Thursday, May 31, 2007

Film Review: Across The Pond Edition

My plan yesterday was to see Hot Fuzz and Severance and write an all-British humour film review, but the movie times didn't work out for me, so I'm not going to be able to make quite as many wry observations about the differences between British and American comedy. Still, I'm glad I got the double feature that I did — I can't speak for Severance yet, although its reviews were generally less glowing than those of Hot Fuzz — I saw Once right after Hot Fuzz got out, and it was sublime. I seriously want Once singing through my head twenty-four hours a day, and I'd be a much happier person for it.

But Hot Fuzz first: It's not bad. It's pretty funny, and I laughed a good bit through it. But the creepy old guy sitting near me who coughed up his soda in the hair of the girls in the row in front of him, and who laughed his ass off during the trailer for Balls of Fury — I can see the reviews right now: Christopher Walken gives his best performance aimed at eleven-year-olds since Kangaroo Jack — he thought it was fucking hilarious. I'll grant him that Hot Fuzz isn't as, uh, subtle as your typical British comedy.

It's not as incisive a satire as the Shaun of the Dead, the previous collaboration of writer/director Edgar Wright, writer/star Simon Pegg, and awesomely laconic pile-of-blubber Nick Shore... or maybe it just doesn't translate from British to American so well. The zombie sub-genre, especially the George Romero take on it that Wright, Pegg, et al spoof, is in itself a commentary on commercialism, materialism, and other mindless patterns society falls into and individuals are too braindead to pull themselves out of. The zombies just need to be there, lumbering around in large enough numbers, to say all they have to say — Pegg's walk around London in the opening sequence of Shaun of the Dead tells us all we need to know about the non-zombies. The action genre, the kind of crap they show on TBS on the weekends, is more inane in its application. It's just a big, dumb kid talking shit about how awesome he is, Michael Bay looking for attention and believing (correctly) that if he makes an explosion big enough and films it from the right angle, you'll forget what a vacuous dumbass he is.

So the opening scene of Hot Fuzz — you've seen it in the previews — where Pegg's well-decorated police officer character is castigated (by woefully underused Martin Freeman, Steve Coogan, and Bill Nighy) for being too good at his job, that looked like there was some satirical possibility there. I don't know too much about British police, other than that they don't carry guns and wear ridiculous hats, but we've had at least one case in America where a prospective police officer was rejected from the force (or the "squad") for being too smart. Thing is, Hot Fuzz is too schizophrenic to really run anywhere with that idea... although Martin Lawrence has more or less demonstrated that "police are incompetent" conceit really doesn't travel well in the first place. The first half of Hot Fuzz targets the quiet hamlet of Sanford — I think it's supposed to be the British countryside version of Marc Cherry's Fairview: snootier, (much) older, and possibly whatever the English version of redneck is. I'm not sure if Sanford is supposed to parody a real sub-culture, like Fairview supposedly does, or if its self-parody of idealized British countryside living. When the town's Neighborhood Watch Alliance has a meeting and says that their biggest crime issue is the guy dressed like a living statue by the town fountain, I'm sure that's funny but I'm kind of puzzled as to why.

The second half of the movie is the action half, and it's much better done than the Bruckheimer crap it parodies. The characters may be deadly serious, but the people making the movie are, for once, aware of how preposterous their material is. I can't help but feel they're pandering a little bit though. Again, you've seen the preview where the town priest pulls two guns on our heroes. There's nothing inherently funny in that — it's even less funny within the context of the whole scene — but my audience, which consisted of me, the guy who laughed at Balls of Fury, the girls he coughed his soda up on, and two kids making out, thought that was a great moment. I could count at least ten better ones. In fact, I'll give Hot Fuzz more credit as an action movie — and a well-crafted one — than a comedy. I guess that Pegg and Frost are such good comedic actors that it's tough for them to top their previous work; Michael Bay is such a hack that just about anything spoofing his style automatically transcends its source material.

