Saturday, December 02, 2006

More Kanninens

Matt was married in some sort of ceremony that, quite frankly, didn't appear interesting enough to warrant a trip!

I mean, if you expect me to go all the way down to Los Angeles, there'd better be some kind of ritual animal combat. Personally, I'm partial to monkeys, but you know anything vaguely vertebrate would work.

At any rate, assorted congratulations to Matt and Sevina.

Friday, December 01, 2006

New Model Diary

Well, after a brief period of hesitation, I decided to click on the "update" thing. This blog is now subject to whatever the new features are.

Hopefully nothing implodes.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Alien lands and their strange holidays

Remember remember the 5th of November,
The Gunpowder, Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason
should ever be forgot.

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, 'twas his intent
to blow up the King and the Parliament.
Three score barrels of powder below,
Poor old England to overthrow:
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, make the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!
Hip hip hoorah!

P.S. Blogging, the reading of blogging and the commenting on said blogging, shall resume soon. Thank you for your paitence.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


I never quite know how to take a compliment. Praise triggers this bizarre discomfort, tempered though it may be by the joy of recognition, that I find very difficult to endure. Even off-hand or obligatory acclaim rarely passes without generating this most unlikely of sensations.

To be perfectly honest, I am not a modest person. While I think many people hold exaggerated views of my ego, it is admittedly of healthy dimensions. Securely am I certain in my abilities and even, though it is unbecoming to say so, my advantage over others. Daily is it reconfirmed (at least from my own somewhat circumspect position). I have faith in me, and perhaps it goes further than life has thus far born out. In any case, my aversion to compliments does not stem from some sort of self-revulsion.

When someone is kind enough to applaud my efforts or my person, I generally try to change the subject, or make a joke of it. I am happy, because indeed who does not warm to the touch of approval, but it is a shameful bliss that I shirk at the nearest opportunity. Whether other people find themselves presented with the same difficulty I don't know. If you don't, I suppose this all seems a little silly (or, maybe, a lot).

Monday, October 09, 2006

Focus Group

I have started a new blog for The Candidate. Should you have the inclination, please read it and leave any comments. Rest assured I do not seek merely acclamation of the masses, but rather I invite any questions or comments.

Now, there is a lot of text, so even if you are willing to read it, don't be a hero. Space it out.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

You can never have too many riding shotgun.

The descendents of Jesse James (direct or collateral I'm not exactly sure of) increased by one with the birth of a baby girl. Congratulations to Jackson and his family.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Did this in Caesar seem ambitious

I have always wanted to write a Shakespearian play. I love the language of Shakespeare, and it must be said I have never shied away from the opportunity to use big words. Still, something in me says that this desire is mere vanity, and even unbecoming at that. I suspect the results would be more tedious than anything else, and it could be that the entire format is one properly relegated to the Bard's own time.

Even so, I bet it would be fun.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Animal Cunning

Nature shows are some of my favorite television programs. Now, camping, hiking, and generally going outside hold little appeal for a lazy, allergy ridden, internet addicted man, and so I tend to spend very little time in the wilds. Even so, I personally have a vast and unbounded love of nature, but it is the kind of affection best practiced from afar. In fact, my principal participation comes in the form of animal documentaries.

While watching these programs, I am often struck by the fundamental difference found in animal thought and priorities, vis-a-vis people. To illustrate this contrast, I'll use an example I recently saw on Animal Planet.

A group of lions had managed to separate a buffalo from the herd and quickly pounced on it. After an epic struggle, the assembled lionesses managed to wrestle the beast to the ground and proceeded to administer those tender grips by which animals become food. As for the poor hamburger's friends, they stood around for a little while before eventually continuing on their way.

The thing is, if the buffalo actually help each other, then none of them would die. If the lions bring down one, the others could come charge in and save it. This has both short-term benefits, in saving the intended meal, and long-term too, by frustrating the feeding attempts of predators and driving them to starvation. Of course, many animals are incapable of this kind of planning. They simply roam around at their own leisure, their only concerns being food and personal (or, in some cases, familial) safety. Whether that is a better life than we have, or worse, I cannot say for certain. But the difference sure is amusing.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Temporarily It

The dictates of social convention require a short divulgement of relatively insignificant personality traits, followed by a subsequent assignment of like responsibilities on other candidates.

1. Horror and post-apocalyptic movies truly, sincerely scare me (I suppose that is one of the drawbacks of an overactive imagination), yet I just can't resist watching them.

2. I like blue drinks. On those rare occasions when I go drinking with friends and actually drink, I ask for "something blue".

3. My favorite Transformer is Soundwave, although Star Scream is a close second.

4. In a role-playing campaign I once game mastered, a character was executed for his own murder.

5. I carry a torch for Mira Sorvino. So much so that I'll actually watch The Replacement Killers if it shows up on TV.

Because I feel it is more in keeping with the spirit of the game, I am tagging people I do not know in "real life". Apologies.

SKY, Doug, Gurn, Moon Goddess, and Guruh are now "it".

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Inequity of Chromosomes II

I'd like to take this time to write a short exposition on how much it'd suck to be a girl. Now, I do not mean to imply with that statement those improper assertions of female inferiority, the maintenance of which is a disservice to both women and men, that have long plagued society. Rather, I conclude my entire premise solely on the made for TV movies on Lifetime.

I suppose some readers may be wondering what I am doing watching Lifetime. I assure you it is simply because that's the network that shows Frasier (However, were I inclined toward Lifetime generally, I would be secure enough in my masculinity to admit it). When the object of my interest lapses in favor of commercial advertisement, I am subjected to the network's programming notifications.

As a man, my television requires nothing other than explosions and women. Although I may decry the results of pandering to such a common denominator, at least it must be said that male television is entertaining. But what's more, it's empowering. The subjects and characters in our television are dynamic, energetic, and confident.

Women's television, on the other hand, is just as shallow but tends to rely on the weakness of the audience. Lifetime's inane offerings have titles like She stole my family, My unfaithful husband, or A child's ransom. The closest thing you get to active characters are battered women who finally rise up and kill their oppressor. To make matters worse, the remaining commercials on Lifetime are an endless succession of cleaning agents, laundry detergents, and culinary implements. Women are shown brought to the heights of ecstasy by the opportunity to use a new vacuum cleaner.

It is not my intention at this time to rail against the status of gender stereotypes. Certainly they are unfair and troubling, but they are also beyond the scope of any single post or even (to be perfectly honest), my general interest. However, I feel it appropriate to commiserate with women everywhere (at least, everywhere where they are subject to Lifetime) the pathetic offerings that make up their television networks.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pointless Factoid XVII

The calculation of the digits of Pi is a method occasionally used to test the capabilities of computers.

Another fun fact about Pi, since learning of the concept in whatever grade of school I was in, I have yet to ever encounter any situation where that knowledge was of any degree of relevance.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


I think that's the only word that adequately describes my condition over the last few days. However, I seem to have turned a corner and am generally feeling better. More of my particular brand of irreverent irrelevance later.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Little Favors

To preserve the sanity of my readers as well as the commentary of an issue of importance, I have made this "throw-away" post for people to indulge in their reciprocal commenting obligations. If you would like to read my long diatribe on torture, you are more than welcome, and to comment as well. But if you would rather avoid the novelette, I have provided this alternative.

