Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Newsweek on Teenage Girls - I mostly liked this article. It puts out the radical notion that some teenagers are actually mature, well-balanced and, generally, not evil. The problem is that it acts as though that really is a radical notion. Okay, yeah, some of the people I knew in high school were hoodlums. Some stole stuff, some got in fights, some did drugs. But most of the people I dealt with on a daily basis were well-adjusted, intelligent and sophisticated young people doing the best they could to make sense of a complicated and constantly changing world.

The catch? That was 15 years ago, and there was a mix of genders in our group.

I used to think my high school must have been different from everybody else's, because I didn't see the reality of high school reflected in John Hughes movies or similar TV shows. Sure, we had jocks, preps, cheerleaders, geeks of every stripe and flavor, stoners, burn-outs, etc.. But I always figured that was just because we each hung out with the kind of people we liked, and didn't hang out with people we didn't have much in common with. It never occured to me that I was oppressed because I wasn't getting invited to keg parties at the rich kids' houses. I figured that if you were going to have a party, you invited the people you wanted to hang out with. If I wanted to be a part of that crowd, I suppose I might have tried, but I didn't want to. I already had friends.

So, if I'm reading this article correctly, not only was I fifteen years ahead of my time, but I'm also transgendered. Interesting.

Friday, May 24, 2002

The First Round - Well, here they are. Based on the first round, I'm sure there'll be more coming soon.
404 Not Found - There was a flurry on the net a few years ago of haiku error messages. In fact, the Be operating system went so far as to use haiku for their default 404 not found messages. Much as I love haiku, I think that there are other forms being much neglected, and so, in the interest of multiculturalism, I propose a new contest.

I'll kick it off:

There once was a page on the net
that your browser was trying to get.
But just as you feared,
it's no longer here.
Please email us if you're upset.

Send me your limerick error messages, and I'll post them online with attribution.

Thursday, May 23, 2002

Hey, you sexy thang! - Dawn Olsen's running a poll on the sexiest male blogger. Now, I'm not on the list yet, which is fine. I don't have to be sexy in the eyes of the web. I have other virtues. Or so my therapist tells me. And even if I get on the list, there are a lot of big-boy bloggers that'll probably beat me out, because my sexiness is of the subtle, understated variety. After all, I'm a Scorpio, not a Leo.

So why link? Why submit my info, even? Because, sex is the great mystery of human existence, and I'm curious about what trips whose trigger. Is it all hormonal? Your pheremones dig my pheremones, so off we go? Or maybe a Freudian thing, where you're looking for your daddy and I'm looking for my mama? Or mystical: soul reaching out to soul. I don't know. Any ideas?

Monday, May 20, 2002

Attack of the Clones - After Phantom Menace came out, and I was talking to a friend about how disappointed people were in it she said the smartest thing I've heard anyone say about the Star Wars franchise: "Hey, it's a movie; it's not the second coming of Christ!" Just so you know where I'm coming from on this, I think the Star Wars movies are fun, but that The Empire Strikes Back is the only one that really rose above B-movie status. I think George Lucas comes up with good stories, but he has a tin ear for dialogue. And I think that the films' relationship with Joseph Campbell's work is excessively self-conscious and involves an all-too-common confusion of description with prescription. As far as my personal taste in movies, I enjoy thoughtful dramas, inspiring romances, good martial arts flicks, and movies where they blow shit up.

So, here's my review: The action was great, the story was good, and the writing was cringe-inducingly awful. Other than the fact that the dialogue sounded like it was written by two different writers (neither of them with any talent), my only really major beef is with the Amidala/Anakin relationship. Yes, I know they have to get together for Luke and Leia to get born. But that's the only discernible reason for them to fall in love that I can find in the movies. I can see why Anakin is in love with Amidala. When he was separated from his mother, he was right at the point where boys start having their first crushes, and Amidala was just at the right age where she could be both a mother-figure and an object of proto-sexual desire.

But we aren't shown any reason for Amidala, a woman in her mid-20s, to fall for Anakin, a teenager. I could almost buy it if Anakin were shown to be extraordinarily mature for his age, but he doesn't. He acts exactly like every other 16 year old you've ever met. What's most frustrating is how fixable this is. Here's what you do: give Amidala a confidant. A nurse figure, or maybe even Beru. Have the confidant notice the way she looks at Anakin and bring up all the reasons why she shouldn't fall in love with him, then have her answer the objections. It'd add about 30 seconds of screen time, and it would make Amidala seem like a fully realized character, instead of a plot-puppet.

In a good story, the plot arises organically, as a result of the characters doing things that make sense for that character to do. In a bad story, the characters do things because they have to be done in order for the plot to go where the writer wants or needs it to do.

I'm not complaining, exactly. George Lucas is George Lucas, and I don't expect him to suddenly become a good writer after years of, well, sucking. Nor do I suddenly expect him to start hiring good writers when he's only done it once, and that might well have been an accident. But please, all you aspiring screenwriters out there, take this as a cautionary note, and remember: a poorly-written blockbuster will make more money than a well-written art flick, but a well-written blockbuster will make much, much more money than a poorly-written one.

