3 February, 2008
6:30 Stupid truck ads. Centrifuges have to be balanced or they will not spin.
6:34 Stupid me. I put too much sour cream in Liz’s Evil Dip.
6:38 Rescinded! Checked the recipe, and that was the right amount of sour cream I put in. …wait, I’m still stupid for making it at all. My arteries clog whenever I look in its direction.
6:40 Stupid East Coast. As a Midwesterner, I hate it when sports playoffs come down to New York vs Boston. Give me a goddamn break. Red Giants vs. the New Yankees BLAH BLAH BLAH. There are OTHER RIVALRIES OUT THERE, yo. cubfan63 is rooting for “a tie with lots of injuries.” Me, I am rooting for the Giants, because I like the song they ran out on the field to better than I like the Patriots’ song. (Kanye West’s “Stronger” vs. some Black Sabbath or whatever.)
7:03 Stupid Derek Jeter.
7:24 Why are there always so many job site ads during Superbowls?
7:30 Racial stereotypes much, Bud Light?!
7:30:20 (I must remember that I am not the target demo for Anheuser-Busch.)
7:41 Justin Timberlake rocks.
8:04 OK, people were bitching about Prince’s guitar being too phallic??!
8:06 Srsly, though. It’s a FLYING PENIS. That pierced a pink heart.
8:32 The head-shrinker commercial made me laugh so hard I cried. Reaganite thinks I’m insane.
8:39 Maria Shriver endorsed Obama three days after Arnold endorsed McCain? (DC football.)
9:13 Ha! The Frist-Carville ad rocks. Those Segway tours are awesome.
9:39 One reason I seldom watch football is that it makes me feel 10 IQ points stupider.
9:44 Still laughing at the “tiny head” line from the cars.com ad.
10:10 Now, THAT is why I watch playoff games even when I don’t care!
10:16 Of course, the shout-outs to the Polo Grounds and Yankee Stadium do irritate.
20 January, 2008
I reeeeeeeeally try not to rag on DC for its weather-related skittishness. It’s just too goddamned easy, and boring. But, come the fuck on. Did people always make this big a deal out of 20 degree weather? 20 DEGREES. We’re not traversing Antarctica here. Wear a fucking hat.
It’s times like these I feel most Midwestern. I have five trusty Weather Dashboard widgets set up, one for each place in the country where I have family. The “Stepfather” one tells me that it’s 10degF in Michigan. The “Grandmother, Aunt, Uncle, and 3 Cousins” one tells me that it’s 1degF in Wisconsin. Now THAT is some weather, people. One fricking degree. My cousins — ages 7, 5, and 1 — are being raised RIGHT. That’s not “you can’t go out and play, because I’m cold” weather. That’s “you can’t go out to play because you will get frostbite” weather.
I am sure my sister disagrees. She never felt the cold to be character-building, although that may have been because in the Midwest she bark-coughs like a seal from November to March. So she moved to Northern California. Where it’s now 20 degrees. Neener, seester. (And to round everyone out, it’s also 20 degrees where my mom is. She was raised in the Midwest but is now in Connecticut. How bout it, momb? Are they wimpy about 20 degrees there too?)
I was unfortunate this evening, when, failing to turn the football game off in a timely fashion, a local newscast bounced some photons off my retinae. No worries, first-degree burns only, I changed it quickly…but not before I got a nice strong dose of schadenfreude watching a newsperson interview a shivering frat boy, wearing on his head only a baseball cap, who admitted that it is too cold to wear on his head only a baseball cap. I hope his boyz don’t see him on the news, because based on the aggressively-worn T-shirts I saw the frat boys sporting on the streets last night, admitting to feeling cold practically makes him gay.
In very sad news, my text messaging appears to be broken. I’m not sure how many days now. I am lost without text messages. Seriously. My Google Calendar texts me reminders (and God knows I need a lot of reminders, what with this sieve I call a brain). I already missed at least one, and I suspect two, social engagements because people are used to not having to call me. So, I apologize to all of youse whose messages I have missed. It probably hurts me more than it hurts you!
6 November, 2007
The knitted brain–holy shit. The quilt is groovy, but I’m a knitter, and I love the 3D aspect. No experience has been as important to my understanding of neuroscience and neuroanatomy as dissecting a brain in my first year of graduate school. Which is kind of “duh”, I know…but to handle a human brain every week, cut away pieces and really see how it was put together…
OMG! A zipper as the corpus callosum (the structure that links the left and right lobes of the brain). Bril.
There is a disclaimer:
While our artists make every effort to insure [sic] accuracy, we cannot accept responsibility for the consequences of using fabric brain art as a guide for functional magnetic resonance imaging, trans-cranial magnetic stimulation, neurosurgery, or single-neuron recording.
Good thing they covered their asses there!
I found this page through MindHacks, a fun blog based on the O’Reilly book of the same name; both aim to provide “neuroscience and psychology tricks to find out what’s going on inside your brain.” And they do it well–I haven’t bought the book yet, but I paged through it a few years ago for a friend who asked me to vet the neuroscience, and IIRC I was impressed. Hardly a shock considering the publishing house, which is known in the tech world for its high quality.
Today the MindHacks folk featured Blue Jean Brain II by artist Lee Pirozzi.
Which reminded me of LAST week, when they had me humming “if I only had a brain handbag”:
Designer Jun Takashi has created a high fashion handbag, shaped like a brain. Why? You ask. Why not? I answer.
At this point I would like to make it clear that the idea that we only use 10% of our handbag is a myth.
Scientific studies have found that all of the handbag is in constant use, although some parts may be more active than others.
(I like how they debunk the ridiculous 10% myth. It might be true in the Angel from Montgomery sense*, but not in the neurological.)
The Wizard of Oz joke up there is that I have a lot of bags. By which I mean purses. I blame the DSW Shoe Warehouse in Chicago on Clark and Wellington, which was not only within easy reach of public transportation but had free parking. (I got a lot of shoes there too, but those are more socially acceptable, and I tend to purge shoes more as they age, but bags don’t wear out as fast.) I remember one day when I came home to Chicago Ex and said, “Look at this bag I bought!” “Oh good,” he said, “You needed more bags.” I was flattered that he’d noticed, a second later I figured out I was being teased. These days, with every new bag I acquire, Reaganite slightly-sardonically asks “So….is THIS one the Perfect Bag?” I have to explain that the perfect bag is a platonic ideal**, and that different needs require different bags, so no one bag can ever be perfect, so it is not an answerable question. He laughs at me anyway. Perhaps he has never taken philosophy.
Here is the ironic part: I have a dearth of luggage, the most useful type of bag. I also have no professional-looking bags for interviews and other sorts of days when I need to look like a grownup. Purses, purses everywhere, and not a one to take to San Diego for a conference.
I tried to take a picture of the closet that has most of my purses in it, but it didn’t really get the point across. I have them all hanging on racks and hooks on the back of my front/coat closet door, and well, let’s just say that the door basically has to be forced closed.
Maybe I should shoot each one and make a grid of them, or something. That WOULD help me purge, as some of them are probably embarrassing, stylewise. I could try to do them chronologically, then I would have an excuse.
You know, because I don’t have enough to do.
**Have you ever noticed that every time the Platonic ideal idea is explained pedagogically, the teacher uses the example of a chair? 4 out of 4 times in my academic experience. Bizarre.
18 August, 2007
Via MindHacks, a very good post about the question of whether addiction is a disorder of the body or of the will. It is very creative in its use of what is often thought of as a 100% physiological and genetic disease as an example.
This topic is much in the media recently (perhaps someone is plugging a book and I have missed it?) I recommend the post as an orientation to the issues.
23 April, 2007
From artist Chris Jordan, an art project about waste in America. Look at them all. (I had to shrink them to fit in the blog, so they are even more impressive than this…)
18 April, 2007
Recent gun-related events virtually ensure an encore of one of America’s traditional performance art pieces in response to tragedy: Guns Don’t Kill People, Teenagers Kill People (introducing…the 2008 Presidential candidates!). Well, at least it will be marginally more informed than will the next potential performance, Video Games Made Him Do It. (And let’s hope we can avoid Who Let Them In Here, Anyway? especially since Geraldo and Bill O’Reilly knocked that one out of the park so recently.)
