Sunday, June 29, 2008

Go See Wall-E

No really.

I'm fairly comfortable saying that this is the best movie I have seen or will see in 2008. Period.

That is all.

Friday, June 27, 2008

I'm Just Sayin'

Old habits died hard, but finally, a small victory - or a big victory, depending on how you look at it - for gender equality.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

High-Five, Mr. Frank

Via Amber, an article that gives lawsuit haters something to stew over for a good few months. Video game violence and legal fees - fun times! Amber's Mr, Mr. Frank offers two great reasons for how a stupid, upsidedown lawsuit against Grand Theft Auto came to be:

“There are two possibilities,” Mr. Frank said of the settlement. “Possibility one is they have a meritorious lawsuit and they’re selling out the class for attorneys’ fees. The other possibility is that, and frankly I think this is the more likely possibility, they brought a meritless lawsuit that had no business being brought to court at all.”
And from the plaintiffs' lawyers, a statement that causes me to question who let this lawyer speak in public. Ever. About anything:

In documents filed on Friday, Mr. Lesser and other lawyers who brought the case argued that Mr. Frank was barred from attacking the settlement. They wrote that because Mr. Frank had said he was not offended by the scenes, he could not have a stake in the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers said that Take-Two would make a charitable donation to the video game industry’s ratings board under the settlement and argued that there was no way to know beforehand that so few people would apply for compensation under the settlement.

Besides, the lawyers argue, if the lawsuit had no merit, should that not make the settlement that much more impressive?
Um, no. It makes you a jackass who makes the rest of us look bad.

Of course, all this leaves aside the substance of the litigation: delicate people offended by a game called GRAND THEFT AUTO. And, of course, parents who bought the game for their children because video games are for kids the way that animation is for kids, right. After all, you couldn't, like, animate something not-child appropriate, right? That's crazy talk!

As Amber pointed out, too, there's a certain jaw-dropping brilliance to the mother who, during deposition, said that she was aware there was killing in the game, but she wasn't aware of the stealing.


Ugh. Just UGH. Ugh.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

'Bridezillas' And Stereotyping Michelle Obama?

While I was planning my wedding, I watched the WEtv show "Bridezillas." It's awful tripe, but, historically, has been pretty entertaining tripe. It comes from the "My Super Sweet 16" school of attracting an audience interested in feeling higher, moral, and more virtuous than it's awful, bratty, misbehaving, wince-inducing biatches.

The new season of Bridezillas started a few weeks ago and I'm about to look up the WEtv address and send them a little letter.

Is Bridezillas a racist production?

I know, random accusation, right? But stay with me.

Each week, the show features two brides. Brides' stories arc over two to three episodes - so there's some bridal overlap. For the last three weeks or so, the show has featured a series of African American brides. Now, I fully understand these brides are cast/selected based on their 'zilla capacity: the more insane, petty, and obnoxious, the better. But these woman are portraying the worst of the angry-black-woman stereotype that - unbelievably - still exists and is currently being used to attack Michelle Obama.

Compare "Bridezillas" with the show that follows it: "Platinum Weddings." The latter is a parade of ethereal, white, thin, lovely brides demurely discussing the hundreds of thousands they are spending on their (now totally tired) branch, crystal-dripping center pieces. WEtv - supposedly all ya-ya-sisterhood, woot women, you go girl, is seemingly using one show to stereotype and mock working and middle-class women of color while celebrating white-moneyed love.

I just went really knee-jerk, didn't I? Hey, sometimes my inner liberal needs a day out.

So, does anyone else waste brain cells on this TV show? Anyone else noticed the decidedly negative trend this season? Would I be posing the same question if episodes were color-balanced? Maybe. But that's not the case, so we'll never know.

I think I'm only thinking about this because the country is currently high-fiving itself over Obama's nomination while simultaneously allowing the anti-Michelle Obama crap to get airtime.

I should probably stop watching the show.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Irony, Thy Name Is Kozinski

Actually, it might not be irony - except in an Alanis kinda way.

But you've read about this right? I think it's hilarious.

Of course my first thought upon reading this article was: When the hell did Vikram Amar become a UC Davis law professor? (Vikram Amar, of course, besides being a former UC Hastings law professor - I don't think he was visiting - is also known for being Akhil Amar's brother. Akhil Amar, of course, being best known for having been referenced in an episode of The West Wing.)

My second thought, though, was how much I wanted to know more about the technicalities of this obscenity-strewn website. Were its crazy images uploaded on the front page? Or is this more akin to the Schwarzenegger/Angelides dust-up from a few years back - when the Angelides campaign used a basic understanding of internet protocols to listen to audio records the governor carelessly left publicly available?

That pesky internet is causing trouble again. If the judge was using the site as a storage place, as he sorta describes it, then what import do we place on these specific images among many? In an article I read yesterday (too lazy to search for the link), Kozinski commented that he gets stuff like this sent to him all the time (stuff like less mainstream porn clips) and finds some of it funny. Think about it: a judge's job is to save stuff for later use - they call it "precedent" - so why wouldn't that tendency spill over into non-professional parts of life?

This would be a story even if Kozinski weren't about to hear an obscenity case - but it's a better story for the case.

