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June 30, 2003
Kitten, Fear My Wrath!
I was sitting in a lawn chair reading Nero Wolfe, and Louie was skulking about my feet. Louis is technically an indoor cat, but as long as someone is keeping an eye on him we let him nose around the back patio.
The sky had been growing increasingly dark, and I felt the first few spatters of rain. "Okay, Louie," I said scooping him up. "It's time to go in." I tossed him through the door and went to fetch the chair. As I returned to the house, Louie dashed between my legs and back outside.
"Louis," I said in my Ominous Voice. "You know better than that." By way of response, Louie looked away, flicked his tail in the air defiantly, and went a few feet further out onto the patio. Then he glanced over his shoulder to see what I was going to do.
I opened my mouth; Louie braced himself in anticipation of my holler. But before I could make a sound there was an enormous clap of thunder, the likes of which we rarely get in Seattle.
Louie's eyes trebled in size, his legs turned into Roadrunner-esque circles of blurry motion, and he reentered the house as if he'd been shot from a cannon.
FINALLY I AM GOING TO GET THE RESPECT I DESERVE AROUND HERE!!
Someone Needs A Smiting
Overheard on the bus.
Guy 1: Did you hear they made gay sex legal?
June 20, 2003
It's My Job ... To Freeze You!
The Queen had an engagement yesterday evening, leaving me with the house all to myself. So I did what any wild-at-heart, red-blooded male would do, given a night of unexpected bachelorhood:
I was surprised by how good it was. The beer, I mean. Logan's Run was a calamity. I picked it up after a few people expressed mystification that I had never seen it. When I mentioned this to The Queen, for example, she reacted as if I had told her I was missing a lung. Everyone emphatically urged me to correct this historic oversight. "It's just so, so, so very, very, very bad," they would say. "You must rent it immediately."
And I did. And I watched it. And I learned some astounding facts about the future.
And don't even get me started about The Robot Scene. Oh brother, The Robot Scene. Where did that come from? Still, I can't say that I wasn't warned. Last month some friends and I were discussing 80's Ending, and I said "my favorite part was how they stuck that robot scene in there for no reason." And then my buddy said, "You mean like The Robot Scene in Logan's Run?" After I confessed that I had never seen Run, he said "It's this bizarre scene where ... well, they must have really wanted to get a robot in there somewhere, right? So they filmed this robot sequence that doesn't have anything to do with anything? And then just spiced it on in there." I said that I though that was a pretty good idea for any movie, frankly, and that I wanted to start a business that took mainstream movies and turned them into movies about robots. Like, you know how porn movie guys take popular films and remake them into adult pictures like Terms of Inrearment and For Your Thighs Only and E-3: The Extra-Testicle, where they use the plot outline from the original movie to string together a bunch of sex scenes? Those are the kind of movies I would make, except that instead of sex scenes it would have robot scenes, and the movies would have titles like My Big Fat Greek Robot or 2 Fast 2 Robots or West Cyborg Story or Saving Private Ryan's Robot or whatever.
ANYway! I did like the ending of Logan's Run, simply because it was exactly the same as every 70's-era science-fiction movie ending: somebody blows up the computer by making illogical statements. You can't beat the classics. It's a shame they don't use that any more. Wouldn't it be awesome if that's how the Wachowski brothers ended Matrix Revolutions?
The Source: Your journey ends here, Neo. I am The Source, the self-aware synthetic intelligence that controls the Matrix and all of mankind.I'd pay nine bucks to see that.
June 19, 2003
The Hulk Looks Totally Fakey!
Saw a sneak preview of The Hulk last night. I have to agree with the critics who say that he looks fakey. Plus, you can, like, totally tell where they photoshopped him into a scene.
June 18, 2003
Research Day: Gypped
I received email questioning my use of the term gypped, and apparently I'm not the first. I have used the word "gyp" both as a noun ("What a gyp") and as a verb ("You got gypped") all my life to mean "a fraud" and "to be cheated", respectively. I don't recall where I picked it up, but at my elementary school the term was ubiquitous and used to describe everything from Star Wars Trading Card transactions to unexpected pop quizzes.
