Sunday, September 30, 2007


It's garbage week here in Fanwood! I don't know if you have garbage week in whatever normal place you live, but it's a semi-annual event down here. We celebrate by throwing all the old, useless crap in our homes out on the curb, so the whole town looks like it was overrun by smelly, toothless hicks. Now I'm embarrassed to say that, when I was younger, I used to dig through my neighbors' trash piles, hunting for treasure and usually coming away with a torn-up mattress housing a dust mite colony or a decades-old radio missing its antenna, and being so excited because I was actually going to make good use of other peoples' shit. Hah! All that crap just got recycled into the curbside pile for next year's garbage week.

I don't get the appeal of other people's used junk — not the antiquities, the rare stuff with real value — even used bookstores leave an unpleasant ether, the combined musk of a hundred bibliophiles' bookshelves, surrounding me. I can understand the appeal of literature for a dollar, but you bring a used book into your house and all I see is you introducing a new species of mold to the environment. But at least that's still usable; garbage week stuff is (kind of the whole point) garbage. I don't care what sort of nostalgic Victorian taste you've got — what the hell are you planning on doing with a wicker chair the cat clawed all the way through? Someone took our record player — You know how the kids today don't know what a cassette deck is? This thing plays 45's, okay? — and somebody took it. If you're scavenging for old record players, maybe you should sell your LP's and use the revenue to buy an iPod.

What really pissed me off today was some old guy picking through people's trash, then taking this termite-rotted set of dresser drawers and putting them in his Lexus. Cheap motherfucker! God gave us Ikea so that old crappy furniture could die a natural death and be reincarnated into new cheap furniture. It's the circle of life: department store, family room, guest bedroom, attic, curbside, Sweden, department store.

Friday, September 28, 2007

More Fall TV '07 Watch: Reaper and Life (plus more on Chuck, with spoilers)

I am so happy I found Reaper on the CW, the first indisputably good new show of the season, and also the first show since Flight of the Conchords that made me laugh out loud. It's the underachieving slacker complement to overachieving nerd comedy Chuck, although Reaper is smarter, funnier, and better overall. Don't feel bad, Josh; as an assembly-line show producer pandering to teens with disposable income, at least you're no Kevin Williamson. Plus Reaper will be canceled first.

Reaper's success as a coming-of-age comedy is the same as Chuck's failure: the supporting cast. The basic plots are "puerile dude gets in situations over his head and grows up," but Sam, our hero in Reaper, is doing it without a net. The Devil pretty much conscripts Sam into chasing down on Earth souls that escaped from hell, but as the show's grown-up teacher figure, Satan seems to be a lot less helpful than the Casey plus Sarah combination on Chuck. Casey and Sarah do the tough stuff for Chuck, especially the "What do we do with this guy?" decision-making, as if (also because) he's not an adult capable of running his own life, and they essentially run out of denigrating options by the time he saves the day: first, let's lock him in a secret government facility... that won't work, so Sarah tells him to wait in the hotel lobby... but that doesn't work, so they push him aside when they're (not) defusing the bomb... and even when Chuck is actually doing the job neither of them can, Casey still has to give him shit because Chuck is supposed to be worthless as a human being in this situation.

The supporting cast of Reaper is just as clueless and unreliable — maybe more — as Sam is, and Satan is hilariously unhelpful. Sam's first capture is a guy who can turn himself into fire, and the Devil not only gives Sam a Dirt Devil — not a Hoover or an Oreck — to do the job, but he doesn't even bother to fully charge it. Sam's partner is the anti-Casey — a fat, lazy slob named "Sock" — who's so unhelpful, one of the weapons he brings to the final confrontation is a battery-powered touch lamp. Their struggle is greater, so their success is greater.

That's why I want to see more of Chuck and less of Casey (but Sarah's fine), and that's why I wish ABC would make an all-Marshall Alias spin-off.

Now Life is one of those shows that has no idea what it's doing. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it makes Life totally perplexing. I will never forgive the clunkiest exposition ever — the narration is standard, except the flashbacks are told as a talking heads documentary, complete with subtitles identifying who's on screen and spontaneous, bleeped swearing. The writers were too busy handing the hero, Charlie, television-friendly quirks to be bothered with revealing the backstory through dialogue. I hate literary laziness.

There's a criminal-of-the-week plot, the serialized "who framed Charlie" plot, other stuff involving his ex-wife and her new husband, but the degree to which you tolerate Life is directly proportional to the degree you tolerate Charlie. (I've seen a lot of comparisons to House, and while both shows rise and fall based on their protagonists' "endearing" idiosyncrasies, that's where the similarities end.) My perspective is that a lot of Charlie's weirdness is unmotivated — I like his mantra, "I am not attached to material goods," while speeding his brand new Cadillac down the freeway — but Charlie's fruit obsession seems to come from nowhere and go nowhere. The decision to minimize the impact of Charlie's time in prison also seems wrong to me, since (I assume) that's the primary source of his current personality, and that's the conceit of the show, and that's why I'm supposed to care about him.

One of the final scenes in the Life premiere is Charlie looking at a mind-map of his case, trying to solve who framed him, but I just don't care. If anything, I'm looking forward to the standard Charlie and his partner cop scenes, which are, well, standard. I see that Life is also showing on the USA network, and it feels like, along with (superior) Monk and (inferior) Psych, that's where this show belongs.

Tonight: Moonlight on CBS, which I doubt I'm watching, because I don't have a three-year-old crush on Jason Dohring.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

British Actors Remake Shows Your Parents Watched, Fall '07 Premiere Season: Journeyman and Bionic Woman

We have an immigration problem in this country: British actors are taking roles that American actors could be doing. They do the same job for less money, and its the studios' cheapness that's ruining America. Also the fact that they're dipping into the late-seventies, early-eighties well of weekday morning programming on the Sci-Fi Channel for ideas. I'll preface this by saying I've never seen the original Bionic Woman, but I have seen that episode of MST3K where they gave Tom Servo bionic sound effects (missing from the remake), so I'm totally qualified here. I also don't remember too much about Quantum Leap, other than in one episode, Scott Bakula was in the body of a monkey because someone in the writer's room was on crack that day.