Well, I got no particular knowledge about all those phases, but I do have a gun control-related angle.
US residents of all ages and both sexes are more likely to die from suicide when they live in areas where more households contain firearms. A positive and significant association exists between levels of household firearm ownership and rates of firearm and overall suicide; rates of nonfirearm suicide were not associated with levels of household firearm ownership…the availability of lethal means increases the rate of completed suicide.
The finding got a big yawn around my lab, but then maybe the common wisdom about suicide isn’t as well known in the blogosphere as it is here in a lab full of psychiatric researchers. Commence lecture!
- Suicide kills over 30,000 Americans a year. (More statistics can be found here.)
- You may wonder why I use the passive voice up there, don’t people do the killing? Yeah: depressed people. You can’t talk about suicide without reference to depression/mental illness, and the decisions people make when depressed are (duh) not necessarily the ones they’d make when healthy.
- To commit suicide is usually an impulsive decision. As a result it’s a common cause of death in young males.
- The idea to attempt suicide is more viral than you’d think: it spreads like a meme. When a suicide is reported, there are often local methodological copycats (educating police forces and newspaper editors NOT to publicize details can cut down on this substantially). A particularly awful example of how fucked up this can get is the story of Golden Gate Bridge suicides, which I can’t even reread, it’s so depressingly infuriating.
- Choice of method is opportunistic. (See above article.)
- People’s estimates about a method’s lethality are not accurate. This has a lot of implications, among them the fact that women are more likely to attempt, but men are more likely to succeed. In large part this is because women use less lethal methods (pills) than men do (guns).*
The author of the study puts it simply: “In a nation where more than half of all suicides are gun suicides and where more than one in three homes have firearms, one cannot talk about suicide without talking about guns.”
Now, it’d be a helluva public health measure to void a constitutional amendment just to prevent suicide. I’m not advocating this as why you should support gun control, I’m not completely on any particular side of the issue. Just keep in mind, when the NRA types get rabid about their purported “rights,” that lots of these people have depressed kids at home who know where the ammo is. What are the 2nd amendment absolutists doing to prevent having to pry their own guns from their child’s cold, dead hands?
*Because pills are such an ineffective way to commit suicide, there is a sexist misperception out there that women (who tend to use pills) intend suicide less seriously, and are just doing so as a “cry for help” or to get attention. But there is no correlation between lethality and seriousness: since suicides are so often impulsive and opportunistic, seriousness is hard to judge from the outside, easy to lie about from the inside, and impossible to determine for the successful. Nonlethal attempts are judged as less serious than lethal suicides because all lethal suicides appear seriously meant, whether they were or not.
15 April, 2007
So today Major League Baseball celebrates the 60th anniversary of its integration. If you don’t know the story, yet would like to call yourself an American, go read about it ASAP.
At the 50-year mark, MLB retired the number 42 for all teams, but apparently Ken Griffey Jr. had the idea for players to honor Robinson today by wearing 42. The idea has spread around the league and morphed into either “one dude on your team wears the number,” “a few dudes on your team wear the number,” or everyone on your team wears the number.” Personally, I prefer the last of these options, and think the position stated by the Twins’ Torii Hunter in the article — that it somehow dilutes the tribute to have too many people wear the number — is ridiculous. If only one or a few players get to wear #42, it’s then about those players — but it should be about Robinson himself. Here’s a shout-out to the teams that are all wearing #42 today:
Astros: All players
Brewers: All players
Cardinals: All players
Dodgers: All players
Phillies: All players
Pirates: All players
(Ahem. All National league, thankyouverymuch.)
I’m glad I don’t have tickets to any such games, because seeing 18 or 22 guys (if the coaches wear it too) all wearing #42 would make me ridiculously choked up. Things DO change here. Just ask Don Imus. Call me an idealist and/or a moderate, but it’s nice to pause every now and then from the struggle and take a measure of how far we HAVE come. Yeah, I know the changes are incremental (“with all deliberate speed”), often oddly motivated (women and the Civil Rights Act of 1964), and often have harmful unintended consequences (affirmative action and black students’ self-confidence). But as a member of a group that benefitted from the last century’s civil rights advances, it’s my opinion that one should take what one can get and turn it to one’s advantage, even if the motives of the givers are suspect. Half a loaf, and all that.
One suggestion I heard last season sometime about what to do with #42 is to begin a Jackie Robinson award for…I dunno how to phrase it, some sort of public antidiscrimination service/work undertaken by a baseball player or coach. It needn’t be awarded every year, just when the league/voters felt someone deserved it. Said person would get the honor of wearing 42 for the year. As nice as a day of remembrance like today is, that seems a deeper one: a daily reminder of the debt we owe to those who came before. Of course I’m also the person who thinks the DC baseball team should have been named after a Negro League team. But I guess more influential folks feel that systematic racism wasn’t SOOOOO bad of a sin that we need to be reminded of it every freaking DAY.
(OTOH, perhaps such measures would fade into the background. Hmm.)
Here’s an even more community-minded idea for honoring Robinson, from Forbes magazine. Maybe the league could honor the player who gave the most money to this fund with the right to wear #42. Even more interestingly, they could honor the player who gives the highest percentage of his salary, which would give a better chance for a younger player still under salary caps to give back and get recognition.
14 February, 2007
Here is a story about the bravest thing anyone ever did for me on a February 14th.
When your mom works at your school, the school day doesn’t end whenever it ends for everyone else: you have an extra period of “sit around and amuse yourself waiting for mom” that ends at 5 or 6. This has a lot of potential side effects, including:
You get to know your teachers in a different way, more as people than figureheads. And if your mom’s social life comes to involve teachers, you get to know them eeeeeeeven better.*
There are other kids whose parents work at school, and you spend a lot of time together.
You are known to the Powers That Be. If, say, the head of the Lower School stepped out of her door with a message for a teacher at the other end of the building and saw three students who could deliver it, she picks the one whose name she can remember the fastest, which is probably going to be the one who’s the child of her coworker and whom she sees hanging around every afternoon.
When I was in junior high and my sister in the early numbered grades, one of those other kids was a little boy I’ll call J. He was in my sister’s class, and she had the disdain for him that 8 year olds have for members of the opposite sex, but he was in the age range of kids I babysat, so I didn’t mind him. (There was also the disdain one develops after having to spend too much time with someone, which I think was also a factor, but I’ll let her correct me there.) We’d hang out in the computer lab, playing Arkanoid and Tetris and killing people with Life and Death on the ever so futuristic Macintosh SE 30s.**
J. would often ask me to turn his computer on for him. I still get teased about this as I was seemingly the last person to know that this meant he had a crush on me. To this day, if I tell my mom of a la younger than me who seems to like me, she’ll ask me “How do you know? Do you…TURN ON HIS COMPUTER??” In the background I’ll hear my stepdad snickering. Ha ha ha.
So the scene: seventh grade, Valentine’s day; second period, Ms. Cosentino’s Social Studies classroom. As the bell rang and we settled in, she noticed that J — second grade at the time, I believe — was at the door trying to get her attention. (Remember the Lower School head, looking for a student to send a message? That’s what we all thought was going on. ) “Yes, J.?” Ms. C. said. He hung in the doorway for a moment…
…and then he ran in the classroom, rushed to my desk, slapped down a Valentine, and ran out the door as fast as his legs could carry him.
Can you imagine how much guts that took? Seventh graders are the Big Kids! Everyone in that room (except me) was laughing, and not WITH him, either. I still remember the sight of Ms. Cosentino doubled over gasping for breath, saying “I love this holiday!”
I don’t really. But maybe it’s cause I’ve never had one quite like that since.
* Before he married my mother, my stepfather had taught me 6th grade Literature, 6th grade Science, 6th grade Homeroom, 9th grade Literature, and 10th grade Literature, not to mention being faculty advisor to the yearbook I edited in 7th and 8th grades. In the 8th grades on, we would go out to dinner on Friday nights with a rotating cast of my previous and current teachers, and I would watch them get drunk on margaritas.
