Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I'm So Pretty That I Love Stereotypes...

Well, I'd imagine someone in JCPenney's design department may lose their job...

A great deal of brouhaha in the media has ensued over JCPenney's recent decision to market a girls' t-shirt that says, "I'm too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me." (Way to tell girls they're not worthy of achieving anything of consequence.) And the description of the shirt in the retailer's catalogue sends a terrific message:
"Who has time for homework when there’s a new Justin Bieber album out? She’ll love this tee that’s just as cute and sassy as she is."
Who comes up with these ideas? A few months ago, online retailer David&Goliath started marketing a t-shirt that says, "I'm too pretty to do math". And back in 2005, groups of teenage girls—and then the media—took on retailer Abercrombie & Fitch for marketing a line of t-shirts they felt degraded the girls who wore them, including shirts that read, "Who needs brains when you have these?" and "You better make more than I can spend."

After controversy erupted about the JCPenney t-shirt, the retailer removed the shirt from sale and released a statement that said, "JCPenney is committed to being America's destination for great style and great value for the whole family. We agree that the 'Too pretty' t-shirt does not deliver an appropriate message, and we have immediately discontinued its sale. Our merchandise is intended to appeal to a broad customer base, not to offend them. We would like to apologize to our customers and are taking action to ensure that we continue to uphold the integrity of our merchandise that they have come to expect."

I just don't understand the thinking behind these shirts. Sure, cute and sassy might be appealing, but are these the attitudes we want to promote in preteen and teenage girls? While some say it's the choice of the parents or the girls themselves to purchase and wear the shirts, why promote messages that underachievement is cool or sexy, or it's good just to get by on your looks and sex appeal, that being smart is somehow less attractive?

I know that stereotypes exist because many people uphold them, but at the same time, not every gay person is like Sean Hayes' character on Will and Grace or Chris Colfer's character on Glee; not every Asian person takes pictures; and not every athlete is stupid. Why not embrace what makes each person different and special?

Gee, all that from a t-shirt. I guess I fall into the "Bloggers are cranky" stereotype, huh?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Super, Super Psyched...

As I've discussed before, I am a ginormous fan of the Hunger Games trilogy. I devoured all three books last year and was completely captivated by Katniss and Peeta's struggles through the Games.

Fortunately, I read the books before casting decisions were made for the movie adaptation, so I didn't have any vision of the characters in my heads. While I saw certain things, I didn't focus much on the characters' descriptions, so I didn't have the unhappy reactions some fans did when the roles were cast. (Clearly many of the books' fans have the inability to picture actors and actresses undergoing transformations for roles; if a person is blonde, they can't seem to picture them dying their hair or putting on muscle.)

Last night during the MTV Video Music Awards (which I missed because I haven't seen a music video in quite some time) the network premiered a teaser trailer for The Hunger Games, which is due out in March. While it is super-short (hence the word "teaser"), it rekindled the excitement I felt when the casting decisions were announced. I honestly CANNOT wait until the movie is released and hope that it is faithful to the book, while being a good movie on its own. The good news is that the trilogy's author, Suzanne Collins, has worked very closely with director Gary Ross (Seabiscuit) on the film, so I am tremendously optimistic.

Check out the trailer below and know that I'll continue posting updates as they appear! (BTW, I'm totally Team Peeta.)

Get More: 2011 VMA, Music

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Like I Didn't Feel Old Already...

Each August since 1998, Beloit College in Wisconsin has released the Beloit College Mindset List, which provides a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college each fall. The creation of Beloit’s former Public Affairs Director Ron Nief and Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride, it was originally created as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references, and quickly became a catalog of the rapidly changing worldview of each new generation.

The majority of the incoming class of 2015(!) was born in 1993. Bill Clinton was the president when they were born, so in their lifetime, only one Bush was president and they have no recollection of the Dan Quayle "potatoe" blunder. And for them, Arthur Ashe, Andre the Giant and River Phoenix have always been dead.

The whole list is available on Beloit's website, but here are some of the highlights. Hopefully this won't make you feel as old as it made me!
  1. There have nearly always been at least two women on the Supreme Court, and women have always commanded US Navy ships
  2. Amazon has never been just a river in South America
  3. OJ Simpson has always been looking for the killers of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman
  4. The Communist Party has never been the official political party in Russia
  5. Video games have always had ratings
  6. Music has always been available via free downloads
  7. Major League Baseball has never had fewer than three divisions and never lacked a wild card entry in the playoffs
  8. The expression "Don't touch that dial" means nothing...televisions have never had a dial as far as they know!
Scary, huh?