I loathe Bionic Woman. I loathe Michelle Ryan and the projects she takes — I loathed her in the BBC's Jekyll, too. I also loathe Miguel Ferrer, although I sort of forget why, and that Chinese actor guy. I loathe the conceit of the show, and I loathe that there's an evil bionic woman, because that's just fucking stupid. I loathe the characterizations, and the fact that we'll be watching Ryan's new-fangled Jamie Sommers come to terms with her bionic arms and legs and etc for the next twenty episodes. I especially loathe how deadly serious the show takes itself. But mostly, what I loathe about Bionic Woman and Jamie Sommers is how much she makes me miss Buffy Summers (and Xander and Willow and Spike and not so much Dawn...) and how I totally never appreciated the complicated genius of that show.

I'm gonna be making more references to Buffy throughout this, because it looks like Bionic Woman is essentially Buffy's fourth season, except it makes you want to put something sharp through both your eyes, instead of just one.

Of course there's a secret government facility, which makes me already hate this show, and you know what? I'm changing my mind from the review of Chuck — it doesn't matter whether Secret Government Agency characters are competent or not, they still all suck. This SGA puts nanotechnology or something inside attractive women. Jamie's in a car crash, but she's hot, so our government will spend fifty billion dollars fixing her up. Meanwhile, forty-two million Americans can't get health insurance. Just saying. Apparently, having bionic robots or whatever gives you superpowers, all of which are pretty much copied from Heroes. Super-healing, super-strength, super-hearing: the future, ladies and gentlemen, is in nanotechnology, with the amazing power to turn ordinary hot women into Quentin Tarantino's wet dream.

I don't know where the show's going after expositing that nanotechnology pretty much makes you perfect and invincible in every conceivable way. Fake pregnancy, maybe? You're probably thinking, okay, if she has no physical flaws, maybe there's some intellectual stuff she needs to work through. Nope, sorry, she's already a genius. Problem solved. (Actually, in a stupid continuity error — and we're only in the first episode people — Jamie tells us and her also genius boyfriend that she's not that smart, so... did anybody even proofread this script?)

But is Jamie a computer whiz? No. Finally, it's like computers and needlepoint or something are the two things she's not perfect at. However, there's a younger sister who is a computer phenom, and who I'm sure will absolutely not be hacking into the SGA's firewall later this season, because that would be really, really fucking obvious.

Jamie's final power is an extraordinary ability to bitch about her amazing superpowers, instead of maybe being just a little grateful they saved her life. Every damn thing about the presentation of Bionic Woman is wrong, starting with the dense seriousness hated creator Laeta Kalogridis shoves into this silly, silly show. That's Whedon's brilliance: he realizes that the whole Buffy concept is kind of dopey, and he takes advantage of those parameters with the show's trademark humor and abrupt shifts between solemnity and absurdity. Bionic Woman does everything possible to make me believe that this is some real important shit — from the ridiculous scientific explanations ("We replaced one-eighth of your blood with anthrocytes."), the pretentious artsy blocking and camera-work, Jamie's groundless emotional breakdown in the middle of the episode. All the growing-up metaphors in Buffy, the conflict between her need for a normal teenage life and her coming-of-age destiny, Kalogridis replaces with inane Nietzschean meditations on the nature of power that basically boils down to "Power is good."

That probably makes mine the only Bionic Woman review containing a reference to Nietzsche. Proud!

Oh, yeah, I need to mention my most hated line from Bionic Woman. It's a throwaway, but I think it sums up everything that makes the show an exercise in pandering to women who think they're too ugly to find a man, and Quentin Tarantino. A mother and daughter are driving along some country road, and Jamie comes up running next to them at fifty-five miles an hour (which just seems really odd in itself) and the daughter, in awe, says something like, "Girls can run really fast!" Yay! Except they really don't mean it. Take a show like Buffy, or Veronica Mars, or Alias and no one comes out and says, "Girls rule!" because they don't have to. That message is in the show, and in the character. The view of Bionic Woman is, "Girls are weak without weird, non-existent mechanical thingies inside them." Stupid, stupid show.

Watch the defunct Now and Again instead. Michelle Ryan may be more fun to look at than Eric Close, but Now and Again, with real (still broadly drawn) characters in a genuine conflict with something at stake, is a lot more fun to watch.

Okay, now that I've got that out of my system, I have less to say about Journeyman. It's Quantum Leap. It's pretty dull. Guy who played Lucius Vorenus on Rome can't do an American accent. It uses the same time-traveling special effect, that shimmering background, that they used in Quantum Leap.

But... two good things. One, they're already finished with the inevitable subplot where Lucius Vorenus's wife doesn't believe he travels through time, and it threatens their marriage, etc. And two, they did a really nice job — and a really well-paced job — finishing it. Maybe one more episode, but I have a feeling I'm not going to have the patience for this one.

Tonight, three words: Dwight and Angela! Or, you know, if you've got a pulse, OMG!!!! PAM AND JIM ARE TOGETHER!!!!! EEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Petty Tyrant Can't Play To An Audience

By now, you've seen Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmaken — fuck it, I'm not looking up how to spell his last name, so he's Mahmoud to you and me — you've seen him give his embarrassing speech at Columbia and I'm absolutely baffled because it really could've gone either way, and like a lot of conservative commentators, I was prepared for a muted welcome. Columbia has a huge population of Jews Protesting Something, but (at least when I was there) they're balanced out the Muslims Protesting The Jews Protesting Something. On the other hand, the school has a rabid anti-Bush movement so you'd think maybe Mahmoud might open with something along the lines of "How many Bush administration officials does it take to change a light bulb?" If you lose them in the opening remarks, the game's over before you've even got a chance to plug Noam Chomsky's latest book.

Mahmoud's amazing ability to overestimate a crowd is why I didn't really want Columbia giving him a forum. It's not that I was against him presenting his views — like we all don't already know that his entire worldview consists of "death to Israel," "women suffrage bad," and "people who don't like me can rot in jail." I was afraid that our guys — and while I still think Bollinger is a corporate ass, he's got the moral high ground here — would puss out. Which they did.

The innate conflict with Mahmoud, or his good dictator buddy Hugo Chavez, is that, as an American, you can't condemn him without implicitly condoning Bush, and you can't condemn Bush without condoning Mahmoud. Yes, Bollinger was ballsier than any other high-profile speaker I've seen, talking about Mahmoud — to his face, no less — without resorting to lame euphemisms. But I don't think he was brave. Saying the same thing to George Bush would be brave; Mahmoud has a rhetorically graceful out and his name is, take a guess, George Bush.