Like a Seinfeld episode or The Crying of Lot 49, there's nothing to this post, but even I cannot be insightful all the time.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

A Protestation on the Nature and Uses of Torture

A few days ago, President Bush admitted the existence of secret CIA-run prisons. "Secret" is, of course, more a description of their ideal rather than actual status, knowledge of their operation having been fairly common for some time now. Accompanying this admission was a stout defense of the institutions and the "tough" interrogation tactics used by CIA personnel. These revelations were met with pretty much the sort of responses you would expect, acceptance or rejection according to one's political proclivities. It should come as no surprise that I have an opinion on the matter too, but I hesitate to discuss the matter.

Politics has always represented something of a problem for me, at least on the internet. Every time I feel like discussing some current event, I must overcome this peculiar falling sensation. You see, political discussions online seem to me nothing other than a vast abyss, a deep void of unimaginable depth. Like a black hole, once you've been caught, there's no escape. I could see myself become consumed with argument and counter-argument, although the reality is that such substantive communications are likely the minority in a field that almost assuredly reduces down to strawmen and insults. Thus it is with great reluctance that I occasionally make political posts.

Having temporarily overcome my hesitation, I choose to take this opportunity to denounce the secret prison program. I do so for substantive, moral, and legal reasons, though ever cognizant of the possible dividends to be gained through such constructions.


Torture is something of a buzz word right now. The left wields it like a club, swinging away from a moral high ground reduced to a mole hill through cynical political opportunism. The right's position is far hazier. Although they always begin with a disclaimer denouncing torture, conservatives tend to defend it in principle with a variety of arguments, ranging from accusations that liberals would "coddle" terrorists to apocalyptic prognostications resulting from it's rejection. I highly doubt that few Republicans would be willing to criticize the administration even were it revealed that there was wide-spread and officially sanctioned acts of depraved brutality.

This suspicion stems from the fact that all of the conservative rhetoric on "tough interrogation tactics" applies equally to torture (and indeed it is not quite clear that the aforementioned inquisitorial activities are not torture). Thus, in order to reasonably reject the prison system, one must reject torture. But is that really such a good idea? I think so, and I shall endeavor to illustrate why it is the only rational, moral, and strategically sound decision.

Why We Torture

November 23rd seemed like any other day. Difficulties both foreign and domestic catapult the Democrats to Election Day successes, wrestling control of both Congressional Houses from the Republicans. Liberal celebrations are cut short, however, by the news of a nuclear blast in the port city of Los Angeles. Hundreds of thousands confirmed dead, millions injured, and California's largest city reduced to radioactive rubble.

This is the doomsday scenario. It features prominently in every single conservative defenestration of torture and abuse, and resides deep within the heart of every American too (that's what makes it such a good political tool). If we knew of such a plot, and we knew we had someone in custody who could reveal its inner workings, wouldn't we be justified in forcing the revelation through torture?

Realistically speaking, there can be only one answer. Of course, if you knew, and the decision was one person against thousands or millions, the only choice lies in the preservation of the group. As Vulcan logic long ago illustrated, "the needs of the many outweighed he needs of the few, or the one." By such arithmetic, there really is no other conclusion. And I use arithmetic purposefully, for it would then be a simple matter of mathematics; as in math, there would be only one solution to the equation. Given this assertion, how can I maintain hostility to torture?

To begin with, we will never actually know. We may suspect with degrees of confidence, but utter certainty will always evade us. This is true in everything that we do; all human events are subject to unforeseen vicissitudes. We have a word for that. It's called risk. When we accept torture, we will do so not with the comforting absolution of necessity, but the far more dubious justification of the possible. Of course, one could imagine probabilities so probable as to be virtually inevitable, and one would also have to allow that more latitudes are appropriate where there is more risk. And therein lies the trap.

Suppose instead of certainty, we had but a one-percent or even perhaps only a fraction of a percent of uncovering a nuclear plot. It would not be acceptable to torture someone for shoplifting revelations under such conditions, but nuclear devastation is another matter. So we apply the most abusive coercions with the least justification, or maybe even none at all, absolved by the magnitude of the threat.

It should shortly become obvious that this line of reasoning eventually vindicates any efforts, no matter how cruel or depraved, so long as the expected evil is sufficiently menacing. It would not take long before torture sustained the use of torture, and all the ills we feared from others we visit upon ourselves.

Frail Constitution

Loathed though we may be to admit it, there is a certain degree of comfort in the belief that torture would be limited to a distant and hostile people, burdened by primitive cultures and characterized by a barbaric religion. Please note that neither of those two things are true, but in the minds of many (but thankfully, not most) Americans, abuses committed on Arabs, especially aggressive Arabs, are no great crimes. Unfortunate, regrettable to be sure, as we are not a cruel people, but if necessary then so be it.

However, not only is this position morally bankrupt even were it accurate, but the arbitrary dividing line between foreign and domestic would quickly dissolve. Only two categories would remain after the inauguration of atrocity: Convicted and suspected.

Democracy is a frail thing. Despite our modern sentiments, a quick review of history reveals that security and not liberty has ever been the great concern of the masses. People purchase security through expediency, and abstract niceties like Due Process are quickly discarded in favor of more comforting paradigms. Already the Constitution withers before the oppressive sun of secret warrants, military tribunals, and illegal detention.

American citizens have been held for long periods, deprived of rights, refused the presence of counsel, and imprisoned without recourse to the judicial process. Executive fiat has become a law onto itself, buttressed in equal part by a compliant Congress and an effective trade in the currency of public apprehension. For now these travesties are the exception of an otherwise laudable rule. But how long would the Bill of Rights, for all their majesty nothing more than ink and paper, stand against the claims of necessity?

The acceptance of torture is nothing other than the acclamation of tyranny. The end may come by small steps or great bounds, but our democratic heritage will not survive the enthronement of atrocity.

Poor Dividends and Unfortunate Externalities

Finally, as if the self-expanding and tyrannical implications of torture were not bad enough, we are also faced with the fact that it is an implement of dubious strategic value.

Torture, by its very nature, produces extreme stresses on a person. The target may hold out for a time, subject to his nature and conditioning, but eventually everyone breaks. The thing is, "breaking" someone does not always produce the best results. In their desperate attempt to avoid further pain, a tortured subject will provide both what he knows and what he thinks his interrogator wishes to hear.

Both true and lie, having proceeded from the same coercion, wear the same shroud of reliability. That is, either high for you believe that a broken man would not lie, or else low, as you suspect that he may simply be squealing to save himself. In neither case is one piece of "intelligence" more worthy than the other, unless you have at hand other sources. If you have such alternatives, then the reliability increases somewhat (subject, of course, to their own confidence), but still remain suspect. And in their absence, what you have may be no more valuable than the musings of a high school cheerleading squad.

As if the questionable reliability of torture were not enough, such indulgences do not sit well with a substantial portion of Americans and an even greater percentage of foreigners. Every abusive revelation makes it that much harder to deal fairly with those Arabic countries who wish for a more peaceful way. Each outrage fans the flames of global terrorism, likely producing far more dangers than you ever prevented in the first place. The acceptance of human degradation here also makes it harder for us to impose moral authority on bankrupt and cruel regimes abroad.

