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So, wanna be creeped out for a bit? Or made hungry? Maybe angry. Really, any sort of emotions can come out of this, but here is a list of Final Meals of Texas Death Row Inmates from 1982 to 2003. It makes fascinating, if morbid, reading.
Seeing as that's been discontinued (the link points to a webarchive cache of it), you can find more update information, if you so choose, via DeadManEating.blogspot.com.
In both cases, they include a listing of the crime committed. I am assuming that this is because it is easy to see someone say something along the lines "Just give me a plain yogurt with strawberries, like my mom used to make" and feel so sorry for them, but reading that they held some woman down and sodomized her does help to put it in perspective. A weird level of juxtaposition. This is human nature at it's polar extremes: murder, rape, and comfort food (I know what I'm going to name my experimental prog-punk band once I form it).
I have never quite been comfortable with the death penalty, especially not the "real world" version with it's innocent men on death-row, three eye-witnesses, ten years of appeals, questionable methods (why not just smash their heads with a really big hammer?), and so forth. Reading the various foods (some of which include pounds and pounds of food, and gallons of liquid) requested adds to the weird queasiness behind the whole thing. Then, though, you read about (actual story, this time) the guy who kidnapped his own 9-year old cousin and raped and beat her to death in a field. Because his girlfriend broke up with him. I mean, piss in a cup sounds like a good nice meal, huh? Makes you want to quote Boondock Saints a little. For those curious, his last meal was "Double meat cheeseburger, french fries, soft drink". It took them 11 years to execute him after being found guilty. Or the Alabama man who raped and sodomized and killed his step-daughter and threw her body away while his stepson was asleep in the house. Jesus Christ, Do not kill, do not rape, do not steal, these are principles which every man of every faith can embrace.. Most of these people (but not all, some were just at the wrong place at the wrong time) seriously violate my one true code: Do NOT be an asshole.
I do agree with some comments on this, though (from elsewhere). The death penalty is best when not considered revenge, but justice. When it is not inflicting pain on the criminal, but when it is removing someone who will never step foot outside of a prison again. In other words, we are not the assholes. They are. And the argument that the death penalty does not work because people still kill, as I heard it put, is a flawed one. Jails do not stop crimes either. Police don't stop crime. At best, they help to prevent them so much we are all better off. It is a compromise with our Id, I suppose.
Again, though, the last meals shows a strange, strange other side to it. I recommend reading it.
By the way, for me: sweet and sour chicken, a beef-eater, a snog of gin, Milo's sweet tea, steamed rice, and some watermelon. My mom's fried chicken if that can be swung somehow.
Si Vales, Valeo
I am mostly over the cold that tormented me since last Wednesday or so (is that normal, five days?) and was originally going to make a post about what I hate the most about being sick (hint: incessant symptoms) but have now, in a mostly well state, decided that is whinging. Instead, I figure I would post about some of my recent experiences with the ePub ebook format, which have been my first time using it.
For those curious, ePub (I've also seen it as Epub, EPub, and EPUB) is a simple concept that handles many questions of the ebook issue well. My personal experience with the format is that companies are over-complicating the internal workings, but it works like this: You take XHTML, a somewhat rigorous variation of HTML as far as formatting goes, and all the pictures involved, slap on a CSS sheet to guide formating, and this an XML sheet to keep the pieces organized, and zip this into a file which is given the extention epub. Simple. XHTML files are often split, some almost at random, and alot of the CSS is overzealous and complicated, and despite this (or due to this) fact, two ebooks by the same company can have completely different formatting and quality, seemingly by "accident". The overall idea, the concept beyind the curtain, so to speak, though, is one wrought with "win". The format is early on enough that there is some debate about how many different types of format is needed and stuff, but I think this can all work out in the long run. It just needs a little prodding and some level-headed sense.
Plus, since these are essentially text files (minus the graphics, of course) stored in a zip file, it is not inconcievable that you can just open them and make some corrections as you see fit. Which segues me into another point. While there are several readers out there, and some, like Stanza, will allow you to export into other formats, that you can (I have) just extracted ePub like a zip file and then read them in a browser. One caveat, there is a "subset" of ePub that seems to require Adobe Digital Editions to read, but I'm not sure about that (some websites say they require Adoble DE, but I can't tell if that is someone not understanding there are other ePub-readers, or if there is some sort of check-app thingie, both are equally likely, like the websites that inform me that there are only two OSes). Speaking of the pain of a Linux user, I cannot understand why there aren't better readers for Linux out there, considering that it mostly is just "expand the archive, and display the XHTML". Maybe we are all waiting for someone else to program it. With that note, my two favorite readers are FBReader and Stanza, though I am using wine to run them in Linux.
Here are three quick ways to play around with ePub if you want to see if it is worth your time as a general format: Project Gutenberg, ManyBooks.net, and Horror-Mall.com. The last one is a for pay site, but if you like indie horror they have some nice titles and their prices (usually from one to six dollars per ebook) are quite reasonable. The former two truck in public domain, though there is some discrepancy between them which as to which books count (PG is supposed to be better fact checked, but I don't know). Manybooks.net is an awesome website if you need or want ebooks in a lot of formats, from PDF to HTML to RTF to DOC to ePub to Mobi to so on. Their caveat is that format can go awry and I have downloaded a few books from them all but impossible to read because of the format. If you want a lot of quality classics, Project Gutenberg wins (I think all of their books have been auto-ported to ePub, and some of them are formatted fairly nicely, though not as nicely as their HTML editions, sort of aggravatingly, and again some of the books really need to be edited). The good news with the last two is that since they are public domain, there is nothing at all wrong with fixing them and rehosting them. I'm not sure if PG accepts corrected ePubs or not, but you can at least share corrected ePubs with friends if you want.
If you are looking for pristine formatting, then it looks like PDF is still the king, but considering what is capable with XHTML+CSS, there is almost no reason to keep using said proprietary format. However, as the flawed but still widely used IE has shown, sometimes having name recognition can override user-end features and such.
