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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Ctrl BG: A Shortcut to Financial News 11/1

It was a good week for the markets this week. The DOW went up 11.3% for the week- the biggest one-week gain since October 1987 (also the time of the last market crash) and it was generally very positive globally too.

It's actually kind of strange seeing as there wasn't exactly any positive news coming out this week. The GDP data came out and we are officially in a recession with an annual GDP decline of 0.3% in the third quarter. It is expected to continue until at least the first quarter of next year. The consumer confidence index is at an all time low, since they started tracking it in 1967. It fell from 61.4 to 38 in a month- the third steepest drop. Companies continue to report declining earnings. The only highlight is that as a result there are some amazing sales out there. Saks is already taking EXTRA 40% off already reduced items- I got something at 70% off today! If only I had the capital to fully utilize the opportunity.
Maybe the market is just so used to all this stuff by now that it has already been factored in and now everyone is just looking for a bargain.

One piece of good news was the Fed cutting its rate again this month by another 0.5% to 1%. Experts were not expecting it to help much, but since the market reacted very positively, I guess they were wrong. The rates are expected to hold from now- or so I hope. They've got to save something in case of an even rainier day- or month! Another factor contributing to the positive market may be because some of the government actions are finally taking effect. The commercial paper lending program started this week, and I heard it's doing quite well. There are signs that the credit market is finally thawing. JP Morgan also announced that they are halting home foreclosures for 90 days and modifying loan terms to help those living in the home and show a "willingness" to pay, which is very nice of them.

there is the upcoming elections next week. Historically, regardless of who wins, there will be a rally in the market as investors are more "sure" of the future. From the looks of it, Obama seems like he is half way into White House. Personally I'm not very up to date with the intricacies of politics, so I don't know what the winning of either will mean for the economy. But for those of you who are not sure to which camp you belong to, I did stumble upon an interesting quiz on ABC, where they sum up each candidate's views on certain issues. I am surprisingly more of a Republican than I thought- I got 6 to 7 for Obama. Close call!
I guess you have to be a little Republican to be a capitalist.

Employment data will also be coming out next week, where more unemployment is expected. And in the coming weeks, we can also be expecting news of a $600 billion bailout for troubled home loans (which sounds a bit repetitive of what JP Morgan is already doing) and another stimulus package worth $300 billion (tax cuts!). The government is seriously on a serial spending spree!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Week 2008: Stage Fright

My final Halloween pick comes in the form of one of the best Italian horror films I've ever seen. Michele Soavi combined the best elements of the American slasher film with the Italian giallo; creating a unique, eerie film called Stage Fright, or Deliria as it was known in Italy. It was called Aquarius....and Bloody Bird. Alternate titles aside, this one of the most original hack and slash type films that is heavy on atmosphere, low on acting, and through the roof on innovative deaths. Oh, and there is lots and lots of gore.

The story is about a cast for some kind of musical show where there is someone in an owl suit. The members of the show are your basic cliche dance types and Soavi really shows no interest in developing characters; I mean after all the whole point of the movie is to scare you. This isn't Rent! So when one of the dancers is missing some of the crew catch on that there are odd goings-on, and decide to try and leave....ah but they can't because the person in the owl costume is the killer and wants them all dead so he can place them on stage in an order he deems artistic.

Clunky plot aside there are some real striking images in the film. Soavi has a great eye for framing scary shots. For instance when the owl-masked killer is approaching one of the actors we get a POV shot from the victim, which makes the scene much scarier than if it were from the killers point of view and all we saw was the blood spewing forth. This sense of dread and waiting for the horrible inevitability of death is something that Soavi taps into and makes the film more intense than its contemporaries.

The other thing Soavi does well is take the conventions of both the American slasher film and the Italian giallo and tweaks them just a bit to create a nightmarish, ethereal experience often associated with Italian master Dario Argento (who Soavi did work for as an assistant on Opera). These moments include the bizarre scene where nobody realizes that the person in the owl costume isn't the actor, but the killer. They are rehearsing a scene, and the director tells the masked "actor" to really make it look like their killing the female character. What's creepy about this scene is that it really is the killer and he really is killing the actress, but the director and the rest of the cast aren't aware of it right away; so they are impressed by the realism of the scene. Also, the ending of the film or "key scene" is a tremendous example of pacing and keeping the viewer as tightly wound as possible. That's all I'm going to tell you....that scene is worthy of comparison to the old Hitchcock adage about the ticking bomb underneath your seat. It's as tense a scene that I've seen in a horror film.

