Thursday, June 30, 2005

Spreading memes like peanut butter

This seems like a nifty and potentially useful blog meme, so I'm joining in.


Overview: This post is a community experiment with two broad purposes. The first is to create publicly accessible data about bloggers' personalities, which may have sociological value in addition to being just plain fun. The second is to track the propagation of this meme through blogspace. Full details and explanation can be found on the original posting:

Instructions (to join in the experiment):

1) Take the IPIP-NEO personality test and the Political Compass quiz, if you have not done so already.

2) Copy to the clipboard that section of this post that is between the double lines, and paste it into your blog editor. (Blogger users may wish to use 'compose' mode to preserve formatting and hyperlinks. Otherwise, be sure to add hyperlinks as necessary.)

3) Replace the answers in the "survey" section below with your own.

4) Add your blog information to the "track list", in the form: "Linked title - URL - optional GUID".

5) Any additional comments should go outside of the double lines, including the (optional) nomination of bloggers you wish to pass this experimental meme on to.

6) Post it to your blog!


Age: 25
Gender: Male
Location: Austin, TX, USA
Religion: None
Occupation: Writer/Teacher
Began blogging (dd/mm/yy): 15/09/02

Political Compass results
Left/Right: -8.13
Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.13

IPIP-NEO results

EXTRAVERSION: 38 (average)
Friendliness 37
Gregariousness 55
Assertiveness 17
Activity Level 27
Excitement-Seeking 17
Cheerfulness 90

Trust 79
Morality 72
Altruism 80
Co-operation 63
Modesty 65
Sympathy 73

Self-Efficacy 13
Orderliness 41
Dutifulness 66
Achievement-Striving 26
Self-Discipline 26
Cautiousness 64

Anxiety 12
Anger 14
Depression 9
Self-Consciousness 48
Immoderation 12
Vulnerability 12

Imagination 81
Artistic Interests 60
Emotionality 22
Adventurousness 78
Intellect 79
Liberalism 97

Track List:
1. Philosophy, et cetera - - pixnaps97a2
2. Majikthise - - 6ea37d10-e9b9-11d9-8cd6-0800200c9a66
3. Ryan McReynolds - - r123y123a123n123


And that's that. Don't use this information against me!

Does anyone still use AIM?

Not while I'm on, apparently.

I am a professional crastinator

I am big-time procrastinating when it comes to writing today. This whole week, really. Granted, I have actually had some things to do that were legitimate, such as typing and sending off letters of interest and certification coursework, but even so I am avoiding working on fiction like the plague. I'm not sure why, either, because I'm having a good time with it. Just not in the mood, I guess. Sucks. If 3:00 rolls around and I haven't done anything, I'm gonna have to get serious.

War of the Worlds

My review of War of the Worlds is up. Go read it, and then go to the next showing of this movie and be amazed. Yes, I know you have to work, but just call in sick. You'll thank me.

Incidentally, War of the Worlds has made me realize that at some point I stopped caring whether a movie and the book it is based on are the same. They're two different media. While I want a certain similarity to justify the term "based on," I don't really have a problem with changes to adapt to a new medium. I'm not saying it's not fair to compare the two at all, but I can do a pretty good job of judging things on their own merits and enjoying them for their own reasons, which may or may not overlap. I'm definitely not saying that movies should be off the hook for weak writing under the guise of "adapting." But in the case of War of the Worlds, for example, there are significant departures from the novel in terms of details while the actual story is very much the same. More importantly, anything lost from an imprecise adaption was compensated for by the good original features of the film that weren't in the novel, something many adaptations can't claim to have done. Most cut important things without adding anything new and worthwhile to make up for it.

But enough about that here, I've got a whole review of it elsewhere.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Et cetera

My review of Pi is now up. I'll be seeing War of the Worlds tonight. The job hunt has shifted into high gear. And so on.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Better late than never

My reviews of Code 46 and Saved! are posted.

Is anybody else looking forward to War of the Worlds as much as I am? I've been reading some of the early reviews and things are looking very, very good.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Are people waking up?

49% Say Bush Responsible for Provoking Iraq War
Forty-nine percent (49%) of Americans say that President Bush is more responsible for starting the War with Iraq than Saddam Hussein. A Rasmussen Reports survey found that 44% take the opposite view and believe Hussein shoulders most of the responsibility.

[...] 78% of all Democrats say that Bush is more responsible for starting the War than Hussein. Just 18% take the opposite view.

