March 21, 2005


Down here, it's made of wood and wire.

I was reading this interview with Gene Wilder earlier. Most of its the usual interview fluff, and thus eminently skimmable if not outright skippable, but the first page had some neat bits (I honestly couldn't tell you what's on pages 2-4, it all blurred into the Peanuts Teacher voice at that point). To refine that further, there was exactly one interesting question-answer complete about his Prayer Demon, that I wish the interview had pursued more. But it went into Peanuts Teacher level instead. (I'm thinking this is probably symptomatic of deeper syndromes as to why I don't often find myself on msnbc.)

The out-of-context bit that really caught my eye, though, was this:

...and it’s hard to speak with vehemence when you think that the people you’re addressing it to aren’t going to understand what you’re saying.

That resonated with me. It's not a high-horse thing, understand, it's just the far-from-unique recognition that, as a friend once sighed at me, "I don't have the same...structures as you." I don't even know that it's an accurate thing--but the narrative of it is a well-dug-in one for me. The decision to engage in relatively more disciplined and regular blogging is, as one of its factors, an exercise in fighting the inertia of that particular meme. The relative truth of things like that is a feedback loop--the more you just don't bother speaking something because the deep structures of apprehending it vary (unavoidably so) from others', the more that structural difference will vary. (Note to self: backburner that.)

In other things that caught my eye tonight: this bit. (NYTimes, registration/bugmenot etc.) Yes, yes, this is basically just market forces at work, it's not like they're being legislated against showing science in science museums. All I ask for is a) a cultural backlash against these idiots to finally happen, or b) the Rapture to finally happen and take them all away. Either one's fine, I'm not picky.

In their written comments, she explained, they made statements like "I really hate it when the theory of evolution is presented as fact," or "I don't agree with their presentation of human existence."

Yeah, I don't much agree with the presentation of your existence either, sir or madam. Are you Raptured yet?


How about now?

Well, fuck. Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?

There's probably some way to tie other recent links about those people selling Jesus-scented candles (which is apparently heavy on the myrrh and frankincense, but not so much on the weeks-unwashed sweat factor. It's possible to deny that He had pores to sweat through, but that smacks of the Arian heresy, so I think it's pretty clear these candlemakers' immortal souls are in danger), perhaps by suggesting the worried Imax theaters in questions simply waft the lordly odor through the ventilation during the objectionable e-word portions of the controversial films, thus soothing the righteous with a sweet savor unto them. But it would be an uncharitable way to pursue, so I'll avoid it.

posted by Gar @ 4:01 AM

March 20, 2005


I can take or leave it as I please.

I was going to post a rant about the ongoing Schiavo case--or circus, if you're a cynic (I plead no contest), but lost all desire to in further acquainting myself with facts of the whole sad mess. I do hope the current phase of Congress suddenly screeching and feathers-flying notice--like a flock of sleeping seagulls suddenly activating when one of them comes awake, spots a fish washed up on shore and croakscreams "MINE!"--backfires on them, but rather doubt it will.

Anyway, the very best thing I take from the whole affair is as a push to get a living will of some sort

posted by Gar @ 1:18 AM

March 18, 2005



This is a pretty decent article on a subject close to my eyerolls. (I suggest using cookie trick, but I suppose if you feel immoral for not sitting through some sort of ad for non-subscriber access, you'll need to do the ad thing.) Nicely quotable throughout, which tends to be the point of such things.

One of my favorite bits:

Even in the theatrical United States Senate hearings convened a few days after the Columbine shootings in 1999, MIT professor Henry Jenkins observed that the idea that violent entertainment had consistent and predictable effects on viewers was "inadequate and simplistic," adding almost poetically that most young people don't absorb entertainment passively, but rather move "nomadically across the media landscape, cobbling together a personal mythology of symbols and stories taken from many different places.

The last bit's my favorite of it, though I'd strike the "young" out of it entirely. People all have their personal mythologies drawn from various narratives. Although come to think of it, a case can be made that older people tend to get less and less nomadic in their construction.

