting column in Newsweek PostGlobal musing how other countries view the 24 series and its hero.

As Australian journalist Antony Loewenstein writes, Bauer’s use of “torture and the whatever it takes mentality is precisely why the U.S. is so despised right now.”

From India, student Akshay Bawa writes: “Jack Bauer is James Bond on coke.” The cool, cosmopolitan imperialism of Britain’s 007 is replaced with the brutish patriotism of Bauer.
I think of Bauer as the new Rambo essentially. And Rambo was not originally meant to be a hero, more of anti-hero. But eventually even the name became synonymous with American Jingoism. To call someone a Rambo is to call them a testosterone-fueled asshole basically.

I remember when the New Superman movie came out I had a lively discussion with my comic-book loving officemate about why I couldn’t enjoy Superman perhaps because he seemed like a cartoon version of all the things about America I didn’t like, namely the concept of America’s ego-oriented assertion that whatever it did it’s heart was always pure. But Superman is practically effete compared to Rambo, let alone Bauer.
"Superman’s weakness is Kryptonite; Jack Bauer laughs at Superman for having a weakness…”

But oddly enough Bauer/24 doesn’t seem to be seen as a symbol of American oppression outside of the U.S. viewing audience.

Within America, minorities need image-rehabilitation, Maz says, but the case for reshaping the standard villain is a bit less clear when we step outside U.S. borders. “It’s strange,” says Maz, but Chuck Norris and Jack Bauer are “immensely popular in the countries where they’re kicking ass. My grandfather loves Chuck Norris,” even though Chuck wrecked Maz in the made-for-TV movie The President's Man.
I wonder if the issue is that the action in the 24 series mostly takes place in the United States. Sure there are occasional jaunts to Mexico and a few outside-the-U.S. scenes, but the action is has always been in the Los Angeles area. So Bauer isn’t actually invading foreign countries to kill their bad guys. Meanwhile, with the exception of the first movie, Rambo was killing foreigners on foreign soil.

So is it easier to enjoy an action hero if you perceive that he’s not actually invading your homeland? I would suspect so. But I also think Bauer is probably just appreciated in cultures that are heavily favored by machismo anyway.

Friday Cat Blogging: Alternate NewsCats

It took me a while to stage the right NewsCat photo. While Al is a great model he's doesn't take orders very well. This was an alternate version I considered.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Like Blogging Nude In Public

Sometimes I think I'm being overly pretentious and entirely paranoid about my "online presence." I originally tried to keep this blog semi-anonymous and then gave up and became much more careful about what I post. I try not to have anything online I wouldn't want an employer to see although everyone's got a different idea of what is embarrassing.

But it's shit like this, that makes me realize my fears are entirely justified. Not because everyone is going to care but one day maybe the wrong person is going to go batshit crazy because you insulted their honor and find every embarrassing thought you every put online.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Gonzales Resigns!

Just like I, er, predicted.

Well I've already said everything I predict is wrong.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging: Al and Lena’s First Pictures

Thought I would reach back into the depths of my e-mail and pull out the original pictures of Al and Lena that were sent to me back when my roommate asked me if I minded her adding two cats to our then catless apartment. Al and Lena came all the way from New York City via a friend of a friend and here’s the e-mail touting their personalities written by the original owner.
Orange Kitty "Al": One word describes him best: LOVEABLE. This guy is most happy underneath his owner. He scurries to the door when he hears your keys jingle at the door, and loves TLC and kitty kisses, lol. He's rather chill for the most part and loves to be petted, hugged, pulled, dropped (ooops- didn't say that) but lets just say he can handle anyone petting him even screaming 5 year old twins (he loved the attention)

Brown/Black Kitty "Lena": She's our diva... but its ok. She's super sweet and likes to "meow". Has a personality of her own.... a little shy at first--- but once she realizes your feeding here--- she's loyal and loving it. you can tell she's the "common sense" between her and her brother Al....

I have to say that was a pretty apt description of the two. Although in hindsight I wonder about the part where he "hears your keys jingle." Al is deaf. But maybe he wasn't born deaf? And he does have an interesting ability to sometimes greet people at the door despite not hearing.

