Monday, October 31, 2005

"Serenity" finally came to Middlebury's two-screen theater this past weekend, and I figured tonight would be as good a chance as any to go see it. I just got back. Some thoughts (minor spoiler warning for "Firefly" fans who haven't seen it yet, all three of them):

1. Jesus Christ, it's not a movie to go see alone on Halloween. It's not a horror movie by any means, but the origin of the Reavers...
2. It was a good movie. The plot stood on its own, was not overused by any definition, and the characters (those from the TV show, at least) were more than just plot devices. On the "show, don't tell" theory, here's how good it was: I was surprised by the deaths, even though I had been told that some characters wouldn't make it. More than that, I hadn't even tried to predict them. And I don't know if this is because of my own cynical detachment, a universal trait, or my cynicism magnifying a universal trait, but I'm almost always doing that. Will Jayne of all people sacrifice himself nobly? Will Inara and Mal have their long-delayed heart-to-heart while one of them is bleeding to death? Which main character from the series is most expendable to make things look serious? Stuff like that. But here, I didn't get to thinking like that once. There were no unnecessary "gotcha" moments telegraphing imminent crises. And the few clichés in it were either not important to the plot or were sudden and final.
3. Complaint: I missed the theme from the TV show. The song in the credits of the TV show might not have been appropriate for whatever reason, but they could have at least used the tune and as far as I could tell they didn't. Oh well.
4. At the end, I had an interesting thought which I really hope to see in a sequel - sequels - and at the very least it's sure to pop up in fan fiction. At one point Mal has this little speech about how what keeps Serenity flying, and ships in general, is love. For the ship, for the wild blue yonder, etc. This isn't new for him, but saying it out loud is. When he gives the speech, River is sitting next to him as copilot, though we don't know if this is a permanent role or not. Well, in the season [series] finale, there was a part where it looks like River had become one with Serenity - discorporated, assimilated herself into it, something like that. And there she is in the movie, sitting next to him as he talks about love for the ship. In fact, here's how that speech begins. He says, "You know what I'm going to say," and she answers "Yes, but I want to hear you say it."


5. The one season of "Firefly" plus this movie probably had as much Deep Thought (TM) as five seasons of the other major creations of Whedon the Great and Powerful, "Buffy" and "Angel." You could write volumes about the philosophy of it. But doing so would be hard, because the world it's set in is basically a translation of the Wild West - with the protagonists as Confederate veterans of the Civil War. The characters were racially diverse so we're obviously not meant to take any messages like that from it, but other stuff?
6. Fun ride.
The right to privacy. My beliefs about abortion, the context in which the right to privacy is almost always discussed, are relatively well thought-out and solid. They're influenced largely but I like to think not entirely by the experiences of some people close to me, so I can definitely see both sides of that issue. But on the right to privacy itself rather than that one application of it, I really can't see both sides. Either you believe that such a thing exists (or at least, should exist), or you haven't thought the issue through, or your beliefs are much too authoritarian to accomodate democracy. It's not an absolute right, of course, almost nothing is in the real world. But a lot of rights we take for granted flow from it partially if not entirely, and if the option of solitude and being left alone is the exception rather than the rule, then pretty much all other personal rights are empty platitudes. And complaints about penumbrae in the Constitution aside, the Ninth and Tenth Amendments say that anything not explicitly given to the government is reserved for the people - can't get too much clearer than that.

So I can see why people are worried about this Alito guy being nominated to the Supreme Court after Mier's "withdrew" her nomination. Anti-worker (a more accurate term then the common "pro-business"), well, pretty much inevitable from a Bush nominee. Reactionary and maybe even Dominionist, the same. But anti-privacy? This Alito guy didn't oppose abortion in an opinion he wrote, but at the same time supported a requirement of spousal notification. At best that's dishonest ("logically inconsistent," to be legalistic), and completely incompatible with any principle of a right to privacy. And later, supporting strip searches without a warrant? Jesus.

But it's not like I'm surprised. The reactionary and anti-worker tendencies of this administration show themselves in a hundred little and not-so-little ways, but there are often exceptions. Lots of the minorities and women in the Bush administration hold some liberal and/or progressive positions, even if never in a way that actually influences policy. But the one thing that as far as I can tell is completely and totally consistent is an expansion of executive power.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

When you hear about a kid who has diabetes, and goes to a Halloween party, and dies later that night... how many degrees of seperation do there have to be between you and the kid before unintentionally laughing at it in the "Darwin Award" sense is not totally sick and heartless?

Thursday, October 27, 2005


ANCHOR: Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination today.

RIGHT-WING TALKING HEAD: This was not about her lack of ideology, this was about her lack of qualifications.

