Tuesday, July 31, 2007

On accountability and blaming

Okay, so reader Duff has asked me to comment (and Doug has beaten me to it) on the helicopter crash in Phoenix. Two news helicopters covering the police pursuit of a carjacked truck collided in mid-air, killing both pilots and both cameramen, and it is now being suggested that the carjacker should be held accountable for the crash in addition to his other charges.

While I have nothing but sympathy for the families of the men who died, all I can do is quote a friend of mine who's a helo pilot: "The pilot in command is ultimately responsible for his aircraft." This isn't a situation where a police officer responding to a call was struck in the line of duty, or where a fire fighter was killed trying to put out a fire at a meth lab; those camera crews were there not out of civic necessity but out of a desire to turn a profit by providing the hottest available footage of the car chase. That they were there at all was their own choice, and that they crashed into each other was a tragedy but not a crime.

The carjacker committed a crime (probably several crimes) in stealing a car and running from the police, and he endangered a lot of people in so doing, but this crash, tragic as it was, was not a direct or even indirect result of those crimes. He should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for the crimes he did commit. Justice only works when it's used to address actual crimes, not when it's twisted to pile on criminals because we really resent them for what they did. It's a subtle but crucial distinction.

Monday, July 30, 2007

On the single woman's apartment (because, of course, they're all the same)

Okay, so Jill at Feministe points us to a Gawker post listing what they're calling "singlefiers" - those telltale signs around the average bachelorette pad that one is, in fact, single (they specify that this means the apartment holds a single woman and not a couple; they don't mention whether a single woman with a steady boyfriend would have or lack said signs). Commenters have added their own "singlefiers" to the list.

Maybe it's just that I live in southside Birmingham and not Manhattan. Maybe it's that I don't like Cosmo and have never watched Sex in the City as a guide to life, relationships, and fashion. Maybe I am, in fact, less than a woman, and by merely conforming to the stereotypical heteronormativity of this list, I could find myself fashionable and no longer single.

God, I hope I don't have to.

I've done the courtesy of bolding those "singlefiers" that apply to me; if I feel motivated, I might even add actual photos to prove that I'm not just blowing smoke.

Gawker sez:
Piles of magazines everywhere, comprised of tons of pretentious ones that are clearly untouched and then severely thumbed-through Vogues and Luckys
Overflowing shoe rack and nothing in the fridge
Scented candles
Slovenly heaps of little-used makeups in the bathroom
Stuffed animals in the bed
Cat hair on the furniture
Cat smell
Cabinets full of mugs featuring the likeness of lady who looks like those hypertrophically-limbed Daily Candy illustrations, bearing the legend "I Love Shopping" or whatnot
Anything pink
Ornamental pillows
Unedited bookshelves, esp. if they include He's Just Not That Into You or anything along those lines
Lite cottage cheese in the fridge
Anything lite or diet around. Cases of Diet Coke. Weight Watchers 'Just 2 Points' bars
Inspirational or thinspirational things on the fridge
Framed posters
Handbag tree (NB: However, a tree that grows handbags? I'd be all over)

And commenters add:
Birth Control Packet with pills for Monday and Tuesday still in the case (it's Wednesday)
Greeting Cards taped to the wall like art
Madonna's Immaculate Collection
Your vibrator on your bed because, face it, nobody's coming over
Dried roses
'Emergency' pack of cigarettes
Copious empty wine bottles (preferrably Chardonnay)
Bridget Jones' Diary
Special DVD edition of Pride and Prejudice
The movie "How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days"
Furniture with slipcovers
Wall of 5x7 photo prints/ripped out magazine ads
The word "thinspirational" written anywhere
Workout DVDs that are kind of sassy--Strip Aerobics, etc.
Crystal Light
Tampon packages in plain view
A little basket by the sofa filled with frayed cat toys
A DVD collection that includes "Grey Gardens." A "Sex and the City" DVD is in the player
Ceiling lights that don't work merely because the bulb burned out
Two-liter white wine bottles
Don't forget the cats
Ironing board in the bedroom never quite makes it back to the closet... because what's the point? No one's in the bedroom anyway
Fuzzy slippers
Potted plants in various phases of dying
The ever-present laptop on the coffee table
Baskets of clean laundry that are folded but not put away (bonus points for underwear)
Inspirational sayings scrawled/printed onto white paper and taped up around the room
Numerous reminders to visitors/yourself of where you've traveled
That complete series boxset of "Friends"
Dead or wilting plants
A 26oz bottle of gin in the freezer, next to the Lean Cuisine (NB: A handle of vodka, actually, but close enough)
A box of white wine in the fridge, left over from a friend's wedding shower (actually in my and my roommate's fridge last year)
Underpants on the bedroom floor from days ago
Cookie dough in the fridge as dinner
A&E's "Pride and Prejudice" on the coffee table, and in the DVD
Any of the following in collection: Sleepless in Seattle, The Notebook, Say Anything, Serendipity, or that one with Hilary Duff and Heather Locklear

My question: Who are these people, and how does one get a job as a perpetual Romantic Comedy Adapted From Last Year's Chick-Lit Best-Seller Extra? Does it pay well? Is it exhausting, living a cliche? Is there a supervisor to come in on Thursday mornings and say, "Uh-oh, I don't see a single bottle of white zinfandel, and that issue of Harper's has clearly been read. And where's that cat we told you to get? You're definitely getting marked down for that."

