Colgate 2-in-1 Liquid Gel

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The best part is the packaging

A year ago for Christmas (not as a main gift, mind you) I was presented with a new “breakthrough” in toothpaste technology. While not as exciting as say, a whale watching trip that I didn’t get to go on, or a book about tractors, or a jacket that was too small, it was useful and interesting, and like I said, a small gift relative to others. Colgate 2-in1, Toothpaste and Mouthwash, presented in a small, steamlined plastic bottle, claims to combine the two steps into one easy motion, for all of you who want to both brush and fight GINGAVITIS!, but are too lazy to deal with the pesky two-step process. So with my toothbrush and new tooth”paste” (as it would turn out, the “paste” was actually a liquidy gel, more akin to GoGurt than toothpaste) in hand, I went off to try them out. I’m not too picky about toothpastes, but my teeth are quite sensitive, especially the molars in the back, and so certain intensities will cause me some pain. Of course, with mouthwash mixed in with the toothpaste, the toothpaste is going to be strong, no matter what the flavor, and I was handed my first defeat (for those of you interested, i’m presently using Crest Sensitivity Toothpaste, to help with an exposed nerve on one of my molars, something I was also dealing with then.) I handled the EXTREME BLAST OF ICY FLAVOR, though, thinking, “Meh, it’ll build character“.

With more brushing, however, I realized that this tooth”paste” didn’t do the one thing that most toothpastes do to let you know they’re working. It was impossible to work this very watery gel into a lather in my mouth. There was no foaming action like the diagram, (which actually, kinda looks a little disgusting) shows. I rinsed and spit, my mouth feeling minty but not clean. I’m thinking that maybe they relied on the mouthwash a little too much and didn’t add enough toothpaste, and so hopefully it at least killed the bacteria that cause GINGAVITIS!, but I really wasn’t feeling confident about it.

The next morning when I went to give it a second try, I found something quite curious. Even after rinsing out the brush multiple times over the night before, the bristles on my “Soft Bristle Sensodine” Toothbrush were hard, caked in place and scratchy to the touch. Brushing, it hurt my gums, and obviously was not to nice to the sensitive area. I rinsed it again, this time making sure to do it numerous times, and when done, I tried to spray off the excess water with my finger. Sure enough, the next time I went to brush, the toothbrush was the same as before. I figured that it must be the brush and so I opened an entirely new toothbrush, and after brushing with it once, found that the same thing had happened. The only other proof I needed was that after using my original toothpaste, of which I went out and bought a small tube, on this new brush, the bristles were still caked together, as if I hadn’t done any rinsing at all. So the reaction was permanent, and was caused by the 2-in-1 toothpaste, on multiple occasions. Actually, I doubt the reaction was permanent, I just didn’t have the patience to use a harsh toothbrush over and over with new toothpaste, until I worked it back into shape.

*

Colgate 2-in-1 Toothpaste receives 1 star for having a harsh chill to it, not leaving my mouth feeling clean, and most greivous of all, ruining two toothbrushes for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, some people who like to use mouthwash more than toothpaste may find it a useful time-saving tool.

Getting Older

I’ve realized recently that I’m rapidly approaching fogey-hood, and I have nothing to show for it. I’m simply older; not wiser, not more experienced, not more distinguished. Just older. As I rapidly approach the beginning of my 23rd year, it’s more and more obvious that it’s all going downhill from now on. Why now instead of my 22nd or 21st year? Well, it all started when I fell, just like when someone refers to an “old” person falling. There’s no good reason (I tripped on a baseball bat too many days ago, a product of my halcyon days of youth, a not too metaphorical symbol of the way my youth consistently laughs at me.), and just like with old people, my shoulder, which was what broke my fall, still hurts. The pain will go away but not the memory of practically being on my way to re-enacting an “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up” commercial. In fact, I should probably invest in one of those emergency signal senders for when it happens again.

(Not so) Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo
Hunter with Gun = bat, dead buffalo = me. That’s right, it’s metaphor week at emptybookshelf.com

And of course, There are the inevitable “hair” issues, whether its turning gray or being on its way to Costanza-itis. Gray isn’t distinguished, it’s just gray, especially in splotch form. Granted, it’s not there yet, but it will be. Next is arthritis; being that I already have a re-made knee, it will likely be ground zero for the future infestation. Even for my (also aged) peer group, the now less-than-annual football games create nothing other than increasingly serious injuries and weeks of recovery instead of the day or so of not that many years ago. (In other news, if anyone wants to see or participate in an age-based train wreck, come out to the South Mountain/Dodd athletic field on the Friday after Thanksgiving. That’s Nov. 25 for those of you who don’t believe in taking advantage of Indians.)

*½

Getting Older receives one-and-a-half stars due to its inevitability, intransigence, and, uh, in-sucktitude. Why not zero stars? Well, I’m sure that something as omnipotent as aging has a lot of say in the karma department, so I don’t want to make it mad this early in the game.