Some are calling for recusal, of course, citing the legal chestnut that justice is concerned not just with actual conflicts but with the appearance of impartiality. Think of it this way, though: we are surely a culture basing its justice on a set of common morals. No really, even if you want to continue beating the "we are not a Christian country" dead horse - we kinda like Judeo-Christian values. And, bearing in mind that studies have shown (no, you won't get a cite for this either, but a professor told me once) that journalists tend to overcompensate for their personal political beliefs by being especially hard on similarly believing subjects, then, well, Kozinski might fall a bit heavier against the LA porn dude.

BUT, balance against that his known libertarian tendencies (he's a freakin' Reagan appointee, how odd is that?) and - presto! - he's righted himself against the riptide of conflicting values.

Of course, what should carry the day can be reduced to two words: life tenure.

I'd really hate for this to be grounds for impeachment. He's too funny to lose. Any jurist who ends an opion with advice that "the parties should chill" is alright with me.

I Love Scientists

Mars lander shakes loose usable soil sample.

The problem was overcome after the team activated a fine rasp-like drill inside the scoop and caused it to vibrate fast enough to shake the fine particles loose. The sand flowed through the strainer like salt from a salt shaker, Boynton said.

His colleagues broke out into cheers of relief and applause, while Boynton cranked up his laptop computer to play what he called "shake! shake! shake! music" - the song "(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty" by KC and the Sunshine Band.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cinnamon Shenanigans

I wonder if Cinnamon Stillwell has a column solely because her thinking doesn't match her hippie name.

Anyway, she takes issue with a new scourge of Islamic indoctrination in schools.

She sites as an example:

Last month, students at Friendswood Junior High in Houston were required to attend an "Islamic Awareness" presentation during class time allotted for physical education. The presentation involved two representatives from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an organization with a record of Islamist statements and terrorism convictions. According to students, they were taught that "there is one God, his name is Allah" and that "Adam, Noah and Jesus are prophets." Students were also taught about the Five Pillars of Islam and how to pray five times a day and wear Islamic religious garb. Parents were not notified about the presentation and it wasn't until a number of complaints arose that school officials responded with an apologetic e-mail.
I can't help but wonder - and, frankly, assume, that what is described as students having been "taught that," they were "taught about." Semantics? Sure, but an important distinction.

In the sixth grade, Arshad Ali's mom came in for, I think, a few days during our history time and taught us about Isam. The praying. The Pillars. It was interesting, even to a sixth grader. I don't recall notices going home for that lesson any more than they did when Amy's mom came in to teach us how to play Dreidel and eat Kosher foods.

How can anyone honestly arge that being taught ABOUT is the same as being taught THAT. If your kiddies aren't exposed, they'll forever remain too stupid and weak to maintain their own beliefs. That's gotta be worse than learning about praying, right?

Of course, the greatest danger in painting all instruction about other religions with the same "DANGER!" brush, is that we lose the ability to identify what might actually constitute an inappropriate blurring of church and state. Somewhere between a slippery slope and a bright line must come deliberative thought, no?

Don't Buy A Dodge, Chrysler, Or Jeep

In a continuing effort to prove to America and the world that America automakers won't bow to moral, economic, or environmental pressures, Dodge, Chrysler, and Jeep are all offering $2.99 gas if you buy one of their inefficient vehicles. You've seen the ads on TV, I'm sure.

First off, let me say, I was raised by American-car-driving patriots. We seldom had fewer than 2 Fords out front at any given time. A lot of me cringed when my husband and I purchased our Subaru because it isn't and American car. Parts were built here or whatever, so that's how we - okay, I - rationalize it.

But I'm just not going to feel bad for automakers anymore. Not when they pull this kind of crap.

Why change when you can buy back the favor of a public who is finally - FINALLY - starting to see you as the fossil fuel burning fossil you really are.

Think about it: can you identify anything else in current American culture more illustrative of our grotesque consumerism than this offer? Screw the troops, the birds, the bees, the flowers, your children's lung capacity, you can pay only $2.99 for gas for a few years if you simply keep being a wanton wastrel.

You know, Europeans don't need fuck-off big cars. They still have whole families like we do. They still road-trip. They still convey goods. They just do it with a better mpg rating.

What's wrong with us?

My parents can't understand why Michelle Obama said she was only recently proud of her country. While I'm willing to chalk up her statement to poetic hyperbole, do you not at least feel some of the flip side when you watch American business pull this kind of crap? Are you not embarrassed? Ashamed?

You should be. We all look bad.

We're a country of innovators, but we've seriously lost our way.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

What Would Happen Today?

The Chron discusses the far less well known (at least to me) conspiracy questions over RFK's assassination.

The piece discusses audio recordings that experts claim captured the sound of 13 rounds, all of which could not have come from Sirhan Sirhan's 8-round gun. And there's some women in a polka dot dress who said "we shot him."

There are some iconic photos from the murder. And that recording.

But if the same were to happen today, would it be possible for the case to remain unresolved? Digital audio and video recordings? Every attendee at an event likely armed with at least a camera phone if not a digital camera that records not just images but frequently video with sound as well?

Eye-witness confusion will never be erased, but with such a higher probability that actors will be caught on camera - would a modern assassination look anything like what rocked the U.S. in the 1960s?