Saturday, June 27, 2009

More than meets the ire

Last night I saw Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Now, when you go into a movie like that you're not exactly expecting a masterpiece. You understand that the limitations of the genre and, more crippling, the target audience combine to guarantee a mediocre viewing experience. But you hope that cool fight scenes and an interesting character or two shroud the essential shallowness of the film. This time? Not so much.

Transformers was not, at least, an unmitigated failure. The acting is tolerably done, which on the scale of action flicks, is practically Oscar worthy. I am not the biggest fan of Shia LeBeouf, but this movie plays to his strengths, and he is able to carry much of the film. The redoubtable Peter Cullen is a treat to longtime Transformers fans and recent converts alike as Optimus Prime. But the best performance is put in by Sam's parents (Kevin Dunn and Julie White), especially Ms. White as the mother.

That is, however, part of the problem. Transformers seems to suffer from an identity crisis. The film has a strong comedic foundation, with both amusing scenes and witty one-liners. But these flashes of mirth seem, sandwiched as they are between meaningless metallic mayhem and overblown dramatics, stolen from another movie. Micheal Bay seems to believe he can transform his movie between action, comedy, and drama at will, but the transitions are stilted and ultimately detract from those parts of the film that work.

Fight scenes are supposed to be the highlight of an action film, but it seems that the modern trend illustrates a direct correlation between the amount of CG and the degree of dullness. It can be at times difficult to distinguish the silver Decepticons from each other (poor characterization of the villians is a general theme among the two Bey Transformers movies), and even when you can tell, you don't care to make the effort because it doesn't matter who just shrugged off the latest atom bomb.

I don't want to give away what, in an impressive illustration of ambition, aspires to be the plot, but it does such a good job of hiding that I feel compelled to mention that if you don't at least look for it, you might not find it (though I doubt you'll miss it). The portrayal of Megatron as a loyal and conspicuously obedient servant (and the continuing failure to cast Frank Welker, the original voice actor) would infuriate any true fan of the 80's cartoon. Soundwave is finally in this movie, but he's a freaking satellite, when they could have easily made him a CD player, and he doesn't sound like he used to either.

Sadly, even with all our technology and the ability to merge CG robots seemlessly with the real world, we've yet to make a Transformers movie superior to that from 1986. Perhaps even worse, this is also true of the soundtrack. However dated and (even at the time) annoying the mid 80's power ballads may be, at least the animated film had more than one song. Revenge of the Fallen pushes that new Linkin Park tune so aggressively you expect an advertisement for concert dates is coming next.

See it, if you have to. But don't expect any more than meets the eye.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Grey skies are gonna clear up

Alright, so it's been a little mopey and pathetic around here, even for me (which is saying something). So I have committed myself to ensure that at least the next few posts are somwhat less dark and miserable. Stay tuned for mirth and other diversions!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The rewards of failure

I am a very talented person. Intelligent, articulate, polite but without pretension, and particular without undue severity. It is true that, at times, these traits lay idle, or are even appropriated in lesser or even dubious causes. Yet even so, I remain a man with vast and disparate capabilities. Up until now, the primary use of my talents has been in the conservation of personal energy. I have honed the art of cutting corners to such an extent that my endeavors are ultimately, and invariably, doughnut shaped.

The reasons for this are several; probably some of it is good old fashioned sloth. To a certain extent, I like the idea that I can succeed with ease where others manage only through the expenditure of great effort and the assumption of much care. Of course, it is difficult to evade the accusation that a fear of failure, or success, or in one of psychologies more interesting and tormenting little vices, both, may lurk about.

At any rate, and for whatever reason, I had yet to encounter any enterprise in which I felt the need or the desire to exhaust every eventuality (how's that for aliteration!). That is no longer true, and if the outcome is in some sense disappointing, the end results have proven unexpectedly encouraging.