** I am always struck by how old Apple things look when a new Apple thing comes out. It’s even more hilarious to do this comparison across the years. Was there really once a time when this:
looked as sexxy to us as this:
3 February, 2007
I’ve returned to blogging, but I have been meaning to address my aunt and cousin’s deaths more directly, to try and get something more meaningful out of it than the shock in my last post. Here’s my attempt.
First of all: thank you, commenters and emailers and callers, for your words and thoughts. It meant, and means, a great deal to have the support of friends. It’s a month now since we buried them. Life is externally normal; I’m back in DC, work, winter, yadda yadda. A few weeks ago, a friend emailed me with condolences, and also regrets that she hadn’t done so earlier. It made me think of a public service I could provide.
“I don’t know what to say”
We heard this a lot. It’s a lot simpler than you think. First of all, if you are saying this, it probably means you have the sort of mind that is not full of platitudes in the face of tragedy. This is good as IMO they can be the worst things to say (although not necessarily bad — see below). We didn’t get any “you should accept it as God’s will” sort of talk, I think for several reasons: 1) We’re Jews and it’s not the most Jewish of concepts. 2) In the murder of a child, it’s a hard one for anyone to really believe, I think. 3) The communities my family lives in are not the sort of communities that deal with tragedy that way.
Even if we had, though, it need not be inherently offensive–it’s all in the sincerity, intent and delivery. This was made clear when we met Ryan’s paternal grandfather, who was estranged from his son — Paula made it a point to have him meet Ryan over the summer, and it was clear he was eternally grateful. We got the impression, through the particular expression of his religion, that he had been saved from the sort of life which leads one to be estranged from one’s son by his church and by the fellowship there. But not even THOSE people talked about God’s will. They talked about praying to try and understand, which is a whole other thing and I wasn’t in the least bothered by it. If anything I was jealous of the structure his faith gave him for his grief.
Basically you don’t want to tell people how they feel or how you think should feel. I daresay that’s not too big a problem for the internetizens who read my blog.
Now for some specific guidelines. I imagined a person who had genuine feeling for the bereaved, but no experience themselves with such an event, and who would worry that she’d say something wrong that will upset them even more. If it’s been a while, she might also worry that saying something will be a reminder just when they’ve started to move on. Someone who’d like to help but doesn’t know what to do. Well, person, here’s what to do.
1) As soon as you hear, make contact. You need merely say “I heard about [thing/person], I’m so sorry.” There is no expiration date on this — do it as soon as you are able. They know what happened and have not forgotten so don’t worry about “reminding” them. In fact, as time passes, the initial outpouring of sympathy wanes, but you still remember, and it’s particularly comforting to get these sorts of messages when it seems like the world has already moved on.
2) Can you not possibly imagine what they are feeling? Say “I can’t possibly imagine what you are feeling.” Or say “How are you feeling?” Listen. They want to talk. Help them talk. Ask questions if you have any. If it seems appropriate, physical contact is nice.
2a) Try not to say “I don’t know what to say.” At least try not to have it be the last thing you say. (There’s a difference between “I’m so sorry, I don’t know what to say, I can’t possibly imagine what you are feeling” versus “I’m so sorry, I can’t imagine what you’re feeling, I don’t know what to say.” No, it’s not hurtful, but it changes the dynamic in a subtle yet powerful way. Having it be the thought you want the person to respond to makes you upset and more focused on yourself, and it makes them upset because they feel they have to take care of you and it’s hard enough taking care of themselves. Really you’re better off just not saying it at all, replacing it with “it’s such a shock” or “how are you doing?” or something.
3) Share your experiences.* We heard about many people’s experiences with suicide and attempts, from strangers to very close friends. Because of my area of specialty and the people I’ve met within it I already knew that suicide was common, but this made the knowledge a lot more concrete. And more importantly, it really opened my family’s eyes. I’d been worried that they’d perceive a lot of stigma, blame it on the antidepressants, etc. but this really showed them the reach of depression and suicide. I think it helped them a lot.
4) Early on someone said, “tell me about Paula.” This was pure genius! You should all remember it and use it when you can. They want to talk about the deceased, so help them do it. Now, they may say anything at all when you do this. Esp in our case, we were — are — all pretty angry at Paula for doing this, on top of the grief. Don’t judge if that sort of thing comes up.
5) About “let me know what I can do.” Many people say this, but do they all mean it? I wasn’t sure. These times are so odd, you’re outside the normal fabric of life and some people will go outside that fabric with you and do amazing things for you — but not everyone can do that. Figuring out who will and who won’t takes a lot of energy. If you really want to do something for the person, don’t make them spend that energy on figuring your intentions out. Offer something specific or, better yet, just do something without asking:
5a) Visit them. Call, email, let them talk.
5b) Provide food, storebought or home-cooked, comfort/junk or real meals.** If you are worried about dietary restrictions, that’s nice of you, but don’t worry yourself out of action.
(I guess some religions do flowers. It’s not a Jew thing to do, we are more with the food. So maybe it belongs on this list, but I have no experience with it.)
5c) Take care of some obligation that you are in a unique position to handle. Contact mutual friends. Reschedule appointments at work. Help them arrange travel. Housesit. Petsit. (Thanks again C., but especially thanks to B. It was a huge load off my mind.)
5d) Take care of something that will relieve them of some stress. I’d say “clean their house” for this, but honestly for each death in my family the houses were so farking clean due to all the family members hanging around with nothing to do. So I can’t think of a good example here, but it will likely be very situational anyway. (oh, I know an example! Watch their kids. I wasn’t involved with this, but the kids in the family, 6 and 4 years old, were far too young for a lot of the funeraly stuff. If you have childcare skills, using them to give the adults room to grieve is really helpful.)
5e) Bring them books about [thing]. Easiest to do if you’ve been there and have some you’ve leaned on, or know someone who can recommend some. (n.b. don’t bring a bible. Either they have one, or they don’t want one. If you really must evangelize to people who may not be receptive, save it for after the funeral and so on — you’ll have more of their attention anyway.)
5f) Write a letter. The person you know is unlikely to be the only one affected by [thing]. Content either “I’m so sorry, awful tragedy, etc.” or specific reminisces about the person if you have them. For example, we gave many people my grandmother’s address (the mother and grandmother of the deceased). (If you’d like it, let me know.)
5g) Make a donation. In our case we are directing people towards the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
6) It’s not over when it’s over. The funeral, or surgery, or whatever is only the beginning of the rest of the person’s life dealing with [thing]. This is why it’s never too late for 1) above. And clearly a lot of 5) are relevant to the immediate situation only, but you can think along those terms for a very long time. What you can do is keep in touch and let the person see that you know that [thing] is a part of their life. You can also keep track of anniversaries–they will be, whether they like it or not, and hearing from you on one would be a nice touch.
7) This is more a general “don’t be an asshole” piece of advice, but it has to do with death so here it is. If you’ve never been to a funeral, maybe you don’t know that usually there is a procession of mourners’ cars that follow the hearse from the funeral home to the cemetery. They are clearly labeled, signs on all the windows, etc. If you see one: do not cut it off. DON’T. You wouldn’t interfere with an emergency vehicle, even with no police around, because it could affect another person, right? Well, same principle here: have some politeness and respect for your fellow anonymous human beings, dead and alive. (It didn’t happen this time but it did for my grandfather’s in 2000 and we almost lost the procession. We didn’t know where the cemetery was and it’s not like we could have called the limousine. One of the most stressful half hours of my life, and eternal thanks to P. for some of the craziest driving I’ve ever seen all for the sake of keeping up.)
That’s about all I can think of right now. Long story short, say something, do something. Even if it’s “I don’t know what to say”–although with these tips you should have an idea now. Show the survivors that they are part of a community.
And to all those who said or did something for me and my family — and those who will — thank you.