Republicans, by a 76% to 17% margin, say that Hussein is responsible.

Among those not affiliated with either major party, 52% name Bush and 34% Hussein.
I never thought Americans were stupid, only gullible. Maybe our intellectual prowess is slowly, painfully emerging from beneath the tangle of deceptions and misdirections that hoodwinked people into thinking that Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat to the security of the United States.

I actually think gullible is a term that is quite underused when referring to people, particularly those in this country who seem to swallow everything the Bush administration fires at them. There is a word for people who always question what they're told and want evidence to back up claims: skeptics. But when people say you should blindly support the President, or that you need to have faith, or that you don't need to ask so many questions, what they are telling you is that you need to be gullible.

Gullibility is not something to be proud of, but it is not necessarily something to be ashamed of. It is a trait that is encouraged in conservative, religious society. The gullible majority of Americans aren't gullible out of stupidity or even ignorance, but because it is taught and promoted. Trust those with authority. The pastor studied the Bible a lot more than you did, so he knows best. President Bush has the CIA and information that we aren't privy to, so he knows best.

But the best thing about gullibility is that it can be unlearned. Even the most devout fundamentalist will often say that it is important to question your faith, but when he says that he means that if you pray enough you will blind yourself to objections. In politics, you rarely see this concession to skepticism. But both cases of chronic gullibility can be cured by reason, a talent all of us possess.

There will always be differences of opinion. Many of the most skeptical people around are libertarians, while others tend towards socialism. In utterly different fashions, both of these political/economic philosophies are based around the idea of not blindly following the status quo. The difference between libertarians and socialists is one of goals and effectiveness. Obviously, I think the libertarians are utterly wrong in their goals, but I would much prefer a world of libertarians and socialists arguing about balancing self-interest against social-interest than a world in which people simply looked to their leaders and said, "Yes."

[via The Regular]

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Mad, mad I tell you!

Tests Confirm 2nd Case of Mad Cow Disease in U.S.

Now, this is two out of 1.3 billion cows in the world, so we're not talking about epidemics here. But still, there's a crazy idea out there that will eliminate any need for fear or worry: don't eat cows.

The cows will have less to fear and worry about, too.

Friday, June 24, 2005


I have set up a separate blog for my book and movie reviews, so as not to clutter this one up too much. I will post links to new reviews here. I have already duplicated all of my prior reviews on the new blog. Reviews for Code 46 and Saved! will be up soon. Click the image above.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

From the mouths of babes

It's a writer's job to eavesdrop, yes?

This is a true story. Two preschool age kids standing in line with their mothers at McDonalds...
Little boy #1: Hey! You get McDonald's for breakfast too!
Little boy #2: Yeah! I'm getting pancakes! I thought I was never going to get pancakes again.
Little boy #1: How come? Your mom doesn't make pancakes at home?
Little boy #2: No. I only get them here. And I didn't think I was ever going to taste them ever again.
Little boy #1: How come?
Little boy #2: Because after my little brother's birthday party, my Mom said she'd rather take it up the ass than eat here anymore.
I nearly pooped myself when I read this.

[via Warren Ellis]

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

More religious nuttery

City of God: Tom Monaghan's coming Catholic utopia

Tom Monaghan founded Domino's Pizza. He is also fucking insane. You see, he wants to build a simple college town centered on his Ave Maria University project:
Ave Maria won't be just a university, he continues. It will also be a new town, built from scratch, in which the wickedness of the world will be kept at bay. "We've already had about 3500 people inquire on our Web site about buying a home there--you know, they're all Catholic," Monaghan says excitedly. "We're going to control all the commercial real estate, so there's not going to be any pornography sold in this town. We're controlling the cable system. The pharmacies are not going to be able to sell condoms or dispense contraceptives." A private chapel will be located within walking distance of each home. At the stunning church in the center of town, Mass will be said hourly, seven days a week, from 6 a.m. on. "So," Monaghan concludes, with just a hint of understatement, "it'll be a unique town."
I think that since the planned town will be built on private land, it's entirely possible that it will be built and inhabited without legal interference. It might not technically be a "town" at all. The interesting question, briefly raised in the article, is what the consequences would be for any residents who break the ridiculous rules. Excommunication? Exile? Stoning in the public square? There's something ominous about how "they" will be controlling everything.