And not to get judgey or anything, but do people not get tired of living in squalor? Come on, folks, it's two floors down to the dumpster, it's four feet across the room to the hamper; dirty underwear and overflowing trash cans are not required decorative accents, even if you're single.

Of course, the Gawker comment thread is hardly a random sample; it makes sense that Gawker readers might live lifestyles somewhat like its writers, and that Feministe readers might live more like blogger Jill than like Carrie Bradshaw. But even allowing for sample error, what gives? Is that extensive list of identifiers simply a factor of the average single woman's lifestyle, or do women live that way because they feel they're expected to?

How 'bout it, single gal readers? Am I really missing out by not living on a set dressed by Candace Bushnell, or is the apartment full of "singlefiers" more stereotype than reality? What's in your fridge?

Friday, July 27, 2007

On J.K. Rowling: This Is Your Soundtrack

Okay, so most people who get their own Friday Not-Even-Random Ten do so because they've screwed up, usually exhibiting some monumental act of stupidity that turns them into a figure for ridicule. I'm not going to do that this week, because I need to get something off my chest.

I love the very concept of Harry Potter.

Not that you couldn't tell, probably, from Wednesday's post, but I do. I love the books because they're a good story well told, and that's my minimum standard for an entertaining book (add complex and identifiable characters and realistic moral/ethical/humanistic struggles in a fantastic environment, both of which these books have, and I'll bump it up to "good book"). I love the movies because, occasionally spotty acting aside, the directing is usually good and the art direction and musical score are wholly fantastic in every single scene. I love the stories because they're feminist, because Professor McGonagall kicks ass and Qudditch teams are gender-integrated and Hermione is smart and powerful and Emma Watson is a feminist (if only "a bit of" one). I love the concept of the empire, because J.K. Rowling started out as a single mother sitting in a cafe, trying to figure out how to make rent and feed her kid and scribbling a story about a kid who learns he's a wizard on a paper napkin, and now she's a millionaire. I love that kids are reading - reading anything - because I know that when I was growing up, I was the only kid I knew who really liked to read, and I felt bad for everyone who hadn't learned to love it like I did.

And, okay, I love it because only something like Harry Potter could cheese off the fundies this much:

"Had it been in the Old Testament, Harry Potter would have been put to death!" Like he doesn't have enough trouble with Voldemort coming after him all the damn time.

Anyway, that's why this Friday Not-Even-Random Ten is dedicated to J.K. Rowling, but in a good way, because not many books will keep me awake, reading, into the wee hours of the morning, and she's written seven of them. Because if it takes giving up my PowerBook and writing on cocktail napkins for the rest of my life, I'll do it, just for a quarter of what she has - and I'm not even talking money. She's done something awesome, and I hope she's got another universe tucked up in her brain right now, because I'm going to start going into withdrawal.

The Ten:

1. Carmen Consoli, "Fino all'ultimo"
2. Cake, "Open Book"
3. Kula Shaker, "Magic Theatre"
4. Depeche Mode, "World in My Eyes"
5. Ella Fitzgerald, "Witchcraft"
6. Eminem, "Lose Yourself"
7. The Police, "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic"
8. Evanescence, "Imaginary"
9. The Faders, "No Sleep Tonight"
10. Garbage, "When I Grow Up"

And here's one last little tidbit for those of you who have read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (or don't intend to do so, or don't particularly care about knowing the ending) - it is rather spoilery - Potterdamerung.

Your Ten, random or no, and you guilty literary pleasures go in comments.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

On doing it for the kids

Okay, so in a bipartisan effort, the Senate Finance Committee has greenlighted a bill that would expand the Safe Children's Health Insurance Program. The bill would increase funding for the program $35 billion over the next five years to $60 billion, decreasing the number of uninsured children in the country by 4.1 million.

But President Bush is going to veto the bill.

He's going to veto it because the added funding would be financed by an increase in federal excise tax on tobacco products, raising the taxes on each pack from 39 cents to $1.