Even knowing he was deaf though would you have turned down that face?

(This post was completed with some assistance from my friend Eric. I'm still figuring out the wonders of graphics layout using blogger.)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Why That Fat Contagion Study Is Bunk

If you haven’t noticed this about my blog already, I tend to spend a lot of time debunking “bad science” studies. Sometimes the flaws are easy to spot. However sometimes they’re not.

And that’s when I jump to the internets to find some better analysis.

Remember that Fat Contagion study? The one that prompted my favorite abortion supporter to point out that maybe thinnies should stay away from fatties and everyone else in the media was way too polite to say this.

I had a gut feeling the science wasn’t all that but the problem was that I didn’t have the background to write about it.

But a post on Mondolithic reminded me that I had meant to post up this critique of the study by someone with an actual degree and the right background to take a look at the science of the study (and not just the conclusions).

Sandy Szwarc’s awesome blog Junk Food Science really had the goods on why Dr. Nicholas Christakis obesity study is not sound.

The issue isn’t that the study is built on using a statistical model. What I liked about Szwarc’s post is that she (who knows statistical model) knows that his model isn’t sound.

In other words, any pretense that these statistical machinations in any way resemble reality is a myth.

What did they find? None of the odds ratios their computer model came up with were tenable. But they didn't simply admit the null findings. Instead, they reported that obesity was associated less with genetic, familial ties; less with geographical proximity, as in immediate neighbors or even friends hanging out together socially; less with even being married and living, eating and sleeping together; than in simply being friends with a fat person. [But among the fine print: the weight gain of a fat friend wasn’t “contagious” if the friends were the opposite sex or among two females; the finding was only statistically significant among men.]

Which is something even if you accepted the model as sound is good to point out. Even in their own finding the result only showed results amongst male friends. I guess this means all my female friends (and male friends) are safe from me.

Really though I liked how she shed some light on the study’s author.
Whenever we come across a study with questionable science, that receives massive marketing and media attention far beyond its merit, and is being used to support sweeping public policy change, it’s time to ask why. But, in this case, Dr. Christakis declared “no potential conflicts of interest relevant to this paper.”

It may be of interest to learn, however, that he is on the Executive Committee of the Robert Wood Johnson Scholars in Health Policy program at Harvard and was elected to the Institute of Medicine last year. The Scholars website says it is “the most sought-after interdisciplinary post-doctoral fellowship program in the social sciences. Its purpose is to foster the development of a new generation of creative thinkers in health policy research.” Each year, it enables twelve Ph.D.s up to five years “to undertake two-year fellowships without any of the usual obligations of teaching and university administration” and is a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The fact that RWJF is the largest foundation in the world funding societal policies against obesity, smoking and alcohol, we are to believe, does not constitute a potential conflict of interest.
This is exactly why any time I read about a scientific study that gets lots of media play I always get somewhat cynical about it. Not because I want to bash the media exactly (not every reporter in the world can have an advanced degree in science) but when studies get a lot of attention few media outlets have the time or ability to evaluate whether the science is good or whether the conclusions are validated by their research. That always comes later, by their peers. Long after you've heard some jackass on the radio talk about this study which he only heard third-hand anyway from his 19-year-old producer's assistant who read the headline on google news.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Make Your Own Bar Mixers

Jason Wilson, the Washington Post liquor & spirits column who I’ve criticized in the past (more on that later) has a column today that I really can get into: making your own cocktail mixers.

When I told people I planned to make maraschino cherries and cocktail onions, as well as infuse my own spirits and bitters, they looked baffled. It was if I had told them I would be performing open-heart surgery in the living room.

That was before my shipment of cinchona bark quinine powder arrived. Then I informed friends and relatives I would also be making my own tonic water. Even my editors were a little mystified. "Why?" they asked. "Is it worth the effort?"

After a week of playing chemist in the kitchen and testing the results among a friendly crowd, I can now tell everyone: Yes, yes, yes. Homemade cocktail ingredients are indeed worth it.

Making my own cocktail mixers was something I have been trying out in small doses. About a week ago I tried making a homemade version of grenadine after finding these two versions online. I tried the cold process which merely involves adding sugar to pomegranate juice and shaking. I plan on making a batch of the hot process version soon.