ANCHOR: Meanwhile, back in Texas, some of Harriet's old friends and neighbors think the Washington establishment didn't give her a chance.

TRUCK DRIVER: Those librul wackos were too hard on her.

LIBRARIAN: It just wasn't very nice. I went to school with Harriet, and she worked so hard, she just didn't deserve people calling her all those names just because President George Bush wanted her on the Supreme Court.

ANNOUNCER: Next, with all the higher prices at the pump, did you think that oil companies were having financial trouble? Our special report may surprise you!

[AFTER BREAK] ANCHOR: You might have thought that after Katrina smashed a couple refineries in the Gulf of Mexico the oil industry would be hurting, but damn you're stupid.

RANDOM EXPERT, COMPLETELY FORGETTABLE EXCEPT FOR HAVING THE UNLIKELY NAME "CHENEY": The oil companies may be hurting, but it's only lower back pain from carrying their massive wallets around--

ANCHOR: Our intrepid Congressmen have been holding hearings to get to the bottom of this mystery.

UNIDENTIFIED DEMOCRAT: We propose a tax on oil companies, but only on their profits in a feeble attempt to look pro-consumer and pro-corporation at the same time.

UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE J. DENNIS HASTERT, ESQ.: On the behalf of these great United States of America, I would like to know what the oil companies are doing to keep prices low out of the goodness of their hearts and their sense of social justice.

RECFEFHTUNC: Oil companies are raking in the cash hand over--


ANNOUNCER: Next, in Tales of the Weird, a Hispanic state legislator in Idaho feels that illegal immigration is a serious problem, but strangely enough, he's Hispanic! Did we mention his parents were Mexican?

MR. EZ'S SUPPORTERS: Those damn aliens are coming up here and taking the jobs from honest, hardworking Americans. They should all be shot.

ANCHOR: And Mr. Ez, a Hispanic state representative, agrees with them completely.

MR. EZ: Factory farms encourage illegal immigrants to come here because they can get away with giving starvation wages and inhuman working conditions to non-citizens, so I want to penalize those farms.

RACIALLY AMBIGUOUS WOMAN ON THE STREET: Mr. Ez's heart is in the right place, but he's on a slippery slope that leads to--

ANNOUNCER: Up next, a gay dancing bear!

Actually, I should watch TV news more often. "Smallville" has often been a guilty pleasure of mine, and I'm always a bit embarrassed when my parents see me watching it. I mean, it's usually five to 10 minutes of intrigue and comic book superheroes, embedded in an hour of teen drama, eye candy, schlocky repetitive plots and shameless product placement - what am I, fourteen? (I probably shouldn't care if some of my interests are more juvenile, but that's another can of worms entirely.) But after one evening of seeing what my parents voluntarily subject themselves to on CBS Evening News, fuck it. I have nothing to be ashamed of.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Friday and Saturday I was all set to write a post about how autumn has really begun. The brilliant, dazzling trees - during my five years in France and Rochester, I saw pictures of Vermont fall foliage in magazines and stuff, and I remember assuming that they were cherry-picking (so to speak) the best examples in the state, that relatively little actually looked like that. So it was a pleasant surprise to notice colors like that on the drive home from work one day. :) And Saturday my dad and I got out the cider press, went over to Rick's, picked some apples and made four gallons of cider. And we didn't have time to finish all the apples we got, either - more cider-making is planned for next weekend. 2 gallons for Rick, and probably the rest for us. Good times.

Unfortunately, it looks like I won't get the chance to write that entry. BECAUSE IT'S SNOWING OUT.

Friday, October 21, 2005

It seems Google is getting sued because they plan to make a searchable index of copyrighted books. So you'd be able to type in a word or phrase and see all the books it appears in. Well, I say "plan to" - it's already out there to some degree at, apparently the only controversial thing is the intention to get every book. As in, every book.

The real problem seems to be that instead of asking permission for each book, Google announced their intention of doing this and gave publishing house an opportunity to opt out. Which at the very least looks pretty arrogant, and will probably prove to be no defense at all.

It's a bit ironic that book publishers, of all things, are getting into the intellectual property protection controversy. Audio/video media, software, merchandising, reference material - all of them really might have something to lose if it's safe and easy to get their product off the Internet. But books? I can't imagine myself reading an e-book, at least not with today's technology. For me at least, and I don't think I'm too very unusual in this, neither a desktop nor a laptop could possibly compare to a book you can carry around with you wherever, fit into some pockets, and not worry about because a paperback is only like $5-$10 and can take a fair amount of getting thrown around. (One's immobile, the other's fragile, and they both are less comfortable to read.) And printing a book out? Even assuming that it's as easy as hitting "print" once, and in reality it wouldn't be at all, you still probably wouldn't save any money after the costs of paper and printer cartridges. So how could publishers possibly think they face any competition from a search engine?