I had reservations about spending my time on Once, because its an Irish musical drama about a street musician and a Czech emigré falling in... well, uh, here's the problem with the American romantic comedy. In addition to resuscitating the careers of some of our most annoying actors (I'm talking to you, Ashton), it's also killed off the beauty of true love, keeping it alive only in a trite vegetative state. To say that Once is about these two characters falling in love over their music makes it sound much cheesier than it is. Almost instantly, you're watching two people who you really like trying to find a fleeting happiness and hoping they can carry maybe a little piece of it with them once it passes.

I almost feel like not telling you what you're in for if you check out Once. It just reads so badly. It's a musical. It's shot in digital, handheld, and usually in pretty poor light. It's totally low-key. The only conflict to speak of in the movie is, "Will he let her drive his motorcycle?" The climax of the movie is these guys recording a song. And it's not like, will they record or won't they record, or will the record be good, will he get a record deal? That crap is for lesser movies, movies that need artifice to get you involved with the characters. Once strips out everything unnecessary — the glitter, the dance numbers, the melodrama, the orchestrations — and just lets these characters grow in front of your eyes like flowers.

I'm not doing Once justice here, or maybe I'm just spewing acclaim everywhere in my first-ever case of logorrhea. Once isn't merely good filmmaking: it does practically nothing yet elicits something in you, or in me, and it overcame my misanthropy and found something human, empathizing and connecting with these people. It's art, and as it left its protagonists, the guy and girl, a little better for having known each other, it also left me a little better for having known them.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Playboy: The Hot Former Justice Department White House Liaison Issue!

Our friends at the House Judiciary Committee held what had to be the steamiest, sexiest Congressional hearing since Valerie Plame gave Georgia Representative Lynn Westmoreland a boner during an Oversight Committee hearing. "Dear Penthouse, I never thought this would happen to me, but this afternoon my darkest high-level Bush administration official fantasy totally came true! I was minding my own business, watching C-SPAN when this hot, innocent, 33-year-old blonde lawyer came on to give some testimony, if you know what I mean. Sweet! So there was Monica Goodling, sweating behind that bendy microphone, getting asked all these questions — uncomfortable questions — by one tie-wearing, square-jawed, chin-dimpled Ohio Republican Jim Jordan and I was getting so horny! That's when the high school cheerleading squad dropped by... and we discussed the overturned conviction of Georgia Thompson."

The current theory, and there has to be some truth to it, is that Goodling wasn't hired for her extensively sparse credentials so much as for her affliation to Pat Robertson's Regent University law school. Because if there's one thing Jesus was a fan of, it's lawyers. And defense contractors. I'm sure if she went to college at Sodom Tech and law school at Gomorrah A&M, she'd be paying off her student loans as a drug rep, sleeping with doctors for commissions instead of fucking around with the Justice Department. But I have to believe that her qualifications for chief legal counsel to Gonzales and senior Justice Department White House liaison aren't just that she's a Christian fundamentalist; she got the job because she's a hot Christian fundamentalist. Sitting around the conference room, you've got that troll Alberto Gonzales, M. C. Rove, Kyle Sampson looking like a Karl Rove bobblehead doll, Paul McNulty, Harriet Miers, and they obviously wanted someone at the table you could look at for more than five seconds without your eyes melting.

Politicians, especially puritanical, sexually-dysfunctional right-wing politicians, are pervy like that. Gonzales was "comforting" Goodling during a "difficult period" in her life, our abstinence-promoting AIDS ambassador slept around with D.C. hookers, and Wolfie diplomatically negotiating peace in his own bedroom by giving his girlfriend (who always seems to appear in news reports as his "companion," whatever that means) a six-figure salary at the State Department. I'd totally not be shocked to learn that Rumsfeld used to be gay for Doug Feith. Really, it would explain so much. Love makes people do crazy things, like invading Troy. Or Iraq.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Bad Idea in Tennessee: An Update

"Fajita," who has thirteen blogs but still magically managed to find time to not only read but also comment (much appreciated) on mine, said I should follow up on the fake-gunman story out of Tennessee I posted about last week. The prank brought up two separate issues: The laughable one, how can you be a grown-up in America and believe you could pull this politically incorrect shit — with kids — and the entire community would just be cool with it. There are school districts that won't teach evolution because it's too controversial, but turning a retreat into a real-life Camp Crystal Lake is going to go over smoothly? (Also, Camp Crystal Lake is maybe one of those names, like Hitler Industries, Inc., that you might not want to give your business, negative associations and all. I bet this "outdoor education center" down in Florida was disappointed when they found out "" was taken.)