That's not the only reason, though:
“The proposal would dramatically expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program, adding nonpoor children to the program, and more than doubling the level of spending,” Mr. Fratto said. “This will have the effect of encouraging many to drop private coverage, to go on the government-subsidized program.”

That's right: This program must be stopped, because it might insure too many children! And in an insurance market that has left more than 9 million children uninsured, obviously, insured children is a... bad thing.

Without this bill, SCHIP is set to expire September 30, yanking the insurance out from under nearly 6 million children. But to a man who doesn't mind vetoing troop funding in the middle of a war, a bunch of uninsured children probably doesn't even register.

On greed and comeuppance

Okay, so as unimpressed as I continue to be with the iPhone (although I still think it's a cool concept), this just gave me a chuckle (a rueful chuckle, sure, but a chuckle just the same).

Yes, the charming lady in pink came to the AT&T store with $16,000 cash and a plan: roll up 15 minutes before the store opens, buy the head spot in line, and walk out of the store with $100,000 worth of iPhones to sell on eBay. Sure enough, she bought the first spot in line away from a kid (who'd been waiting for twelve hours) for $800, was first through the door as soon as the gates rolled up...

... and learned that Apple had instituted a strict one-phone-per-customer policy.

The kid, who made it into the store and bought a phone despite no longer being first in line, got a free phone out of the $800 deal, as well as a full package of iPhone accessories. The news report didn't mention whether or not The Charming Lady in Pink bothered to buy her one allotted phone. I guess she didn't hang around for another interview.

Feministe identifies this as "what is wrong with America," and while I agree, I also have to argue that it's what is oh, so right.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

On blogging paucity

Okay, so I do apologize for my lack of posting recently. I'm currently on self-imposed media silence until I finish the final Harry Potter book, and I have this ridiculous fear that I'm going to check Think Progress for the latest on the war in Iraq and they will have, for some reason, revealed whether Harry gets it in the end.

Right now, I'm about 200 pages from the end, at the part where they're in the room with the guy and the girl does the thing, so I should be back up to blogging speed by the end of the evening. And even though I'm not going to be so much as checking comments until then, the first person to even try and spoil it for me is getting banned, and possibly tracked down and killed.

Update: I finished it. And it was awesome.

Friday, July 20, 2007

On Friday Random and Not-Even-Random Tens

Okay, so I shamefully neglected to Ten randomly last Friday due to the absolute insanity that is my work schedule. Seriously, there are no words for the busy-ness that is my work day. But I take time out today to give you not one but two Tens, one random, one not, to make up for my prior neglect.

First, a Not-Even-Random Ten in honor of Wednesday's awesome Richard Cheese show. Here are, in my opinion, the top ten songs performed by the man in the tiger-striped dinner jacket:

1. Richard Cheese, "Closer"
2. Richard Cheese, "Sunday Bloody Sunday" (all of, like, twelve measures)
3. Richard Cheese, "Creep"
4. Richard Cheese, "Holiday in Cambodia"
5. Richard Cheese, "Gin and Juice"
6. Richard Cheese, "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" theme
7. Richard Cheese, "Hey Ya"
8. Richard Cheese, "Spiderman" theme
9. Richard Cheese, "Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2"
10. Richard Cheese, "Toxic"

And here are ten tracks chosen at random, as those crazy kids seem to be doing these days:

1. Injected, "Faithless"
2. The La's, "There She Goes"
3. Train, "Drops of Jupiter"
4. Barenaked Ladies, "Call and Answer"
5. Annie Sellick, "Midnight Sun"
6. Madonna, "Open Your Heart to Me"
7. The Capitol Steps, "Bill's Way"
8. Black Eyed Peas, "Hey Mama"
9. Dixie Chicks, "Favorite Year"
10. Lauryn Hill, "Lost Ones"

any of which would make awesome lounge-music covers.

And what about you? How are you doing?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

On why my life is better than yours

Stay classy, Atlanta.

Okay, so yesterday, I put on a low-cut top and teased up my hair and hauled ass across two states to see Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine's "Drinkchronicty" Farewell Tour at the Roxy in Atlanta. I expected it to be awesome. My expectations were met and exceeded, and now I have to figure out what comes after "awesome," because my vocabulary proves insufficient. Suggestions go in comments.

The fuzzy cell phone picture above is the clearest shot I was able to get because cell phone cameras don't focus too well up close. The first thing Dick did when he got onstage was to rearrange the crowd, shuffling the guys to the back and moving the women forward so as to create an unbroken line of breasts across the foot of the stage. As a result, I spent the entire concert literally close enough to reach up and grab his tuxedoed crotch. I didn't; others did.