After using the word once in college, though, someone told me that it was a racial slur against Gypsies. Lacking large populations of Gypsies in the Pacific Northwest, this had honestly never occurred to me. And I was still skeptical. After all, I was told this at The Evergreen State College, Washington State's stronghold of Political Correctness, where you can't say anything aloud ("I like peanut butter!") without someone announcing that you've just inadvertently committed ethnic slander of some sort or another. But soon thereafter I overheard someone using the word "jew" as a verb in the same sense ("He jewed me out of twenty dollars"), and that so clearly struck me as pejorative that I reconsidered my use of "gyp".
These days I rarely say "gyp," mainly because, having used it a lot in third grade, I tend to regard it as a "kid's word" on par with "lame-o". But I do still employ the term on occasion, so I guess I'd better find out the truth once and for all.
First stop, the dictionary. Merriam-Webster makes no reference to Gypsies in the definition (which it gives as "noun: FRAUD, SWINDLE; verb: CHEAT"), but does cite its etymology as "probably short for gypsy". Tally: one vote for "derogatory".
Next we head over to World Wide Words, where we hear from someone who's had an experience exactly opposite of my own: all their life they thought "gyp" was derogatory until someone told them that it wasn't. Michael Quinion responds, "It seems highly probable [that 'gyp' came from 'Gypsy']. However, direct evidence is lacking, and the term arose in the US, where gypsies have been less common than in Europe." He goes on to mention that "gyp" also means "a college servant" (this was also listed in Webster's), and suggests that this might have been the source of the "cheat" connotation. He also states "Even if the verb does come from gypsy, most people who use it probably don't link the two ideas." Tally: Half a vote for "derogatory against Gypsies," half a vote for "derogatory against college servants," one vote for "not intentionally derogatory in either case on the presupposition of ignorance".
Truth me told, despite all my research I never found anyone convincingly link "gyp" to anything other than the word "Gypsy" -- even the alternate meaning of "gyp," denoting a college student, seems to be an abbreviation of Gypsy. So, in that sense, I guess "derogatory" carries the day. However, I will personally vouch for the fact that many of the people using the word (at least around here) make no mental connection whatsoever between the term and people. This morning, for example, I asked The Queen if she used "gypped," and she said that she did; when I told her about the possible "gyp = Gypsy = racial slur" link, she looked rather aghast at the revelation.
Although my Googling found lots of people asserting that the word "gyp" is offensive, I didn't find a single instance where someone said that they, personally, were offended by the term -- except insofar as they were offended because they assumed that the word was offensive to others. A similar thing seems to have occurred with the word squaw, which many people (myself included) think of as a racial slur, even though the people it's allegedly slandering don't have a problem with it. All of which raises a vexing philosophical point: can something be offensive without actually offending? And given that "Gypsies" aren't even "Gypsies" anymore (they prefer to be known as the Roma), what's the statute of limitation on stuff like this? Would it be okay to say that that you'd been "Aztec'd out of twenty dollars"?
The comments are open, and I'm interested in hearing what readers think. In particular (a) do you use the word "gyp," (b) is its usage prevalent in your area, (c) were you aware that it is considered offensive by some, and (d) are you personally offended by its use?
June 17, 2003
Everything Was Fine
A women already on the elevator was relating a Tale Of Woe to another person when I boarded. Between the fifth floor and the ground floor I didn't hear enough of the narrative to really know what had happened, but I did hear this key phrase:
"Everything was fine until it got out on the Internet."I wonder how many contemporary Tales Of Woe contain this exact line. All of them?
Over The River & Through The Woods
Last night I visited Grammy. Grammy lives in a very pleasant Assisted Living Facility on the outskirts of Seattle, and I often zip over there after work to join her for dinner. Last night was Sloppy Joes Night so, obviously, I made a point of attending.
