Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Family

I had a wonderful weekend with my family. Oneson, OneDIL, and GrandOne came to visit! The house was crowded with all of us but we had fun. Twoson gave up his bedroom, we put the baby's crib in my den.

Friday night the middle generation went to a movie and the spousal unit and I babysat! GrandOne and I went for a long walk to the park, where we played on the climbing structure and went down the slide, and then pet a dog. When we came home and it was clear his parents weren't there, he burst into tears. We offered him food and water, changed him, read him a book, sang, rocked, but nothing helped. So we put him to bed and he cried for another 20 minutes then fell asleep.

Saturday we went to the farmers' market for breakfast and shopping, which was great fun. Later I took the baby to the backyard and we played with the hose, filling the little pool and watering plants. Then I went off to gaming for the afternoon/evening.

Sunday I made Oneson's favorite: German pancakes. GrandOne likes them too! We all just hung out until it was time for the train home.

A great family weekend all around!

Cosplay

Well, not really, but a very cool dress for Comic Con at A Dress a Day. That fabric printed with comic book panels is terrific!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Africa: It's bigger than I thought.


Courtesy of City Comforts blog, a map of Africa with other areas overlain for size comparison.

The Bechdel Test

When I review a movie, even in casual conversation, one of the data points I try to remember to give is whether it passes the Bechdel test. (I'd like to pretend everyone I know is acquainted with this, but I know that's false.)

Yeah, she calls it a rule, but I use it as a test--I am perfectly willing to see movies that fail the test, it's just one of the things I think about when I'm reviewing the film. Were there fully-realized women characters (at least as fully-realized as the men characters, that is)? Did they talk to each other, or only to the men? Did they talk about something other than men? Women in the real world exist without reference to men; if all depictions of women in a particular person's body of work only show them in their relationships to some man, I'm going to draw the conclusion that they don't think of women as real people. Real people have their own goals, not just a reaction to some man's goals; real people have interests other than what the male viewpoint character wants from them; real people are not just sexual objects to others.

My friend Brooks Moses links to an excellent review by Kate Harding of the recent movie Mama Mia that includes discussion of the male gaze and shows why I think the Bechdel test is important.

To begin with Ms. Harding explains to reviewers who panned it that those eager filmgoers are eager precisely because we want to be bludgeoned by an ABBA-bomb. Er… something like that. That’s the fucking point. If you like spangled polyester costumes and infectious ’70s pop and middle-aged women cracking themselves up every ten seconds, a turquoise-boa-wrapped ABBA-bomb doesn’t sound like a bad thing at all. And if you don’t like that stuff, what the hell are you doing at Mamma Mia!?

Precisely! But there are other reasons to see it: it's about women, by women, and for women, unlike most movies in general release. And a very particular thing that I know I do, and other women do: get together with our friends and act like we're young again. Or still. Or something.

one of the main reasons I wanted to see Mamma Mia! right away was to support the rare film written, directed, produced by, and starring women — women over 50, at that. And the whole thing surely does have a gallopingly feminine sensibility.

[...]

Furthermore, it’s a movie that celebrates older girly-girls in a way that invites younger ones — and men — to the party, but never makes it about them. I read somewhere (possibly in comments here) that Meryl Streep said her twentysomething children will be utterly mortified by her performance in Mamma Mia!, and I can totally see that. It’s not just the singing and dancing — she acquits herself perfectly well on both counts — but that the plot (such as it is) hangs on her really, really not acting her age. [...] But mostly, it’s totally believable that once her besties and old boyfriends show up, Streep’s character instinctively starts acting like she’s in her twenties again. That’s kinda what you do.

[...]

And that’s exactly what’s so charming — and transgressive — about the movie. A bunch of fiftysomething women dance around in disco-era costumes, and it’s meant to look like a good time, not a pathetic joke.


Exactly: instead of presenting a normal feminine behavior as alien, other, and so threatening that we must turn it into a joke to relieve the tension, this movie invites us to jump right in and starts dancing around too. Mama Mia turns the tables on the usual movie viewer and invites us to look at the world the way (some) women do; if you want to identify with a character, your only real choices are the women!

For my money, the female gaze is exactly what throws so many male reviewers about Mamma Mia! The movie, as Ebert noted, wasn’t made for them. It’s not just that the poor widdle straight men are forced to watch a bunch of chicks doing chick stuff to an ABBA soundtrack, it’s that they’re supposed to identify with chicks doing chick stuff. They’re supposed to share in the joy when they hear old girlfriends squealing together, imagine themselves on stage rocking “Super Trouper” in sparkly polyester, and fantasize about what they might do with a shirtless Pierce Brosnan. They’re supposed to put themselves in the metallic boots — and behind the eyes — of a bunch of women, taking the same sort of gender-swapping imaginative leap women are expected to make, oh, only about EVERY GODDAMNED TIME WE GO TO THE MOVIES.