However, disdain for Americans will not be limited merely to our enemies. Our allies too have profound misgivings of our activities, and our methods. Some may say we don't need anyone else, and that might or might not be true. However, certainly it would be easier to protect ourselves with the cooperation of others. Safety, that great enabler which first led us to the atrocious expedient, is not furthered by the alienation of allies.

Finally, many Americans oppose torture. They are just as patriotic as their more aggressive countrymen, and perhaps more so, as they stand for the proposition that a society is to be judged not only in how it treats its own, but in how it treats others. We are heirs to a great democratic tradition of individual liberty, restricted governance, and guaranteed protections. Acquiescence to this malevolent proposition tarnishes our legacy forever, leaving us with less to protect and less to pass on.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Veni, Vidi, Vici

This last weekend I was at the Conquest gaming convention in Burlingame. These conventions always completely floor me, as four consecutive days of little sleep, poor nutrition, and constant activity prove very draining. However, the experience is always pleasant and I look forward to their occasional though regular occurrence.

Over the length of the con I participated in a myriad of games, portraying everyone from the King of Prussia to a juvenile knife-wielding cannibalistic sociopath (roles not entirely dissimilar). My efforts met with a mixture of success and failure, but were in all instances entirely enjoyable.

An unfortunate side-effect, however, is this distorted sleep schedule. I slept for almost 24 hours after returning from the convention, and the rest of the week has labored under this unfortunate externality. Sleep comes at odd times, when at all, exasperating a problem I have long dealt with. My waking hours are of little more value, as a general malaise drains both energy and enthusiasm, coloring even simple tasks with the most oppressive shades of difficulty. That is, in fact, the reason for the dearth of posts this last week. However, I can do little else but ride it out. Guess I'll have something more to say then.

P.S. Lest you think I have forgotten you, I shall resume my ordinary diligence in tracking the various minutiae all of you see fit to post about on your own blogs, and respond to any comments any of you might have regarding my own trivialities later.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The volume of an irregular object

Over the last few days, I took the opportunity to catch up on Eureka, a new show on SciFi. I had previously seen the pilot and, having been sufficiently amused, fully intended to follow up with the regular episodes.

For those unfamiliar with the series, the premise centers around a down to earth sheriff charged with policing a small town populated by super geniuses. Everyone in Eureka is connected in one way or another to Global Dynamics, a huge secret research company filled with bizarre high tech projects that cause problems on a weekly basis. And it's the main character's job to try and restore order after something blows up.

My initial opinion was favorable but ultimately uncommitted. I would have watched and been entertained, but it didn't seem like the show would lay claim to any genuine affection. The third episode changed that, turning me into a full fledged fan. Specifically, there is this scene about two-thirds the way through where the protagonist confronts the villian with owning the following impliment:

"A wormholing, time bending, invisiblying device that shields you from the mind."

As far as I'm concerned, this is the best show SciFi has produced since Farscape. If you have a few hours to waste and either good TV channels or an internet connection, I fully recommend giving it a look see.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Well, I ordered a new laptop to replace the one that was stolen. Last time I bought a Sony Vaio. It was an adequate machine, but large and clunky, and the fan developed this annoying squeaking sound somewhat reminiscent of an asthmatic rodent.

This time I went with a Dell Inspiron. I upgraded the video card, screen, and RAM. Then, when I made an innocent query regarding the student discount for SCU students, the helpful sales associate person further enhanced my prospective purchase with a DVD burner and some Bluetooth thing. I don't even really know what Bluetooth is exactly, but now I can use it.

In the end I spent a little more than I wanted to, but with my student discount I ended up getting a much better machine than would have otherwise been within my limited means.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The time value of money

Warning: This post contains examples of misused economic terms and concepts. Those sensitive to the proper construction of financial principles would be advised to skip this entry.

I recently received an email from a user regarding a comment I left on a third user's blog. The letter was somewhat irate, in which I was accused of committing certain heresies against the orthodox of money and it's relationship to happiness. Below is my original comment, reproduced in full, from Purple Haze.

I think the evidence is pretty clear. Money can't buy you happiness. And yet, it seems obviously true that the more you have, the more likely you will be happy.

Money is an enabler. The ultimate enabler, in fact, at least in a capitalist society. Money allows you to do the things you want, or avoid those you'd rather do without. It converts actual time to personal time, real time to free time.

If you can't be happy with money, that speaks volumes about who you are as a person, but it doesn't say anything bad about money.

Just so there is no misunderstanding, I do not believe that money can itself guarantee happiness. Nor do I assert that rich people are necessarily thrilled with life. You can be poor and ecstatic, you can be loaded and miserable. Money is an it, a thing, a possession. It doesn't make anyone do anything. It can't make you happy, nor can it force sadness on you.

However, it is also undeniable that money plays a big role in most of our lives, and the inability to manage it or put it into proper perspective can lead to big problems, and that was the point of my comment. As I said, money is an enabler. It allows you to do things, and the more money you have the more options are available. But it does more than that.

Money is power, and with it you can reduce opportunity costs and limit unpleasant externalities. Financial means allows you to manage your time according to your inclinations, by providing alternative solutions to annoying but necessarily problems. After all, many rich people don't clean their own homes, and they convert the time that would be spent into other pursuits. This then brings me to my comment's second conceit.

If you are rich enough to where you can choose how to spend your time and you aren't happy, that is an indication of a serious deficiency. Where the fault lies would differ with each person, of course, but it should be manifestly obvious that someone relieved of financial concerns has a significant leg up in the pursuit of happiness.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The limitations of unfocused ambitions

I have taken away one lesson of principle importance from my screenwriting class yesterday, and that is my own woeful inability to meet my artistic expectations. That is not necessarily very surprising; it was only the first class. Still, I cannot escape this persistent, if pessimistic, sensation of impending failure. The problem, you see, is dialogue.

Screenwriting had always held two great interests. First, I had hoped that the firm structure would help focus my often disparate aspirations. And second, crafting dialogue and conveying the nature of a person through their words has always seemed like an engaging challenge.

My estimations of the genre's dimensions have proven accurate, but my particular talents may not be well suited to the task. I find myself extremely dissatisfied with my varying efforts constructing conversations. The words just feel stilted or artificial, the characters far from engaging. In large part, I blame my own writing style.

Some people are kind enough to remark favorably on my literary endeavors, and I think it within the bounds of respectable modesty to admit that I harbor some degree of pride in my writing. Even so, my voice does not seem well suited to that of others. This style that now characterizes my composition, for whatever pleasant particularities may arise in prose, has not carried over into dialogue.

I do not write as people speak. I don't even write as I speak. In fact, my own conversation is marked by nothing as cumbersome, nor as when it may arise, as elegant, as comes from my pen. How this happened I'm not quite sure, but it is now a matter of some frustration.

Of course, it is not necessarily a fatal defect, the application of aberrant discourse. Some of my favorite movies and television shows are stocked full of characters unusually and perhaps even impossibly erudite. So if it were simply a matter of big words or clever phrases, I should be okay. Unfortunately, my limitations are somewhat less forgiving.

Aside from any inability to actually write in the manner the genre demands, I also seem to suffer from a distinct lack of concept. Everyone else has apparently entered the class with some long cherished storyline. Although they naturally vary according to the talents and dedication of the authors, the best offerings are wonderfully intricate, and bring my own inadequacies into stark focus.

