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Kari Wuhrer as Ellen Brody, Courtney Baxter as Mora Brody, and Sandra "Pepa" Denton as a character even the captioners don't know the name of. I'm not sure she had one. (Syfy)

'Sharknado 2': Winner And Still Chomp

Jul 30, 2014

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I personally was responsible for emotionally bullying at least two of my critic friends into attending the poolside screening of Sharknado 2 that took place at the hotel where press tour happened a couple weeks ago. I make this confession because we must establish the basic understanding that I am merciless when it comes to attempting to con people into watching extraordinarily silly movies. In fact, I tried, when the first Sharknado was on, to goad the NPR morning news meeting into caring about it ("There's this movie tonight! It is called Sharknado!"), and nobody fell for it. The next morning after Twitter exploded, I strolled into that meeting, boy howdy, and I said, "Now you see." And, of course, I reviewed it in full, because that is the job and I undertake it gladly.*

The first and most important principle for today is that there would be absolutely no point in watching Sharknado 2 on Wednesday night in seclusion. That would be like trying to play racquetball in space. You need to either gather with friends or take to social media in order to get the full effect, because if you don't, you will be distracted somewhere around the subway sequence by a feeling of "What I am I ... doing?" On the other hand, provided you remain focused on making it a social occasion, you will be distracted instead by one of your friends asking you, in gleeful setup-punchline form, what you think the sharks are going to do when they get to the baseball game. I will not tell you exactly which of my critic friends did this.** I will also not tell you the punchline he had in mind.***

The good news is that even if you did not see the original Sharknado, you can probably figure out the plot of Sharknado 2. There's not too much in terms of complex plotting that will confuse you, and thematically, it's not too hard to figure out that the primary motif is bleeding to death.

The facts in brief: Fin (Ian Ziering) and April (Tara Reid) have become minor celebrities after saving California from the last sharknado, but (spoiler alert) it is possible that they are about to encounter another sharknado ... or 2. After an opening set piece that removes a couple of famous CGI'd heads, the situation continues to deteriorate. And despite the fact that most of this happens during the day and is on opposite a Mets game, the NBC coverage is anchored throughout by Matt Lauer and Al Roker, who appear to be working with a skeletal production staff.

Along the way, yes, there's some biting, and there's some fighting, and there are appearances by a surprisingly large number of famous people in surprisingly witty cameos. (The best moment of the poolside viewing I attended was when someone commented on Twitter with some bafflement that Judd Hirsch had crashed the Sharknado 2 screening, only to be informed that this happened because Judd Hirsch is in fact in Sharknado 2. If you see a list of cameos ahead of time, do not read it. It's much better to let them arrive upon your doorstep.)

The best reason to watch Sharknado 2 is that if you gather with enough people, someone will say something outrageous about what's going to happen next — partly in jest — and it will happen exactly that way. This happened twice with my buddy Alan Sepinwall. He not only predicted the major medical intervention of the film, but also called its emotionally climactic beat way ahead of time.

Surprisingly enough, I found that the novelty had not worn off. By which I mean the novelty of watching a movie about weather systems with deadly, bitey, apparently vengeful sharks in them. (They have a taste for blood ... and irony.) Sharknado 2 is not a movie, really; it's an interactive videogame called Make The Stupidest Joke First. And because they put the pedal to the metal and go full, screaming, bedazzled monkeypants crazy from beginning to end, it sort of works.

And by "works," I mean "is terrible and yet, in its way, divine," and I could tell you more about what that means, but I would ruin the moment where you will get to yell ... well, again, I really can't ruin it for you. I wouldn't dare.

*Please see all the comments about yesterday's Bachelorette post for the dissenting view that I should be ashamed. I do not rule it out.

**Erik Adams of The A.V. Club.

***"Eat the Mets! Eat the Mets! Step right up and —"

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Earlier this month, Fed Chair Janet Yellen told Congress that the economy is improving but hasn't bounced back all the way (AP)

Fed Continues To Ease Up On Economic Stimulus

by Alan Greenblatt
Jul 30, 2014

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The Federal Reserve announced Wednesday it will ease up slightly on its efforts to stimulate the economy.

Fed officials said that there is still room for improvement in the labor market, but with the economy growing, they expressed concern that inflation might start ticking up.

Continuing its own recent trend, the Fed announced it will be buying fewer up fewer financial assets. It's on track to end its bond-buying program in October.

Starting in August, the Fed will buy $10 billion worth of mortgage-backed securities a month, which is a cut from $15 billion. The bank will also buy $15 billion worth of long-term Treasuries every month, down from $20 billion.

"Fed officials led by Chair Janet Yellen are stepping up a debate over when to raise interest rates for the first time since 2006 as unemployment falls faster than expected and inflation picks up toward their 2 percent goal," reports Bloomberg News.

Earlier Wednesday, the Commerce Department announced that the economy grew by 4 percent in the spring, rebounding from a disappointing first quarter earlier in the year.

But the Fed said it will wait to raise interest rates, which would have a dampening effect on the economy. Earlier this month, Yellen testified before Congress that although the economy is improving, its recovery is not complete.