Mahmoud is a petty tyrant. Mahmoud was democratically elected, and unlike a certain other petty tyrant I can think of, Mahmoud actually won a majority of the votes when he came to power.

Mahmoud's country treats women like slaves. While in our country, we treat them like whores. (Again, not bothering to insert the requisite links to Paris, Lindsay, Britney, the bimbos on E!'s The Girls Next Door, Maxim, FHM, the Victoria's Secret runway show, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, Girls Gone Wild, need I continue...?)

Mahmoud is developing nuclear weapons. The U.S., which already has a nuclear arsenal, pulled out of a non-proliferation treaty that's been in place since 1972.

Mahmoud's legal system is a travesty. Dissidents are jailed for their political or religious beliefs, and people are denied legal rights. But we're holding hundreds of people in Guantánamo without access to legal representation and put on trial in secret military tribunals, when they're tried at all. When Bollinger criticized Mahmoud for his crackdown on scholars, I think that's the same sort of ivory tower snootiness that down-home conservatives bitch to us about. Bollinger is condemning Mahmoud stifling intellectual progress first, and the people being jailed are only secondary. My sense is that if you're illegitimately imprisoned, the reasons why don't really matter to you, like the Guantánamo detainees are saying to themselves, "Man, I wish I were in here for my political beliefs instead of for being in the wrong place at the wrong time."

I feel like Bollinger gets that, but he can't take the highest moral ground in his speech because doing so might legitimize Mahmoud's policies.

Mahmoud supports insurgents in Iraq. The U.S. is in Iraq, and funding violence in Iraq, and smuggling weapons into Iraq, and covering it up, for our president's and our country's (supposed) political benefit. It's hypocritical to complain when Mahmoud does the same thing for his own and his country's political future.

Mahmoud denies the Holocaust. This one's both simple and complicated: he pretends history is a lie, or subjective, or whatever. Here's a link about Cheney's own revisionist history from "Meet The Press." But that's not really relevant here.

Modern Holocaust denial is a bit more subtle than that. You can't say with any credibility that the Holocaust didn't happen, so Holocaust deniers say the next best thing: Historians got the numbers wrong. Only a million people died, instead of twelve million. I don't really understand how this is supposed to help their argument: Hitler was only one-twelfth as infinitely evil as you were taught in school? The point is that you make up stuff that's just barely on the verge of being true, because that can be defended rhetorically. Which again, is no different from what General Petraeus did in his report on Iraq: getting shot in the back of the head is counted as a civilian casualty, but getting shot in the front of the head isn't? Bullshit. The civilians caught up in Iraq don't care how they were killed — and more importantly, it doesn't matter to them that the events leading up to their slaughter were only motivated by political greed, rather than attempting to eradicate a race from the earth. Dead is dead.

Look, I'm not trying to defend Mahmoud, but what I'm saying is that pretending Mahmoud and Bush are on different moral planes gives Bush license to do every one of the reprehensible things he does. There's no reason they can't both be petty wannabe tyrants.

Finally, briefly, I need to say something about Mahmoud's poorly-worded comments about how there's no homosexuality in Iran. I'd like people to consider, at least, the possibility that, like Billy Bob Redneck from Arkansas, Mahmoud doesn't actually know what homosexuality is. Our cultural stereotypes, not to mention that we're relatively cool with the idea of displaying our sexuality — straight or gay — in public, are what we show off to the world, and maybe that's all he knows about homosexuality. Iran hasn't exactly had a sexual revolution and certain assumptions won't get questioned, so Mahmoud just conflates homosexual culture in the West and human sexuality in general and comes up with a response that's factually wrong, but actually pretty informative when it comes to indicating the cultural status of homosexuality in Iran. I mean, they probably put on a pretty lame gay-pride parade over there — it's not like anybody questioned his record on polygamy.

And that's kind of how I take that statement — like an American going to Iran and describing our cultural views on sex. "In America, we're monogamous." So you mean no one in America strays outside their marriage? No, I mean taking an extra husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, etc. isn't the most honorable thing you can do. It's just a cultural thing.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Hap-Hap-Happiest Time of the Year, Fall '07 TV Watch: Californication and the Tell Me You Love Me pilot

One of the positive things about not writing about television professionally is that I can avoid slogging through the stuff that bores me, like HBO's once-promising and plodding new series Tell Me You Love Me. There was only one good reason to watch this "provocative and honest exploration of intimacy:" the actors, and they don't exactly deny it, are having actual sexual relations on camera. But in the pilot, there's maybe three minutes of naked bouncing and a lot — at least seven separate character arcs worth — of filler. Not narrative foreplay, just this tired, lethargic semi-philosophical conversation, as if HBO decided it wasn't really in the mood and was pretending to have a headache.

But onto the sex! The only thing I can say is that it's got a higher production value than most porn, and holy cow does reproducing look tedious. There's four couples: Dave and Katie, Jamie and Hugo, Caroline and Palek, and Old Sex Therapist Lady and her old husband. In the pilot, only one of them pushes any sort of on-camera limits. The good news is that it's Jamie and Hugo, the most physically attractive couple; the bad news is that all you can focus on are Hugo's balls and just... ewwww. It's only a minute of that, and the rest of their story is an extremely standard "she's pissed because he refuses to commit" plot that I'm sure cavemen and cavewomen were suffering through. Hugo's thinking — there's a lot of people in the world and chances are good he'll meet an additional someone — feels genuine, but everything that comes after it — especially garrulous Jamie's refusal to discuss this observation — is as forced as if Hugo met Bill Henrickson in church one day.

The other couples are really no less generic. Katie tolerates her passionless marriage until she catches Dave masturbating in bed one day. There's not even a lot of not-having-sex in that storyline — the scene where Katie and Dave are naked together and completely oblivious barely registers. Caroline blames Palek for her inability to conceive, but it too feels forced. Maybe this is a pacing issue; we never see Caroline and Palek (or anybody in this show, really) happy so there's nothing to contrast their break down against. There's two other problems I have with Caroline and Palek as well. First, whenever I look at Adam Scott, I see Mr. Rooks, the pederast history teacher from Veronica Mars, and when Caroline starts stroking something that, in the dark and from a distance, could be his cock, it's just really creepy. And second, the bathroom in their house doesn't have a door. Caroline's essentially peeing on a pregnancy stick right out in the open, and people who do that shouldn't have children in the first place.

