Monthly ArchiveJuly 2007



Movies 31 Jul 2007 09:09 am

So you wanna be a Simpson?

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This is what I would look like as a Simpson. If you want to see how you would fare in the cartoon world, visit simpsonizeme.com, upload a photo of yourself and see what comes out. 

At least the site is honest in saying it is a shameless marketing ploy from Burger King and 20th Century Fox. I’m surprised I’m not holding a burger and fries.  

Commentary 30 Jul 2007 01:28 pm

Complete streets

The July 30 edition of USA Today has a front-page article on local, regional and state attempts to create “complete streets” programs — road designs that take pedestrian and cyclist needs into account.

Apparently, this includes narrowing or eliminating driving lanes to make room for cycling lanes and more sidewalk width. While this is a laudable idea, I don’t see it ever really catching on.

I have been cycling a lot this summer, both as a way to save gas and because my car is often hijacked by the teenager in the house. Most days, I ride it to and from The Review, and usually I am the only non-motorist on the road. I seldom see pedestrians using sidewalks, either.

Maybe Alliance is atypical in this regard, but I bet not. Most of us simply choose to drive. Nine times out of ten, it is my preferred mode of transportation, too. This summer is a weird exception, but I know I will eventually return to clocking the majority of my home-to-work miles in a car.

Of course, cities and states should take non-automobile commuters into account when they design roads, but not at the expense of traffic lanes needed to reduce congestion and move cars and drivers along speedily to their destination.

Like it or not, we are an automobile nation. Nothing — not the high price of gas, nor the danger of increased green house gases — deters us from climbing behind the wheel. Making streets narrower is not a case of “build it and they will come,” because they won’t — not if the destination is cycling and walking, anyway.

Commentary 29 Jul 2007 05:48 pm

Scent and cents

Here’s a weird factoid I wasn’t able to shoehorn into my weekly print column this week: “… people are more than twice as likely to provide change for a dollar to a stranger when within the scent range of a Cinnabon store.”

 This from “Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin” as quoted in “Scent of Cookies Brings out Best in Shoppers,” by Matt Crenson, Las Vegas Review-Journal, October 14, 1996, and later quoted again in the book Coercion: Why We Listen to What “They” Say by Douglas Rushkoff, which is where I read it — and where the direct quote above originated.

Maybe I’ll experiment with this sometime. My wife reminds me that we shared a Cinnabon the morning of our wedding. Maybe the scent weakened me enough that she got the ring around my finger.

Commentary 27 Jul 2007 11:39 am

“Public Water Source”

Pepsi will begin labeling Aquafina water with “Public Water Source” to let consumers know the product comes right out of the tap.

This is supposed to quell the nation’s thirst for bottled water, but it won’t do much good. Years ago, news reports started to surface that much of the fancy bottled water we buy and drink to the tune of $15 billion a year was no better than what comes out of our home spigots, and that the plastic bottles were clogging up landfills unnecessarily.

Nobody really cared.

I’m drinking a Dasani water while writing this, as a matter of fact. The label says it is “purified water” and “enhanced with minerals for a pure, fresh taste,” but supposedly it comes from public water supplies, too.

Yet I still drink it, even though I know it’s silly. It is more convenient to keep cold and transport than tap water, which isn’t always around when you need it. I have been tapering off, though. Now when I’m at the gym, I drink water from the fountain. At work, I’ve been trying to do the same. At home, though, I drink Dasani. Maybe I think it makes me more cultured. Score another triumph for marketing.

Commentary 26 Jul 2007 05:17 am

Aesop misremembered

I had occasion this week to remember — or misremember, as it turns out — one of Aesop’s fables.

Early Tuesday morning, one of our cats knocked a drinking glass off the cupboard, shattering it. I thought I had cleaned up all the shards, but guess what? I stepped on one with my bare foot later that day. Ouch.

After attempting to remove the piece myself and having no luck, soliciting my wife to do the same (with the same result), and spending a miserable 12 hours alternately walking on the outside of my left foot and soaking it in warm water, I surrendered and went to the doctor. He removed the offending sliver in about three minutes; it felt like he was digging the foundation for a skyscraper on the bottom of my foot, but the damn glass was out.

This led me to recall Aesop’s fable about a lion with a thorn in its paw. I could have sworn the story involved a mouse, whom the lion had earlier spared, happening upon the suffering beast and removing the thorn, proving that even the small could be of service to the mighty.

