It’s massive book promotion week. It's shipping! Buy two! My future book career depends on it. (Links at the bottom.)
This article has been going around, and attracting the usual sighs and gnashings: “Tony was sterilized at age 27 to reduce her carbon footprint.”
Toni was happy, at last, with fellow environmentalists who shared her philosophy. But when she was 25, disaster struck.
"I discovered that despite taking the Pill, I'd accidentally fallen pregnant by my boyfriend.
"I was horrified. I knew straight away there was no option of having the baby.”
Disaster! She had the awful thing put away, and now she and her husband enjoy hiking and vacations . . . in other countries, accessed via jets. But: “We feel we can have one long-haul flight a year, as we are vegan and childless.” She expresses frustration that other people are unable to accept her decision. I suspect she means “my mum” by “other people,” and I suspect she confuses “acceptance” with “full-throated endorsement."
Of course I accept these people’s decisions not to have children. What am I supposed to do, break into their homes, duct-tape them together into the double-backed beast and play whacka-chicka 70s porn soundtracks until they’re in the mood? But “acceptance” is part of the usual recipe: first we must tolerate, which no decent person should have any problem doing. Then we are asked to accept, which for most means slump-shouldered acquiescence. Eventually it’s not the norm, but it’s standing alongside it on stage, nudging its way into the spotlight.
I’ve said this before: there’s a process with certain steps. Tolerance is required. Then acceptance, which must lead to endorsement, lest people feel marginalized – often by the very people they cant stand, mind you. Endorsement is followed by recognition of the new standard as equal to the old, because all ideas are valid (although some ideas are more valid than others, a judgment that’s determined by the newness of the idea versus the reactionary elements who subscribed to the old idea.) Rhen the new standard must be subsidized, because it is discriminatory not to extend the usual state advantages; then it must be recognized as having superior aspects, in order to empower the marginalized people who believe it. Eventually these advantages will be used as evidence to suggest it’s superior to the old idea in some way that appeals to the intellectual fashion of the day. The process usually takes about 25 years.
But it’s not a new idea. As long as I’ve been alive we’ve heard about people who didn’t want to bring kids into this lousy world, either because the earth was overburdened or the planet was just too effed-up to curse a child with existence and consciousness. I suspect that the new crop is much like the old: misanthropes dressed up in the raiments of altruism.
That said, the idea of having an abortion to stop global warming really is a new wrinkle. What did the character in “Jurassic Park” say? Life will find a way. But an ideology will always find a way around it.
Interesting how Orwell got it completely backwards: he had the Anti-Sex League and ArtSem. Turned out the other way around.
To paraphrase Gore Vidal in a way that would horrify him: it is not enough for the surge to succeed. Brian DePalma must fail. And a heaping helping of FAIL he got, too; his movie took in $6.97, and was less popular than a Sundance-approved documentary about leg-hair tweezing rituals of Belgian nuns, or something. This imdb page had reviews from thoughtful progressives who were able, as I suspect most of their kin were able, to separate their politics from their critical faculties. One of the messages addressed the montage of dead bodies at the end, which is meant to tell us how deeply the director cares about the Iraqi people. Keep in mind that this is a fellow who, in the middle of the Iran-Iraq War, made a movie about a guy who falls in love with a porn star who’s in danger of being killed by a giant scarred Indian who murders women with a giant phallic power drill. The commentor notes something interesting:
"As a final indignity, DePalma closes the film with a montage of pictures of dead Iraqis. Before the montage begins, the screen goes black and then the title "Collateral Damage" comes up with the claim "Actual photographs from the Iraq War" printed beneath it, and then the graphic slideshow begins. One problem though... among the real pictures of dead bodies, DePalma inserts some fake ones, including the pregnant woman killed earlier in the film. I have a screening DVD copy. I froze the frame and went back and compared it to the earlier scene in the film. Among DePalma's "Actual photographs from the Iraq War" is a picture of an actress pretending to be dead. And of course, the closing shot in this montage, the picture that is supposed to pull on the audience's heartstrings the most and make them forget the bad movie they just watched, is a fake picture of a bound and murdered rape victim. Look beyond the message... this film is a mess."
