Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Do I get a discount if he's colicky?

I feel that this one is self-explanatory:

Not only did I get a double take at the announcement of a sale of babies, but reading on there's actually no clarification to contradict my first interpretation. Their entire stock of babies is up to 50% off!? Well, gosh - I think I'll just get two then!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Movie Review: Ink

Recently, my wife and I settled down for a movie night. Not wanting to head out, we booted up the 360 and loaded Netflix to see what I had in the queue. This one movie, Ink, stood out as an unknown but fairly highly rated film (with a surprising consistency of 3.4 / 5.0 on Netflix and 6.8 / 10.0 on imdb.com). It wasn't rated on Metacritic since the movie was never actually released by a publisher. Apparently no one wanted the script, but the director decided to go for it anyway. With glowing written reviews, we decided to brave the unknown and check it out.

Sadly, I now worry that my wife won't trust me to pick out movies she hasn't heard of any more.

First off, it's excruciatingly, painfully obvious that this was a low-budget movie. Most of this comes from terrible cinematography and some extremely weak acting. There were a few genuinely good special effects and character designs (mostly with the villains in the movie - the heroes seemed to wear whatever they had in their closets at home), but these were often obscured immediately by shoddy work elsewhere. This was all slightly surprising since the opening of the movie was rather solid, with an excellent opening 2 minutes and a perfectly reasonable plot setup following. But then things went downhill very quickly.

The general idea behind the movie is that there are two factions of beings who provide dreams to people - the Storytellers (good dreams) and the Incubi (nightmares). They are apparently at odds with eachother, rather than working in any sort of symbiosis. There are also other beings who are part of neither side, and the titular character is one of these. He steals the...soul, I guess...of a girl in her sleep in order to try to become an Incubus. The plot then follows Ink as he attempts to reach his final goal, all the while the Storytellers track him down and try to stop him.

There's an additional side plot about the girl's father, who has become a workaholic and isn't really a part of her life any more. It's some nice family drama to add to the story I suppose, though isn't necessarily all that believable. Which brings us to the truly damning quality of this movie: the writing is weak.

When you're going to tout your movie as the great screenplay that no one was willing to pick up but you decided to make anyway, you had better have some great dialog and a truly compelling and original plot. Instead, the dialog is often silly, characters are shallow and at times completely undeveloped, and the plot left neither my wife nor I surprised, or even really guessing (confused, but obscurity doesn't substitute for clever plot development). For a film with extremely low production values, the entire experience rests on acting and writing, and sadly those just aren't solid here either.

A quick bit of credit does go to the blind Pathfinder character. While his introduction was over-acted and poorly written (with the actor sounding like he was being naughty by saying a few swear words), the character himself had a few funny lines and was genuinely fairly interesting. Also, I recall the music being decent throughout, so good job to the composer.

In any case, it's clear that the writer wanted to have the next Matrix movie (complete with alternate dimensions, a modern good/evil mythology, lots of special effects, multiple fight scenes, etc.), but unfortunately it really doesn't get even close. I've been going back and re-reading reviews written of the movie trying to figure out what people saw in this movie, and I still don't understand it. If anyone has seen it and would like to leave a comment explaining why I'm wrong, please do. But as it stands, I can't give it better than a 4/10. If you like low-budget cult-classic movies, you can download it (apparently it's big on the torrents and the film-makers are cool with it) or stream it if you want, but definitely don't spend money on this movie.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The LHC has nothing in WinXP

I just saw this confirmation message while using Windows XP:

I fear that if I hit "yes" the universe will implode.

This came as a result of accidentally dragging my recycling bin icon to the quick-launch bar. Attempting to remove the link yielded this window. I suppose it makes sense, but the lack of any indication that the first one is a link is rather confusing.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Enemy, mine?

If you talk to anyone who really knows me, most of them will tell you, and probably everyone would agree with the fact, that I am honest, kind, and trusting almost to a fault. I tell the truth when I shouldn't, I help people out when I can, and I actually wrote "gullible" on a ceiling in a college class room just so once in a while it'd be true when I looked up.

So it is absolutely shocking to me that I apparently have someone who hates my guts. My neighbor for some reason has decided that my wife and I are evil, and I'm really not sure why. I'm aware of one incident where she thinks our dog pooped in her garden - something she'd rightfully be upset about, although we're rather certain it didn't happen. (For the record, the dog did indeed run into the yard, my wife yelled at the dog to come back, and the dog cowered and trembled slightly, which very feasibly looked to an outside observer like she was fertilizing the garden) Even if it did happen, it was absolutely not intentional and is not something we let happen in other people's yards, especially in something like her cute little garden.

Since then, I've had numerous other, completely false, accusations thrown my way. Apparently we've been scratching her car door (she parks next to us, but to my knowledge I've never bumped her car) and are making our car alarm beep (which it does beep annoying sometimes when we lock it - we can't control this though) just to show off our security system. On top of that, one evening I noticed her gas door was open on her car and I closed it. Apparently she was watching me from her doorway at the time (this was around midnight, by the way) and stepped outside angrily telling me to never touch her car. I explained that the gas door was open and she called me a liar. Great.

Now she regularly stands in her doorway, watching me. Even just tonight, I got back from the grocery story at 11:30pm, and when I got out of my car her door opened up and she stood there, watching me - which was what lead me to come inside and write this post.

At this point, I don't know what to do. I'd love to sit down and talk with her, but it seems like she has no interest in listening. I thought of leaving flowers on her door one day, but figured she'd probably just hate me more for it. I tried smiling and waiving to her for months and was rewarded with silent scowls. The thought of someone thinking I'm some evil villain haunts me and deeply disturbs me, but I have no idea how to fix it.