I knew, coming into this, that I would have a lot of work ahead of me. But to be perfectly honest, I had not expected to be so completely unprepared. Perhaps my own expectations were unrealistic, and certainly it would not require the fulfillment of standards to which I hold myself simply to pass (although the grade and credits are in every way irrelevant). However, I first took this class in order to satisfy my own artistic desires. Now that I am faced with the possibility of failure, in personal if not absolute terms, I cannot help but regret the enterprising inclination that led me to try in the first place.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Somewhat more organized than before

I have now included a categories section in my sidebar, and have begun the process of organizing my posts. Most of them have been included in one or more of the listed divisions.

Unfortunately, the blogger tools themselves don't allow for any easy way to achieve this degree of categorization. If anyone wants to know how I did it, see the guide here.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Sometimes you wonder if you're doing the right thing, then God sends you a sign and everything is clear again

My family recently received an invitation to a wedding reception. The sister of one of my brother's childhood friends is getting married, and though the ceremony is occurring in Washington, they made the gesture of sending us an invitation. Nice enough, by most standards I suppose, and yet I have it in me to be offended. For you see, there's a reason why the invitation is to the reception alone.

The people in question are Mormons, and the unelect are not permitted to sully the actual sacrament with their presence. As if that weren't offensive enough, they then expect others to happily attend a celebration of a union inaugurated in, if not quite defined by, the exclusion of otherwise valued friends and associates on the basis of religion. For my own part, I think it represents a particular lack of shame to slap people in the face and then invite them in for booze and a buffet so they can toast to your good health.

Although I am ever aware of my good fortune to have reached such a state, these occurrences make me feel even better about my atheism. I should not like to turn this post into a polemic against Mormonism or religion in general (topics for another time), and I deny nobody their right to choose their own associations along such lines as they may feel prudent.

Even so, I can't help but feel at every turn the vindication of compassionate reason. The test should rely on the humanity of a person's beliefs, not their form. A test the high-minded monothiesms seem to fail in proportion to their ability to influence social policy.

When someone's religion or politics offend me, they do so not because they use unleavened bread in the Eucharist or because they think Ann Coulter actually represents someone with the semblance of intelligence and respectability. The manner in which people choose to believe, although it often expresses itself in ways I personally find curious or amusing, is in the end irrelevant. It's what you do with those beliefs.

If you use them to abuse or degrade others, that's when I object. When, as is so often the case, they allow the expression of vile and hateful sentiments cloaked within the auspice of true revelation, it is not merely proper but right and even necessary that they are challenged. In a just world, they will not stand such scrutiny. In ours, it remains to be seen.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Spectator Sports

Although I do not indulge in the ostentatious resuscitation of former and impending disasters that has become cable news, nonetheless I endeavor to remain abreast of current events. So it is that I, like the rest of America, am aware that someone by the name of John Karr has confessed to the 1996 murder of JonBenet Ramsey.

Leaving aside the specifics of this particular case, I am left wondering at what point individual tragedy became a spectator sport. There have always been violent people. I'm sure back in caveman times, there must have been a Cro-Magnon by the name of Grog who just couldn't deal with the stress of the daily hunt and decided to take his stone club to a few of his subterranean neighbors.

But although there have always been violent people, has there always been a market for this narrative, or are we just more degenerate than our predecessors? I admit I do not know the answer, though I suspect the reality is that our means simply provide us with a way to fulfill and even exceed our macabre interests to a degree unimagined by previous generations. Either way, violence on this scale, although undeniably unfortunate, should not be the subject of national interest.

To be sure, I do not mean to belitte the death of another human being. But really, nothing involving Scott Peterson or OJ Simpson or John Kerr is the least bit relevant to my life. National news should not become the aggregation of personal loss. It is a disservice to us, yes, and to the victims as well, who do not deserve to have their own grief aired for public examination.

Not only isn't it the proper subject upon which to focus national attention, but this fascination with individual incidents stems, I suspect, from voyeuristic and degenerate impulses. Unfortunately, we live in a society where the loss of life, although far from trivial, is nonetheless accepted. These reports serve to titillate, not to inform. They provide details, unnecessary and preferably intimate, their value increasing in relationship to their extremity.

Tragey is a spectator sport now. Popular, lucrative too, and completely unworthy of a humane society.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

It was a dark and stormy night...

Earlier this evening I met with a woman, Gina, and together we resembled a writing group. I had answered her post on Craigslist, and to my surprise, something actually came of it. Not that Craigslist isn't a useful venue, because it is, but most of the people on there are either flakes or in the grips of some severe psychosis.

In any case, we met at a Starbucks in Mountain View, traded stories and comments, and an hour later resolved to meet again. I thought the encounter was pleasant, entertainment and personal improvement rarely go together so conveniently. It was originally my hope that a writing group will help provide the focus and reinforce my flagging enthusiasm, and though I feel no overwhelming urge to grab my pen and craft the Great American Novel, I think it likely at least that this collaboration will result in more and better literature.

The five best dramas you aren't watching, Vol 2: Comedy

A few weeks ago I commended to your attentions a selection of Japanese dramatic television programs. I know, in all likelihood, that nobody bothered to give them anything more than a moment's notice, if even that much. But that's okay. I remain unfazed, and in a triumph of enthusiasm over experience, present this second volume.

Even more than romance, comedy relies on the personal outlook and experiences of the audience to make its connections. We all expect more or less the same things from a romance, but humor knows few such commonalities. It has its conventions, but they can only go so far. To connect with an audience, you have to be funny in a particular way. In order to satisfy some, you have to neglect others.

Thus it is with that preamble, as a sort of warning, I now present the five best comedic Japanese television series you aren't watching. As always, your milage may vary.

The five shows are presented in no particular order, again without syllabi for the same reasons I outlined in Volume One. However, I can furnish a synopsis upon request, and am more than happy to answer any questions regarding the attainment or utilization of these works.

1. Odoru Daisousasen (Police investigation headquarters)

2. Great Teacher Onizuka

3. Dekichatta Kekkon (Shotgun Marriage)

4. Wedding Planner

5. Kisarazu Cats Eye

Honorable Mention:

101 kaime no puropozu (101st Proposal): This show requires a little more appreciation of Japanese character conventions. People unfamiliar with the show will find the main character pathetic (as intended) but may not find the humor.

Densha Otoko (Train Man): Not that I didn't find it funny, because I did, but the main character and the female lead are both a little too generic for me. It's like they took all the cliches and piled them into one show. Also, as with 101st proposal, the characters (especially the men) require some degree of acceptance of Japanese mores. Still, quite amusing.

Omiai Kekkon (Arranged Marriage): This show is very funny, but the unavailability of any copy even resembling adequate video quality with English subtitles relegates this series to the Honorable Mention category.

Gokusen: Because I already included one school show (Great Teacher Onizuka), I decided to skip this one. Personally, I think they are pretty much interchangeable, although I liked some of the film schticks and the soundtrack in Gokusen a lot.

Lunch no Joou (Lunch Queen): A little formulaic, this is one of those shows where everyone falls for the vulnerable yet fiercely independent female lead. However, the cast and the writing can usually keep you from noticing the cookie cutter outlines.