The Cleveland Marriot Downtown at Key Center

This review is the final installment of the Cleveland Trifecta

A programming note: Being that one of the goals of this site is to avoid becoming a “rant blog,” I’ll apologize for my three most recent reviews. (Those two links are only coincidentally related to computer topics — they’re on the first page of google results for “rant blog.” You guys strike me as the type that check your ‘external page links’ section of your log analyzer, so that’s why you’re getting some hits from this crazy, random site) Upon deciding to review a collection of three Cleveland-related things, I didn’t realize that even though I was planning on negative reviews, my opinions weren’t creatively negative. There’s nothing wrong with negativity, but unfortunately, the way that the Cleveland items were bad was more in the “disappointed” way than the “this sucks more than anything has ever sucked before” way. So, with that in mind, on to the last Cleveland-related review.

The Cleveland Marriot at...
The Cleveland Marriot at…

With a ridiculous name like “The Cleveland Marriot Downtown at Key Center,” I should’ve known something was up. I have exceedingly low expectations when it comes to hotels. I’m even less of a snob about hotels/motels than I am about restaurants, and the fact that I consider hotels and motels to be in the same category should let everyone know how I go about choosing lodging. Just like the ChopHouse & Brewery, prices were high and because of that, so were my expectations. There was a special group discount rate due to the eye show, but due to the fact that it was very much in the middle of “metropolitan” Cleveland, and was (at least superficially) rather fancy, I had high expectations, as I’m sure that the Marriot expects that of their customers.

Even though work paid for the stay, I’m still hesistant to even spend someone else’s money for a hotel over $75/night, much less the Marriot’s $160. Much of that price is due to the fact that, again, it’s in the middle of downtown, but still, it’s Cleveland. In all fairness to the hotel, I’m not really the target market; I travel on “business,” but I’m still rather cheap thrifty, so I’m not the type to rave about the quality of the food brought by room service, if only for the fact that I could never justify spending that sort of money to eat-in (or out, for that matter). Regardless, whether or not I’m part of the “target market,” I was staying at (deep breath) The Cleveland Marriot Downtown at Key Center.

The Key Center is one of the modern-looking skyscrapers that I talked about in my review of Cleveland, and the “Marriot Downtown” is, obviously, a hotel that occupies a fair amount of space of this skyscraper (It’s a Cleveland-sized skyscraper, so 57 floors, not anything really big but still tall enough to make you dizzy when looking up at it from the ground.

The hotel itself had doormen, a concierge, and all of that fancy stuff, so again, even though I wasn’t really planning on using those services, I can’t hold it against the hotel for offering them. My room was on the 15th floor, facing the lake (and Browns Stadium), so the view was nice, but being that I was there for work, it’s not like I really spent that much time in the room, anyway (again, not the hotel’s fault). The bed had about 10 pillows of pretty much every shape and size (apparently, an obscene amount of pillows is par for the course in “fancier” hotels these days), and the bed was comfortable, but not Tempurapedic comfortable, but no hotels have beds that nice, anyway.

At this point, I guess I’m really just reviewing this hotel based on how much better $160/night is compared to ~$70/night. Having stayed at a hotel in that latter price point a couple weeks earlier, I was expecting more and better, beyond the convenience of not having to commute to/from the hotel to the convention center. I guess it’s been said that the more expensive hotels are, the more you have to pay for conveniences. The $70 hotel offered both wired and wireless internet access for free, while The Cleveland Marriot Downtown at Key Center offered a free “demo” of TV-based internet, and of course, the “demo” simply said “It’s the Internet — On Your TV!!! Only $9.95 per day!!!” Wired and wireless access were also $9.95 per day. I guess it’s a matter of the “businessmen” that need an internet connection will pay for it, even if it’s $19.95 per day, but it strikes me as cheap. Is that the only complaint I have about the hotel, no free internet access? Well, I didn’t end up buying it any of the days, but it definitely would have made my job simpler, as some doctors had questions about content on the website and so on.

***

The Cleveland Marriot Downtown at Key Center receives three stars due to the fact that even though it was rather pricey, they skimped on the fact that if they consider themselves to be the “business traveller’s destination” (my words, their insinuation), most all business travellers have some sort of need for an internet connection, and charging for it on top of a rather high daily rate only serves to make the hotel look cheap, not accomodating. Also, perhaps even more damningly, that insufferable dropping of the “the” in The Cleveland Marriot Downtown at (where’s the “THE?!”) Key Center” and the fact that they always include “The” at the beginning really grinds my gears.

