Thursday, April 28, 2011
(BOOKS) The Coke Machine: The Dirty Truth Behind The World's Favorite Soft Drink by Michael Blanding
The most important thing to Coca-Cola, the thing that they value, treasure, and will do anything to protect, is its image. It's brand. Coke is about peace, and love, and harmony, and family. At least that's the image they've been sending out to the world for a century.
The book, The Coke Machine, by Michael Blanding, looks deeper into Coke's practices, especially its International market, and it paints quite a different picture of Coke. The book is carefully researched, and has over 60 pages of notes at the end, along with an extensive bibliography list. So we know Blanding isn't talking out of his ass.
A lot of the stuff inside the book isn't necessarily new, or surprising. Multinationals are everywhere, and they exist to make money. Sometimes, no matter what, as they have to answer first and foremost to their stock/share holders. It's not shocking that they would "look" the other way if something seems amiss somewhere else. If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
Yes, yes it does.
I like the structure of the book as it begins with Coke's history then jumps into its branding (utmost of importance) and then into the darkness of its bottling companies in South America and its factories in India. Murder comes to its union workers in Colombia, and water shortage to India (among other things). Coke is smart though, it makes sure to not own a majority share in its international bottlers, so they can claim ignorance and distance. But when hard working people are treated like cattle and abused and want to unionize in those conditions then Coke shouldn't pretend not to notice. And they shouldn't try to give away run off/contaminated waste to Indian farmers as fertilizer, killing its crops and cattle. Just some of the things that Blanding brings to light.
I don't drink much Coke, as I prefer Pepsi if I have a craving. (I drink maybe a can a week of pop, which at 52 cans a year sounds really high to me, time for a change) But I do enjoy Cherry Coke, but am finding it too sweet. Dr Pepper is my ultimate choice, if I want to walk on the wild side. But alas, I'm sure they have issues as well. But not as big as Coke because Coke is huge in the world. It's everywhere. It's so inundated in our culture that people collect memorabilia, and go to conventions, spending thousands of dollars on knick knacks and crap. It's part of our childhoods. It has the iconic Santa Claus to make us feel warm and cuddly. It has the CGI polar bears to appeal to children. If anything, I think this book forces us to be aware of advertising, and its manipulative nature.
I think it's important to be a conscious consumer, it doesn't mean you have to boycott everything out there. I am not boycotting Coke, but I am definitely thinking twice about its product and its brand (all brands). (damn that song, I'd like to buy a world a coke/I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, because although the words are nice and get into our hearts, it's complete bullshit at the end of the day)
The Coke Machine is worth a read. Educate yourself then make the right decision for you, whatever that may be.
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Tina Fey's daughter, Alice, has mad swagger as she should because her mom is better than all the "night cheese" in the world. I love my mom, but I want to be adopted by Tina Fey (I have issues), so her wit and humor can spread to me.
Tina Fey is a writer. She wrote for SNL and wrote the screenplay for Mean Girls, and she's now gone full steam ahead into book form with a memoir of sorts. She writes about her childhood (getting her period, which wasn't a clear blue liquid) into her teen years (her best friends were 25 year old lesbians) into her YMCA days, and then into improv, SNL 30Rock, Sarah Palin and motherhood(Alice with the swagger in the photo above). She goes through her life with the kind of humor that is laugh out loud funny. I, literally, no exaggeration, laughed so hard that my gut was hurting. It was as though I put my abs through a workout, so, of course, I skipped going to the gym the next day. Something I think Tina Fey would approve of.
I began reading the book at the library, and couldn't put it down, nor could I stop laughing. It's very difficult to stifle laughter at the library. So I basically looked like I was having a seizure of sorts as I contorted my face and bent myself over trying to be quiet. I soon realized that I had to read the book at home. I really don't want to give away funny passages as I think it would be a disservice to readers. I want people to go in with fresh eyes, and to experience it for the first time themselves.
The first half of the book left me crying, in a good way, and I loved it as Tina talked about how she got the scar on her face, her fashion sense, puberty, and unrequited love (something I most certainly relate to). The second half wasn't as funny, yet still humourous, and a very good read. I think most of the humor comes from her observations about her childhood and coming into her own. The second half was more like tips and advice and a bit more serious observations about her life as a writer/improv actor in a male dominated field. Insightful and honest, which I appreciated.
This book has solidified my fondness for the glass wearing Brown haired woman. I already love her stuff, and I will continue to watch or read anything she does. If you're a fan of Tina Fey's, and enjoy smart, witty, honest people then this book is definitely worth a read. I will wait for the paperback version to buy it, and I know I will jump to my favourite passages and laugh, and laugh, and laugh.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Hanna starts off, quiet, in the arctic wilderness. The sound of footsteps on the snow fills the screen with its crunching sound, and it's a lovely place to start. From there we'll eventually find our way into the desert then the city where it gets louder and louder, and busier and busier.
Saoirse Ronan plays Hanna, a mysterious young girl who was raised in the forest by her father, Eric Bana, and raised to be a fighting machine. The film is fairly layered and has a nice mystery to it. It has tense moments that build up to a final showdown with the diabolical and stunningly beautiful Marissa Viegler, played by Cate Blanchett.