I was interested in the concept because I hadn’t known that grenadine was supposed to taste like pomegranates (a fruit flavor I really like) and I’m always trying to eliminate as much high-fructose corn syrup from my diet that I possible can. Now I don’t actually know that sucrose is really any better than corn syrup, but at least in terms of flavor the homemade grenadine tasted like fruit as opposed to candy. So far I’ve tried it in a Jack Rose which definitely made a difference.

Now Wilson’ column also included a recipe for maraschino cherries.

After seeing how easy it is to make Thrasher's preserved cherries, I don't know how I can go back to the artificial, neon-red, plastic-textured maraschino cherries in a jar. Letting fresh cherries sit overnight in salt water, and then soaking them in a syrup of lemon juice and almond extract, creates a richer, more complex, salty-sweet flavor that improves yet still retains the familiar essence of the maraschino cherries we've come to rely on.

To test the cherries in action, I made Manhattans. "I can't tell you exactly whether it's the cherry or not," my friend Jim said, "but I can tell you this is the best Manhattan I've ever had."

This inspired a bit of guilt. The creation of the grenadine also made me want to try some ol’ fashioned Shirley Temples, which pretty much require a cherry to complete the effect. And naturally I bought the “neon-red, plastic-textured” kind that are soaking in corn syrup. Ah-hem…well, it’s a hard substance to avoid entirely.

I’d like to try the recipe but because I don’t drink all that much (really, I don’t) I have a feeling it’d be a lot of effort to make something that would go bad in two weeks. They can be stored longer if canned but once opened the clock starts ticking.

There are recipes for homemade Orange Bitters, falernum, saffron cocktail onions, and tonic water, as well as for accompanying drinks The Loser (which looks interesting).

Gotta say I’m now rather interested in visiting this Restaurant Eve in Alexandria which apparently has all these home-made mixers on hand.

So I also thought I should take the opportunity to revisit my previous post about Wilson’s column on girly drinks. There was some friendly back and forth between him and me about it and while I still dislike the overall tone of the column, I do think I didn’t acknowledge that he wrote about marketing to women as much as the column did.

In any case I finally had the occasion to try one of the “girly liquors” he wrote about in the column and dismissed, X-Rated Fusion. I threw a Jem-watching party this weekend (Jem being the pink-haired 80s cartoon heroine, leader of Jem & The Holograms) and felt the women-only party required some pink drinks. The X-Fusion seemed like the best way compliment the evening. (Hmmm is there some unintended karma in me writing about pink drinks immediately following this post.)

We pretty much drank it straight (it’s a very low-proof liquor, only 14% alcohol) and I believe my guests mostly enjoyed it for what it was…a novelty drink of the evening. It wouldn’t be anyone’s drink of choice. I think someone might have said it reminded them of Gatorade.

I did try mixing it with vanilla vodka and a little diet Sprite and it was fine. It really is a “cutesy” drink both on the tongue and in the bottle. It’s almost more of a mixer than a real liquor. Would someone who wants a “real” drink want something made with X-Fusion? I think it’s more about what someone wants to drink at the time. If you want a diet coke then don’t ask for a pink lemonade. But if you are the mood for a pink drink it’s not horrible. Are there better "feminine" drinks? Sure but how many involve having more ingredients and making a bigger mess to make them? All I had to do was pour this into a glass.

I still have about ¼ a bottle left and I’m sure I’ll manage to polish it off eventually.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Let's Color Ourselves In Pink And Blue

Nothing drives me up the wall faster than biological determinism. Whenever researchers try to use genetic explanations to push theories of why “men do this, women do that.” Just because this is about color doesn’t mean it’s still not stretching its science to make a point. I'm referring to this widely circulated study which manages to take a small finding and then give everyone a reason to believe that somehow boys *just know* that pastels are yucky. It’s in their DNA don’tcha know.

Color biases may be nature, not nurture

Women's brains seem to be hard-wired to prefer lavender, and men's tend toward blue.That's what a group of British neuroscientists found in an experiment to determine whether people's attraction to certain colors was cultural or biological.
It’s not the topic of the research that gets me. There’s nothing wrong with studying people’s attractions to different colors and trying to see how much difference or similarities there are between cultures and yes, gender.