But outside of the obvious comedy inherent in the act itself (the musical act, not the act of groping Richard Cheese, although that was kind of funny too), the evening was awesome because the music was good. The musicians were all really, really talented (and the current Frank Feta is a hottie-hot-hottie; it's hard to tell from pictures), the arrangements were catchy, and Dick's voice is really pleasant to listen to, whether or not he's singing about wanting to fuck you like/with an animal. Had I not had to haul reverse ass immediately after the show in order to make it to work this morning, I would have loved hanging out with them at Dante's afterward. And I swear I wouldn't have gone home with Frank Feta.

I'm pretty sure. Like, ninety percent.

Maybe eighty.

And that's why my life is better than yours.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

On irresponsible actions and consequences

Okay, so I know posting has been sparse lately, and that's because I'm insanely, insanely busy at work. Insanely busy at work. I should be working right now. But I got a link to a blog post, and it had a link to a police report (pdf, not for the faint of heart or recent of lunch), and the post also had a bunch of comments, and I thought I should make a comment and then get back to work, so here:
The Minnesota Star-Tribune has the sordid details, and they’re as bad as you might imagine. A cell phone video captured a football player allegedly ejaculating onto the face of a woman who, drunk off eight shots of vodka, was hovering somewhere around a .30 BAC, could not possibly have consented, and has no memory of the incident.

The case has a decent chance of prosecution, as one of the football players recorded the whole thing on his cell phone, providing key evidence for the prosecution. U r so smrt!

If true: assholes. That’s all we can say. Total assholes all around. You’re all complete fucking shitbag die-in-a-ditch-now assholes.

Grosser than gross, right? Read the comments.
I’m gonna have to go ahead here and be the guy who can’t help but point out that if you let football players convince you into doing tons of shots, and you’re pretty much the only one doing them, this is the sort of shit they’re going to pull on you.


Soooo, Victim A gets rip-snorting drunk and orders the triple baconator, but it’s the frosty she’s upset about?

May I never have a daughter. Evar. Nevar.


I absolutely don’t want to sound like one of those “She was wearing a short skirt, she was asking for it” guys, but I have to agree with Brian@#9. Most intelligent people, around the fifth or sixth shot, will start pondering the question of whether the gentleman proffering said shots might only be looking for something inert and pliable to stick his Golden Gopher in.

Now, something that bugs me more than anything about rape cases is sentences that begin, "I'm not saying she was asking for it, BUT..." "I'm not saying this woman was to blame for her own rape, BUT..." Because generally, the rest of the sentence outlines the way in which she was somehow responsible for her own rape. "I'm not saying she was asking for it, BUT she sure acted irresponsibly when she..."

Sure, she acted irresponsibly. Getting that looped with a bunch of strangers? Not smart. Eight shots in a row? Not wise for any woman not built like Chyna.

You know what else isn't smart? Two beers in a hot football stadium in the sun. Eighty in a 70 zone. Accepting a check from a buyer on CraigsList. Going running without a cell phone. These are all irresponsible; some can even result in death. They're also things that happen every day and don't result in death. That's because speeding, or drinking in the sun, or running without a way to call the police, doesn't cause death. Sometimes there are other factors, sometimes things just happen, sometimes people are lucky, sometimes people aren't.

The punishment for irresponsible actions isn't rape.

Of course, we should all try to act responsibly. Of course, we should all look out for our own safety. But we don't do that, not all the time, and the price of failing to do that should not be getting gang raped and ejaculated on by a bunch of football players.

This woman was RAPED, and the reason that she was raped was that the men she was with were RAPISTS. If she'd had eight shots with non-rapists - if she'd had eight shots with eight football players who weren't rapists - she wouldn't have gotten raped. The shots were not the deciding factor in her rape.

It's a story I've told before, and it's not one that I'm proud of, but it's pertinent in this and many other cases: My junior year of college, I went out drinking with my roommates and got stumbling, shrieking, barfing drunk. My roommates, gems that they were, tucked me into a cab to send me home. In the cab already were six Marines from the nearby Naval supply school. Six Marines plus one very, very, very drunk girl. And not only did I get home safely, but as they got out of the cab at their stop, one of the Marines handed a twenty to the driver and said, "Make sure she gets home safely."

What I did was irresponsible. What my roommates did was irresponsible. But I did get home safely, because those Marines were NOT RAPISTS.

And the reason - the only reason - that that woman didn't get home safely was that those football players were.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

On shrinking the government

Okay, so I'm an enthusiastic and unashamed therapygoer myself, and what's more, I don't think I've ever met a single person who wouldn't benefit from a couple or five couch sessions with a professional to help straighten out their heads and articulate the truth that they've been unwilling to tell themselves. And no one would benefit more from a little head-straightening and truth-articulating than the folks currently in charge of our government. Now, I won't pretend to be a licensed therapist, but I've spent enough time with them to have picked up a thing or two to my own benefit and the benefit of others.