Book Review: "The Scorch Trials" by James Dashner

The second book in James Dashner's Maze Runner trilogy (I read the first, The Maze Runner, earlier this year) packed as much of a punch as its predecessor. Picking up where the first book left off, Thomas and his friends from The Glade have escaped the horrors of the maze and have been rescued by the folks from WICKED. Of course, nothing is quite as it seems, as the Gladers start to learn exactly what purpose they serve to WICKED. And they are faced with an even more dangerous challenge: surviving the Scorch Trials.

This is a book about courage, faith, friendship, trust and confronting your fears. I'm deliberately obtuse in my description of the plot because I don't want to give anything away, and one of the great strengths of this book (in fact, the entire series to date) is that, much like the characters, you have no idea what to expect or what will happen next, and you don't even know if what happens is actually happening. I'm eagerly awaiting the release of the third and supposedly final book in the series later this fall, although I'll be faced with the inevitable battle between wanting to read it quickly and wanting to savor it, as I was with the Hunger Games and Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogies.

All in all, this is a fascinating, action-packed and captivating book that keeps you guessing.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

We Have Angered Mother Nature...

...and this woman is serious.

Earlier in the week, the East Coast was hit by the most powerful earthquake in 67 years, with a 5.8 magnitude quake epicentered in Mineral, VA, near Richmond. Apart from some historical buildings—including the Washington Monument, Smithsonian Castle and the Washington National Cathedral—sustaining damage, the area was left mostly unharmed, although shaken.

And now, up the coast, comes Hurricane Irene. The storm, which was once as strong as a Category 3 hurricane, has hit Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, and as of this post, is battering North Carolina's Outer Banks and the Virginia Beach area. It's expected to bring heavy rain and strong winds to the DC area, and hit the New Jersey/New York area a bit harder.

As with any storm, the media is going crazy. I'll admit I don't quite understand what value having news reporters being interviewed as they're nearly blown off their feet by storm winds and pelted by heavy rain, but we've already seen plenty of that. And of course, as early as Thursday night, you could barely find bottled water and there was nary a "D" battery in sight.

It's my hope that the amount of media hype will be inversely proportional to the storm's actual effect, and I'm hoping we might be able to withstand losing power. But we have bottled water and peanut butter and an emergency stash of peanut M&M's, so we'll be ok.

Be safe everyone.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I Love to Rock and Roll...'s the "rattle and roll" part I'm not so fond of.

In case you were under a rock yesterday (and that might not have been such a good idea), you probably heard that the East Coast was struck by a 5.8 magnitude earthquake, which had its epicenter in Mineral, VA, near Richmond. The earthquake was felt as far north as Toronto and as far south as Florida, but was felt most strongly from the Washington, DC area up to New York and New Jersey.

While Californians are mocking the East Coast for reacting so strongly, this was the most powerful earthquake to hit us in 67 years. And while there were no serious injuries, there was some damage—at the Washington National Cathedral, at least three of the four top stones on the central tower fell off, and cracks appeared in the flying buttresses at the cathedral's east end, the oldest part of the structure. The top of the Washington Monument has a crack. Historic buildings such as Union Station and the Smithsonian Castle sustained some damage, although nothing significant.

Working in the middle of Washington, DC, our office building was rocked by the quake. At first, since our building is undergoing renovations, we thought it was construction-related, but as the rattling got stronger and stronger, we figured it was an earthquake, so we quickly walked down five flights of stairs and got out of the building. People poured out of nearby buildings, everyone was trying to make calls on their cell phones or check the internet to see what happened, it was total chaos.

Sadly, the day's events reminded me a lot of 9/11. Yesterday was another absolutely beautiful day, the building rattled without warning (I was working in Old Town Alexandria 10 years ago, not far from the Pentagon, so we felt the impact of the plane crash), and I wasn't able to get through to my family or friends for some time. And in this case, I had no idea whether our house sustained any damage or if our dog was safe at doggie daycare.

In the end, everything turned out fine. Our house sustained no structural damage; apart from a few broken tchotchkes, nothing insurmountable occurred. And Quinn was none the worse for wear, although I'd imagine the rattling probably made doggie daycare an even louder place to be!

It's funny...I've thought about moving to California many times, but one of the things that has kept me from it was the threat of earthquakes. And now, here I am, in the area where I've lived for nearly 25 years, post-earthquake. Go figure.

Can I request a little less eventful day today??