Thursday


A review of the actual day, not the “Post hardcore” band

Thursday is probably the most overlooked day of the week, aside from Sunday. While Sunday is the day of regret followed by wild Saturday nights and the disappointing realization that the weekend is over and tomorrow is Monday, Thursday will forever live sandwiched between the more popular Wednesday and the most popular day of the week, Friday. Thursday is like that last week of school; you have to go, but you’re more anxious because tomorrow is Friday. You don’t really appreciate the day for what it’s worth. When Wednesday is over, you don’t say, “Woot, tomorrow is Thursday!!!11!”; you say, “It’s almost Friday. The week is half over!!1!”

There used to be a time when Thursday had something to show for itself at least. Monday was the dreaded day, Tuesday was kind of a fun throwaway day when DVDs and Music were released, Wednesday signified the coming of the lazy half of the week, and Thursday night signified the early coming of the weekend with NBC’s “Must-See TV” lineup. Of course, by the end of its run “Must-See TV” became as much of an exaggeration as saying that Ryan Leaf was the second coming of Joe Montana. Now, Thursday night TV can’t even offer us anything better than CSI. Seriously, who would be interested in seeing Donald Trump’s toupee fire people?

Because of this lack of Thursday entertainment, the only other thing to do is get a jump of the weekend drinking, or Thisty Thursday as it’s called. Just ignore the fact that we have to get up for class/work the next day, because, like I said before, Friday really doesn’t count, like the last day of school. To me, Thirsty Thursday just seems to be one more step to making it more acceptable to be an alcoholic, but that’s just my opinion.

*½

Thursday gets one and a half stars, as the only thing it brings to the table is the anticipation that Friday is right around the corner, and thus, the weekend is here. Sunday, and Monday, however, would fare worse than this, as one is completely overlooked, and the other is dreaded to the point of having songs written about how much people hate it.

The Cleveland ChopHouse & Brewery

This review is the second leg of the Cleveland Trifecta

There’s nothing worse than not getting what you pay for. I’m no “fine diner;” I don’t consult dining guides (Zagat’s, Mobil, or the new-as-of-today Michelin guide for New York). Some have called me a picky eater, but this isn’t “picky” due to anything other than the fact that there’s a reasonable amount of food I simply don’t like. I’m not talking about, “my god, I could never eat a cheeseburger from McDonald’s!” but a more straightforward dislike of particular foods (fish, onions, and so on). That makes me a picky eater but not a selective eater. In no way shape or form am I too good for a restaurant; I’ll eat anywhere, but though this doesn’t mean that I’m not allowed certain expectations of a particular restaurant. Especially expensive ones.

Not the best picture in the world.
The best picture I could find.

Choosing price as the index, restaurants can be broken up into five categories: fast food/convenience food (McDonald’s, Wawa), family dining (Friendly’s, Perkin’s), theme dining (Outback, Olive Garden), upscale dining (there aren’t really national examples of this… though P.F. Chang’s would count while The Cheescake Factory straddles the line between theme and upscale), and fine dining (the restaurants found in the Michelin guides). Very few people have the money to visit these “fine dining” establishments and many areas don’t even have any of these restaurants within reasonable distance. All this is to say that at each price point there are particular expectations. Every now and then a fast food restaurant offers something better than an entree at a Perkin’s-type restaurant, but that’s not expected. These positive “category jumps” are rare, and it’s found much more frequently that a restaurant in a higher category only manages to deliver the quality expected at a lower price point. The Cleveland ChopHouse & Brewery is one of these restaurants.

Looking for a nice-ish place to eat after a full-day of conventioning, I took a walk toward the “warehouse district” of downtown Cleveland (the rough geography has been previously discussed) around 9:00pm (yes, late but not a problem as most places closed at 11). Most every restaurant was in that “upscale dining” category, so wherever I’d choose, a not insignificant amount of money would be spent. Simply, The Cleveland ChopHouse & Brewery was the most eye-catching of the options.

The intentionally sparesely decorated space was dimly lit and moderately full, with a combination of the sounds of jazz music from the speakers and conversations throughout the space. I’m not picky about interiors or decor, so even though it was perfectly comfortable, it didn’t strike me as anything special, but the three (+?) shiny vats (hence the “brewery” part of the name) were eye-catching in their glassed-in section of the main room. A better than neutral experience so far, but the unfriendliness of the hostess was the beginning of the end of any meaningful positive experiences to be had. I don’t need to be pampered or coddled to, but you’d think that in the usually limited interaction (“Non-smoking please” “ok”) there wouldn’t even be room for someone to be unfriendly, but apparently I said the wrong thing. The table was perfectly fine and happened to face a TV. Water service began right away, but that was it for about 15 minutes. No servers stopped by to take a drink order for those 15 minutes until one stopped by after seeing how long I was sitting. Naturally between that order was taken and its arriving, the actual server came by to take my drink order again. Having worked at a restaurant, I know how much servers hate when customers at a table they’re not serving need to get something from the proper server, so I didn’t say anything. When the proper server came by, she was very apologetic about how long I had to wait, but in that “I’m apologizing even though it’s not my fault” sort of way, like when the food is under/over-cooked. Except, in this case, it is usually the server’s fault (more restaurant experience talking here). Oh well.