There was also the serious issue that rubbed me the wrong way: the teachers pulling off this prank by abusing their students' trust. As an educator, it's your job, for example, to remind the kids that tragedies like the Virginia Tech shooting are extraordinarily rare (at least in America). If there were a crazy gunman, the adults around would take responsibility instead of just telling the kids to duck and cover and gleefully watching them cry.

That being said, I found a follow-up article, and Fajita is right. The laughable point still stands, and the Thinking part of me has responded, "Good, the teacher and assistant principal are suspended without pay for the rest of the year and world makes sense." But there are mitigating factors, the main one being that they told the kids that there'd be some sort of prank during the retreat, so the whole trust-abusing thing pretty much goes out the window. Just don't make a career out of playing Ashton Kutcher, guys.

The ABC News follow-up article contradicts the Associated Press article I originally found. ABC News implies that the students weren't told there was a gunman on the loose; instead, they were told "there were people inside the state park shooting guns." Big difference. I'd be surprised if there weren't people shooting guns in a Tennessee state park. Yeah, it's an easy joke, but I guarantee you that as you're reading this, there's someone in that park hunting ducks or deer or something. Also, the ABC News article says that the group discussion the students had — the topic was "what to do if there's a gunman on the loose" — happened before the prank. (Editor's note: that's not explicit in the ABC News article, so I might have culled that from one of the less informative articles I found on the subject, or I could just be totally making that up.) Assuming it's true, though, if none of the students found the timing a little suspicious, well, joke's on them.

As our president once told the people of Tennessee, "Fool me once, shame on... shame on you. Fool me, you can't get fooled again." See, lesson learned.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Silent Single Mingle

The New Jersey Young Professionals held their "Silent Single Mingle" last night. The rules were cell phones off, keep whispering to a minimum, and passing notes is strongly encouraged. I'd been looking forward to this one for a while, since most of my NJYP events tend to be pretty silent anyway, the silent single mingle seemed tailor-made for me. And let me just tell you, it was freaking awesome! The first half-hour or forty-five minutes, especially...

I got there right at the beginning, cause I tend to do better at these social things when no one's around. People — guys — trickled in, and what happened couldn't have gone better if it was planned. Each of us walks in, takes a pad and pen from the table in the middle of the room, gets a drink (we scribble down our orders for the bartender), and takes it to a seat around the perimeter. And we sit there. Perfectly evenly spaced out, each by ourselves and no one moves for at least fifteen minutes. It's super-awkward, but I can't help from giggling: for once, the other party people are doing the same thing I am!

The good times didn't last. Girls showed up eventually, and twenty-something guys in the room coalesced around the six girls, and it wasn't silent anymore. Low point of the night: some bland douchebag Mike takes a break from chatting up a girl, who clearly has lousy taste, and turns to me, "Having fun?"

"Sure," I said with uncommon enthusiasm, the joy of the earlier sitting around like a lump not completely worn off yet.

"Hey, you're not supposed to speak," Mike chastens me.

Oh God, Mike, that was fucking hilarious! I bet you spent all night thinking that shit up! I left after that.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Mom told me about when she was in fifth grade, going to school in Newark. There was this boy who liked her, Charles Unger-something... I was too distracted by the idea that someone actually like-liked my insufferable Mom to pick up on the name. But Mom didn't like him, because he was a year older and he smoked. Mom's not exactly good at math, so I had to make sure she got the timeline correct here: Charles Ungersomething smoked — cigarettes — in the sixth grade. What, was he drinking coffee as an infant?