I will dispense this advice now.

1. You can't control anyone's actions but your own.

A progress report due out this week is expected to report no progress in Iraq since the surge. The president has said that he doesn't intend to withdraw troops or even shift his strategy in light of the new information and that critics should just wait for General Petraeus's report in September. Then he once refreshed the tired old implication that Iraq was involved in the September 11 attacks. But mostly, the message was "stay the course and give the surge a chance to work."

Here's the problem, six months into the surge: It's not not-working because of the troops (although their very presence is seen as an irritant by many of the people they're bound to protect). It's not-working because of the Iraqi government. We can send as many or as few troops as we want, but the progress that needs to be made needs to be made by Nouri al Maliki and his pals. More Iraqi police and soldiers need to be trained, but they also need to be held accountable, to be required to show up for work, to be properly armed and armored, and to be loyal to the government and the people of Iraq rather than to the militias - and that's something that Iraq has to do. The militias themselves need to be put down and Muqtada al Sadr stripped of his power and his influence instead of just shuffled around until the heat is off and his armies can rise again - and that's something that Iraq has to do. The government needs to find a way to deal with religious freedom, civil conflict, and oil revenues - and that's something Iraq has to do.

George, you can plead with them. You can bargain with them. You can threaten to withdraw troops or withhold aid. You can negotiate with them. You can send advisors to help them plan to disarm and dissolve the militias, to build the police forces and the Army, and to distribute oil revenues, and they might be good plans. But what you can't do is make them do what they need to do. You can only control what you do. And when they choose not to do what they need to do, as they have been doing for two years now, you have only two choices: to keep troops there or to begin a phased withdrawal. You can't make the Iraqi government do what they're supposed to do, but you can control whether or not American troops are in danger while they don't do it.

2. If you keep doing what you're doing, you're going to keep getting what you're getting.

In an effort to shake us up and keep us good and scared when we might start to be not-scared, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Tuesday that chances are good for a terrorist attack this summer. He said there wasn't evidence of imminent attack, but that his "gut feeling" and past terrorist activity patterns made a "spectacular" attack more likely.
You look at their activities around the world: bombings in North Africa from Al Qaeda, conflict in Somalia with radical Islamist groups contending for control over Somalia, training activity taking place in South Asia, the Taliban continuing to try to regain control of parts of Afghanistan.

I think if you look at that picture you see an enemy that is improving itself just as we're improving ourselves. They can't afford to remain static just as we can't afford to remain static. Our edge is technology and the vigilance of the ordinary citizen.


I think we do see a greater span of activity in South Asia, so we do worry about whether they are rebuilding their capabilities. We strike at them, we degrade them, but they rebuild. All these things give me kind of a gut feeling, not that I have a specific threat that I have in mind right now, but we are entering a period of increased vulnerability.

"We strike at them, we degrade them, but they rebuild." It's a pattern. "[Y]ou see an enemy that is improving itself just as we're improving ourselves." Pattern. We're in a war with the sole purported goal of fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here, and what we get is... patterns. Terrorist activity in north Africa, Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan, "spectacular" summertime terror threats in the US, and we degrade them, but they rebuild. Over and over and over.

Do something different, y'all. If what you're doing only knocks them down a little bit, and then they come back with a new plan or strike from a different direction or, heck, rebuild exactly where they were before with nobody saying a thing about it (Taliban, I'm looking at you), then what you're doing isn't working. We've been "staying the course" since 2003, and since 2003, we've been getting the same dismal results. Don't stick with a bum plan. My dad likes to say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I'm just sayin'.

3. You teach people how to treat you.

If you insist on being treated with respect, people will treat you that way. If people give you crap and you take it, they'll learn that you accept crap, and they'll continue giving you crap. If Alberto Gonzales lies on the stand and otherwise obstructs justice, Congress, and you don't call him on it, he's going to keep lying. Because he knows he can get away with lying to you. When Bush tells you you can't talk to his aides because he's extra special and above the law, Congress, you know that he isn't, but if you don't tell him otherwise, he's going to keep stonewalling you. Because he knows he can get away with stonewalling you. When the White House continues pushing the myth that Iraq had a hand in the September 11 attacks, new media, and you don't call them on it, they're going to keep lying to you. Because they know that can get away with lying to you.

The only way to stop the lying, to make them respect you and stop treating you like an idiot and/or particularly gullible toddler, is to call them on it. Call them on it every time. Let them know that you're paying attention and that you aren't afraid to use the brains God gave you and the free speech the Constitution guarantees you. You have to respect yourselves before anyone else will respect you.