It's not just Soavi's control of film techniques that's amazing, but the way he is able to create an innovative and creepy slasher/giallo film when both genres had been dead years before Stage Fright's 1987 release. Sadly after some successful films including the zombie film Cemetery Man, Soavi quit filmmaking to care for sickly son. He's returned recently with a lot of Italian crime films made for TV. I hear he hasn't lost his artistic touch.

I highly recommend Stage Fright for those looking for an innovative take on the American slasher film and for those who are dying to see a decent post-Tenebre giallo film. There are many insane deaths in the film: pick axe's through the mouth, torso's being torn in half, drills, chains saws, and one of the most hilarious explanations of a bullet going through someones head. If you've never seen an Italian horror film before try Stage Fright, it's a good place to start. It contains enough of the popular American slasher elements, but has those odd, dream-like images (seriously, the killer is a guy in a giant owl mascot head, how is that not creepy) and moments that make Italian horror so unique. I highly recommend Stage Fright, one of the best horror films of the 80's.

Hot or Hmm Halloween Edition...: Mariah and Nick

So the Cannons hosted a Halloween Eve Costume Party last night and...Wowza!!:

In true Mimi fashion, the couple made TWO matching costume changes, from firemen to a chocolate chip cookie and milk combo. I could say something freaky about the last but I'll leave that to your creative minds, wink-wink...

That pumpkin is a hilarious hot mess (and at the same time a seriously cool piece of art).
You know what? I can't even hate on these two. Whatever people say, they look like they have fun doing them and leave the opinions to the rest of us. Loves it!
Happy Halloween, FB'ers!

Mail Bombs: Ciara's Hot Stiletto's and Kim Kardashian's Over the Knee Boots

Happy Halloween!
Are y'all dressing up for the big fete? I think my Halloween celebration will be dull for several reasons: First, I heard from my homies that the Frenchies don't 'do' Halloween. Second, my five (yes FIVE) suitcases were so packed full of shoes and dresses that I had no room at all for a funky, creative costume. I wonder what I can be based off my wardrobe? I guess I can go as a magazine editor...?
However you celebrate Halloween, these Mail Bombs should start your day off with kick...
...let's not delay!
First, reader Chanel fell in love with yesterday's Ciara post! She says, "I neeeed these shoes in my life!! LOL!!"
"Can you find out the designer, and maybe some good alternatives??"
Adriana searched and found that Cici is wearing these Balenciaga Patent Escarpin Booties from its Fall 2008 collection:
Here are a few less expensive alternatives:
1. RSVP Macey Boot, $83. 2. Donald J Pliner Chad Bootie, $290. 3. Lotus Zip Front Ankle Bootie, $240.
Next Cherelle says, "I saw this picture of Julissa at a BET premier, and I was wondering where I could find her skirt?"
"... Whether it’s the exact make or a replica, I think it's hot fall look!"
Pair a black top and tights with these beauts for a similar style:
1. Amuleti J Knee Length Skirt, $238. 2. Forever 21 Mina Slub Textured Skirt, $20. 3. Robert Rodriguez Tweed Tie Front Skirt, $160. 4. Milly Stretch Cotton Bow Pencil Skirt, $130.
Jess from Jersey says, "I'm not exactly sure why Mel B. has been getting so much spotlight these past few months but I AM taking notice of her major style game. Can we please talk about this dress she has on? "
"I love this look for two reasons: 1) She manages to pull off the conservative but sexy look- snaps. 2) This is extremely seasonally appropriate but the pop of color is a nice change from the more typically muted fall colors. I need this look! I love it, from the fishnet stockings down to the bold red pumps. Any suggestions?"
Sure! Achieve Mel B's chic with these high and low priced items:
1. Diane von Furstenberg Ludlow Dress in Electric Blue, $395. 2. Wolford Twenties Fishnet Stockings, $42. 3. Oh Deer! Praline Red Patent Pumps, $75. 4. Aldo Frosury Pumps, $80.
Next Fashion Bomber Bianca says, "I saw this picture of Kim Kardashian and fell in love with her over the knee boots:"
"...The leather looks like buttah! :)"
If you want a flat black over the knee boot, you can go with any of these winter ready options:
1. Banfi Zambrelli Olive Over the Knee Boot, $855. 2. Calvin Klein Footwear Women's "Mazzie" Over-The-Knee Leather Flat Boots, $220. 3. Loeffler Randal Riley Over Knee Zip Boots, $825. 4. Steve Madden Overpass Boot, $230.
Ashley from Cali says, "I love voluminous scarves, but have never been able to find a really great one. Can you tell me more about Eve's scarf..."
"...Or help me find something similar?"
I could be wrong, but I think Eve is wearing a Yarnz Scarf:
Left to Right: Yarz Zebra Scarf, Yarnz Neo Python Scarf, $165.
They specialize in voluminous cashmere scarves in great colors and patterns. I could've sworn I saw Eve's style, but couldn't find it! If you want an alternative, Adriana found these:
Left to Right: AKA New York Scarf, $139; Asos Oversized Long Check Scarf, $20.
Lastly, a male Mail Bomb! Cheria wanted this look for her boo:
Get your squeeze the essentials of an R Les look with these:
1. Mackage Shane Moto Leather Jacket in Black, $649. 2. Stussy Deluxe Jack Plaid Shirt, $143. 3. Creative Recreation Milano Hi in Oxblood, $200.
If you dress up for Halloween, send me some pix!