Joining us at the dinnertable was B., a woman I had met before and found utterly charming, owing to the fact that she is a delightful conversationalist despite being unable to hear a single word you say. As I sat down, we had this exchange:
Grammy: B., this is my grandson, Matthew.Also joining us at the table was W., a amicable curmudgeon (who Grammy later referred to as "a little pill") who spent the dinnerhour giving me The Unabridged History Of W., 1942-2003. Whenever W. would mention someone in his narrative, he would introduce them by citing their name and something terrible associated with them, such as, "... so then I moved in with my cousin Martin, who later drowned, and my Uncle, who once got robbed at gunpoint." When W. made reference to other people in the dining hall it was the same thing: "That's E. who had a stroke" or "have you met C., with the arthritis?" It was as if, to W., the defining characteristic of a person was the worst thing that had ever happened to him. I had just realized this fact when he cracked me up by announcing, out of nowhere, "I have two daughters: one got diabetes and the other moved to Spokane."
After dinner Grammy and I went back to her pad and watched Knight Rider, followed by two episodes of Golden Girls back-to-back. It was a pretty great evening.
June 16, 2003
After years of forking over $30 every other month so that strangers could make my hair look bad, I finally realized that I could make my own hair look bad for free!. So I picked up some clippers from Target, handed them to The Queen, and told her to go nuts. This is the result. (And, for purposes of comparison, this is what it often looked like before.)
It looks as good (read: not very) as the professional cuts, my shampoo usage has plummeted, and I won't have to get another cut for months -- win-win-win!
I'll freely admit, though, that I got a little nervous when, in the midst of shaving my head, The Queen started whistling Sinead O'Connor.
Exchange from about 10 years ago that inexplicably popped into my head a moment ago.
Me: Yeah, I just bought that new 1000 Maniacs CD.
June 13, 2003
Great Ideas A Go Go
Here are some Million Dollar Ideas I have come up with recently but am too lazy to do anything with.
Narrator: ... and you'll never guess the shocking finale!All theaters would really have to do is (a) start charging old people $8 to see the trailers and then (b) roust them from the cinema before the actual film starts so that they can go to Royal Fork instead of sitting behind me and hollering "WHAT DID HE SAY?!" to each other after every line of dialog. Win-win!
June 12, 2003
Cary Grant Is Dead
On the bus, a woman is sitting in the frontmost seat chatting with the driver:
Woman: When they make a movie about your life, who is going to play you?
June 11, 2003
Movies: Matrix Reloaded
Matrix Reloaded is so-so. As "middle chapters" go it's sure no Empire Strikes Back, and it ain't no Two Towers either. And that's understandable, I guess. But what's really disappointing is that, when you get right down to it, Reloaded isn't even on par with The Matrix itself.
What The Matrix did so well was to reveal just enough of its secrets to be interesting, but not so much as to give everything away. It's clear, for example, that Keanu Reeves can act about as well as I can kickbox, but they disguised this by giving him almost no dialog whatsoever. Furthermore, the philosophical mumbo-jumbo that permeates the script doesn't hold up to any intellectual scrutiny, but every time you thought "hey wait a minute, that doesn't make any ..." they would cut to an action scene and leave you admiring the gunplay. And then, just when it dawned on you that the fight scene doesn't make any sense either, they switched back to the Buddhist hoohaw.
Matrix Reloaded, unfortunately, blithely exposes what The Matrix so craftily concealed. Reeves is given entirely too much to say. The philosophical monologues go on well past the point where your bullshit detector has kicked into overdrive. The fight scenes go on and on and on until you become so bored that you start thinking about the them (never a good thing), and you realize that there is no logical reason for the combat to be occurring in the first place.
Worst of all, Reloaded cavalierly reveals the biggest secret of all, the thing that the Wachowski Brothers worked so hard to obscure in the script to the first movie. It's the answer to question at the very heart of the series. It's the question that drives us. It's the question that brought you here. You know the question, just as I did: "What is the Matrix?"
What is the Matrix? Ladies and Gentlemen, the Matrix is Tron.