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Book Review: "Very Bad Men" by Harry Dolan

Harry Dolan's debut novel, Bad Things Happen, was one of the best books I read last year. Needless to say, I was very excited to read his new book, which again features David Loogan and his girlfriend, Ann Arbor police detective Elizabeth Waishkey, and I'm pleased to say that Dolan didn't disappoint this time out.

David Loogan is the editor of Grey Streets, a mystery magazine, and has settled into a comfortable existence with his girlfriend and her teenage daughter, Sarah. One night he finds a manuscript at his office door, which begins, "I killed Henry Kormoran." After describing how Kormoran was killed, the manuscript divulges details about another murder, and warns that another is impending—and even gives the name of the killer's next victim. The manuscript and the corresponding murders draw David and Elizabeth into an ever-widening circle, as they discover that all three men on the killer's list were involved in a bank robbery nearly 20 years earlier, and all are linked in other ways as well.

The story hooked me from the start, and as it unfolded, I couldn't wait to see what happened next. The characters are intriguing and unique but fallible, which makes them even more complex and interesting. While I felt like Dolan threw in one or two twists too many toward the end, it didn't dampen my enthusiasm for the story. I really enjoy Dolan's storytelling ability, and can't wait for his next book. Definitely a book you'll want to race through.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

With a "Family" Like This...

I read this on one of my favorite blogs, kenneth in the (212), and I was so disturbed and repulsed I had to share.

The irony is not lost on me that many organizations that vow to protect the "family" or "marriage" (the American Family Association, the National Organization for Marriage, the Family Research Council (FRC))—and have those words in their names—are among the most hateful and divisive organizations out there. In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center branded the Family Research Council a "hate group."

And that was before FRC President Tony Perkins sent this letter to supporters this month:

In this letter, Perkins brands Dan Savage, who created the It Gets Better Project as a way to stem the tide of young people committing suicide because they were gay, or confused, or simply bullied for being different, as a "homosexual extremist who built a career on hatred of Christians and our values."

Dan Savage has built a portion of his career trying to stop hatred. He does not say anything disparaging about religion except when people try to hide behind religious protection in order to bully or discriminate.

But more disturbing than this attack on Dan Savage (who doesn't need me to defend him) is this paragraph, in which Perkins criticizes President Obama and the First Lady, Vice President Biden and other administration officials for recording videos of their own for the It Gets Better Project, videos recorded by major corporations, athletic teams, entertainers, and regular citizens.
"Can you imagine George Washington, Ronald Reagan or any other president telling school children it's okay to be immoral and that they'll eventually feel better about it?

"It's disgusting. And it's part of a concerted effort to persuade kids that homosexuality is okay and to actually recruit them into that 'lifestyle.'"
While I don't agree with everything President Obama does, I was utterly moved by his recording an It Gets Better video. As I commented when he recorded the video last fall, "How many of us would have felt just a little bit better if we saw a video like this from the president when we were growing up? How many of those who took their lives to escape the pain of being bullied, of being different, of being gay, might have benefited from a message like this from the leader of our country?"

Maybe George Washington, Ronald Reagan or any other president might never have recorded this type of video. Obviously, that type of hindsight never works. But what I do know is that this president took a stand for equality for all people, something unprecedented. And he should be celebrated for it, not reviled.

I appreciate religious freedom. But no religion should mandate the rules of our country. Nor should those in power be able to stand behind their religion as protection from doing what is fair, what is right.

Being a religious person does not allow you to discriminate or promote hatred, no matter what your religion tells you. If you are a citizen of the United States, you should be entitled to the same rights.

That's the kind of "family" we should support.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Vacation, All He Ever Wanted?

After a three-day "non-election-related" bus tour of the Midwest, President Obama and his family are headed to Martha's Vineyard for a 10-day vacation. This is a fairly typical time for the president to take a vacation since Congress is also not in session during the last few weeks of August.

During his speeches, Obama promised to unveil a new plan to restart the economy and create more jobs; however, it will not be introduced until September, because Congress is not there to debate or vote on whatever package he proffers. However, to many (especially with prompting from the right), it looks as though he chose to go on vacation instead of creating jobs. And Republicans are painting his choice of Martha's Vineyard as a vacation spot as the decision of an elitist who couldn't care less about the people in this country struggling to make ends meet.

Does President Obama "deserve" a vacation? Absolutely. There are few, if any, jobs with more stress and less downtime than President of the US. And it's not like he can take a "real" vacation—he will be briefed daily on what is going on in the world, and clearly will have access to all of the information and personnel he needs.