There's lots more there worth reading, about presenting the young woman without making her the obvious sex object for men old enough to be her father (and literally likely to be), about accepting our aging selves as still sexy whether we keep it natural or use tools like cosmetic surgery and expensive moisturizers, and so forth.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Beertopia

I spent a great afternoon with a friend at the Oregon Brewers Festival today, sampling micro brews. I have 3 tokens left out of 12, and I repeated tastes of two of the beers, so I must have tried 7. My two favorites were Flying Fish Love Fish Abbey Dubbel, which was very smooth and a touch sweet, with cherries, almonds, and malt; and a raspberry-flavored very light and highly carbonated beer, which was a bit like drinking hard raspberry cider.

And I had a brat, and some feta dip with pitas, and lots of water, and my friend and I had a good long chat about our lives. It was great!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A sovereign remedy

Turns out chocolate helps my post-physical-therapy shoulder pain a lot. Who could have predicted that? :)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Epictetus: How a man should proceed....

How a man should proceed from the principle of G-d being the father of all men to the rest.

Summary:
- We are a mixture of animal and divine. Choose to develop your divine nature, for we all have it.
- Evil, like savagery and fraud, arises out of the animal part of our nature. Take care not to do animal things.

Reaction:

Interesting association of evil with animals -- so different from now, when nature is perceived as pure and good while humans are evil and corrupting.

Epictetus: How a Man on every occasion can maintain his Proper Character

Summary:
- Man is naturally attracted to rationality and repulsed by the irrational.
- You have to know yourself to apply rationality to the world, because we perceive rational action differently depending on who we are.
- If you know who you are you don't need advice, you won't consider things that are alien to your nature.
- The person who is true to herself won't let others' desires affect her decisions. Even under threat she will act according to her rational nature.
- You make yourself remarkable by acting according to your rational nature. People who are animals are disregarded.
- To change your decisions, your path, because of a threat -- even a threat of death -- is not being true to yourself.
- How do you learn your nature? If you have a nature, you must therefore have the power to perceive it. Discipline yourself to learn your nature.
- Don't let the best be the enemy of the good. Strive to be your best even if you won't be as good as others.

Reaction:

Obviously Epictetus values being rational and detached over pleasure, but why? He also seems to over-estimate people's ability to be mindful of their own thinking and actions; it's not my experience of others that they equally easily know themselves.

Linky-like

Courtesy of my friend beaq, Cake Wrecks. All from professional bakeries: Puffer fish cake, Chuck Norris Doesn't Cry cake, and Russian roulette cake.

Telling time with calculus. It would be easy to duplicate this with any plain clock that has a flat face and a bit of chalkboard paint. And chalk. And you do have to be able to do calculus, of course.

One of my favorite bloggers, Greg Hlatky, gives us handy Latin phrases. E.g. (hey, that's Latin!):

Non calor sed umor est qui nobis incommodat.
It's not the heat, it's the humidity.

Di! Ecce hora! Uxor mea me necabit!
God, look at the time! My wife will kill me!

Estne volumen in toga, an solum tibi libet me videre?
Is that a scroll in your toga, or are you just happy to see me?


The Woolly Thinker's Guide to Rhetoric.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Epictetus: Of the Things which are in our Power, and not in our Power

I'm studying the Discourses of Epictetus, and this is the first in the NuVision Publications, LLC 2006 edition.

Summary:
- Our ability to think enables us to choose when to act and what action to take.
- It's also the only real power we have: the power to choose.
- It's what can lead us to a good life within our limitations.
- Since we can't control our circumstances, we must control our ability to think.
- No one can affect us unless we let them; the physical world is less important than our ability to think.
- It's better to be detached from fate and physical things, and be ready to die without resentment and lament. This is the proper study of humans.

Reaction:

I agree that focusing on what I can control is the best way to pursue a good life. I'm not sure detachment and stoicism make for a good life, though.

The ability we have to choose our actions and reactions is the foundation of my approach to life. Not only is this ability the only power we have to affect our lives, it's important to exercise it--this exercise of the power of choice is the point of life.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Beach vacation

We're off for a few days camping at the beach. It'll be the first time the spousal unit and I have camped together, and my first time since 1998. I pulled out the camping gear and went through it; you need slightly different things when it's two adults than when it's an adult and two kids under 12!

The weather is forecast to be sunny after morning clouds, and cool (mid 60s F), which is perfect in my opinion. The last two days were awful between work and medical stuff, so even though I just had a Mary Poppins trip (practically perfect in every way!) with my LDR last weekend, I need this trip.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Health news

I saw the orthopedist this morning. I'm bummed that I may not get full function of my shoulder back, and that it may take a year to get there (or wherever I'm going to get).