This didn't even occur to me in the first movie, but here it is painfully obvious. Characters walk around describing themselves as "programs" that fear "deletion." Agent Smith might as well be named Agent Sark. Neo seeks out the heart of the computer world in an attempt to take down the Master Control Program (or whatever it's called here). And the CEO of ENCOM shows up under the pseudonym "The Architect". It got to the point where I kept expecting a "bit" to show up.
Okay, so I'm joking around a little bit, here, but surely you see my point. The Matrix seemed startlingly original at the time, but much of that was smoke and mirrors: the "life in a computer" thing had been done (Tron), the "war between machines and man" thing had been done (Terminator), the "wire-fu" had been done (Iron Monkey), the whole "he's The One" thing had been done before (Bible, New Testament), and so on. But a tight script and crafty direction kept things moving at such a fast pace that you never really caught wise to this fact. Reloaded, unfortunately, lacks such subtly. In fact, everything about this movie seems half-again too much: the fight scenes are half again too long, the speeches are half again too lengthy ... indeed, the whole movie could have been trimmed by a third.
This excess not only makes for a movie that's slightly dull, but also a chapter in the Matrix Trilogy that feels like a stall for time. Despite all the sound and fury in Reloaded, not a whole lot has really happened by the time the end credits roll (and much of what does happen takes place in the last 30 minutes). Like the kind of video game this movie emulates, much of the story revolves around the characters receiving and completing self-contained Quests ("Now you must locate ... The Keymaker!") which don't really get them any closer to their objective. Matrix Reloaded fulfills its primary duty (i.e., gets us from part 1 to part 3) but doesn't do a whole lot else.
By the way, The Queen wins Quote Of The Week with this comment about the Zion scene: "Apparently life in the future is going to be one endless rave. No wonder the machines want us dead."
End Of Line.
The comments of this review are not spoiler-free, so caveat emptor.
June 10, 2003
A June 8 profile of actress Jane Alexander incorrectly identified a senator she described in her memoir. It was Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) whom she described as "a taut, leathery gnome of a man with hair a color not found in nature." It was also Thurmond who asked her, "Aren't you a moral woman?"Found in The Note.
Baron Harkonnen Says WMDs Will Be Found
Baron Vladimir Harkonnen today reiterated his insistence that Arrakis possesses worms of mass destruction, despite growing skepticism that proof of WMDs will ever be found. "We know for a fact that they have worms," Vladimir said in a statement to the Emperor, "but it will take time to uncover them, as they are likely hidden deep underground." Rival houses, however, have stepped up their criticism of Harkonnen, accusing the House of exaggerating the threat of WMDs to justify "Operation Arrakis Freedom," the March 20 Harkonnen-led invasion of the desert planet. "We were told that an attack on the Empire by worm-riding Fremen was imminent," said Duke Yoshihide of House Radding. "If that was the case, Baron Harkonnen, then I ask: where are the WMDs?" Others have been more blunt in their criticism. "I think it's clear now that this was all about the spice," said Duchess Asplund, who has also called for an investigation into lucrative contracts Harkonnen awarded the Spacing Guild following the war. In addition to the question of WMDs, the Harkonnen administration has also been under fire because of continued attacks on Imperial forces by the Bene Gesserit, and because Paul "Maud'dib" Atreides -- the Fremen leader and "Ace of Spades" in the "Arrakis Most Wanted" playing-card deck -- remains at large.
June 09, 2003
A man stands on a corner in downtown Seattle. He is loudly sobbing, with one hand over his eyes and the other dangling at his side clutching a cell phone. A woman stands at his side, consoling him with one arm half draped over his shoulders. As I pass I hear her say, "I don't know why you are so upset. She's nothing but a ho."
June 06, 2003
Clap For Victory
You know, if the CIA had been smart they would have snuck into Iraq before the war and put one of those suckers on the WMDs. Then we wouldn't be in the mess we're in today. I mean, c'mon guys -- they only cost, like, three bucks.
Recycled Air - Acoustic
P.s. Thanks Tpoh!
Bad Review Revue: All "2 Fast" Edition
The title and subject matter of 2 Fast 2 Furious lends itself well to scathing reviews:
Chicago Reader: "Without Diesel's brooding lunkhead presence it's more like 1/2 Fast 1/2 Furious." -- J. R. JonesUpdate: Slate totally Rick Bragg'd me.