Sutaa no Koi (A Star's Love): Going from a little formuliac to out-right hackery, Kusanagi Tsuyoshi and the rest of the San Marco Ham staff pull out such wonderful performances that you don't mind coming along.

Most of these shows can be downloaded for free, along with their subtitles, at D-Addicts, the rest from Japan-TV.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Who even has time for anything like Civil Liberties anymore?

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

- Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution

Who has time for a little thing like civil liberties? Well, according to this article, not the Secretary of Homeland Security. In asserting the need to expand police powers for the War on Terror, Secretary Chertoff states that "It's not like the 20th century, where you had time to get warrants."

Hooray for progress, I suppose.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

I am the very model of a Holy Roman Emperor

I have information vegetable, animal, and mineral.


Just got back from playing Here I Stand, a six-player wargame made by GMT. I took the role of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain too, as if either one weren't good enough. After a grueling struggle, I can say with pride that I kept the Turks at bay, humbled France, and put the heretics in their place. All in all, I was quite the enlightened despot.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Whore of Blogylon

Am I the only one who thinks those Adsense bars are a little ridiculous? To my mind, they mar an otherwise excellent format for personal expression, a brash bourgeois intrusion into otherwise thoughtful narratives. Whenever I see one, I always wonder what the blogger was thinking when he or she signed up.

Now, I am the first one to admit that if I believed there was real money in it, I should abandon my artistic integrity and proudly peddle links of dubious utility. And of course, something is always better than nothing, especially since in this case the "cost" is somewhat ephemeral, and indeed to some perhaps non-existent. It is easy to put sign up for AdSense, and it's burdens are actually quite slight.

If it made me any money that would be more than I had before, and I would seem none the worse for it. However, I think in a real sense there would be a price to be paid for free money. I do not intend to criticize anyone who may employ AdSense, after all it's their blog to do with as they will, but I can't help but think that the pittance they offer is an insufficient incentive to become a tool of commercial advertising.

Relatively harmless, if somewhat demeaning, AdSense may be. Unfortunately, some other people have chosen less innocuous forms of advertising revenue. I hate to encounter pop-ups of any kind, and I have yet to encounter any truly malicious, but there are many blogs that trigger these unprovoked windows. Some of these ads contain brutal, vicious viruses or worms. Others, maybe, "merely" annoying adware.

But there is an injury even aside from technological inconveniences. I know it might seem strange, but I have it in me to be personally offended at the attempted usurpation of my attentions. After all I think I should be free to govern for myself the advertising content I consider. Each precocious pop-up just makes me want to leave the place that much sooner.

Of course, it should go without saying that the standards differ depending on whether the site in question is personal and professional. But even commercial sites, in my opinion, would do well to craft less obtrusive advertisements.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Revelation in the face of oncoming traffic

Previous posts have documented a sense of general discontent that permeates my current existence. This despondency seems, on the outside, somewhat odd, especially given my systematic efforts to avoid anything resembling work - even as to such tasks as might suit my talents and disposition. Sloth and procrastination are two of my more able skills, yet it seems I may have honed them too sharply.

However, the next six months promise changes even I cannot evade. The imminent completion of law school, and the (hopefully) ensuing bar success brings my future into sharp focus. A legal education is not cheap, and I even have some loans from my undergraduate studies. These obligations promise to serve as the defining characteristics of my financial and professional realities for the foreseeable future.

I have avoided facing them so long as I could, an act of childish self-absorption I know, yet for all I aspire to reason and maturity, so characteristic as to be cliche. Completion of law school triggers a temporary grace period, after which my loans require repayment and my options diminish from a spectacular host of the possible to the cruel reality of the necessary.

Let it not be said, though, that I am completely hopeless. This term, in addition to my legal studies (which, I should say, have never received from me the proper attention they deserve) I have enrolled in Screenwriting at a local community college, and expect to enroll in a Digital Video class at the UC Extension, contingent on financing. These are fields that have always captivated my interests, and I've long intended to consider them in a more formal and professional setting.

I do this without expectation that it will save me from forty years of legal toil, a prospect of little joy but free, at least, from dread. Neither my beginning screenwriting class nor my introduction to digital filming will result in anything other than amateurish pretension. But that's okay. I am doing this for myself, and finally too, action brought on by the uncomfrotable revelation of impending fates. Nobody knows what the future holds, but if I am consigned to a life of unfulfilled hopes, I should not want the failure to have been one of mere effort.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Pointless Factoid XVI

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The Standard Deviation is the average distance of any set of values from a mean. It's also a fairly middling blog that sucks the life out of its readers one post at a time.

Image courtesy of SDSU, used without permission but with much admiration.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Doctor, doctor, Mr. MD, can't you see what's ailing me?

I can't believe Doctor Phil has his own television show. I can't believe companies pay money for ad space during that inane hour, and I can't believe people actually watch. Yet all those things are true, and I am left baffled. What is it exactly that people see in that bloated sack of insipid pontification? Do they like that he "confronts" people? Is it simply the "suck it up, loser" tone? Or is he, for some, a figure of genuine insight?

It is the easiest thing in the world to tell others what they should do. This is because most tough decisions are really quite easy, objectively speaking. When weighing the alternatives and the costs, recognizing the proper choice is often a small matter. If you don't have the pay consequences yourself, it is easy to tell someone else what they should do. And this speaks to the heart of the matter. It isn't figuring out which choice is the right one that's tough, it's sticking to your guns and paying the price.

That's my problem with people who, like Dr. Phil, become rich celebrities by peddling easy answers. It's a simple matter to tell someone else to suck it up and get off the couch, but actually doing it is much harder (judging by his own physique, the good doctor has some experience in this).

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Life through the rear-view mirror

I am often surprised by the cavalier disregard for the past people are given to express after a life changing experience. Encapsulating this attitude is the statement "I have no regrets". I don't understand what this means, or at least, I don't see how it could be true. A critical step in any irrevocable alteration, the curious boast seems to me little more than denial.

I lead an easy life. Although, in no sense of the term, financially endowed, still I lack for no necessities and am even able to pursue my hobbies with few restrictions. I like who I am, for the most part, and many of the decisions I have made seem to be right, or at least right for me. In short, I'm doing okay. And yet still, I have many regrets.

In fact, it seems to me that life itself is little more than the aggregation of regrets, and triumphs too, interest compounded from the choices we have made. The story of our lives told, in black ink or red, each entry one path over the other. To do one thing, we must neglect another. Opportunity costs and time eventually foreclosed some routes forever.

Already at the age of twenty-six (which I know to be no great achievement, but it is the only age I can be) I feel the weight of my regrets. Personal, professional, intellectual. Who I am. How I treat others. Where I am going. Even so, my discontent is not general, but specific. It has less to do with how things are now than how I got here, and what it cost me along the way.

Some of these disappointments may stay with me my whole life. Others might fade over time. Perhaps a few will make a better person out of me. Certainly they contribute to the eclectic host of talents, beliefs, and faults that consist this one man. In the end, I do not bemoan my fate.

I like who I am.