Is it the right time to take a vacation? Probably not. If you're trying to convey your empathy for those in need, traveling to a resort isn't quite the way to do that.

The fact is, however, Obama’s upcoming vacation is his ninth vacation since taking office. Obama has spent all or part of 38 days on vacation away from the White House. He has also made 14 visits to Camp David spanning all or part of 32 days, for a total of 70 days.

George W. Bush, at this point in his first term, had made 14 visits to his Texas ranch spanning all or part of 102 days. He also made 40 visits to Camp David spanning all or part of 123 days. His vacation total at this point in his presidency was all or part of 225 days away.

I don't know if the solution is skipping vacation or just getting a better spokesperson willing to be more aggressive with laying out the facts, but I do know one thing: there shouldn't be too many photo opportunities of the president frolicking with his family and friends. Regardless of his need for a vacation, there aren't a lot of people in this country frolicking right now.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Book Review: "The Family Fang" by Kevin Wilson

This is a brilliant, quirky, fantastic book.

Caleb and Camille Fang are performance artists. To them, there is nothing greater than the process of creating something that provokes reaction in others, no matter what that reaction is. They have raised their children, Annie and Buster (whom they refer to as Child A and Child B), to be part of their performances, either willingly or unwillingly. When Annie and Buster grow into adulthood, both flee as far from their parents as possible; Annie becomes an Oscar-nominated actress with an increasingly unstable personality, and Buster is a novelist with diminishing promise, who finds work as a freelance writer for men's magazines.

When crises force both Buster and Annie to return home to their parents, they quickly expect to be drawn back into the world of performance. Yet shortly after their return, their parents disappear without a trace, and they are torn between believing they are gone for good or whether this disappearance is their ultimate performance. The Family Fang is a story about the profound effects your childhood has on your later life, but how you cannot let it define your future.

I found myself quickly drawn into the Fangs' world. The book juxtaposes present time with accounts of some of their memorable performances through the years, which truly gives you an insight into what drove Caleb and Camille, and how this drive affected Annie and Buster. The book is at times funny, sad, irritating and uplifting, and I was often amazed at how Kevin Wilson continued weaving this story. The Fangs and their lives are undoubtedly quirky, but you will absolutely enjoy getting immersed in their story. Don't miss this one.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

It's Not Quite Typecasting, But...

I saw 30 Minutes or Less this afternoon and really enjoyed it. Mindless, raunchy fun, with terrific performances from Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, Michael Pena and Nick Swardson.

Watching the movie, I started to realize that as talented as Jesse Eisenberg is, he seems to have made a career out of playing characters for which he never really has to brush his hair. Check out the photos below to see what I'm saying.

Jesse in The Squid and the Whale


Zombieland (although, in his defense, he's fighting zombies!)

30 Minutes or Less

Anyone else spot a trend? He's clearly staked out some successful territory with the characters he chooses—he's tremendously talented and has a great future ahead of him. But wouldn't it be something to see him step completely outside of his comfort zone?

Even so, I'm sure I'll see whatever he does. He certainly has a knack for picking great movies!

Not a Choice...

With the 2012 elections not quite around the corner (but closer than I'd like them to be), a great deal of political conversation has again turned to the issue of equal rights. Particularly since the Obama administration called for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and determined it wouldn't uphold the Defense of Marriage Act, and same-sex marriage was approved in New York State, nearly every Republican candidate for president as well as leading conservatives have attacked the very idea of equality and sexuality.

Beyond the usual posturing about how same-sex marriage disturbs the sanctity of traditional marriage (yet divorce doesn't) and the ridiculous claims that allowing same-sex marriage will lead to polygamy, pedophilia, bestiality and even people wanting to marry inanimate objects, comes the oft-held opinion that sexuality is a choice.

In a fantastic opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle, Jon Carroll takes on the idea of sexuality as a choice. He talks about Michele Bachmann's husband, Marcus, a therapist whose practice involves turning gay people straight with the help of prayer, Bible reading and classes. Jesus will forgive your homosexuality, Bachmann promises, as long as you repent and become straight.

As Carroll says, "Experts in the field no longer believe that [sexuality is a choice]; most regular citizens, aware that they came by their own sexual orientation naturally, don't believe it either. This does not deter Marcus Bachmann."

The only choice a person has about their sexuality is whether or not to suppress their true nature. Sadly, so many people live secret lives in order to do the "right" things—marry a person of the opposite sex and raise a family. And yet many of those people are the ones who get caught in sting operations in parks and public restrooms, or are the anti-gay politicians who get caught making advances toward an intern or an escort.