It’s the jump to the conclusions that are the problem.
Hurlbert and her research associate Yazhu Ling, both of Newcastle University in Britain, showed 171 white Britons and 37 recent Chinese immigrants a pair of colored rectangles on a computer screen and asked them to click on their preferred color as quickly as possible. The subjects were shown about 1,000 pairs of colors.
Notice who they are studying…not babies. Not children. Adults. They are studying people who have already adapted a cultural understanding that certain colors are symbolic and have cultural overtones. Which is’s what they are studying.
The most interesting finding was the difference between men and women. Women consistently favored more reddish tints, regardless of their cultural background. The most popular single color among women was a heliotrope shade of pink-purple, the researchers found. Men had a penchant for blue-green hues, picking sky blue most often, according to the study released Monday in the journal Current Biology.
Again…so far so good. These are observable results. It’s when they get to the explanation of their results these researchers cross a line between what their results actually show and what they think its explaination can be.

Hurlbert surmised that women may have evolved an interest in red because of their primary role as gatherers in early human history. "This fits with the notion that the red-green dimension of color vision evolved to enable better discrimination of red fruit against green leaves," she said.

Another possibility was that women's interest in purple and pink may help them distinguish subtle changes in emotion in people's faces, Hurlbert said.

Pure bullshit. They are testing adults and immediately jump to “hunter-gather” explanation. (Or the "woman are better are reading emotions" theory.) How about the fact that certain colors in BOTH cultures are thought of as feminine while others are seen as masculine. You don’t see men walking around in lavender shirts in China or in Britain unless they’re pretty confident of their sexual identity.

There’s nothing worse than seeing science being used to back up and support gender stereotyping that very easily might be cultural shaping. Whether its women talk more or men like blondes. People seem to run back to the chimps before looking around at modern humans and wondering “Gee I wonder why adult men don’t seem to like the color lavender?”

UPDATE: I figured I wasn't the only one who spotted the gap in logic. Second Innocence did. But some people seem to like to swallow the pink Kool-Aid.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging: Video!

This is a new experiment with friday cat blogging (and for my blogging in general) the addition of video. This was my first experiment in uploading something to YouTube. It was shot with my Canon PowerShot SD400. I'm not claiming this video is all that cute or interesting, but I'm sure even Steven Spielberg's first home movie wasn't anything but a test.

And so I give you, Al trying to "bury" food. I don't know why he does this. The funny thing is he while he tries to bury no-longer-on-the-plate food, but he mostly sniffs at actual human food but doesn't try to eat it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Really, Our Research Isn't Biased! We Swear!

So I was looking at an interesting headline by my alma mater, the University of Washington.

Study shows cane sugar, corn sweeteners have similar effects on appetite

Which reports to show that high-fructose corn syrup, especially when used in sodas, really isn't all that different than regular cane-sugar.

A new study of sweetened beverages shows that cane sugar and high fructose corn syrup have similar effects on hunger, fullness, and food consumption at lunch. According to the study, which appears in the July issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, this may be because sucrose (table sugar) in beverages splits into glucose and fructose molecules, such as are present in high-fructose corn syrup. The results suggest that while appetite and food intake are influenced by the number of calories consumed earlier, the types of sugars consumed in those calories seem to make little or no difference.

"Some companies have made a sincere effort to put sucrose back in soda," said Dr. Adam Drewnowski, director of the Nutritional Sciences Program at the University of Washington and the senior author of the study. "But there is no direct link between the type of sweetener and obesity. As far as appetite is concerned, cane and corn sugars in beverages are much the same."
And before I even got to the end of the press release, I thought to myself "Hey I wonder if this study was funded by the Corn Syrup Industry?"


This study was supported by grants from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research at the National Institutes of Health, the American Beverage Association, and the Corn Refiners Association.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Do Not Eat At Outback Steakhouse

This is post I decided to write after seeing the number of google searchers who have found my blog by searching for “calories + outback steakhouse + mashed potatoes” or some variation. They find my blog because it leads them to this post where I muse about the insane amount of calories that are in a blooming onion.