But when I looked up the story in a collection of fables, the thorn became a net, the lion was trapped by hunters, and the little mouse chewed away the restraints. An online search revealed a story with a lion and a thorn, but the mouse became a shepherd, who pulled out the splinter and was later thrown to the lions as punishment for a crime he didn’t commit. His friend in the animal kingdom spared him.

The moral was the same, but did I misremember the lion, mouse and thorn being in the same story, or am I thinking of a cartoon version, or what’s the deal?

Movies 25 Jul 2007 12:25 pm

There’s no need to fear…

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In this ultra-PC world we live in, I thought sure the tag line for the new Underdog movie — “One nation, under dog” — would draw some complaints, but nothing yet.

Maybe I’ve finally underestimated the intelligence of the American public.

 Anyway, “Underdog” opens Aug. 3. It looks fun.

Books 24 Jul 2007 11:53 am

The Book of Fate

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Brad Meltzer has mastered the craft of writing the modern commercial thriller. He presents his latest, “The Book of Fate,” in a breezy style with ultra-short chapters (most are four or five pages, seldom more) that end on a twist, and he rotates about half a dozen characters into and out of various conflicts with a corrupt cartel bent on defrauding the government.

Meltzer succeeded in getting me to finish the book, despite a protagonist who was wimpy and unsympathetic and a plot that didn’t exactly live up to its back-cover hype as an American twist on “The Da Vinci Code.” I guess that is an authorial victory of sorts. Still, I can’t help but shrug my shoulders and say “So what?”

This one kills time, but it is nothing special.

Family life & Movies 23 Jul 2007 09:28 am

The Midway

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 On state Route 59 in Ravenna sits the Midway Twin Drive-In, one of the few remaining drive-ins in the area and a definite throwback to an earlier era.

My wife and I decided to go this weekend. Our last trip to the drive-in was in 1995, when we saw a double-bill of “Free Willy 2″ and “Braveheart.” We had taken our daughter and had to leave after the antics of the lovable killer whale when it became apparent that the R-rated mayhem of “Braveheart” (not to mention the sight of Mel’s bare buttocks) was not appropriate family fare. A strange double-bill, that.

At any rate, we went back Saturday night to see “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” and “Knocked Up.” It didn’t matter so much what the movies were, it was the experience that was so much fun.

The drive-in’s Web site said all patrons bringing in outside food and drink would be charged $5 extra per car for a food and beverage permit. The explanation was that most of the  admission price ($16 per car) went back to studios and distributors; the theater makes its profits from concession sales.

We agreed to play along and left our food and water at home. The snack bar line was horrendously long; we waited about 20 minutes to buy a bottle of water, a Diet Pepsi, and two soft pretzels. The length of time between the two films also wasn’t long enough to get us back to our seats from the obligatory restroom break (all that water and Pepsi took its toll), so that was a bummer, too.

But, overall, we had a blast. We had a great seat, patrons around us were throwing footballs and Frisbees and sitting out in lawn chairs, visiting and being considerate yet friendly. Gone are the old sound boxes that need clipped to your window; now, you tune in stereo sound through your car’s FM radio.

Seeing a movie under the stars brought back memories of childhood when my parents would load my sister and me into the car for double features east of Alliance or to the west in Harrisburg. I remember seeing the 1976 “King Kong” that way, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (those nighttime skies dovetailed perfectly with the night sky around the screen) and “Blade Runner,” too.

We will definitely go back, and hopefully before another 12 years passes! This one gets the Schillig seal of approval, for whatever that is worth. To learn more about Midway, click here.  To see a vintage concession stand clip, click the image at the top of this post.

Commentary & Media 21 Jul 2007 06:28 pm

Shark Week

It’s ironic (or maybe just coincidental) that the same time the Discovery Channel touts its annual Shark Week programming by saying sharks seldom attack humans, a shark goes and attacks a human. And an Ohio man at that.

Reminds me of a statistic I read once that vending machines kill more people annually than sharks do. Here’s a link.

Media 20 Jul 2007 08:59 am

Sounds like a repeat

CBS is holding a casting call on Aug. 1 for a new reality show called “Kid Nation.”

The concept is to turn 40 kids loose for 40 days in a ghost town in New Mexico and allow them to build their own society. The promo on the CBS site looks like other so-called “reality” shows out there: Heroes and villains, a princess who won’t do physical labor, an idealist who believes he is representing all kid-kind, and so forth.

I’m going to pass on this one, Besides, I’ve read it before. It was called “Lord of the Flies.”

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