Bread service began (a small pie pan’s worth of fresh corn bread with honey butter…. rather good), but my now twice-ordered drink was still MIA. Of course once I had enough of the bread, the drink showed up. It was some sort of “Irish Stout” made in the brewery section of the facility, and I’m not beer connisseur, but it was fine, sort of like Guinness without as much of the cigarette butt taste.

At a new-to-me restaurant, no matter how expensive, I have a simple strategy for deciding what to order: pick three things from the menu, ask the server what they like, and pick one that was common with my list. This happened to be Shrimp Scampi. **A note on this selection. Some have said, “Why would you get shrimp at a steak house. You should get beef.” Well, it’s not like seafood is any cheaper at these restaurants, and they claim to specialize in “steaks, chops, and seafood.” Naturally, it took a particularly long time to get to my table, but it (and the mashed potatoes it came with) were “just finished” hot, so at least it hadn’t been sitting in a heat lamp or equivalent (restaurant experience tells you when it’s “just finished” hot or “heat amp” hot). The whole “steak house” thing usually implies slow (“relaxed” might be a better word?) service, but without making a stupid joke about them pulling the shrimp out of the lake, it took forever.

The actual entree was ok. For $26.95 I’m not looking for ok. There’s nothing bad to say about it, but nothing good to say either. It was shrimp scampi, just that simple. No particularly interesting flavors, just plain old shrimp scampi. Some say that the “atmosphere” is included in those prices, but as discussed above, it wasn’t anything special either.

*½

The Cleveland ChopHouse & Brewery receives one-and-a-half stars due to its not meeting expectations set by attempting to establish itself as an “upscale” restaurant. This is decidedly different than confusing hype and product, as restaurants create their own hype/expectations simply by deciding which price point to which they intend to cater. These expectations are as much a part of a dining experience as the food itself, especially for pricier restaurants. If a restaurant in a lower price category receive higher star ratings, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are “better.” They are simply better for the price point. Soon there will be a higher level discussion of star ratings to attempt to establish “rules.” Go Rules!

“Beth” by KISS


Caution: This cover contains no less than four lies.

Just a few more hours
and I`ll be right home to you
I think I hear them callin
Oh Beth what can I do
Beth what can I do

“Beth” was KISS’s first and, most likely, only top ten hit; originally a b-side from their 1976 album Destroyer, released on the flip side of “Detroit Rock City”. Written primarily by drummer Peter Criss, “Beth” has the dual distinctions of being the only song other than “Rock and Roll All Night (And Party Ev-er-y Day)” to still get radio airplay on rock formatted stations (seemingly played “Ev-er-y” day by area station WZZO), as well as probably the wussiest rock single ever to be certified gold. While most of segments at KISS concerts involve loud, hard rocking; over-the-top makeup and costumes; seizure-inducing lighting schemes; guitars that shoot flames; blood dripping from Gene Simmons’ eight inch tongue; and most likely legions of women throwing various undergarments in the direction of the band, the staging for “Beth” consists of a single spotlight beaming down on Criss as he bellows from a stool to a prerecorded backing track. You see, despite being written by a drummer, the song contains no percussion. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find any “rock” instruments in it. The accompaniment consists of a heavyhanded string section and a piano, lightly highlighting the melody line.
What makes this song so terrible isn’t just the arrangement of it, though. It’s the arrangement combined with the subject matter. You see, while most of the album’s songs deal with rocking, becoming a god of rocking, living out your dreams by rocking, shouting out loud, dying in a car accident on the way to rocking, or the pleasures of S+M, “Beth”‘s theme is asking permission of your girlfriend/wife to spend the night rocking. That’s right. A guy in a band whose acronym stand for “Knights in Satan’s Service” is on the phone, pleading with his girlfriend to let him stay out a few hours because the band can’t get the song done the way they want. Peter,Peter, Peter, haven’t you learned anything from hanging around with Gene? You’re in effing KISS! You don’t ask permission! You just do it! It’s not even like you’re out partying all night or every day. You’re just playing in your band, singing songs about partying… and maybe shooting some flames out of a guitar. You shouldn’t have to ask permission if you’re on the clock. Especially if you’ve fought– and defeated– the “Phantom of the Park“.
What makes this song laughable though, is its grandiose nature. Criss has taken something truly mundane, and potentially humiliating in the rock community, and treated it with overwrought seriousness, movie score-scope strings, and a deadpan, raspy, wheezing delivery that would make Rod Stewart proud. Come on Peter, be a man!

**

“Beth” gets two stars for managing to stay around for so long, being the only top ten hit off of twenty-six albums released by the band, and somehow finding a way to make hardcore fans forget about the flames, lights, and fake blood, if only for a brief time. On the other hand, it’s probably the most unwarrantedly dramatic song I’ve ever heard, and would do good to be the anthem for a large population of men who are whipped. I guess that’s why Gene had the demon makeup and Criss was dressed like a cat.

