Monday, June 27, 2005

I haven't updated in a while, and I have some time, so here goes. . .

Things I've done in the past few weeks that may potentially be of some interest:

I spent an extended weekend down in Richmond and then Williamsburg. In Richmond I stayed a couple days with my three great-aunts as I do annually. Just caught up with them, enjoyed the company and the anecdotes (The worst thing my my Aunt Flora's ever said to anybody is, "I'll have you know I'll giggle wherever I want to."). While there, I also went into Fife, met the woman who introduced my mother's parents all those years ago (and who now lives in the house that MomMom and her sisters lived in when they were children). I also was in a nonagenarian relative's civil war-era house, where she was busy shelling (shucking?) peas. There was a dead flying squirrel in her fireplace, and all kinds of bugs and spiders in the house. And her dog, having been bit by a snake, was only semiconscious. After Richmond I went, as usual, to Williamsburg for a couple days, where I caught up with my cousins and aunts and uncles. And it was good.

I spent the weekend, in part, at my aunt's house. She's seven months pregnant, and I was helping get rid of lots of heavy old junk in her house so that it would be clean and baby safe and all that kind of thing. Got very dusty and dirty and a little sunburned, and between that and the insomnia acting up again, today has not been the most pleasant of all days. But that's cool, because I'm going to the beach until Saturday. Of course, it's supposed to rain all week, but at least it should be relatively cool that way.

In a couple weeks, I'm going to Poland for a couple weeks with most of my family and my grandfather, who's a Polish Jewish Holocaust survivor, so that should be quite the trip.

I've also been reading quite a bit, on human nature and economics most recently, and have just picked up the new John Crowley and Paul Park novels. And I've been walking my dog a lot, when it's not too hot for him and sometimes even when it is, and am as ever frustrated by the ratio of young women I see (many) to the number with whom I manage to communicate successfully (few or none).

In January, I'm off to Denver, CO, as I'm joining AmeriCorps and will be spending next year doing community service, which should be a blast. I can't wait.

Last night, I saw Land of the Dead, which was fun brainless escapism, but if you stop to think about it even a little, you notice how riddled it is with plotholes, nonsense, cardboard characters and the like. It's a movie that I enjoyed watching quite a lot, but doubt I'll ever watch again. After seeing it, my father commented on the common theme between Land of the Dead, Revenge of the Sith, and Batman Begins (which I've still not seen): "There are good guys and bad guys, and sometimes it's hard to tell which is which." I was amused. After the movie, we got a pizza from a new local pizza place that stands where used to be a chinese restaurant. Their pizza was actually pretty good. Not great, but not as unpalatable as so much pizza is.

I've also now got enough film scores that I've decided to do something fun with them, so I've started putting together a website (on freewebs for now) on which I'll be reviewing them. Because that webspace is limited, all the pages are text-based, with a minimum of images, but then again, for now the thing is a resource more for me than anyone else. Once I get, say, a hundred scores reviewed, maybe I'll post a link here and some other places, see if I can't get a little traffic.

Yesterday, the art museum next to my house had its grand reopening. I was leaving to go to my aunt's, but some guy was parallel parking, so everyone was backing up to give him room to get into the space. The guy in front of my backed up very quickly, very abruptly, and damned near smashed into my car, so I laid on the horn briefly, just to let him know how close he was. The guy had the nerve, though there were police officers around, to get out of his car and start yelling and gesturing at me. I just sat there and ignored it. I saw no need to get into a fight at all, let alone over something so stupid, and especially considering the presence of law enforcement officials on the scene.

And I've recently been watching Enki Bilal's movie Immortel (ad vitam). Released last year, it's a French sci-fi flick based on the director's popular comics from twenty years or so ago. It's very ambitious, and has some moments of breathtaking imagery, but for the most part its reach far exceeds its grasp, and it's saddled with occasionally very obsolete CGI, some French actors speaking English phonetically so missing much of the nuance, and a virtually incomprehensible plot. Overall, a pretty bad movie. I'd recommend skipping it.

And with that, I must go. . .