[via Pandagon]

Doing my part

Bible verses of the day:
Lot went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him, and said, "I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please; only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof." (Genesis 19:7-8)
And later:
Now Lot went up out of Zoar and settled in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar; so he lived in a cave with his two daughters. And the firstborn said to the younger, "Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of all the world. Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, so that we may preserve offspring through our father." So they made their father drink wine that night; and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; he did not know when she lay down or when she rose. On the next day, the firstborn said to the younger, "Look, I lay last night with my father; let us make him drink wine tonight also; then you go in and lie with him, so that we may preserve offspring through our father." So they made their father drink wine that night also; and the younger rose, and lay with him; and he did not know when she lay down or when she rose. Thus both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father. (Genesis 19:30-36)
Remember, children, that Lot was one of the most righteous and holy of men!

Monday, June 20, 2005

I think you'd understand

My web-surfing time (which I shall call "writing research") has been dominated by radical politics lately. I need some political books to read. I've got a ton of fiction, a bunch of science, and all the major works of philosophy, but very little politics. Particularly the type of politics I'm into.

Stay the course

I'm reaching the point in the current work-in-progress where I'm tempted to go back and start over again from an entirely different point in the story. I've already radically altered the planned ending. But I think it would be a big mistake to start over now. I think I've got something good going, and I would hate to ruin it because I second-guessed myself. Better to finish what I have and then change anything that needs to be changed in editing.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Social networking

So first there was Friendster. Hey, cool, put all your friends on here and find new ones and so on and so forth. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Friendster was neat for a while, but it wasn't very useful. The only time I ever actually did any "social networking" there was after I blogged about it here. It seems to do little more than simply list the people you know. I log on from time to time to update my profile and see if anyone's around. Nothing ever happens.

Along came This place was jumping from the minute I signed up. So many tribes to join, people buying and selling, job listings, notices of cool goings on. But this time, they must have done a bad job of advertising, because not a single person I know offline is on Tribe, aside from my wife--who only got on because I did. And, as with Friendster before I blogged about it, did precisely nothing in so far as "networking" me with anyone. It also quickly became a pain in the ass to read any of the tribe messages, and with the sheer volume--as I'd joined a billion tribes that seemed interesting--made it impossible to keep up with them all. I abandoned, and only came back to update my profile recently. It seems to be just as active, but I still know nobody.

The other big social networking service I joined was MySpace, as mentioned in my last post. MySpace was a more useful than either Friendster or, but uglier than both. But I actually do get new people who share my interests messaging me and wanting to be my friend. I've added a few that seemed sincere. I was a "cool new person" on the front page a little while back and got well over 200 friend-whores wanting to add me to their 450-person lists. I denied them all, because that seems pretty pointless. A lot of people I know offline are on MySpace, which helps flesh out the network. So MySpace wins for utility so far.

I'm wondering, though, how do other people use any of these you're on? Do you just add the people you already know and use it as a substitute for actual live contact? Do you search for people with similar interests or in your area and chat them up? Have you ever actually met someone you'd call a "friend" in the traditional context of the word? Do you think the whole idea is bankrupt and stay out of it all together? I'm curious.

There's not really a point to be found in this post. I just remember that when Friendster came around people thought it was some great revolution in meeting new people. I'm not so sure anything revolutionary has happened yet.

If you're on any of the three above and want to do a little networking in my direction, just click on the links to your right . . . no, lower. Yeah, there, under "connections" and before "syndication."


Saturday, June 18, 2005

The clone wars

I don't know why I found this amusing, but I was on MySpace and decided to get me a personalized URL. So, naturally, I put in "ryanmcreynolds." But no, that was already taken, by this guy. So now I'm stuck with "rmcreynolds" as I was when I signed up for Gmail. I wonder if he's got the Gmail address, too? Anyway, anybody whose profile begins with "Ryan McReynolds is a Christian . . ." is about as diametrically opposed from my personality as humanly possible.

Actually, he's like my opposite in a lot of ways, it seems. I have short hair, he has long hair. I am quite skinny, he's a big guy. I live in Texas (the South) he lives in Michigan (the North). I am an atheist, he is a believer. I am rabidly optimistic, he writes songs about "depression issues." I found school too easy, he has a learning disability. I'm mellow, he's hyperactive. Wait . . . is he from the Mirror Universe? Or am I?