I also went to physical therapy and started some stretching exercises. Of course, that stirred the pain back up--my shoulder and arm ache right now. Two steps forward, one step back, I guess.

Weblog

Blog is short for weblog, which is a compound word made up of web (as in the World Wide Web) and log (a list or diary). So, a list of web places. Because I'm behindhand on my web surfing, all the links below came from Instapundit.

Sexism in society is what I see when Ann Althouse talks about balls.

Here's Michelle Malkin, reacting to Obama's reaction: "Grow a pair, Obama."

And Kevin Drum is all at first I thought it was kinda funny....

"But at the risk of seeming humorless, that reaction didn't last too long. Maybe it's because this kind of satire just doesn't work, no matter how well it's done. But mostly it's because a few minutes thought convinced me it was gutless. If artist Barry Blitt had some real cojones..."

What is this fascination with balls? Jesse Jackson wants to cut Obama's, which presumes their existence. Michelle Malkin thinks they don't exist. Kevin Drum thinks they don't exist on Blitt — they've been oblitterated — though they may somehow exist in fake — or un-Spanish — form. But if Blitt had had real cojones...

... he would have drawn the same cover but shown it as a gigantic word bubble coming out of John McCain's mouth — implying, you see, that this is how McCain wants the world to view Obama. But he didn't. Because that would have been unfair.

Uh... no... because it would have been absurdly cluttered, stupid looking, and hard to draw. Not to mention clunkily literal and no fun at all. Blitt lacks balls because he assumes we have brains?
(links omitted)

All this talk about balls surely is a reaction to Hillary Clinton's campaign. The rampant sexist attacks on her demonstrate just how threatening it is for a woman to presume to aspire to the highest elected office we have, and the discussion of balls (not courage, mind you--courage which is a choice to act in the face of fear--but balls, an emotion associated with a body part that women don't have) reminds us all that you have to have them to be anyone important.

A fascinating article on closet conservatives in Hollywood shows the "idealogical rigidity" that leads to oppression of dissent from the left:

Since the communist-sympathizing Jane Fonda aerobicized her way into the mainstream of Hollywood politics, and about the time that John Wayne died, most Republicans in Hollywood began to shut their mouths. Other Republicans attempt to win over the bullies by referring to themselves as "moderate," "libertarian," "independent," "classical liberal," "pragmatist" or "JFK Democrat."
[...]
The situation in Los Angeles is fundamentally different from that in Washington, D.C., where members of both parties openly embrace their party affiliation (for now). Republicans in the federal government accept that they are the freaks and geeks. Democrats, the "cool kids," have their status affirmed by frequent jaunts to town by Hollywood's "Creative Coalition" - bestowing upon our congressman, Henry A. Waxman, a status he certainly didn't hold in 11th grade. Only a Democrat can recount sipping a latte with Christine Lahti.

In New York while the liberal mind-set dominates - especially in the media - there are enough dominant industries (i.e. Wall Street) in which free marketers flourish. So the outnumbered and the outshouted experience in Manhattan is tempered by pockets of confident oppositionism, which explains the rise of Rudy Giuliani.

But Los Angeles is a one-company town. And because of bullying (or what Democrats would call blacklisting or "political discrimination," if the shoe were on the other foot), Hollywood has become a one-party town. History will show this dynamic hurt both the creative and the political processes.

In the absence of checks and balances, we end up with a system that creates a mainstream film about Ronald Reagan - written, produced and directed by narcissistic and myopic partisans who only viewed the Gipper through the lens of AIDS activism. Like anyone would watch an epic movie about America's victory in the Cold War.

Oliver Stone - a left-wing conspiracy theorist - gets to take a cinematic stab at George W. Bush before he even leaves office. Thankfully, he assures us he will treat the subject evenhandedly.

Every big-screen cartoon warns toddlers of anthropogenic global warming or the wrongs of corporate America. It's almost like they conceived a process to scientifically extract the joys from childhood.

There are tons of movies on Nazi Germany. But why the dearth of stories on the rise and fall of the Iron Curtain? Are there no stories of tragedy and triumph in the 100 million or so dead, or those who came out alive?


You might be surprised at the list of names who are powerful enough to come out of the Hollywood conservative closet; I know I was.

Megan McArdle treads familiar ground to us fannish types with a whinge about women and science fiction and a request for novels to introduce SF to people who don't already read it. The commenters make the usual suggestions.

But I think it's kind of hard to deny that there are a lot of women who do not like science fiction because it doesn't fit into their conception of girly. Stating that you are a woman who likes science fiction, and lots of women like science fiction, is theatrical, but it's beside the point; the demographic is overwhelmingly male. Connie Willis and Megan Lindholm and Sheri Tepper are great (I mean, at least until Tepper went off the deep end and started writing novels that implied men would be so much better if they were . . . women), but they are not the core of the genre. We can angrily declare that SF is so woman-friendly all we want, while women nod politely and bypass the SF section for the mysteries or the bodice rippers. Or we can try to convince them that they are making a tragic mistake, because what they are looking for in a romance novel or a good mystery can also be found in the SF section.