Overall, a nice read, with the expected bits here and there--the 50's horror-comics parallel, the repetition of the inconvenient fact that violent crime rates just keep getting lower and lower, etc. A nice bit pointing out that brutal public executions were up to fairly recently a staple of social entertainment, jolly little carnivals really. The conclusion reminds me again that Gerard Jones' book "Killing Monsters" has been on my to-read list for awhile now.

posted by Gar @ 6:30 AM

March 16, 2005


better than expected

Two rentals that were both rather better than I'd expected (neither involve zombies, so there's not much in the way of deeper analysis):

The Bourne Identity. I actually think I resisted seeing this for a long while because I still remember choking back a guffaw when I first saw the trailer for it in the theater, as it had one of the most incredibly stupid lines I've heard. "He has the skills...of a dangerous man." Somehow that line, in the standard Trailer Voiceover Guy portentous delivery, occurring a brief flash-cut of Matt Damon flipping out on some security guards really stuck with me, and mostly in a "Yeah, let's not go see that anytime soon" sort of way.

But it wound up working its way through my generally-bloated netflix queue, and the trailer's bad first impression was unfounded. Definitely a by-the-numbers plot, but my heart warmed to it by none of the characters really being melodramatic about it. Bourne's concerned that he has amnesia, sure, but he stays away from screaming-at-the-sky routines, Marie (who sadly didn't get to use any of her Time Control mad skills in this role) reacts to sudden and rather calmly-approached violence in an appropriate manner--namely a sort of dazed powersave mode, rather than hysterics. (It's been an irritation of mine that character reactions to sudden blindsiding uberstress is usually some melodramatic explosion of some sort--I really do think the believable human reaction to Serious Fubar situations is that either you will freeze, or you will act rather automatically. It's not as easy to make look good for the camera, of course, which is why melodrama is always easier.)

I also liked that Bourne was clearly your pretty standard government supersoldier, but they dispense with tedious expository dialogue or scenes to that effect. The intelligence suits trying to coordinate his resolution didn't sit down and explain what they already knew at each other (well, mostly) for the benefit of Cletus in the audience, which is a lack rare enough that I can appreciate its presence.

Boondock Saints. More uneven, but I dug it in a style-over-substance sort of way. Vigilante-porn, granted, but the silly stylish overflair saved it. I would have really liked the ending to be a more cassidy-and-sundance setup--maybe the courthouse surrounded, and our Saints walking calmly right out to voiceover of one of their prayers about being guarded by angels and whatnot, roll credits. Also, I'm not really sure I needed to see Willem Defoe in drag. Truly unnecessary. (Drag's one of those things I think I just lack a crucial neural circuit for the alleged comic value of. I've always sort of agreed with a source-forgotten web-snark I saw somewhere or other than dismissed the whole thing as "drag is the gender-equivalent of blackface.")

posted by Gar @ 10:25 AM

March 15, 2005


All you zombies in...what?

So I'm watching Lucio Fulci's "City of the Living Dead," and I have to admit, I'm at a loss to classify it in the Zombie Standard Model. Part of the problem is the zombies are neither notably fast nor slow. There's shambling, yes, but there's also a pretty acrobatic--for a dead guy--leap off a wall.

More problematic, these zombies teleport. I can't really begin to place that factor. Also, they can be put down by stabbing them in the stomach, which just isn't right.

I'm tempted to deny them zombie classification entirely. They're certainly even less zombies than the Ragey guys in 28 Days Later.

Classification difficulties aside, as zombie movies go, this was pretty bad. I admired Fulci's "Zombie," because it also had the chutzpah to be titled "Zombie 2." Also, it featured a zombie battling a shark; I figure that it was budget constraints that kept the shark from returning as a zombie shark. Fulci died before he could make Zombie 2, also titled Zombie 3. I understand that he did rise from the grave, but could secure no funding due to the negative impact death has on one's credit rating. Anyway, City was no Zombie.

posted by Gar @ 9:30 AM

March 14, 2005


information only

As an exceptionally brief note, I've been playing about with Bloglines, and am coming to the conclusion that it satisfies two important personal criteria for net-based time-wasting, as follows:

  • It's free.

  • It passes the Lazy Test

  • In the course of futzing with it, I reset the feed settings here to full rather than excerpt, as that's much less annoying when using it as an aggregator.

    End of line.

    posted by Gar @ 4:10 AM

    ...and grab your socks.

    This post is about socks. Actually, it's about a specific pack of them. More specifically yet, it's actually about their packaging. That's the kind of hard-hitting serious philosophical analysis I do here.