I like using my real name online. I want people to be able to find me with as little difficulty as possible. I have nothing to hide.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

No spoilers

I just wanted to mention--on the off chance that anyone actually reads my reviews and furthermore that they might read those of movies they haven't seen in the hopes of deciding whether or not to watch them--that my reviews are spoiler free. I will never give away the ending or any significant details, and if I mention them it will be hidden [highlight the following to read] like this. Just in case somebody out there has been dying to see what I thought of Mean Girls but hasn't looked because they don't want to know if Lindsay Lohan dies at the end or not.

Review: Batman Begins

That's right . . .

Batman Begins

Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Katie Holmes
Year: 2005

I have been waiting to see Batman Begins for two years. I stumbled across a Batman fan site right around the time that Chris Nolan was signed to direct, and from the moment I heard the news, I knew this was going to be one to watch for. Then the news kept getting better. I liked American Psycho for one reason: Christian Bale. Look at that cast list above and pretend Katie Holmes isn't on it. Can you say "perfect?" I followed the news about the film all the way until today. And now I am going to say it:

Batman Begins is the best comic book movie ever made.

It tells the story of . . . who am I kidding? If you don't know the story of Batman you don't need to be reading.

That said, I can assure you that you have never seen the story of Batman told like this, and this is the way it should be told. First of all, the movie is dark, and not only because scenes are often set at night. The movie is about anger and revenge and the struggle to stop evil without becoming evil in the process. It is also frightening. Instead of ice-skating around and riding surfboards (if you never saw Batman and Robin and missed these gems, count yourself lucky), this Batman operates like a horror movie villain, snatching people unseen, knocking out lights, always in the shadows. The Scarecrow's fear gas is seen in first-person, and it's not at all pretty. Especially when you're under the influence and Batman's nearby.

I think it is also important to mention that Batman doesn't appear throughout the first half of the film. This allows Nolan ample opportunity to explore his background through direct narrative in training with Neeson's Ducard and flashbacks to earlier periods, the atemporal style reminiscent of his brilliant work in Memento. The delay also gives the audience opportunity to see Bruce Wayne, making his transformations both into Public Bruce the Asshole and Batman the Avenger all the more striking when they occur. Christian Bale's Batman is a creature possessed, speaking an unexpectedly angry growl of a voice and moving like something between a stealthy puma and a pissed-off lion.

With a cast like this, it is hard to name a standout, but I am going to anyway. Gary Oldman was the most unexpectedly inspired choice as Jim Gordon, and in my opinion gave an incredible if lamentably brief performance. He was the audience's link to the world of the film: the one good cop in a corrupt Gotham City, the unbelieving witness and accomplice to Batman's rise. And when he gets behind the wheel of the urban tank batmobile, Oldman exudes a combination of glee and terror that you can't help but feel with him.

Was there anything wrong with Batman Begins? Of course. No film is perfect. The dialogue at times got a little speech-heavy. While I wouldn't echo some critics in saying that Katie Holmes is "unwatchable," she's certainly the weakest link in the cast and barely believable as an assistant district attorney. But otherwise, I have no complaints. I've read that some didn't care for the fights being shot close-in, so it was hard to tell what was happening. I didn't mind, and in fact I liked that it didn't devolve into a series of wire-worked kung-fu stunts.

I have to keep comparing this to other great comic book films. Both X-Mens, the original Superman, Spider Man 2. And while it's certainly arguable, I have to admit that Batman Begins has them beat. The reason is depth. With these other films, you might get good writing and good acting. You'll get more than just guys in tights and choreographed fights. You'll have meaningful characters. But Batman Begins does such a tremendous job of distilling the pure essence of more than sixty years of history into two-and-a-half hours that it makes these other films seem almost shallow in comparison. You really know why Bruce Wayne transforms himself, you feel the drive that he has. Batman and Spider-Man have essentially the same origin, with a dead family member and the need for revenge. But look at the character arc and emotional content of the Spider-Man films and then watch Batman Begins. Batman is a little more grounded in reality since he has no superpowers, but the idea of a masked man in a bat-suit is pretty ridiculous. But in Batman Begins you believe it in a way that no other comic book movie has achieved. And I say that as a huge fan of all of them! It's not at all that they did a bad job, it's that Christopher Nolan did even better.

And if you've seen the ending of the film, you know the best is surely yet to come.


Review: Mean Girls

Mean Girls

Director: Mark Waters
Cast: Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Lizzy Caplan
Year: 2004

Don't tell anyone, but I kinda wanted to see Mean Girls when it came out in theaters. It looked fairly funny, and I knew it was written by Tina Fey, whose work on Saturday Night Live has generally been good. But there were other things to do and other movies to see, so I never got around to it.