Si Vales, Valeo
It sounds like the opening of a bad joke, doesn't it? At any rate, I was doing some quick fact-checking of terminology the other day for a class assignment and I came across the wikipedia entry on homonyms. I never really thought much about them, but I found it kind of fascinating that we have all these terms for very, very similar cases.
A homonym is a word that is both spelled the same and pronounced the same as another word. Ok? However, if it is only spelled the same, but possibly pronounced differently, it is a homograph. If it is pronounced the same but possibly spelled differently, it is a homophone. Homonyms, by case, are also homographs and homophones.
If the word is a homograph, and possibly a full homonym, and is of a different but related meaning, then it can be called a polyseme. The example in the wiki is "mouth" which can be a fleshy opening or the opening of a cave or river. Another one might be branch, which can be an organic branch, or something which branches off. Maybe even a sow (pig) and to sow (seeding), seeing how they are both farm related.
A heterophone (or possibly heteronym though this latter term apparently has a different meaning in poetry) is a homograph that is not a homonym. Meaning that it is spelled the same but pronounced different. By extension, then, you could possibly also have heterographs, words of a same pronounciation, but necessarily different spelling.
And then you have the special case of capitonym where the word changes meaning if it is proper or not. Say, french fries (meaning a style of cutting) versus French fries (meaning a location of origin).
One of the ways that this becomes interesting is in non-human linguistic use. In other words, when a computer has to figure out if Wooster really meant that Jeeves was a well-formed external ovum, or if there is some other meaning to "good egg". Does the user mean "sink" the verb or "sink" the noun? Etc. Homonymy is now more a problem than it used to be, because textual parsing and information retrieval are dumb systems. They can be programmed to know context more and more, but there are transistional issues.
So, what's your favorite homonym? I still think that "to lie" and "to lie" is my favorite. In one case, you have an act of trust, sort of, a person relaxing. In the other, you have a falsehood. I once wrote a poem about a married (I think it was) couple and those terms got played around with, with the husband comfortable with lying in one way but not another.
Si Vales, Valeo
This morning, I read a write up on Adeline Loh's Peeing in the Bush on Eric Forbes's Book Addict's Guide to Books: "Bush Hard to Beat". It sounded like good fun and reminded me of a book by a professor friend, Richard Modlin, who wrote Malachite Lion. I figured, what the hey, let's look up a book whose title includes the words "peeing" and "bush".
[Special Note: If you follow any of the links in this post, those two right there are the ones to follow. The rest of these can be ignored for sanity. I'm just including them for the curious.]
I first turned to Amazon.com, in which I got back dozens of hits about a recent presidential figure. I did not look close enough to see if any of them were of some urination subset. Rather than back down to failure, and knowing that the US can be kind of restrictive with non-US books, I tried Amazon.ca (where I have found horror movies and books that took entirely too long to knock on US doors). No luck, but there were some albums by the band Bush. Again, I did not look closely enough to see if any urination subsets had cropped up.
Now. I went and got smart. Let's go look at Amazon.co.uk. Yes, let's. Again, Bush albums. Except this time I noticed a couple of other books: Pees on Earth and Feminine Anarchy 2. Both of them include the word "pissing" (or, well, pissin') in the subtitle and both are apparently photographic collections of urination with something of a "feminine freedom" or "soul liberation from the chains of law" bent. In theory. What they are, of course, is overized photographic collections of urination and very little else. If you follow the links (and if you do, you are far braver than my average reader who mostly clicks the tongue, but not the mouse, and says "Oh, Doug") you will actually see screenshots from the book, something I didn't realize I was looking at until a few seconds passed. Then I went "oh". A couple of caveats about the links: the recommended titles tend to involve nudity and seem to be several collections of nude photographs; and there is that whole screenshot thing I was mentioning.
Can you guess what I did next in my search for the original title, the travel memoir that apparently has heart and humor about life's travails? That's right, I Googled it.
I think I am going to give up looking for now.
Si Vales, Valeo
Currently listening to Godspeed You! Black Emperor's Yanqui U.X.O.. I recommend you listen to that CD or Lift Your Skinny Fists like Antenna to Heaven. They are fairly similar, so pick one and sample it on Amazon or something, but they are awesome little epic CDs.
I go back to work today. This is the first time my life has been actually impacted by Spring Break (outside of, say, Alicia coming to visit) for several years. It was kind of nice. I did some work from home, about an hour a day or so, and that was ok but I am not a work from home fellow. I thought I was. I spent years thinking that I was. Then, I actually try to be productive from home and it's pretty much a no-go. Especially in this case, where my job is basically data entry from an old website to a new one. It's the kind of thing that sounds easy: copy - paste - copy - paste - confirm - save. Repeat. Repeat. It just takes longer than I imagined it would. When I built the Book Gallery website, I got to make most of the decisions on policy and several on infrastructure. Here, I pretty much only get to do data entry with only a few decisions made by me, policy and infrastructure are both out of my hands. The difference is that the Book Gallery website enabled me to automate a lot of importing and such because I designed what was being imported. Here, I have to make it fit a mold and auto-import is not an option (if it turns out it was, I may slit someone's throat, heh).
Alright, let's see what I have here as far as links to share. I read on CNN.com that Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath's son killed himself. While Sylvia Plath is the most famous of the "Ted Hughes suicides", it is worth noting that another of his lovers, Assia Wevill, also killed herself. There has been a lot of speculation about what it all means, since Plath may or may not have killed herself in response to Wevill being pregnant (note this latter fact is Wikipedia learned, so standard grains of salt abound). Wevill apparently also killed her child by Hughes right before killing herself. This has the collective power to suggest something was wrong with Hughes, though most seems to be speculation. He did have a fair number of affairs apparently. Now that another person touched by his life is gone, it just seems strange and very tragic.
In quasi-happy news, Cracked.com released an article today on 8 Awesome Cases of Internet Vigilantism (warning: two involve poo). Some of them are less awesome and more collective assholery for a good cause, but a few of them actually are kind of awesome. It makes an interesting read and shows that deep down, we all are wasting the crap out of the Internet.