So I want all the anti-smoking nutballs out there to shut the hell up, cause when was the last time you saw an eleven-year-old smoking? The fifties, that's when.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

In Today's "Bad Idea News"

CNN reports from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, "Teachers stage fake gunman attack on sixth graders." That's one of those awesome headlines that simultaneously tells you everything you need to know and leaves a million questions. I'll answer the most pressing one: it was supposed to be a "learning experience," like on one of those corporate retreats, where they make you fall backwards into the arms of someone else or do the zip line, except this was children "begging for their lives, because they thought there was someone with a gun after them," in the context of psycho mass-murderers saturating the media. Assistant Principal Don Bartch led the trip and tried to justify it afterwards, in that cautious manner public servants develop when they're surrounded by outrage. He comes off hilariously stoic, though: "We got together and discussed what we would have done in a real situation," he said, ignoring the fact that you can discuss that without the live simulation.

I'm surprised at how much effort these teachers put into frightening the kids.

During the last night of the trip, staff members convinced the 69 students that there was a gunman on the loose. They were told to lie on the floor or hide underneath tables and stay quiet. A teacher, disguised in a hooded sweat shirt, even pulled on a locked door.

After the lights went out, about 20 kids started to cry, 11-year-old Shay Naylor said.

I had teachers who wouldn't even bother to mimeograph their dittos legibly. Admittedly, this teaching strategy could potentially solve a lot of classroom behavior projects — "If I catch you passing notes one more time, I swear I'm gonna call in Johnny The Ax-Wielding Psychopath, and he'll give you so much detention...."

The parents, of course, overreact, but — unlike their poor kids — for all the wrong reasons. It's politically incorrect to make the kids think there's a gunman on the loose right after the Virginia Tech massacre, which is bullshit. I read the article the first time and I thought it actually sounded like a kind of cool way to play make-believe, like people who take vacations at spy school or something. Granted, you're kind of forced into this little mind-fuck here, but it's honestly no different than going camping late at night, telling ghost stories and holding the flashlight right under your chin, right?

You're scared cause you don't know what's out there. But you're also scared cause you're on your own... and so there really is something to learn from this whole fear experience, but it's not what do we do in the incredibly small chance we're being hunted down. I would feel betrayed, the lesson being not to trust the lying, manipulating adults around you — bet they're all back in the teachers' lounge having a good laugh about that one. And in sixth grade, too! Shouldn't you at least be allowed to hit puberty before turning all jaded towards the authorities?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Next Time, I'm Switching to Linux

My goddamn computer is sick again, for the third time in three months. The computer isn't finding the hard drive, and I screamed, "It's inside of you, you piece of crap! Next to your video card!" But that didn't help. Go figure. So now I'm peeved, like totally despondent, trying to remind myself of those poor Honduran children and how they're still using Amigas down there; but, away from my internet, Word, and games, I have little sympathy. I took my computer down to Tekserve where the prognosis looks bleak — their diagnostic software won't even start the machine — and this was when I, uh, thought it might be a good idea to purchase the extended warranty, while it's still available.

But my guess is that this whole broken computer thing is a scam Apple perpetrates: I have two major tech support issues right before time runs out on the warranty, and now that I have two more years of protection, I'm sure nothing will go wrong again... until 2009. The day the extended warranty expires, I swear.

So in addition to my computer frying itself, my iPod is also on its death bed, and the lack of options in the computer industry is incredibly frustrating. I can either replace the iPod with another Apple product that I'll have very little faith in. I can go for the Microsoft Zune, as if I've never had any crazy blue screen of death issues with any of Microsoft's products. Or I could go for something significantly less cool. Creative Zen player, anyone?

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

There's this guy at work who's trying to get me investing in the stock market, so I picked up a book and started looking through it, and... how is this even legal?! Just on the surface, it sounds like the biggest scam of all time. You buy stock, which means you buy part-ownership in a company, but you don't actually see any of the money that the company makes. As a matter of fact, the company can be losing money while the stock price rises; the stock's value is totally a function of how much the millions of greedy, fearful idiots in the market think the stock should be worth. It has absolutely no direct relation to anything concrete, and people can lose money off of well-run companies and can make their fortunes off of companies that don't make a dime of revenue. I wish I had more readers — like, lots more — and then I'd totally put bizarre financial pronouncements in my blog, just to screw with people. Mayonnaise is hot! Put all your money in mayonnaise! Then the next day: Sell your mayonnaise and put the money into the kitten industry!