The fact is, given the way gay people are treated in most of the world, it is hard to believe many of us would choose this way of life if we actually had the chance to. Why choose the possibility of being bullied, often violently? Why choose a life in which the simple act of showing affection toward the person you love could lead to violence, or a life where, in most states, you cannot legally marry the person you love, adopt a child together or make healthcare decisions for them?

Carroll's editorial points out how ludicrous the idea of sexuality being a choice is through humor. Perhaps the ridiculousness of the points he makes will force those who believe it is a choice to reconsider.

Perhaps after 2012.

Book Review: "The Cookbook Collector" by Allegra Goodman

Sisters Emily and Jessamine ("Jess") Bach couldn't be more different. Emily, who feels a responsibility to watch over her younger sister, is the tech-savvy CEO of an internet startup company, while Jess is a dreamy, romantic graduate student in philosophy and a passionate environmentalist, who has no desire to follow a straight-line path as her sister does. The Cookbook Collector follows the Bach sisters from 1999-2002, as well as their family, friends, coworkers and even two Hasidic rabbis, as they fall in and out of love, deal with crises in work and life, and ponder questions of trust, sacrifice, family and following your heart. What is actually valuable, the characters wonder: a company's stock, a person's promise, a forest of redwoods, or a collection of rare cookbooks?

I am a very big fan of Allegra Goodman's novels (the marvelous Intuition is one of her best), and I found that she hadn't missed a step with The Cookbook Collector. It is a slightly overstuffed but emotionally and intellectually compelling book that draws you in, even when all of the characters aren't wholly sympathetic ones. The book definitely picks up steam after the first third, because Goodman introduces so many different characters that you just want to get back to those with whom you've already become invested, but in the end, she ties everything together fairly well, although perhaps a little too neatly. I don't know if it was Goodman's imagery (much of the book is set in Berkeley, CA, and she describes the San Francisco area quite poetically) or the complexity of her characters, but I thought this book was beautifully written and very satisfying. A terrific example of storytelling.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Book Review: "Northwest Passage" by John Burnham Schwartz

In his magnificent book, Reservation Road, John Burnham Schwartz traced the lives of two families, the Arnos and the Learners, affected by tragedy and a subsequent cover-up. It has been 13 years since that book was published, and 12 years have passed in the lives of the Arnos and the Learners.

Dwight Arno has rebuilt his life after a stint in prison, and settled in California, far from the Connecticut neighborhood where he lived when he was married. His existence is rather austere—a job managing a sporting goods store, occasional dating, weekend softball games—but he feels this is the life he deserves to live. Into this placidity drops his son, Sam, whom he hasn't seen in 12 years. Sam, an angry college baseball player, flees to California after an incident that leaves him wondering if the sins of the father are truly visited upon the son. And Sam is searching for something else, from his life and from his father, but he has no clue what those things are. The ripples of Sam's reconnection with Dwight, and Dwight's return to Connecticut, touch Ruth, Sam's mother and Dwight's ex-wife, and others.

I still count Reservation Road among one of my favorite books, so I was somewhat concerned about whether a follow-up novel would be on par, and I hoped that the characters wouldn't have changed too drastically. I'm happy to say that Schwartz did an exceptional job revisiting this story, and while this second book lacks a little of the suspenseful nature of the first, it again inhabits the same type of tension-filled environment. All of the characters are flawed in their own way, and you realize how the damages they suffered years ago have shaped them. If I have any criticism, it's that I felt Sam was just so angry and so resentful that it was difficult to engender a great deal of empathy for him until fairly well into the book. In the end, however, it was terrific to have a new book by John Burnham Schwartz, and even better to be able to revisit a story I loved and feel it was worthy. Read this.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I Said I Don't Like Movie Remakes, But...

I know in my blog post yesterday, I gave a little harangue on movie remakes and sequels. And while I generally don't like those, I will admit I'm a big fan of cover songs and remakes. No matter how much I like a song, another artist's version always brings something different—and sometimes I like the remake more than the original!

One of my favorite 80s songs, Come On Eileen (originally recorded by one-hit wonder Dexy's Midnight Runners), has gotten a little country-fried treatment, with a recent live performance of the song by Sugarland and Sara Bareilles. (Sugarland is a big fan of covering 80s songs while on tour—along with Little Big Town and Jake Owen they did a great version of Dream Academy's Life in a Northern Town, and tackled Madonna's Like a Prayer with Little Big Town as well.)