Hot! or Hmm...Beyonce and Solange in Japan

The Knowles sisters are on their global grind, and they recently attended the Eight Million Ginza Gates Store Opening in Tokyo, Japan.
Both sisters seem to be tapping into alter egos, with Beyonce wearing a body clinging club dress for a day appointment, and Solange playing demure in a belted jumper. While their shoes are definitely hot!... you love their outfits?
Say your peace!

Halloween Video Fun

Some Cosby Halloween fun:

I'm getting a few costume ideas!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Plant

Today we followed Bitter Betty Blogs tutorial on how to make ferocious fangs. It was a lot of fun and we did it all in an hour. Here's her tutorial if you want to have fun too :)

Halloween Week 2008: The Fly

Be Afraid.
Be Very Afraid.

This famous tag line for David Cronenberg's remake of the 1950 horror camp classic The Fly is one of the all time great tag lines. What's so great about it is that it leads the viewer to believe that something horrifying and quite scary is waiting for them when they sit down to watch the film; there is horror in this film, just not in the conventional sense. This is not your typical horror or sci-fi scare fest, in fact there are not even that many scary moments in the film. Here is a sophisticated allegory for what is truly horrifying: having to watch the person you love die. Whether it's a physical death or a metaphorical one, Cronenberg takes the basic plot of the original film, and tweaks it into a romantic tragedy that just happens to exist in the genre of horror.

The story is simple enough: Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) is a genius physicist who has created a way to transport matter. Geena Davis plays Veronica, a reporter who is looking for an exclusive on Brundle's invention. Fearful that his secret will leak to the scientific community (which will cost him thousands) Brundle pursues Veronica at her office and pleads with her to not write the story until he has everything working for certain. Thus begins their relationship which soon blossoms into a romance. Veronica is just getting out of a relationship with her pretentious, yet caring, editor Stathis (played by the always smarmy John Getz) who is immediately jealous of the Veronica hangs on every word Brundle says. This was probably his affect on her sometime in the past. One night Veronica leaves Brudle's place to finalize some things with Stathis, however, Brundle too is weary of why she must leave and gets drunk, which leads to "something going wrong in the lab. Very wrong." You know the rest of the story from there.

The story may be simple enough, but the emotions within are poignant and true, and What follows is a story of true horror; not in the traditional sense, but in the always unique and unconventional Cronenberg sense. Cronenberg has always been a director who directs his films with objectivity and coldness of scientist or doctor. His films never go beyond what is on the screen, in terms of damning or praising characters and their actions, and he has always been a director that keeps the audience at arms length. Oddly though, I find myself drawn to his icy embrace. I find Cronenberg to be one of the most watchable of directors working in film today. Sure his style doesn't reach the masses, but he always gets great performances out of wonderful, but almost always misused, actors like Christopher Walken, James Spader, Peter Weller, James Woods, and in The Fly he provides Jeff Goldblum with material to deliver his best, and as of yet unsurpassed, performance.