Finally, in happier news, Jackie Tohn (link goes to her Myspace page) has reposted her album: Beguiling. I mentioned her way back when (two months ago) in a post: "6 Found CDs". At the time, I pointed out that her CD listing on CDBaby had disappeared as well as samples on Youtube and the like. Turns out this had something to do with American Idol (she was there for at least a round or something). Anyhow, she is back now and even has a new music video out for her song "Beguiling". It's kind of energetic and fun. Full of energy. Makes me feel lazy. All that.
Si Vales, Valeo
Here is a selection of movies, books, and the like that I have read, listened to, watched, etc lately and I wanted to say a few words about. Some of these I want to expand to more full reviews, but for now: here you go.
War, Inc is about John Cusack as a washed out assassin who does not want to do it anymore but a woman helps him to see the light. You've seen this movie before? You definitely have. Most of the best scenes come almost verbatim from Grosse Pointe Blank. The rest of this movie is a an over the top farce about our current industry themed foreign policies, and early on we get a Dick Cheney parody barking orders from a commode. The movie is not 100% anti-American as some have claimed, but it does suggest all is not right in the state of Denmark and some will be offended by its tone. Generally a mid-level movie, it needed a bit more edge to work. It is almost too polite in its strangeness.
Twilight is about twipires (they sure aren't vampires) who fall in love like any normal being. The book's essential feature, that Bella is strong-willed if immature, is cast aside along with internal dialogue. Much of the remaining scenes could be easily reinterpretted as a after-school special on abusive relationships ("I'm not afraid of you" "You shouldn't have said that" "You fell down stairs..." "I don't want to hurt you, but...") The big emotional scene where Bella confronts Edward in the forest comes across as stilted and laughable. How long have you been 17? Indeed.
27 Dresses is a romantic comedy about how women really want what 1950s television says they want. Not really, but what slight edge the movie had for the first 2/3s degrades into the cheesy level of sentimental sludge in the last three or four scenes. I half expected the ending to be that she was dying in a hospital bed and only imagined the last few bits.
Paranoid is a dark psychedelic rock masterpiece. I don't think a lot of my friends listen to Black Sabbath, but the airheaded Satano-metal stereotypes with huge Black Sabbath posters on their wall give the wrong impression about this band. Sure there was some darkness to their lyrics, but also a lot of weird pop references and political statements. Their music is also a lot more akin to prog, jam, and experimental rock than our current concept of heavy metal.
Amesouers is the debut full-length album by the Amesouers, a french cold-wave plus other stuff band. There are bits of post-rock, ambient, death metal, and experimental blended into this album. A lot of good stuff here, especially for fans of the French language or more of shoegaze style presentation. Its one drawback is the ubër-electic nature leads to feel more like a soundtrack CD with a couple of artists than a single, solidified album. Still, tons more good to say about this album than bad, so if you feel like importing something then this is worthy.
Undead or Alive, zombiedy set in the old west. There was once a movie review for a 1990s Kevin Bacon movie that said something like "the only thing that stops this movie from being a racist joke is that it's not funny". That almost applies here, but at least it is an equal oppurtunity offender, with a curse created by Geronimo as bed medicine against white men and the angry feminist Indian balanced out by white men being portrayed as oafish, violent simpletons. James Denton definitely increases the watchability of this movie by several degrees, though Navi Rawat's often heavily anachronistic character threatens to lower it just as far. Kattan is mostly playing the exact character you expect him to play. The unexpected irreverance right at the end helped to save this movie in my opinion, and the slapstick kind of grows on you. Watchable, but bring buddies and booze. Yes, by the way, I did order my own copy because I plan on watching it again.
Ok, I think that wraps them up for now, the micro-reviews. Will probably expand the last two into longer reviews, but maybe not.
Si Vales, Valeo
Is it just me, or are generalizations on the "rise"?
Let me get this out of the way, I know this post is going to be laced with a) irony and/or b) hypocricy. You can't talk about general patterns without making generalizations. I accept that. Let's move along.
Reading through Laura Kipnis's The Female Thing I was just randomly struck by how much gender difference is infused with general statements. "Men don't clean" "Women can't drive" "Men don't develop proper natal instincts until they are holding the baby" "Women are more obsessed with women then men" "Women should be responsible for birth control" "Men should be responsible for providing for his family" I'm sure there are those in that set that you agree and disagree with, but all of them are lies. There is nothing about "Man" or "Woman" that makes those hold true. You can, at best, say that "Most women can't drive" or "Some women can't drive" (I like some, though I will warn you that I use it properly, meaning from 0-100%). Even then, the generalization is false, since its descriptive power is entirely in its ability to provide categorical labels. We do not care if some women cannot drive. Some Chinese people cannot drive. Some monkeys cannot drive. What we care about is getting to the essence of Womanness in which one of those key qualities is the inability to drive.
If we say, "X can/not Y" we do technically mean "but Z" (in which Z is a list of exceptions, or the general "sure there are exceptions, but...") but we do not say "but Z" because that makes "X can/not (or is/n't, etc) Y" pointless. "but Z" is a cute way of saying that we said nothing. "9% of women cannot drive" (made up statistic alert!) is truthful, even if it is derived from best-guesses. It is not a generalization though.
This is all to say that lately, us Americans have been dropping the old g-bombs around. "All Republicans are this..." "All Liberals are this..." "Hispanics have X and Y diseases" "Girls in college are more likely to..." "Gays are this..." "Gays are not this..." You see where I am going. American discourse is peppered with them so much that it seems like they should be in some dialect-defining dictionary. Right up there behind "supper versus dinner" and "coke versus pop" should be the phrase "induce everything, make wild assumptions and claims about entire demographics based on two or three personal encounters!"
And what's weird to me, once I started thinking about it, is that while generalizations seem to be categorical inclusions (waht does it mean to be a woman? Oh, she can't drive!) they are actually heavy delimiters. "Blacks are poverty stricken" is as much as a definition of what it means to be rich and/or white as anything. "Women can't drive" only gets meaning if you follow it with "but men can". Women also can't doggie paddle past the speed of c.
That one DOES work as a generalization, by the way.
I don't have much more to say about it. I just notice it. And it seems like we are all rushing to define, limit, categorize, and label things now/ We no longer care about some ritualistic name of things. We now just care about the list of qualities we can attach to them.