    They're the basic black variety. Plastic bag, check. Three-or-four pair bundle wrapped in one of those sticky tape-slash-labels, check. This is the point where I'm expecting them to actually separate from one another. Only I find this particular package is also impaled by one of those H-barred plastic strips, the sort of thing we'll look back fondly at in fifty years after peak oil's falling graphline has left us all bludgeoning each other with thighbones to get at our neighbors' stockpiled biofuel made of fermented crushed cockroaches. (Someday, there'll be personal consumer brain-imaging caps that will enable me to see exactly what parts of my brain light up when I'm cogntively linking a task like unpacking new socks to doomsaying theories; I hope to use it biometrically, just like people use personal consumer heart monitors to keep their pulses in the right zone to maximize aerobic workouts.)

    With that out of the way, the pairs actually separate from one another. The individual pair I'm now focused on, however, still doesn't. It's behaving like one sock. I've been reading Brian Greene's "Fabric of the Cosmos" the last couple nights, acquired during previously-mentioned bookstore-infection trip, and therefore I suspect that this particular pair of socks has, at extreme improbability, become quantum entangled but at the macroscopic scale that such things as "socks" are a useful descriptor of. This hypothesis is disproved by evidence, however, but the reason's even more silly--at two points, the pair is loosely staple-clasped together with tiny bent bits of pinched-together metal bands.

    There was some kind of corporate decision-making involved with both those additional sock-packaging overkill facts. At some point, someone actually thought that most socks were simply criminally underpackaged. There were security flaws, perhaps. Maybe a retiree who engages in letters-to-the-editor as a hobby branched out into letters-to-companies, and bitterly complained about a package that was missing a sock, rendering it useless, and how dare your corporation treat a veteran this way. There were internal memos sent. Person-hours were devoted to meetings with whoever makes and sells tiny packaging bits. There were PowerPoint presentations about the processes involved in guaranteeing that every pair of socks was firmly clasped together and plastic-impaled.

    Someone got a large bonus for spearheading and seeing the Package Integration Security (Socks) program to successful rollout. It's probably a bullet point on their resume.

    Cynics in danger of learning too late that man is a feeling creature, and because of it the greatest in the universe, would do well to contemplate this kind of thing.

    posted by Gar @ 1:02 AM

    March 13, 2005


    rambling about the sidebar links

    The other day, I walked down to my most local Barnes & Noble to finally actually make use of a generously large gift card from my folks, from this last xmas. (Yes, Xmas. Suck my casual profaning, triune God!) (Tangent: I've seen discussions in various fora about how gift cards are yet one more bursting boil spraying the pus of the underlying infection of modern crass commercial insensitivy to true gift-giving spirit. These discussions tell me mostly that people, as a species, have yet to evolve satisfactory governors over whatever cognitive apparatus handles opinions. The intensity of opinions is not a problem--the problem lies in the utter lack of humor people have in them. But that's a topic for a post best written when I'm not functioning on ~4 hours of sleep on a skewed circadian-rhythms-be-damned schedule.) I blame being out in public for the cough I currently have, and actually, probably the sleep disruption as well.

    So I'm killing some time by jabbering about something low-impact, namely the current list of random links down the side of this here blog. Most blogs list only other blogs. It's pretty much a great big linky clusterfuck. (Preposterous Universe had a few entries back with a neat graphic purporting to be from a study of how primarily-politically-oriented blogs linked to one another, and it broke down as you'd expect--a great big explosion of blue off to one side, an equally big explosion of red off to the other, allegedly more tightly cross-linked to itself, and a thin middle band. It reminded me a lot of that classic elementary-level science demonstration of using iron filings scattered round a bar magnet to physically outline its magnetic field (again, possible future entry topic when I'm more lucid and in the right frame of mind to strangle a dubious metaphor into submission, namely that much like the magnetic fieldlines, the truly relevant polarity really isn't the two-d cross-section of them displayed by the fact of the magnet sitting on a classroom desk, but the actual poles of the magnet itself. Backburner #872.)) As part of my perverse streak, that's why I'll always mix blogs and non-blogs freely in my links list at any given time I feel like changing its contents about.

    The links as of today. I'm not going to hyperlink these, because I'm lazy. A fault within oneself is always a good leverage point to vault into a moral high-horse saddle over the presence of it in others, so if the threes of you reading this are too lazy to click on the actual links on the actual blogger page, whether or not you have to get there from an aggregator or are reading it directly, go complain elsewhere.

    BoingBoing: A skimmer, mostly. One of those weird-and-neat-stuff-on-the-web linkblogs. It recently brought me to some great videos of this incredible automated chicken-caging industrial machine and to a hyperpowered industrial shredder that chewed threw things like washing machines in seconds, so it got shordurpersaved for awhile.

