Friday, June 26, 2009


So, watching one of the news summaries of Farrah Fawcett's life, which was pocked with a generous sprinkling of clips from "Charlie's Angels," I began to wonder: did her nipples ever stand down?

I'd always thought that "Friends" took the award for most breasts at full attention, but Farah may have been the unbreakable record setter - the Elvis of pokies, if you will.
Without Permission

I have beloved a phrase coined by a college roomate: "Look out, they're trying to touch your heart without your permission!" - said during a movie we didn't expect to be so emotionally stirring. He was a renowned cynic and when his eyes started welling up, he had to come up with something I guess, and that was it. Brilliant.

The rule about entertainments that do that (the unsolicited heart-touching) is it has to come with some sort of payoff that makes it worth the emotional trouble.

Tragedies particularly illustrate this principle. If everything ends badly, then there has to be something in there that made it worthwhile. Apocalypse Now, Body Heat, and Terms of Endearment come to mind.

When there is no point to the tragedy, you get something like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, where you start out getting your heart broken as this little deformed baby with liver spots on its hand reaches up to hold his adopted mom's hand at night, then it all ends with having to watch a baby die (in his ex-wife's arms, no less). And there you are, all wrung out for nothing.

This isn't even a one trick pony, it's a half of a trick pony. All the movie does is play out the premise and that's it. There's nothing else there. Since this is a Fincher film, it honestly surprised me. This is his first full-on stinker.

If you want to see something real, something with passion, watch the extras where they show you how they pasted Brad Pitt's face on various avatars and stand-ins to make it look like he's really a 2-year-old troll. There you see passion and meaning, of a sort.

This unsolicited heart-touching kinda scotched the new Pixar 'toon Up for my fambly. It made my eldest cry from the start, and thus left her too bereft to enjoy the rest. Same for my wife. What did it for me, besides that, was piss me off when the bad guy purposely set up the child in the film to die a horrible death. Even if it is just a cartoon kid, it bothers me that bazillions of kids now have the idea in their head that a mean old guy might just let them fall to their deaths.

Full disclosure, my family has been contrarian, though, on a few Pixar films. We literally couldn't get through Ratatouille and thought Cars was merely OK. We hated Finding Nemo. The eldest's first words as we walked from the theater were, "Jeez, everyone in that movie was damaged in some way. Weird." We all got tired of playing "what's the handicap?!?" during the flick. We found Denis Leary's dental-instrument-scarred fish the most disturbing.

We might have a different aesthetic than other families, perhaps.

Note: I started writing this post on 6/22, and upon reading Whisky's recent post about David Edelstein's coinage of the standard Pixar plot: inconsolable woe ---> sentiment ---> riotous chases ---> rousing cliff-hanger - I nearly leapt up and said "Hell Yeah!" Because it's so true. But merely muttered "dammit" because I had been sorta scooped, even though my point is slightly different.
My opines technology that "failed"

Read this article on 10 disappointing technologies.

Here are my thoughts on some of them:

Biometrics always gave me the heebie-jeebies because it's simply giving too much information to people who really have no business asking for it in the first place. If you are doing something that requires a security level where biometrics even comes up as a topic, you pay a fucking set of guards to look everyone in the face and get pissy with them if they have the slightest suspicion you're lying to them.

Then, you put the biometrics after that. Or another guard in a worse mood.

The point being, you can always find a way to fool a machine. Fooling peoples is harder.

Or, people ARE the only viable biometric safeguard.

I actually see a day where I might move some of my family's computers to Ubuntu, because I've installed it a few times now and have gotten everything to work that I wanted to. I haven't done it yet because for now I have valid instances of Windows 2000 running on most of the boxes and XP running on one (because they don't allow you to put it on all the boxes you own, which I think is a stupid business model for home computers) and it all works, so I'm too lazy to bother switching until I have to.

However, lately, there are enough web sites that check what my FREAKIN' OPERATING SYSTEM IS and wont' allow me to run their stuff because my OS is "too old" or "doesn't support" this or that, which is horseshit. I go onto the same site with an Ubuntu box and everything works. When I'm accessing you through a browser, you shouldn't care what my OS is.