The couples are connected through their couples' therapist, Old Lady May, who is having sex, although thankfully in the dark and under the covers. I guess even old people don't want to look at themselves in the nude... although if HBO was honest about pushing boundaries, that would be the one to push.

Also sex-heavy, but even more squeamish, is David Duchovny's Californication — its name tells you that it's licentious. And also that it takes place in California. Genius. Duchovny plays Hank Moody, a once-successful writer who sleeps with women (less than) half his age even though he's a complete prick. Californication manages to hit every single false note possible, largely because I can't understand for the life of me what Hank is so cranky about.

Look, the season premiere of House is tonight, and there's a character who's insufferable with some motivation. House is surrounded by idiots, some of whom are responsible for crippling him. I'd be pissed too. Moody, on the other hand, is an ungrateful little shit, with a Porsche, a great apartment in the hills, and a never-ending supply of easy women. It doesn't really help or hurt that Moody (or Duchovny) explores his own depths — the problem is that the show itself is completely disingenuous. Hank's book, "God Hates Us All," somehow wound up with a Hollywood beauty makeover and turned into a movie "A Little Thing Called Love" starring Tom and Katie. (I've gotta admit I found that funny.) He's hired to write a blog — oh, the indignity of people reading your words off a computer screen instead of a printed page! — for "Hell A" magazine. I get it already: California's full of phonies. Hank fits right in.

The ultimate issue with Californication is that Hank's own phoniness undermines what should be real moments of redemption for him. In the pilot, Hank stops in southern California's home of vanity, the Apple Store, and writes a quick couple of sentences about how he only likes going down on hairy women. Great — he's writing again — and he's being subversive! — but his prose is so clunky I wonder why he's a writer in the first place. The little voice-over at the end of the third episode, Hank decides to write the magazine's blog so he can be a role model for his daughter, is sappy enough I wanted to puke, largely because Hank is just the kind of guy who's barely even aware that he has a daughter unless she's standing right in front of him. All the griping and false, obvious revelations wear thin pretty quickly.

But good news — like I said, House premieres tonight, and that's pretty much guaranteed to be somewhere between solid and great. (Their last two season premieres were pretty much in the "solid" category.) Reaper is supposed to be good, Damages is improving now that Rose Brynn's incredibly dumb character is actually playing that high-powered legal (and extra-legal) game, and Heroes didn't suck last night, even if we now have three characters who can fly, signaling that the producers have officially run out of ideas for superpowers.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Fall '07 TV Watch: Chuck

This moving picture box fad has really taken off, with everybody and their mother putting up some TV criticism blog, and the Television Without Pity website expanding dramatically. TWoP has also suffered a corresponding dramatic fall in quality — like if I wanted to know what happened on last week's "Weeds" without any snarky commentary, I'd just watch "Weeds." Message to Sars and Wing Chun: I know you still think you're coasting on the fact that you watched "Dawson's Creek," only you were doing it ironically, but get over yourselves already. If you can't find anything to make fun of in "Weeds," what are you going to do with actual comedies? The only funny parts of the recaps for "The Office" are the jokes copied verbatim from "The Office."

Sadly, they'll have to do. I don't have the time to recap every episode of every show on television because not enough of you are clicking on my affiliate marketing links (more precisely, none of you) so I have to do a non-television related job.

I don't think I've been watching that much NBC over the summer, so I'm not sure why I feel like Chuck has bludgeoned into submission with the most annoying ads this side of HeadOn. I'm a little surprised to say that I like Chuck — not the show Chuck, just the protagonist Chuck. Pretty impressive comic acting job by Zachary Levi then; even Masi Oka took more than a few episodes to grow on me last season. (That sentence doesn't sound right.) Look, let's just say that creator Josh Schwartz, who's also behind The O.C. and this season's eye-candy teen drama Gossip Girl, understands nerds about as well as he understands that public defenders, even in Orange County, don't earn nearly enough to live among California's high society, and also that they generally don't adopt their troubled teen clients. I'm just saying.

Despite Schwartz's best efforts to cram every single geek, nerd, dork, and doofus stereotype from the mid-eighties into Chuck, Levi tends (okay, sometimes tends) to transcend the material and also transcend his irritating, horny, and naturally greasy best friend Morgan, played by Joshua Gomez with significantly less subtlety. Gomez is more or less Fogell from Superbad, but what's funny for a high school kid with a litany of hidden insecurities is incredibly irritating when it's played for laughs by a grown-up with facial hair and zero self-awareness. I'd seriously rather watch the HeadOn commercial than listen to Gomez forcing a line. Hint: if you're watching the pilot, you can mute the TV whenever he's in a scene and you won't miss anything.

The rest of the cast does the sort of perfunctory job you expect from people playing the straight man in a spy-comedy series. Yvonne Strzechowski is extremely watchable and gratuitously in her underwear for a couple of scenes; Adam Baldwin continues to remind me of an animatronic in the Hall of Presidents. Whatever. Levi absolutely owns the show; it thrives when Chuck knows that he's good at being a nerd, like the scenes when he's talking with Sarah on their date or the brief scene when he's running through the hotel fountain instead of around it, and it dies a painful sputtering death when he gets into dense Urkel territory.

As you know from the commercials, Chuck accidentally downloads a bunch of government secrets... INTO HIS BRAIN!!!! Huh? In a pilot that's half exposition, no one's even going to take a stab at explaining that one. Naturally, evil government types try to capture and/or help him, and I would just like to say about the U.S. government. First, please invest in a damn firewall, so our nuclear secrets don't accidentally get sent to some kid browsing the net for porn? And second, is being an anonymous secret agent in an anonymous suit and tie a civil service job or something? Every show, there's always just like one person in the CIA who's competent at their job and a bunch of nincompoops waiting to get their asses kicked. As a matter of national security, we need a training course for new recruits, because one day, our agent who knows what the hell they're doing is going to come down with the flu, and the next thing you know, we're all speaking Russian and our nation's capital is Putingrad.

I bet you're wondering how this plot can become even more absurd. Well, our agents Blonde Chick No Longer in Her Underwear and Poor Man's Duane "The Rock" Johnson (...or is The Rock the poor man's Adam Baldwin? I don't know.) have to track down Chuck because.... I know what you're thinking. They need to track him down because he has all these secrets in his head and they need to make sure he doesn't share them with, like, Iran. Cause that makes sense, right? Well, that's not exactly the reason — you see, he has the only copy of all these secrets in his head. That's right, our government was too lazy to go to Best Buy and purchase a memory stick so they could back up only our most important national secrets. What if someone spilled coffee on the Ultra-Secret Computer, or the hard disk crashed after one too many games of Minesweeper? God, you should always have a backup! But now, if our government wants to know where an Serbian evildoer planted a bomb, they need to ask Chuck.