*People to whom this point is relevant will hardly need it to be said, they will know from having been there that this helps, but hey.**Two meals I remember: a homemade lasagna from my stepdad’s business manager, and some Thai noodles and dumplings from a neighbor of my parents’. There was tons more food, but we ate those two after crowds had left, and so it was an extra level of feeling cared for by the community–even when they weren’t there, they were there.
24 January, 2007
DCist has picked up my objections to this ad, which has begun appearing on bus stands around DC. In response to some of the comments on that thread, here is a more coherent explanation of my objections, which began as a comment on the DCist thread but fits better as a blog post I think.
Not posted on DCist:
I first saw the ad from across the street. Squint and you’ll get an idea: a young female torso with a heckuva lot of violent words splashed across it. I didn’t see anything indicating what the ad was about until I had crossed the street. It got my attention, so I guess it’s a good ad. But it did so by making me think about violence towards women. Is that really what they want out of their ad campaign, do you think?
Now back to our regularly scheduled blog post:
As both a feminist and a photographer, this ad’s goals and its implementation could be a LOT more aligned than they are, and could be far more pro-female. The full text (as opposed to just the text that’s readable from a distance) tries to create a vibe of edgy aggression around the fight against breast cancer, and aims it at younger women. Well, here’s a suggestion: to create an edgy aggressive vibe that will engage young women, show a young woman doing something edgy and aggressive. Don’t use a woman’s body as a passively comely billboard for violent words.
Photography-wise, this idea — “let’s kick [abstract thing's] ass!” — is dynamic and full of visual potential. Are these words that come to your mind when looking at this image? Me either. There’s not even a whole lot of “maybe she’ll have sex with me” potential, since the boobs are so ill-defined (although great job of outlining the torso on both sides). I mean, think of what Monty Python did with the concept of an avenging horde of young women in “The Meaning of Life.” (I can’t find a picture, unfortunately. Go rent it.)
Did they intend to evoke the thought of violence against women? I think not, but so what? Remember this political ad out of the 2006 TN Senate campaign, which was accused of being racist? Reaganite — who, if you were unaware, is a black Republican and a political professional — had an interesting interpretation. “I can’t believe people think it’s intentional,” he said when it first came out. “The pressure on these guys [who make the ads] is so intense right now. I’d bet it just slipped through and it’s more that nobody had time to think over the implications.” That’s fine as far as it goes. But I suggested to him, and I suggest now, that it’s that very unawareness that makes these two ads inappropriate, and instances of -isms.
26 September, 2006
Or so they tell me. Many ideas for blog posts, many ideas for pictures, no time to post or make/process them because lab work is going so damn well. (Thanks in no small part to the blogosphere itself, about which more at a later date. Lemme just say, fear its power, people. For powerful it is.)
One idea I had for a post was based on my hearing the Clinton-Wallace interview on C-Span radio on Sunday. Only half-listening at first, I tuned in when I heard Clinton actually raising his voice. Radio was a good way to catch that interview: when he accused Chris of smirking, Chris AUDIBLY SMIRKED. I doubt the cameras covered that, and if they did one was probably too distracted by a frothing ex-President to appreciate the beauty. You can’t make this stuff up. The next day, I watched the interview without sound, which was a great complement to the listen. I began a body language transcript, because the whole story is there. Oh, for a feed of the wide-angle coverage camera of that interview. I don’t have time to finish, but it sure is fun. Here’s my start if anyone else wants to play with the idea:
CW: Upright posture: I am respectful. Antsy left hand, lean fwd and back only a little, start question.
WJC: Slightly closed, looking at hands — OK, he’s started. Big smile, teeth. Relaxed posture slightly slumped in chair: I am Elder Statesman and have earned the right to slump. He’s talking now: open up hands, jiggle leg without uncrossing, maintain slump.
CW: Serious and slightly regretful expression. Question.
CUT TO LISTENING WJC: Smiling, then hand to mouth, completely obscuring it. Smile wiped for look of concentration. Look neutral, neutral. Blink-as-nod, slight real nod, teeny movements.
CUT TO CW LOOKING UP: This question is my obligation as a newsman, I am also somebody and this is my space and I will ask it. Hands weighed down with this heavy question, which is necessitating strong gestures, aimed at the neutral space between him and WJC. Face even, even. Hands pass question over to Clinton. Rest.
WJC: Uncover mouth. Accept question with hand, begin massaging it, shaping it with hand. Smile is less genuine but politician-functional. Steel creeping in, emphatic expressions creeping in. Scold with head angle. Bring in other hand: form wall, and move it around for extra emphasis. Punctuate return of question by folding hands: Statesman has given you your answer. Return to jollity of before in anticipation of a change to the real interview topic, but allow some satisfaction with answer.
CW: Eye roll. Cover with regretfully dissenting blink using head to emphasize. Sigh, pull back, re-pick up question, both hands. Match Clinton’s animation level. Massage question, shape question, place it down with forward shrug of shoulders. [This guy is good! This was a helluvan ambush.]
WIDE SHOT: CW upright, leaning a bit forward from initial position. WJC in same position as the start, smiling and nodding to question part 2.
CW: Pick question back up. Put question RIGHT. Drag question LEFT. Toss.
WJC: Catch and move question left-right with hands and head for a bit. Insert comma with neck. Engage (You can hear him thinking “a’ight…I can play this one….bring it, Fox.”) . Move away from L-R axis and move forward towards CW. EMphasis. Get it? EMphasis. Scratch head….
Yeah. Sadly I never got around to the meat of it — the pointing, and the smirky, and so on — but you can watch it yourself and have a go if you like. (Note that the transcript of the words seems to be incomplete — that was not how the interview started.) It capped a great week for fans of good political rhetoric, with the Devil himself being invoked in attacks against George Bush AND Hillary Clinton. Is Lucifer the political version of Hitler in Godwin’s Law?
I join Billy boy in recommending Richard Clarke’s book. It can be very frustrating talking about 9/11 with people who haven’t read it and/or don’t know the info it contains (sure the info is public record and available in other places, but his account is as primary as it’s possible to get, and has held up over the years however self-centered you find his writing style to be). Those who have read it have a good understanding of the complexity of the Bin Laden issue pre-9/11, and also of just how the Bush Administration’s seething rabid hatred of Clinton contributed to 9/11 getting the chance to occur. This is where the people who haven’t read the book hear me accusing Bush of causing 9/11. Admittedly I fuel this by my rhetoric — as you can tell from the above, I likes me a fiery statement — usually phrasing it as “Had Gore been president, the 9/11 attack would have been thwarted.” That’s a logical leap from the direct evidence, but one I can justify (with science, even) and it’s NOT the same as saying “Had Gore been president, 9/11 would never have happened” — which is the statement they usually hear me saying no matter what words I use. It’s not unlike trying to discuss animal rights with a carnivore or scientific researcher who hasn’t read Peter Singer. Which is a whole other can of C. elegans that I will not be opening today. (The above is plenty, no?)
I also need to post about my birthday weekend, which was rule, and on something that happened on it that seems to be the “I can’t believe I’m 30 years old and I’ve never…” experience I had been wanting. It’s in regards to a particular pop album, several of the songs on which I knew well (as does everyone who grew up American) but which is actually a work of genius at a level I had not before appreciated. I wonder how obvious this has been to everyone else…maybe it will be fun for people to guess in comments? (I also relistened to an album I knew was a work of genius, ’cause everyone kept saying so before it even came out, but which I never really got — so you have two chances to be right!) It’s not every day you get to listen to music you know and hear it for the first time, and getting to do so was like a whole other gift. And twice! What fun! What a great way to spend a long drive back from a weekend away! R. had already given me the best present an urbanite photographer could ever want: a shiny new lens and a weekend in NYC for a subject. I’m so fucked for coming up with something good for HIS birthday. Thank goodness his isn’t a decimal or even quintile birthday…
Work is awesome, and postworthy, but the better it is the less time I have for good old LO. I’ve got one presentation down and two to go for the fall. So I’mma get back to it now, and see some of yas tonight at the meetup, and try not to let the pauses between posts get too long. I know you hate that, Mom.