    Cognitive Daily: Blog focusing on cognitive science, which is an area I've always found simply fascinating. The mind is cool, the brain is nifty, and the slowly fumbling investigation into how the one makes the other is full of awe.

    Dubious Quality: I like videogames, and Mr. Quality writes primarily about them, so it tends to work out. Plus, now that several friends of mine have spawned and inadvertently lead to the discovery that I'm actually pretty good around and with kids, I appreciate the other large chunk of the blog that's about amusing stories about his particular spawn.

    Forksplit: A kind of unending ragedespair against everyone around the author's character. I prefer to think of it as a literary device--a fictionalized first-person character, if you can dig it. Because considered as a real person, I think I'd probably want to punch her in the face at closer than textual distance. There's probably some sort of deeper analysis into humor to be performed about this--something about how Wile E. getting crushed by an anvil is funny, but being in the same room as a real person getting an anvil dropped on them is (usually) not funny at all.

    Hysteria, Mysteria, and War! (jk's tarot site): I have a minor interest in tarot, not as a purported divinatory gobbledygook tool, but more as an interesting thing that a very few people have made very interesting symbolic structures out of. (And a great, great, great deal many more have made profoundly tedious fluffycrystal crap out of.) Jess Karlin's a big part of why I still have a minor interest today, instead of it dying a decade back when I first truly understood how deep the sea of bullshit was that the interesting bits floated in.

    Jeff shrugs: I actually know this guy in real life. He maintains that videogames are fun and cool things, despite all pressure from his wife to the contrary. His blog was originally titled something else, and then shortly after he'd created it, I received a panicked IM to the effect that the first Google hits on that name pointed to some unholy blend of webcomic and blog whose mission statement was sharing and expressing the stress and existential angst of being a teenage furry. On strictly honest self-analysis, I'm not sure my reactions to his concomittant feeling of uncleanliness (part of active listening is restating what one is told in different terms, to demonstrate that you're paying attention; I believe my amplification involved something like "unclean, I understand. Like sticky, crusted and matted-together nylon fur.") were exactly helpful. Friends overlook each others' minor flaws. Anyway, he promptly renamed his blog to something less...sticky.

    Lileks: his Bleats, actually. Now that our great nation's moment of accountability is over, he's become readable again for me. (Understand: I have a strong hunch that in the alternate universe where James Lileks was a passionate Kerry supporter, but with all the rest of his personality not being mirror-reversed, that I found him just as unreadable during '04 as in this universe.) His redeeming features for me have always been the sheer warmth and joy in his Gnat entries (in my own way, I really am a big old softie; you just need to get past the electron-probability-cloud of orbitting razor blades), and frequently hilarious turns of phrase when he manages to balance out shrillness versus inherent wittiness--a battle that he primarily was losing throughout election year, but seems to have regained his footing on now that he's under less stress-by-proxy.

    Metafilter: An uneven but good "cool webstuff" collection point, usually of a more thoughtful variety than the lower-brow variety like boingboing up yonder. The discussions revolving around the collected links are...predictable...for discussion fora, but you don't feel that you need to fail an English test in order to post.

    Mind Hacks: More cognitive science bits. I still haven't bought the book it was originally created to push, but that's mostly at not having stumbled across a copy yet.

    Online Etymology Dictionary: I like etymology. It's neat stuff, that's frequently sparked new understanding, or at least new thoughts, just looking at the evolution (or, as you might say in an increasing number of jurisdictions, creation) of words.

    Penny Arcade: joy in killography. Their Childs Play charity drives of the last couple years are both a good cause, and amusing in that those vested in seeing gamers as morally lesser are reduced to muttered grumbling that there are better charities, but then falling silent because everyone knows it's a variant of clean-your-plate-kids-starve-in-Cambodia illogic. I still want a "I smolder in generic rage" t-shirt.

    Pointless Waste of Time: cheerfully obscene humor. There's all sorts of good stuff here. Their review of NBA Live 2003 is one of the best games reviews I've ever seen, and I'm including Old Man Murray's work, rest in peace.

    Preposterous Universe: bloggishness mostly revolving around lay science of the physics variety.