Friday, June 24, 2005

"Be not bold, be fucking BOLD. Every time you meet someone, make a fucking impression. Make them think you're the hottest shit in the world. Make them think they're gonna lose their job if they don't give you one. Look 'em in the eye, and never look away. Be confident and calm, be fucking bold."

thanks to Jonathan Carroll

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Washington Post's Mensa Invitational once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

Here are this year's winners:

1. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

2. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

3. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

4. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

5. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

6. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

7. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

8. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

9. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.

10. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

11. Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes,right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

12. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

13. Glibido: All talk and no action.

14. Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

15. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

16. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

17. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.

And the pick of the literature:

18. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Okay, quick update 

I'm going to keep an ongoing list of books I've read and movies I've watched since graduation. Very simple. The link is on the sidebar.

That is all for tonight.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Inside Job 

I recently read Connie Willis' new novella, Inside Job. It's short, and as a limited edition quite expensive, but it's a lot of fun. It's about a couple of skeptics, professional "debunkers" who discredit psychics, and what happens when they chance upon a psychic who seems genuinely to be channelling the great spirit H.L. Mencken. Par for the course for Willis, it's fun and funny and pretty well-written, and the plot develops into a neat catch-22. If you like Connie Willis or Kage Baker, I'd recommend giving this one a try, despite the hefty price tag.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Mastadge's favorite 2-minute summer meal 

Cut a tomato into wedges. Dump a can of tunafish on top of it. Dump slices of avocado on top of that. Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Revenge of the Sith 

Well, I saw Revenge of the Sith, and it is garbage. Vying with Attack of the Clones for worst film of the franchise. Really, I was stupendously disappointed with Episode II. Even going in, I knew it would be bad, but like a faithful fanboy, I went in, having heard all the glowing reviews, hoping for the best, and exited disgusted. There were others who agreed with me, though they were few: most seemed to think that Episode II made up for Episode I, and then some. I was one who thought it was worse. Episode I came out when 15, and I enjoyed it enough to see it more than once in the theatre, and have even watched it through several times since. Episode II came out when I was 18; I saw it once in the theatre, and haven't managed to sit through it on video. Episode III I had decided I wouldn't waste my time and money on in the theatre. But it came out, and the reviews were overwhelmingly positive: "Best movie in the series!" or at least "Best of the prequels by far!" Even those who, like me, had disliked Episode II seemed to love Episode III. So I shrugged, thought Hey, maybe it'll actually be decent, and went to see it with my brother.

It was awful. Through and through, awful. There were a couple good bits. Ewan McGregor does such a good job that when he's on screen, I was sometimes actually entertained for stretches of a couple minutes at a time. The opening shot with the camera following the two starfighters was impressive. And, well, that's about it, really. We're told in the credits that "There are heroes on both sides" of the war, yet nearly all of the heroes on the Republic's side consistently act like idiots, and we don't actually meet any heroes on the other side. The whole rescue mission is a mess, from the comlink with the volume control set to max, to the lame humor involving the Super Battle Droids who seem disinclined to actually battle anything, including an intruder on their ship, and are so Super that they're foiled by slipping on the gallons of oil that Artoo somehow has room for inside of him along with everything else. If Ben and Artoo were still such nincompoops twenty years later, there's no way they would've been able to rescue Leia from the Death Star. The conclusion of Anakin's confrontation with a Dooku is, erm, unfortunately handled. So we're off on the wrong foot. It only gets worse, once they make the mistake of putting Anakin and Padmé together. Their dialogue is vomitously bad: "I love you" "No, I love you more" "But I love the way we love our lovingness!" They have no chemistry. And somewhere along the line, Padmé has gone from an intelligent, independent, resourceful fighter and politician to a character who does nothing but stand around and cry. What the hell happened to her? The Jedi are all inexcusable morons, who get themselves into trouble by disregarding their own rules and codes. Mace Windu, played by a Samuel L. Jackson who can't seem to figure out how to say his lines, is particularly pernicious when it comes to this. The lightsaber fights are boring, as the camera cuts between close-ups and wide angles and keeps jerking around instead of letting us watch these guys display their martial prowess. The battle droids, again and again, act inappropriately. And the big bad guy, General Grievous, the feared leader of the whole opposing army -- is a coward, who keeps running away from confrontations. How'd he get his feared reputation, anyway? And it's a good thing his debilitating hacking cough never kicked in while he was in a fight, or he'd've been in trouble! The Jedi, whom we've seen dismantling hundreds and thousands of battle droids in combat, get gunned down by a couple handfuls of clones apiece, which is insulting both to them and to our intelligence; the one who does the best is the padawan who escapes the temple; two of the masters go down like true punks, not even moving as they get cut down. The whole Kashyyyk battle suplot has nothing to do with the rest of the movies, but seems thrown in for the purpose of letting the camera linger on Chewbacca for a few seconds. And did you know that when people's faces melt, they do it symmetrically? Ugh. I don't even feel like wasting more time writing about it. We all already knew the story going into this one, so it was all about the execution, and that execution was abominable in nearly every possible way. This was a tremendously stupid movie.