When I was younger, I made the "joke" to a teacher that all generalizations are wrong, especially this one. She did not even crack a smile. I was like, 15, and making jokes involving multi-tier dynamics and irony, and I got nothing. Maybe I am just bitter. Ah, well, all teachers are stupid.
Si Vales, Valeo
You know how there is the old adage that you never shop for food while hungry? There is a corollary to that: never go to a drug store with a sight splitting headache. I was standing there, effectively unable to focus with my left eye because it hurt that damned much, and nearly bought three or four bottles of painkiller. I have not had a doozy of a headache like that for years. I settled for Advil Migraine with a big old bottle of Wal-itin (think non-drowsy, non-Sudafed Claritin but half price) and a Mountain Dew Voltage to wash it all down as I treked to campus to turn in my time card. I put off taking the Advil until after I had turned in my time card because I did not want to risk some sort of strange drowsiness or numbness backlash until I was able to sit down and kick back for an hour or so. Hitting up the bookstore I picked up a couple of books for Women's History Month and started reading The Female Thing which is about a lot of things (from how women tend to be quasi-destructive towards other women, to how women were longed defined as the sex that was missing something, which has now moved on to men) and was able to let the bastard of a headache go.
Coming back I get up the Jordan and University light and peg the button for pedestrian to cross. It cycles through and then my turn comes up. The thing was, the timer starts up when the light for the left turning lane goes to red, since I would then be clear. It starts at a count of 32. It was on 22 by the time the last car came across the white line. For ten seconds cars continued to run the redlight. That is insane. These weren't cars that were speeding and would have had to risk a loss of control to apply brakes. These were cars that were accelarting out of a dead stop. I dig not wanting to get recaught by a light, to not want to sit at the same light twice, especially when it is just a few seconds of time; but if I had not pressed that walk button, then there would have been ten seconds of greenlight gone from the other drivers who had to wait for the jerks to cross.
What is it about Huntsville drivers that makes them think they can, or maybe must, run redlights just about every time there is one? If you live in this town, you have seen it. I would wager a full half to two-thirds of redlights that could have a car run it has at least one car in the way of someone else's fresh green light. Every once in a while, it is especially bad. Like today, when seconds count down. I have even seen them speed through a redlight and then have to stop in the middle of an intersection because of some reason, and robbing an entire greenlight from someone else. Down here near the Julia street, people on University will often blow through the redlight altogether, well past the point where they could think "it's still a little pink!" (and why "pink", people? Why not orange? Why not consistency in our cute description about breaking the law?) I have seen cops continue to sit at intersections after it occurs. I do not understand the mindset, not completely, that just keeps looking the other way. Who can I complain to? As a pedestrian, I have had a few scary moments with cars whipping through redlights at the last minute, after I start crossing; or coming up to redlights at such a high rate of speed, intending to run them, that by time they are stopped to let the pedestrian across, they are entirely in the crosswalk or past it, with me already stepping back or forward to deal with it.
Enough of that. In more positive news, Sarah and I just finished the first season of Dexter. Nobody spoil anything, but I enjoy it. I just wanted to get that out.
Si Vales, Valeo
I was originally going to embed the media, but it had so many built in styles and divs that it created weird things. At any rate, here you go:
Si Vales, Valeo
What's more fun that telling kids that zombies are attacking just to watch them cry? How about filming it while you egg them on to fight back? Complete with tears and on courageous boy flailing on the undead (read: poor actor who gets kidney punched). I am not sure the psychological ethics of making children cry for comedy, but it is funny. And, let's be truthful, they are never too young to learn how to fight on the damned dirty undead terrors.
I found this little ditty over at JapanProbe. Then I laughed and laughed and laughed.
I'm still wiping tears out of my eyes....wooo.
Si Vales, Valeo
(Note: full review can be found here, including some further commentary)
Two Brits, a French, and a Spaniard drive into backwoods Spain and upset the natives. Yes, they first stop at a bar. This sounds like some cross between a bad joke and a Deliverance clone, and in some ways, those terms can both apply. Not funny "HA!", more funny in the whole "What did they think was going to happen?" manner.
You have two couples, both featuring British men married to a non-British lady (at least I assume that Lucy is French, I cannot recall any point where they verify this but she speaks with an accent throughout). They travel to a house in backwoods Spain, once owned by Paul's family and now owned by him. Paul is the Lewis (Burt Reynold's character from Deliverance) of this bunch. Assumes that he is bit wiser, mentally stronger. Partially a father figure and partially a wannabe survivalist. He spouts various fortune cookie speeches about the truth of hunters, the truth of prey. Norman is the Ed (John Voight's character), the normal, average guy who is a little out of sorts but is willing, in the end, to rise to the challenge if you give him time. The two wives fit similar patterns as the Bobby and Drew characters, alternatively brash, friendly to the natives, stand-offish, and overly confused.
The first full day there, Paul takes Norman out hunting and Lucy and Isabel go for a swim. There is a hint from the girls that someone may have messed with their clothes. This is dropped by what I can see. The main focus is on the men. Paul and Norman stumble upon a house that is mostly abandoned except for a little girl with a deformity, who has apparently been locked away like an animal. Paul's brashness comes to the forefront, and he takes the little girl. Serra shows off his restraint by only barely flashing on the pack of cigarettes left behind. Plans to get to the police are shattered when a vehicle mishaps occurs and the outsiders are forced to retreat back to their newfound home. Then the "natives" (or, more specifically, one family of them) approach the outsiders the next day and bloodshed and tears begin. At least, they will begin, once Serra gets around to it.
Serra does not allow the separation of the group mixed with the onset of the natives to drive the plot into some higher gear with constant screams. Instead, he uses a few light strokes here or there to build the tension, drawing it out. Some might say he takes a little too long to move the plot into something like a real thriller. All told, you are looking at about an hour of film before any sort of speed up occurs. While slow burns work, the pacing works partially against this movie. We have spent too much time seeing what are basically broken characters making bad calls, reacting to things a few minutes too late, and playing with fire. By the time they start amping up the gears, we have been talked into thinking of them as victims and users. People who tease each other and do not seem to have any brush with happiness. The guys in Deliverance were pricks, but they at least seemed to have a good time at the beginning.
