Thursday, April 30, 2009

Unsupported pithy thought du jour

Perhaps the worst part of reaching one's middle years (which, I suppose, at 41, I have done) is all one's mistakes seem less forgivable, and one cannot dwell in self-pity as one did in one's younger days. One can try, but it won't be at all cathartic; it merely suffices in making one feel stupid for still attempting self-pity at an age when one should know better than to try to get away with self-pity.

If I had any advice for those in their 20's it would be this: Hurry up and get it all figured out; in a couple decades it won't be any easier, and you'll be far more aware of tricky it is to figure it out.

The clock is ticking…

Friday, April 24, 2009

Stuck in my head

In his latest column for Entertainment Weekly, our uncle Stevie (King) discusses the results of a solicitation he did for readers of his website: the song that's the worst "earworm" (a song which gets stuck in one's head and just burrows itself deeper into one's consciousness). (The most often mentioned song: "The Macarena".)

But what struck me was the tale he related at the beginning, as the introduction to the topic. He referenced stumbling to the kitchen in the middle of the night, barely coherent, and finding himself muttering an opening couplet, which he quotes: "They say a man should always dress for the job he wants / So why am I dressed up like a pirate in this restaurant?"

Yes, it's from one of the Free Credit Report commercials.

And when I went to type that quote, I assure you I didn't have to refer the magazine. I could continue with the next line off the top of my head ("It's all because some hacker stole my identity"—I told you; and it's worth noting that as I type this I have my iPod playing Sweet's "The SixTeens" so there's actively another song that should be distracting me but it's not), but I won't go on (for everyone's sake).

There have been moments were odd songs have just come to mind (such as the one documented in this post about the inexplicable "Arthur's Theme" incident), but that's nothing compared to when I find myself absent-mindedly humming those jingles from those Free Credit Report ads (not merely the aforementioned one). I've been in the bathroom, brushing my teeth, with these lines running through my head: "Well, I married my dream girl, I married my dream girl / But she didn't tell me her credit was bad…".

I dare not proceed with the quote. I've made it bad enough as it is.

Here's the thing: It's one thing for an actual song—even a Christopher Cross one I haven't heard in decades—to pop in there. That's merely odd. And whether it's terribly artistic or not, it's at least art. The jingles are commerce; there's no pretense to the contrary. They seek to get me to spend money on some credit monitoring service—which means that the credit report isn't really "free" so the name of the website it promotes is wildly inaccurate (just to add insult to proverbial injury). And rather than songs I actually like—or at least songs that are just songs—being what my synapses spur me to sing, it's those damned, infectious lines about feet sticking to the floor and my posse getting laughed at.

It's worse than subliminal. It's slammed in my face, but it still works. It succeeds beyond their wildest hopes.

Except for the fact that I've never gone to the website. But maybe that's not what their aspirations were. Perhaps they wanted me to eventually write about it.

Free advertising they did achieve. Insidiously effective.

If only someone comes up with a website that provides a means of getting these jingles out of my head, that is a service I'd pay for. Of course, one can only imagine how catchy the song in that commercial will be...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Springing up

Over at the photo site I've uploaded some shots of the first jacaranda blooms of the spring. Click on over and have a look.

Friday, April 17, 2009

To boldy go where many have gone before

In this week's print edition of The Onion (in select cities an actual paper edition is available, and Los Angeles is one of those lucky ones), in the A.V. Club section (the non-satire part), there's a column by The Hater (subtitled "Pop Culture Love Letters") took on Eminem's latest video, "We Made You" (in which he parodies a number of pop culture paragons).

The column in the print edition that hit stands yesterday is different from this online version, although the gist is pretty much the same. Because the print edition cannot include an embedded video, the column lists highlights of his satire, including perennial punching bags like Kim Kardashian and Lindsey Lohan. The point of the column was that Em's jabs were a bit dated, as pop culture goes. However, as she also mentioned the old school elements he included; it seemed clear Em wasn't looking to be cutting edge with the satire.

To that end, in the list of highlights that was in the print version of the column only was this: "Dr. Dre and Eminem re-enact the casino scene from Rain Man, as well as several scenes dressed as Dr. Spock and Captain Kirk from Star Trek" (see screen capture below):
Yep. "Dr. Spock."