Cleveland, Ohio

This review is the first leg of The Cleveland Trifecta

Cleveland is a very weird city. The stereotypes surrounding it are…um, everything that goes with the “Cleveland Rocks” intro of The Drew Carey Show and people who look like Drew Carey and like the Browns. That’s not really much upon which to base my good-intentioned prejudicing.

Wishful Thinking
Wishful Thinking

I’ve actually been to Cleveland three times in the era of my life I can remember. The first visit was high school trip, and the only “feel” of the city I got was from the 50 or so feet between where the bus dropoff point and the entrance to an attraction (The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and The Hard Rock Cafe), so that first trip doesn’t count. In the last two years, to attend the East West Eye Conference, I’ve made the trip twice. Unfortunately, I’m sort of an expert on downtown Cleveland. Maybe some Cleveland fans can inform me that where I stayed/visited is depressing and/but there’s another “downtown” not so business-oriented that is unspecifically better.

Anyway, on to business:
The Chicago Loop (a section of “downtown” Chicago) is dead after 5 or so each weekday and all weekend because there’s no more work to be done, and there are lots (and lots) of other bustling areas still “downtown” to do things. To be in the “loop” after hours is a bit unsettling, skyscrapers that go way up, traffic lights doing their thing, but very little traffic and even fewer people. Downtown Cleveland is just like this, but all the time. Except instead of no people, Cleveland some of the most aggressive panhandlers/homeless people that I’ve ever come across. So it also has that goin’ for it, which is nice.

To better paint a picture, one can cross any street downtown during business hours (or any hours, really) without looking in either direction and not get hit by a car. This isn’t because the drivers are friendly and slow down to avoid hitting pedestrians; it’s because there aren’t many drivers. Likewise, I found no McDonald’s in downtown Cleveland. McDonald’s isn’t a sign of class, just a universal symbol of people being busy and needing a fast, cheap place to eat. The only other “quick” food I could find was a run-down Subway and some hole-in-the-wall reuben deli/eating area (I think the reuben is Cleveland’s official sandwich). All of this weirdness is compounded by the fact that the downtown is clean and exhibits lots of new/newish buildings. Unless there’s some other downtown area, it’s like the people go to these buildings at 8 or 9 in the morning then zip out of the general area around 5.

There’s a hip/trendy (read: expensive) part of downtown called “The Warehouse District,” where if you want to spend $30 for yourself on dinner and wait interminably to get it, it’s a great chance. But even here, especially at what should be busy times (weekend nights), it’s oddly quiet. Something doesn’t feel right when you and your “work buddies” are part of the ten people in a bar at midnight-thirty on a Saturday night. These businesses (restaurants, bars, etc.) stay in business, so the rent must be shockingly low for such metropolitan locations. The football stadium is part of the “downtown,” so it (the whole area) must get busier on football Sundays, but that’s only 8 Sundays each year unless the Browns happen to make it into the playoffs (good luck with that).

**

Cleveland, Ohio receives two stars due to its general “deadness” and obliviousness regarding that “deadness.” (Songs talking about how much it “rocks” paint an ignorantly optimistical picture.) Its positive points are earned from its aesthetic appeal (minus the fact that there’s no challenge when playing “I Spy a smelly bum”) and the 45 minutes of walking around before the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame gets old.

The Hype Surrounding This Week’s “Trading Spouses”

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I’ve never watched Fox’s Trading Spouses. I’ll never watch it again. But I watched it last night, and I’m glad I did. You might’ve seen the ads, “THE BIGGEST REALITY BLOW-UP EVER!!!” or something like that. Considering all of the times that people could remember details of the commercials, but not the product that the commercial advertised, the producers of the TV spots did a great job in that I can’t even remember the tagline of the commercial, but I remember that the show was to be aired Wednesday night at 9pm and was called “Trading Spouses” and some lady was to go crazy.

Trading Spouses
She loves Jesus…and cake. Yep, it’s also “mean week’ at emptybookshelf.com

Actually, Fox had been using the same commercials to advertise the episode for two weeks. If I were reviewing the ad campaign (as opposed to the hype), points would be docked due to the fact that last week’s episode did not contain the lady freaking out. It was similar to when Fox had promised a conclusion to Joe Millionaire but instead broadcast a clip show. To be honest, due to my allegiance to watching professional wrestling (credibility alert!), I’m much more accustomed to unfulfilled televisionary promises than I’d prefer to be. I did not watch or attempt to watch last week’s episode, but after seeing the same intriguing commercials from the week before, this time with even more adamant promises of “THE BIGGEST MELTDOWN EVER!!!” it became required viewing.