By the movies climax, the word "why?" will have been brought out more than once. Why did the one guy go with the family? Why did the other guy refuse to take advantage of the distraction? Why did the family, assuming they knew where the little girl was, not be more direct seeing as they had superior numbers? Why did the women refuse to acknowledge how serious this whole thing was, even with missing party members and sexual attacks?
Without a firm handle on the characters, the movie dissolves from exposing our inner animal to, at best, exposing the peculiar inner animals of five or six broken souls (depending on how many of the natives you feel were properly addressed) except really only about three inner souls (Paul, Norman, and the native father). The plot is intriguing and several key elements are worth watching, but the overall package is a little stretched for time (the movie could have probably faired better at about 80 minutes instead of 100) with even then a few key elements left unaddressed. Two of the three truly high tension moments are more or less directly lifted from Deliverance. The climax, the "gunfight in the rain" feels both out of place and a little too direct; but honestly delivers thrills.
This is a movie that might need to be watched twice to get a feel of the point, but its generally direct style offers little fun in doing so and many will probably feel an itchy fast-foward button coming on (most things missed would be internal reasonings, not the sort of thing you see in replays). Interesting enough to be worth a rental, probably only worth owning if you are big into "man versus nature & man versus more natural man" style storylines. The three main males are all worth watching and the photography is usually high. However, too much of the plot requires questionable decisions and will leave the audience feeling like passengers on a willing ride into powerlessness before it wraps up.
The movie gets an Eh, with possible points added for fans of Gary Oldman, Paddy Considine, and/or Spanish horror.
Si Vales, Valeo
We all love it when government plans work out just like people wanted. You know, like when a company that has received billions in tax payer money still gives out bonuses in the millions to the very people who arguably wrecked the company.
Or, how about when a law designed to protect American children from lead-paint in Chinese Barbie dolls balloons to include a retroactive, cost-prohibitive to test, ban on books written for children prior to 1985. Sure, what the law says is "You can't distribute material to children unless it has been tested here or there, or you spend a ton of money to have it tested." What the law means, practically, is that every children's book prior to 1985 has to be tested at a high cost to whoever distributes it. This means there is not much that thrift stores and used book stores can do, several of which just burned their 1985-and-prior stock because they could not afford risking the fines and the tests were well outside of the limit of affordability.
It also hits libraries. Since the definition of a "children's book" is largely in the eye of the beholder, this means that stock as diverse as light fantasy and young adult classics to story books and children's reference can be targeted. Long lasting hardcover editions that have served libraries for years are under potential marching orders. According the article, the current stance by the ALA is to assume that libraries are not under fire, which makes some sense; but the response back to the libraries is that maybe they should sequester a number of titles and prevent children from having access. Somehow I doubt the government is going to pay to replace these titles, or overlook any impact this has on circulation when it comes to writing next year's library budget.
According to an article on the ALA website about this topic, they drafted a letter to congress that includes this oh-so-true line: If the CPSIA is applied to books and paper-based materials, as indicated by the Commission's General Counsel, public, school and museum libraries will have to either remove all their books or ban all children under 12 from visiting. This cannot be what the Congress intended...
I've been looking around to see if there is any follow-up to this but after a brief flurry last month, most newspapers and journals seem to have dropped it. I suppose someone sent them a tear-stained letter with the phrase "think of the children". Which, of course, is exactly what I am doing.
Si Vales, Valeo
In the past year or so, just as a range, I have read and watched several stories involving what probably has a proper literary device terminology. "Anti-hero" is the general word used for it, I would guess, but that is the wrong word. An anti-hero is a protagonist whose goals are non-heroic. What I think I am looking for could be something like an anti-villain. These are the traditional bad guys of literature and the screen but their goals are, if not heroic, at least noble by our standards of what should be wanted by the hero. One example might be the Phantom (of the Opera) via his Weber musical version. The Phantom mostly wants to be recognized, to be understood, and possibly to fall in love (most of his "love" of Christine though is easy to explain as a need for her to be his voice). He kidnaps and kills and threatens and destroys and yet his actions are largely dictated by others who choose to outcast him. He is the villain of the musical, much like he was the villain in all of his prior versions (this isn't 100% true, the Hammer version changed certain details to cast him more sympathetically, at least), but he is more an anti-villain by the traditional concept of values. The evil he weaves has a purpose. What stops him from being, maybe, an anti-hero by the definition I am trying to weave is because his goal is ultimately selfish, but selfish in a way that we can understand.
What got me thinking about it was a combination of Darkly Dreaming Dexter and Let the Right One in. In the former, you have Dexter, a mild-mannered forensic blood splatter specialist and he also happens to kill people. He kills people who deserve it, at least that is the conceit of the show, but is driven because of an emotional void that stops him from being able to connect to others. In the novel, he is more of a fullblown sociopath, with his condition largely being connected to an inability to feel anything about any human that is not a child. In the show, it's a little different, he is devoid of emotions (I am sure there is a term for that but I'm not 100% sure what) and so killing is more of a null response to him. The novel has more of a "serial killer" humor going, with him often joking to himself about what his friends and family will say when he eventually gets busted, while the show makes you more sympathetic to his plight. In both cases, though, he is a murderer who works as a character because he is doing it for noble or understandable reasons.
In Let the Right One In you have this "vampire love story" in which there is a sense of beauty and a story about, essentially, two broken people working to help one another...except you have other people whose lives are being ruined by their actions. In neither the novel or the movie is there really a justification. The vampire of the story does not drink the blood of bad people. If anything, the victims are other broken souls, barely clinging to life except through a fragile network of friends. A network that is imbalanced by the crimes. Sure, they are not the cream of the crop. Alcoholics and wastrels who were going nowhere. But, the victims are not written off. The viewer/reader has to decide if the beauty of one part of the story can overcome the evil of the other part.