Eating at Outback is just like Doing Drugs

People can make choices to do unhealthy things like smoking or drinking or doing drugs. Or eating high-fat, highly saturated foods. But they should at least be cognizant of what they are doing. There was a lawsuit in DC filed against Kentucky Fried Chicken a while ago (it got thrown out) which the plaintiff really wasn’t looking for money. He just wanted KFC to either correctly label its food (which they were never going to do) or actually fulfill a promise to not cook in trans-fat oil. It produced one of my favorite quotes about creating unhealthy chicken.

"Grilled, baked, or roasted chicken is a healthy food -- and even fried chicken can be trans-fat-free," said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "But coated in breading and fried in partially hydrogenated oil, this otherwise healthy food becomes something that can quite literally take years off your life. KFC knows this, yet it recklessly puts its customers at risk of a Kentucky Fried Coronary."
That's what got me. It's not "don't eat fried chicken." It's "don't eat KFC's because they've made it a fried heart bullet." That even people who were choosing to eat unhealthy fried chicken didn’t know how bad KFC’s chicken was for them. It would have been healthier to eat the fried chicken at a local mom-and-pop restaurant.

This isn’t about whether you, yourself are a health person or an unhealthy person. Eating Outback isn’t good for you even if you are a marathon runner. It’s like saying you can justify smoking because you’re a vegan. I’m just writing them because I think people should be aware that Outback isn’t just “bad for you” its REALLY, REALLY, REALLY bad for you.

In fact I might argue that some kinds of drugs are probably less damaging to you than a typical meal at Outback.

What About The Cheesecake Factory? Or Chili’s? Or T.G.I.Friday’s?

And this could be said of a lot of chain restaurants. I’m only focusing on Outback because it’s a typical chain. I don’t know what people are searching for when they are googling calories + outback. Maybe they just ate there, maybe they were planning on eating there, maybe they are just doing some research. But if you haven’t already decided to eat at Outback let me take a moment to try to dissuade you.

The key word is “dissuade.” We’re all autonomous adults who can put whatever they damn well like into their body. I’m merely suggesting that for the kind of fat & calories you can unknowningly eat at Outback there are tastier, healthier places to eat.

First off, let me admit that Outback Steakhouse is tasty. I don’t think you’ll get any argument from me over that. I used to live within walking distance of an Outback and a former roommate and I used to go over there to eat at the bar and drink their fresh-squeezed screwdrivers until the bartender would cut us off. Then with full bellies we’d stumble home.

And while I don’t think anyone thinks eating at Outback is health food, or anywhere close to it, I suspect that very few people have any idea exactly how unhealthy Outback really is or how large the portions are. It’s not to say that people still can’t decide to eat at Outback, even knowing it’s going to offer you lots of unhealthy food. But if it’s heroin you want to put in your body at least be aware that’s its heroin and don’t mistake it for a stiff shot of bourbon. (Sorry I was trying to come up with a one-drug-verses another drug analogy.)

A typical Outback Steak isn’t just enough meat for two meals. It’s enough meat for three or four. Their smallest steak is 9 oz. An actual portion of meat is supposed to be three ounces. So a 9 oz steak…well you can do the math for that and then their 12 oz and 16 oz steaks.

Honestly I stopped eating at Outback after watching SuperSize Me. Because there’s the one tiny moment in the movie where Morgan Spurlock points out how huge the steaks are with a side-by-side comparison.

And of course you can sit down and decide to eat more than “one portion” of meat. But studies have shown that people eat more if you give them more. If you put a 4 oz steak on a small plate their mind would think that would satisfy them. But if you put a 4 oz steak on a large plate, well it looks just tiny! If you’re given 9 oz, you might eat 6 in a setting. But if you are given 12 oz you’ll end up eating 9.

And Brian in the comments noted, even the way Outback cooks their steak “beefs up” (pun intended) the saturated fat content. It’s like frying bacon in lard. Hmmm…heart-healthy.

And that’s just the steaks. Numerous people have tried to find my blog because they were looking for nutritional information on Outback Steakhouse’s mashed potatoes.