It was something of a surprise to find how interested I'd become in a successful resolution, and indeed how quickly the aspiration took hold. But having inspired my ambition, I became dedicated to achieving my goal in a way that I'd never really experienced before. I tried my best. I employed all my talents, pursued every opportunity, and spared no efforts. And in the end I fell on my face.

I mean, I didn't just fail. I blew it by a long shot. If it was a race, my shoe laces were tied together and I never got off the starting blocks. In a different situation, I think the whole experience could have been frustrating or humiliating, or even soul crushing. But as is, I find already I look back on it with a kind of (perhaps morbid) amusement.

For the first time I actually tried my best, and it wasn't anywhere near good enough. And yet, everything was still in place. The sky didn't fall, the sun rose the next day. It is unexpectedly liberating, like when you run as fast as you can for as long as you can. Then when exhaustion forces you to stop, you look back and see how far you managed to go, and you realize that in the future, you might get further yet.

It goes without saying that nobody changes over night. But I count this experience as a positive one. Of course the pessimist in me is not surprised that my first genuine effort would have been expended in a hopeless exercise, but I am not discourged. I may try again sometime, or if not, I might yet employ the same dedication to a new task. After all, now that I've fallen flat on my face, I know it hurts a bit, but it won't kill you.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Pointless Factoid XXIIX

Legal case citation, though subject to an amount of variance, follows a general pattern illustrated by the following example:

Apple v. Banana, 21 Mk Blv 986 (2021).

That means the case involved the parties Apple and Banana, and it can be found in volume 21 of Make Believe, page 986, and that it was decided in 2021.

To use an example from real life:

Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).

So, Miranda was one, and the State of Arizona was the other. It's in volume 384 of the United States Reporter, page 436, and it was decided in 1966.

Some volumes have multiple series, so you'll see something like Cal App 3rd, which stands for the California Appellate Reporter, third series. In many instances, these indices are not government sponsored, but rather are compiled by third parties. Because these works are not protected by copyright, anyone can print them, and so there are often competing volumes. In such cases, it is customary to site important cases in several or even all of the major reports for the jurisdiction.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


It may be strange to say, on a blog dedicated to excessive self-flagellation and the magnification of ubiquitous trivialities, but there are certain insufficiencies and disappointments of which I have never complained. This is not due so much to any masculine stoicism, nor the eventual resolution brought by the passage of time, but rather because, to put it in simple terms, I was afraid to confront it.

And so this topic may have remained unexamined still, except that I have recently resolved to abandon the comforting crutch of avoidance for the less certain, but ultimately more rewarding (hopefully) promise of personal honesty. That is, honesty to myself about myself.

Probably even a few weeks ago I could never have written this post, or if I had it would have been left forever unpublished, or at best buried through the judicious use of back dating. But with the help of a good and paitent friend, I've learned that what you don't say is far more hurtful than what you do.

With this newfound, and yet unsteady dedication, I turn to review in earnest a topic of great personal dissatisfaction. Appropriately enough, for Father's Day, it is my relationship with my own.

I should start out by allowing that my parents were very young when I was born. My dad was 23, my mom 19. The undeniable fact is that, to a certain extent, I ruined their lives, and though I can be assigned little blame, still the realization is actual enough to prompt some degree of guilt. Had they had their first child later, no doubt everyone would have been happier. This is not to say that they didn't adjust, or that they would wish things were different. But it is undeniable that basically I screwed things up for everybody.

The actual problem, however, is that at 23, and with the subsequent demands of family life from such a young age, my dad lacked any of the attributes of responsible parentage aside from a firm sense of responsibility. When I came, and then almost two years later my brother as well, he took a job he hated and worked to provide for us, and I respect that effort. Unfortunately his own displeasure grew, and when combined with his volitile personality, explosive temper, and generally poor disposition, it produced in him a growing discontent that he was unable to properly manage.

