Friday, January 30, 2009

The wackos are still in control

Or at least, they're still have far too much power.

According to this article, at the upcoming Superbowl, the Transportation Security Administration "will be scrutinizing the body language and demeanor of fans as part of the effort to spot suspicious and possibly dangerous people in the crowd."

This is pseudoscience. All the training of law-enforcement personnel in body language is rubbish. Don't believe anything you hear about the significance of eye movements or the use of "uh" in sentences. It's as solidly based on actual data as is astrology.

These are the same sincere but deluded and not very bright twits who are watching people in the security lines at airports for signs of nervousness. Because of course only a possible terrorist would be nervous while lining up to have his bags and possibly rectum searched by the TSA so that he can shuffle along to his airplane along with the other cattle so that he can be crammed into a flying sardine can that hasn't been adequately serviced since the last time a Democrat was in the White House.

Shitheads. Obama, get on this.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

"What're you in for?" "Cussing."

A bill now in the South Carolina state Senate would make it a felony to swear in the presence of a minor. This ghastly crime would be punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 5 years.

Friday, January 16, 2009

More of that darned Stock Show weather

Stock Show still going, temperatures in the mid-50s.

Damn you, Al Gore! This is all your fault!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thalaron radiation!

I just learned about this by watching Star Trek: Nemesis. See, it's this radiation whose existence is only hypothetical, even though Geordi LaFarge knows how to detect it using plain old standard-issue Starfleet detectors (detect-ores), and research on it was outlawed by the Federation because it has the ability to - shiver! - destroy organic matter at the subatomic level!

Which leads me to wonder why it wouldn't destroy any matter at the subatomic level, because at that level, there's no difference. But what do I know? I didn't graduate from the prestigious Engineering School at Starfleet Academy with an advanced degree in technobabble.

Monday, January 12, 2009

More on Denver's fake Western heritage

Which is to say, its pretense to a Hollywood Western Heritage:

Tuesday (tomorrow) has been declared Tuesday declared Dress Western Day in Denver.

Have you ever seen anything so fucking dumb?

Stock show weather

Denverites like to exclaim, when the stock show's in town and the weather turns cold and snowy, as it did today, that we're having "stock show weather." It's a local belief that the stock show has a magical effect on the weather, bringing cold and snow to Denver with it.

Bunk, of course, and finally a genuwine scientist feller has analyzed the weather data and shown just what bunk it is.

But you just know that no one will listen to him and that every year people will exclaim in wonder at the predictable yet uncanny appearance of stock show weather. In January. Because, if the stock show weren't in town, we'd neeeevvvveeerrr have snow and cold in Denver in January.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

"Mainstream is hard!" said Ken

The novel I'm working on, Chains, is science fictional in some respects but really mainstream, so I'm dealing more than before with making all the character inner stuff work properly, because that's the main focus. It's so much easier when you can solve a problem by having someone jump into a time machine or spaceship, or have two men burst through the door with guns blazing.

No wonder there are almost no worthwhile mainstream writers. Oops, sorry, that just slipped out.

Anyway, it's fun and fulfilling, and I'm feeling hopeful that this book will be a rip-snorting, bell-ringing, guns-blazing page turner of a, er, serious mainstream exploration of the human condition.

Now if only we could do something about all those other people who

fire into the air in celebration.

Do they think the bullets go into orbit? Do they think?

Monday, January 05, 2009

Denver's fake Western heritage

Actually, it's not really fake. Denver and the Front Range have a real Western heritage: mining. That's what brought the white settlers here in droves and resulted in the establishment of the state. The fake part is the imagined Hollywood-style cowboy heritage.

We get a walloping dose of that fakery every year around this time because of the stock show. There are TV and radio ads featuring gravelly voices speaking with that bizarre distortion of a Southern accent that Hollywood uses to depict anything Old Wild Western (and sometimes anything rural, no matter what part of the country a movie is set in).

The real history of the West in general and Colorado in particular is fascinating, colorful, and an important part of US history. I wish we'd hear more about that and less of the Hollywood version, although I fear that most Americans see their entire history through the lens of the movies.

Speaking of movies, Benjamin Button sucks.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Curious Special Effects of Benjamin Button

There's far less to this movie than meets the eye. What meets the eye is the special effects, which are remarkable. The rest of the movie ranges from inconsistent to incoherent.

It's very loosely based on a short story, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," by F. Scott Fitzgerald - an insignificant story by an insignificant writer with an overblown reputation. The movie uses the basic idea, a man born old and growing ever younger until he becomes a newborn and dies, and blows it up into an interminable and pointless 150 hours of nonsense. The title character is played by Brad Pitt, a curious choice for a serious role. The movie is heavy with symbols that don't symbolize anything, presumably so that a certain type of moviegoer will feel that he's seen something significant. For example, the opening scenes involve a clock that was deliberately made so that it runs backward. But that has no connection to the backward-living Benjamin Button. Absurdly, it remains the main clock in a busy urban train station. The story is set in New Orleans and ends during Hurricane Katrina, which is a gratuitous and irrelevant bit of business, used apparently so that we can see the flood waters engulfing the clock, now stored in a warehouse, and causing it to start running backward again - an event which also plays no part in the story but which looks, like, heavy, man.

The movie would have been improved if half of it had been edited out. For example, there's a loooong section in which Benjamin, serving in the crew of a tugboat, goes to the Soviet Union in the very early days of World War II. There he has an affair with the aristocratic wife of a British trade official. Benjamin tells us that the man is also a spy. He knows this, but the Soviet secret police apparently don't. Nor do the secret police notice that the Yank and the Brit are coupling in the hotel and roaming the streets at night. The two are all alone, both in the streets and the lobby and bar and kitchen of the crowded hotel at night. Russia is at war, but the onscreen Russians don't seem particularly upset. Other than letting us see the Englishwoman, decades later, fulfilling her girlhood dream of swimming the English Channel, this entire section serves no purpose beyond pulling us out of our already tenuous suspension of disbelief.

Inconsistencies abound. When Daisy, the Cate Blanchett character, is hit by a car and severely injured in Paris, Benjamin is told about it and rushes to her side. But he is able to tell us, the audience, all about the curious and unlikely sequence of events that led to the girl and the car being at the same point at the same time. How does he know? Why is that used to pad an already long movie? When Daisy is old and dying (during Katrina! thunder! lightning! heavy rain!) in a hospital, her daughter, reading Benjamin's diary and looking at her mother's press clippings from before the car accident, is astonished to learn that Daisy was once a famous ballerina. "You never told me you danced!" the daughter says. Yet there's a scene in which the daughter, aged 11, is in her mother's dance studio, where Daisy teaches girls to do what she can no longer do. It's not believable that she would not have pictures and newspaper articles on the studio walls from her days of ballerina fame. Of course the daughter would know about that aspect of her mother's life.

This is a script written in pieces by different people, from a checklist, without the writers communicating with each other, and with impressive special effects used to distract us from the inconsistencies and shallowness and pointlessness of the story.

Blanchett overacts embarrassingly, making one wonder if her remarkable performance in the first Elizabeth movie was a fluke. Pitt shows that he can indeed act, as long as the part is monotone and undemanding. The supporting cast would be good and convincing if they were appearing in a high-school play.

Rating: 2 blisters out of 10, for the special effects.

Blow dryers!