Monday, February 28, 2011

The Jaded Oscars: Revolt of the Captive Audience

The Oscars seemed irrelevant this year.  A defective royal, a crazy ballerina, a best costume award for CGI, and a Saturday Night Live so brunesque it can't even send it up.  We're all wandering in the wilderness, it seems.

No Gandhi, no Lawrence of Arabia, no visionary excess and no hope....  So far as America's entertainment industry goes, the soup nazis have won 2011 and the captive audience is retrenched behind our gameboys.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Zardoz: Flour Power and the Fall of the British Commune in 2239 A.D.

GGGgguhhh!! It's possible in the 21st Century to DOWNLOAD and WATCH on TINY SCREENS the most godawfully self-indulgent hippie flick of all time, Sean Connery and Charlotte Rampling chewing up the scenery in 1974's low budget sci-fi bumbledoodle, Zardoz — if you can believe it, a cult classic so bad — so well, yet so inadvisably made — it forms its own subgenre of Beautiful People down on the Commune.

Can you imagine the feelings of all these seriously anorexic but gorgeous boys and pretty actresses ("the rich, the powerful, and the clever") the day John Boorman told them, "Today, Blumenkinder, we will stand around a Round Table laden with the flour power (!) of simple green bread which we shall nibble held horizontally in blessing, whilst holding out our arms, humming and moaning suggestively to ourselves in low tones, and wiggling our fingers at Friend (John Alderton), who shall reject our togethernesses."  In the immortal but forgotten words of Arthur Frayne, "Is God in show business, too?"

Aside from the dreadfully claustrophic mental horizons of such lowbudget British scifi as Dr. Who, no comparables exist that I know of.  Silent Running,  if you gut the environmental message, is just pretentious enough, while Vanilla Sky romps when it should advance by painful prostrations toward its solipsistic visions. Easy Rider was purposefully immoral and way too humorless, but Zardoz betrays both self-awareness and a chortling indifference to Rampling's chalkboard genitalia and divers other juvenile japeries; perhaps best exemplified when Friend speaks backwards for the amusement of choresharing co-workers in a flour-dusted communal kitchen.  Dated 1974, well before and after Janet Jackson, Zardoz contains wardrobe malfeasance up the wazoo and thus is rated R for everyone.

Bottom line? Englishman John Boorman (or at least Zardoz) doesn't particularly like the American Haight-Ashbury, whom he considers have ignored Malthus, Darwin and Marx in favor of hothouse elitist lives in a bubble of infrangible self-delusion. On the other hand, every scifi filmmaker's most penetrating insight is the moment of conception — sperm meets ovum, Zed meets Consuela — so Zardoz emphatically joins the pantheon of twentieth century consummation imagery, from Close Encounters of the Third Kind to The Creator (Cmdr. Decker) meets Veeger (Lt. Ilia) in Star Trek: The Motion Picture to Slim Pickens riding The Bomb at the end of Dr. Strangelove to Waterworld to use your imagination.

Holy wordplay, Batman, it really is a pun on flower power!


Friday, February 25, 2011

Remorse and Remonstrances

I'm depressed.  I bark at my teenaged daughter and snarl at my wife.  Such accusative moods make me more depressed, so I bark at my teenaged daughter some more while snarling at my wife turns to sullen silences.  I examine myself.  Yes, I use snuh words at lot: snarl, sullen, silence.  I'm a grumpy old man.  Heck, I've turned into my father, who is laughing at me somewhere.

I spent my youth being cynical.  Acerbic and cynical.  I had no better reason for being a public pickle than callow youth.  I was small for my age and high school was hell.  I used to carry around a copy of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, which made me a poseur.  The book itself was dull and incomprehensible except in unfamiliar details.  Just as you have to understand the Freudian 1950's to understand Nabokov's Lolita, it helps immensely to grok the context of a Kerouac or Ginsberg.  That made me, a stubborn kid, a ... wait for it ... rebel without a cause.  God, I hate being stupid.  I was an outsider nobody wanted on their dodgeball team.