The character on the original Star Trek portrayed by Leonard Nimoy was Mr. Spock (and later he ascended to higher ranks), but he was never Dr. Spock.; "Bones" McCoy was the doctor. Dr. Spock was a famous real-life pediatrician who wrote a best-selling book, but, to the best of my knowledge, never appeared on any Trek series or movie.

And with even my tepid level of geekitude I recognized the error immediately. Even as a very mild fan of Star Trek I consider that to be dragging up a pretty hackneyed mistake. It's not remotely clever, in any context, at this point; it's just lazy (or, rather, nonexistent) copyediting.

It struck me as her point about Em's dusty spoof became a wee bit hypocritical, in a way. Sure, he's behind the time in the targets for his costumed barbs, but she's behind the times in rudimentary pop culture distinctions about a tremendously popular science fiction series (even outside the geek arena)—especially for one whose focus as a journalist is purported to be… pop culture.

But it's undoubtedly already outdated of me to say (even though the issue hit the stands only yesterday), because the online column (which does not include the references to the characters names, only an allusion to general Star Trek*) came out back on April 7.

What can I say? I'm out of date that way, reading text on actual newsprint, nine days later. How archaic. Just like being able to distinguish '60s fictional characters from '40s actual people.


* Because there's no mistake online, there's no furor in the comments about it. I have to imagine it would have been clarified ad nauseum by this point had "Dr. Spock" been mentioned there. As it stands, the commenters dwelled only on Eminem's incongruous pairing of characters from the original series with some from The Next Generation. Deftly eschewed hate, Hater.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Some acquaintances at work only found out about me even having a fiancée when they read the LA Times article about my cover-winning photo and saw the allusion to that in the text. (It's true. Long story. Not interesting. Moving on.) And while not every one of them actually asked me about that, and the ones who brought it up had slightly different approaches, there was one aspect of their investigation (of sorts) that was the same. In referring to my fiancée, they all used the term "her."

Now, this was entirely accurate; my fiancée is, in fact, female, and thus the pronoun is applicable for what it is representing. Why does that matter, you are undoubtedly wondering.

Upon realizing this subtle consistency I grasped why there are those who oppose same sex marriage. They may claim it's forbidden in the Bible or abominates the sanctity of marriage or that it serves as a harbinger for unions between humans and other species, but that's just skirting the issue. Really, they seek to avoid the embarrassment of alluding to an unidentified pending (or current) marriage partner and know that they can safely choose the gender-specific pronoun that is the opposite of the gender of the one with whom they are speaking.

As long as the homosexuals must use the term "partner" (rather than "fiancé" or "fiancée") those who don't know better can glean from the word choice that the person they're talking to could be in a long-term relationship with a person of the same sex (one where "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" would not be appropriate any longer).

And of course, eschewing an awkward exchange with someone they didn't realize was gay certainly justifies denying that person the same right to have that person's relationship be acknowledged by the state the same way that theirs is.

I get it now.

It's all a matter of taking the time to think about the other side and what's important to them in a way that relates to one's own experience, so we can see how really we are all the same.

Monday, April 13, 2009

How we see it

From the Okay-this-is-it department:

Recently during a conversation with a friend whom I've know for over 20 years, we touched on the movie version of Watchmen. He had gone to a Saturday afternoon screening on the opening weekend. In part this was out of desire to see it, but for him, there was other motivation. Working in a comic shop, he needed to see it early, before customers started coming in and talking about it (and potentially spoiling it).

His assessment was that overall he enjoyed it, and more than he expected. It could have sucked, he noted, but it didn't. As superhero movies go, with (as he ranked them) Iron Man at the top and The Dark Knight at the bottom, Watchmen fell nicely in the middle.

Yes, with Dark Knight at the bottom.

That was another film he saw its opening weekend, again as much out of obligation as anything. He applauded Heath Ledger's performance, but otherwise he considered Batman Begins to be vastly superior. He didn't go into detail about the issues he had with DK, but clearly he didn't understand why it became the second-highest grossing film of all time.

I merely noted that I enjoyed DK, and the conversation moved on to other topics.


During a Facebook chat some time back with a different friend, he too noted having problems with DK (not liking how the Joker had no explained motivation for his anarchism, for example), and considering Slumdog Millionaire (back before it won the Oscar) to be much better.