I'm very glad I read the book before seeing the film, because had I not I think that I wouldn't have had the nerve to read a book based on such a piece of crap, and then I'd have denied myself one of this year's reading pleasures, because aside from a few things over which he had no control (i.e., Padmé's lack of character), the author did a fantastic job with the subject matter and wrought a beautiful, powerful stpry.

Exercise in motion 

When I got home from college about a week ago, I weighed more than I ever had in my life. I think I was about ten pounds heavier than I had ever been. This is mostly because in my last month before graduation, I got virtually no exercise at all. I was pretty much completely sedentary, just reading and studying and writing and all that, without even my long walks. In addition, I'd been eating huge amounts of junk food for that sugar energy. So when I got home, I was quite overweight and very out of shape. Now, a week later, and I'm still eating too much, but having had a modicum of physical activity -- no regular "workouts", mind you, just walking the dog, installing air conditioning units in windows, stuff like that, I've already chopped off five of those pounds, got my endurance up to a reasonable (though still not yet where I want it) level, and so forth. And that is why exercise is good.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Book meme 

It's going around, and since I was tagged by Rob, I figured what the heck.

1. Total number of books I own:
Oh, boy. Um. Let's see. Not counting fiction that my sister owns but that I read (Bellow, Irving, DeLillo, etc.), non-fiction, media tie-in stuff with words and phrases like Star Wars, Conan, or Star Trek on the cover, YA stuff by people with names like L'Engle, Cooper or Bellairs, or individual comic books, a conservative guesstimate suggests about 1500. Add in the non-fiction and media tie-ins, probably brings it up to at least 2500. But I'm not counting, so that's the best you're going to get.

2. The last book I bought:
Connie Willis' Inside Job and Muhammad Yunus' Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty.

3. The last book I read:
Books I've read in the past week: Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go; Kelley Armstrong's Stolen, Dime Store Magic, and Industrial Magic; and I'm currently reading Armstrong's Haunted and Tamar Yellin's The Genizah at the House of Shepher.

4. Five books that mean a lot to me:
Where the Red Fern Grows: The first book I ever read in one sitting. Not that I do that frequently, but it was a milestone.

The Neverending Story: The book that made me a reader. And a fantasy reader. And a writer.

Heroes Die & Blade of Tyshalle: Matt Stover writes the kind of book I love to read. These count as one because I read them back to back and can't consider one without considering the other.

Pale Fire: Perhaps the greatest novel I've ever read.

"A Problem From Hell": Outstanding journalism; a book everyone should read.

5. Tag three people and have them do this on their blogs:
Hrm. . . Michelle, Liz, Chris

Sunday, June 05, 2005


You've obviously read the guidebooks, but how long
can you rely on other people's wisdom? You must
strive to survive on your own, but it is
probably a futile struggle - your luck will run
out in the end. Ambergris has few survivors.

How Would You Fare in Ambergris?
brought to you by Quizilla

Friday, June 03, 2005

Thinking is bad. 

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

No commentary is necessary.

Regular blogging will resume shortly.

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