As a literary trend, I find the concept sort of fascinating, because it rewrites the point of the novel. Novels were supposed to tell us how to be. They were meant to be these moral guides. Except, now, it is not so much how we are meant to be, but it is more about accepting others, the challenge of sympathy. I think you could have a good argument with the statement "Too many novels are about too many damned broken people"; and this concept of anti-villain seems to be a viable solution, at least short term to this. It at least stirs up the pot, right?
Si Vales, Valeo
Went out of town to Gadsden this weekend. Those following me via twitter or facebook probably some status updates surface involving words like "exhaustion" and "so tired my eyes are blurry" and "Jesus, give me strength to take one more step". Those who read any version of Dickens of a Blog probably saw a short post about word-play that demonstrates, by way of my disjointed and very s-o-c writing, what I mean by "tired". That sums up about half of it. The other half was fine. Some things went well. Other things did not go quite so suprabar1. Hanging out with friends with pitchers of mixed drinks, too many tacos, and blowing off steam, though, was soul-replenishing. Thank you for that, you two.
Perhaps the single most intriguing thing that happened was finding out that the railroad track that literally goes down a street in Gadsden after crossing a very rusty trestle is active, and all that implies. Cars have to clear the street, people in stores have to essentially wait it out with a horn-blowing train going right outside their front doors. Parrallel parking means a train is a few feet from your car. It is weird. I got some pictures, from a distance, of this happening, but nothing up close. My next time down, maybe I will get something up close. I even, once, crossed that street right in front of the train (as can be expected, it tends to go slow) because had I waited for it to go past me, I would have had to wait for several minutes to finish walking to class.
After getting back in town yesterday about lunch time, I went to work and worked nine hours. Then I came home and about all I remember was sleeping. Gloriously sleeping.
Now that I am well rested, time to be a little forward looking and talk about two upcoming events.
The first (which is the furthest) away, is NERDY-GRAS. Still planning to have this on or about May 30th (yes, my birthday). This year's theme: Cthulhupunk, meaning Lovecraftian elements meets something like fantastic or unrealistic ideas about computers. Festivities to include Munchkin Cthulhu, a table top session of Call of Cthulhu (premade characters and short rules tutorial), possible movies but more than likely only as background noise (plans include Hackers, Dagon, Call of Cthulhu (the HPLHS version), and maybe something like Tron). I'll keep narrowing down details. I am planning for something of a long event here (probably about 4pm to 2am) with the fun times sort of split up in packets so people who need to drop in and drop out can do so.
The other thing is going to be closer, maybe even as early as this or next weekend (or sometime during the week of spring break): EURO-HORROR MICRO-FILM FESTIVAL. While Asian (and specifically J-) Horror has been rocking the market by way of remakes and pissed off fans swearing the orignal is better (often true), European horror has released a steady stream of solid horror classics. The plans is to take two or three of those recent "likely to become" horror classics and then watch them to show off some of the differences between horror-mentalities. I have two (well, I have one, the other comes out on Tuesday): Inside and Let the Right One In. I am thinking about offering up one or two more as possibles: Broken (if I get it in time), Descent, Dog Soldiers, or maybe another (note, Pan's Labyrinth and The Orphanage are wholly or in part Mexican, so are not quite eligible). However, from experience, any group of friends gotten together to watch movies has about a two-movie limit before distractions and attention-robbers crop up so readily as to make it hard to get a third movie in, or you at least get heavily diminishing returns.
Now, I picked both of these because they are fairly unflinching in their purpose. Inside is a French splatterpunk movie about a pregnant woman who gets violently attacked (read, lots of blood) in her own home and goes through a nightmare style ordeal. You know, where people who show up to help you are unable and you never know what is coming down the hallway. I will not go into many details, but it is extremely effective and if you have ever wanted to see a pair of old metal scissors used in horrifying ways, here is your chance. The second one is Let the Right One In which, best put, is kind of like Twilight if Twilight actually had vampires and a plot outside of squeegy teen romance drama. It is in the soul crushing way, but one review (I think Del Toro's) described it as a "beautiful fairy-tale" and that is true, too. It is hard movie to sum up but it is very touching and different for a horror movie, but still very much a horror movie. I guarantee you the ending will make you cheer, and then make you feel like you have to apologize for it.
Anyhow, details will be forthcoming on both. The horror night will likely be within the next couple of weeks and very informal. Show up with popcorn and beer, say, and let's watch movies. If I can get [+REC] (the movie that turned into Quarantine during the remake process) I will definitely bring that along. It is coming from Canada, though, who apparently has a much better selection of foreign horror than the States.
Si Vales, Valeo
1: I suddenly wonder why our word "subpar" means "below expected performance" when the very concept of par is something we are trying to score under.
Even if no one laughed wittily at my witty witticism: "Is a palindrome a self-recursing anagram?" Even if. I still think words are fun to play with. Now, in the spirit of sharing fun stuff, here are three fun ways to play with words. There will be a quiz afterwards (note: the answer is "false").
Portmanteau: a blend of two words. Like, for instance, if you blend "stinky" and "your face" maybe I get "your finky!" Something like that. Used a lot by the venerable Carroll. Fumious. etc. For best results, the words should be funny and British sounding. Also, if you make another word, it probably doesn't work. In other words, "floor" as a portmanteau of "door" and "fluid"...boring.
Mondegreen: a misheard lyric or line from a poem, especially a well-known line misheard. For examplar: "Another one bit the doctah!" Again, best used if funny, surreal, or as a malapropism of a most delightful tenor. Instead of hearing, for say, "no one, not even the rain, has such small hands", maybe you hear "no one, not even Elaine, had such small hands" and that's funny because your sister Elaine had, like, tiny hands, dude.
Malapropismm: when you say the wrong thing but it's kind of a pun of what you meant to say and that makes it delightful. "Don't fall down the stares!" said Henry, to his small handed wife Elaine, as she was distracted by the ogling maintenance men in the stairwell.
Wiki them if you want more fun examples. Then go play with words.
Now the quiz, did Doug drink before writing this post?
Si Vales, Valeo
I've had these three backlogged to share for a bit. They are linked in order from most to least safe for work (the first is pretty tame, while the last one might get you in trouble when your laughter attracts coworkers).