I mentioned having liked Slumdog when I saw it (the weekend after it won the Golden Globe), but my visceral response in exiting the theater was stronger for DK, which at that moment I remember thinking it was pretty good.


Two people whose opinions I do heed had vastly different reactions than I did. It's not like some arbitrary movie reviewers panned it; these are people with whom I share at least a reasonable amount of similarities. How could our responses vary so much?

Is that not supposed to be something of a window to our personalities in contemporary society? What we like should make a statement about us and give an indication of with whom we would get along, right? Isn't that why sites like Facebook prompt for our favorites books and movies and bands, etc.? So we can find others who share those same faves, and by inference who share similar personality traits.

(You don't suppose the real answer is that Facebook prompts for that so it can allow advertisers to market to us individually, do you? Can we avoid going off on that cynical tangent? Yes, yes we can.)

Apparently what makes us be friends is not merely the coincidental similarity of reaction to the same stimuli. Egad—could human relationships actually be… complex?

Too bad movies that show that never seem to be ones everyone can agree on…

Friday, April 10, 2009


From the For-someone-who-doesn't-claim-to-be-a-geek-you-sure-mention-a-number-of-what-is-stereotypically-of-interest-to-them department:

A while back I overheard a conversation one day at lunch where four young men who had all seen the Watchmen movie discussed it. The one who brought it up sounded alarmingly like the Spicoli character in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (something of a stereotypical California surfer dialect—not that any actual surfers from California or elsewhere sound like that but as the mode of speech has been propounded by the movie and TV industry)—which is to say he didn't sound terribly bright. Not that he was stupid, just not the sharpest tack in the proverbial box.

He seemed to have enjoyed the film once he got into the mode of storytelling, which was apparently somewhat exaggerated. One of his companions noted having not liked the film, and it was soon revealed in the conversation that this man was someone who had read and enjoyed the graphic novel (and presumably was disappointed in the ways that the movie did not live up to his expectations).

A third member of the group then chimed in about the second man (the "reader"), saying "So you're a member of the geek armada." This was offered very matter-of-factly, as though having heard it elsewhere. It seemed mildly pejorative.

The "reader" must have suggested reading the graphic novel, because the "surfer" retorted with "I'm not going to read a comic book." That was definitely pejorative. He elaborated on his rationale for seeing the movie but not reading the book. "When people say the book is better they make it out like the way they imagined it in their mind was better than the way the film maker did it."

Clearly he was generalizing here, because as a graphic novel, the reader did not have to visualize anything; the story was told in drawn panels on a page, not as mere text. But certainly with conventional novels those who would use their imagination to envision the world described by the author are less important than the manner employed by Hollywood.

The "surfer" did bring up something about the movie that all four of the participants seemed to be in agreement about: That the inclusion of some female nudity in the film was good. It was not merely for the prurient reasons young men would appreciate that, but also because a lesser movie would have shied away from including that in the theatrical release in the interest of getting a more box office-friendly PG-13 rather than the R the movie is rated. It was a refreshing artistic decision.

Of course, that same rationale could be applied to Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, which also featured a scene with Malin Akerman's naked breasts. But that movie didn't open at #1, and featured no costumed heroes. But it did have Neil Patrick Harris, who went on to play Dr. Horrible in the web series "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog"—so it's ultimately remarkably similar to what conceivably was unanimously worthwhile about Watchmen.

And there was no book to which it could be compared.

They must have really liked that. Especially the "surfer" (even though that would only be reinforcing the hideous stereotype that his mode of speech had established).

And thus we arrive back at the justification I used for not re-reading Watchmen before seeing the movie (which, no, I did not go to opening weekend). I didn't want to remember it too well and have the differences between that and the movie spoil my response to the film.

I am not ready to take up arms for the "geek armada." Not that I would dare oppose them; I'd prefer to eschew any battle altogether.

In the end, we can conclude this:
In the debate over whether movie was okay on its own or a pale imitation of the book, both sides apparently can agree on one thing: applauding the inclusion of boobies.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

How it plays out

[Phone rings. He answers.]

He: Hello?

Voice: Could I speak to Mr. _____?

He: That's me.

Voice: Good evening, Mr. _____. My name is ______, and I'm calling on behalf of [candidate's name]. As you are probably aware, next Tuesday is the election, and I wanted to take just a moment of your time to tell you about [candidate's name].

