Superman reruns, or returns, and so does Johnny Cash, sort of

Hipster shirts for your dog, including a Von Bitch T.

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The teaser trailer for Superman Returns came out last Thursday evening, attached to the latest Harry Potter movie. The few glimpses imply a remake of the Richard Donner Superman--we have the John Williams score, the same Jor-El voice, the same uniform and hairstyle, the same improbably penthouse apt. for Lois Lane on a journalist's salary, the same unknown actor donning the red underwear--but then I clicked on story and realized it really is supposed to be a return of sorts. Where did he go? The trailer didn't excite me enough to care.
How is it that Jor-El can continue to speak to Superman about present events. Is he like Obi-Wan Kenobi, part of the Force in some way? If that is so, and I were Clark, I'd definitely have him record my answering machine message. Marlon Brando as Jor-El: "Whom do you seek? [long pause] I jest. My one and only son, Kal-El, whom you know as Clark, is not present. But I have sent him to you, because you are a people of promise, a people who need merely a light to guide you, and so, if you should deign to leave your name and whereabouts, I shall send him to you, my one and only son, my [beep]"

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Perhaps this is the real reason for the war in Iraq: to capture a new market for Fox's The Simpsons, or Al Shamshoon as it's translated in the Middle East. Homer is now Omar, and in deference to the Koran, forbidden items such as Duff's beer and bacon have been replaced. [Thx Arya]

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The Movies101 selection last Wednesday was Walk the Line. When the title was announced, the woman behind me squealed with delight and kicked me in the back of my head. I was less than sanguine, not because of the sharp blow from her pointed heels, but because biopics, let alone those about musical luminaries, are not my cup of tea.
Prof. Brown prefaced the movie with a long disclaimer absolving the filmmakers of any blame for any liberties they took with Cash's life. He believes that in condensing a life into two hours, it's not only acceptable but necessary to abbreviate and remix a person's life so that it tells a good story (his primary requirement for a movie).
I agree that movies that have to condense a lot of material--biopics, adaptions of long novels--have to convey the spirit of a person without rehashing their entire lives. But to me that's not an excuse for gross simplification or omission. Many people watching biopics become so tied up in the illusion that they believe that what's depicted on screen is how that person actually was; that's a lot of responsibility. Most often, biopics seem to cross the boundaries of acceptable artistic license by cleaning up the protagonist and by sullying the antagonist. Hollywood believes we want our heros to sport a core of decency below any cinematic soot our enemies unambiguously dark, with black hat and sinister mustache translated into the appropriate time period.
I'm actually not an expert on Johnny Cash's life, so I can't comment on this movie's accuracy in depicting his life, or his spirit. Contrary to what many are saying, Joaquin Phoenix does not sound like Johnny Cash (who does, really?), but he channels the spirit of the music, sending his voice down into the earth, and that's what matters. Reese Witherspoon sparkles. I know nothing of June Carter, but if Witherspoon isn't channeling her spirit, then whoever she's playing is still fascinating. Both Phoenix and Witherspoon are shoo-ins for Best Actor/Actress Oscar nominations: these are the right types of roles, the right types of performances.
I'm less gung-ho about the movie itself. It still has the fairy-tale quality of a biopic, even if it covers some dark territory (though nothing dark enough to match the grit of Cash's music itself). If anyone ever does a biography of my life, I hope it's Hollywood, because then I know that I'll come off well.

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When I was growing up, my mother used bajiao (eight feet), or the star anise, to make beef stew. I never could appreciate the flavor, only because every time I bit into one of those eight-legged stars while eating my mouth would be assaulted by that bitter licorice taste.
So it's a bit ironic to me that star anise is now one of the most coveted spices in the world because it provides the shikimic acid at the heart of Tamiflu.

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The most popular recommendation I received for my cold (and thank you all for the unsolicited plugs for your favorite remedies) was Airborne. It's a preventative measure, to be taken as soon as you feel a cold coming on. It's a pill that combines lots of popular cold cures, from zinc and echinacea to vitamins C, E, and A. It's an aggregation strategy product, like putting lotion in Kleenex, or combining teeth whitening and tartar control substances in toothpaste.
I've never taken anything that's helped me to stave off a cold. If I feel the symptoms developing, the cold always follows. Some medications have helped me to combat the symptoms of a cold. Still, I'm willing to give anything a try, so I've added some Airborne to my medicine cabinet for a test next time.

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I decided to shelve the turducken idea for Thanksgiving. In the end, it just sounded too gimmicky. Here's another aggregation product, but in the end the idea of combining the flavors of those three meats just didn't sound intriguing enough to drop $100.
A different product has caught my eye: the 72 oz. steak. As illustrated in an episode of The Simpsons and in John Candy's The Great Outdoors, attempting to devour an enormous slab of red meat in one sitting is a time-honored American tradition. Among the interesting trivia of this long-standing contest:
Frank Pastore, a professional pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds, ate the complete steak dinner in a record that still stands today of just 9½ minutes back in May of 1987.
He failed to make the team in Spring Training and was out of baseball that same year.

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Stream the new Ryan Adams album, 29.

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Sometimes when I listen to Bush and his Administration speaking about the war in Iraq, I'm reminded of the concluding scenes of Aguirre, the Wrath of God, when some of Aguirre's companions sit on the raft, driven mad by illness and hunger. Meanwhile, one by one they succumb to the arrows from near invisible enemy, Indians hiding in the forest to either side. An arrow pierces a man's leg.
"That is not an arrow," he says.
He sees the carcass of a ship, sitting high up in a tree.
"There is no ship," he says.
It's a beautiful sequence, because Herzog does not show most of the attacks. Aguirre simply finds one body after another, a poisonous arrow in the neck. Aguirre holds his daughter, and then the camera tilts down, and we see an arrow in her chest.