Check it out below. If you're an 80s purist you might not be impressed, but I really enjoyed it.

Monday, August 1, 2011

On Sequels, Remakes and Other Things That Make Me Die Inside...

Children of the 80s (not to mention romantics and die-hard John Cusack fans) know the above image is from Say Anything. The movie, directed by Cameron Crowe, starred Cusack and Ione Skye as recent high school graduates who fall in love despite being two completely different people, and struggle to stay together in the face of obstacles trying to tear them apart.

Apparently during the Television Critics Association press tour this past weekend, Crowe mentioned that he could consider a sequel to Say Anything; in fact, Crowe said that the movie is the only one he has written that he could see giving the sequel treatment.

Hearing that, of course, made me want to scream "NO!" and fly immediately to wherever Crowe is to stop him from the very thought of developing a sequel to this movie. Do I want to know what happened to Lloyd and Diane? Absolutely, but I'd rather use my imagination than see it for myself.

The movie business is all too keen on sequels. While some films, particularly action franchises, may lend themselves to having their stories extended beyond the writers' original intent, there are far too many movies for which sequels have been unnecessarily made.

Was the world really crying out to know what happened with Jack Nicholson's character in Chinatown so much that The Two Jakes was necessary? Once we established what you did last summer, did we really still need to know? Was Ace Ventura really that good of a pet detective in the first place?

And if the sequels aren't bad enough, the remakes are truly killing me. I understand the appeal of remaking an older movie and adapting it to more current times. And I also can somewhat understand the desire to take a foreign movie and adapt it for American audiences, like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or Let Me In (the American adaptation of Let the Right One In).

What I don't understand, however, is the need to remake movies that came out within the last 25 years or so, or even less. I certainly didn't think Spider-Man needed to be remade so soon (no matter how much I like Andrew Garfield), nor did it seem the world was clamoring for more Superman movies or even a remake of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (I'm sure you know where I stand on that one) or Red Dawn.

And thankfully, Robert Zemeckis got some sense back before deciding to remake The Wizard of Oz.

But if I were to pick a remake that makes me want to cry every time I see the trailer for it, it would be Footloose. Did the movie that made a star of Kevin Bacon really need to be relaunched? No. And more importantly, are we that old now that Dennis Quaid and Andie MacDowell have moved from sexy, leading roles to disapproving parental roles?

I find it hard to believe that with all of the people who come to Hollywood every day, that there is no one out there creative enough to come up with unique ideas for movies instead of remakes, sequels and adapting television shows, Broadway shows, comic books and fairy tales.

In case you haven't seen it yet, watch the trailer for the "new" Footloose below and weep. And then break out your original soundtrack, with Kenny Loggins, Deniece Williams, even Shalamar, and relive days gone by...

Equality in the USA...

Miley Cyrus has always been (at least for me) fairly easy to view as a lightweight. From her meteoric popularity on Hannah Montana to her dubious (yet surprisingly catchy) hit songs and her zeal to be taken seriously as an actress (in a movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, no less), I never had really expected her to be much more than a flash in the pan teen idol.

But Cyrus' recent behavior has impressed me, as she has demonstrated she not only seriously cares about the world around her, but is willing to take on those who disagree.

Late last week, Cyrus demonstrated her support for same-sex marriage by inking an equal sign onto her finger.

"ALL LOVE is equal," she Tweeted on Friday, along with a picture of her new tattoo. And when that Tweet caused a bit of a flurry among a number of her more conservative fans, she retorted with, "Where does it say in the bible to judge others? Oh right. It doesn't. GOD is the only judge honey. GOD is love."

What I didn't realize is that this wasn't the first time Cyrus has publicly taken a stand for equality. Following the verdict in the Casey Anthony trial, she Tweeted, "You know the world is skewed when people get away with murdering children but we cant get gay marriage legalized in the state of California."

Cyrus is a role model to millions of teenagers and preteens, so to have someone at that level of recognition taking a stand like this has tremendously positive ramifications.

I don't like to admit I'm wrong (heck, I don't like to admit that I don't like admitting I'm wrong), but I'm happy to say that I'm wrong about Miley Cyrus, and salute her for publicly supporting equality. Sadly, not every celebrity—especially those whose fans tend to be more conservative—shares the same views, or at least they aren't always willing to state their opinions publicly.

You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but this dog has learned (again) you can't judge a book by its cover. And you can't judge a celebrity's depth by the way they became famous or the audience to whom they appeal.

Thanks, Miley!