To be honest, I actually didn’t even watch the whole thing; I figured that the good part would be towards the end so I flipped to Fox around 9:35. For those of you wondering what the whole reason for her flipping out. In simplest terms, she didn’t like the fact that non-Christians were in her house. You’d think that there was more to it than that, but there really isn’t beyond some context. So, the context: the “traded spouses” were the mothers/wives in, respectively, a very traditional Southern Baptist (I think) family and a New Age family whose mother was a fortune teller. So, sort of, hippies versus the old school. Long story short, the “hippy” mom got along wonderfully with the religious woman’s family, but the religious woman went crazy dealing with the “godless” family. [Sort of in her defense, the dad in the New Age family tried to have discussions with the lady to which she wouldn’t take part in due to his “pushing her buttons.” The swap is over, and the religious lady gets reunited with her family and completely goes bonkers, “explaining” how dirty her house is because the “godless” (repeated about a bajillion times) lady spent time in it; she then tells all of the crew to leave, then decides that it’d be ok if the Christian crew stayed; “Only the ones that believe in Jesus can stay. Everyone else goes.”

She went on to say that anyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus is awful, etc. to which her husband says that Jewish people believe in God, and they’re ok. She says that they’re not, as her family is seen freaking out at her (as opposed to with her). Quite the blowup. I’d say that it pushes Evangelism back decades except for the fact that it’s not exactly a secret that there are wacko religious nutjobs out there (yeah, there are also wacko New Age hippy nutjobs out there too, but the New Age family in this show was portrayed to be and actually were quite reasonable, if not understanding about their “new mommy’s” religious beliefs).

Thumbs up (figuratively, don’t worry we’re not out to violate your trademark, Roger) to Fox for not turning the incident into comedy. There was no clown music playing when she freaked out, no “irreverant” narrator doing joke voices, no silly little animations added to embellish the scene. They even edited it in such a way to portray her as someone with some potential deeper (fixable?) issues, not just a Bible-quoting wacko for the anti-religious crowd to laugh about, saying, “See, I told you they were all crazy.”

****½

The Hype Surrounding This Week’s Episode of Trading Spouses receives four-and-a-half stars due to the fact that it was everything I hoped it could be and more. The ads promised an over-the-top freaking out and boy did it deliver. Even though it helped contribute to the hype, the whole tease-and-don’t-deliver ad campaign remains unforgivable, if not unfortunately expected, so that’s half-a-star off. (Lesser reviewers might take off more than half for that.) So much hype was built up once the first week was revealed as a teaser for the melt-down that it really needed to be dynamic. And it was.

Nate’s Review of Good Night, and Good Luck.

Recently, this Site’s integrity has been challenged. A member of our Junior Staff, though well-intentioned, has violated one of the precepts of reviewing. This review reviews that review, explains its shortcomings, then concludes with an establishment of goals for both The Site and its Junior Staff.

Nate takes aim at the press but hits George Clooney instead.
Nate takes aim at the press but hits George Clooney instead.

Having also seen Good Night and Good Luck., I’m more than adequately qualified to weigh in on the movie’s merits (or lack thereof). But why a review of Nate’s review instead of the movie itself? Nate made the oh-so-common mistake of confusing a movie’s hype with the actual movie itself (this confusion can be found in any reviewable product, not just movies.) It’s not George Clooney’s fault that critics think his movie’s all that and a bag of chips. Nate didn’t separate the hype from the product, and because of that, he gave the movie an unfair review, which casts this Site in an equally unfair light.

What I assume to be Nate’s gripes about the movie, what I called its “superficiality” during our initial discussion of it (before the publishing of Nate’s review), should not be gripes. They should be supporting details, leading to an informed opinion, and therefore, an informed review. Was George Clooney doing something evil when he chose to let the historical actions speak for themselves? Is it wrong to assume that history can and will repeat itself? Even if George Clooney were to consider his movie a parable (I do not believe that it is or is meant to be a parable, just a vaguely cautionary tale.), he’s not the first. If we were to consider this movie to be the thread connecting McCarthyism to the “war on terror,” we must remember that this same thread extends also to the Salem Witch Trials in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.” Though “The Crucible” explicitly called back/forward to the HUAC proceedings, it remained a rather superficial examination of a community of fear. Was Arthur Miller only giving Two-and-a-Half stars worth of effort in his famous play, simply because he had the (gasp!) audacity to think to himself, “Gosh, this has happened before, and it’s practically happening again.” Again, though I don’t consider “Good Night, and Good Luck” allegorical, I will say that any “depth” comes solely from the (re)viewers’ minds. If George Clooney were to say, “Gee, I hope that people vote democrat after seeing my movie!” go ahead and spend the effort bashing him (and his movie) because as an allegory, political tool, etc. it fails. It fails miserably.