Also, it's sad that an author has to give up all proprietary rights to their work. Inevitable, yeah, and far from new, but sad. For all that it's (mostly) luxury items, media seems to be more stratified and soulless than the rest of our culture.

That's hardly the only way, too. I saw a Web site once with pictures of art that almost anyone would call either parody or commentary... but all of which was ruled copyright or trademark infringement. In some arenas it seems like if you want to mock or criticize anything owned by a corporation, you are legally bound to get their permission.

As you've probably gathered by now, I don't like the idea of "intellectual property." I'm not an extremist about it - I think such a thing should exist, it just gets overused and abused - and I don't really have a solution for the problems I see. Hell, if it's hard to define intellectual property it would be a lot harder to define abuse of it. But in the same vein as the "I know it when I see it" definition of pornography, if Starbucks can sue the creator of this and win, it's abuse.

Friday, October 14, 2005

It's been a while since I've posted, which, as in most cases, means not much is going on. Work, World of Warcraft, Magic, "Firefly," and enjoying time with the cats - very routine.

I've had a couple worried moments at work, times I screwed something up or Rick had to talk to me for whatever reason, but I seem to be getting by all right these days. My rogue in WoW has hit level 55, but it's a testament to the depth and complexity of the game that I'm not bored. I've spent less time playing him, but the only reason is that I have a lot of quests built up in instances (dungeons), which can require a couple of uninterrupted hours to do and you need a balanced group with you, and I don't have the time for that during the week unless I want to get five hours of sleep. The Ravnica expansion for M:tG came out in stores last weekend, and everyone at the Monday game night seems to like it. I know I do. I'm halfway through the DVD box set of "Firefly" I bought. It's great - hilarious, fun, exciting. I'm amazed it didn't finish the season, although I guess I shouldn't be too shocked because I've always had a high opinion of Joss Whedon and I didn't get around to checking this show out until now. So if I didn't watch it, who would have?

And it's just nice that I can really spend time with the cats again, especially since they're getting older. (Spending time around the house is definitely not good for me, my social life or my mental state, but at least there's one upside.) They're around 11 or 12, I think, depending on the cat. That's not too old, but still, Panda does seem to be acting it.

Monday, October 03, 2005

So it seems Bush nominated some woman named Harriet Miers to replace Justice O'Connor. I imagine a lot of liberals will probably want to just thrown up their hands and say "fuck it" at this, because you remember how John Roberts was controversial because he was nominated - to Chief Justice, no less - based on a whopping three years of experience as a judge? Well, this woman has never been a judge of anything.

According to that New York Times article, the last president who did that was Nixon. Hmmm, there's a great precedent to follow. And even in that case his nominee had been an assistant attorney general. Miers? Assistant to the president, staff secretary and deputy chief of staff. Oh, and former chairwoman of the Texas Lottery Commission.

I have to wonder, at exactly what point should normal, centrist people stop taking this administration seriously? Not dislike or disagree with, but treat like children?

EDIT: I wrote that bit pretty much as soon as I found out about this, then I saved the entry as a draft and left for a few hours to do more important stuff. In the meantime, I see a lot of people on the left love this - not necessarily the woman, just the fact that she was chosen and the reaction to her. Five years of pent-up schadenfreude at the right getting a candidate who is nothing like what they've been counting on while at the same time confirming some of the worst accusations against Bush. (And by the way, schadenfreude = "happiness at the misfortune of others" - doesn't that mean that the science of psychology was invented by a man named Mr. Happy?)
For a good chunk of last week I was pretty depressed. My utter lack of a love life and to an extent even a social life, and, worse, the improbability of one happening any time soon, were hitting home. But Gretchen and I got together Saturday afternoon and we talked a lot, and it helped. I can't say my situation or attitude is any different - but if nothing else, my mood is. It was good to get that stuff off my chest.

Also, my sister came back this past weekend while my parents were gone - they got away for the weekend to celebrate their 30th anniversary, and she came up just to take a weekend off from school and work and stuff. Other than me taking a little more responsibility for feeding and cleaning up after the animals than usual, it was pretty normal.

And now that her visit is over with and I'm settled in at work more or less, it's time to get halfway serious about painting my room. When I get all my stuff organized - not just "most of it organized" but "all of it ready to be put in the hall for a while" - I'm probably going to move into Zoë's room for a few weeks while I/we, finally, do something about the ridiculous paint job in my room.

That's the biggest way I finally have to move into the Middlebury house after only being there on vacations for five years, but there are a lot of little ones. For example, I've been meaning to buy a soap dish - nothing fancy, just something that would go in a shower that doesn't cost a ridiculous amount - because when Zoë went off to college, she took some of our bathroom stuff with her.