Chuck becomes an unlikely spy and has to go into all these dangerous situations that he's comically unprepared for. It's not particularly clear why, since he's not all that useful, aside from being a human reference desk, and if Blonde Chick and Poor Man's The Rock need to know something, well... it's not like he doesn't have a phone or anything. But then we wouldn't have a show; instead we'd have a somewhat amusing misfit nerd who I'd actually want to watch.

I'll keep up with Chuck, although I said that when Jake 2.0 came out and I gave up on that after two episodes. That's a pretty bad omen for Chuck, since they're exactly the same show. And The Lone Gunmen before that. What I'd really like to see is Chuck without the supporting cast and the show going into full-on quirky mode. The pilot's directed by this guy McG, who also directed the first Charlie's Angels movie and therefore doesn't want anybody knowing his real name. He's an artistic coward, making both a half-assed action show and a half-assed comedy. Someone like Bryan Fuller or Joss Whedon could probably get the balance right and make the show fun to watch instead of a crapshoot between lame setpieces. The final verdict on Chuck is: if they changed everything about the show, it would be good.

I absolutely need to share this ad I found on Craigslist:

Arabic Linguists Wanted For US Army

Date: 2007-09-21, 10:05AM EDT


Permanent Resident or US citizen
17-41 years old
Good physical condition
Good moral character
The ability to read, write, and speak Arabic

This is what's called marketing, kids. You call them "basic" requirements and you get to leave off the less ad-friendly "advanced" requirements: Must enjoy ceaseless days and nights in a hundred degree political quagmire that gets car-bombed on a regular basis. No gays allowed. High school dropouts, drug users, and criminals are okay.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

How Would You Move Mount Fuji?

I think we all know that I've got a problem with cutesy, right-brained job interview questions, and I'm looking for employment someplace that thinks they're totally inane, but I have to admit the questions you get asked at a Microsoft interview are momentarily interesting. Still thoroughly uninformative, since they're basically verbal Rorschach tests — riddles you're not supposed to be able to solve on the fly, so not coming up with a correct, or even cogent, extemporaneous answer says more about the question than it does about you. I understand the excuse: it's not about the answer but about the reasoning process, but that's disingenuous. Example you've heard before: A bear starts in its den. It walks a mile south, then a mile east, then a mile north, and arrives back at its den. What color is the bear? I want to take a look at the cognitive process here...

There's something intuitively wrong with the story: walk a mile, turn ninety degrees, walk a mile, turn ninety degrees, walk a mile, arrive back at your starting point. You can't draw it on a map. Figuring out why exactly you can't draw it on a map isn't straightforward. I mean, that's the point, but it's expecting a lot of an interviewee under pressure to automatically switch into non-Euclidean geometry mode. Plus — of course you're aware, but how often do you think about the earth not being flat, other than Columbus Day? (Of course, if you're The View co-host Sherri Shephard, the answer is "never.") The question is really just a test of your ability to pull two barely-related facts randomly out of the ether, and that's probably not a skill you can put on your resume.

As a side note, the earth is elliptical (or whatever the three-dimensional equivalent is), not spherical, so if you want to be technical about it — and you do, because that's the sort of thinking the problem asks about in the first place — the brain teaser doesn't even work.

I didn't interview for Microsoft, but I did get asked one in my last interview. Question: How many windows are there in New York City? A lot. More than the number of protons in a carbon atom, fewer than the number of galaxies in the universe.

Could you be more specific?

Please, that eliminates practically all the whole numbers.

That's not what I said, because I was a little dumbfounded. "Do you want to know exactly?"

Another issue I have with these questions is that the guy posing them has never fully thought them out. Case in point: Whatever you think? Wrong answer. The question, "Exactly how many windows are there in New York City?" is most likely meaningless in any practical sense. (I explain below.) "Approximately how many windows are there in New York City?" seems ridiculously easy. Count the windows in a small sample of buildings that's representative of the whole city and multiply. I actually had to write this out on a white-board as if it weren't the simplest thing in the world. Plus side, I got to sniff some dry-erase marker.

As for the exact number... you'd have to count them (assuming no one's been keeping track of installed and broken windows since the days when counting windows was trivial). I can't think of a pigeonhole principle way of determining the window count. You could probably expedite the process by going down to City Hall and using the buildings' plans as your data source instead of the buildings themselves, or construction companies might keep records of how many windows they purchased and how many of those were to replace broken windows. The problem is that all of those methods take time, and unless the city is having a particularly lethargic day, the number of windows in the city is going to change while you're counting. "Exactly how many windows are (were) there in the city at a particular time in history?" has an answer, but until it's possible to count all the windows in the city in less than the time frame between installing or breaking a New York City window, the general question can't be answered.

The fact that Microsoft employees spend their time thinking up brain teasers like those rather than designing robust software probably explains why my computer crashes so much.

Oh yeah, hint: Why are manhole covers round? So they won't fall in the hole.

Friday, September 21, 2007 Just Doesn't Get Me

Lovelorn, I took a web surf to, the matchmaking website for people too freakish to be considered by eHarmony. is sort of like getting relationship advice from Miss Cleo. It'll be what you want to hear, and not remotely helpful. Still better than Dr. Phil, who'll throw folksy insults at you and not be remotely helpful. God, I hate Dr. Phil. just makes me laugh incredulously. Not as hard as that time my grandma tried to set me up with my cousin though. Maybe if she was a cousin by blood instead of marriage. eHarmony tries to psychoanalyze you with questions like "How important is it that your partner be physically attractive?" "What three words would your friends use to describe you?" Here's how finds your soulmate:

Be honest,, you're just matching people up by spinning a bottle, aren't you?

My favorite part of all these dating sites is the end of the survey, where they tell me what my personality is. As if I don't know — it's my personality stuck inside my damn head. The soulless machine algorithm doesn't have a chance:

You are a DIRECTOR/explorer

You are courageous; and you seek challenges. You are a tough-minded, independent and daring thinker who likes to explore ideas or problems thoroughly. You focus easily. And you are persistent, systematic and competent in pursuing your interests and goals.