    Quarter to Three: one of the few message boards I have a presence on these days, such as it is. The general vibe of the place tends to drive off the terminally-arrested-at-early-adolescence demographic that is, it pains me to admit, an unfortunate part of the set of gamers overall, and especially online. A few actual developers and such post there as well, which is nice, but nicer is that no one treats them as rockstars or celebrities. It's a place where I can mention that, say, the very ending bit of System Shock 2 was a godawful bit of b-movie idiocy, and two posts later one of the dudes who was at Irrational (who made the game) and actually responsible for it can virtually shrug at me and say "hey, we liked it," and absolutely no one goes "OH MY GOD, YOU MADE SYSTEM SHOCK YOU RULE!!!" In fact, people can go, "How did you make such a decent game when you're so obviously wrong?" and it's all in good humor.

    Sit Down and Shut Up: Brad Warner's my favorite Zen writer these days. He's got that blend of not-taking-this-Zen-shit-all-that-seriously, yet caring deeply so anyway even while joking about it, that still strikes me as a bafflingly rare combination on pretty much anything people care about. It's a stance that resonates with me strongly, which I imagine probably doesn't surprise anyone who knows me even passingly well. Once again, when a tiny percentage of humanity wipes the rest of us out entirely, it's not going to be because of intensity of caring about things--it's going to be from a terminal lack of humor. Backburner.

    Universal Acid: a sort of miscellaneous literate skeptical-asshole stance on things. Once again, it's the science articles that drew me to the place.

    Visual Thesaurus: I like language. This is a beautiful language toy.

    Where the Hell is Matt: Probably will drop off here sooner than some of the other links. But a nice travel blog, and worth visiting for the spastic world-travelling dance video in which he once accidentally elbows a Bangkok whore right in the face in the course of happy flailing.

    Yongfook: funny rants about disgusting Japanese food. One of thoe one-note deals that's continuing to amuse me in short doses.

    And there you have it. The length-versus-reward of this entry should tell you--it tells me!--why it's very rare for any blog to talk about all its sidebar links in any detail whatsoever.

    posted by Gar @ 2:17 AM

    March 09, 2005


    All you zombies, or, Drastic's Measures does insightful political film criticism!

    I was watching "Shaun of the Dead" the other day; it being one of the latest entries in the narrow genre of zombie comedy, or zomedy. It was a little startling in that it was actually a pretty good zombie flick, as zombie flicks go, aside from the comedy slant. And included one surprisingly gruesome Stupid Zombie Death (onscreen deaths in zombie flicks fall into only two categories; unfortunate accidents of the wrong-place-wrong-time variety, and the simply Stupid variety, usually but not always resulting from the requisite survivor group being a greater threat to each other than the dead folks are) which had a bigger startle factor than comparably gruesome zombie kills, mainly as the film's tone didn't lead you to expect it.

    Mind you, this is "good" as qualified as applying to the scale of zombie movies, not applying to the scale of all movies. The weights are different. Anyway, it's even more worth renting than I thought it was going to be whenever I put it on my netflix queue.

    Its zombies are of the traditional Slow variety. Slow zombies are simply not much of a threat unless:

    Thus some satisfying scenes of outrunning non-crowded zombie conditions by briskly walking. At one point, our titular Shaun is heroic and draws off a crowd of zombies. As the "plot holes" extra on the DVD explains, since these zombies were so Slow (contrary to some recent theories--see below), he had to stop running every 50 meters (since he's running around in London) or so and wait for them to catch up at multiple points. Slow zombies. Good traditional values, in zombie fiction.

    The less populated zombie family consists of Fast Zombies. The fellow behind 28 Days Later usually gets credited for this, which isn't really accurate, as some films prior also featured fast zombies. (Some people will argue strenuously that the zombies in 28 Days Later were not really zombies, and are the equivalent to the kind of people that nasally complain about how flawed the Lord of the Rings movies were, but have the saving grace of being slightly less annoying due to being unable to lapse into a Quenyan-Sindarin pidgin when agitated about such things as Aragorn not periodically bursting into painful spasm-attempts at poetry, or at characters having (slightly) more personality than your average head cold. They share the similarity of having arguments that may appear to be technically correct, are also nonetheless completely wrong.) But 28 Days was the first one in what passes for modern attention spans, so it gets the win. No matter.

    The Dawn of the Dead not-remake-but-alternative-riffing-off-of, also featured zombies of the Fast variety. That's even more well known, by way of not making audiences uncomfortable by taking place outside of America.