I was surprised to find myself laughing quite a bit throughout the film, and that's a good thing because the laughter came from natural and sincere moments in the film. Hanna is a fish out of water and she experiences the real world for the first time. Watching her deal with electricity, and social outings (boys on scooters), and making a friend, Sophie, played by Jessica Barden with much delight (a major highlight of the film is her performance) is fun to watch because Saoirse is wonderful in the role. All of these new discoveries happen while she's being pursued by Marissa's henchmen (so villainous that they are quite funny as well, especially Tom Hollander's Sebastian in his polyester brightly coloured track suits)
I will have to note that the biggest problem with the film (I have a minor quibble with some of the backstory) is the music and editing. The film, I think, tries to channel run lola, run much too much. The music, by My Chemical Romance, is too distracting, and fiercely overplayed and too loud and along with the frantic editing style, it feels like a very long music video. Overall, the music was a major distraction and takes away from the experience.
But for overall story telling and performances (which really make the film) I give it a B+. It's a good time at the movies. And the writer, Seth Lochhead, is a first time screenwriter, and Canadian.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Scream 4 (I will not partake in using the 4 in place of the "a") is back, and time has not been all that kind to it. Not sure, even now, why I wanted to see the film. I remember really liking the first one, scared by it, nightmares came from it, and then not much caring for the two sequels. But I guess, in my advancing age, I got a little nostalgic.
Neve Campbell returns to the role that made her famous, Sidney Prescott, all grown up, an author, and back in Woodsboro for the last stop on her book tour. It just so happens to coincide with the anniversary of the first killing spree. A killing spree that went on to to spawn 7 sequels, called Stab (movies within the movie). The opening sequence has lots its punch, as two of the three were scenes from Stab movies. Once we get to the actual reality of the film, I didn't much care if these girls made their demise, as I didn't know who they were. The tension of Drew Barrymore's intense and memorable opening scene is so perfect with its fear and screams and emotional turmoil, that this one can't even compare in a beyond pale comparison way.
So Sidney's back, and we find out she has an aunt and a teenage cousin there played by Mary McDonnell, and Emma Roberts. The murders are happening again, and once again, Sidney is a target, along with a few teens. We also get to see Dewy and Gale married, and bored. Perhaps, art was imitating life with real life spouses, Courtney Cox and David Arquette in the roles. And this is where the movie is the scariest: Courtney Cox's face is so distracting that it's very difficult to concentrate on anything she says, or what's happening on screen. Even when she battles the killer, I kept thinking, "cut off her fish lips!"
Is time this cruel to all of us? Seeing Neve Campbell on screen was a treat though, as she's aged fairly well, but we see the ravages of time on her face as well. Which is refreshing, as her face is still real. Something we should all be grateful for.
Scream 4 is meh. I laughed here and there, but the characters were just so stupid. There's a killer on the loose, people are already dead so "I'm just gonna go hang out in my house alone since my mother is with her boyfriend." What?! At least make the characters a bit believable.
And everyone is so short in this film, but yet the killer (in the costume) isn't short, never is. So he/she/it can't possibly be the killer with any kind of logic. I know these are issues that might be suspended in disbelief, but these movies are supposed to be about pointing out these kind of issues.
I get the ending, funny, a bit, with all the fakeouts, but it was too on the nose with the dialogue. They should have just had a banner across the screen stating the theme (it would have been the same thing). I didn't find it nearly as funny as the first one. But there are some nice moments here and there, but few and far between.
I did enjoy Hayden Panettiere in her role. It's the first time I've liked her on screen, and I thought she shined in her role.
I hear that this is the beginning of a new trilogy. But I really can't see where it can go now. It's dead. It's done. Beating a dead horse in the head with another dead horse doesn't bring it (or Cox's face) back to life.
Yes, that Steve Martin. This is the third book I've read by Steve Martin, and it's the third one that I've liked. I really enjoy his prose style as it's approachable, and not pandering to some kind of elitism, which I find a lot of actors, who think they can write, do.
The story is about Lacey Yeager's rise in the art world as she climbs the ladder from being in the basement of Sotheby's, to an assistant to a world class art dealer, to one day owning her own gallery as a buyer and seller. But it is a more than just Lacey's story. It's about this elite art world where very few of us can get into. Money flows as much as the champagne parties. Deals are made behind the scenes. Art isn't just art. It's a commodity. Lacey is beyond ambitious. She's a master manipulator, and isn't afraid to use her feminine wiles to get what she wants, and she does it very well. She even gets the narrator of the story to do something he will one day regret.
I like the structure of the story. It's different in that we have a narrator who isn't in the story that much, but we get his perspective on Lacey's life, either from first hand knowledge or things that he's gleamed from his "imagination". We have to let our own imaginations go, and allow Daniel Franks, tell us this story in his own way. The book also has photos of art work, and I really enjoyed seeing some of these paintings that the characters were describing. I think I might have found a new fondness for artwork. Time will only tell. I have yet to own a proper painting. The question, I guess, then is, what is a proper painting? Is it objective or subjective as to what makes art, art? Hmmm.
The read is fascinating and entertaining, and Martin has kind of educated his readers without brow beating us with boring prose or too much explanation about art theory.
If you have the time, and are so inclined then I recommend reading An Object of Beauty. Despite an open ending with no bells and whistles, it's a very pleasant way to spend a rainy afternoon (or a sunny morning).