This may actually be the first movie example of the fake-but-accurate doctrine.
At Entertainment Weekly I read a review that took special note of the dialogue. Apparently one soldier tells another “You’re so white you wouldn’t wear yourself after Labor Day.” He has the common touch, that DePalma. It's like Ernie Pyle walks among us again.
Yippee Kay Yay, et cetera. I watched “Live Free or Die in a Rigid State” last night. I loved the first one. I was annoyed by the second. The third I forget. I’d heard this was a return to form. Well,
the minute the movie begins you know you’re in for some cyberdrama, which means people scowling and typing really fast at computers with the mysterious user interface that bears no resemblance to any computers people use:
The moviemakers think we’ll just believe it without effort, because these are special hacker computers, I guess. It’s like a WW2 movie that features unscrupulous journalists who work on strange typewriters that have split keyboards and vertical platens and a space bar you activate with your feet. Audience would have wondered what the hell that was. But we’re supposed to believe that these guys have extra-different machines, all of which not only have different interfaces, but can be instantly understood and commanded by kidz whose l33t hacker skilzorz enables them to cut power to 1/3rd of the nation by looking at a picture of the United States on a computer screen.
That must be the first step in the evildoer’s plan. The first meeting:
"Okay, we’re going to create a massive financial panic, kill thousands of people as part of our scheme to accumulate some wealth we’ll never be able to spend in a nice fun place, since we’ll be hunted world-wide by agents of the government and financial institutions. So! Who’s up for some dramatic typing that gets us a lifetime of limited luxury in a private fortified Liberian compound, shuddering with chronic dysentery as we attempt to access the internet from a spotty rig set up by a bunch of French guys who’ve already left the country and don’t return our calls? Great! Now let’s get to work right away on the proprietary GUI!"
My favorite Movie Computer Moment came early, when a hacker sat down, typed a little, and the screen shimmied. (This was an indication, unbeknownst to him, that the evildoers who’d employed him had uploaded a virus to his system. And how do we know they’d uploaded a virus?
Yeah.) Anyway, his screen shimmies, and he asks his roommate: Hey, what do you do with my hard drive? Mr. Diagnostics, this one.
To solve the problem he does one of those little tricks available only to the Hacker-American community. He reseats the video card? No: he presses the delete key, which triggers the virus, which sends a signal to a shoebox full of C4 under his desk. (It has a blinking light to indicate it will soon explode and it says C4 on the side.)
The movie? Eh. Willis is fine. I lke him a lot, even if he does sometimes resemble a wry, cynical thumb.It’s a buddy movie of sorts; he has to protect the “Hello I’m a Mac” guy and teach him what it means to be a man, which involves less under-the-breath passive-aggressive comments and more shooting. (The Hello I’m a Mac” guy doesn’t even seem to have changed clothes since the ad.) Think Jim Halpern from “The Office” in an season of “24,” and you have the idea. The bad guy is Tim Olyphant, who swapped the steely glaring good-guy performance of “Deadwood” for a steely glaring bad-guy role. His consort is the obligatory Hot Asian Hacker Chick who can type and glare and kick you in the head and rewire the security system for coal gasification plants but is incapable of smiling. Because this killing-people-and-typing business is serious work.
Speaking of ethnic stereotypes, I burst out laughing when we met the FBI. In big-budget terrorist-themed action movies like this, you expect the FBI to be evil, and possibly behind the plot itself. This was Hollywood’s way of showing us the FBI is the good guys in this case:
Just for the record, in case anyone wishes to misconstrue my point: I have no problem with a Hollywood movie suggesting that the FBI’s top three cyber-terrorism agents are a woman, a sorta-Lebanese Clive Owen, and a ponytailed Asian fellow. This is the nation were such combinations are possible and, in the real world, ought to be unremarkable. It’s a good image to project abroad. But it also seems a bit transparent, no? And disingenuous: I don’t believe for a second that anyone involved in casting this movie actually believed that this is the demographic makeup of the FBI’s cyber-crimes unit.