4. When you find yourself on the wrong road, the worst thing you can do is keep driving.

Listen, President Bush, we know you've got a lot on your mind right now. You're in the middle of this war that isn't going nearly as well as Dick and Karl told you it would, and you're getting the blame for it. You're trying your hardest to show up your daddy and prove to him that you're just as smart and competent and take-charge as your brother Jeb, but every time you do, you end up screwing it up and looking even more incompetent in a real sitcom kind of way. Your supporters are shearing off. You recently pardoned Scooter Libby so that Dick Cheney, your surrogate father figure, won't be mad at you. George, you made a little girl cry.

You know that something is wrong. You can surely sense that something is very, very wrong. And I know that right now, you're trying to go along to get along, to do whatever you can to skate until the inauguration in 2009 when you officially won't have to worry about any of this terrorism crap or immigration crap or healthcare crap or global warming crap or any of the other crap that people seem to want you to care about. But putting on the blinkers and driving resolutely forward is not the way to go, George. Right now, you're gearing yourself up for a legacy as The President Who Screwed Everything Up So Badly We're Still Trying to Quantify the Fallout. If you want to avoid that fate, the only way to do it is to stop dead in your tracks this second and reevaluate. You need to talk with some people who know how to deal with these things - swallow your pride and talk to your dad's folks, for God's sake - and figure out what you want your legacy to be and how you can get there from where you are.

I can recommend a couple of therapists, if you'd like.

Friday, July 06, 2007

On Friday Random Ten

Okay, so a high-speed chase led police along the Florida-Alabama border Tuesday night as they followed a Chevy Monte Carlo, which reached speeds in excess of 100 miles an hour before crashing inside the Gulf Shores city limits.

The driver was under the influence of alcohol.

She was also under the influence of being barely tall enough to see over the steering wheel, being out past curfew on a school night, and using Lindsay Lohan as a role model, 'cause she was 11 years old.

They start 'em young in Alabama.

The Ten:

1. Ella Fitzgerald, "Isn't It Romantic?"
2. Dion, "Runaround Sue"
3. Coldplay, "Trouble"
4. Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky, "Danse hongroise" from Swan Lake
5. Barenaked Ladies, "Light Up My Room"
6. Abbey Lincoln (featuring Stan Getz), "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?"
7. U2, "Like a Song..."
8. Cake, "Race Car Ya-Yas"
9. Lit, "My Own Worst Enemy"
10. Queen, "Fat Bottomed Girls"

"Race Car Ya-Yas" indeed. Actually, a couple of those look Not-Even-Random. Anyway, your Ten, random, not-even-random, or unintentionally not-so-random, go in comments.

Unrelated: I try to avoid doing this, because this is a blog and not a billboard, but: S. Hugo, if you're out there, drop a girl a line to let her know you haven't been eaten by sharks.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

On the satisfaction that comes with gloriously surpassed expectations

OMG PONIES!!!!11!!1!

Okay, so the thing about opinions is that they're subjective, so there's not a lot that can make an opinion wrong. With that in mind, I won't try and pretend that Josh at Martians Attacking Indianapolis (BBNE) was wrong in his thorough panning of Transformers, just that we really did see different things. Or maybe it's just that we were looking for different things.

When I say that I just saw the movie, I mean that I just got home fifteen minutes ago from the 11:00 p.m. showing and remain so thoroughly pumped that there's no point in trying to go to sleep. It was just that awesome. I had a fantastic time, and the small but enthusiastic group of friends with whom I saw the movie gave it equally glowing reviews. A movie like this, I think, draws most of its value from its sheer capacity to entertain, and this movie was over-damn-flowing with entertainment.

I'm not gonna lie to you: The extended periods of steadicam were enough to make a girl yarkish, and the director seemed rather unable to decide which branch of the military was being represented by the dudes in BDUs. Also, the writing in the very first scene (and, to be honest, several other scenes) wasn't terribly convincing to me, nor was the delivery. So, see? I can be objective.

And objectively, this. Movie. Rocked. My. Ass.

Let me count the ways:

- The very first scene gave me Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, and Amaury Nolasco all sweaty and cammi-ed up. It was hard to believe that the movie could get better from there, but it did.
- Shia LeBeouf sold the hell out of every single scene he was in. I'm reluctant to spoil, because I want you all to run out and see this movie for yourselves, but if you're young enough/old enough to remember geeky alienation at school, the joys of one's very first car (no matter how crappy), young unrequited love, or the first time your planet was invaded by alien robots, you'll identify fully with this guy. And in terms of comedic timing, line delivery, all those little throwaway lines, facial expressions, everything, he was a joy to watch every time he was onscreen.
- The special effects were incredible. Doug remarked on the way home that rendering the robots must have been a real task, because unlike the cartoon, this had to have some element of realism. They had to be able to account for every single piece of that car/truck/plane/helicopter/boom box when it transformed into a moving robot. And they did it. And it was awesome. Good CGI, in my opinion, is when you never sit back and say, "Wow, that's just what an alien robot would look like" - because it's clean enough to convince you that you're looking at an actual alien robot. This CGI was beyond good.
- Optimus Prime: "My bad."
- I actually cried during the movie. I did, I'll admit it. One of the perks of being a girl is that I can get away with that sort of thing. When the Autobots first gathered and unfolded, when that red and blue truck pulled up and I knew right away what it was going transform into and then it did, when Optimus Prime spoke for the first time, I teared up. I don't really know why. I'm thinking it was a combination of the skillful CGI and the childhood nostalgia; basically, what I was watching onscreen was escapist joy from my childhood in wholly realistic and convincing living color before me, and I welled up.
- Another time I teared up was during (spoiler? Perhaps) the car chase between Bumblebee and Barricade. I don't know why that made me teary, though. Car girl. Can't explain it.
- No smooching in the heat of battle. Seriously, who has the time or the inclination to make out in the sooty, smoky, filthy, greasy, sweaty middle of combat? When such a potential moment arose, one of the young theatregoers behind me said aloud, "Oh, come on. Just don't." And the characters obligingly obliged by... not.
- This movie was surprisingly feminist, and not in an anvilicious, beat-you-over-the-head kind of way. The romantic opposite (and this might be the slightest bit of a spoiler) is not only a stunning young woman but also a gearhead (and a brunette, which matters to some of us). And one of the code breakers mainly responsible for figuring out what, exactly, is going on with the alien robots is a young woman. And these young women do things beyond the usual female role of standing there, looking pretty, screaming, getting fetchingly dirty, and kissing the hero after he saves the world. These women contribute to the action of the film in a significant and non-contrived way, and I really enjoyed that.
- Funny! Lots of funny moments. The movie is really funny.
- They set themselves up for a sequel. This is important to me because I absolutely need to see another Transformers movie. Perhaps with so much of the crucial exposition taken care of in the first movie, there'll be room for a leetle more character development in any sequel(s), but rest assured that I'll be there on opening night.

As a matter of fact, I'll probably - make that definitely - see this one again, because I just had so much fun. I totally respect Josh's opinion on the movie, and God knows he has a lot of experience as a reviewer in both a professional and amateur capacity. My far more homespun approach asks one question: Did I have a really great time? And the answer, in this case, is an enthusiastic hells yes.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

On now being this many (and other special occasions)

Okay, so it came to my attention today that I missed a couple of very important observances in the past couple of weeks, and that I need to rectify them right away. How shameful of me to forget:

Canada Day. Michael rolled over in bed this morning, pulled the sheet modestly above his waist, and reminded me that July 1 marked the 140th anniversary of Canada's establishment as a self-governing dominion. I was so ashamed at forgetting such an important holiday that I was forced to make it up to him, at length, and then I was late for work. As an apology, allow me to direct you to this loving tribute to the fine cultural contributions of our neighbors to the north.

The Stanley Cup. Okay, I know I'm the only person here who actually watches and/or cares about ice hockey, but it's my only good source of sweaty, athletic man-violence between the Super Bowl and the college football preseason. And the Anaheim (formerly Mighty) Ducks' 6-2 victory over the Ottowa Senators in the fifth game of the championship series did, in fact, matter to me, as well as approximately six other hockey fans. Good on ya, fellas.

My own third blogiversary. That's right, my blog turned three on June 21 and I didn't even remember. This blog will be in therapy until it's thirty, and I know I'm going to be hearing about this for the next decade. "Hey, ACG, remember the time you forgot my birthday?" Anyway, in past years, I've celebrated the occasion by reviewing the past year, seeing what has changed and what hasn't, appraising the state of society and the world and stuff, and you know what? That stuff's depressing. The fact that more than a thousand US troops have died in Iraq since last blogiversary and the government still isn't any closer to anything resembling an exit strategy is depressing. The fact that the US is moving not forward but, in fact, backward on issues like reproductive freedom is depressing. The fact that Laura freaking Mallory is still obsessed with her anti-Harry Potter campaign is - there isn't even a word for it. "Depressing" falls short.

So instead of looking back, I'm going to look forward. Forward to the future. Forward to potential, to things yet to come. Forward to the next year in the life of Practically Harmless.