6 September, 2006
I’m a few days away, and looking forward to it. For one, I always seem to be on the young side of every crowd I’m in, so changing that first number will be a small but psychologically significant change there, for both sides. More importantly, though, the decades seem to just keep improving:
THE FIRST DECADE: Sure, the first few months are rad. You live in the Eden neighborhood of Utopia. You’re the entire world and the entire world is you. Nice! But it’s got nowhere to go but down. Primarily, you get born, which is no fun for anybody involved. That leads to a whole new realm of uncomfortable states like being cold and tired and hungry and poopy, and not only can none of your caretakers really tell the difference but they also seem disturbingly unable to read your mind. As you develop, you reach “cognitive milestones,” known to you as “huge ego hits”: your mom isn’t the same person as you, other people have their own minds and wills and don’t always give you exactly what you want, if something breaks or is lost or dies it stays that way forever — stuff like that. Less existentially, the small indignities are legion. There is a long period of run-ins with the toilet, which your caretakers won’t stop hyping the awesomeness of. You’re too small for everything, height-wise (including said toilet). Sometimes your Disney Princess spoon and Disney Princess fork and Disney Princess plate and Disney Princess cup are put on the table in a haphazard configuration, which really fucks with the fabric of the universe something awful. There are silly rules everywhere you turn (you suspect they might be arbitrary or at the least ad hoc); rules like “we keep our clothes on all the time” and “we sit on our butts while we eat, and use utensils” and “we don’t roar or growl or bite the table” that make NO sense for those times when you have to be a dinosaur to eat your dinner. Yep, if you ask me, people tend to forget how frustrating it was to be a kid. Talk to one sometime–they can’t wait to be older, bigger; they barely know why, but they know they are missing out. Heaven may lay about us in our infancy, as a famous Bill once wrote, but good luck calming a hysterical child with Intimations of Immortality. Maybe you can distract them for a minute if you hit yourself in the head with a copy while making a funny face and saying “BOINNNNG!”, but after that they just keep crying (trust me on this) and you have to remedy whichever uncomfortable state they are in to make them stop.
THE SECOND DECADE: Any decade that features 8th grade, puberty, being a freshman TWICE, and arbitrarily defined maturity thresholds that vary by country, state or even municipality has a lot to answer for. Still, it’s a lot less confusing than the first one, and you are learning so fast that it makes more and more sense every day. In fact, the world starts seeming so manageable that by about halfway through the decade you have it TOTALLY figured out, which is a nice feeling while it lasts. Also nice? Your invention of sex (good idea!) as well as all the myriad forms of musical, sartorial, cosmetic, recreational, and chemical rebellion, all of which make the later teens a time that you will remember fondly even if you can’t remember them or hated every minute while it was going on. On the downside, well, again I feel I must mention puberty and all that it brings, but the area has been covered pretty well already. Socially, this is when you discover how the world works. You think it’s just how high school works, but your adult self learns otherwise, and if it develops an interest in politics or moves to DC it learns even sooner. (It’s interesting, people always think they are the victims here. Exhibit A, Molly Ringwald movies; even the cute, rich, popular girl is unhappy. Exhibit B, the Christian Right in December, who think THEY are the targets of the season’s discrimination.) You may make it through this with a shred of self-esteem, but even if you do, at some point — at the end of this or the beginning of the next decade, in my observations — the world will deliver you a smackdown, showing you that while you indeed may BE all that and a bag of chips, you have to prove it, and by the way that bag of chips is mostly air.
THE THIRD DECADE: Freshman years of high school and college get due credit for being tough reality checks, but if you ask me one’s freshman year of life (whenever it may happen, but early in this decade seems to be it for most people) is underrated for being its own brand of directionless overwhelming sucktastic. Who are you? What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Why aren’t you doing it better? You had these questions before, perhaps, but now the answers start to matter, and answering them is not a smooth process. But answer them you do begin doing, and with respect to your self-control and how the world sees you, things are definitely an improvement over #2. The independence rawks, and for the first time it’s rarely questioned (when it maybe should be — US consumer debt, anyone?). Nostalgia becomes possible, and can be a lot of fun, even when it’s for the worst bits of the previous decades. (I couldn’t begin to count how many times my 20something self said “I’m so glad I’m not a teenager anymore!” Usually this was prompted by hearing some song that had soundtracked a particular period of turmoil, and feeling bemused instead of turbulent. My 2005 front-to-back relisten of Pretty Hate Machine during one crunch-time dissertation all-nighter stands out as a particularly satisfying moment.) The key change here, though, is taking on the mindset of an adult, which is disorienting. An early example: on one overly anticipated day, you experience the mindfuck/anticlimax of full US-adulthood. The day before, drinking 5 alcoholic beverages in an hour make you a pathetic example of misguided youth, but on that day it makes you so normal that NOT drinking them is the pathetic thing. As the decade wears on you discover that not only did the emperor never have any clothes (those anti-dinosaur rules? They WERE ad hoc) but that there is no emperor (that Disney Princess place setting? An early hint about just how little the universe cares about your opinion). Your parents are just people doing their best. Your teachers were pretty fricking young. etc. etc. Once you get the hang of it and start redefining your relationships to people and things, it’s exhilarating. Once you get the hang of it.
THE FOURTH DECADE: Given all the regularly scheduled upheavals in the rearview mirror, I have a rosy outlook on the upcoming decade. There will of course be individual, personalized smackdowns on the menu, but this post isn’t about those. WRT the institutionalized, culturally and biologically scheduled smackdowns, it seems that this decade may have the fewest of any before or since. Even if that’s not true, I’m starting it in a far better position than I did the previous three. Sure there will be a biological clock and sure there will be aches and pains and sure there will be more and heavier responsibilities and less and less time. On the other side of the sheet, well — I’ve heard a few rumors:
1) There is a degree of resolution of the life-direction issues of the third decade.
2) There are more orgasms. And they are better.
These have been verified by well-placed sources (and I encourage more sources to reveal themselves in comments). So who gives a damn if youth don’t trust me. Thirtysomething, here I come!
…No pun intended.
22 August, 2006
I had this whole thing half-ready to go about the actual movie, I had to do other things and then couldn’t find the time to finish it. I pretended like I could for a few days, but fuck it. The point of this blog is not to further stress me out. Anyway, the gist was: this assclown needs to watch this, and read this, because he does not get it, and it’s embarrassing for all of us to watch him stick his head farther and farther up his ass while he pretends that he does.
Nutshell: The movie was absolutely everything I’d hoped it would be, surprisingly so. “Was it good?” you may ask. Well, I’m unlikely to buy the DVD, but it’s the most fun I’ve had in a theater in some time, and the most I expect to have for a while to come. I was very, very thoroughly entertained. But I do not expect to be able to relive it. I consider it a theatergoing experience, not a moviegoing one.
I do feel I should warn anyone who may take this as a recommendation: you better have a strong stomach. At one point, early in the carnage as the snakes got all the easy prey, there was an extended scene so gory and graphic and, well, horrifying that it totally silenced even a theater of buzzed hipsters. I said to Reaganite, “This is what we asked for.” We just didn’t think we’d actually GET it. We wanted to see if Hollywood would go there. And they did, I tell you whut. They went farther than I’d hoped they would, and I used to behead rats for a living. After lunch!
Further recommendations: if you go, explicitly make a tally of who you think will live and who will die. (We only did this informally, which we regret.) In fact if you are not the sort of person who enjoys doing this, you probably won’t enjoy the movie.
19 August, 2006
First off, my apologies to my subscribers for the second image in my post yesterday. While all looked fine from my end, it doesn’t appear to have shown up for everybody. (It was a “Deep Blue Sea” poster.)
On to the review! After my experience waiting in Star Wars/LotR-y lines for Firefly last fall, I was worried about crowding at our showing of local netizen ground zero movie theater, Gallery Place. If there was one movie I didn’t want to watch from the second damn row with my neck craned it’s Snakes On A Plane. I knew the bloggers were going at 10 and figured a different showing would be less crowded, but still, 9 is prime time. So I was a bit taken aback when I walked into a wide-open theater 20 minutes before the showing. ?!! How can there not be lines out the door for such a cinematic experience??