Then again, the movie is full of such peculiar disconnects. Here's the DC’s Traffic Command Center:
Right. Sure. For that matter, DC isn’t DC; it’s about six cities at once. But if we don’t know what computers should look like, it’s not a stretch to suggest we would be equally unable to identify the nation’s capitol, outside of a few iconic buildings.
It had amusing moments, thanks to Willis, but it was another one of those movies you simply endure. Nothing is real. The abuse that was once reserved for the Terminator is now doled out to human beings, and they not only aren’t killed instantly, they are capable of acrobatic fistfights while hanging from one hand in a elevator shaft. I was also annoyed by the poor justice meted out to the bad guys. I really hate the soulless criminals who walk into control rooms and shoot everyone dead. They’re evil people, and the movie should require them to have a soupcon of suffering before they hear the Final Quip and get sent to hell. The first movie got it best; Hans Gruber’s expression as he fell to his death, combined with the soundtrack, was deeply satisfying. You can find it here, if you like.
Or watch this short and amusing clip, which has a snippet of the fall:
I went to the Mall on Black Friday, but I didn’t go to my mall, Southdale. I went to my old mall, Rosedale. When I lived near the U it was the Mall where we went to look around and maybe put down the Daytons card for a piece of fashion. Back then in was brown and woody and dark, as was the custom of the era. Now it’s white and clean and shiny and bright, and unlike Southdale, it has stores. Like Southdale, it has an Abercrombie and Fitch, and I would like to have a talk with the store’s designers. The exteriors are dark: long bays of big black wooden shutters. It projects a negative energy, as feng shui adherents might say; it says GO AWAY to all but the elect. In short, it has the character of the door for a teenager’s room. Which is exactly the point, I suppose.
Wandered into the calendar store to see if there were any innovations in the calendar world – ever since they came out with the 16-month calendar, I’ve wondered how they’d top that. Six week months! Eight-day weeks! The front of the store was piled with anti-Bush calendars – Bushisms, various countdown page-a-day numbers. I don’t remember a big heaping display of those at the end of the Clinton era. But I’m sure they were there.
I stopped by the Apple store to get an iPod nano. I had not wanted one before, but three things have changed: 1) I am loathe to take battery power to use the iPhone as daily iPod, and besides, I rarely listen to music when I’m out of the car or away from the computer; 2) I miss listening to music as I write downstairs at night. For some reason I stopped doing that. The other night I was in the mood for RAWK, and had to rely on the laptop iTunes, which was a pathetic assembly. I could use the 80G iPod, but it weighs down the pocket of the sweatpants. Yes, these are the problems of modern Man: I would like to have lots of music in my pocket, but this device makes my loose pants sag somewhat. I need a thinner device. 3) The Nano was $11 off.
So, end of discussion. And the beginning of another: I had a question about importing AVCHD video into Final Cut Express. Talked to one guy who really didn’t get the pith of my gist, and suggested that I “go on the internet” to find a solution. Yes, because a guy who comes up and says “I’m using Final Cut Express Four with 10.5.1, and it’s not recognizing the format of AVCHD clips” probably hasn’t considered whether this internet of which you speak might have the answers. Jeez. On the way out, however, another Apple Associate asked if I was, well, me, and said some very kind words about the site. (Hi, Sean!) I figured I’d spend every quatloo of goodwill I’d ever accumulated by asking the same questions. Apple nerds will appreciate the end result: I bought iMovie 08. Yes. The much-hated reviled iMovie 08. He showed some added features of which I was unaware – perhaps because I did not go on the internet, you think? No: I read Apple site all the time, but was unaware that certain objections had been answered, and fixed. So I bought it.
There’s no feeling like leaving an Apple store with a new iPod and some new software.
To repeat our annoying new book-buying Incentive: if it doesn't do well, I will have to give up the Bleat for a year to write something that will make money for (G)Nat's college fund. Tomorrow (Tuesday) I'll be hawking the book on NPR's "Talk of the Nation" around two. Details to follow.
If the Amazon link doesn't show up for some odd reason, just go to Amazon and search for Lileks. Voila! Gastroanomalies, aka the Gallery of Regrettable Food Part Two. A fine holiday gift for young and old.