Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Aug 29, 2009

District 9

This movie is very unusual in that Adam didn’t like it while I actually did. Usually, if there’s any movie-disliking going on, it’s me not liking the movie while Adam kind of does. I can understand his point—if you go into District 9 expecting to be entertained in the usual style of a summer action movie, you’re not going to get much out of it. If you’re looking for your standard tale of people overcoming their differences and prejudices, you’re going to find District 9 impenetrable. Because this is not a movie about aliens and humans or even something as straightforward as racism.

It’s a movie about South Africa. Or, rather, the underlying problems that make places like South Africa what they are. It would be equally applicable in any similar place.

What District 9 does is to take a story any American would find nearly as familiar as their own bed—strangers slapped together by circumstances and forced to work together to accomplish a common goal—and uses it as a platform to rip the lid off of Hell and show it to you in a way you can actually understand. They even tell you outright the purpose of the movie very early on. The alien space ship, they say, could have stopped in New York or Tokyo or Moscow or any other famous city, but it wound up in Johannesburg. And then the fun started.

Even the style of the movie, presenting the events as newscasts and documentary footage with interviews of various distant participants mimics the only way most Westerners ever get news about Africa. Through this mechanism and the revelation of actual events, it goes on to show just how distorted, random, and ineffectual that news coverage is. Everything in the movie follows this same scheme. The brutality and callousness of all the characters, without exclusion, delivers the impression of staring into a completely foreign world where solutions for problems are the vain dreaming of distant madmen. It’s never explained why the many parties behave as strangely as they do. Counter-productive behavior isn’t an aberration here. It’s the rule.

And at the end, while there are words of hope, they are more a conceit of dreamers than anything that can really be reached or grasped. A fog of questions that will never be answered descends, leaving only one impression.

Now what?

Aug 21, 2009

Fun With Housework

It's been an interesting week around here because apparently everything has decided to break or need attention at once.

1. The garbage disposal went kaput and clogged up the kitchen sink and the dishwasher. Yay.

2. The vent over the stove is now home to a sizable nest of bees. These are the most relaxed, blase bees I've ever encountered--they'll fly over and land on you like they're just saying hi, then wander off again--but that doesn't mean I want to share my living quarters with them. Adam has sprayed them three times. They don't seem impressed. If you listen closely, you can hear them giggling in there. "Those idiots!" they say. "They're using wasp and hornet killer! But we're bees! We're going to be in this vent FOREVER!!" They think they have a sweet gig going.

3. Also now inhabiting the kitchen are some disgusting black ants. Well, I mean, they're kind of cute for ants, but they are freakin' everywhere. Heck, they're not just in the kitchen. Perhaps they're using the bees for a taxi service to other parts of the house. I've put out ant baits, but apparently this just inspired them to come out in force so now they're REALLY REALLY freakin' everywhere. Joy.

4. The toilet in the hall bathroom is leaking and cannot be flushed unless you want this procedure to involve a mop. So we have to use the toilet in the master bathroom.

5. The SHOWER in the MASTER bathroom, conversely, does not leak. In fact, no water of any kind whatsoever comes out of it at all in any way. So we have to use the SHOWER in the HALL bathroom. This situation has led to a comical ablutionary procedure involving migrating from one bathroom to the other and back as many as three times depending on where you've left your personal toothbrush and whether or not you remember where you left your personal toothbrush. The Dance of the Bathrooms, I call it.

6. It's been storming sporadically all week, primarily whenever Adam seems inclined to go out and do yardwork. In fact, this has become so predictable that it seems Adam has turned into some sort of weird thunder god who wields a weed whacker instead of a lightning bolt. This finally let up today.

7. So, Adam decided to teach *me* how to use the lawnmower. Now, you have to understand that I am comically inept at every sort of yard work and the lawnmower turned out to be no exception. Heck, I couldn't even get the thing started at first. It turned out this wasn't my fault, as Adam gave me misleading instructions on how to start the thing and then stood back and sniggered when I followed them and the lawn mower would not start. He kept telling me to "pull it like you've got a pair!" while I yanked fruitlessly on the starter cord. I asked him, twice, "are you sure I don't need to prime it again?" "No, no." Finally, he got tired of watching me flail around and gave it a yank himself. Nothing. Yank, yank, yank. Nothing. So he sheepishly bends over and primes it again. Bam. Starts first pull. Punk.

8. After I mowed the front yard (leaving comical tufts of untouched grass here and there), Adam decides to tackle the back yard. Now, Adam hasn't mowed the back yard in some time. I'm not sure what we have going on in the back even qualifies as a "yard" any more. It's more like a jungle someone inexplicably fenced in. So he gets out the pith helmet and sends me on an expedition to cut down the more tree-like growths in the hopes that he won't completely annihilate the lawnmower within the first five minutes. I forage around for a while and pull out a full-grown tomato plant with five fist-sized tomatoes on it. No joke.

9. Finally, we're done and I hold the trash bag while Adam rakes up the grass. Only he seems to be having some sort of difficulty with the raking procedure because he has the hiccups and it's throwing him off.

So, yeah. Fun times.

Aug 17, 2009

Facts? What Facts?

I just overheard a television commercial telling people to get "the facts" about health care reform and claiming that no matter what the "scare mongers" say, "you and your doctor will always choose what is best for you".

Excuse me? My doctor and I can't choose what's best for me NOW, much less if this Obamacare nightmare gets off the ground. If I have chronic insomnia, can I get a prescription for GBH (the "date rape" drug)? No. Heck, why do I have to get a prescription in the first place?