Lohan's Cady Heron is going to public school for the first time after growing up in Africa. She is immediately thrust into the world of cliques; there are the varsity jocks, the Asian nerds, the promiscuous band geeks, the (insert clique here)s, and the plastics--the stuck-up bitches. Cady befriends some art dorks of indeterminate sexuality while infiltrating the plastics but finds herself rapidly becoming just the kind of stuck-up bitch she hated.

Mean Girls is actually a lot more clever than it looks, and surprisingly the humor comes from this cleverness rather than exclusively from simple pranks and gags, although there are some of those as well. Most importantly, it doesn't have most of the usual contrivances these movies seem to have. There's no secret bet to make an ugly duckling into a swan, there's no "true beauty is on the inside" sappiness, and there's no "she liked the hot guy and in the end falls for the nerd with the heart of gold" redirect, either. It's just a story of the perils of trying too hard and caring too much.

Compared to other "teen comedies," Mean Girls is brilliant. If I rated movies only against others of their genre, this would be a five-star review. I'm tempted to give it four stars since it is significantly better than similar fare. But ultimately it's not groundbreaking, it's not great art, and I'm not rushing out to buy it on DVD, so three it is.


Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Oh, governor of mine

Governor Rick Perry on the right of lesbians and gay men to marry:
Texas has made a decision on marriage, and if there's a state with more lenient views than Texas, then maybe that's where they should live.
You hear that? You want the same basic rights as us straight folk and you can just get the hell out! Your elected leader done told you not to do any of that butt-stuff in these here parts.

Christ on a crutch, these Republicans are gonna be the death of me. Literally, at the rate they're going.

, ,

I'm stuffed

You ever go until 4:00 without eating anything because the pantry/refrigerator is bare, then go to the grocery store and come home and gorge yourself on the things you bought? Yeah, me too.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Reviews: The Royal Tenenbaums, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and Magnolia

The Royal Tenenbaums

Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: Gene Hackman, Angelica Houston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Danny Glover, Bill Murray, Alec Baldwin
Year: 2001

Hot on the trail of Rushmore, I was looking forward to The Royal Tenenbaums as more of the same. I was not disappointed, though the tone struck me as quite different from the previous film. Less wackiness, more sanguinity.

The Royal Tenenbaums is many stories held together by family ties. Most obvious is Royal Tenenbaum's effort to return to his family's good graces by faking an illness. But the film also tells the tale of Richie and adopted Margot Tenenbaum's secret love, of Etheline Tenenbaum's romance with Henry Sherman, of Chas Tenenbaum's inability to cope with his wife's death.

The film was definitely funny, with an incredibly dry wit, and unafraid to find humor in what would otherwise be sad situations. The cast worked well together, with no major characters getting short shrift. The same goes for the storylines mentioned above; they are all given roughly equal time but none slipped through the cracks.

However, the somber subject matter and tone detracted from the film. Yes, it was funny--laugh-out-loud funny, at times--but it may have been too dry after all. We don't need Farelly brothers slapstick and fart jokes, but there wasn't that sense of ridiculousness that pervaded Rushmore. There were two exceptions, perhaps the best parts of the film: the opening family history montage, and the car-wreck finale.
The Royal Tenenbaums was a fine and funny film, and I'm glad I saw it.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith

Director: Doug Liman
Cast: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Vince Vaughn
Year: 2005

I wasn't sure what to expect from Mr. and Mrs. Smith. A ludicrously attractive pair of married assassins out to get each other, sure; that much was obvious from the trailers. But I had no idea if it would be played for camp or straightforward.

It is somewhere in between. First of all, the film is far funnier than I would have thought it to be, with Pitt and Jolie playing off of each other perfectly. But the humor comes from their relationship, both before and after the revelation that they are mortal enemies. It is not the one-liner insult-fest that the trailer might portray it as, either. The humor could best be described as ironic, as lie after lie falls away from the farce that was their marriage.

But there is a certain seriousness to the movie as well, and given that the body count numbers in the hundreds, I am a little surprised that it was rated PG-13. The action sequences are competent. The direction as a whole is quite good; Doug Liman is a pro at the raw right-there hand-held camera style of filmmaking.

