Friday, August 29, 2008

My biggest laugh today did not come from McCain's VP.

It came from this:


- - - -

Rationale: Due to the unique threat environment known to exist at POTUS's Crawford, Texas, ranch, the following protocol has been drafted for use in the event of a situation Code: ALICE.



Education: POTUS has been cautioned to stay away from abandoned wells while outdoors at the ranch; to watch carefully for wells while clearing brush; to not follow Barney down any holes, no matter how big a rabbit he thinks might be down there; and to avoid stepping in any areas where "the ground is missing." (This language was recommended by the First Lady as most likely to ensure POTUS's comprehension.)

Site Survey: Crawford-based agents confirm that the ranch grounds have been thoroughly searched for abandoned wells. However, these searches cannot be considered exhaustive; well-safety experts note that not being able to see abandoned wells is the primary reason people fall down them in the first place. Moreover, agents have reported numerous (seven) sightings of VPOTUS exiting the Crawford property with a shovel. Thus, continued vigilance is required.

Thank heavens for McSweeney's. Go read the whole thing.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sweetie, this is your Birthday Gift Inspiration Fairy calling

Lego Collector

Lego Collector

L. E. G. O. (pause) C. O. L. L. E. C. T. O. R.

That is all.

It's the Wayback Widget!

This was the set of "latest headlines" when I pulled up my Yahoo email just now (click to enlarge):

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dust Collector's Edition

Perhaps it's my more practical side speaking. Perhaps it's my latest efforts to simplify my life by getting rid of clutter. Whatever it is, I just don't get DVD's that come with so much stuff!

The picture above is of the Casablanca super duper de-luxe edition that is being released this December. Besides the discs containing the film and extras, it also...

" elegantly boxed in an intricate laser-cut Moroccan design and will include such collectibles as replicas of actual props (Victor Laszlo´s "Letter of Transit") as well as a number of Warner studio documents (an executive´s letter commanding a new PR image for Bogart from gangster to romantic lead; a note from producer Hal Wallis re-titling the film to Casablanca; and a memo from Wallis to Jack Warner strongly urging casting Bogart over George Raft)... a branded passport holder, luggage tag, photo book and a mail-in offer for a reproduction of the original movie poster."
Now, I realize this is one of the most beloved movies of all time (and with good reason), but does it really need enough doodads to choke a horse?

Part of me understands it. DVD collectors are fetishists. They like the look of a DVD and the shiny case, especially when it's nicely designed. Looking right now at my collection, I can point out how my copies of The Adventures of Robin Hood, Dogma, The Incredibles, Kingdom of Heaven, Once Upon a Time in the West, Rio Bravo, Seven Samurai, Titanic and Yojimbo as being great examples of this.

This is something that the studios will never understand when they start fretting about piracy. Cheap as it is, a burned CD labeled with a magic marker is not going to be nearly as appealing as a purchased DVD. The packaging can be as important as the content. And it's legal, too.

But packaging is one thing. Things such as luggage tags and passports are quite another. At least Casablanca gets points for subtlety and taste. At least it doesn't feature a goofy looking bust of Keanu Reeves.

But I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't admit to my preorder of the Mystery Science Theater 3000: 20th Anniversary Edition coming out in October. Not only are they bypassing a standard cardboard case with a tin, but it also comes with four lobby cards and (cough) a goofy looking bust of Crow T. Robot.

But in my defense, it's not like there are other versions of this out there to buy. And it certainly isn't going to be a trend in my future purchases. I refuse to have to allow as much shelf space for DVD knickknacks as I provide for the DVD's themselves.

Monday, August 25, 2008

When Mice Had Tails

Brilliant (via Boing Boing):

With a mandate to teach evolution but little guidance as to how, science teachers are contriving ways to turn a culture war into a lesson plan. How they fare may bear on whether a new generation of Americans embraces scientific evidence alongside religious belief.

"If you see something you don't understand, you have to ask 'why?' or 'how?' " Campbell often admonished his students at Ridgeview High School.

Yet their abiding mistrust in evolution, he feared, jeopardized their belief in the basic power of science to explain the natural world - and their ability to make sense of it themselves.

Passionate on the subject, Campbell had helped to devise the state's new evolution standards, which will be phased in starting this fall.

A former Navy flight instructor not used to pulling his punches, Campbell fought hard for passage of the new standards. But with his students last spring, he found himself treading carefully as he tried to bridge an ideological divide that stretches well beyond his classroom. He started withMickey Mouse.

On the projector, Campbell placed slides of the cartoon icon: one at his skinny genesis in 1928, one from his 1940 turn as the impish "Sorcerer's Apprentice," and one of the rounded, ingratiating charmer of Mouse Club fame.

"How," he asked his students, "has Mickey changed?"

Natives of Disney World's home state, they waved their hands and called out answers.