I also have held off due to concerns about technical issues that arise when I'm not home, thinking that my family could troubleshoot Windows issues better than Ubuntu ones. It turns out they're typically floored either way, so I've tossed that out as a roadblock.

So, if I don't have the money to get newer stuff in the next couple years, I may have to switch operating systems just so sites on the web will let me do what I want.

If that's not silly, I don't know what is.

Oh, and I wish Apple would do a true port of the Mac OS over to standard "intel" chips, because then I'd just use them. They appear to be worth the money.

Virtual Reality
I knew virtual reality would never amount to anything because it faces the same problem robots and cartoons do, it falls into the uncanny valley. When your brain gets all the signals that you should be moving and feeling motion when you aren't, as it would in home virtual reality systems, you start feeling queasy, no matter who you are.

I got to try an early VR setup years ago, and I'm not the sort of guy who gets queasy easily, but man, after 5 minutes, I had to yank that sucker off my head and go sit down for a few.

The current spate of 3D movies demonstrates another side of the problem VR faces: at first it's a fun gimmick, but after a few movies, it becomes something of a distraction, because your brain gets over the gee-whiz factor and begins to get annoyed at being fooled. It knows what's real and what isn't and it balks if you try to get it to accept what is, in effect, a sensory lie.

Another way of looking at it is it's fun to hit the amusement park once or twice a year, but you wouldn't want to crawl onto one every time you wanted to watch a show.

Voice recognition
Ya wanna know who are the only people who need voice recognition? People without arms, blind people, and the freakin Captain the Enterprise. That's it.

You don't speak like you write, so no one's going to dictate anything other than a memo. Even then, the cleanup would be bad enough that it'd be quicker just to type it.

I've written before about what it would be like to work in an office were voice recognition is the standard.

It's a nice option for those who need it; the rest of us will always prefer a mouse and a keyboard.

IF the subscription model allowed you to keep your the tunes you downloaded if you decided to stop subscribing, then there'd be no issue. But, you decide you don't want to pay - or can't - and POOF! All gone. Suck to be you.

That may work for cable or satellite TV reception, because we don't consume TV shows like we do music. Music, however, has always been something that's yours once you buy a copy.

I know. I know, the music biz REALLY tried to change that model, but look where they are now.

Music files with no copy protection (DRM - Digital Rights Management) are the model for the foreseeable future.

Sadly, I think I ruined a friendship over this. Someone wanted to just GIVE me a Zune for free, because apparently it does allow you to load non-DRM MP3's on it, but I said I just didn't want to support a business model I disagree with. Someone once told me that as far as the market's concerned, you vote with your dollar. So I don't give money to corporations whose actions or policies I disagree with, if it's at all possible. (You can take the hippy out of the 70s...)

Still, he was being generous, and I pretty much came off as a dick - me with my precious morals and everything. I forgot, at the time, that people matter before anything else, and I should've accepted it gratefully and just used it as a player.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Recent Flick Viewage

Frost / Nixon
I actually convinced my eldest, who's 12 ∧ 1/2 (since she can't wait to be 13, with the "teen" on the end there, she makes a point to always add "1/2" to her age when asked by anyone), to give this one a try, and she did because she couldn't think of anything better to do. Now it has become the standard-bearer for her on which movies to avoid, e.g. "Dad, this isn't like that Frost / Nixon thing, is it?"

I, however, really enjoyed it. Much more than I thought I would.

But then I was alive at the time and remember hating Nixon (think of how Boris Karloff says, "The Grinch stood there, hating the Who's" to get the right tone). I actually have some respect for the poor bastard now, and think that if he hadn't turned a particular corner in arrogance and insanity (and had run with a better crowd), he'd go down in history as a pretty decent pres. But, no chance of that. He'll always be the crook. And all of his crook cronies coming back during Bush II and doing pretty much the same thing just proved the vileness of that approach to governance all over again.

I didn't realize that these interviews were the first ones where Nixon admitted he did something wrong. I read a later interview(s) somewhere where he really did cop to most of what he did, so I was unaware that this was the first time someone got him to crack.