Sometimes I try telling myself she's crazy, but she seems so normal and interacts with other neighbors perfectly fine. She has a cute dog and a nice garden and even was the first person we talked with when we were considering moving into the neighborhood (at which time she was very helpful and cordial). Could this one dog-poo-related misunderstanding really set off such a huge hate-fest? Should I try to mend things, or just continue ignoring it and feeling sad and guilty every single time I walk by her door, despite having done nothing wrong? I know I probably need to just not care what people think of me, at least in some cases, but it's hard when you're confronted with it on a near daily basis. Perhaps I've just lead a sheltered life. Perhaps being nice to everyone for so long has left me defenseless against such focused anger towards me. If nothing else, I hope that writing this down and putting it out there will at least be therapeutic, for a little while.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Sketchiest Beverage Cooler Ever

Two posts in one day? No way!! Apologies for being a little juvenile in this one, but it's just far too funny to ignore and not share with the world.

My wife and I were looking for a way to spend our points we've accumulated from Wachovia before closing our account there (for reasons previously mentioned) when we came across Igloo's "Pink Ribbon Chillywrap Beverage Cooler":

I'm not sure what part of this is the funniest. How could no one involved in the marketing of this product realize how much this looks like a sex toy?! From the "dome cap" to the "finger grips for easy handling", it's almost impossible to believe this isn't some Photoshopped image. Yet, a quick search turns up the Amazon purchase page for the item. I'm sad to admit that this still makes me chuckle when I look at it. Seriously, Igloo? Seriously?

In other news, older readers may have noticed that my layout is now wider. I finally got tired of not being able to put decent-sized images in the blog, so I widened things up a bit. We'll see how that goes. Any thoughts on the new size?

Body image, obesity, and friendship in America

I believe this is my first "pickle" (how long can these horrible puns keep up?!), and possibly the first of some more serious blog posts on philosophy, theology, politics, etc. Not that I want the blog to lose some of its lighter tone, but I think some deeper posts might be interesting too.

So, this is a short exploratory essay on body image, obesity, and friendship in America. I'm not familiar with cultural perceptions outside of the US, but would certainly welcome international readers to chime in on the comments section.

This post starts out with a question: "As a friend/family member, if you notice that someone close to you is getting dangerously over-weight, should you talk to them about it, or let them be?"

Part of me wants to make sure that the person is aware of it, that they're not slowly gaining weight and not realizing just how much of a difference it is. Another part of me has been taught that it is a personal issue and one that, from a societal perspective, is fairly taboo to talk about (especially if your friend is a woman). But if you have a friend who smokes a lot, or drinks excessively, or is otherwise reckless with their lives, should you not try to help them? Why should obesity be any different?

Also, to be clear, I'm not talking about aesthetics here - I'm talking about real, dangerous, kills more people than cancer, obesity. Which brings me to my next point. Women in America are under incredible societal pressure to be absurdly thin. Between marketing and media, the Barbie-shape has been portrayed as an ideal for decades.

Even worse, if you go back and look at the "ideal body" of the 60s, Marilyn Monroe, she's a bit heavier than modern models. Her classic 36-24-36 numbers are too big for the British Association of Model Agents' current stated target of 34-24-34 (yes, taken from Wikipedia, but also cited within Wikipedia). So not only are we portraying thin women as ideal, it's getting even more severe with time.

This has lead to efforts to push acceptance of realistic body image among girls and women in America. Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty comes to mind as an initiative to help girls be happy with who they are. This is a fantastic idea and in no way am I challenging that such efforts are important and even necessary in our society.

But have we taken it too far? Being happy with yourself for confidence, self-esteem, and aesthetic reasons is great. But there is a clear point past which you are no longer healthy and you should be unhappy with your body - preferably in such a way as to motivate yourself to get into better shape. To tell someone who has a BMI of 35+ that they should find themselves beautiful and be happy with their body is no different than telling someone who smokes that yellow teeth and smokey breath are attractive qualities. You might be trying to make them feel better, but really are creating a poisonous thought process that will ultimately lead to an early death.

The problem is that it is a fine line to walk. You don't want every over-weight person hating themselves and being embarrassed to go in public. And some people genuinely can't lose the weight for medical reasons - though they are rare exceptions. The problem is one of moderation - we should be scorning the excessively thin and fat and helping everyone move towards a healthy, medium body weight.

Yet moderation is not a strength of our society, so we end up with things like Mo'Nique's F.A.T. (Fabulous and Thick) Chance - a reality TV show about a plus-size beauty pageant. While I understand that it's an attempt to promote positive body image, I think the idea of rewarding people for destroying their bodies is foolish and dangerous. One amateur reviewer (grobertson-2 from IMDB.com) quipped of the show: "What's next, the Miss D.R.U.N.K. or Miss M.E.T.H. pageant?" While a bit extreme, I don't think s/he was far off.

So where does that leave us? Should a friend talk to a friend who is getting dangerously overweight? I myself have struggled with my own weight (despite screwing up my schedule and not exercising for a few months I'm still about 192, which is great that I've maintained weight, but I still have a way to go before I get out of the overweight BMI category), and yet outside of a few close family members (parents and wife), no one talks to me about it unless it's a complement about lost weight. Positive reinforcement is there and is important, but no one was challenging me when I was much more overweight (I've been as high as 215 or so) to try to lose some of it. And to be honest, I'm not sure that I would have taken such challenges well - but I'd like to think I would have respected the person for being willing to try.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What's That URL?

Google's ads and news clips that appear above Gmail are often rather compelling to read or click on. However, occasionally they're funny, and in this case it was primarily due to a poor choice of URL.

I honestly nearly clicked on this link hoping to see a great website about why kids are scary. It's not quite www.expertsexchange.com (a really great website, btw) or Lake Tahoe's promotional www.gotahoe.com, but it still struck me as pretty funny.