    There will always be more slow-zombie films than fast-zombie films; the latter are a more limited opportunity to resonate with the times. It's no accident, I say, and someone should give me a grant for it, that zombie flicks really peaked in relative popularity during the Cold War. It's like this: slow zombies were the Reds. The threat may take some non-vigilant types by surprise, sure, at least at first. But the bulk of the threat, the real story of the threat, is one of slowly growing menace. The survivors--who are us, of course, Americans who bleed red (but not Red!) white and blue, who are not now and who have never been members of the Communist Party--try to take an isolationist approach. We hole up in a house, or a mall, or an abandoned military base, or wherever; safe as long as we stay separate. But the threat keeps growing. The shambling few become a crowd, the crowd a mob, the mob an army.

    This is the Domino Theory in action. By the time the impractical (probably pinko) sorts have killed each other off through their sheer incompetence and traitorous ways, the last few remaining practical common-sense patriots are doomed.

    It doesn't have to be the Commies, understand, that was just the happy coincidence of the times. If movies had been such a force back in the pulp stories about the Yellow Peril, there would have been a lot of slow-zombie flicks then, too.

    So no big surprise that zombie movies in general went into a great big lull after the Red Scare collapsed due to its balance sheets being so far into the, well, red.

    Now, 28 Days Later. This might have been made regardless, but it would not have attracted near as much attention if certain fuckheads hadn't decided that driving some jumbo jets right into some skyscrapers would be a great capstone on a lives well spent. Fast Zombies, you see where I'm going with this, are terrorists suddenly breaking into America's consciousness in a way that the fizzled previous attempt on the towers didn't, and in the way that Oklahoma City almost did, but then fizzled right back out again when it was found it was a local crazy instead of something to get properly xenophobic about.

    It's a nice day, sunny and pleasant, and then WHAM! out of nowhere there's these freakin' monsters come to freakin' moider us. Again, no coincidence that both 28 Days and Dawn of the Dead had protagonists literally waking up to apocalypse right here--not slowly building, but all of a sudden WHAM in their faces ACT NOW! Quiet moments that come after apocalypse's arrival are shattered just as quickly. That's also part of why Dawn faired better than 28, aside from the domestic release leg-up; the zombies (yes they ARE!) in 28 Days Later died off on their own, it was a flare-up that went away after being quarantined and allowed to burn itself out, which is not a metaphor America's comfortable with. Dawn's zombies laid in wait everywhere; no island of any size was protection.

    Notice also that Dawn featured precisely one character who could properly project military force--but was brought down because of being starved by unfortunate starting cirumstances (not much food in the gun shop, though it's a little hard to swallow a proper gun shop without umpty civillian faux-MREs stockpiled around as well, but never mind that), and then by the sheer stupid incomptence at the non-competent-force-projectors' late attempts to actually get food his way. (Dude. Arrow. Rope. Stronger rope to follow. Pulley. Food and supplies back and forth far above the zombies' heads. You don't count on Ralph the Wonder Dog. You morons! (Eliciting the You Morons! reaction is a fine and proper part of any zombie film worth its decedents.)) I don't think the political commentary there needs much expansion.

    If zombie flicks continue to enjoy their resurgence in popularity, I predict mainly the Slow Zombie team at this point. Romero's planned new installment in the Dead series will certainly include such. Plus revolve around the plot of isolated soldiers--or "contractors"?--in the anti-zombie squad tank Dead Reckoning (goddamn do I love horror flick silliness!) operating in hostile, zombie- (insurgent) infested territory. It'll do well; it's the right time for it to.

    Now I need an honorary doctorate from somewhere and a large grant.

    posted by Gar @ 3:03 AM

    March 07, 2005


    why I avoid moral high horsing, an example gratis

    So I see this story, which is on the front page for some reason. Mr. BTK (alleged, of course--innocent until proven gitmo--but for the sake of this entry I'll presume guilty. Not like I'm on the jury) is depressed. He's having problems sleeping at night. Family isn't much interested in talking to him since finding out he had a hobby of extroverted future amputation, so to speak.

    The most obvious reaction is, of course, the reason why such things get put on front pages. Media knows the reaction all around will be "cry me a river, sicko," chatter is generated--no contest, your honor--circulation increases. Basic marketing. I'm not all that interested in the common reaction--not that I'm above it or anything like that, because I firmly share it. Cry me a river. I'm sorry you're not sleeping as soundly as you did when occasionally torturing someone to death, and hopefully you can get some counseling to work on that self-esteem. Etc.