Watching Frost get himself prepared for the event, and the politics, intrigue, and power games that swirled around the whole mess, are mesmerizing. It may be a function of my age, though. I've witnessed - or been involved in (sadly) - a lot of the kind of things you see in Frost / Nixon. So it's ugly fun to see that it goes on everywhere, and always has.

It's really too bad the movie is inherently boring for the young and/or those who weren't there (assuming, here). When kids are in a hurry to grow up and think it's all skittles and beer, this would be a great movie to show them about how parts of the adult world play out and what makes them suck so much. Not that you'd want to discourage them. Maybe just show it as a warning, so they can brace themselves.

Nearly forgot - make sure you check out the video of the actual interview on the DVD. It's interesting to see how the writer deviated from what was really said, but still stayed within the bounds of what was conveyed.

My Best Friends Girl
This movie made me laugh really hard.

There is one scene of dialogue where a man and woman trade insults so creatively obscene, I laughed harder as each one zinged past. It has one of the best puke jokes, EVAR, too.

But beyond that I don't want to give away any of the plot, because discovering the shtick is half the fun.

The ending is predictable, but the ending of romantic comedies have been since Shakespeare, so: so what.

One proviso: this is a VERY adult movie. Even kids savvy about sex shouldn't really watch this one until they're about 16 or so.

Role Models
Like My Best Friends Girl, this is an R-rated comedy that has the uncut original version as an option on the DVD (and thus the only way to go with adult comedies, imvho). Unlike the above, though, this one is actually not all that foul, and is even sorta tender-hearted.

The premise is two guys end up doing community service and get specifically assigned to a Big Brother program. Since they are faced with either doing the community service or going to jail for a month, they get stuck with the kids no one else wants. Hilarity ensues.

I'd let anyone 14 or above watch this (unless they're specifically sensitive about dick jokes). There's one brief shot of breasts, but surprisingly it's not a gratuitous flash. Other than that, it's just bad, bad language.

So, for the first time in a while, I like all the flicks included in a post. Hooray.
The writing phenom that is Heather Armstrong

So, I ended up reading Things I Learned About My Dad: Humorous and Heartfelt Essays, edited by the creator of and It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita back to back because that's when they happened to arrive at the library. (My local library has an on-line Netflix-like queue where you can put your requests on a list and they notify you when they come in.)

There's just no point it trying to be florid about it, Heather Armstrong is one hell of a writer. As with all brilliant stylists, she has a couple verbal tics that not only define her, but they force you into the column of "love it" or "hate it". If you're not familiar, read a few posts on her site, and you'll discover your column. (I usta link to her site in my "other blogs" sidebar, but that's like the flea referencing the dog.)

"Things I Learned About My Father" - which was edited by Heather, but includes material from other bloggers - has exactly three great essays in it, and two of them are by Heather. The other is the very first one, written by Kevin Guilfoile. Others are ok, but only those three stand out. It's worth your time if you're a parent and want a nice commiseration read. Everyone else should go see the new Star Trek movie.

"It Sucked" is all new original material, save for the letters to her daughter (I didn't check but I think those are culled from her site). If you're a fan, you'll want to read this, because it's another-side-of-the-story events you're already aware of because she's blogged about them.

One revelation for me was she would catch her husband, Jon, crying (when he thought she was asleep) during the time she was dealing with a crushing post-partum depression which culminated in a visit to a mental ward. At the time, I remember wondering how he was faring. Myself, I find I suffer more when my wife and/or kids are sick or suffering than when I am.

I started this post, gad, maybe a month ago now, and life just keeps getting in the way (a good thing mostly, of course, but today it included sick family, a toilet leak that has destroyed the ceiling in the living room, fires to put out at work, and I didn't sleep last night due to the sick child and other mitigating factors ... to top it all off, we have fire alarms that have battery backup and when the battery starts to fail, it does this little beep thing that is acoustically evil in that it takes at least an hour to figure out which one's doing it), so in the meantime, I've been scooped by and his link to another classic Dooce post, which is a great place to start if you want to see if you want to bother reading her books (assuming you don't already read her). And I've mentioned it before, but she also has the best fart story ever, thus far.