You are also assertive; and you enjoy the opportunities your hard work wins.

You have a lot of energy. You think quickly, make decisions more easily than most, dislike unnecessary rules, and take a rational approach to people, issues and ideas.

You don't often enjoy "small talk." You are generally not interested in pleasing boring people and you gravitate to men and women who are intellectually exciting and get to their point quickly during conversations.

You are not conventional in most of your attitudes and values. You tend to be irreverent and pragmatic and you like spontaneous people. You can be an exciting, yet hard driving and exacting, friend and companion.

This has to be what you get when you answer "C" for all the questions, because it's so not me. "You are also assertive" stands out — a lot — and overwhelms what's right about it. (Recall the Forer effect.) Stuff like "[you] dislike unnecessary rules:" everyone dislikes unnecessary rules, sort of by definition, but I'm here thinking, "Well, I do have a lot of contempt for superfluous rules..."

It's not the personality test that worries me though, since it's not like you can fail that. It's the stuff that I contributed; I'm so sucky at introducing myself. I'm a little happy I can't link directly to my profile... but here's what I look like: suggests posting a picture where you're smiling, maybe something from a vacation, and this is the best photo I have of me. Aside from the one on the upper-right corner of this site, of course. I should probably pay a professional to make me look as not-constipated as I feel.

My personal blurb isn't any better. Do other people have this issue, where they can only write about themselves at two extremes: terse and uninformative ("I am a carbon-based life form.") and too much information? I believe I went with too much information, although I tried to temper it:


I'm pretty shy and quiet and don't warm to people very easily, but I can get very lively and funny around people I'm comfortable with. I'm eager to try new things, even though I sometimes need a little prodding. I'm open-minded and extremely picky -- because life is short and why waste it on things that aren't good, right? But you also (well, I also) never really know where you'll find stuff you really like. I'm fascinate by just about anything, as long as it keeps filling my brain with new ideas....

What else? I'm an aspiring playwright who does gigs coding websites until Broadway calls, which should be any day now. I raised tropical fish as a kid because my parents wouldn't let me have a dog, and I was pretty surprised when it turned out some of those fish were more carniverous than they looked in the store. I bake the world's best (and probably, only) kahlua and cinnamon brownies. I'm not a big sports fan, but I love watching those made-up sports they show on ESPN2.

Okay, well... nice meeting you.

I didn't want to put weeks and weeks of work into this online personal ad, but I just read that again and, hell, I wouldn't date me. (Also I wouldn't date me because that would be really weird.) Ugh. I figure maybe I'll just get a cat and one of those Japanese sex robots (like that's not weird) and call it a night.

Advice and/or words of encouragement appreciated.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Meet BlingH2O

Hey, frivolous rich people! Are you looking for a way to stand out, to let the other mansions on the block know just who has the most money to throw away? Sure, you could buy a faster plane than the neighbors, or a larger yacht, but in my admittedly impoverished, humble opinion, the most brilliant way to announce to Page Six, "Nobody is gaudier than I am!" is by purchasing a case of (yes, this is real) BlingH2O, at forty dollars for 750 milliliters, the world's most expensive bottled water. That's a hundred bucks for one of those plastic Coke bottles full of something that literally falls from the sky. Now that's ostentation!

By the way, Coca-Cola, or Coke, is something we poor people drink when we've run out of Dom Perignon and Grey Goose.

Among the many healing powers of BlingH2O are the ability to get the lower half of this anonymous bikini model to talk to you.

But the best thing about BlingH2O is that it's fungible. I mean, it's not like BlingH2O comes with an extra hydrogen atom in every molecule or anything. So you could amuse yourself by, say, throwing a party with your wealthy friends and promising them BlingH2O but secretly switching it with Poland Spring instead. When I become rich, I'm totally gonna do that.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

I'm Selling Out

When Google first introduced their AdSense program, those "Ads by Google" boxes you see on some of the more casual websites out there, I briefly considered adding my blog to the online billboard program. AdSense monetizes your web presence by providing relevant, targeted advertising to your readers, which is business-speak for, "It turns your website into the computer equivalent of a Daytona stock car." I have too much respect for my readers to do that (really) so I kept the blog promotion-free.

But I met with my career coach and she suggested that someone like myself, looking to be a creative writer, should have multiple income streams and brought up the idea of "affiliate marketing." And I was still skeptical: how much could you possibly make from commissions off referrals or click-thru ads? Turns out... well, she went to an affiliate marketing seminar and met a guy who works an hour a day putting up links and makes six figures. And when I say six figures, I mean around half a million dollars a year.

So I respect you all, but I don't respect you that much.

Also, I'll respect you a whole lot more if you click on the affiliate links on the right.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Sticks and Stones (and Improvised Explosive Devices) May Break My Bones...

The ineffectual defenders of liberty at took out a full-page ad in the New York Times back on Tuesday. "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" Oh, snap! You got dissed, son! They made a pun on his name, now I bet everybody in the Pentagon lunch room is calling him names. General Dismay Us. General Toupee Us. He probably goes home crying to his mommy every day after school.

You idiots. The best you can do is throw lame insults at the man? What's next: David Petraeus' momma is so fat when she backs up she beeps? You think you're gonna hurt his feelings? The guy's been in the freaking army thirty-three years, he's seen actual combat with guns and bombs and shit—

Oh, wait... he hasn't? Never mind then.

Still,, like Stephen Colbert pointed out, your ad sucks and your trash-talking skills are laughable. How about next time hiring some actual writers, or inner-city street youth, or the Random Shakespearean Insult Generator to come up with your stupid ad. I'm completely flummoxed by the way Colbert and Jon Stewart and their team of writers can come up with trenchant, unassailable satire every day while the Democrats in Congress or the liberal lobbyists let themselves get Swift Boated every single time.

If the liberals aren't going to highlight this administration's absurdity — as opposed to its failure to act in the American people's interest — they really need to be doing the same thing Republicans are. Throw in some baseless and/or irrelevant comments about 9/11, so that anyone who disagrees with, or even questions, you is a terrorist sympathizer and un-American. When Guiliani and the right-wing blogs say you have no right to challenge Petraeus's integrity, remind them gently about our right to free speech, then remind them harshly that our Founding Fathers fought and died for those ideals and accuse them of being anti-freedom. Not the liberal catch-phrase "civil liberties" — makes you sound like a pussy.