But it isn't perfect. There are a few more one-liners than I would have liked, Vince Vaughn (playing the same character he always plays) is a little annoying, though usually amusing. It stretches credibility that the Smiths' relationship can take the directions it takes so rapidly [SPOILER: highlight to read] in that they go from having fallen out of love to hating each other to falling madly back in love in a matter of days. But it is handled as well as it could be.

All in all, Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a fun, well-made action movie with plenty of laughs.


Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Tom Cruise, Pat Healy, Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Year: 1999

I don't remember people liking Magnolia very much when it came out. That's probably why I never bothered to see it, although I thought Boogie Nights was brilliant.

Magnolia is another three-hour string of seemingly unconnected stories that all share a common thread. I wouldn't dare try to describe every storyline that the movie follows, but suffice it to say that there are a variety of people in a variety of situations. The big story would seem to be Cruise's hypersexist Frank Mackey coming to terms with his dying father.

Cruise does seem to steal the show every time he is on screen, but then his character is over-the-top in his disgusting objectification of women. Even having never seen the film, I knew the line, "Respect the cock, tame the cunt." The entire cast is phenomenal and so numerous that the above list is extremely partial.

Magnolia is dense, and shot artfully. This is both its brilliance and its downfall. Anderson can make a single ten-minute follow-through-a-crowd shot seem effortless, he can follow ten different characters over fifteen minutes with the same musical cue overlaid, tying it all together. But does he have to do it constantly, for three hours? Really, even with all of the characters and storylines, Magnolia was a two-hour movie with an extra hour of slow zooms and pans and stedicam shots adding another hour. I hate to presume, but it almost feels like Anderson is trying to show off just how many artistic shots he can cram into a film.

Rachel and I had to stop the movie after about two and a half hours to take a break. This might seem damning, but it wasn't because the movie was bad, only that there was so much of it that, like when eating a large meal, it seemed wise to unbutton the pants and let the gut hang out for a while.

Magnolia is good, but be sure you sit in a comfortable chair.


Sunday, June 12, 2005

Yeah, I know

I didn't review The Royal Tenenbaums yesterday, and now I have Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Magnolia to review, too. I'll do them all tomorrow. If you're waiting with baited breath, they all get four stars, for entirely different reasons.

Nothing much is happening, otherwise.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

And all of these things

Why is it that I can sit on the couch for 40 minutes and notice the clouds outside and figure it would feel good and then get up, plop down in a chair on the balcony with my laptop, and have the hot Sun start beating down on me after seconds. Oh, and then I can come inside and watch the cloud cover roll in once more. Damn you, Father Sol, you spiteful shit!

Rachel and I were at a party until 4:00 last night. I haven't done such things in a long time. I managed five hours of sleep before my body decided to wake up. I didn't drink enough fast enough to really have a hangover, but that doesn't mean I didn't want to keep sleeping. Wendy, the birthday girl, got a book of artsy female nudes--called, appropriately, Naked Women--as a gift. At least one person or another was flipping through that all night. Nobody liked the one of the old woman with a large fish. It seems like a lot of people didn't bring gifts, which strikes me as being both strange and kind of rude. Doesn't that come with the birthday territory? It's not like it was a big anonymous-invite kind of party where half the guests don't even know each other. I was one of like three people who didn't all work together.

Today is Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Wednesday is Batman Begins. More Netflix is coming in the mail. It's going to be a movie-filled week, it seems. Which is OK with me. I do enjoy the cinema.

I don't know what to eat today. Thought you should know.

Friday, June 10, 2005

So on and so forth

I wish I could say that it has been a fun week, but funerals are never happy.

I will be participating in the next Turkey City writer's workshop on July 23. This will be the first time my work has been seen by anyone (aside from the stories I wrote for my fiction classes). There will be professional writers critiquing a story, which simultaneously excites and terrifies me. It's hump-busting time to get something prettied up for the occasion.

A review of The Royal Tenenbaums will be posted tomorrow.

I spend an hour skimming/reading J. Storrs Hall's book Nanofuture at Book People today. It's a "best case" look at what molecular nanotechnology will make possible; I'm not a true convert to the nanorgasmic vision--I think it will take longer than some people seem to expect--but it is still a fascinating read. And who knows, maybe it will all pan out?

I have worn Threadless's "Flowers in the Attic" t-shirt in public twice, and both times somebody has asked what band it's for.

