Saturday, August 06, 2005

Quote of the Day - August 6, 2005


- repeated line, 28 Days Later

I Sense a Pattern

So I finally saw The Machinist last weekend, since it kept coming up. I also rented Memento this weekend. I'd always meant to see it, and since Chris Nolan did such a good job with Batman Begins, I decided to go ahead and rent it. But while I was in the movie rental store today, I felt like watching a horror flick. And since Sluggy is doing a 28 Days Later parody (and, again, I'd always meant to see it), I decided to rent that in addition to Memento. The names on the box are actually the names of the people at the beginning of the movie that release the infection, then don't appear in the movie ever again. So imagine my surprise when I saw Scarecrow walking through the abandoned streets of London. And what's truly ironic about that is the reason I felt like seeing a horror movie is that I'm looking forward to seeing Red Eye in two weeks. I have to wonder - is my brain doing this to me on purpose? Will I start leaving myself post-its or tattooing my arms? It's freaky.

So, anyway, how about the movies? They were all good. 28 Days was best, followed by Memento, then The Machinist. Sluggy's parody is funnier than ever, now that I get most of the references. The Machinist and Memento both play with your mind very effectively. The two movies are actually amazingly alike. The protagonist in each movie suffers from an extreme condition (insomnia in the former, short-term memory loss in the latter) that are the result of a trauma in their life. I'm tempted to watch Memento backwards (DVDs make that relatively easy) just to see how well it flows (the movie tells the story backwards, by the way).

But while I consider Memento and The Machinist mystery-thrillers, 28 Days Later is pure horror. It starts out pretty standard, with the running away from "the infected" (they're not really zombies, because they're still alive, just very, very angry) and searching for a safe haven. But it starts to get more and more disturbing as time goes on. I'm frankly more frightened of the soldiers they run into than I am of the zombies. The Major needs a Section 8 right quick (I know it's England, but I don't know their term for it). I actually prefer the alternate ending. It's more along the lines of how I expected the movie to end. I understood what they were going for, but apparently most people didn't, so they went with the ending that was released to theaters. All in all, though, a well done genre film.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Sci-fi just gets no respect

Even as science fiction has gone more mainstream, it's still not getting the recognition that many feel it deserves. Now, the Oscars have managed to dole out a few non-special effects and make-up related awards the last couple of years. But television's awards, the Emmy's, remain allergic to the concept of science fiction as high-concept drama. It reminds me of the problem many of my English teachers seemed to have with science fiction. They were so obsessed with metaphor and social commentary and what-not, yet seemed incapable of recognizing that sci-fi had a greater capacity for metaphor and social commentary than another other genre.

I think that fact that sci-fi takes you to an unfamiliar place (in time or space) scares a lot of people away. The less familiar the environment and the people in it, the less appealing. Even Edward James Olmos, who stars in Battlestar Galactica, said that he would leave if they put aliens on the show. There's only so much "weirdness" some people can take. Take X-Men - part of what made the movie so successful was that it was made more realistic than the comic (insofar as a comic book movie can be realistic). My sister complained about the names. Then she saw the cartoon and realized it could have been much worse. People might have had a bit more trouble relating to Logan if he'd been wearing yellow spandex (yikes!).

But even as sci-fi film and television have gotten more down to Earth in some cases (Lost, Medium, etc), we are increasingly living in an unfamiliar world. What was true two years ago, or two months ago, may no longer be the case. We are used to feeling out of place in our own world, so we may also be more willing to feel out of place in a fictional world. At this point, the label "sci-fi" may be the only thing keeping people away from something they might otherwise enjoy. Call it a thriller or a mystery or a drama, then sneak in the sci-fi elements and those unfamiliar with sci-fi may not even realize what they're watching.