He: Pardon me, but can I ask a question?

Voice: Of course. What would you like to know?

He: You want me to vote for [candidate's name], right?

Voice: Well, yes, we do believe he is the best candidate.

He: Then can I tell you what would make me vote for him?

Voice: Absolutely. What's that?

He: If we stop this conversation right now.

Voice: Excuse me?

He: I will promise you I'll vote for [candidate's name] if the next words out of your mouth are "Thank you. Good night." Otherwise I'm voting for whoever the other candidate is.

Voice: Uh…

He: Tell you what. I'm going to hang up now, and if I happen to remember to vote next week I'll see if I can recall whatever you said his name was.

Voice: [Candidate's name].

He: You don't really follow instructions well. Oh well. Good night.

[Phone hangs up.]


What am I looking for in a candidate? One who leaves me the hell alone.

(I am really an idealist…)

Monday, April 06, 2009

Let us run (far away)

Tuesday is a local election for city council—which ordinarily would not be that big a deal, but given that this is the 37th largest city in the entire country, it is turning into a heated campaign.

Well, if nothing else, I've received more pieces of mail about it than I would expect for such a contest.

The Democratic candidate impugns the Republican candidate by noting the latter campaigned for George W. Bush. The Republican candidate impugns the Democratic candidate by noting the latter previously used his influence in the city attorney's office to help get the liquor license reinstated for a strip club. So it seems to come down to a crony for quite possibly the most blithely idiotic man to hold the Oval Office or a smut supporter of possibly questionable integrity. Quite a delightful choice to make.

So to select which is the lesser of these two proverbial evils I may have to use another criterion—one particular to what's important to me. On what I've received in the mail, which candidate's literature included the fewest egregious typographical errors?

On a flier (printed in full-color on heavy cardstock, with photo-quality graphics) for the Republican, the text features the phrase "...lets remind him…" (see photo below).

And if you didn't catch it, the mistake there is in the first word I quoted: lets. That is a conjugated form of the verb "to let"; the correct usage would be something like: "Dad always lets me go to the movies with my friends."

Presumably what they meant was "...let's remind…"—the contraction of "let us" (and thus requiring the apostrophe); without that punctuation the sentence has no subject (not even an implicit one).

Not that it's a primary distinguishing characteristic, but to select between two potentially undesirable (albeit in different ways) candidates, I suppose I would prefer the one who has someone on staff who can proofread and catch the distinction between lets and let's.

Of course, that assumes I would vote for either one at all. There is that choice as well; both fail to mention five others are also on the ballot.

It does seem like voting for either one tacitly supports the use of such I'm-not-as-bad-as-the-other-guy tactics, where one is not so much voting for that candidate but voting against his opponent. While that be all we have, it stands to reason that if that's what wins it is only reinforced, and therefore it is what we continue to get.

Let's see if we can cease to make that worthwhile, so that no candidate lets his staff (or consultants, or whomever they hire for preparing such messages) follow this pattern again.

We may just alleviate some typos in the process.

Yes we can.


Yes, I let slide the whole capitalization of "Advocacy of Adult Clubs" (as though that was the name of an organization); let's give them the benefit of ever-so-slight doubt that doing so was intended to accentuate.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

What about me?

Last week Stephen Colbert had a trenchant piece about narcissism where he stole my Facebook joke (noted in this post from last month). That being: updating one's Facebook status by noting one is updating one's Facebook status.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Me Time - American Narcissism
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(He then furthered it with a follow-up about Twittering that he was updating his Facebook status, including a line that one could read about it on his LiveBlog).

Okay, I'm not suggesting anyone from the Colbert Report saw my post from a while back where I discussed the time I, in fact, posted a status about updating my status; my site metering doesn't indicate that as likely. And I'm not suggesting it isn't a rather obvious thing to do; it would be easy for the Colbert writers to think of it on their own.

Still, there is a tiny (slightly pathetic) part of me that feels slightly validated by the Colbert bit. All my Facebook friends who, at the time I did (in fact) update my status with "Doug is updating his Facebook status," considered it a cheap cop-out can… well, not suck it, as such a response is not warranted… carefully reconsider their tepid criticism of my wit.