June 05, 2003
I just received email with the subjectline:
What's a Money Making Cash Cow?What the hell, is Laffy Taffy sending spam now too?
Contributor of the best punchline in the comments wins a hug.
Hot: Wonder Woman.
Not: Miss USA.
Book Review Roundup
Here are some books I've read in recent months that I thought were too short or too disappointing to merit a full-length review.
Silverwing: I can just hear the pitch for this book: "It's like Harry Potter meets Watership Down meets Incredible Journey -- kids will love it!" Kids probably will love it, and I didn't find it half bad either. The heavily anthromorphisized critters of Silverwing are bats, and our hero is the newborn Shade, the runt of the litter who is determined to prove himself but is separated from his migrating clan and forced to blah blah blah ... Well, needless to say there's nothing new in regards to plot or characters -- in fact, as I was reading this aloud to The Queen, I would occationally introduce a new character and have her say "oh, this is Professor Snape" or "aha, I knew Draco Malfoy would be in here somehwhere!" But while I'm not one to typically recommend a book on the basis of its unoriginality, Silverwing is at least as interesting as J. K. Rowling's novels (and, at 200 pages, about a third as long), so it might just be the perfect thing for you or your youngster if you need a Harry Potter fix before Order of the Pheonix is released later this month.
A Wizard of Earthsea: And speaking of Hogwarts ... After recently reading several of those wordy-to-the-point-of-prolixity Harry Potter books -- not to mention rereading the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy in all its verbosity -- my initial reaction to this was one of disappointment. A Wizard of Earthsea tells the tale of Ged, an usually gifted young magician who is coming to grips with his powers on a world where dry land is few and far between, and every region is an island unto itself. Ursula K. Le Guin writes the novel in a manner so devoid of description that it seems almost curt. The book was short enough to keep me reading, though, and by the midpoint I was surprised to discover that I had come to appreciate the style. Le Guin is a storyteller in the truest sense of the term: she concentrates solely on the narrative and only gussies things up with description when necessary. The result is less a story less you'd find in a 600 page tome and more like what you'd hear told around a campfire. By the end I decided that I'd quite enjoyed A Wizard of Earthsea, and I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.
Legacy: I'd never read a James Michener novel before and, given that this one only runs about 150 pages, I guess you could argue that I still haven't. (Don't be fooled by the "288 pages" listed on the Amazon page; in addition to Legacy the book also contains the entire text of the Constitution of the United States and a 30 page preview of another novel entirely.) Written in 1990, the story traces the lineage of several generations of "patriots," beginning with Jared Starr (who was present at the signing of the Constitution) and ending with Major Norman Starr (who is about to be called before a Senate investigation to account for his role in the Iran / Contra Affair). I found Legacy to be entertaining, but I can't say that I feel any burning desire to grab one of Michener's 1000+ page opuses as a result. I did appreciate that the central character, Major Normal Starr, was portrayed as deeply conservative and reverential towards the Reagan Administration; as a lefty-progressive, it was nice to get a peek into the mind of "the other side".
To Say Nothing Of The Dog: I spent much of this book thinking "Wow: this sure reminds me of Bellwether." And it wasn't until I was nearly two-thirds of the way through it before I had my big d'oh! moment, realizing "no wonder: the author of To Say Nothing Of The Dog is -- d'oh! -- the same person who wrote Bellwether". The problem, unfortunately, is that Bellwhether was quite a bit more enjoyable than this congenial mess. To Say Nothing Of The Dog starts out as a book about time travel (cool!), but then becomes a book about the Victorian Era (less cool) and remains so throughout most of the middle (zzzzzzzz) before, at the very end, abruptly transmorgifying back into the science fiction novel it had promised to be. That the author tries to shoehorn a mystery story in as well doesn't help. Willis has plenty of clever ideas about time travel, but they are largely wasted in what is primarily a comedy of errors and manners. The whole thing comes off as a nice try, but Bellwhether is a essentially a refinement of the ideas within and a vast improvement over the somewhat muddled plot to be found here.