"His tail gets shorter," Bryce volunteered.

"Bigger eyes!" someone else shouted.

"He looks happier," one girl observed. "And cuter."

Campbell smiled. "Mickey evolved," he said. "And Mickey gets cuter because Walt Disney makes more money that way. That is 'selection.' "

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Water Feature

San Marco is the most awesome Jacksonville neighborhood to live in!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

"A wacky bunch of propellerheads" pretty much says it all, doesn't it?

Soooooooo, I'm guessing Bill Gates has pictures of Perry and Aniston doing a three-way with an Alsatian, because there's no other sensible explanation for this:

The problems of regular people

Dubya's well known life of privilege did nothing to tarnish his widely publicized "just folks" image in 2000. Given this, I doubt that it will be any different with McCain and his "anti-elitist" efforts. Still, with stories like this, one can hope:

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Jim Lehrer, Gwen Ifill and Bob Schieffer: PLEASE bring this up!

OK, so Fay isn't turning out to be all that (though I'm still getting two days off in the deal).

During my first day of rest, I came across this excerpt from The Atlantic (via Daily Kos):

In all the discussion of John McCain's recently recovered memory of a religious epiphany in Vietnam, one thing has been missing. The torture that was deployed against McCain emerges in all the various accounts. It involved sleep deprivation, the withholding of medical treatment, stress positions, long-time standing, and beating. Sound familiar?

According to the Bush administration's definition of torture, McCain was therefore not tortured.

Cheney denies that McCain was tortured; as does Bush. So do John Yoo and David Addington and George Tenet. In the one indisputably authentic version of the story of a Vietnamese guard showing compassion, McCain talks of the agony of long-time standing. A quarter century later, Don Rumsfeld was putting his signature to memos lengthening the agony of "long-time standing" that victims of Bush's torture regime would have to endure. These torture techniques are, according to the president of the United States, merely "enhanced interrogation."

No war crimes were committed against McCain. And the techniques used are, according to the president, tools to extract accurate information. And so the false confessions that McCain was forced to make were, according to the logic of the Bush administration, as accurate as the "intelligence" we have procured from "interrogating" terror suspects. Feel safer?

Digging in

See ya after Fay.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

God plays dice with the Universe... sometimes.

Consider this hypothetical: Two children, Tommy and Jack, are in separate rooms of a hospital where they are being treated for pneumonia. The parents of both are good Christians who pray every day for their children to get better. Both Tommy and Jack experience dangerous complications. Eventually, a week after his admittance, Tommy makes a full recovery. Jack, however, dies.

There are three possible reactions for Jack's parents: They could see it as God's Will and accept it, they could see it as God's Will and question it, or they could see it as not the work of God at all.

The first reaction is how some Christians deal with such tragedies. They believe in a world with an encompassing order in control of everything. This includes having every death mean something, especially when it's someone close to them. They might not know what that meaning could be, but they will state that "God is ultimately unknowable" and be content to remain in the dark as to God's motives. Their faith in Him will guide them through the tragedy.

The second reaction, where the parents would wallow in their misery while crying out "God killed my son and I want to know why", can lead to anger, bitterness and sometimes even a loss of faith. In the movie Signs, Mel Gibson plays a reverend who abandons his faith when his wife dies in an automobile accident. Cold Fusion Video's Nathan Shumate, who is a faithful Mormon, wrote a review of the movie Signs where he takes issue with Mel Gibson's character:

"I really have to wonder how much of a reverend Graham was if his trust in God was so easily shaken. 'Easily'? No, I don’t mean to belittle the pain of losing a spouse, a pain I can only imagine at present. But all the same, I’m not unaware of it intellectually, and I hope that when/if it does happen to me, I’ll be far enough from that teenagerish stage of 'No one has EVER felt like I feel!' that I won’t feel singled out by the cosmos to suffer, that I won’t think that somehow I’m justified in giving up where millions of bereaved spouses before me have persevered."
Allow me to play Shyamalan's advocate (which is hard to do given how much I disliked his film) and side with Graham for a moment. His anger at God was not because of the death itself, but because the death was, in his view, meaningless. I would wager you don't have military spouses spouting the same rhetoric when their loved ones get killed in Iraq. Soldiers in the field die for a reason, and their death (given their environment) is not unexpected. Such is not the case with Graham's wife.