What I don't understand is that since the value of these stocks isn't tied to anything, other than how much someone else is willing to pay for them, what stops me from just going around selling random worthless junk? Like, I'd try to sell you my dead skin flakes for fifty bucks. You'd be all, why would I spend fifty dollars on your dead skin flakes, and I'd say well, you'd try to sell them to someone else for sixty dollars. Ten dollar profit. But you'd go, who'd want to buy your dead skin flakes for sixty dollars? And I'd answer, someone who's going to try and sell them for seventy. This is essentially the stock market, except you do it wearing a suit and tie, and for a lot more than fifty bucks.

Monday, May 7, 2007

What The Hell Is Wrong With England?

They have a queen, for Christ's sake, and they treat her like freaking royalty. It's the twenty-first century. We've had an Enlightenment, invented democracy and liberalism: get with the program, England!

And get with the program America, while we're at it with the program-getting. Our President held a white-tie banquet for the queen and her totally emasculated prince husband, and seven-thousand of their closest friends. The White House spent the weekend getting ready, spending your tax dollars on floral arrangements, touching-up paint jobs, and gold-engraved invitations. It would be a obscene waste of money even if this weren't a president who hasn't bothered to attend a single funeral for a soldier killed in Iraq. I know, I know: our soldiers didn't have the good fortune to be born into one of history's most prestigious inbred families. Screw them. Well, I guess that's what the Bush administration's doing.

For some reason, whenever the British come and visit, Americans have to turn into the same foppish dandies our forefathers fought a revolution to get the hell away from. Have you seen Entertainment Tonight's coverage of David Beckham's move to Los Angeles? Or that Katie + Peter show on the E! network? Who the hell are Katie and Peter, why should I care, and what are they saying? You're from England; speak English, dammit! The queen's got to be the worst though, and Bush's usual obsequious nature in the presence of his political betters — Dick Cheney, queen of England, American Legion — is just sickening.

Here's the protocol: The queen shall be addressed as "Your Majesty." One does not shake the queen's hand unless she offers her hand first. After the queen is done eating, everybody is done eating. Um, has it occurred to anybody that maybe the other guests aren't finished? God, how I'd love to be the one greeting the queen here in America: "Welcome to America, we don't have royalty here. You can carry your own bags." The protocol may be fine when our head of state visits England's backwards aristocracy, but when you come over here, you follow our customs.

In other news, Paris Hilton got her ass arrested because she thought that, being Paris Hilton and all, it was cool for her to drive with a suspended license. You know, because she's more important than the rest of us. Her family actually got mad at the judge for sentencing her (instead of at the celebutard who drove drunk in the first place, then got and violated her probation), and Hilton apologists took time off from swooning over the queen to complain that forty-five days in rich white person Beverly Hills jail was too harsh. I see absolutely no connection between the two attitudes.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

In Today's Ape News...

We have a headline from the Associated Press that reads Activists want chimp declared a 'person'. Animal rights advocates in Austria are petitioning a court to have Hiasl the Chimp legally declared a person — although not for the "animal rights' activists are nutballs" reason that you think. The sanctuary Hiasl calls home went bankrupt and is shutting down, and Hiasl's homo sapiens friends want to collect donations so he's not out on the street, dancing for food. Trouble is, under Austrian law, only humans can collect personal donations; hence the court case. I guess I'm the only one who thinks it might make more sense to change the law than to grant Hiasl human rights.

The story made me pine for the old days of Monkeynews, which was a regular feature on Ricky Gervais's former radio show. The show's star was this bald round-headed Manc bloke Karl Pilkington who had a gift for whatever the opposite of critical thinking is, and he reported on, among other things, the latest monkey news. Calling it "news" was a little misleading, since the Monkeynews wasn't timely or topical, and was pretty much always untrue. (Although there's this outfit here called "Fox News," whose stories are also made up — new study at James Dobson University reveals links between supporting Barack Obama and liver cancer — but they manage to hold on to their "news" moniker.) Typical example: There was this barber shop, right. And they were looking for somebody to do haircuts, but they couldn't find anyone. So one day, this monkey walks in, and the boss is like, "Well, hand him a pair of scissors, let's see what he can do."