But I wonder if I could have been better. Better to myself maybe, or perhaps to others. Better not financially or professionally (which for me means scholastically), although those would be fine improvements too, but better in the sense that I had done more with what I had, or given more to others. I have my regrets, and they are as much a part of me as my jubilations. I have them, I keep them, at times I even brood upon them, and I have no regrets about that.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The five best dramas you aren't watching, Vol 1: Romance

In my spare time, I help subtitle Japanese television shows into English with Japan-TV. Now, I don't actually speak Japanese (although I seem to be learning some through osmosis). What I do is take the rough translations and transform it into something resembling the King's English. It can be a difficult job at times. Much depends on the quality of the translator's work, but even with an excellent translation, the editor (me) still has a hard road ahead.

Always there is the balance between strict accuracy and elegance. If the subtitles are flat and unimpressive, that will weigh against the show, no matter how compelling the acting or setting. But at the same time, the desire to draft dialogue has to adhere to the responsibility to convey the original work as accurately as possible. Anything else would be disrespectful. it is a constant challenge, but an engaging one.

Like American television, most of these shows are mediocre at best. They adhere to their own conventions with all the slavish devotions to cliche and cheap laughs of a Friends or otherwise intellectually and artistically bankrupt sit-com. But, as also with American television, there are the gems too. The following are a list of five shows I heartily recommend to anyone.

Even if you aren't a fan of Japanese media, or if you aren't yet familiar with any of it (although an increasing number of people are becoming familiar at least with anime, in some cases even if they don't know it), these shows stand on their own merit. As is their custom, each of these shows comprise 10-12 one hour episodes, so the entire show can be seen with a relatively slight investment.

I have listed them in no particular order, and I have posted a link to where they can be found. I have not included a synopsis, partialy because I didn't like how any of the ones I drafted turned out (it's early here and I'm tired) and partialy because I'm lazy. I'll be happy to answer any questions about them though, including how to get them and how to play them. If anyone asks for a specific synopsis then at some point I'll try and write one up. You can find some descriptions at Japan-TV or Jdorama, but they are often very poorly written, especially the ones at Jdorama.

1. Slow Dance Download it at D-Addicts.

2. Long Vacation Download it at Japan-TV.

3. Beautiful Life Download it at Japan-TV.

4. Tokyo Love Story Download it at D-Addicts.

5. Meguri Ai Download it at D-Addicts.

Honorable Mention:

Kimi Wa Petto I contemplated including this with the top five, but it isn't really a romance per se, more a character study of people with emotional walls of varying difficulty. The premise is a little absurd, but it serves to allow for development that would otherwise be impossible. A good, strong show.

Orange Days I didn't like it quite as much as it seems others did. It was alright, but a little formulaic for me. In my opinion, the cast's popularity accounted for more of the show's success than its actual merits.

Moto Kare It has a good cast and a good premise, but it devolved quickly into one big cliche after another. The character of Makoto, and her portrayal by Hirosue Ryoko (Ryoko Hirosue) were the highpoints of the program. Worth a watch, but it starts slow and ends flat, with only a good middle to sustain it.

Anego Not so much a romance as a search for romance show, the main character was engaging, but there just wasn't enough going on to merit a true endorsement, and one of the sideplots was kinda dumb and took a long time to resolve.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Somehow I doubt that

Slow and Steady

Your friends see you as painstaking and fussy.

They see you as very cautious, extremely careful, a slow and steady plodder.

It'd really surprise them if you ever did something impulsively or on the spur of the moment.

They expect you to examine everything carefully from every angle and then usually decide against it.

Is it just me, or do these quiz things rarely if ever actually describe you? Of course, it could be that they capture you perfectly, but by failing to reflect the person you'd like to think you are, they disappoint. Either way, I'm pretty sure this one missed the mark.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Who are you, and what the hell are you doing here?

Way back in February of 2005, Carol left the following comment:

Your website is very interesting. You appear to be a very deep thinking person. What the heck does someone like you enjoy about a "mommy blog"?

As it happens, I'm actually just an exceedingly shallow thinking person, but the vast array of subjects I touch on provides the illusion of depth. Don't tell anyone though. In any case, it is her question rather than her appraisal that forms the basis of this post.

What the hell was I doing on your blog when I posted a comment?

Blogs fascinate me. I like to read them. There are many things in this world I will never get to experience for myself, and what's more, anything I do encounter I can only do as myself. For all the class, intelligence, style, and grace that perspective may hold, it is in the end, finite. A few clicks enlarges my range exponentially, alien snapshots conjoined into a gallery of dizzying diversity. So if you maintain a blog, thank you. It can be a lot of work, but you do more good than you know.

If you are newly come to this site, or if you have thus far engaged already in reciprical commentaries, allow me to reassure you that you needn't leave a comment just because I did. Of course, you are welcome to comment. I enjoy reading them, and it helps me find your blog again (as I just click the "Next Blog" icon on the top bar or check the most recent updated), but if you are doing so solely out of a sense of obligation, rest easy in the knowledge that I won't be offended.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

And all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; there was not a man left.

I follow world events with great apprehension, specifically speaking now of the situation in Israel and Lebanon. Some say that Hezbollah is justified, or that it may in some sense at least have legitimate grievances and that its methods are all that is open to it. Others claim that the barrage of rockets, combined with the last fifty years of difficulties, more than justifies Israel's actions, no matter how high the body count may rise. It is a difficult issue. The only certainty I have reached for myself is that anyone peddling easy answers has no idea what they're talking about.

Conservative pundits and news services have followed the rising cost of the conflict with something akin to glee. Each demolished building or broken person another portion of righteous vengeance. Begininning from the sound position that Israel has a right to defend itself, they enlarge within the notion of defense acts of questionable scope and terrible violence. For many of them, Isreal is the opportunity to live their bloody fantasies vicariously, the chance to inflict damage on terrorists without worrying about US public opinion. For some, the worst of them, the fulfilment of their ugly anti-arab, anti-islamic convictions.

I question the wisdom of Israel's actions, and also the morality. But I also realize that it is possible that they are taking the only option open to them. If this be true it is regretable, and even if necessary, does not warrant the joyful reception it has recieved in the conservative world. For my own part, I speak from a position of limited understanding. However, merely from what can be gleamed through sources available to me, I do not believe Israel is any longer in the right.

I begin my own analysis by stating my belief in Israel's certain right of self-defense. If someone attacks you, you certainly have the right to defend yourself. But the purpose of such defense is to maintain and ensure your own safety, not to punish your aggressor. The idea of proportionality has recently come under much criticsm in conservative circles, but the reality is that it may be the only responsible and (possible) solution.

Israel certainly has the means to demolish Lebanon or Syria. But the dismemberment of nation-states will not result in the destruction of Hezbollah. Additionally, in its attempt to disable certain assets of some utility to its terrorist enemies, Israel has flattened many of the utilities used by Lebanese non-combatants. If an israeli missile hits a building and kills five terrorists, that's fine. But if that same missile flattens a block and kills or wounds dozens, not only have you harmed innocents, increased the strain on Lebanon's fragile government, but you have also likely just created more terrorists than you ever killed.

The fact of the matter is that Israel has some of the best intelligence and covert operations assets in the world. Well versed through years of anti-terrorist operations, they have managed actions of far more precision than arial bombardment. Wrath of God, Spring of Youth, the capture of Adolf Eichmann, these are just a few examples of paitent, focused, and (in some cases perhaps only relatively) proportional responses. They had little collateral damage, fewer complications, and achieved greater success. Special operations, combined with paitent diplomacy provides better prospects than messy air raids.