First up, The F plan diet: Charlotte got rid of flab..and virginity. The article is just about exactly what it sounds like. She was tired of not getting the men she wanted so she lost 180 pounds, and then slept with a complete stranger to seal the deal. It's tabloid writing, for sure, but it's the type of trainwreck that so many of us need to read every once in a while. A universal mirror that asks "Is this me?" I will let you decide whether or a "no" or a "yes" is a better answer to that question.
And the last two are a two-fer from Cracked.com: The 6 Strangest Objects People Were Caught Having Sex With and The 10 Most Terrifying Guides to Sex. On the former ("With"), go ahead and guess what the objects are. You might be right, but these are not the sort of things that would have came to my mind. On the latter ("Guides"), it's an older article (I think I may have linked to it before) but it still makes me laugh harder than most Cracked.com articles, which is actually saying a lot.
Si Vales, Valeo
Ok, ok. I do not hate ebooks. I am actually quite fond of them. I do dislike the way they are being handled, though. And, for clarification, this has nothing to do about how they smell. You know, when I first heard people tell me that they could not do ebooks because they needed a smell of a book, I thought they were joking. Then I heard dozens of people repeat the same line, and I realized they were serious. I, you, um, know...I have smelled a book. I have even enjoyed it. But, I mean, why not just prop an old 1970s paperback under your nose and read a current book through electronic form, if such are your kicks? Books take a decade to develop "that smell". Unless you like woodglue, acid, and shipping materials as a smell. Freak. Then I will leave you to sniff new books in the dark, just you and a certain aroma, all you want. I do not judge, I assure you.
Those that think I am joking, by the way, can go and Google "smell of books" or some such and find a large, large number of hits involving quite earnest entreaties that being a book lover is, essentially, embracing an olfactory love affair. I have brought up the fact, from time to time, that "that smell" is largely a mixture of dust and mold seeping into decaying wood chips, and have been denounced as a barbarian of a most barbaric order. Such as it is. Such as it is.
My favorite quote about this topic, before I stop digressing way away from my intended point, belongs to Cory Doctorw, in his book Content (Google "Cory Doctorow Content Free" and you can indeed get free ebooks of it, no questions asked): "The people who are readers readers will be readers forever, and they are positively pervy for paper." [from "Giving it Away"]
Ok, back to the topic on hand, why I hate ebooks. My top four reasons.
Insane Fluctations on Price: Despite Simon Green's Man with the Golden Torc being in mass-market pbook format right now as we speak, the standard cost of the ebook form is still upwards of $20. The same is said of its sequel, which only exists in hardcover. If I were to stick to my ebook guns on this topic, then I would end up paying a combined cost of $50 for two books burdened with some of the issues I am about to bring up, while I could get more rights as a reader (about to bring this up) for about $30 in a store or about $25 at Amazon.com. There have been speculations wild and varied, with some insiders saying they simply cost that much while others muse it is because publishers are insisting on tying prices to pbook practices (both links go to Teleread, a blog all about the ebook topic). However, I recently bought ebooks through Horror-mall.com and they came out to be half, or less, of the pbook editions. The Amazon Kindle editions regularly sell for half of the pbook price. My guess is, they cost that much because publishers think they can get that much.
Then, once you pay full price, or more, for the ebook, you find out You Have Limited Rights. RIAA style "you've stolen one copy if you copy a CD to your computer" and book-themed "Used bookstores are destroying literacy!" mindsets aside, every ebook I have bought has included some note about how I cannot share this ebook. With anyone. Period. Ok, this is not true. Some are more ok with sharing than others. Note, though, if I went for the paper copy, there is a well established concept of me loaning it to a friend. This is not only a part of the book culture, but an expected and much loved part of book culture. There is no well functioing ebook library, as far as I know, that allows me to conviently check out an ebook for a couple of weeks (some of the best models allow me to check out an ebook for a matter of minutes before needing to reverify) and allow me to read it without paying for it, despite the fact that pbook versions of this very concept are considered a staple of American life. Also look at the recent text-to-speech fight. No book company in history would have minded if I had handed Sarah a book and asked her to read it to me, but several publishers freaked out that a computer could do the same thing with less manhours. "The future!", they shouted as a mantra, "Think of the future!" This makes me think they are stuck with 1993 era computers, seeing as they have failed to notice the technology that has been there for some time.
Again, after I pay all this money for a ebook, I find out that Ebooks Are Often Treated as Secondary Books. Not only do even the staunchest defenders of ebooks, like Cory Doctorw, often talk about how they can be used to sell pbooks (while actually admitting that it is hard to read them on a computer), but I have seen writers (I won't say the majority, think this, though, since I have only seen a couple cases of each) claim that they are ultimately not worth it or describe them as "only leading to more piracy". Nothing quite irks me as much as getting a legimate ebook and then finding out that important formating or images have been overlooked or included in such a shoddy way as to actually be detrimental. Some companies are putting out ebooks of their "galleys" more or less, which means that what you see in ebook form is what the pbook will mostly look like, and that tends to work, but often at the expense of making it harder to read them, because...
All These Damned Different Proprietary Formats. Each and every one of them is a pain. They either require me to sign in with my reader to get some code (often with my personal information embedded for their use, or to log in via a specific edition of Adobe Acrobat (what's annoying, as I know two companies right now, one of whose books cannot be seen with Acrobat versions prior to 8, and one who cannot be seen with Acrobat versions after 7), or to keep track of old credit card numbers, or to view the ebooks with a very proprietary reader that has about as much chance of proper Linux (especially) and Mac support as Internet Explorer getting a proper port-over, all the while tracking my reading habits in regular reports back to some hidden server. Usually a combination of more than one is used. Then, even then, bringing the second and third reasons above back into the fray, some ebook readers require regular pingbacks from authenticating servers with threats of "shredding" ebooks if they feel they are being misused. Guess what happens if the server makes a bad call (for instance, you read an ebook on a series of public computers while bus-tripping across the US?) or, better yet, the server goes downhill like all things on the Internet do? I mean, companies change models and focuses. You can find all sorts of instances of DRM authenticating servers getting shut down, with companies usually going "Hey, you bought a digital copy, you should have known better". Way to inspire piracy, fellows. If I want to read *.lit format ebooks, I have to trick my computer into thinking it is Windows long enough to expand it into another format altogether. If I want to use eReader's books, I have to run a Windows emulator (a little RAM intensive, but overall not much of a hassle and it has other features I adore). I cannot view anything on Digital Editions format (which is pretty, but not meant for Linux). All in a continued claim to protect writers. And yet, all those ebooks you find online that are illegal, so many of them are products of scanners and OCR programs and hardware. Limiting ebooks has done nothing besides hassle me. Particularly. It's all a conspiracy against me.