And the story goes on from there, rambling through the inter-species behind-the-scenes politics at this haircutters. (The monkey could do haircuts but they wouldn't let it work the till.) Pilkington's ingenuous sincerity sells the whole bit — he found it online, after all.

I guess that's the monkeys' bad fortunes, sharing 98.5 percent of our DNA.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Matt Lauer was doing his annual "Where in the World is Matt Lauer?" travelogue this week, instead of reporting on actual news. On Wednesday, Matt was in Bhutan, a country that you probably first heard about on Wednesday, and will never hear about again. My guess is that Today's producers chose Bhutan because it's a nation transitioning to democracy — peacefully — under the auspices of its royal family, and the Bhutanese recently held mock elections for practice. The Yellow Party won and the Red Party was the runner-up; the Blue Party came in third, and just like in America, the Green Party came in last. Goddamn Nader!

After visiting Italy last year, I've really wanted to do a lot more traveling. Like everywhere: I bookmarked the Lonely Planet website and everything. Bhutan isn't exactly listed in Tourism for Dummies; the country only issues six thousand tourist visas every year, is pretty unfamiliar with comforts of modern life like electricity and roads, and is physically challenging to get into in the first place. But that's part of its appeal over, say, Disney World. It was early in the morning, I had to go to work, and I was grumpy when out of nowhere, I asked Mom, "How come Matt Lauer gets to go to Bhutan and I don't?"

"Because Matt Lauer has a good job and you don't. Once you get a good job, you can go to Bhutan, too." Which is bullshit: when you have a "good" job, they expect you to be at the job, and not trekking the Himalayas in Thimpu. I decided to call Mom on it.

"You have a good job. How come you don't get to go to Bhutan?... Or anywhere else for that matter." That shut her up for a little while, until Matt Lauer starting talking Bhutanese politics again.

Bhutan is moving towards democracy because the Dragon King Jigme Singye Wangchuk is abdicating his post and installing his son, the Crown Prince Jigme Khesar Nagyal Wangchuck as the head of state. Matt pointed out that Jigme Jr. is the world's youngest head of state; he's twenty-six, less than a year older than I am. "Look at this," Mom said, still with that early-morning half-pissed facetiousness, "He's twenty-six and he's the king of a whole country. What have you accomplished?"

That shut me up. It's probably not as depressing as being in your fifties and walking into the office one day to discover that you now report to a twenty-six-year-old hot shot just out of Harvard Business School, but still. Ouch. I felt a little more cataplectic than usual. I'd make a good king of Bhutan — at least for someone who knows zero about Bhutan; I'm a fast learner — but it looks like that position is already taken.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Eloquent Quotes from Our President

Speaking of faux superheroes, our president, The Decider, has christened himself Commander Guy. At least that sounds a bit more innocuous than The Decider, who I believe was a rejected character from the Legion of Super Villains. ("What's your superpower?" "Eeny, meeny, miney, moe.")

Look, I know the man's no Cicero here, and while he's made more than enough verbal gaffes to support a thriving page-a-day calendar industry, I'm not going to fault him for sounding like he's twelve. I'm sure many of his constituents talk like they're nine. What's worrisome is that Bush actually wants recognition as the guy in charge of our troops in Iraq. Wasn't that supposed to be the responsibility of the war czar, anyway?

I liked the timetable idea, although I think maybe it's misdirected. The terrorists aren't going to just wait for us to pack up and leave, like the right-wing mouthpieces predict; in fact, the terrorists don't seem to be waiting at all. Success for our troops isn't... uh, whatever the hell Commander Guy says it is this week — usually something having to do with fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq so we don't have to fight them here, even though they weren't even in Iraq until we showed up. It has to be looked at on a more micro level, at least for now. How about we try to get the Iraqis to go a week without blowing up all that infrastructure we're apparently building and the media isn't reporting on? Let's shoot for a decrease in the violence.