They're extending troop deployments: "Are you saying our soldiers don't deserve to be home with their families?"

Violence is down in Anbar Province: "How come you haven't caught Osama yet?"

Doesn't need to be coherent, just rabidly patriotic, and maybe something better than what a fifth-grader could do.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Stuff the Taliban is Missing Out On

New York City is commemorating the sixth anniversary of 9/11 with the solemn dignity it deserves: with Spring '08 Fashion Week! Woo-hoo!

That's one of the beautiful things about living in a free country like ours, cause if you go to Iran or Saudi Arabia, you're not going to find a week-long celebration of all things size zero and revealing. They're starved for sartorial variety over there, since there's only so much creativity you can put into the one-size-fits-all chador or burqa. I see progress on the horizon in the war on drab, which is great, since they hate us for our freedom and our low-neckline floral print sundresses.

I buy my clothes at Old Navy, which is conspicuously underrepresented at Fashion Week for some strange reason. I don't understand why; Old Navy has this new line of argyle sweaters that comes with a bouncy commercial jingle and five dollar shipping and handling. The people gotta know what pattern sweater they'll be wearing in the near future! Or else, we might all buy different styles, and then all of civilization will be doomed!

No, wait. Not doomed. Motley.

As much as I'm aware of the public's fascination with stupid, shiny things, why the hell does any of Fashion Week matter to anybody at all? No one even wears fashion; we wear giant neon rubber shoes and sweatpants with writing across the ass, and a little chunk of Tim Gunn's soul dies every time someone clips their cell phone to their belt. It's the same insipid news every half-year — "Color is big this season" — as if there's anything else they could possibly say. Really, color? Fuck you, Anna Wintour: I was just about to release my new clothing line made entirely of Saran wrap and Scotch tape! It would be great if Giuliana de Pandi would warn me the day before we all start wearing Lost in Space-style standard issue silver jumpsuits, but otherwise shut it and you can all just get back to purging.

Here's where all the resentment lives: I don't look like that! No one, except the bimbos and himbos sashaying down the catwalk, looks like that. First of all, these guys are WASPier than the all WASPiest WASPs in Greenwich and Newport Beach put together. Even the Chinese guy is WASPier than I am. (You wouldn't believe how many photos I had to search through to find that guy.) The lower-right photo guy is wearing an ascot. In my world, the only person who can wear an ascot without deserving to be punched in the throat is Freddie from Scooby-Doo, so he better get a Mystery Machine and start explaining how local ghosts are actually evildoers in costumes trying to scare everyone away real damn soon.

Would it kill these fashion designers to make clothes for guys who weren't part of a secret government program to genetically engineer square-jawed, six-packed, clear-skinned male models? Especially since... have you ever taken a look at the behind-the-scenes people at fashion shows? Maybe this chick just doesn't photograph well (not like she doesn't have an army of professionals whose job is to make sure their subjects do photograph well), but Anna Sui needs to stick a lot of fingers down her throat before I'll buy that "camera adds ten pounds" argument from her. These designers are practically all two steps away from being forced into a traveling circus. What kind of vain moron dripping with self-esteem issues takes fashion advice from these people? Halloween costume advice, maybe...

Really, dude? You're gonna wear that baseball cap in your official Fashion Week photo? Going with the sideburns and half-beard? Do you have a World Series of Poker tournament to get to after the show?

And that's just the men, where the only room for design creativity lies across two extremes: flamboyantly gay and enormous prick.

Or a really talented designer could theoretically combine the two: What the hell is this guy so smug about. Someone needs to get him a mirror, then smash his head into it to wipe that smirk off his face.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Jesus Hates Iniquity and Mini-Golf

Lisa and I went mini-golfing at Hyatt Hills, which is a very (cough, cough)... well-manicured course where every other hole is unfortunately shaped like a phallus. I uploaded a satellite photo of the course, and I know there's eighteen holes and only so many shapes you can make them (hint to Sweden: be a little more creative, thanks) but let's try replacing at least one of the cock-and-balls shaped greens with, say, a dogleg or a windmill or frankly anything that's not subliminally trying to make me horny. I know what's going on here: this is an insidious effort by the golfing liberal elite to turn our children gay.

Think about it: which Smurf-blue state is our national adventure golf capital? Colorado? Nope, it's Massachusetts, where they celebrate the Fourth of July with sodomy and group sex. Up there, they've got pirate-themed mini-golf and haunted treasure cave mini-golf, lagoon mini-golf and even (for real) plane crash mini-golf. You know who loves brightly-colored air disasters, right? Children.

On a related note, do they really need to give you a putter when you play mini-golf? Let's just roll the damn ball from now on; it's not like the game doesn't degenerate into cheating by the end of the first hole.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Richard Serra at the MoMA

I saw it. I got in for free. It was bullshit.

But the real shocker was just how bullshit the Richard Serra retrospective (I don't know: is he dead?) was. The pride of the exhibition was its collection of loopy, sinuous, kind of twisted iron walls with names like Torqued Ellipse and and I really have nothing to say about them conceptually. I was a little annoyed about the MoMA's constant admonitions to not touch the artwork, because they are, after all, just rusty iron walls. Unless Superman comes into the museum and starts leaning against stuff, it's not like there's going to be any major shifts in Serra's vision. But overall, I can see their aesthetic value, if not their artistic value and each one's kind of cool.

You walk into but don't touch the first wall circle thing, out in the courtyard, and look around, and you're like, "This is interesting. It's not really a circle and it's at a bit of angle, so it's kind of disorienting." And then you walk into the second one and you're like, "This is interesting. It's not really a circle and it's at a bit of angle, so it's kind of disorienting." There's four or five more inside, and you're like, "This is a little less interesting. It's not really a circle and it's at a bit of angle, so it's kind of derivative of the first two." By the time you walked through the entire exhibit, you feel a little ripped off. I mean, I know they're not all exactly alike, but they're all exactly alike.

Hey MoMA, that's cheating!

It's like if I write my novel and donate it to the library, and then I write my second novel using the first one and Microsoft Word's find and replace feature, and donate that to the library too. Only one counts. And maybe it's cool in Serra's case because maybe the different curvy sculptures were installed in different locations, but if the MoMA's charging twenty bucks to get in, I expect a little variety.