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Review: Akira


Director: Katsuhiro Ôtomo
Cast (English dub): Johnny Yong Bosch, Wendee Lee, Joshua Seth
Year: 1988

I saw the original English version of Akira once in middle school. I somehow managed to forget nearly all of it. Now I got my hands on the 2001 DVD, with new English dubbing and extensive restoration.

When motorcycle gang member Tetsuo becomes part of a secret goernment program called Akira, his gang leader and friend Kaneda works to rescue him. In a future Neo-Tokyo full of student protests, greedy politicians, and military obsession, Tetsuo develops a supernatural power that builds to an explosive conclusion.

Oh, and by the way, this is the best anime film ever made.

Without the benefit of modern computer graphics, Akira manages to invoke incredible visuals as Tetsuo is transformed by his power. Buildings crumble, people die, meyhem ensues. I especially love the first few scenes after Tetsuo is awakened by the Espers' stuffed animal forms. The spherical "personal force field" that crumbles walls is an effect I've always liked, and it was well-executed here.

The story is complex and engaging. Questions are left unanswered for the viewer to figure out, and the issues are often only hinted at. The only negative is one that generally can't be helped: the voice dubbing. The acting was over-the-top in places, putting it mildly, but I know that such things are often neccessary to get the lip synchronization anywhere close.

I would definitely recommend Akira as an introduction to anime for the uninitiated. It's got the widespread distruction, the gore, the science fiction plot, the future Japan. I'm not an anime nut, but there are a handful of anime films that I truly enjoy, and this is one of them.

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Now that's Bush country!

Barbarism in Texas

So my illustrious home state has a law in which abortions after 16 weeks can only be performed at hospitals, and hospitals rarely perform elective abortions. In other words, if you are a Texan and you don't want to be pregnant after the 16th week, you're pretty much out of luck. That's the situation Erica Basoria found herself in. She was 17. As the state was forcing her to have a child against her will, she had her boyfriend, Gerardo Flores, stand on her abdomen and had a miscarriage.

Texas also has a new law against "fetal murder."

Since Flores caused the death of the fetus, he was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Prosecutor Art Bauereiss claimed that had the death occurred after birth, we would charge Flores with murder, so this is just.

I am tired of framing the abortion issue as a matter of privacy, though I know that's the only shot we have at keeping it legal. Women should simply have a right to abortion, no questions asked. As long as women cannot end unwanted pregnancy, the state is forcing women to reproduce. The state is forcing women to gestate children against their will. The state is enslaving women for nine months. There is no clearer way to say it.

Beyond this, every avenue of research consistently shows that fetuses are not self-aware and more than 98% of abortions occur before a fetus would be capable of feeling pain. Fetuses are not people. In other words, this is a non-issue. Rather it would be a non-issue if not for the rampant fundamentalist bullshit spewing from our churches to infect the minds of gullible people everywhere.


Monday, June 6, 2005

Life (and death)

My grandmother's husband died yesterday. It seems like "grandfather" would have worked in that last sentence, for that was certainly the role he played in the family, but we always called him by his name, Will. The death was not entirely unexpected; he'd been growing weaker at what seemed to be an exponential rate over the last few months. I have a memory of Will when my grandmother first met him, and he brought my brother and me a toy space shuttle. He was a good man.

Saturday, June 4, 2005

Reviews: The Longest Yard and Rushmore

The Longest Yard

Director: Peter Segal
Cast: Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Burt Reynolds
Year: 2005

I went in to this film expecting the worst. I am not a big Adam Sandler fan; he can be funny, but rarely makes an impression. I am also not a sports fan, at all. The last sporting event I watched was the 2004 Olympics, and I can't remember what I might have caught before that. Sports just don't do anything for me. And football is probably my least favorite sport.

So it was with a certain reluctance that I went to see a movie about football. The plot: at a Texas prison, a series of ad hoc contrivances puts Sandler's ex-football star Paul Crewe in charge of a misfit squad of prisoners tasked with warming up the award-winning guard team for their upcoming season. Not encouraging.

However, The Longest Yard was a very entertaining film. It was simple, straightforward, but fun to watch. The actual football sequences were well-executed, probably the best I've seen--which doesn't say much since I don't generally watch sports movies. The jokes were all pretty funny. The performances were competent.

About the only major complaint I have is that--and I wouldn't be a good liberal if I didn't point this out--there were so many stereotypes represented. The warden is a dick, the guards are all racist rednecks, the black prisoners are the best athletes. But the overall message that "prisoners are people, too" is a good one, and if it takes a contrived football game to say that, so be it. That said, it is a little perverse to think of murderers, rapists, and thieves as the good guys; hence, the over-the-top villainization of the guards was probably required.