P.S. Dear Sci-Fi Channel, you're not helping. You fill your airways with utter junk that even fans of the genre can't watch. Just because you come up with the occasional gem does not mean you are capable determining what is good or true sci-fi and what is complete crap or simply not sci-fi. You were significantly better when you were a cash strapped independent cable network with an endless supply of shows that lasted less than a season on network tv. Just because you have the money to buy 20 B-minus horror movies about giant snakes doesn't mean you should. [/rant]

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Tubey Awards

It's time for the 2005 Tubey Awards over at TWoP. You have to be a registered poster to vote and, unfortunately, to even view the choices. But even if you don't want to bother with all that, some of the category names are fun in and of themselves (Best Performance by an Inanimate Object). There are a lot of categories (48, I believe). Some, I can't contribute to (Best Soap Opera). Some are straight forward (best talk show? Daily Show, yo!). Others are difficult to decide (it's harder than you'd think to choose a Best Sidekick). Voting ends Aug. 7. After that, I'm not sure how long it will be before they post results (which will be viewable by all, not just registered users). I seem to recall that last year took a while.

I Don't Follow Baseball

But you can't escape the news about Palmeiro. Achenblog has a parody of his denial. Harry suggests he get hold of some Clinton spin doctors.

Update: Here's a longer, more direct parody of Palmeiro's denial in today's Washington Post.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Quote of the Day - August 2, 2005

FOOLS! You spend your meaningless lives driving to and from your jobs. Abandon your vehicles and serve your new master!

- Scratch Fury, Destoyer of Worlds in today's Player vs Player

Scientists Say Hurricane Season Will Be Worse than Normal

It Must Be August

It's 10 pm and it's 82 degrees and humid outside. Traffic on the beltway was light at 5:30 this afternoon. Everyone but me is going on vacation next week. This is supposedly the best time of year to come to D.C. because no one is here. It's too hot and muggy for tourists and the locals are all on vacation. No one's home! Time to party!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Quote of the Day - August 1, 2005

You see Bob, it's not that I'm lazy, it's that I just don't care.

- Peter in Office Space

Cultural Reference Chains

My brain keeps making connections! Every time I hear a word or phrase, I’m reminded of a movie, a tv show, a song, a comic, a website, a book, an inside joke, or some other cultural reference. I’ve had disturbingly long conversations that jumped from one reference to another. As an example, see the following exchange that I saw in a chat room about seven years ago:

Do you bite your thumb at me, sir?
I bite my thumb, but not at your, sir.
It’s only a flesh wound!

Shakespeare to Monty Python! (I remember an exchange from a chat room 7 years ago, but I can’t remember my sunglasses. Jeez!) I’ve been trying to figure out how many references I can string together. Pairs are pretty easy:

…the important thing is that the future of *my* company is secure. Right, Mr. Fox?
Right you are, Mr. Wayne… Didn’t you get the memo?
Yeah. I got the memo. And I understand the policy. The problem is, I just forgot this one time. And I've already taken care of it so it's not even a problem anymore.

He’s dead, Jim.
I’m not quite dead yet.

Yes, we have no bananas. We have no bananas today.
Bananas! B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

If you run into oddly recurring themes, it’s easier to chain more together:

Devil bunny needs a ham.
There it is!
What? Behind the rabbit?
It is the rabbit!
*Ka-click* Time to die, nerd boy!

Why a spoon?
Because it’s dull, you twit. It’ll hurt more!
There is no spoon.

It’s somewhat more difficult to chain references together that have no words in common but have common themes or sound like they could be reasonable responses to each other.

Say hello to my little friend.
Hi! I’m Chucky! Wanna play?
Hi! I’m Talky Tina, and I’m going to kill you.

I could do this longer, but I need to at least pretend I’m trying to wind down for bed. So I pass the baton to my readers (I’ll probably add more as they come to me). See if you can do more than three. Rules? Er, you can't have quotes from the same movie/show/song/etc. right in a row (since they already have an obvious connection). Bonus points for having an actor respond to their own line in one reference with another from a different reference.

Air Conditioning

One of the books I am reading blames all kinds of technology for reducing the casual interaction present in a healthy, physical community. Cars, telephones, television, computers. They all allow us to physically distance ourselves from each other while still enabling us to communicate, but in a much more limited fashion. But he fails to recognized the technology that has done the most the drive people out of the common physical space and into their own private space: air conditioning.

Before air conditioning, people would venture out onto their porches to escape the heat and lack of air flow inside their homes. While there, they would see their neighbors doing the same thing. If you lived close enough to each other, you could sit on your respective porches and carry on a conversation. If not, you could at least see that your neighbors were taking a break from more productive matters and venture over for a chat. Isolating yourself in your house or in a single room within your house would be much less comfortable than sitting out on the porch where there was much more air flow, even if you were simply sitting still while watching television.

