Monday, November 24, 2014

An oldie for a gentle rainy night

Ah, I sometimes miss Annie Lennox's voice and performances.

This song is just right for a gentle, rainy fall night.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

College rape prevention training should start with men

(Trigger warning:  this post is entirely about rape and rape culture.)

A recent NPR story discussed the challenges colleges are facing in doing rape-prevention training for women.  I'm not writing this to comment on that story; you can find plenty of such commentary online.  No, I'm here to point out that if we really want to stop rape and rid ourselves of rape culture, we must start by training the source of the problem:  men. 

Let's be clear:  rape is a male problem.  The victims of rape are never, repeat never, at fault.  The men who rape them are.  Period. 

Thus, if we want to stop rape, let's train men not to rape. 

Let's train them to understand, really and completely understand, that no means no.  Let's explain over and over again that no consent means no, that drunk or stoned or unconscious people cannot give consent and so you should not have sex with them.  Let's review the criminal penalties.  Let's talk about the damage these acts do, the lifetimes of trauma they leave their victims to handle.  Let's ask them to visualize how they would feel about their mothers or their sisters or their girlfriends--or themselves--being taken sexually against their will.  Let's explain that rape is never funny, that it's never cute, that it's not a good word, that we should never ever ever do it or condone it.

Have all the discussions you want about rape-prevention training for college women, but while you're at it, train every incoming college male that only they can stop rape, that it is their responsibility to behave better and never to descend to this depth. 

Rape is a male problem.  If we want to stop it, we have to stop men from doing it.  Maybe training would help. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockinjay, - Part 1

is the beginning of a fun and reasonable end to this series of movies, but it is just that:  the beginning of the end.  It is not the end, not any sort of conclusion at all.  The movie stops simply because a little over two hours have passed and something dramatic occurred; nothing comes to any sort of real resolution.

I knew that going in, so I didn't mind, but it is the key factor to consider in whether to see this one in the theater. 

As for the half of the final film that this installment is, as I said, it's a fun ride.  Jennifer Lawrence turns in her usual strong performance.  The supporting cast is generally good, though Julianne Moore, as the President of District 13, plays the role so coldly that it's hard to imagine anyone ever electing her.  We get action and sentiment in reasonable measures, with a just barely tolerable amount of angsting to fill the spaces. 

I'm glad I went, and I'll go see the final chapter next November.  If you are like me and don't mind waiting for the last film, check it out.  Otherwise, catch it on DVD next year right before you head to the theater for Part 2.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Interstellar, the Mr. Efficient take: "dumber than Lucy"

Mr. Efficient, a.k.a. Kyle, sent a comment about my review of this movie that was so long that rather than publish the comment, I am, with Kyle's permission, giving it a full blog entry. 

I think Interstellar does actually have pretty good (though highly improbable) science. My problem with the movie is that at every point every character does the most retarded thing possible. MILD SPOILERS FOLLOW.

1. The movie postulates a world in which farming monoculture has left human food production vulnerable to fungal blights resulting in mass starvation. Rather than invest in blight-resistent GMO research or improving crop diversity, humanity chooses to (a) raise all remaining children to be farmers, (b) eat nothing but corn, and (c) secretly construct a space colony.

2. As the movie opens, Matthew McConaughey discovers that gravity works differently in his daughter's bedroom than anywhere else in the universe. In the real world, this would be literally the most amazing discovery in the history of physics. This discovery upends everything we think we understand about the universe. Instead of summoning all the world's greatest physicists to study the phenomenon, McConaughey shrugs and drives to another state.

3. In that state, he finds NASA, who have constructed a launching gantry in the middle of their office space, where anyone opening a conference room door at the wrong time will die a fiery death.

4. NASA have discovered a wormhole to another star system with 12 potentially habitable planets. Instead of sending cheap probes to fly by those planets and return pictures, they've sent an expensive manned mission to each planet. Although NASA has a collection of fertilized eggs and an artificial womb that are the size of a wastebasket and could repopulate the human race on any world, they have not sent this with any of their astronauts.

5. McConaughey and three people he's just met go through the wormhole into the other star system. One of the 12 planets orbits a super-massive black hole rotating at nearly the speed of light. Unlike the other eleven planets, this one is subject to relativistic time distortion, wracked by tidal forces, and covered entirely in liquid. They decide to land there because, you know, IT MIGHT BE HABITABLE.

I could go on, but it only gets worse from there. This movie was dumber than Lucy and less fun.

Obviously, I disagree with Kyle about the movie as a whole, but there is little I would argue in the list above.  As I said in my review, how you feel about this movie will depend a great deal on what you want from it.  

Thursday, November 20, 2014


How you will feel about this Christopher Nolan film will depend a great deal on what you value in a movie and where your tolerance thresholds sit.

If you want good science in your science-fiction films, Interstellar will just annoy you, maybe even piss you off.  Kyle can argue persuasively that it's the dumbest movie he's seen in 2014, a year full of dumb movies.  The film indeed ignores all realities about how scientists work, how people would really respond to some of its key events, all serious thinking about time travel, and many, many other science-related aspects of its story.

If you most enjoy subtle portraits of slowly growing characters, Interstellar will disappoint you.  Nothing about this film is subtle.  For nearly three hours, grand gestures and soaring soundtracks are the order of the day.

If, though, you enjoy those grand gestures and are willing to let realities slide away in the face of a story set on a grand scale, if you're willing to listen to the occasional speech about the power of the human heart in return for watching humans with great heart try to rise above their circumstances, then you will love Interstellar.  I did.  I couldn't help but notice the many egregious errors, and I winced a few times at the dumb speeches, but for almost all of its 169 minutes I sat transfixed, seeing some of the best renditions yet of space, feeling that sense of wonder that led me to SF as a child.

If you're the same type of moviegoer I am, do not miss this film.  If you're in either of the first two camps, either skip it or expect to be annoyed.

As for me, I'll watch it again when it comes out on Blu-Ray.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Holden and Cone Man discuss the night

Click an image to see a larger version.

Holden:  On such a cold night, I fear, Good Sir, for your health.

Cone Man:  Are you freakin' kiddin' me!  It's fantastic out here.  Dark and cold bring out the best in me.

H:  If I may be so bold, my fiberglass friend, your eyes appear to be losing their color, and leaves have fallen on your head.

CM:  Leaves have fallen?  You clearly need some glasses, because those aren't just leaves; they're part of my fall wreath.  It's decorative wreath season, motherfucker!

H:   I must insist, Sir, that you refrain from such profanity.  I simply will not have it.

CM:  Oh, you won't have it?  Well, bite my curly tip, you spoiled house dog!  You'd fuckin' curse, too, if you had to sit outside all the time, with only delivery people to admire your decorative wreath. 

H:  If you cannot engage in civil discourse, and you clearly cannot, then I must take my leave and return to one of my many luxurious pillow beds--all of which sit inside yon beckoning warm home.

CM:  Fine.  Go inside and lick your junk.  See if I care.  See if I let you wear my wreath!

The moral of this story is simple:  No one can please a cranky Cone Man.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Computer servers and cooking don't normally mix

but in the latest episode of Now with PT, very little is normal.



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