Well guess what. It doesn’t exist. That’s right. They don’t even provide nutritional information themselves…just a sketchy informational guide that suggests how different meals can fit into your Gluten-Free, or Diabetic Diet, and so on. [Without even providing the basic calorie/fat/fiber information! And it’s provided by a weird “third-party.”]

There are some calorie guide websites that seem to provide some nutritional information, but none on their mashed potatoes. It’s probably one of those foods that if you have to ask how many calories are in it, it’s probably not something you should be eating.

(Also it’s good to remember that nutritional information is often wrong. Calculating how many calories/fat is not going to be constant depending on how its cooked, how long it was fried, how big the portion is doled out by the kitchen staff. Things like sauces, frying time and portions are quite variable.)

If you really want some honest information, the Center for Science in the Public Interest is chockful of interesting information about chain restaurants.

Here’s facts about steak houses.

Here’s one about children’s portions, which are just as huge!
CSPI said the worse offender was Outback Steakhouse, where the children's version of a cheeseburger, fries, soda, and sundae totaled 1,700 calories and 58 grams of saturated fat.
Now is it physically possible to eat something non-body-destroying at Outback. Of course it is. But ask yourself, if I was going to order something healthier to eat aren’t their better places with more options instead of trying to figure out the one thing (and how to correctly order it) that won’t kill you?

Lastly here’s a former Outback server talking about the famed Blooming Onion.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Tale of The iPhone And The Dentist

Okay some blog's stories are too funny not to share. I realize Twisty at I Blame the Patriarchy has a bigger readership than me, but I can't think of a blog post that's made me laugh outloud better than her tale of the magical iPhone.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging: Extreme Close Up!!!!

This week feature photos from a a giant-sized Al and Lena.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Update On Swearing in Podcasts

After writing a post specifically about Slate's podcasts I noticed Dan Savage (my old boss) linked to my post on The Stranger's Slog. (Tip to newbie bloggers, it seems people like to "technorati" themselves.)

I sent an e-mail to several writers at Slate including Dana Stevens, John Dickerson and Andy Bowers (who's actually the editor in charge of the podcasts).

Bowers wrote me back and I asked permission to quote his e-mail on my blog, which he granted.

Hi Rachel,

As you've noticed, we haven't actually settled on a firm bleeping policy. In general, there's no prohibition on swearing in Slate podcasts, but we're also trying to take the legitimate concerns of our listeners into account.

We have received complaints from people who were playing our podcasts over speakers in their homes or cars, and within earshot of children, and who were unpleasantly surprised by the odd expletive. We're trying to devise a way to address these concerns without needless censorship.

One additional hiccup is that our publishing system doesn't allow us to mark individual podcasts as explicit. We'd have to apply that label to the entire feed, which doesn't make sense either.

I think what we may settle on is a short spoken notice at the beginning of a podcast that alerts listeners to explicit language. This would give parents a heads up without subjecting everyone to those annoying bleeps.

I hope that helps.

Andy Bowers
I think a verbal warning at the beginning seems like a fair compromise between no warning and bleeping. I'm frankly amazed that there are tech savvy enough parents who a) listen to a podcast over a car speaker, b) listen to it with children in the car. Literally how many children under the age of, I don't 13, listen to or are forced to listen to (by parents) Slate podcasts? It's got to be under 100 children nationwide. My love for Slate podcasts is kind of like my love of NPR: vaguely geeky and elitist. Slate is cooler than NPR...but not that much cooler.

Peanut Butter And Banana Reese's Cups

I haven't done a candy review in a while but this product rather inspired me. Last weekend some friends and I went to Hershey Park in Hershey, Pa. I may have to write separately about the infamous "Chocolate World" ride and its Duff-World-on-Acid freakout weirdness, but after that ride I ran around the Chocoloate World gift shop like a kid in some kind of store. (Sorry I can't help the Simpson references.)

The gift shop was surprisingly disappointing. I'm not quite sure what I was expecting -- maybe Willy Wonka's Chocolate factory -- but it ended up being more like the candy isle of a grocery store. They had pretty much every Hershey's product you could ever ask for. And we all know how hard it is to find Hershey's products.