July 2007: The Richard Cheese Farewell Tour hits Atlanta, and you-know-who has awesome seats (hey, we're starting out slowly here. Besides, I take great pleasure in the small things).
August 2007: My department finally hires a new director, who is so entranced by my work that s/he gives me a considerable raise, allowing me to pay off my credit card, fix my car, and buy lots of shoes. Lots of shoes.
September 2007: General Petraeus gives his report on the progress of the war in Iraq. Report includes the words "punks," "ridamndiculous," "picklewipes," and "stunning - verging on criminal - lack of foresight and planning." Congress debates on whether to continue funding.
October 2007: While touring in Italy, Michael Bublé pauses onstage in the middle of "Feelin' Good" to propose marriage to Your Humble Blogger. Your Humble Blogger humbly accepts.
November 2007: Thanksgiving dinner featuring Mama G's glorious cheese grits and yet another righteous whupping of Georgia Tech by their betters.
December 2007: Can't tell you. It's a secret. But it's going to be awesome. Oh, also? Christmas.
January 2008: During State of the Union address, President Bush pronounces "nuclear" the way it's spelled. Sam Donaldson passes out from shock.
February 2008: Dick Cheney eats a baby on live TV.
March 2008: US troops capture al-Qaeda Number Two in Iraq. Over the next three weeks, US troops capture six more Number Twos and report confirmed deaths of another three. Muqtada al-Sadr laughs, eats figs, and fails to go to the dentist.
April 2008: Nancy Pelosi beats John Boehner (R-Weenie) into unconsciousness with a tube sock full of nickels on the House floor. House passes funding bill with hard benchmarks.
May 2008: President Bush vows to veto funding bill. Nancy Pelosi hunts under sofa cushions for more nickels.
June 2008: Blogiversary Number Four. Laura Mallory struck with amnesia following mysterious broom incident. World peace.

Here's to another one.

Monday, July 02, 2007

On Surface Pretty

What do you mean, we don't get to keep the fans?

Okay, so I read a book, when I was younger, that took place in Scotland and included a scene where characters repainted a community center for an upcoming visit by the Queen. As they painted, the main character wondered if Her Majesty thought the whole world smelled like fresh paint.

One might wonder the same thing about Her Majesty The First Lady:
It was Thursday, only twenty-four hours left before the First Lady's visit, and a work crew from the U.S. embassy was installing electrical outlets in two classrooms. The next day, the outlets would power the fans to cool Mrs. Bush and the rest of the crowd. But, like most schools in Mali, the Mandela School doesn't have enough money for electricity, so the power cord from these new outlets led out the windows to a mobile generator the embassy brought over and hid out back.

Rebecca Rhodes is the project manager for the Teacher Training Via Radio program, which is entirely funded by President Bush's African education initiative. For two weeks, Rhodes has worked with White House security and communications crews to make the school picture perfect for the First Lady's visit.

REBECCA RHODES: So Mrs. Bush's limousine and the limousine of Mali's First Lady would come through the door there at the front of the school, and then she will walk down this lovely gravel (laughs) that we have just put down.

GOSS: About the gravel: USAID bought it so that the First Lady wouldn't slip on the mud in the courtyard. The gravel just covers the portion of the courtyard Mrs. Bush would see....

Demba Bundi is a high school teacher who works with the Teacher Training Via Radio program.... He was ... struck by some selective repainting on the walls surrounding the school.

DEMBA BUNDI: Only the entrance door has been painted new, because that's where everybody gets in, but the rest of the wall, it's dirty, and you have all these American gangster-boy kind of graffiti on the wall, and nobody seems to care about that....

Of course, it would be far too much to actually let the school, say, keep the generators and the electrical outlets and the fans once they'd put on such a nice show.
GOSS: Yesterday morning, I returned to the Mandela School with teacher Demba Bundi. The courtyard was once again covered in trash, this time water bottle labels and doughnut cartons from the First Lady's visit. Bundi looked at the scene and shook his head.

BUNDI: Mali is a poor country. We're not ashamed of saying it, we're poor. But despite the poverty level, we still want to impress the West, which to me is pointless. If I am poor and sleeping on the dirt and you're coming to visit me, let's hang out on the dirt. And maybe I'll have a better chance to get some help from you.

GOSS: We went into the classroom that had been electrically fitted. The embassy had removed the fans, the furniture, and the generator the same afternoon the First Lady visited. Even the outlets had been pulled out of the wall.

I'm assuming they were allowed to keep the paint and the gravel.
They will see everything - except the real Mali.

Like a hastily-staged New Orleans photo op, these are the days of the Bushes' lives.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

On one more thing that's naughtier than Live Free or Die Hard

Okay, so just in case you were wondering:

Online Dating

Mingle2 - Online Dating

I'd be surprised if readership here was heavy in the under-17 category, but just to be on the safe side, parents might want to take notice. Apparently, we're using some pretty harsh language here at Practically Harmless.
This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

murder (7x) ass (4x) dead (3x) bomb (2x) crap (1x)

So... naughty!