Today's announcement states that the Fed will keep short-term interest rates low "for a considerable time" after its bond-buying program ends, especially if inflation remains under 2 percent.

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Earlier this month, Fed Chair Janet Yellen told Congress that the economy is improving but hasn't bounced back all the way (AP)

Women Defy Turkey's Deputy PM, Who Said Women Shouldn't Laugh In Public

by Eyder Peralta
Jul 30, 2014

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Eyder Peralta

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Ar?nç stirred some controversy on Monday, when during an Eid el-Fitr speech, he said chaste women should not laugh in public.

"Chastity is so important," Ar?nç said, according to the Hurriyet Daily News. "It is not only a name. It is an ornament for both women and men. [She] will have chasteness. Man will have it, too. He will not be a womanizer. He will be bound to his wife. He will love his children. [The woman] will know what is haram and not haram. She will not laugh in public. She will not be inviting in her attitudes and will protect her chasteness."

Women all over the world reacted. We'll let them speak for themselves:

Hurriyet reports that Ar?nç defended his words, saying he was not criticizing natural laughter.

"There are some artists who now laugh artificially and send me their photos. Real laughs relieve a person, but these are artificial ones. Those who go for a vacation with their lovers while leaving their husbands behind and can't wait to climb poles when they see one," Ar?nç said, according to Hurriyet.

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How much is too much? (Robert S. Donovan/Flickr)

Problem Drinking In Midlife Linked To Memory Trouble Later

by Nicholas St. Fleur
Jul 30, 2014

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To ward off big memory problems in your 70s and beyond you may want to cork the bottle more often now.

In a study of 6,500 people published this week, adults with a midlife history of drinking problems were more than twice as likely as those without alcohol problems to suffer severe memory impairment decades later.

Researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School, in Exeter, England, analyzed the records of more than 6,542 American adults who had been tracked for 19 years as a part of the Health and Retirement Study.

The drinking assessment was based on a questionnaire mailed in 1992 to the study participants, who were then between the ages of 51 and 61. Instead of directly asking the volunteers how much they typically drank each day, the questions fished for other, subtler indicators of an alcohol problem. It asked if participants ever felt that they should cut down on drinking; if they had ever been annoyed by someone criticizing their drinking; and if they ever had a drink first thing in the morning.

"If you're saying yes to these questions you may be at risk," Iain Lang, a public health specialist and author of the study, tells Shots. "Current recommendations about drinking are about the numbers: 'Do not drink this amount of [alcohol] per day,' " he says. "We wanted to draw attention to people's own feelings on their drinking and to the responses of others."

After submitting the questionnaire, each participant took a series of tests of memory and thinking. They underwent follow-up tests in 1996 and every two years thereafter.

In one test participants were asked to recall a list of 10 words, such as "mountain," "forest," and "light," immediately after it was read to them. Then they were given an activity to perform, and asked to repeat the words again. Other tests had the participants count back from 20 or recall the names of the current American president and vice president.

All participants did worse on the memory tests as the years went on. But those with histories of alcohol problems had a sharper decline. The findings appear in the current issue of American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

"If you're having problems with a test like that, I'm sure it carries through to your daily life," says Clare Walton, a neuroscientist from the Alzheimer's Society in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the study.

Research shows nobody likes to own up to how much they drink, so any study like this that's based on self-reported answers has limits, Walton says.

She points out that although answers to those three subjective questions can effectively point out an alcohol abuser about 70 percent of the time, they are still misidentifying people 30 percent of the time. Exactly how much alcohol it takes to do such damage, and over what time period is still unknown.

Still, she says the work reinforces what other research has been showing: Drinking too much can increase a person's chances of developing serious memory problems and even dementia, which affects 13.9 percent of people over age 70.

"Taking this paper with previous evidence," she says, "people who are concerned with dementia should consider their drinking habits in midlife."

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DJ Sessions: Yesterday's Covers, From 'Hound Dog' To 'The Twist'

Jul 30, 2014 (Here & Now / WBUR-FM)

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DJ Paul Ray, host of the rhythm and blues show “Twine Time” on KUTX in Austin, joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson for the latest installment of DJ Sessions. He shares a number of songs with original versions that may not be the ones we remember.

He shares famous covers that people may not know are covers, like Elvis’s “Hound Dog,” Peggy Lee’s “Fever” and Chubby Checker’s “The Twist.”

Note: We now have a Spotify playlist for our weekly DJ Sessions segment. The playlist will be updated each week with new songs. Spotify is free to use, but requires a login.

Songs Heard In This Segment

Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, “Hound Dog”

Elvis Presley, “Hound Dog”

Little Willie John, “Fever”

Peggy Lee, “Fever”

The Clovers, “Blue Velvet”

Bobby Vinton, “Blue Velvet”

Hank Ballard And The Midnighters, “The Twist”

Chubby Checker, “The Twist”

The Marvelettes, “Too Many Fish In The Sea”


  • Paul Ray, host of the rhythm and blues show “Twine Time” on KUTX in Austin.
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