June 04, 2003
Stop whatever you're doing and go watch this movie. Six minutes, well worth it.
June 03, 2003
Technology: Putting Powerful Tools In The Hands Of The Stupid™
Today I saw a man on a Segway weaving all over the sidewalk at 7 miles per hour while talking on his cell phone.
The next stage of idiot evolution is upon us.
I guess they they sent a rocket to Mars with a bunch of Earth crap on it for aliens to find, including some music and stuff. And do you know CD they put in there? Not Godsmack, not Staind, not P.O.D., but some guys called Blur. WHO THE HELL IS BLUR??!!! you ask. That's what I said! So I snagged some mp3s off WASTE and tried to listen to them and it nearly killed me!!1! It was like listening to old people music like Simon and Garfield or whatever! And we sent this to Mars??!! Why not just put up a big sign that says "Hello Martians, we are a bunch of totally gay brit-pop-listening posers so come on down and invade and we if anyone tries to fight back we'll just go march in an anti-war protest" or something!!
We should have sent up New Deftones or Linkin Park and then the martians would be all, like "holy shit, dude, don't fuck with Earth cuz those guys sound totally bad-ass!!!" And we should put a Starship Troopers (best movie ever) DVD in there to show the aliens how we'll kick their insect-ass if they try anything or get all up in our face or whatever.
What? Blur did that "Woohoo!" song in the Starship Troopers trailer??!! No way, seriously? That song was pretty cool. But you know what was really cool about Starship Troopers? The way they had only one locker room for both guys and chicks and all those hotties were like stripping down in front of everybody. That fuckin ruled.
June 02, 2003
Monday Morning Blah Blah Blah
Living My Dreams
This morning I had a chocolate chocolate-chip muffin for breakfast. And for lunch I had macaroni & cheese, chicken strips and Coke.
When I was six, this is pretty much what I envisioned adult life to be.
Last night some friends and I were sitting around drinking beer and, it goes without saying, discussing the Washington State system of taxation. Here in Seattle we have a sales tax, which is a total pain in the ass because (a) you have to pay it (lame), and (b) it means that your average item in The Dollar Store costs some ridiculous amount like $1.31 and you can't figure out the real price of things without resorting to irrational numbers and you have to carry around your spare pennies instead of throwing them at children like you would do in other states. True fact: When 50 Cent was here in concert last week, he was legally obligated to perform under that name "67 Cent." (Whoa, that joke was even worse than I had anticipated.)
Anyhow, we were wondering how much of sales tax revenue goes to health care programs. More every year, we guessed, since, statistically, Americas are becoming ever more out-of-shape. But you got to figure that a lot of that revenue goes to administrative costs and middle-men, not to mention that health care tends to be reactive rather than preventive. We decided that there must be a better way.
That's we came up with this great idea for a General Health Tax: for every dollar you spend you must do a sit-up. Want the new No Doubt CD? No problem: fourteen bucks and two dozen sit-ups, please. Got a two pack-a-day cigarette habit? Well now you have a six sit-up-a-day habit as well. Just bought a brand new Ford Excursion? Fantastic. That will be 50,000 sit-ups over the next 10 years, plus 60 sit-ups every time you fill up the tank -- BET YOU WISH IT DIDN'T GET ONE MILE TO THE GALLON NOW DON'T YOU SUCKA?!
I think we should pilot this plan in Washington state, and then extend it to the entire United States. Conspicuous consumption would go way down, people would have a great incentive to save, and America would quickly come to dominate the United Nations Council On Killer Abs. Plus, what tax payer doesn't want the opportunity to check "no" to "Would you like to do three sit-ups for the Presidential Election Campaign Fund?"
Oh dear, quite frustrating.
Why am I not listed on my own blogroll? That is what I want to know.
As Power Point presentations become ever more common and my dislike of meetings increases by the month, the words "End of slide show, click to exit" have rapidly become my all-time favorite phrase.