In any case they were selling the new Limited Edition Reese's Peanut Butter & Banana Creme candy and for $.55 I decided it was worth trying.

As you can see from the picture the product got a little melted on the way home.

The banana flavor was actually not bad and the combo was surprising at first, but later pretty tasty. I put the other cup in the freezer for an hour and it was even better semi-solid. In a way I think they almost didn't have enough banana creme in it.

Unlike Hershey's Chocolate Gum this is something I would definately buy again. For another take here is Brian from Candy Addict. Cybele at Candy Blog also has some beautiful photos along with her review. Apparently these cups have only been on sale for a month now.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Swearing In Podcasts?

Should podcasts swear? I’m curious about this question because I sense it’s an unexplored etiquette for a new technology.

Podcasting can seem like radio, if only because its an audio feed. But radio has a strict provision on swearing because it’s sent out over the public airwaves. Since its difficult to gauge who can hear the radio, including the young, the government, in the form of the FCC, has a motivation for censoring protect the children.

But typically in media formats where the viewer/listeners/reader has to make an active choice to access the material there been less self-censorship by content producers. For example, premium cable shows like HBO. Since there has be an adult making a purchase decision, HBO feels pretty free to let the nudity and swearing fly.

I bring up this topic because I recently noticed that Slate (which is owned by The Washington Post) decided to bleep two swear words in a podcast. I’m a big fan of Slate’s podcasts. After seeing the movie Sunshine I listened to Slate’s spoiler review of the movie. Towards the end of the podcast reviewer Dana Stevens uses the term “they fucked up” and “fucked” is bleeped. She later uses the term “oh shit” and that is bleeped as well.

The bleeping was fairly noteworthy, because I was trying to decipher if Slate (or by extension The Washington Post) had instituted a new editorial rule of “no swearing in podcasts” because I also listen to Slate’s gabfests podcasts and a couple of weeks ago John Dickerson let fly with a couple of swear words which were not bleeped. But at the beginning of the podcast the introduction actually warns listeners that Dickerson swears (and apologizes for it.) [UPDATE: After I e-mailed Dickerson he replied that he thought it was David Plotz who swore in the gabfest I was refering to, but he believes he's also uttered words that should have been bleeped in other gabfests.]

So my question: is it necessary for Slate to bleep swear words? In the instances I’ve seen, the swear words were brief and mostly incidental. Dana Stevens did not apologize for swearing in her podcast, but I believe Plotz did in his. However, whether they were brief or not, clearly Slate podcasts are not filled with curse words. Not like, say Dan Savage’s LoveCast where Dan takes particular pleasure in his ability to swear over the non-airwaves.

However the Savage LoveCasts are also marked “explicit” by my iTunes. This doesn’t mean that if I was a 10 year old I still couldn’t download them. Its just the equivalent of a warning sticker.

But who is listening to a Slate podcast who is going to be outraged by the occasional swear word? If you are choosing to download a podcast that presumes a level of technical sophistication. It’s not a lot of technical sophistication, but listening to podcasts aren’t quite the same as turning on a radio. You might still be 10 years old but is the swear word really going to be the worst thing you download? (And do 10 year olds download Slate podcasts?) But even for adults there is a degree of thought and choice when one downloads something and then decides to listen to it. You are kind of signing up for what you are about to listen to.

The reason I bring up the 10 year old example is because I’m trying to decipher who Slate is *not* swearing for? Are they not swearing for the children? Or are they not swearing for the adults? I’m almost more offended by their not swearing than I would be by the occasional “fuck” or “shit” that is let fly. The bleeping of a podcast tends to call attention to itself. It’s marks itself as a deliberate choice of censorship, YOU ARE NOT TO HEAR THIS.

What was odder about bleeping swear words in a review of Sunshine was that the movie is rated R! So Slate bleeped swear words in the course of discussing a movie that only 17 year olds and older could go see.

There is certainly no reason to gratuitously swear on a podcast just like I could make a blog post that is nothing but swear words. But that wouldn’t exactly make my point or my words all that much better to read. But there’s something priggish about Slate’s editorial decision to pretend its actually going to adhere to the standards of radio. Why? This feels like a decision that was made using old-media as the model and not thinking about the options of choice and selection and audience. I don’t think there’s a phrase that is more patronizing than “family friendly media outlet.” After all, it's not as if Slate enforces a "no swearing in print" rule either.