It's true that Cronenberg almost always keeps his characters intentions at arms length from the audience (one of the major criticisms of his recent foray into the crime genre), but I appreciate that about the director, because unless I'm in the minority, I like a director who doesn't hit me over the head with the themes of his films. Case in point: The Fly. At the time of its release a lot of people praised the film for being an astute allegory for the AIDS epidemic. However, the always elusive Cronenberg debunked those critiques and said that he never had intentions of making The Fly a message picture. He appreciated the correlation, but really he saw the film more as an allegory for watching someone you love metamorphosize into someone completely different, right before your eyes. This allegory works well within the horror genre, and especially with the story of Brundle and his fly.

The Fly contains oodles of Cronenberg's favorite themes: the degradation of the human body, passionate love and romances that are derailed by freak accidents, and "special powers" (a vague label no doubt, but I am thinking of Brundle morphing from loner nerd to sexy athletic fly, and also Christopher Walken's burden in The Dead Zone) acting as the onus for his films protagonists. There are many memorable moments in The Fly, one of my favorites being the scene where a pissed off Brundle (because Veronica has left and challenged his new powers as something awful) goes to a bar and challenges someone to an arm wrestling match. The moment that follows never gets old. Also Cronenberg's intense focus on Brundle's body and the way certain parts of his body morph, change, and fall apart or fall off altogether (I'm thinking of the really gross fingernail scene).

Yet, through all of the grotesqueness, Veronica still loves Brundle. And for all of the grotesqueness, the audience is still emotionally invested in the story; that is the triumph of The Fly and what Cronenberg is able to accomplish. Also, Cronenberg is able to conjure up suspense by element of surprise; we are never quite sure, once Brundle's metamorphosis takes place, what he is going to look like, or bad it's going to be. By keeping the audience guessing, the film does have a true horror genre feel to it, but it transcends the genre and cuts through the grotesque appearance of Brundle by maintaining the human element; the love Veronica has for Brundle, and him wanting her to remember him as he was, not what he is becoming.

One of the reasons why The Fly is one of my favorite films is because of that transcendent nature of the script and the all out performances from Goldblum and Davis. True, the film has icky and gross visuals to constitute a good Halloween viewing, but it is also a film that will make you want to wrap up the one you love. When Brundle is mid-stage of his metamorphosis he tells Veronica to leave, and that he doesn't want to hurt her because he is changing and wants her to remember him as he was, not how he is. The moment is poignant and powerful; not just because of the performances by both Goldblum and Davis, but because the scene can be an allegory for what it must feel like to communicate with someone you love while they submit to cancer or Alzheimer's or any other disease where you watch a loved one slowly change from the person you knew. What's truly transcendent about the film is that after the credits role and all is said and done, it's not the state of the art makeup or effects of the Brundle Fly, or the blood and gore that have you remembering the film, it's the poignant relationship between Veronica and Brundle. Love trumps all.

I wrote all of this with a bias as the driving force. There is something deep and profound and moving about this film that affects me so much. I haven't even mentioned that when we get to see the Brundle Fly at the end of the film, it is truly one of the scariest moments in horror. The final moments of the film are scary, no doubt, and if you haven't seen the film, and are not a fan of the usual stab and slash type of horror film, then rent The Fly. It's a brilliantly crafted, sophisticated horror film.

Halloween Week 2008: The Burning/Hatchet

Already behind a in an attempt to cram as many recommendations as I can I will have two posts with four suggestions today. The final review coming tomorrow, Halloween morning. Enjoy.

The Burning is nothing special. How's that for a reason to rent it? Okay, it does have one thing going for it: gore. Here is a typical American slasher film, with typical results, and yes, despite the infamous "raft scene", it has typical gore. I only say that because other 80's slasher films were just as gory, it's just that nobody remembers them because when they got to video (during the whole 'video nasties' era) they were chopped to hell as if Jason himself took a machete into the editing room. The Burning is unique and kind of infamous for being the first movie the Weisnstein Bros. produced, and for having early sightings of actors like Jason Alexander, Fisher Stevens, and Holly Hunter.

The story: In the New York and New Jersey areas there is a famous legend of a man named Cropsy who terrorizes campers. Of course he only does this because, SPOILER ALERT, he was teased as a child at the very same camp. No way! Okay, so the story is a wee bit uninspired, in fact it's typical 80's slasher fodder, but the "raft" scene is pretty damn cool if you can find it. I think there might be some clips of it on youtube, and rumor has it that even though the recently released MGM version on DVD says it's the complete uncut version....apparently it's not. But I haven't seen it on DVD, so I can't say one way or the other.