It is the easiest thing in the world to call for blood. It is a much harder thing to inquire into necessity, to require justification, and to aspire towards a more perfect world. "Shoot them all and let God sort them out", the official motto of FOX news, is not a position of moral integrity, nor is it the words of statesmen or people living in the real world. It is a petulent notion, the first reaction of a hurt child, and we are better than that.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Continued use may result in limb loss

Television is now clogged with, among other things, a dizzying array of pharmaceutical commercials. Plaavix, Logimax, Seroquel, the list of bizarre names more indicitive of Captain Kirk's little black book than anything I'd want to injest or inject. Of course, those are just the brand names. Viloxazine hydrocholoride is far less encouraging than Vivalan, and that's with the fact that the proprietary name is no great comfort.

The commercials present the drug as a savior from some crippling scourge, even if the menacing fate be no more than the use of other forms of birth control. Once you have their medicine, your life will suddenly acquire all the fulfillment, enjoyment, and beautiful people your unfortunate condition has long thwarted. Then, after having promised to solve sweaty palms with two quick and easy bimonthly treatments, somoene lists the mild side-effects.

Some paitents report blindness, loss of taste, nose bleeds, and migranes. In some rare cases, psychosis and delusions have been reported. If you experience any head, chest, or limb pain, see a doctor as these may be symptoms of a relatively rare but exceedingly fatal (and painful) disease. This medication should not be taken by human beings, dogs over the age of four, or non-placental mammals.

Of coruse, I do not mean to make light of anyone's plight. This medication, and the deregulation that allows its cavalier advertisement, are likely substantial improvements in the lives of many people. However, it always seems to me that the problem the drug offers to solve is almost never worth the risk of the side-effects.

Monday, July 24, 2006

There and back again

I have returned from Comic Con. At 100,000 attendees, it is easily the king of comic book conventions. There were many interesting displays, impressive costumes, and even a few hobbits. Space ships, Princess Leia, and Batman as far as the eye could see. It was a terrific personification of nerd fantasy.

For myself, the two main draws were J. Michael Stracyzinski and Alfonso Cuaron. Each towering figures in their respective fields, I was able to attend both of their events. Stracyzinski's was particularly interesting, a candid and colorful view of the screenwriting profession. Ringed by aspiring writers, he dispensed an hour's worth of useful advice and amusing anecdotes.

Navigating the convention was difficult at times, my fellow convention goers not always displaying proper manners, but on the whole I enjoyed myself. Pictures will follow at some point, along with a more complete write-up.

Friday, July 21, 2006

We interrupt this post to bring you a special message from the future!

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I will be gone this weekend, attending Comic Con. Actually, I'm just hitching a ride down south to hang with people. I doubt I'll get to spend hardly any time at Comic Con, which is good, because I don't have any money to spend there anyway. Going without buying stuff would just be too painful.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Comedy's Pariah

I have a very healthy sense of humor. It is, I admit, somewhat cold and (if I may say so) intellectual, but even within such limitations the extent and depth of my comedic appreciation are significant. Unfortunately, broad as it may be, apparently it is not broad enough.

I am constantly amazed by the effortless descent into complete incapacitation people can achieve based off the most shallow of stimuli. There is nothing so crass or stupid that it fails to illicit riotous laughter from a vast base of the population. The height of comedy now resides, as no doubt it has long been accustomed, in the gutter. Incoherent screaming, loud bodily noises, twisted facial contortions, and flagrant sexual displays are all somehow the epitome of the humorous arts. Will Farrel, Jack Black, and the other knuckle-dragging misfits who troll the depths of degeneracy for cheap thrills have the gull to be comedians, and to my embarrassment, society agrees.

Please understand that I do not oppose physical comedy. Slapstick is not necessary bad, and when done well offers an incomparable experience. Rather, my complaint is that comedy is empty. It doesn't mean anything. I suspect half of the reason people laugh now is because they are supposed to, because they have been properly conditioned to accept media conventions without reservation. The other half of the time, they're just idiots.

Even outside of conventional humor-related exposures, I still find my sense of humor at odds with the rest of the world. Most people seem to have this ability to laugh at anything, even when if you had actually considered what was being said, it not only failed to be amusing, but it didn't make sense. Although this tendency may result in a dubious appreciation for comedy, I find myself envious of it all the same. I think I would find life more enjoyable if I understood what everyone thought was so funny - or at least if I understood why I don't think so.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

My Fickle Muse

Characters on TV always have such interesting jobs, or at least their job is interesting, even if its portrayal has little to do with reality. They are police detectives, lawyers, doctors, hostage negotiators, writers, actors and so on. They lead eventful, important lives that leave them successful and generally fulfilled. When I was younger, I assumed (as no doubt did many of you) that I too would find such a worthy career. I thought that when I found what I wanted to do in life, I would be excellent at it and there would be relatively smooth sailing from then on. Now I know better.

Like many people, I have a strong interest in creative endeavors. I love to read, I enjoy writing, and I am captivated by film. I freely admit that were I to believe I could succeed financially through such endeavors then it would be my preferred lifestyle. Certainly it would rank above the practice of law, currently my most likely prospect (especially since I have but one semester before graduation). Unfortunately, I find I not only would be unlikely to succeed professionally, but I cannot even pursue these interests as a hobby.

There is this deep, abiding well of creative energy somewhere inside me. I feel the pressure as it strains against the limits imposed by my personality and capabilities. I want to let it all out, and I can still recall a time when I had believed that mere desire would be sufficient to guarantee success. But now I find that every attempt meets, sooner or later, with an obstacle of undefined but ever sufficient dimensions, and I am left frustrated and exhausted. My imagination and expectations exceed the extents of my talents or determination.

One good example of this affect is my current project. Although not even my favorite idea, it is one that at least does not require talents I don't possess to complete, but even so I find progress extremely slow going. It's a novel called The Candidate, about a reality TV show. The participants compete for the opportunity to be a political candidate. I thought the premise was promising, and began writing with enthusiasm. But here we are several weeks later and I have not one more word than I wrote that first night. There's just this wall, and I don't know how to get over it.

In any case, for anyone who is interested in reading the prologue (because that's all there is), please go here and click on the file listed The Candidate Prologue. It's only five pages long, so it should make for a quick read.

EDIT: The file is hosted by a Yahoo Groups writing club that never seems to meet or post. I joined off Craigslist, but the group (like all things from there) quickly floundered. I didn't know another way to host the file, being computer illiterate as I am. Because you have to join the group to read the file, I'll understand if nobody does.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

True love, but for Mr. Kim...

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At a party with some friends, the conversation turned (as it is known to do, on occasion) to considering the relative desireability of female celebrities. I generally abstain from crass descriptions of womanly charms, not from any puritan objections but because I think such behavior is beneath me. Plus, I have issues. Lots of issues.

Anyway, I decided to join this discussion with the observation that Grace Park, Boomer of Battlestar Galactica fame, was quite attractive. Maxim was consulted (through whom's largess I display the above photo) and all agree she had much to commend. But then came the sad refrain from one participant that he would like her more, but he had read on Wikipedia that she was married.