Friday, May 17, 2002

Another Moron With No Sense of Perspective - This may come as a surprise to a great many people out there, but apparently not getting invited to appear on CNN is roughly equivalent to being sent to Siberia, or even killed. In other words, I and virtually everyone I know, is living in exile merely for never having appeared on national television. Actually, from a certain perspective, that sort of fits. After all, I do live in a relatively small town in the midwest, which is frequently confused with Siberia by people who should be smart enough to know better.

Oh, and I'm back. What can I say? Travel broadens the mind and provides challenges that can, if approached properly, nourish the soul, but nothing I experienced while I was gone could possibly match the joy I felt waking up in my own bed this morning with a purring cat nestled in the crook of my arm.

Tuesday, May 07, 2002

The Best Spider-Man Review I've Read - It's not a review as much as it's a rave, but that's what makes it so damn good. Lileks lets us know he loved the movie, and he also lets us know why and how he loved the movie, and he does it in such a way that the 15 people that didn't see Spider-Man last weekend could know from his review whether they might like it. Why aren't professional reviews like this? Half the time a review gives me no clue at all as to whether I'm going to actually like a movie. The one dependable exception to this is the Kansas City Star's Robert Butler, who's a moron with horrible taste in movies. Nine times out of ten, if he likes it, I'll hate it, and vice versa. That's actually a nice thing to have, but I still don't read his reviews because they piss me off.

Sunday, May 05, 2002

It's been a pretty good weekend. Actually, the first 20 hours or so of it sucked, but then I went rock-climbing with some friends (a very strong reminder that I need to get in better shape if I want to do more of that sort of thing, which I do), and went straight from the rock to Spider-Man. Let me be far from the first person person to say they did a great job. It's a tricky business, giving life to people's heroes, and they managed to do justice to the source material without making it an esoteric experience that would only appeal to fan-boys like myself.

My favorite thing about the movie had to be the crowd, though. First of all, it was a 6:30 show on a Saturday, usually a fairly dead time, but the theater was very nearly full. I went alone, and as I sat down next to a couple of college age guys, one of them said, "Big Spider-Man fan?" They looked like your basic preppy-type college students, the kind of guys that would never get caught dead in a comic shop, but it became really clear listening to them talk that they were definitely fans (guy looking at the clock on his cell phone just before the movie started: "Just one minute left!"). The excitement was palpable as the lights went down, and when they came back up, people applauded. I can't remember the last time I heard applause in a theater when it wasn't opening night.

Highlights: His first few attempts at webswinging (you could see him learning), any time M.J. and Peter were on screen together (and that's not just because of my unseemly crush on Kirsten Dunst), and the New Yorkers pelting the Green Goblin with junk in attempt to save Spider-Man. I'm going out of town on business on Wednesday, and I figure I'll go see it at least once or twice while I'm gone (hey, it beats watching TV).

Today's been a pretty solitary day, taken up with therapeutic anti-entropic activities (mostly laundry). But I fixed myself french toast (made with vanilla sugar, the only way to fly) for breakfast this morning, and just had a pretty decent dinner as well. For the record, I had a fillet of tilapia, with green beans and sauteed new potatoes. The tilapia was a little bland, and the green beans were a little undercooked, but the new potatoes made up for it. I planned on parboiling them before sauteing them, but I overdid it, and was worried they'd turn out nasty, but instead they were marvelously soft, with a nice crisp, flavorful skin. I felt kind of silly cracking a bottle of wine for it, since the odds are very good that today's one glass is all I'll drink, but a little indulgence is perfectly aligned with my goal.

The last time I was single, I made it a point of fixing myself at least one good meal per week, and I'd like to get back to it. There are two reasons. First of all, it keeps my chops up and gives me a place to experiment. My friends generally consider me a good cook, but if I want to keep it up, then I've got to cook on a semi-regular basis. And if I'm not dating anyone, then my only venues are throwing parties and cooking for myself. Why not do both, particularly when cooking for myself lets me try new stuff without worrying about embarassing myself? The second reason is inspired by Keb Mo, who sang, "When nobody loves you, and you're feeling like dust on an empty shelf, when nobody loves you, you can love yourself." It's not that I think I'm entirely unloved, but I'm adjusting from living with a romantic partner to living by myself with no romantic partner, and a little self-pampering helps. And if there's one thing I've learned in the last year, it's that if there's something in life you want, you're much better off learning to provide it for yourself rather than counting on someone else to do so.

I love my friends, and I love my family, but when it comes to finding happiness in life, that's something we each have to figure out on our own.

Friday, May 03, 2002

Take Back the Afternoon? - Based on my experience, a Take Back the Night walk is a lot more effective if you actually do it at night. This story says the marchers met in "late afternoon," and the pictures were definitely taken in the daylight. Here's another story, and it says the march started at 7, which is still a good hour and a half before the sun sets this time of year.

I can't believe that nobody in the planning stages said, "Um, guys? Shouldn't we wait until it's dark?" I'll be charitable and assume they had to put the schedule out back in December, and nobody was thinking about daylight savings.