Which is why I don't think the troops can leave: someone has to keep the mess we made from completely imploding, and it doesn't look like any other country is volunteering. I wonder why. But something has to change since our troops are easily eroding what little stability there was in the country — you know, in the five minutes between when Saddam was deposed and when the Iraqis went mad looting his palaces. Here's my idea: we've spent five hundred billion dollars already on this war. There are twenty-seven million Iraqis. (Love the favicon for the CIA's website, too. Screams "professionalism.") That's about $18,500 per Iraqi. So what would've happened if we just gave each Iraqi $18,500 in cash, told them to go buy a flat-screen TV or a hot tub or something, just leave each other the hell alone? They'd all be too busy partying to blow up marketplaces and stuff. Peace!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

People are going apeshit for Spider-Man. Thing is, I can't think about Spider-Man without falling head-first into some gaping logical holes. Okay, he's bitten by this irradiated spider, and how does that make him half-arachnid? I've never lived on a farm, or been in 4-H, but I'm pretty sure you don't get a mule when the horse eats the donkey. There needs to be some fucking going on, and the offspring gets the magical powers, or the nearsightedness, exostosis, and sluggish metabolism, if your sire and dam are my parents. I can see a radioactive spider bite giving you cancer, maybe. Or this. (Warning: eeewwwwww.)

I don't know how other people aren't bothered by this. Are the special effects that great that you can watch the movie and not be like, "But... spider silk comes out of their butts. Why would Spider-Man's webs come out of his hands? And isn't that convenient, how the unstable radio-isotope he's infected with makes the webs come out of his fingers, and not, say, his ears?" Anyway, I went to this Spider-Man page on Wikipedia, and what starts out ridiculous just becomes insulting. Here's a partial list of Spider-Man's superpowers: he can heal himself rapidly, has enhanced resistance to drugs, has enhanced vision, has superhuman strength, clairvoyance, and — for some reason — is immune to vampirism. Yes, but can he also keep aphids from destroying crop yields? Apparently the one beneficial thing spiders provide to the ecosystem, and Spider-Man can't do it. Pathetic.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007


Today was a sunny afternoon, around sixty degrees, perfect to spend at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden — unless God hates you and cursed you with allergies. I'm not a big fan of plants, but there are two good reasons to check out the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens when the weather's right: the Japanese garden and the cherry-blossom season, which is in peak bloom right around now.

I'm a bit jealous, since every plant I touch turns to dust in a matter of days. We've got something that kind of resembles a garden at our house, tulips and lilies, but its life cycle is so depressing I wish it weren't even there. Fifty-one weeks of the year, they're just these ugly brown leafy sprout things. One day in April, they bloom and they're gorgeous, and for the next six days, they pretty much fall apart, leaf by dying leaf. I don't know what I'm doing wrong: they get food and water and only occasionally run over by my car.

We've also got a bunch of hideous, non-flowering plants in front of our house and I'm surreptitiously trying to kill them, with no success at all. My dad actually pays to have these monstrosities put into the ground, and I'm supposed to water them. (Dad, plants have survived hundreds of millions of years without me watering them. We're disrupting their natural evolution! This is just playing God! Uh... plant God.) I don't get the point of non-flowering shrubbery — aside from their role in the carbon cycle and keeping life on the planet functioning, I mean. They're just big blobs of fauna, without any structure like a bonsai tree, shape like an evergreen, or color like flowers. And they attract bees, but thankfully not so many lately.

Seriously, pests though they are, the disappearing bees — colony collapse disorder — is a big damn problem. No bees means no pollination, which means no plants, which means no animals that eat the plants, which means no food for us. On that happy note, here's the obligatory pretty pictures.

Ironically, the cherry blossom garden and the Zen garden are both full of New York City's perennial Japanese tourist population. Which confounds me. When I get the time and money to visit Tokyo, it's not like I'm gonna be spending my vacation at Hyper-Convenience U.S. Mart.