Miracously, Baen (and a few other companies that are now trying out Baen's model) continues to put out high quality ebooks in HTML format, with generous terms, no DRM, a great cost, and full trimmings including even back cover text, and it apparently works for them. This is one of the reasons why Baen will continue to get my business. As someone not often willing to pay full price for a book that includes scripts to track my reading habits and with threats mingled throughout content (something that would not occur to them to try if I was reading a pbooks, unless it was marketing people trying to get free statistics), I consider supporting companies like Baen an investment.
Si Vales, Valeo
My wife went through college largely thanks to PACT (Prepaid, Affordable College Tuition), and my sister-in-law is currently doing so, so this is, to ape a farkism, relevant to my interests.
This story also shows up, in slightly more depth, in the B'ham blog coverage: "Alabama prepaid college tuition program value tumbles 45%". That latter link also contains other links to get more information. Well, at least one.
The most painful number to read comes out in this quote: The trust fund backing Alabama's prepaid college tuition program has lost more than 45 percent of its value in a year and a half—including 20 percent lost to the recent stock market collapse—and program managers are scrambling to find ways to keep paying students' tuition. This means that less than half of their lost was due to the stock market tumble. I do not know where the other full quarter of 900 million went. Possibly investments on Alabama land or something. Maybe people are not paying money in right now and so they are having a loss of funds due to people still taking money out?
And the Alabama screwed-conomy just keeps getting better with bits like this: Officials with the PACT program are meeting with officials at the University of Alabama and Auburn University to try to strike a deal under which tuition payments could continue, the letter said. Most participants in the program attend those universities, or plan to. Because that's what Alabama universities need right now, compromises with the state treasury office to not get fully paid in exchange for, you know, doing their job. That cannot go wrong. Not at all.
Si Vales, Valeo
That sucks and I mean that. I guess whoever it was that asked the question about why the the Huntsville Library costs so much feels a little bit of glee in their soul today.
To comment on a couple of things specifically from the article: Laurel Best, the library's executive director, said the technical services and acquisitions departments will be cut. "The work of these departments can be automated and outsourced at considerable savings," she said. I don't want to come across as callous, but I can kind of understand cutting back on the acquisitions department if you had to make a cut. Too many publishers and distributors are all too willing to prepackage books at a discount and, for most of the HPL's needs, the sort of books they pre-package are the sort of books that people want. It does mean that your supply of lesser known works and non-mainstreams works will take a hit, but presumbably there is some acquisitions staff to sort it out and correct those issues. It also sucks for local booksellers who sold books to the library because usually "automated acquistions" is the sort of thing that involves Ingram warehouses in Tennessee.
I just do not understand how you can cut tech services and let those be automated or outsourced and have it come out to be "considerable savings". I do not know how HPL sets their tech services up, or what falls under tech services, but trusting in IT systems to run on their own for most of the time or to be handled by third parties could be problematic. Computers hate us all, and they seem to have a special hatred for librarians. Sometimes a couple of well-known, friendly tech guys can go along way to settle panic. IT seems to be a field that gets either undervalued or overvalued everywhere I look. I have yet to see a firm that did not have half the IT staff it needs, or double.
Best wishes to everyone affected by this and hopefully the city budget will make a quick recovery with some of the new things opening up and we can put those people back to work. Librarians are the sort, often, who take jobs out of personal love of them and not merely because they are advancing their career. I know a couple who took lower paying jobs than they were worth just because they liked their professional family and the building they worked in.
Si Vales, Valeo
For those not in the know, Keene is a horror writer (he often refers to himself as a "midlist horror writer") whose storylines vary greatly but tend to revolve around the same sort of characters that the 1970s and 1980s horror writers adored: everyday folk with slight to major quirks and a conflict between selfishness and a deep-rooted love for family and duty as a mixture of otherworldly and all-to-human horror seeps into their lives. Keene's writing does not fall into what I would call the "simple writing" style, a somewhat stilted style that eschews most of the fluff of writing for straight text, which has its place but often fails to reward the reader, but he does tend to keep his prose lean and peppered with King-like pop references and enough slices of life to keep the reader grounded. Over the past couple of years, Keene has been building up a Lovecraft/Dunsanian mythos invoking multiple worlds and unknown horrors lurking in and between them. This fact is more apparent here in this collection than in his other works that I have read, with several of the stories (notably "Tequila Sunrise") actively deepening his outer mythos.
The writing quality is good to medicore, never quite shining and with a few passages coming off as awkward, but his characters work and they work well. In fact, chracterization, though lacking room to really play out character development and so therefore invoking static characters are who expanded upon by discovery, is more or less the key to this collection. Keene eschews mood-centric and often even action-centric writing here, and banks on his characters reaching out to the reader; with the stories' various comical and heartbreaking scenes delivered not as a plot point, but as a character's moment. Also, in the plus side category, Keene is unafraid to play with the pen in this collection, or to use it to lay himself on the page, salting his mini- and micro-epics with jokes about Prozac, the birth of tequila, references to powwow, cameos by underground author Carlton Mellick III, and a different enough to be refreshing take on the quickly-tiring joke about Jesus being a zombie. One story starts with the line "I shit gold" (or something close to that), another is about a mummified cat who "speaks" in stilted English, and another is about Christmas getting "stolen" by an evil otheworldly being. In other words, if you want light, accessible, horror with pockets of gore and a common thread about fear and grief over family and loss, then here you go. If you want more serious horror, then you probably want to look elsewhere.
Full review can be found at http://www.wyrmis.com/words/unhappyendings.html.
Si Vales, Valeo
Written by W Doug Bolden
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