Ultimately, though, I agree with Nathan's assessment of the character. And though I sympathise with fictional folks like Graham (as well as real-life people like Julia Sweeney), I cannot agree to how they came to their conclusions about God. Which leads us to the third reaction: God had nothing to do with it. Let's go back to Nathan's review:

"Look, I’m a Believer with a capital B, but if you present me with the false dichotomy of either EVERYTHING’s meaningful or NOTHING’s meaningful, I’m going to have to choose the second. Because you know what? Shit happens. I don’t think it’s necessary to believe that God intends and wills every event in order to believe in God, but this movie leaves no middle ground; it’s all or nothing. In the real world, it’s so easy to disprove the former beyond a reasonable doubt that the false dichotomy forces the thoughtful person into believing the latter."
This happens to be the exact phrasing Mrs. Mosley once used in a discussion with me. Though I can't recall what prompted the declaration, she stated she was sick of people who suffered pain and hardship and then either cursed God for doing it to them and/or abandoned a belief in God entirely. Her answer to this collective "Why?" was a curt "You know, sometimes shit happens!".

The sentiment may be profane, but it gets the point across. In Nathan's argument, the dichotomy is invalid because there is a third option: SOME things are meaningful. For those that choose the first reaction, this is an unacceptable scenario, because it throws into doubt everything in their lives. They would have to admit that though they may be looked over by God, they are also subject to the whims of chance just like everybody else.

But let's leave Jack for a moment and look at Tommy. His parents, given that they are believers, will likely deem the recovery to be a miracle and proclaim it as evidence of God's benevolence. If that is the case, then here's a few questions for them: Why is Tommy better and Jack dead? Did they pray longer? More fervently? Did they attend church more often? Did they tithe in greater amounts? Were Tommy's parents Catholic and Jack's Protestant?

There's no need to tell me that such questions are ridiculous and insulting. I agree with you. But depending on their views, the response of Tommy's parents to the "Why is Tommy better and Jack dead" question may be just as insulting.

If they believe that EVERYTHING is meaningful, then we go back to "God is unknowable" and there is no need for further explanation because no one but God could possibly give one. However, if Tommy's parents are of the opinion that only SOME things are meaningful ("Shit Happens"), then they would be stating that Jack's death was mere circumstance and that Tommy's recovery was by the hand of God.

Such a view would seem to credit God with all the good stuff and none of the bad. Isn't this... well, I almost said "unfair', but that would be the wrong thing to say. Life is unfair. If life was fair, then there would be a God that ensured that good things happened to those that deserved it, but that isn't the case. Good things happen all by themselves right along with bad things, regardless of the people involved. SHIT HAPPENS!

The ultimate question is this: Was Tommy blessed... or just lucky? When it comes right down to it, none of us can really know for sure.

One of the biggest arguments that atheists use is called "The Problem of Evil", which states that you cannot have simultaneously (a) a God that is all powerful, (b) a God that is all-benevolent and (c) a world where evil runs rampant. Although I was once fond of this argument, it's one I can no longer support. Because all three can be true if you accept the fact that God can allow bad things to happen if he has a reason to do so, such as a parent that will allow their child to be hurt on purpose in order that the child learns a lesson. Such is the view of those who look for meaning.

But given the way life actually works, I can only accept a "Shit Happens" God; One who is all-benevolent and all powerful but permits bad things to happen because... they happen. Life is unpredictable, sometimes rewarding the wicked and punishing the virtuous, and the real reward for the true believer comes only after we pass this realm into another.

Everything that comes before, for all practical purposes, is just a roll of the dice.

Monday, August 18, 2008

"La Da Da, La Da Da, La Da Da"

Earlier this year, I posted about a series of innovative animations where the text of famous movie scenes are animated in a visual style that reflected the content.

A YouTuber from the Netherlands was clearly inspired by these and created their own video of Ben Folds' "Zak and Sara". Check it out:

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Saturday morning bliss

Happiness is waking up on a Saturday morning and finding that IFC is showing Yojimbo.

Granted, I already own it on DVD, but it's still cool.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Feel the excitement!

From Daily Kos (again):

"There's a mathematician, a different kind of mathematician, and a statistician."

Going onto the IMDb today, I saw a link at the top that said "Preview IMDb's new look".

So I clicked on the link and, boy howdy, is this ever a revamp!

I can barely recognize it anymore!

From the mouths of pastors...

Daily Kos has an excellent post up right now about the growing number of Christians seeking to break away from the Conservative Christian movement. Surprisingly, a quote from Rick Warren summarizes the truth about why we need separation of Church and State:
"I'm worried that evangelicals be identified too much with one party or the other. When that happens, you lose your prophetic role of speaking truth to power," Warren said. "And you have to defend stupid things that leaders do."

"Politics is always downstream from culture. I place less confidence in it than a lot of folks. I don't think that's the answer... . Politics is not the right tool to change the culture."

This is as eloquent and concise argument as I have ever heard. What is more, it is coming from the mouth of someone that lots of people actually listen to which, as Kos explains, is probably why groups such as the Family Research Council are pissed off about it.

Mr. Warren, if I had a direct opposite of the "Skippy of the Day" award to give you, I would. You do your nation a great service.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

I actually have a goatee, but it's close enough.