Also, this thing here: not art.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Steve Fossett Wins a Darwin Award

I want to inform you, in case you haven't heard, that dimwit multi-millionaire "adventurer" Steve Fossett and his unfortunate plane have disappeared somewhere over Nevada. It's likely that his days of cheating death have come to an end, and even though Richard Branson is personally coming to every single house in America to officially deliver the bad news, I absolutely refuse to give a damn. People die every day, and I'm totally indifferent — and, admit it, you are too. Last month, a teenager accidentally shot and killed his eleven-year-old relative in Pennsylvania, and I bet you didn't mourn. A drunk driver ran over an elderly woman in Florida. Children die from preventable diseases because they don't have health coverage, or people in third world countries starve because the junta controlling the specious government refuses to distribute food to the populace, and none of it gets a fraction of the attention that a missing rich white guy does. I just don't see what makes Fossett so awesome that his (pending) death deserves international news coverage.

If anybody's going to die, I think it's morally appropriate that, for once, it's someone who willingly took ridiculous, gratuitous risks just to satisfy his gluttony for media attention finally had his dumb, dumb decisions catch up to him.

While we're talking about dead people I don't care about, how about we all finally get over the death of Princess Diana? First of all, she and that guy she was screwing got into a car with a drunk driver. I don't know what sorts of public service announcements they have over in Britain, but on this side of the Atlantic, spoiled princesses don't let their drivers drive drunk. Here, spoiled princesses do their own drunk driving, thank you very much. [You know what, I'm not even going to bother looking up the requisite Paris, Lindsay, etc. links that belong in that previous sentence.] I'm glad they crashed into a wall or whatever, instead of say, into a human being actually following the law. And second, they're the paparazzi, not the yakuza, so I don't know who the hell they thought they were racing away from. Ooh, people want to take your picture; that's a huge price to pay for a lifestyle of obscene luxury most of us will only ever see in, well, pictures of you.

So from now on, I'd appreciate it if we could all just save our sorrow for the deaths that aren't preventable, okay?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

If you haven't had a chance to check out Seth Gordon's unbelievably absurd documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, I suggest getting your inner nerd on and heading out to the theater before this movie disappears way too soon. Yes, it's about grown men (and one really old lady) who play antique video games, like, from the eighties obsessively... and one of these grown men calls Donkey Kong "a metaphor for life" without any irony whatsoever, but these high-score junkies are actors in an epic, never-ending morality play over something so trivial and irrelevant it's literally one of the most amusing things I've ever seen. The main rivalry in competitive gaming — and it's fought out with the same passion that starts riots in British soccer stadiums — is between two men, Billy and Steve, each trying to score the world record in Donkey Kong, although it spirals into a surprisingly resonant story about nothing less than the pursuit of the American dream.

The movie's star is Steve, the movie's Everyman character, although he's anything but when he steps in with the crowd at the arcade. Steve is a nice guy who cries a lot, a loser by birthrite, and an utter failure at everything he's ever done... except for, he discovers after he loses his job, Donkey Kong.

Billy Mitchell is the film's subject, proclaimed "Video Gamer of the [20th] Century," the personification of the Establishment, and one of the best villains ever captured on film. He set a world record in Donkey Kong back in 1982 that went unchallenged for twenty years, and he's carried around a huge sense of entitlement and self-importance ever since. His life has always been full of fame (among the thirty or so people who follow gaming competitions), fortune (there's no monetary prize for any of these games), and beautiful women (another gamer disputes this, and complains about how there are never "any DDG — drop-dead gorgeous — women" in the arcade), and these days Mitchell runs a hugely successful hot sauce business, has a trophy wife, and wears a different patriotic tie every day of the week. And then Steve makes a video of himself beating Mitchell's high score (and also being a less-than-stellar parent in the process) and Mitchell loses his shit, turning paranoid and questioning Steve's game, his video, and his integrity. Mitchell literally sends some of his acolytes — okay, his two acolytes — to break into Steve's house and examine his machine. He's a stream of Machiavellian machinations, totally clueless about how petty he is, believing everybody's laughing with him instead of at him, and oddly, a loser by choice.

But along with the background cast of dorks, dweebs, and doofuses — including the folk-guitar playing referee and some dude who calls himself "Mr. Amazing," The King of Kong makes a subtle point about how we all struggle for respect in the world, and for the forty-year-olds still playing Joust and Contra in the arcade, there's no road to that respect unless you're seen first. I empathize with Steve, a misfit in the real world who even has to push hard to fit into his own little niche... but I'm also happy to say that I understand Billy. He's never going to be a great man, maybe the best he can do is be great at Donkey Kong.

Monday, September 3, 2007


My mother joined Weight Watchers the other day, even though she's not at all fat. But I guess she's seen one too many waify models on the cover of Vogue or, uh, Modern Maturity and now she's got to lose ten pounds or start purging. It's a risk factor thing; I'm sure she saw a health segment on the local news, and she's convinced that she's going to get every single Old Lady Disease known to mankind, plus a few the drug companies haven't even made up yet. It's my personal hope that God grants her an ironic death (not anytime soon), like she reaches her target weight of 135 pounds, then gets hit by a very slow-moving car and the coroner's like, "Man, if she just had ten more pounds of fat on her to absorb the impact..."

The Weight Watchers "flex plan" replaced Mom's old all-tofu and (low-fat) cottage cheese diet, but it's really a step down. The flex plan lets you eat whatever you want, as long as you stay within your points allowance, determined by how poor your metabolism is and how generally unhealthy you are. Mom's points are scarce, and she's reduced to eating rabbit food now, and not even a lot of that... pretty much the absolute minimum sustenance that will keep her alive. The good news is she can have all the water she can drink. How about VitaminWater? Nope, that's one point, which means you're not having low-cal dressing on your salad for lunch today.

The other thing about the flex plan is that you have to measure out — literally, with measuring spoons and cups — one serving of everything you eat. Nobody eats one serving. One serving is ten French fries, or a single slice of bread (I don't know how people at the FDA make a sandwich, but I usually require two), or one cup of salad. Not that you have to gorge yourself, but there used to be a time when you could just eat what you wanted, in moderation, till you weren't hungry anymore. What I find sad is that good food is one of the pleasures of life — and, yeah, it's deleterious, just like every other pleasure in life — but if you're gonna be measuring out every last grain of brown rice and parsley, snacking on carrot sticks while the people around you are having double chocolate brownie fudge ice cream, depriving yourself of hollandaise sauce and filet mignon and wasabi mayonnaise... I think it's easier to just be fat. Especially when you're not fat.