The third episode of the new Showtime series This American Life opens with a wonderful animated short. As cartoonist Chris Wares adorably geometrical characters bumble about, host Ira Glass interviews a guy named Jeff about a childhood incident in which he and his fifth grade classmates started carrying make-believe movie cameras everywhere. As they obsessively filmed their everyday lives, what began as a fun trend soon devolved into the schoolyard version of COPS. The camera really changed the way we behaved, Jeff observes. Glass agrees: People act different if theyre behind a camera.
I'm lovin' it. McDonalds has asked the Oxford English Dictionary to change its definition of "McJob." Since 2003, the OED has defined it as "an unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, esp. one created by the expansion of the service sector." Mickey D's house lexicographer claims that such a definition "is out of date, out of touch with reality and most importantly it is insulting to those talented, committed, hard-working people who serve the public every day." Actually, the two definitions don't conflict at all; the OED just bothers to mention that service sector jobs are poorly paid. Maybe it should redefine "minimum wage" while it's at it; something like, "An artificially high, mandated wage that prevents the creation of exciting opportunities for talented, committed, hard-working people who want to make people smile." Hopefully, OED will stick to its guns. Otherwise, they may have to redefine "chutzpah," too.
This is a bummer. The great 'zine Stay Free! is about to stop publishing. If you're not familiar with SF!, then you've been missing out on a fun, intellectually curious indie mag that walks the fine line between critiquing consumerism and mass media and appreciating pop culture. It came out sporadically, but each issue was packed with smart interviews and articles on advertising, psychology, conspiracy theories, and pranks. It also did some great ad parodies, assuming the culturejamming mantle shrugged off by Adbusters when it decided that a sense of humor can't break windows at Starbucks. Sadly, the financial woes that have beset the rest of the words-on-dead-trees biz have affected SF! as well, and so it's going blog-only after its next issue. It's a shameI'll miss having issues show up unpredictably in my mailbox. But you can still readand buyback some issues here. The Stay Free! blog is still worth checking out, too. But it just won't be the same...
Maxed Out, a new documnentary on the dark side of the debt industry, opens today in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, D.C., and other cities. I haven't seen the film, which is getting good reviews, but I just reviewed the companion book written by the director, James Scurlock, in our current issue. It's a good readit feels wrong to describe a book like this as entertaining, but it's a surprisingly readable look at how the financial industry is taking millions of Americans for an expensive ride. It's packed with disturbing tidbits like this: Low credit card balances actually hurt your credit rating, and if you're one of the lucky few who can pay off your bills each month, you're what's known in the biz as a "deadbeat."
The movie rights to U.S. v. Bush, Elizabeth de la Vega's pseudo-nonfictional legal thriller about a hypothetical criminal case against George W. Bush, have just been sold. In the book, a U.S. attorney lays out the case against Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Co., accusing them of having defrauded the nation by leading us to war through "deceit, craft, trickery, dishonest means, and fraudulent representations, including lies, half-truths, material omissions, and statements made with reckless indifference to their truth or falsity." Just imagine that line coming from the mouth of a rumpled, crusading federal prosecutor driven by the lonely belief that we're a nation of laws, not men, dammit! Only Hollywood can bring this to life, becasuse as we know, real U.S. attorneys like this get replaced with Karl Rove's former intern.
The book has been optioned by Robert Boris, director of the Rob Lowe classic Oxford Blues, and the writer of 1973's Electra Glide in Blue (tagline: "He's A Good Cop. On A Big Bike. On A Bad Road.") I only hope that he takes some liberties with the source material, which is set entirely in a grand jury room, and writes in a scene where Dick Cheney takes the stand and delivers the equivalent of Jack Nicholson's "you can't handle the truth" speech from A Few Good Men. Especially the part where Cheney, his temper rising, lectures the smart-ass prosecutor that "I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it." Then he threatens to rip the prosecutor's eyes out. I'd watch that.