Just for the hell of it, here's the picture I took recently for my new Facebook profile:

Billy and Frank

(Billy and Frank shake hands)

Frank: "Man, you got some lovely hands here. Do you moisturize?"

Billy: "I'm sorry?"

Frank: "You know, I've tried all sorts of moisturizers. I even went fragrance free for a whole year. (Frank squeezes Billy's hand) Now my sister, she uses some kind of uh... uh... uh... uh... aloe vera with a little sunscreen in it, and ideally, we should all wear gloves when going to bed, but I found out that that creates a kind of an interference with my... social agenda, you know what I mean. Plus, I react to the camphor. So I'm not into the traditional remedies..."

Billy: "Let me tell you something. If you could pay cash... I could drop that down to seven-- (Frank squeezes Billy's hand harder) Sixteen each."

Frank: "No?"

Billy: "Yes, sir."

Frank: "You'd do that?"

Billy: "Yes, sir."

Frank: (Frank lets go of Billy's hand) "That'd be lovely. They told me to see you."

Friday, August 08, 2008

Avocado, Tomatoes, Red Onion...

The following is from Dana Stevens' review of Bottle Shock on Slate:

"Alan Rickman, marvelous as ever, balances his character's priggishness with curiosity and a barely hidden streak of hedonism. In one dialogue-free scene, a Mexican farmer by the roadside serves Steven some of his wine with a delicious-looking bowl of guacamole. Rickman's multistage encounter with this unfamiliar treat should be nominated for some kind of Oscar for Best Snack."
Now, you see, this is the kind of irresponsible journalism that compels me to go out to Cantina Laredo and spend ridiculous amounts of money. Damn you, Dana Stevens. Damn you all to HEEEEELLLLLLLLLLL!

Break out the headphones

Oooh, I can see this weekly series becoming as addictive as Zero Punctuation (NSFW):

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Internet memes as Sushi

Whatever you do, DON'T CLICK ON S53!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Who watches The Watchmen? Maybe nobody.

I worry about The Watchmen.

It's not that I have any emotional investment in the comic book adaptation coming out next year. I've never read the source material and I only have a basic understanding of the general story. But given that it is one of the most successful graphic novels of all time, I worry that it will be headed for a big fall.

In terms of film, the superhero genre has gotten to about the same point as the spy genre in terms of saturation, cliches and parody. One of the best examples of these, Mystery Men, was about a group of misfits that really had no superpowers at all. As it happens, most of the characters in Watchmen also have no superpowers. The superheroes of Mystery Men (The Shoveler, The Blue Raja) seemed to be scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of their names and their outfits. And at the risk of offending the Watchmen faithful, the same could be said of that group of "superheroes" as well.

I mean, c'mon: The Comedian looks like a cross between Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man (sans power armor) and Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder (sans blackface), Nite Owl looks so generic as to almost be invisible, Rorschach appears to be a leftover Dick Tracy villain, and the Silk Spectre has an outfit that simply doesn't work.

Could this be yet another case of something that works in print but should have never dared to be live action? I don't know. I feel sorry for the fans that may very well get their hearts crushed when this thing hits the screen in March.

And yet I can't deny the allure of that trailer: The perfect Smashing Pumpkins accompaniment, Billy Crudup transforming into a naked blue god, the"what-if" history it develops by dropping these folks into real events of the past and seeing what percolates, and the sheer WTF-ness of the closing clockwork image.

I could be wrong (It's been known to happen). We'll just have to wait another eight months to find out.

"You can't stop the signal."

Let's see, I haven't posted anything since Friday morning. I wonder why?

Oh yeah, that's why!

Actually, It's been a number of things, but the final embrace of Satellite TV by Mrs. Mosley and I definitely factors in there. BBC America! Turner Classic Movies! A bunch of other crappy channels I'll never, ever watch!

Oh, and lets give three cheers for channel blocking technology. Sure, it's great for wholesome families protecting their children from porn, but it's even better for intelligent families protecting people of all ages from the idiocy of FOX News! Hooray!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Giancarlo Esposito Quote of the Month: August 2008

Blue in the Face made it's second appearance here back in February, so it's time to revisit it's predecessor Smoke once again.

Giancarlo is still Tommy Finelli, but this time he's not answering bizarre survey questions from Michael J. Fox. In this first of the two films, his appearance is brief and confined to the beginning of the movie. He shows himself to be a bit of a smart ass in this time, but he does sober up once Auggie (Harvey Keitel) tells the tragic backstory of one of his regular customers.

Auggie: "That's it. Four people got killed. One of them was Paul's wife. (Pause) The poor lug, he hasn't been the same since. (Pause) The funny thing was, she stopped in here just before it happened. To stock up on cigars for him. She was a nice lady, Ellen. Four or five months pregnant at the time, which means that when she was killed, the baby was killed, too."

Tommy: "Bad day at Black Rock, eh, Auggie?"