Because the anti-political crowd (think of “The Daily Show” — soon to be mega-reviewed on this very site) is so large, vocal, and lacking perspective, they’re unaware of the fact that because being against politicians (or claiming that a movie is politically preachy) is just as much a political opinion as hating Hillary Clinton is a political opinion. If they’re looking for “Good Night, and Good Luck” to be a political tool, it will be. It’s been said that human minds better create horror than human eyes. Given the freedom to imagine their personal nightmare as opposed to a finite, real horror, they imagine the worst. George Clooney gives the audience that opportunity: look in the box, and what you see is only what you want to see.

No, it’s not a perfect movie. It does lack depth, it does simply re-create existing history. The actors aren’t so much “acting” as “impersonating.” but despite all of this, it remains intriguing. Metaphorically, I knew McCarthy’s ship would sink, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to watch him scramble for a lifeboat. It is not one of the “best films of the year;” it’s not particularly “important,” no one “needs to see this movie.” But even though other critics are on record saying these things about the movie, George Clooney is not. The movie speaks for itself. It doesn’t say much of value, but certainly more than two-and-a-half stars worth. Nate’s expectations of the critics were not met, not Nate’s expectations of the movie. This is not the fault of the movie or George Clooney. Once the unwarranted, incorrect hyperbole of the critics is cast off, what’s left? A particularly solid, entertaining movie, nothing else. This is not a review of the movie, but a review of Nate’s review. The absolute star ranking of the movie is not important, as its now widely understood that it’s better than the two-and-a-half bitter stars that Nate threw at it. Nate’s review was well-written, had a particularly funny caption for its photo, maintained coherency despite its length, so I will be more fair in my review of his work than his review of Clooney’s.

*½

Due to Nate’s nature as the Site’s Junior-Reviewer -at-Large, we can’t expect perfect, objective reviews. He’s only human. We all are. Should I hold The Site to a higher standard of quality, demanding insight and unbiased objectivity in reviews written by all contributors? Naturally I should (and so should all of the Junior Staff), but until that point arrives, we will use each review as an example in time, a time-capsule of sorts, of each writer’s strengths and weaknesses so that the readership-at-large sees our Junior Reviewers accomplish all of their opinionary goals. What is insight without perspective? What is opinion without foresight? What are sweeping generalizations in the absence of nuance? What is getting on one’s soapbox without a safety net of objectivity? These are the questions for which I know the answers and for which The Site’s readership demand answers. We read on as our Junior staff grabs the first handle in the philosophical jungle-gym that begins the pursuit of their own personal answers to these inquiries. Between the lines of each review we gain a clearer understanding of their answers. Between the lines of each review we see them learning to better tell others what to think. I have utmost confidence in The Site’s Junior Staff’s ability to not only learn from their mistakes, but to rise above them, and truly establish themselves, and therefore, this Site, as a premiere opinion-making entity in the world.

Nate, we’re all rooting for you.