The film is a Halloween recommendation only for those of you that like your slasher films, because well, this one is better than any Friday the 13th movie, and it has Tom Savani the gore master in charge of dispersing the blood and guts. Plus it's fun to watch Jason Alexander play the cool guy. His overacting is amazing.

Overall if you REALLY want a slasher film to watch, and you have already seen the original Halloween and don't like foreign horror films, well then try to find The Burning, it won't disappoint with it's copious amounts of blood and gore and cool villain with a great name. Seriously, Cropsy that's a great slasher name. The original title was Cropsy's Revenge. I would have gone with that title, it sounds a lot cooler.

If The Burning was kind of an above average 80's slasher, then Hatchet is an above average toungue-in-cheek 21st centtury horror film. In the wake of Eli Roth's uber snarky Cabin Fever (which I have to admit made me laugh a lot....I mean come on: Pancakes!) Adam Green released Hatchet, a film not at all unlike The Burning. Hatchet is also about a killer in the woods named Victor Crowley who may or may not be an inbred monster from Hell. It's irrelevant really because the film is just one big excuse to get horror icons in cameos and kill lots and lots of people. Freddy Kreuger, Jason Vorhees, and Candyman all make appearances (okay, well the actors that played them) and really Green's film is just an exercise in reminding the audience that the filmmakers are in on the joke too.

Despite the films obvious flaws (the acting is horrible, although the actor from Trippin' is in it, so all is not lost) Hatchet does have some faint semblance of charm. If you were a child of 80's slasher films or just a rabid fan of the genre, then the film will probably entertain you the same way Cabin Fever did if you were a fan of the Evil Dead pictures. The film is extremely gory and pretty good in the entertaining department once the teenagers get away from the Mardi Gras set piece (and gratuitous nudity) and get on the boat that spells their doom. I think Green had The Burning in mind when he made this film, because much like The Burning, Green's film uses buckets upon buckets of violence and gore in an attempt to seperate itself from your average slasher; Hatchet was also heavily re-edited after its initial release where it was slapped with the dreaded NC-17 rating for violence and gore.

So there ya go. If you want a decent one-two punch for slasher films on Halloween night, and you've seen everything else, these are two decent, if not flawed, additions into the genre.

Both The Burning and Hatchet are available on DVD. The Burning can often be found late night on IFC.

Style File: Ciara

Today's Style File shines on fellow ATL fashionista...
Since she burst on the scene in 2004 with her anthem 'No Goodies,' she has been quietly yet consistently stepped up her style game in form fitting slinky fits that suit her slim frame:
For red carpet moments, you'll find Ciara in neutral colors, favoring grayish tones offset with sequins, embellishments, and wide leather belts...
...thigh grazing black dresses in slick satin or jersey fabrics with eye catching cutout details...
...or simple black and white, whether she's wearing a floor length gown...
Or a chic jacket dress combo with hot gray and black stilettos:
Never too predictable, she takes a step away on occasion in cute club dresses in colorful hues like pink and purple....
...all the while maintaining edge with unexpected details like exposed zippers.
For casual commitments, you'll find Cici in anything from liquid black skinnies with matching black or white tops: leather jackets paired with button downs or dark washed jeans...
....always with a black pump to accentuate her height.
For a Ciara red carpet look, go with these certified club bangers:
1. Forever 21 Cheetah Burnout Dress, $42. 2. Arden B Belted Pocket Dress, $98. 3.Democracy Stretch Satin Dress with Contrast Straps and Waist, $120. 4. Sequin Shift Dress, $33. 5. A.B.S Silver Satin Peep Toe Pumps, $72. 6. Kors Michael Kors Wicked Patent Slingback Sandals, $175. 7. Georgina Goodman Women's Libby Platform Pump, $770. 8. Pour La Victoire Women's Babette Pump, $105.
For Casual Ciara, choose these:

1. Max Studio Asymmetrical Shell, $128. 2. Silence & Noise Night Owl Open Jacket, $108. 3. J Brand Pencil Leg Jean in Dark Vintage, $168. 4. Christian Louboutin Decollette Leather Pumps, $575.

Ciara Video Fun

A few of Ciara's 'goodies' just for fun:

And my favorite (especially for working out!):

That's right!

This Week In Chic

In case you missed it, this week's chicest 'fits:
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