The most social dorm I lived in in college was an un-air-conditioned dorm. People would hang out in the hall to escape the claustrophobia of their own rooms. To cool off, we had to venture to public spaces like the dining hall or Wal-Mart. At the very least, “it’s too hot outside” was not an excuse to stay in.

Now, AC is easy to overlook as a deterrent to social interaction because, for one, it is not an inherently social technology. It does not transfer information or people from place to place. Also, AC has many health benefits (such as preventing heat stroke and death) that people would not give up simply because having the AC on when it’s 85 outside discourages them from going out on an otherwise nice day. The obvious immediate benefits far outweigh the indirect social detriment. But I have to wonder: if the AC in my building broke down, would I see more people out on their patios or down at the pool? As it is, people only seem to come out to see fireworks or find out which level music is being blasted from (right above me, but thankfully only on the weekends). Or maybe the building would simply be empty until an hour after sunset when the rooms would hopefully be cool enough to occupy. If the AC ever did break, I think I’d at least eat out a lot more. Cooking would just add to the heat.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Quote of the Day - July 31, 2005

Arthur: No offense.
Tick: None comprehended.

- pilot episode of The Tick (live action version)

Privacy in a Public Space

After the prominent role that surveillance cameras played in getting pictures of the terrorists responsible for the attacks on London, many people are asking if cameras are a good idea or if the price of invasion of privacy is too high. We forget that privacy in a public space is a new concept.

[old man voice]Back in the good old days,[/old man voice] when you knew your neighbors and your neighbors knew you and the local cops knew all the troublemakers, the only way to have privacy in a public space was if no one else was there. Otherwise, people you knew would see and recognize you, making you far less likely to do something regretful like steal a purse or dance a jig. There is a reason that the stereotypical small-town resident is suspicious of out-of-towners – they are used to knowing quite a bit about the people around them. Someone they don’t know is going to stand out. As opposed to larger communities and cities where the people you do know will stand out.

These days, it’s much easier to just get lost in a crowd. Even when you are surrounded by hundreds of people, in all likelihood, no one will notice you. Being anonymous often emboldens people to do things they might not do otherwise. Cameras now do what your neighbors use to – they recognize you.

The fear of these cameras, I think, comes partially from the centralization. It’s one thing for the guy at the 711 to have footage of you walking into his store (he saw you there anyway, right?). It’s another for the government to have footage from 200 cameras of you driving around town or walking down the street, no matter where you are within the camera’s network. But I am far more concerned about my credit being kept in a central database (or even two or three central databases) than I am about pictures of me and 5 million of my closest friends going to the mall being centralized. If someone wants to stalk me, there are far more efficient ways than breaking into the camera network. The camera records are not organized by who is in the frame. They are organized by location. When they start to organize by who is in the frame, I will then start to worry, because the purpose has changed from monitoring locations to monitoring individuals. (It’s different, by the way, for the cameras to recognize suspects and known criminals, because that’s what a cop would do if he were there. Tracking every citizen is impractical and goes outside the usual duties of law enforcement.)

My biggest problem with privacy these days is the lack of individual accountability. Organizations that have no vested interest in your well being have all kinds of information about you that you would never think of giving to a total stranger. If you find out that a company gave your phone number to a telemarketer (if you can even trace who gave your number to that telemarketer), you can’t call them up and say “Hey! What’d you do that for? That’s not nice!” And even if you do, they’ll spew something about privacy policies which default to “sell your information as we darn well please!” You should have opted out! Shouldn’t the default be “don’t sell my info”? Imagine if one of your friends had given your number to that telemarketer. Would you let them get away with that?

So, really, when it comes to privacy, a permanent record of my presence in a public place is far less disturbing to me than a lot of what already goes on. In my mind, cameras in public places don’t inherently take away any freedoms that I have (unlike having my pocket knife confiscated at the airport so I can no longer defend myself against hijackers who are bigger and stronger than me), but it does increase the ability to solve crimes after they have happened. The cameras could be abused if the government, say, used them to track down and arrest everyone who showed up to a protest. But that’s a violation of the constitutional right to assembly and free speech, so we’ll have much bigger problems if it comes to that.