If I were setting Slate’s editorial policy on swearing during podcasts, I would use this rule. “Swearing is generally discouraged, but if you use the occasional expletive, please use it sparingly.”

In other words, get to the fucking point without swearing if you can.

UPDATE II: More from Slate's podcast editor.

Typos, Oddities, And Other Media Weirdness

"There are not enough ESL classes. I would suggest to Americans, if they really want to help immigrants quote-unquote assimilate, they should teach a family English," Kamus said.
-- from The Washington Post, At Odds Over Immigrant Assimilation

It’s just kind of odd to see “quote-unquote” spelled out when, typographically, the term the speaker meant was “assimilate” in quotes. It’s not that I disagree with the style choice here. It’s just an oddity I wanted to highlight.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging: I Shall Leeke You

(With apologies to CuteOverLoad for use of the term.) I know there was a distinct lack of Cat Blogging last week. I tried to make up by finding an ultra cute picture. Cat-red eye had ruined many cute images of Al and Lena lickitude but not this one. I love how shocked Lena looks.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Dana Milbank Newsflash: Men Wear Ties!!!

First off I have to offer an apology to the Washington Post Ombudswoman Debra Howell. She was entirely correct that Dana Milbank writes about male politicians’ clothing as well as women’s. Maybe it’s just because people specifically complained about last week’s column (people like say me) but this week Milbank now includes an entirely gratuitous shot at two House members for wearing, gasp!, colorful ties.

So this week he’s writing about an interest by a few Democratic representatives in impeaching attorney general Alberto Gonzales if Bush won’t remove him. Apparently this has only happened one other time in American history, during the Grant administration.

Colleagues on the stage with [Jay] Inslee, wearing grave faces but colorful neckwear, provided an echo.

"This particular attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, has lost his bearings," said Tom Udall (D-N.M.), whose tie pattern appeared to be of men riding dolphins.

"This attorney general has lost his way," said Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), whose tie had a large musical note.
There’s no reason for Milbank to include the description of the ties except for one thing, he wants to imply that Reps. Udall and Braley look ridiculous, and by extension, are making a ridiculous argument. It’s clear reading Milbank’s entire column he disagrees with the representatives about the wisdom of impeaching Gonzales. The reason one comes to that conclusion is that he picks apart the words the representatives use to make their case, making fun of Islee for using an example of his son bald-faced lying about eating ice cream to compare Gonzales’ bald-faced lying to Congress. Maybe others will disagree with me, but it’s hard to read this week’s column as one written by someone who admires what the representatives were suggesting. I think it’s pretty clear he’s against it or thinks it’s a bad idea or just pie-in-the-sky impossible.

And here’s the thing about Milbank’s column, although it’s not put in the opinion section, its his analysis of a situation. Therefore it’s his opinion and he’s entirely free to make arguments that a senator or a representative looked ridiculous in an outfit they were wearing. I’m not arguing with Milbank’s function or role to provide that personal (supposedly learned) judgment on situations.

But what Milbank is doing is making a proxy argument. He’s not willing to directly come out and say “I don’t think impeaching Gonzales is a good idea” or “You guys can talk but you’ll not going to have the power to do what you’re suggesting” or whatever his real analysis is.

Instead he’s being kind of a jackass and pretending this is not how he feels and making little asides about the words the congressmen are saying or the ties they are wearing. Because he’s not really attacking the idea straight on, there’s no real come-back to argue. What, should I say Udall’s tie was nice-looking? Because now we’re arguing about ties and not whether impeaching Gonzales is a possibility, a good idea, etc.

Look if Milbank wants to argue he doesn’t think Congress has the momentum or juice to impeach Gonzales I would rather he just come out and say that instead of pretending he’s not sniffing at this concept when he dismisses the congressmen because of their ties. Basically…what the hell did it add to his column to know that Udall had a tie featuring dolphins? Nothing. Except Milbank thinks Udall is being ridiculous and wants the reader to know it.