Not being a TV watcher, I have no clue how SoaP is playing out in the real world. My mom’s heard of it, but then she is on friendster and comments on blogs, so she’s not your average mom, internets-wise. At lunch my coworkers had expressed fear of the movie based on the ads they’d seen. Maybe this WAS a cult thing that only a few people were into? Reaganite said as much when he arrived. Well actually he said, “lines, huh?” OK, so maybe I was being a little spazzy. I got the last laugh tho, because two blinks later the theater was full with people who were clearly all on the same page:
Spirits were high, and the contact buzz was plenty serviceable (didn’t have time to drink beforehand, cf. spaz, above). Proving once again that the internets make DC an even smaller place than it is, Reaganite (who is ex-blogger I-495 Blues) and I recognized a number of DC bloggers in the audience from meetups and such. Did we catch the blogger showing after all?
We had a little contest going on the previews. How did they see their audience? Reaganite took the 18-25 dumb-young-male demo, we figure this was the movie’s original aim. I took, well, me/the rest, 25-40 mixed-sex netizens, to represent where the movie ended up. You know, the sort of people who would make their own t-shirts for a movie that hasn’t come out yet, and take pictures of each other wearing them.
- Crappy takes-self-seriously action/horror movies. 2-0, DYM.
- Classy action/heist/crime stories. Someone wanted to remake Donnie Brasco with the current crop of Young Actors Who Are Of Course Very Talented And Serious About Their Craft But Are They Gonna Take Their Shirts Off Or What, and supported by the President, a Baldwin, and Jack Nicholson to chew the scenery. I claimed this one for my demographic (even my mom’s). 2-1.
- Mockumentary characters brought to you originally by HBO and benefitting from serious word-of-mouth because they are just that hilarious. A tough call, but 2-3, me. I flipped out more over these than for, say, the “SNAKES” title screen — after all, I’ve been fans of them far longer. As much as I lurve Tenacious D (the World’s Greatest Band), I think Borat (Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan) will be the superior film.
- Ass-rape-joke-based prison comedy. Yes, they went there. Again and again and again. Despite its starring Gob Bluth of Arrested Development, neither of us wanted to claim this. But it was pretty clearly targeted. 3-3.
- We were not sure just what to make of the “single black guy chains white slut to his couch for Jesus” genre. Even if it does star Samuel L.J. and a disturbingly flat Christina Ricci, which are definitely hints. But the name…did they really call it “Black Snake Moan”? Really? But…well, it turns out they are not only serious but it is a very good movie. I expect this movie’s trailers to be heavily, near-deceptively alternately edited for different audiences, as Fight Club’s were.
A good sign, I thought at the final tally. They know exactly who they are dealing with. (Although it was a bit of a bummer that the opportunity for a blue-screen trailer was not taken for ANY of these.)
more later because wordpress is being a bitch.
18 August, 2006
Now, it’s true that this movie’s already been made:
But I personally feel that “Sharks on a Plane With Samuel Jackson” is, as a friend put it, a totally different vehicle than “Sharks Underwater Where LL Cool J Survives.” Among other things, the cleavage on the plane will not be clung to by drenched clothing, but squeeze-enhanced by snakes themselves.
Sadly, since I came up with this idea, it’s been somewhat overtaken by events. Recent airliner security changes make the “Sharks On A Plane” concept a little implausible. I can think of lots of ways around it, personally (Land Shark. Miniature sharks. Piranhas. Piranhas dressed as Land Sharks. Nanosharks….), but I guess we’ll just have to see what Hollywood comes up with.
5 August, 2006
Ten or so years ago, friend Kees of codeblog had this bit of text in his .sig:
You can have it done FAST | You can have it done CHEAP | <--- Pick any two You can have it done RIGHT |
I think of this precept all the time. More generally, the formulation has become a meme with me. For example, I’ve often observed that I can only pay good attention to 1.5-2 of the 3 areas of my life, roughly, work, play, and responsibilities/home. I’m forgoing play (which includes family and social life) until tonight to catch up on responsibilities like bills, cleaning, errands, etc — all the stuff my friend Dr. “C.S.” B. calls “flarn”. I could do work also, but it’d not be nearly as productive as if I took one of the other two off the table.
Lately I have had many opportunities to ponder another such 2 of 3, which I remember from reading Thomas Friedman’s book “From Beirut to Jerusalem” a half decade or so ago. (Even if Friedman currently annoys you, as he does me, the book is invaluable in explaining the Lebanese civil war and the first intifada, and I very highly recommend it to you. I once asked a friend with a Masters in Mideast Studies what else I could read that’d be equally informative, and she said “Nothing. Read it again.”) The formulation is something like
You can be a Jewish state | You can be a liberal democracy | <--- Israelis: pick any two You can go from the Jordan to the sea |
Depressing, no? If Israelis make the state they wanted to make, defense of it will almost inevitably lead to destruction of it, either physically or in spirit. (The application of this catch-22 to the US is left as an exercise to the reader.)
While I’m near the topic, I have a bone to pick with NPR. The country’s name is “Is ra el.” They have at least two reporters on their staff who get this wrong, and have for years. Dipthonging the second and third syllables together is inevitable in English pronounciation, but there’s a right way (“rail”) and a wrong way (“real”). Hearing them say “Isreal” sends the same message to me as “nu-ke-lar”: “I don’t care enough to learn the order of letters in the middle of this word.” Does nobody else know the difference?? A reporter would never be allowed to say “nukelar!”
Anyway, back to my navel. For the first time in memory I have contacts on both sides of a Mideast conflict. A good work friend is of Lebanese extraction. We’ve had one torturously-worded conversation about the issues and that was quite enough for both of us. We are now back to our usual topics, which are far more interesting to eavesdrop in on, so I’m sure our adjacent cube neighbors are happy. Another, newer friend recently penned this. Having been raised as both a Jew and a lefty-liberal democrat, I have an uncomfortable ability to empathize with the opposing sides of these issues. If someone is saying anything more pointed than “how awful that people are dying,” a “yes, but…” of some kind is always springing to mind, as is the “but what about…” to THAT…and I just kinda sit there thinking the whole thing through AGAIN, and in the end I say nothing. So I’m glad when others coming from my sort of background can.
3 August, 2006
I would like to know why Al Gore called in his favors with Whoever to send floods and heat waves to promote his global warming movie instead of to take care of that little Florida problem in November 2000. (I’d also like to know how.)
Or maybe Whoever just liked the movie and is doing this on Her own to make a point?
(Or maybe there is no Whoever and in the future there will ALWAYS be a recent extreme weather event to point to to represent anything you like. Aigh! No too scary! Whoever! Call Whoever!)
Speaking of movies, you have got to do this to your friends and loved ones before they hear about it and know what’s going on when the voicemail comes in.
2 July, 2006
So Wonkette linked my metro observations post. And this a day after my first professional photos were published. Not a bad week.
The snark in the Wonkette link got me thinking. It sorta misses the point (for sarcasm’s sake I suppose, the site DOES have a brand to maintain…although it was a lunch break post and I could have been clearer I guess). The attempted point: this behavior occurs OUTSIDE the necessary forced interactions like transfers and inquiries. What’s unique to DC is that riders will, unnecessarily, thank drivers as they disembark, and they do it almost every time, however minimally. (And drivers acknowledge people back in the same spirit. Hmm, I wonder if this gets annoying for them?)
Another two aspects add together interestingly. One, there is a peer pressure component. If the bus is crowded and someone says “thank you” or “have a good day” on their way out, later exiters (at that stop and at subsequent ones) are more likely to do so. Two, this behavior seems more common when rider and driver are of the same nonwhite group (of the same “people”, as it were, right birdcage?). The NW branches of the routes I ride most often — the 90 and the 42 — shuttle commuters to points between Red line and Green line metro stops. That is to say, they run between affluent/white and working class/immigrant/nonwhite neighborhoods. So it’s a rainbow coalition every day on them, and the high average diversity per bus can match any “people” of driver. This will increase the odds of the peer pressure snowball effect. So your average rider of, say, the Georgetown to Dupont type lines may not see as much of this. Any D2 riders want to weigh in?