    But it made me mindful of one of those hot-button issues that I just don't seem to have a dog in the fight for, that being the death penalty. I'm basically ambivalent towards it--I'm more or less opposed, but I wouldn't call the grounds involved particularly strenuous. There's a dash of cold-blooded utilitarianism--it simply costs more to eventually electrocute or inject or whatnot a felon, than it does to simply warehouse them out of society's way--but it's not as if I can seriously mount a cost-savings argument given what government budgets--particularly the federal variety--look like these days. What's a few million bucks more per head when I'm assured that trillions and trillions isn't actually a problem (and to be fair, the sky does seem to be staying above our heads)? There's a moral component, I guess, but then again, I think it's a real shame that Mr. BTK didn't vigorously resist arrest, leading to a tense standoff in which he caught a bullet in the brainpan and no others were harmed apart from adrenaline aftershock jitters.

    There was a recent high-speed-chase death in my neck of the woods that probably has film clips all over the internets about. Dude kills his wife and another, like he does, and shortly afterwards the police would like to discuss the situation with him. He's not all that enthusiastic about discussing the matter--actually, he's very enthusiastic about going far away very very fast. Cue 100 mph+ chase down a major highway, ending in him rolling his vehicle, getting thrown clear (murderers not being a big fan of seatbelt laws either, I suppose) and having said vehicle actually land on him for an encore. All told, that ended about as well as it could have, given that no one who wasn't a recent double-murder had a vehicle land on top of them.

    So it's hard for me to simultaneously get fired up about opposing the government, state or fed, from killing someone like that after quite a few years and quite a few dollars--even though I do--when I feel things like that are, in balance, the world behaving reasonably--which, again, I do. The world needs more runaway trucks with good timing, as I've said even before aforementioned chase.

    I guess what I'd be most in favor of is no death penalty, but also no such thing as a suicide watch. It's hard to do believable high-horse moral rhetoric about that kind of position, though, which is why I'll never be in politics.

    posted by Gar @ 2:38 AM

    March 03, 2005


    bless the mutants, every one

    I bought a Nintendo DS a few days back, and am pleased overall. There's no doubt that the upcoming PSP is more powerful and sleek and whatnot, but I suspect the DS will do better at attracing titles that make up for lesser horsepower with sheer bizarrepower.

    For instance, take Feel the Magic XY/XX, a touchscreen-based Japanese stalking/love story, in which the introductory minigame is using the stylus to trigger some dude who swallowed a bunch of goldfish to vomit them back to safety, and gets incrementally stranger from there.

    Then there's upcoming titles, like Egg Monster Hero, which I think hits in Mayish in a translated version. My favorite screenshot of the entire freakish lot is right below.

    You are no match for Egg Monster Hero cottage, dark knight...thing!

    posted by Gar @ 8:36 AM

    March 02, 2005


    The beautiful and inspiring Rapture postcard that my friend Dave blew my goddamn mind with ages ago in high school. Also, a good excuse to test Picasa+Hello's blogging function. Seems to work okay!

    posted by Gar @ 7:42 AM

    March 01, 2005


    language, piecemeal

    I’m recently discovering the general neatness of Google Scholar, that being one of the many bits that the place is welding onto its chassis more or less each day. I’ve sort of known it existed before, but tonight was the first night I poked around with it. A couple neat bits:

    This paper (direct link to PDF file) revolves around studies indicating that infant brains are already distinguishing between native language and non- at early ages where a lot of folks tend to think of them as, in general, non-interactive weakly-flailing drool-and-poop machines. The likelihood is this is based almost entirely on prosody—the general rhythm of sound, stresses, tone and silence in any given language, which tend to vary from one another—in cases where they don’t, babies tend to orient attention at them more or less equally at first.

    This is one of those makes-sense-when-you-think-of-it sort of things, of course. One of the hardest bits about understanding spoken speech doesn’t really occur to you until you try to learn other languages even in a minor way—there’s an unconscious tuning to the rhythms of inflection and barely-distinguishable pauses that allow, more often than not, native English speakers to understand whether the other guy just said “a nice box” or “an ice box” even when not enunciating all that clearly. Prosody being the underlying system, with semantics and context on top of that.

    The other bit’s an abstract only, that I sort of wish I could see the full article behind. Though not really to the tune of forking out for it. Apparently the bits of the brain that assist in recognizing sarcasm are distinct from the bits that handle comprehension of others’ emotional states, and by extension, their intentions.

    posted by Gar @ 3:54 AM

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