So I damned myself to a teenager's version of highschool hell.  I was very, very glib about it.  I could spell.  I could write, even — sometimes.  But I had very little to say.  I used very a lot. Other adverbs. My vision was on Forbidden Planet with Alta Alta.

At the age of 16, I was a perfect miniature version of me at 66, with one difference.  Back then, I still had a kind of asthmatic's hope.  Now, with a lifetime of bad habits undermining my unending present moment, all I hope for is the good grace to shut up.  I never did really want (who does?) to tread on the love of my family, whom I love.

Shut up, Grikdog.  You never learn.

You'd think those fifty years from 16 to now might have meant something. But no. I endured the skepticism of a few beautiful girls. I stumbled into jobs that took me as far as the Cannon House Office Building and into the pit of 6502 assembler programming and beyond... the user used. Nothing from that time remains. I scaled no mountains, achieved no great thing that anyone will ever acknowledge or even notice. My consolations are in Taoist solitude, an old man's polite euphemism for loneliness, forgotten and ignored. My grandmother was a forgotten saint who bathed her father's gangrenous feet, injuries received by frostbite whilst riding in the American West with Kit Carson, the family story goes.... My grandmother endured her own approaching age, and bathed her father's feet.

I was as familiar to my parents as a yapping small minded dog. My sentences are just.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Southern Hemispheres

Heavy blows in Darwin, heavier blows in Christchurch...  Yow!  I have friends in Upside Downland, hope they all land on their feet.  This is a bit early.  It's not 2012 until next year, lighten up already.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Kool Aid, anyone?

Iranian warships in the Suez Canal?  Headed toward the Mediterranean Sea??  Surrounding Israel???!!  (Sort of.  You have to count Sunni Hamas as a kind of cadet Shiite Iran, but you get the pitcher.)

I'm not sure I see any sort of problem here.  If the IS Alvand, or whatever boat this is, gets too close to Israel's comfort zone, it will simply disappear and no one anywhere will say boo about it.  Ever.  Certainly not Obama.

Can you say USS Liberty?


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Final Fantasy 9

Remember Zidane and Dagger? They're back, on the Sony PSP! This is one of the great Playstation RPG classics — not many compare favorably with it, long in the tooth though it may well be. I'd forgotten how gorgeous the steampunk scenery is, how delightfully overwrought the tiny boy-girl emotions are, how absurdly Japanese the pretty hypercompetent male villain is, how obvious the traps and how mind-bogglingly clownish the minions of evil. And good. It has mind-bogglingly clownish minions of good, too. Gobbles frog tartare.

There's just one thing: On the Sony Playstation Portable, you have to download this game by way of Wi-Fi from the Playstation Store, and you'll need a bigger (capacity-wise ;-) and faster Memory Stick Duo than you ever thought you would. The key word is fast — fast to download, fast to write to, and fast to play back without skips and glitches. I recommend this little card. Pay for it.  Accept no substitutes. You won't regret it.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Wisconsin at War with Its Own Unions?

Actually, I could care less about Wisconsin's cheesehead guvnor, Republican Scott "Ain't I Purty?" Walker, who is apparently even more braindead than Iowa's, because Wisconsin deserves itself if Walker's plan to gut State employees' labor union contracts succeeds. I have to wonder what mordantly stupid brand of lunacy led average Cheeseheads to vote for a fool who thinks guillotining competence as well as incompetence is a good idea?

Makes a weird kind of sense, though. People who dumb down on principal, to the point where Larry The Cable Guy looks like a Rokkit Signtist, think politics is entertainment on tee vee. Dumb butts acted out in November, and the only thing that can save their sorry asses now is Soccer Moms, at least the ones rooted in reality.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Egyptian Spring

History is rife with false dawns. The Albigensian flowering in Provence, just before the Inquisition shoved its burning brand up the virginal cornucopia. Czechoslovakia before the Russian tanks arrived. Tienanmen Square before the bullets flew. France before Robespierre. The United States before Andrew Jackson. For every glimpse of paradise on earth, a Khmer Rouge bloodbath.

I wish the Egyptians well, but truth to tell, I've braced myself for the coming disillusionment. I just hope the United States is not this occasion's vector for despair. There's a special place in Hell reserved for those who corrupt the hopes of innocents.