Lastly, at the big guy himself, a round-up of links about the reporting of economic news and who might be pushing the idea of recession for political purposes.

A recession is not a synonym for "a time when some people are hurting and there are worries about the economy," and dismissing efforts to keep the language straight as a reliance on technical mumbo-jumbo seems pretty weak to me. As I've noted in the past, there's plenty to worry about regarding the economy, and it's likely that -- despite all the talk about the "recession" we've allegedly been in for the past year or so despite positive economic growth -- the press is missing economic news that's worse than what it's been reporting. They certainly weren't ahead of the curve on Fannie Mae. Nonetheless, saying that it's a recession because you're worried about the economy is like demanding antibiotics because your child feels bad, without waiting for a diagnosis. People do it, but it's not smart. (links omitted)

He also gets the following emailed comment from a reader:

MORE: Reader Terrence McMahon emails:

"I would say that there are some segments of the overall economy that are in really bad shape. Housing and transportation definitely, and where I live, manufacturers of heavy steel items like automotive lifts and steel shipping containers. Mostly due to the price of fuel. However, unemployment is still low. In the rural area where I live, unemployment is well under the national average and right now, many manufacturers can't hire enough skilled workers.

"But try and remember back to the last real recession, how many people were standing in line to buy a $200 + cellphone with a two-year $100 per month contract attached? How about running out and buying a new TV, PC or laptop? How about a $50 videogame? I'm not going to say it didn't happen, but...

"And you may remember the last time there was a "gas shortage", gas stations actually ran out of gas. I drive all over the Mid-West and South for my job, I pay anywhere upwards of $4 for gas, but I haven't seen one "No Gas" sign. Think this is a bubble? I'll bet you the house I paid too much for.

I've been away.

I've been away. Away from home: had a lovely vacation in the Bay Area. The weather was perfect and I had some terrific food, including brunch at the Cliff House with a great view of Ocean Beach. All around a very relaxed and loving time with my other significant other.

I've been away from the intertubes, too. At home it's been too hot to sit in my den in the evenings and search out links to discuss; I've been parked on the couch with the tiny window air-conditioner blowing at the back of my head.

Away from knitting and many of my other regular pursuits, because the rotator cuff inflamation/tendonitis is still bothering me. I'm in regular treatment and progressing well; I see the orthopedist again tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Naked Sweaty Guy

Okay, he wasn't naked: pants. But no shirt, no shoes--we had a case of excited delirium in the building today. I wasn't there, but a co-worker was and said he tore an ATM that was in the wall apart with his bare hands and was throwing the pieces and a chair at a nearby glass wall. The police came about 10 minutes after he started and used a TAZER on him.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Peter Berg

Never again will I watch this man's films. Never.

We went to Hancock this evening and I had to leave the theater about an hour into the film because I was so motion sick and nauseated that I thought I was going to throw up. Almost the entire film is shot in "shaky-cam," the exceptions being a few set-up shots.

If this is artistic license, then feh on his artistic taste. There is no story-related reason for this film to be shot as if the camera man were being tossed on wild ocean waves--and frankly I don't think the technique added that much to the stories (Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield, for example) where it made sense within the context of the film (in both cases, the conceit was that the films were shot by a video-camera operated by one of the characters).

Avoid this film. Not only did the story suck, but you'll be hard pressed to tell because of the horrible camera work.

It's a basic staple.

From my other significant other, how mechanical pencils work. Cool!

Celebrating with sound

It's just dark enough here that people are starting to set off fireworks in my neighborhood. I can hear them. I can hear the sound of revolution coming from every direction. The little and large explosions remind me just enough of gunfire, of the shot heard 'round the world.

A week ago I was having a drink with some co-workers and mentioned the Heller decision. We started discussing the legal analysis in some depth and it became clear to them that I am a gun enthusiast. Then I was peppered with very specific questions about going to a range: do they just let you out there to shoot, or is there a safety class? Can you rent guns? After a few more questions and my reasonably long explanations I finally just volunteered to take them (two coworkers and their spouses) to the range sometime this summer.

The fireworks will go on tonight for at least another hour, maybe longer since it's a Friday. I don't mind. It's worth being kept up by the sounds celebrating freedom.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Today's find

A blog about underwater photography (both still and moving): water-blogged. Beautiful, incredible pictures!

Grief on Anniversaries

My mother's birthday falls this week; if she were alive, she would be turning 68. She'd be a great-grandmother and I know that would have thrilled her. I doubt we'd be speaking, though. Her illness and death freed me to forgive her and move on with my life, a lesson I have applied without necessity of death to other past relationships.

I don't miss her.