The Longest Yard was amusing, but I'd recommend you wait to catch it on HBO. Or rent it, if you want.


Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Olivia Williams
Year: 1998

I am way behind the times just now seeing Rushmore. I don't know why it took so long. I've managed to never see a Wes Anderson film until now, which is strange because they seem to be my kind of movies.

Rushmore is the story of Max Fischer, perhaps both the best and the worst student at Rushmore Academy. President or founder of nearly every club and organization at the school, Fischer is an academic failure. When his obsession turns to a young teacher at the school, he goes to elaborate lengths to win her heart.

It goes without saying that I was impressed. Every aspect of the film was well-executed: a smart screenplay with humor and heart, competent direction, and outstanding performances. I was surprised to find that Schwartzman's Fischer was not a particularly likeable character. I was expecting a "hero," however subdued, and was treated instead to a flawed and very naive protagonist, occasionally even something of a jerk. But he was a sympathetic character. None of his flaws stemmed from his actually being a bad person, they resulted from his unusual penchant for obsession.

The strength of Rushmore lays in the fact that for all its subtle absurdity, the story is grounded in reality. The situations Fischer finds himself in, and the feelings he has, are all situations and feelings that we all have, at one time or another. Unrequited affections, embarrassment at family, wanting to hold onto something that should be let go. They are merely exaggerated to amusing proportions, yet without ever becoming campy.

And a prep-school theater production of Serpico is a brilliant idea.


Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Wow. Just... wow.

Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries

Hyper-conservative online magazine Human Events Online created a list of the ten most harmful books of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I can't even begin to describe how outrageous the list is, so I will put it here.
  1. The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
  2. Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler
  3. Quotations from Chairman Mao, Mao Zedong
  4. The Kinsey Report, Alfred Kinsey
  5. Democracy and Education, John Dewey
  6. Das Kapital, Karl Marx
  7. The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan
  8. Introduction to Positive Philosophy, Auguste Comte
  9. Beyond Good and Evil, Friedrich Nietzche
  10. General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, John Maynard Keynes
Seriously, the Communist Manifesto as number one? I know it's because the Soviet Union was the "evil empire," but that's far more the result of Stalin or even Lenin than anything Marx wrote. I likewise find it funny that Das Kapital would be considered "harmful." Especially amusing is this line regarding Marx: "He could not have predicted 21st Century America: a free, affluent society based on capitalism and representative government that people the world over envy and seek to emulate." Not only would Marx have no problem with representative government that I can think of, he would certainly note that paranoid America is far from free and that while the total amount of money makes us ostensibly affluent, the distribution thereof is even further from equitable than it was in his time.

You'll get no complaint from me on Mein Kampf and the Mao book.

The Kinsey Report? What's that all about? Oh, right, finding out that people aren't a homogeneous, missionary-position-loving assemblage of procreative machines is pretty shocking if you're such a boring person yourself. Jealousy will get you nowhere.

That The Feminine Mystique is on the list is, frankly, appalling. You'd think these people wanted women to stay in the home cooking and cleaning like good little slave-whores. Wait, they do. No surprise that only one of the sixteen judges was a woman.

John Dewey makes the list because, "in pompous and opaque prose, he disparaged schooling that focused on traditional character development and endowing children with hard knowledge, and encouraged the teaching of thinking 'skills' instead." Yes, giving children the ability to use their own minds to discover what they choose to discover instead of force-feeding them useless facts and imposing an outdated morality on them is just horrible.

They hate Comte for coining the term sociology, for being an atheist, and for suggesting that humanity can determine how things ought to be through reason. I'm no great fan of Nietzche, but here the conservatives again make the childish suggestion that because bad people did bad things with a person's ideas, that person is responsible. Don't even ask about Keynes, because I couldn't care less.

[via AlterNet Blog: Peek]

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I'm not normally an insomniac

It's 2:30 in the morning and no matter how hard I try I can't get to sleep. I had some coffee in the evening, which might have something to do with it, but that was six hours ago. There's a storm brewing outside. Other than the occasional roll of distant thunder and the hum of the air conditioner there is nothing but silence as I sit here on the bedroom floor with my laptop in the dark. My mind won't stop working but I have no coherent thoughts.