[Update 16 Feb 2011] The Tunisians called their version the "Jasmine Revolution," apparently.   I guess it's still a bit early for spring in Egypt.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Frau Ada

The old lady is Frau Ada ("Gina Mingol" in some international versions). She haunts the Michinoku Pass C. C., and is an unlockable player in Hot Shots Golf Open Tee 2 for PSP. Fairly hard to beat, my suggestion is to play within yourself and don't try anything fancy. With a little luck, you'll collect her for your stable of golfers and unlock TWO new golf courses — Michinoku Pass and the Olive Coast course somewhere near the gentle Mediterranean surf. In the next match, you can also unlock Mia Cara, a new caddy, and that marks the halfway point through the game.

Frau Ada is part of a viral trope in Japanese games, mangas and videos; a kind of nostalgia or sympathetic feeling for old Axis allies, German or Italian.  Compatriot conquered countries would be my guess (Studio Ghibli even waxes romantic about the antebellum South, e.g.), but the sentiment is alien in the good old xenophobic U.S. of A. and needs to be hosed down with  a bit of humor, something them Japs are getting good at just in time for 21st Century Chinese economic hegemony.

The Playstation Portable (PSP), soon to be superceded by the underwhelming PSP2, is a money trap worthy of the La Brea Tarpits. It has WiFi. It has a Playstation® Store, where you can buy all 26 season 1 episodes of Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex at $1.99 a pop ($51.74 total), plus download time for about 10 GB (about 2 solid months worth of Verizon Wireless connectivity). Even worse, you can download 1.8 GB of movie in a bit more than 4 hours — just in time for a fully-charged battery to expire with four minutes of download left. In Sony's Big Book of Fun, that means your ability to download it all again without paying for it twice is a "feature." Ugh.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, February 06, 2011


Evolutionary rule #430,523,100,762: Narcissists always breed.


Thursday, February 03, 2011

Nice people have nice dogs

This is Darwin Reeve, who is ten years old. A very fluffy-minded beast.


Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Snow: Adding to Climate Delta

I once heard advanced a particularly subtle notion that the next Ice Age might arrive overnight, just by snowing over a wide area — and then not melting all summer long. The years pile up, and pretty soon the glaciers are a mile deep everywhere.

Which will it be, I wonder? Temperate Greenland, or Tropical Texas?

Labels: ,

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

How many gigabytes have I used?

UPDATE (Wed 2 Feb) This article is a bit sophomoric, but should be left intact to illustrate how little hand-holding Verizon actually does for its new customers. I spent about an hour on the phone with tech support this morning exploring the twitchiness of getting this information out of My Verizon ( — logging in, etc. It's not for the faint of heart, but finally I can get a detailed daily breakdown of gigabytes used (and billable) directly from Verizon.

The picture shows what Verizon Wireless' Novatel MiFi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot homepage (at looks like. Other modems, such as Qwest's, use the same internal URL to control their modems, too. This is Verizon's version.

You'll notice my initial bafflement... What do you put in the "login" field? It took a little digging on the web to find Verizon's answer to this frequently asked question, but you login using a default password, which is (case sensitive) admin. Once logged on, you get additional options on the red bar, so you should immediately locate Security -> Password and change yours to something non-trivial.

Why? Because under Advanced -> Diagnostics you will find your total data transmitted, i.e., how many gigabytes have been taken up in your monthly allotment. You need this information, especially toward the end of the month. Verizon disclaims; the total gigs shown in Diagnostics are not always exactly what gets billed. But it's the only rule of thumb we poor underprivileged users have got.

Also, under Advanced -> Power you can change the amount of idle time you get before MiFi hotspot goes to sleep in powersaving mode.

This is pertinent to our family, because we use Ubuntu 10.10 Linux, a platform Verizon doesn't pay a great deal of attention to, although as I demonstrate daily the MiFi hotspot works just fine in this environment.

Did I mention? Verizon wireless is fast, faster than our old 56k DSL landline from Qwest, anyway.

Labels: , ,