Monday, April 10, 2006

good idea stuck at the half way point

Yahoo has a nifty feature that will recommend movies to you based on how your ratings of movies compare to other user's rating. It's not perfect, recommending some movies I would never want to see and ignoring movies I would love, but it's interesting. I am less interesting in the theatrical recommendations than the movies on TV recommendations. I don't see that many movies, and since when I do go I go with Debbie it's not just about what I would like.

Unfortunately, Yahoo's TV recommendations system is a mess, and it doesn't look like they have any intention of fixing it, since early on I sent them a lot of feedback (they have a link for feedback in a prominent position, so apparently they want it) and nothing has changed. First off, while it recommends movies I would like, it always is 3 hours off on the time the movie starts, even though it has in its records that my zip code is 10009 and I use Time Warner cable.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Reasons to like Tori Spelling

It has always been chic to look down on Tori Spelling, and even before I had ever seen her I had a negative impression. But the first time I saw her it was in a small part in the Parker Posey movie House of Yes and she was actually pretty good. So I've been pretty open to the possibility that she's actually a decent actress, rather than just a talentless creation of her father.

I was also prepared to like her personally after watching the brilliant, short-lived TV series Grosse Point, a parody of Beverly Hills 90..whatever-the-other-numbers-are in which the character of Marcy was presumably patterned after Tori. Marcy was sweet and insecure, so I thought, maybe Tori is the same.

Now Tori has gone the way of Kirstie Alley in Fat Actress, playing herself in So NoTorious on VH1. On the show, Tori is sweet and insecure, and even her best friends think she's talentless and owes her career to her rich daddy, who speaks to her through an intercom in his mansion, greeting her with "Hello angel" (he produced Charlie's Angels).

So far, So NoTorious is very funny. I say so far, because the first few episodes of Fat Actress were also very funny, and the last few were pretty horrible. But the three I've seen were all very good. And Tori is very good playing herself.

It's hard to know how she feels about the merciless fun her own show makes about her. There's a difference between letting writers make fun of you and actually having a sense of humor about yourself; Michael Jackson made a video that made fun of all his eccentricities but I don't think he thinks he's weird. It's brave to play yourself as an idiot or a weirdo, as proved by Jon Lovitz and David Duchovny on The Larry Sanders show, but it's also good business; William Shatner revived his career by acknowledging his own pompousness.

All of this has me pondering why Tori has always been such an object of ridicule. I never saw the Beverly Hills show, so perhaps she wasn't very good on it, but she probably wasn't worse than any of the others on that show; bad acting is often a feature of Aaron Spelling productions.

The hostility seems to come from the fact that she has a daddy who can give her a career (in So NoTorious she is seen giving a wretched ten-second audition at the end of which her dad shouts out, "you're hired!"). People feel it's not fair. And of course, it's not fair, but it's interesting that people seem far less hostile to a talentless actress whose career is entirely due to her looks. Raquel Welch is one of the worst actresses to ever star in a movie, and owes much of her looks to plastic surgery, but I don't think she was ever despised as much as Tori is. Now, getting a career because you had a good plastic surgeon, or just because you are born good looking, isn't any fairer than getting a job because your daddy owns the company, but it seems to rankle people more. Sure, Tori was born with a silver spoon in her mouth and got chances most people don't get, but then, Christina Aguilera was born with an amazing voice (they blocked her from high school talent shows because it was so incredible), Liza Minelli got breaks because her mom was famous (Judy Garland) and most people in Hollywood wouldn't have their jobs if they weren't born better looking than the rest of us.

So while I certainly envy Tori's good fortune, at the moment I do basically like her, and I hope her show continues to be funny and she winds up besting the naysayers and getting herself a respectable career.

Always get a second opinion

Recently my retina tore. No reason, it just tore. My vision went blurry and I saw what I thought was a large floater but turned out to be blood. Yeah, ick. This was four days before my health insurance kicked in, so I was pretty much fucked up the ass by the hand of God on that one.

I wound up going to the emergency room at Manhattan Eye [plus a couple of other organs] where a doctor told me he would try and surround the tear with laser rivets. The idea was this would keep the tear from getting bigger and keep my retina from falling off. He had trouble seeing through all the blood (this was not blood you could see in my eye without fancy equipment, and the tear itself is also invisible to the naked eye, but it apparently looks really grim to an opthamologist), so he lasered some that night, some the next day and some after that. But he couldn't laser one part of the tear, where he thought fluids are formed, and said I would need surgery, a truly horrible sounding thing that had a 15 to 20 percent chance of going wrong.

I was pretty freaked out but was going along with it all. While you always hear you should get a second opinion, when you're scared your going blind in one eye you start just wanting someone to tell you what to do. Fortunately, my friend Jessica insisted I call my regular opthomologist and ask him to recommend a retina specialist. After the first three all couldn't see me before my scheduled surgery and my regular opthamologist hadn't gotten back to me with more names (he's terrible at returning phone calls) Jessica even called my opthamologist and talked to his office manager and pleaded my case so well that he called almost immediately after. He gave me one more name, a doctor who works two blocks from my house and agreed to squeeze me in for a looksee before his vacation started.

He looked at my eye, said he didn't think it looked all that bad, lasered the rest of the tear in about three minutes and said that barring something crazy happening I wouldn't need surgery.

I'm not out of the woods yet. His associate, who is seeing me while the other one is on vacation, wants me to get surgery, because he feels even though the tear is lasered there is still a risk it could tear through. He's young, and younger doctors tend to be very end to preventative surgery, so I'm hoping when the other one comes back he will stand by his diagnosis and say I still don't need surgery.

So I can't yet say getting a second opinion saved me from surgery, but it did give me a chance, and it's important to note that the second doctor easily lasered a tear the first doctor couldn't manage, which leads me to agree with Jessica that you should never make the guy on call for emergencies your main doctor. She actually had many stories of people she knew who were incorrectly diagnosed or treated in emergency rooms.

So always, always, always, no matter how freaked out you are, go see another doctor.

In a supporting example, my friend Sharon owns a house upstate she rents out, and there is a problem with the septic tank. The first company she contacted her said she would need a huge amount of work to get it working which would cost $25,000, a lot for a house worth maybe $60,000. The second contractor, a family business that's been around from the 50s, said they could fix it for about $2000.

Always get a second opinion.