I don’t think race is an underlying cause of this, though. I grew up in Chicago and took buses there for 15 years. Chicago being a strongly segregated city laid out on a grid, knowledgeof a route’s heading and range told you a lot about the age and maintenance levels of the vehicles and what the ridership and schedule adherence would be. I never saw this kind of interaction in the segregated or diverse routes. No, I think what’s driving this (since you asked) is DC’s scope. It doesn’t feel as large as NYC, Chicago, San Fran, even Boston. Heck, I recognize all my bus drivers already, which I never did in Chicago. I stick to my Pollyanna-ish approach to this phenomenon. (And knowing me, this all will probably lead me to start taking field notes about it during my commute. Hey, I was getting bored with sudoku anyway.)
26 June, 2006
…it’s an odd nexus in me.
– During the 2000 election aftermath I kept thinking, “a couple hundred, or even a couple thousand people difference? This is noise, pure noise. Junk the data and do it again.” This put me in the position of arguing against both sides, which was odd after a year of passionate partisanship.
– On a dare, I once spent three hours investigating the 9/11 Pentagon crash conspiracy theory. You know, the one that is all “where’d the plane go??” and “no way can anyone fly that well!” and so on. (It’s crap, of course. Although the pilot was a pretty lucky guy.)
– I am always a hit at parties when I inform people just exactly WHY LSD is one of the safest recreational drugs you can take. I love it when people, holding containers of one of the most dangerous drugs you can take and often holding little sticks of another, refuse to believe me. (Of course, now that I work at NIH, I have instant cred on all such topics, which always ensues in hilarity, as when I was introduced as an expert in bird flu to a bunch of political folk.)
– On the flip side of this, I once lost two friends due to an argument over drug laws, specifically, the relationship or lack thereof between a drug’s legal status and its dangerousness. The argument basically arose because I took a historical and biological view, and they took a prosecutorial/law-and-order view. Not so much with the compatible. (Also incompatible? The scientific and the legal attitudes towards disagreement and how to handle it. Sigh.)
– The recent intersection was seeing An Inconvenient Truth this weekend. There’s Al Gore standing on an elevator dealie scaring the shit out of everyone and I’m looking at the scary-ass graph and wondering, what’s the r-squared for temp and CO2 in that graph? I’ve spent the last 45 minutes tracking this data down to analyze it myself. Why? Oh, you know, because I have NOTHING ELSE TO DO, CLEARLY.
In other news from the movie, I got in a nice dig at my Reagan-loving, supposedly-Republican companion. At one point Gore makes the case for greener policies being good, not bad, for business, and uses the car companies as an example: “Look! Toyota and Honda are doing well! Ford and GM are not! *colorful graphic evidence*” This struck my companion — mind already stretched dangerously far open by even being AT the Al Gore movie — as having the ring of truth, and he said so to me, incredulously. Nah, said I. Their taxes must be too high.
15 June, 2006
I took the top shot last week but only ul'd it to flickr Tuesday night. DCist published it on Wednesday, in exactly the context I'd hoped for when I added the DCist tag (thanks for reading my mind Martin!) The resultant thread gave me ideas, and old RL friend and Photoshop genius leepus and I collaborated to produce the bottom image.
If these ads are still up where you are, please let me know where. This one was gone from Woodley Park today, a week after it appeared — cheapskate Focusers-On-Family, only springing for one week!
I have a longer, impassioned point to make about this issue — mostly a response to a few of the prima facie-reasonable arguments made in the DCist thread. But I may send them to DCist to publish instead of posting here or on flickr. Seems worthwhile, and may publicize the issue and get more calls in to WMATA.
14 June, 2006
I like Baltimore.
I have this vague sense I'm not supposed to. It's supposed to be a faintly ridiculous place, or declasse, or dirty…I don't quite grasp why I'm supposed to be a little embarrassed about it, but I definitely get the sense that I should be, from somewhere or other.
Well, fuck you, collective consciousness. I've only been there three times, but each time I felt like I'd visited home. Don't get me wrong, I like DC, I feel at home here, but it is, for me, a new way of being a city. Baltimore isn't new like that. It's much more like my hometown.
What prompted this? This weekend I attended Honfest, which was a street fair that could have been copied wholesale from any such fair in any summer weekend in Chicago. (You'd just need to add a lot more pink and hairspray than Chitown is used to:
For more of what Honfest is about I direct you towards the Honfest 2006 Flickr photo pool.) I had a great time. I just enjoyed myself, non-analytically, out with friends making pictures in the beautiful weather, and comparing it to DC, or Chicago, or anything didn't enter into the day.
Then I turned a corner and saw the below. Faithful readers may recall that not two weeks ago I was bemoaning DC's lack of vintage clothing stores. What's pictured here is just the sort of thing I had been looking for. If it'd been a musical I'd have burst into song. I might have anyway, in fact; I don't remember.
(It's too big on purpose; it's just no good small. Sorry.)
I've tried many times to describe what it is about Baltimore that I'm attracted to, and it never seems to come out right. For example, a few months ago I mentioned on Flickr that I wanted to take pictures of stuff like abandoned factories. I had used the phrase "urban blight" in musing about whether Baltimore would have such things, since DC didn't seem to. A minor contretemps ensued (there was a lot of "Senator, I've worked in Anacostia. I've lived in Anacostia. And Senator, you don't know from Anacostia!"). In short order I stopped trying to explain myself and just fricking went to Baltimore.
What I was trying to get at was evidence of an industrial base that time had passed by, and seeing those racks of clothes, something clicked into place about why that particular feature of a city seemed so important a trait to me. Because of industry and its echo and the social patterns it imposes, Baltimore is a city where people die after living their whole lives. DC is where you go to work, and when you're tired or done, you leave and settle down elsewhere. It's been that way for over 200 years. So when Grandma dies and you have to empty her closets and you just dump everything in her house to someone who resells it to the vintage store buyers, you are emptying them in places like Chicago and Baltimore, not places like DC.
I wonder if that makes any more sense than my other attempts to describe me and Baltimore. (The hour would indicate no.)
6 June, 2006
– DC LIFE I don't know what I did to deserve this amazing, fabulous, lovely perfect weather which would be nice even for a temperate city much less a Southern one. The summer misery is my only real problem with living in DC. (Well, that and disenfranchisement.) Even when it was hot last week I was not too upset, figuring I had had my lovely perfect spring and it was OK for summer to start now. So getting ANOTHER nice week….hell, I was CHILLY when I got home tonight. Chilly! In June in DC! Hallelujah!
– BASEBALL I've been neglecting one of my obsessions. Why? Because the Cubs had an incredible May…an incredibly BAD May. Their worst May ever and close to their worst month ever…they went 7 and 22, and they pretty much deserved it, too. It was painful even from here. Add that to the fact that I was out of town a lot in May and so couldn't get to any Nats games until Memorial Day — and that their month wasn't so hot either — and baseball's been on the back burner. I expect to be going more now that I'm in town for a few solid weeks. I have not even scored a game all year. I kinda miss it, I'm done with taking bad ballpark shots from my seats.
I do have a sorta-baseball story though, from my friend's wedding in MN. One night at a bar I found myself being wingmanned while a groomsman put the moves on a bridesmaid. Now, the wingmen were married, but had not told us this yet, instead preferring to go to their buddy's wedding alone and ringless and flirt with cute girls. When we found out, we were tres amused and almost started a side bet on how long they could go without mentioning their wives.
Anyway, the bar: I was bored but baseball was on the TV, which made up for it. Wingman and I watched the day's late games finish, and then the recap of the MLB day, all the while talking that nice relaxing baseball chatter. After a bit I found myself double-teamed (heh) as the baseball talk had lured Other Wingman away from his bridesmaid to join our convo. Blah blah, Dusty, Nomar, Barry Bonds (they were from LA)…after about 3 innings of this, the lured one exclaimed, "I don't get it! How is it that a cute baseball fan like you isn't married??"