The *real* fact is that your doctor and you are the people most excluded from making decisions about what is best for you, and the health care plans of the current administration are aimed exclusively at limiting your choices even further.

Aug 13, 2009

G.I. Joe

Soooooo . . . it's not actually a bad movie. It's not great, but it's not bad, either. My biggest quibble is that I didn't like the actor they got to portray Duke (Channing Tatum, what a great name), and my main complaint was that his ears completely ruined the character for me. Yes, I'm aware that's extremely petty. Women can be shallow, too. But I had a major crush on Duke as a kid and I don't like seeing him re-imagined as a scarred charisma-less brick with two milimeters of hair and ears that make his head look like an upside-down soup bowl. This is about the worst thing they do with the source material, although I *swear* that I saw Brendan Frasier do a brief cameo as "Sergeant something-or-other" (I didn't catch the last part of the name, I thought it sounded like Slaughter, which would make him the Least Appropriate Sergeant Slaughter Ever Imagined) but he's not credited on the cast list. There are a LOT of very recognizable actors in this movie.

The rest of the movie is as campy as you might expect, but it's not awful because there's an underlying childlike glee about all the explosions, flashing lights, and ridiculous Secret Ultra-High Tech bases. Heck, even the throwaway particle scientist gets his own Ultra Cool High Tech Base even though it's only in the movie for 5 minutes. Now that's devotion to concept. They don't even work very hard at making you care about the characters. Periodically the movie remembers "oh, these people ought to have some motivations here, how do we . . . right, flashback!" and you'll get to see some snippet of a character's personal history unfold. But the movie itself seems to find these flashbacks boring and punctuates them with punching, kicking, and yet more of the beloved explosions. The scenes where you'd normally expect to hear excessive violin music of overwhelming pathos are usually drowned out by, you guessed it, explosions. It's GREAT. It's also ridiculous, particularly during the lengthy underwater aircraft battle (they really should have put that in a giant open-air cave and be done with it) that takes up maybe 1/5 of the movie.

Also, for those who are used to experiencing motion sickness in modern action flicks, don't worry. While they still did *some* photography via the "camera strapped to an excited dog" approach used in movies like The Bourne Supremacy and Batman Begins, it's much less awful and you can actually follow the action even when they're switching rapidly between three or more viewpoints. This is really helpful because otherwise the sheer quantity of action would be inducing epileptic seizures in entire audiences.

If you're looking for something intelligent, thought-provoking, or even emotionally engaging, see something else. But if you're just really in the mood to see Stuff Blowing Up, you could do worse than G.I. Joe.

Aug 7, 2009

Clearly I'm Dangerous

I've decided to comply with the White House's request:

Dear White House:

I am reporting myself as a dangerous subversive in total opposition to any form of government health care "plan". I regularly express my opposition in print, in conversation, and in electronic media too numerous to mention. I contend that there should be a free market in health care as in any other good or service.

If this be treason, make the most of it.

Jennifer Snow

Aug 5, 2009

Anatomy: Foot

And here are some feet. I tried to get these approximately the same size but didn't quite manage it.

Aug 4, 2009

Anatomy: Hand

Here we have some hands. I did a better job with these, I think.

Aug 3, 2009

Anatomy: Pelvis

I'm a little annoyed because my textbook doesn't have a picture of the female pelvis, which is substantially different anatomically--it looks to be at about a 45% angle compared to the male pelvis.

Aug 2, 2009

Clicking Away Your Soul

This video is pretty horrific. It's also somewhat inaccurate--in order to log in and reach the stage where you're faced with that privacy statement, you have to register to get the *dealer* information. But it's still pretty bad when the government is declaring that it *owns the system* while a person is logged in and can share any and all information on said system with anyone it likes.

Car dealerships would be bad enough, but most car loans go through banks and other financial institutions, and they are people who are quite likely to want to register on sites like these, making all of your personal information de jure property of the government.

Oh, I agree that this is likely just sloppy wording and won't ever amount to anything, but it's another sign of just how far over the hill into tyranny this country is. Tyrants and scam artists rely on a lot of the same tricks and the Big Lie is one of them. Think they won't enforce things like this given the chance? They will. People in power who think they're doing things "for your own good" have shown time and time again that they have NO scruples about doing WHATEVER they can do to "get the job done" as long as they can get away with it, and maybe not even then. Heck, the wayward cop who breaks the rules to get his man is as much a cultural icon as the debonair rogue or the cowboy.

Sure, we cheer for cops who find the rules tiresome when they're up against a murderer or rapist or someone genuinely evil. But honest citizens must remember that there are people out there who consider you *genuinely evil* if you are in favor of legal abortions or insist that you have a right to keep your hard-earned cash when someone else "needs" it. Those "tiresome" rules exist for a very good reason and a principled person understands that and accepts them as necessary. If you want a cultural icon, the scrupulous cop would be a MUCH better choice.

Glenn Beck's indulgence in scare-mongering masks a much bigger and scarier issue that could swallow us all whole.

Update: Here is a link that takes you to the privacy policy Beck quoted.

Anatomy: Torso

Here's the torso. I tried to do a bit more with the modeling this time around, although the drawing is actually really small so it looks pretty crude. I'm also displeased with the way the book shades the bones in the ribcage. The dark connective tissue holding the ribs to the sternum should actually be white. It's costal cartilage and literally looks like rubbery white plastic, much whiter than the ribs themselves which are thin and filled with dark bloody tissue.

Aug 1, 2009

Anatomy: Leg

Here's the leg. The skeletal view is messed up--unfortunately the book doesn't have a corresponding skeletal view for EVERY muscular view, and I picked a muscle view where I had to make up the skeleton.