The reliability of Wikipedia aside (I'm no wiki basher, but some of those articles aren't worth the paper they're printed on - and they ain't printed), I thought this was a peculiar objection. Believe it or not, I wasn't on the verge of acquiring her affections, stymied only by matrimonial obligations. I don't know her. I've never met her. Never even seen her in person, and likely never will. When I expressed admiration for her visual charms, it was as an enthusiast of beauty (and, perhaps, for somewhat more base and shallow reasons), not as a potential suitor. Its not as though absent her marriage, Grace would throw herself into my arms.

I understand that fantasy is somewhat more enjoyable if it stays within the bounds of plausability. Perhaps, for my friend, marital status is enough to ruin his fancies. For my own part, it was already more likely that I'd have to fight off a Cylon attack than meet Grace Park for dinner.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Springtime for Kitler and Germany

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Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Cats that look like Hitler is a fine example of the truism that anything can be found on the internet. The example included above, Spooky (owned by Elaine), is apparently the fifth rated furher kitler (their combination of cat and Hitler, I suppose). If you are really bored, go see the other four rated ahead of him.

While I'm on the subject of Germany (kinda), what is it with those VW commercials? Deutschland, yo? That slogan has been raised twice before in the last century, neither time to particularly good result.

P.S. If anyone knows how I can get rid of that empty air between the title and the images, please let me know.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Wagner and Schendenfreude

I abhor reality television. Or, more accurately, I find the current genre almost entirely without merit. Tacky, trite, and insipidly overblown, it is a monument to bad taste. Now, to be sure, painting with such a broad (and harsh) brush is always dangerous. Certainly there may be particular titles of value, and indeed "reality television" is a term so expansive that it may be construed to include much of legitimate interest. Thus, to be clear, I refer in the remainder of this post to the staged encounters found nightly on the major networks.

Recently I have begun to watch more and more reality TV, as part of my research for an ongoing novel-type project called The Candidate I've been kicking around. Now, although the ridiculous subjects, repulsive contestants, and repetitive challenges offend me as a television viewer (I mean, that the networks believe they can satisfy the public with such thin offerings is insulting; That they succeed is depressing) that isn't what struck me most profoundly. What gets me is the music.

If you ever stop and listen to the music they use for these reality shows, it's like they culled the score of Last of the Mohicans or something, threw in a Wagnerian opera, and added the first movement of Carmina Burana for spice. Judging by sound alone, you would think the assembled band of genetically disadvantaged misfits were trying to stop the Earth's imminent implosion or ensure the future of democracy.

The editing is likewise ridiculous. Blunt and heavy handed, episodes begin with a "review" of previous events that often bears little resemblance to what had occurred. Once you get to the broadcast itself, the show is interrupted by commercial sponsors at "dramatic" moments so often that it exceeds even the wildest limits of the cliche. Upon returning from an advertisement, what little time that remains before the next interruption is often shared by another miniature review of what happened just before the break.

Please understand that I do not object to reality television on some stodgy moral ground. I don't care if people decide to watch horse porn. Whatever (providing all participants are consenting adults). But that we have been inflicted with such a horrid parade of second-rate programming offends me as a connoisseur of television.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

I have Don Julio's Band!

After a long and excessively painful period of mindles clicking, I have achieved Exalted status with the Frostwolf Clan in World of Warcraft. Now, this is a difficult and time consuming task for anyone. As I'm just a casual WoW player, it took me even longer than usual. The rewards though are quite sweet.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Pointless Factoid XV

Prime numbers are never found adjacent to one another (depending on your position regarding the number two). For instance, 3 and 5 are prime, as is 7 but not 6, 11 and 13 but not 12. It's believed that this pattern continues on to infinity, but this has not been mathematically proven.

Typo caught by a clever girl.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Philistine in the Mirror

In my spare time, I like to write. Now, I claim neither aptitude nor incompetence, but rather a kind of comfortable middling; good enough to so that I don't stop, but not so good as may allow for a more complete dedication. Talented apathy, in ink as in life, seems to be my lot.

Over the course of my ofttimes half-hearted literary efforts, I have explored many different forms of writing and numerous exercises. However, something I've never really taken to is poetry. I don't write it, I don't read it, but what's more is I don't understand it. From big names to small, conventional rhyme to total chaos, profound or trite, for the most part it all just flies right past me.

When I try to read poetry, it's like I'm staring at a blurry image. I can make out the shapes and the colors, but the subject is missing. Sometimes I know what the picture is supposed to be, but still there is this insurmountable disassociation, like the glass that separates life and television.

This is troubling to me not only because I like to think of myself as the kind of person who could enjoy poems, but also I find it frustrating as I rarely fail at anything. That is not to say I succeed either. My life history is just a conjunction of half finished interests, explored only so far as it takes to learn the extent of the subject. I am, on some level, a flake extraordinaire. Still, poetry has proven annoyingly elusive, even to the shallow degree of experience I seek, and I'm not quite sure what I'm doing wrong.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Character Flaws

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This will only make sense to gamers. But hey, if you are one, you're used to that.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Little Miseries

What ever happened to two-litre sized bottles of Vanilla Coke? They have completely disappeared from area stores, replaced by a Cherry-Vanilla concoction of dubious gastronomical merit. Cherry fans already have Cherry Coke. Now, in order to indulge my taste for vanilla I have been reduced to adding it manually. This is an injustice of epic proportions.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Didn't quite make Craigslist

Is it just me, or is everyone on Craigslist a complete and total flake? I mean, there are some really cool ideas floating around there, and I'm sure some of the people who propose a group or an activity genuinely wants to try, but it seems like nothing ever happens. I'm lucky to even get a reply to any question I send.

Of course, I know that life conspires to rob us of what free time we can skim off the top, and that writing groups or book clubs are ultimately luxuries. Even so, you'd think by the law of averages something would come together every so often.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Decline of Western Civilization

Last week some jerk broke into my car and stole my laptop. I later saw it on ebay, or at least what I thought was it. I've since contacted both ebay and the police, but neither have been particularly helpful and I've resigned myself to its loss. To be honest, there's no one else to blame. I knew better than to leave it in there, but of course after a while you just get lazy. Sadly, of course, this will not be the first automotive drama in which I shall play the victim, statistically speaking, and indeed if it is the worst crime ever perpetrated against me I shall have been fortunate.

To the person who stole my laptop, if you can read my blog (you have to plug in the cord to use the internet, I was too cheap to spring for WiFi), know that I hope you eventually get caught and suffer the justice you rightly deserve. Until then, good luck with your various enterprises, and I hope a four year old Sony Vaio serves you well. It has a pride of its own, you know, as a computer, and it should want (if it could want) to be useful. If it could do more for someone else than it did for me, there would at least be an upside to all of this.

On a less magnanimous note, if anyone in the San Francisco Bay Area recently purchesed a used grey Sony Vaio that lacks WiFi, has a bit of a noisy fan, and a few smudges on the screen (I was not the most careful owner), I'd appreciate an email. Remember, you have to plug it in.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Standard Deviation: Now with 20% more posting regularity!

Well, I'm back. For how long isn't quite clear at this point, but I stumbled across the old blog and felt like maybe trying to post again. You'd think with most of a year off I'd have something to talk about, and I guess I probably do, but I don't feel like launching into the particulars of my life right now. It's enough for me that I've started posting again.

More to come another time.