I should have pointed out how a wife who talked baseball all the time might not be the boon he imagined, but I was laughing too hard. If I had a nickel for every married guy who's swooned over me cause of baseball….well that's about how cheap talk is, cause I'd still be single! Sheesh. I do not have this availability problem with fans of other sports. Maybe I just don't know other sports as well? (A few hours later, the wives got a shout-out, but the kids remained unmentioned.)
– PHOTOGRAPHY I would love to show you pictures of me at the high-class function I was getting ready for last Saturday when I posted. I took pictures of myself right before leaving with my SLR, and brought my p&s camera to the event itself. But the card from the small camera is showing up blank and the card from the big camera is flaking out because I was playing with shooting in RAW again for a few days, which for some reason is causing all kinds of odd behavior I've never before seen. I'll try photorescue tomorrow, but grr. Grr!!
– SCIENCE Remember my stressful presentation, which had to happen even though I was underprepared, and for which many bigwigs including my boss' boss (BB) showed up? Today was odd, because I got to see my PI go through the EXACT SAME THING.
PI has a massive presentation to give in two weeks. In 20 minutes he has to justify his last 5 years of funding and make a case for his next 5 years of funding. Today was the only day one colleague could attend a run-through, so he presented an early draft, and I think it's when he referred to its roughness that I started to see the similarities, because I had said almost the exact same thing. He availed himself far better than I did of course (he had all weekend to prep!) but still, it was disorienting to see him stand in the same spot I had stood in and have the same experience I had had — even in front of the same people. Yes, BB was there, as was Hilarious Iconoclastic Brit, Deceptively Quiet Guy, and a few other less colorful people.
It got even weirder when I realized that the process he was about to go through was JUST like a thesis defense. "Stand up in front of a critical panel of people senior to you, present the story of the last 5 years of your work in support of the document you submitted to them a bit ago, and defend your own value as a researcher; if we like what we hear and how you respond to our grilling, we will give you a cookie." He's an MD, the closest he's been to a defense was probably mine, a year ago, when he sat on my committee.
And I am right in the middle of this, my friends. Oh yes. We fellows will also appear before the board, to speak to his mentoring abilities. More directly though, we've been analyzing some data that just came in, along with some data which has been sitting around for a while, and damned if they don't point in the same direction. This is, er, not the norm for the field. So a lot of this very recent stuff is going in the presentation.
This has been a good science week, because I've finally figured out how to use the specialized, legacy, poorly documented and quirky software programs we use for analysis. Oh, and? The direction it's all pointing in? I called it months ago. "There is a smoking gun!" I said. "It's right there!" I said, pointing. "I'd bet the farm it's the XYZ gene!" I said, "although I am glad I don't have a farm to actually bet!" So the TOLD YA SO! song is going on in my head a lot lately. (Not that anyone argued with me, but they were scientifically, that is to say appropriately, skeptical.)
25 May, 2006
The bachelorette party was planned with the help of bachelorette.com. Among other things, a penis pinata was ordered. Which we filled with Blow Pops, and took compromising photos of each other with. You know. The usual.
(I've actually had experience with this exact pinata brand. At Chicago friend L's bachelorette party, the plastic loopy Prince Albert bit broke off with the first whack. I imagine QC at the penis pinata factory takes a backseat to things like appropriately trimming the balls. Luckily I remembered how to tie a noose, which saved the day, and due to the circumcised nature of the pinata it could even point up.)
Now — careful examination of the photos in the previous post will reveal to you that newlyweds Leah and Brett are an interracial couple. Would you believe that it took us the whole party to realize that we'd bought a CAUCASIAN penis pinata?
"Oh dear! We beseech you, forgive us!"
The order placer even remembered seeing the black penis pinatas on the website and thinking "how cool is that" about the existence of them.
So, the poll question. Was this an instance of racism, or of colorblindness? (I do not single out the order placer for culpability bec ause it took so long for the rest of us to notice.)
"There, there. We'll just use you as decoration, not beat you with a stick."
(Yeah, we skipped the actual pinata part. As one 'maid said, we like to think it's because we have a healthier relationship with the male genitalia than that.)
27 April, 2006
Everyone’s got their story about how they heard, what they were doing, how they changed as the implications sunk in. One thing everyone noticed, though, was how much it felt and looked like a movie: unreal, over the top. I remember when I suddenly realized that it WOULD be a movie, and sooner rather than later. The thing’s meaning would get twisted and hijacked and coopted and finally, profited upon. It reminds me of the South Park Underwear Gnomes’ master plan:
PHASE 1: Steal underwear
PHASE 3: Profit!
Here we are, at Phase 3 already…and a lot sooner than we’d like. Let’s examine that “sooner,” though. Would there ever be a time when this movie wouldn’t offend?
The “too soon” argument uncomfortably implies that tragedy has an expiration date, but immediacy isn’t what makes this movie different from your Schindler’s Lists and Hotels Rwanda. While wrenching, these movies happened at a psychological remove. This is so much more real than Nazis and machete-wielding mobs. It’s primal, it gets at fears that are, quite literally, hardwired into our brains. I mean, how easy is it to imagine yourself in that plane? You’re on planes all the time!
I think it will always feel too real for me, and that’s why I won’t be seeing Snakes On A Plane.
20 April, 2006
I am going to attempt to do this quickly and not write a book for each one. Hey, why are you laughing?
Props to B. and L. for their help!
1) One summer, age 12 or so, I watched the Empire Strikes Back every day.
2) I knit. I made an iPod cozy before it was cool. It was too big though.
3) In HS I was a key starter for a varsity sport. We won State my senior year and got to 17th in Nationals, just missing the Sweet 16 on a technicality (and those games were televised, garr!). Which sport? Scholastic Bowl. Yes, to compete in Sectionals we needed medical exams to prove that we were healthy enough to press those little buttons.
4) An online dating site once asked me what my "most unusual or impressive skill" was. It was too gross to list there, but not here! (THATS YOUR WARNING, MOVE ON TO 5 IF EASILY SQUICKED.)
I can get an immobilizing hold on a rat, kill it with a guillotine before its stress response kicks in, collect 3/4 of its blood volume, remove and freeze its brain in one piece without nicking it or anything, remove and separate out the two lobes of its pituitary gland and freeze them, and clean everything up for the next rat — in 5 minutes. I can do this for hours.
Give me another 5 minutes and I can, instead of freezing the brain, dissect out and separately freeze the olfactory bulb, frontal cortex, hippocampi, amygdalae, hypothalamus, and cerebellum (and others, if needed.) And sterilize the equipment and clean everything up for the next rat.
5) As a frosh, on a dare of sorts one night at dinner, I gave a safer-sex demonstration to a good half of my college's students. Leaving no sexuality behind, I used both a banana and an orange.
6) I can't ride a bike or swim. OK, that's exaggerating a little. If I had to bike or swim for my life, I would live, but it wouldn't be smooth, and sadly I tend to get more tension than joy out of both things. See, when y'all were getting bikes as kids, I got…a scooter. So I learned balance, but not really how to kick off and get started and manage the pedals easily and so on. (I also broke a front tooth in half in a fall, although that's probably not the scooter's fault, qua scooter.) As for the swimming, were I swimming away from a threat I'd be able to keep my eye on it the whole time…since I'd be doing the backstroke.
Your turn! (Adding links tomorrow, too tired and pissed at wordpress right now cause it totally ate the first version of this post. Any ideas for helping it play nice with Firefox?)
I-495 blues (c'mon, you're halfway there and that's without the obvious one)
23 March, 2006
24 January, 2006
West coast mF!!
West Coast responds to "Chronicles of Narnia" rap.
Which I KNOW you've all seen (it's linked to the left of the west-coast reply), cause it's the funniest thing to happen in 2006. SO funny that it REALLY happened in 2005, and spilled over. And only the hippest cats read my blog…