While I in no sense wish to imply that my childhood was an unremitting misery, neither would it be accurate to say that it was not miserable. The fact is that the behavior of my father would, by today's standards, be considered physically, mentally, and emotionally abusive. He could be brought into uncontrollable rages by trivial infractions or insignificant accidents. Setting the wrong dinner fork, or using a TV tray that he wanted were among the most absurd triggers, though there were others.

His anger could be a terrible thing to behold, especially to a small child. When enraged he delighted in subjecting us to blistering evaluations and tirades of endless profanity. In those unfortunate situations where emotional wounds seemed in his judgment insufficient, he proved willing to resort to those more readily apparent.

On an absolute metric of physical abuse, probably what we received was fairly mild. We were never punched or kicked, used as footstools or ashtrays. But we were hit, and by which I mean to indicate more than spanking or a little whack aside the head, though such indulgences may also have made occasional appearances.

During my father's rages, my mother would usually stand off to the side. He never, insofar as I know, was physical with her in the least, but whether through fear or agreement, she abstained from intervention, except when it seemed he had finally lost the last semblence of control.

Even with my limited understanding of psychology, I know that such experiences have left deep wounds, which yet are still raw to the touch. In many ways the personal deficiencies that trouble me on so many levels are attributable, either directly or indirectly, to these events. Of course I do not mean to lay all my inadequacies at my father's feet, and at any rate these incidents ended long ago, and it is reasonable to say I should simply get over it.

In a very real way, part of me never actually matured. Or, if it did, it did so in some stunted and twisted sense. There is a piece of my soul that never grew up, but rather learned to grow over itself, with layer after layer of insufficient rationalizations and imperfect defenses. I have lived with the fear that, in the end, I may be nothing more than the little boy who tried to shield his head from his father's anger. And it is an apprehension that still colors everything that I am.

But I realize now that whatever my father's errors, in the end the responsibility is my own. Fear offers only hesitation and discontent, and it is my fault and mine alone if I accept them. I am still broken, I think, and probably will always remain so in at least some fashion.

But I am unwilling to condemn myself to a life of misery, nor through some misguided sense of anger, allow the responsibility for my own contentment to rest with others. For a very long time I was bitter and angry and hateful, but those emotions have wearied me, and provided nothing in recompense. So while I may not be able to completely abandon them, at least no longer will I rely on them.

Interestingly enough, my current relationship with my dad is tolerably pleasent. We have a stable, if somewhat shallow bond based on some mutual interests and a generally pessimistic view of life. I know in my heart I will always hate him, at least in part, but that is no longer the dominant paradigm of our interactions. It may seem like that is not much. But it's more than I had before.

Happy Father's Day.

Friday, June 05, 2009


Sometimes you read something and it sticks with you for a while. Like one time back in Junior High, when I read The Stand, it freaked me out and I spend the next week sleeping with the lights on. Of course, not every genre is going to affect you the same way, but inevitably there will be a few works from every literary flavor that lingers on the palette.

Earlier this evening, I was treated to a taste of such a work. While the story was somewhat incomplete, it was not only compelling, but it has also inspried me to improve my own similar writings.

Of course, that is a concern for the future. Right now it's almost four in the morning, and I have court in five hours. I shall lie down, and hope sleep comes soon (though I rather doubt it will)!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Land of Opportunity

Having my own office is somewhat exciting, and I rather like just following my own rules. I know that, in the long run, I'd never really be satisfied working for another person anyway. That being said, at this point in my life, and especially with the economy the way it is, I'd much rather have a steady paycheck. The thing is, my chosen field is small and, sadly, one where the government is the single largest employer. With counties all over the state in the grip of cutbacks, I have thus far been unable to secure full-time employment in Criminal Defense work.

Accordingly, I have today started to apply to such jobs out of state where the absence of local bar admission is not a total prohibition to employment, provided the candidate agrees to secure a license as soon as possible. Thus far I have limited my applications to the western states, such as Nevada. I don't really care to leave California, but if I do, I'd rather go to Arizona or Washington than say Montana. Unfortunately, though somewhat predictably, most of these kinds of jobs are in the dismal states.