Every once in a while I am as clever as people whose job it is to be so.


That is a rather narcissistic thing to say, isn't it?


Of course, that joke was only apropos when Facebook's status prompt said: "What are you doing right now?" The new Facebook status prompt has changed to: "What's on your mind?" While that is far more appropriate for what most people enter in that field (because, as noted in the joking status referenced above, the only totally accurate response to what one is doing now would be to say one is updating one's status), it technically changes what that text represents from a "status" to a "thought."

And in a deeper analysis, that renders the Colbert bit slightly less clever, being slightly outdated. (This is the one time I'll be a tiny bit more clever than someone whose job it is to be so. Please just let me have this moment. I mean, as long as I'm apparently being narcissistic anyway…)

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Pass the frakking tissues

A recent story on The Onion has the headline "Obama Depressed, Distant Since 'Battlestar Galactica' Series Finale" (which is pretty funny, especially if you were a fan of the show).


After weeks of getting the condo ready for my fiancée to move in, moving her stuff from her apartment over the course of several days, and then spending most waking moments at home trying to arrange and unpack everything (still not anywhere close to finishing, as noted in the last post), I have slowly started getting back in to spending a bit of time on the computer. Logging in to Facebook for the first time in a while, I found in one of my friend's status updates—er, I should say, now with the "new" Facebook, something on her mind—revealed she'd been quoted on the SciFiWire site regarding the Battlestar Galactica finale.

That reminded me that with all the frantic efforts to get the new shared domicile in order I had not chimed in with my thoughts on the show.

Not that anyone gives a crap, especially nearly two weeks past the event now, but as I'd intended to do so anyway, here goes.

The final episode of the series made me cry.

Glancing briefly at some of the reactions on the aforementioned SciFiWire site, I get the impression that was not a common response. A lot of people just seemed pretty pissed off. We'll get back to that.

First, I should note that I am not the sort of person who cries easily. I'm not quite the stereotypical stoic male, but there's something of that emotional repression in me that even really moving moments in movies or TV shows generally only make me "mist up" a bit before I regain my composure. (I am not suggesting that is either good or bad; it is mentioned merely to establish a baseline for my typical behavior.)

Whether you saw it or not, here's the scene that did me in:

Admiral Lee Adama (Edward James Olmos) and President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) develop a romance in the last season, after years of having a more adversarial relationship. However, she is dying of cancer; they know their time is limited. Being a taciturn military man, he never professes his love out loud, but it is revealed in other ways.

In the finale, her illness has progressed to the point she can barely see, so he takes her for what is essentially a drive to find a place where they'll live out the remainder of their days. (Yes, it's a science fiction show, so they're actually flying, but you get the idea.) And in the middle of him talking about finding a good spot to build a cabin, she silently passes away in the seat next to him. He glances over and sees her slumped, and immediately knows. He grabs her hand, his eyes welling up, and slips a ring off of his finger and places it on her finger; a gesture to declare his love in those last moments before her spirit left.

When I first watched it, I was only somewhat overtaken by emotion; I was able to keep the tears at bay, only getting a little misty. However, when the show was over and I tried to describe the scene to my fiancée I burst into uncontrollable sobs.

I did watch the finale in my fiancée's (now erstwhile) apartment on the last night before we moved her stuff into my condo, and it's only a few months until our wedding, so perhaps my emotional state was particularly susceptible to such influence. But here's the thing: Even as I type this now (well over a week later) I find myself getting a bit of a lump in my throat thinking about it. I may be more of a hopeless romantic than even I consciously realize, but I'm not so much of a softie that something would continue to affect me that far removed from the moment. (Psychoanalyze that as you will.)

That it has that effect I must interpret as the real power of the show: that I could care so much about the characters that seeing a fictionalized man lose the fictionalized woman he loved (even though we all knew it was coming) could leave me choked up—even though ultimately this wasn't even a major plotline for the series.

(It also indicated that Edward James Olmos can motherfucking act.)

For me, it was never about how well the finale wrapped up the plot or whether it had a really clever twist (unlike, for example, Lost, where that will be the only thing that matters to make or break the entire show); it was a matter of seeing the characters through to their ending.


And I think that's about as much as my readers (who probably are not hardcore fans of the show) need to know about that.

But if you want to get into it, you see the "thoughts on this" link below.