Good Night and Good Luck


“Good Luck” reading all of this review

When Jim Carrey got all dolled up, put on the funny accent, and opened his eyes real wide to play Andy Kaufman way back when, in “Man on the Moon”, everyone was calling it a “revelation”. Nobody believed that somebody could totally embody a role/person as Carrey did. The movie was receiving critical praise from everybody as the rebirth of the “Biopic”. Imagine my suprise when all I saw was a movie that consisted of reenactments of Kaufman’s most famous stunts, with a loose story in between, mostly to bridge the gap from one “happening” to the other. Of course, the inevitable drama in this story eventually came in the prescence of Kaufman’s battle with cancer. Nevertheless, the movie didn’t succeed for me as a whole, because its primary goal wasn’t to give us insight as to what made this person one of the most “enigmatic” performers of his era; it was to remind us of all the cool stuff he did.
That’s exactly how I feel about the new George Clooney movie, “Goodnight and Goodluck”, the story of Edward R. Murrow’s famous on-air battle with Senator Joseph McCarthy. While the movie serves as a timely story about asking tough questions in the face of government/peer pressure to relax and talk about something else, for fear of being labeled unAmerican, it fails to show us any sort of internal confict, any humanizing element of Murrow or his producer Fred Friendly (if that doesn’t sound like a made-up name, I don’t know what does), played by director/co-writer, “Mr.” Clooney, or any emotion at all. Maybe that was a specific choice made by Clooney to amplify Murrow’s stoic and stonefaced nature… to tell the facts like they were and let them speak for themselves, just as Murrow did with McCarthy. This, however, is supposed to be a movie showing us the “epic” battle, shrunk down into an hour and a half. How does the movie accomplish this? Well, considering that nearly all of the confrontation took place on the show, the natural way to show it would be by reenacting it. There’s that word again. I would guess to say that two thirds to three fourths of the screentime is devoted to recreating speeches, television segments, or showing actual file footage of the McCarthy hearings and the Senator’s on-air response to Murrow.
There is very little to the movie other than this. In fact, the bulk of the story outside of these reenactments deals with a husband and wife pair (Robert Downey Jr., and Patricia Clarkson) who work for the show but are keeping their marriage a secret for fear of being let go by the company. The only thing that I could tell that they were there for, as they really didn’t interact with the main two characters at all, was to offer, in a scene in bed, a question as to whether they were doing the right thing in regards to the pieces about McCarthy. I suppose it could be argued that they served to parallel the struggle of in-the-closet Communists, ready to be oppressed at their discovery, but in reality, that’s a stretch. The rest of the staff consists of faceless yesmen who don’t have any objections to doing these pieces, or at least are cowardly enough to have a little fear about their jobs being in jeopardy.
The only other example of conflict/human emotion involved a “troubled” newsanchor (whose “troubled” nature is shown in about 3 scenes total, and again, is only peripherally involved with the story), played by Ray Wise, whose biggest role prior to this was the “troubled” Leland Palmer on “Twin Peaks”… and let’s not forget someone named Randolph Pratt in “The Garbage Picking, Field Goal Kicking Philadelphia Phenomenon” with Tony Danza. He ends up committing suicide because of a single bad newspaper review from a right-wing Hearst newspaper.
I suppose i’m forgetting one other story. The main of these three stories is Murrow’s “Battle” with the network. I tend to forget it as a conflict, because near as I could tell, most of the time it consists of the station chief agreeing with Murrow, and doing all he can to help, even though the sponsors are pulling out. So again, there’s not a ton of conflict there, until the end, when the head honcho expands his show to a full hour but moves it to sunday afternoons, a thing which seems to me to be a fair compromise, but seemed like a defeat and the death of TV to Murrow and Friendly.
So if the story is basically entirely a reenactment of the TV tapes, then why (according to Rotten Tomatoes) did it receive 110 positive reviews and only four negative reviews nationwide?
The acting is brilliant for the most part. By “the most part”, I mean that one person truly dominates the movie and that the rest of the cast are completely serviceable in their minor background roles. David Strathairn, the blind character “Whistler”, from the totally underrated masterpiece “Sneakers”, gives “the performance of a lifetime” as Murrow. Just as Jim Carrey, and Jamie Foxx in “Ray”, and supposedly Joaquin Phoenix in “Walk the Line”, Strathairn completely is enveloped by the character, getting the presence and the speech patterns down to a science.
Clooney’s direction keeps the pace brisk, but the tone somber. His innovative (some may call it “gimmicky”) use of staging and camerawork in his directorial debut, “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind”, kept it from being just another story of one of Los Angeles’ minor celebrities who supposedly became a hitman. In “Goodnight and Good Luck”, he creates a smoky, jazzy mood of complete solemnity by removing all the color, shooting in black and white. A jazz singer serves as a segue between the scenes, while cigarette smoke fills nearly every scene. By using the black and white “gimmick”, the visual drama has to come from the sharp contrast between light and shadow, as well as the different focal lengths of the lenses used to distort what the eye would see. An example of this is the way that Strathairn is shot when on air, with the camera uncomfortably close, dark shadows looming from under his eyebrows, and the focus on his face, but out of focus on his ears. In addition, Clooney creates tension not from the action, but on what the reaction to is going to be. Will it be positive? Only history will tell. Oh, right. Well in any case, we’re there wondering, just like in Titanic.
The last thing that makes this movie work is the fact that the source material is interesting to begin with. If we were treated to a story of “September 11th” with an actor playing Peter Jennings broadcasting for 24 hours straight, it would be gripping. It would probably be more interesting to see a movie about McCarthy, but that’s not the point that Clooney wanted to make, which brings me to my final thought.
I saw Clooney on Oprah today, and he claimed that he wasn’t trying to preach anything with this movie, except maybe journalistic responsibility. I don’t pretend to be blinded by his ruse. This movie is as much a parable about our state of affairs today as “The Crucible” was to the actual McCarthy era. There are blatant lines of dialogue referring to holding people without evidence, trying them without letting them see said evidence, and labeling people “communists” (as much a jingoistic phrase as “terrorist” is today) and traitors. I have no problem with his artistic expression, and I commend him for not discussing his politics on television, but don’t lie about it. Like any great work, it’s open to lots of different interpretations and relevancies, and can incite intelligent dialogue. I would rather have him say, just as Murrow said approximately, “I have presented the facts, and the rest is upto you to decide”. The work will stand on its own however, and we’ll see where it ends up come awards season.

**½

I’m a harsh grader, especially when everyone else loves a movie. “Goodnight and Good Luck”, receives 2.5 stars for being nothing more than a well directed and shot, well acted movie that contained nothing more than reenactments of famous television moments and long stretches of file footage. While it presents interesting ideas, it doesn’t do much to discuss them, and there’s suprisingly little humanity presented for a risk that most people would at least have second thoughts about taking, especially the faceless staff members.