Saturday, June 4, 2011

X-Men: First Class

When I was a kid, I loved comic books. I still do, though I no longer collect them. The first comic that deeply touched me was The X-Men. I wished that I had a better power than being smart and annoying, and I desperately wanted a school where all the kids had special powers--and I did, too. Typical dreams of a young comic and SF reader, I know, but they were mine. Even though we were poor, the first comic book for which I saved money and mail-ordered a back issue was X-Men.

Clearly, I'm in the middle of the bulls-eye of the target for this film and all the other X-Men pictures.

Despite that, I have not liked them all equally, and I have found some, notably the last Wolverine picture, rather tough to watch.

Not X-Men: First Class. I loved it. It's the best X-Men film yet and one of the better movies I've seen this year.

What's interesting about my affection for this movie is that it comes in spite of the film sharing a huge flaw with the Pirates film I somewhat panned just recently: I knew exactly where the plot in this one was going. Through great execution, however, in this movie that flaw never bothered me. I cared about the characters. I greatly enjoyed the special effects. I just had a grand time, and I did because the filmmakers here simply did their jobs better than those who made Pirates 4.

If you have no special affection for the X-Men or comic books, you'll probably still have a good time at this movie, so don't feel like you have to know the comics to enjoy the film. I still recommend it for you.

If, however, you are an X-Men fan, then I expect you will absolutely love this movie. I sure did.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Graduation day

Scott graduated from high school today. I was and am, as you might expect, incredibly proud of him, though far more because he's a great person than because he graduated.

The most touching part of the ceremony was when each senior took a yellow rose and presented it to her or his mother. Even though I obviously didn't get a rose, I found the sight of all these young people hugging and thanking their mothers to be quite moving.

Scott, like Sarah, went to this school for 14 years. Some of his friends go back that far. Thus, the changes that graduation will bring are profound, but I know he will handle them well.

This was Scott's day, so for me to write more about it now seems inappropriate.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Pirates 4

On opening weekend, a group of us ignored the reviews and headed out to see Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. I've been considering for a while how to sum up my reactions to it, but now I have both an open blog day and a reasonable summary.

I had a pleasant time watching it. Johnny Depp chewed the scenery, and so did the other leads. Penelope Cruz was as Cruzalicious as ever. The plot was as sensible as in the earlier three films--which is to say, it was a thin layer of silliness on which the actors danced. All the things you've come to expect from this franchise--from the inevitable getaway-with-chase of Depp to the pirate scenes aboard ship--appeared and were competently rendered.

The problem, though, is that the film was exactly what you'd expect. At no point did I sense the smallest spark of originality. It's as if the producers and director and writers had outlined the previous films and then made sure this one contained one of every element they found.

So, if you don't mind your formulaic movie hewing so closely to the formula that at times you long for something new, or if a great cast and pretty darn good CG effects are enough to draw you into the story despite the formulaic nature of the movie, then you'll enjoy Pirates 4. Otherwise, give it a pass.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ask Dr. Efficient, the Love Guru:
Dr. Efficient Answers All

Warning: The following is an adult entry. If you are underage or simply do not want to read about sex-related topics, stop now.

I must also note that all opinions are those of Dr. Efficient.

On May 23, I announced this new feature of my blog. Today, we inaugurate both June and this column. We were lucky enough to catch Dr. Efficient between visits to India and his speaking engagements at the U.N. and the Kinsey Institute, so we now have his answers to three of our first questions. All came from U.S. women who chose to remain anonymous.

More answers will follow in later installments.

Why do men obsess so much about the size of their penises? Do they truly get penis envy? And, do they think we really care about the size?

While men clearly don't understand how women think, apparently women don't understand how men or women think. Allow me to enlighten:

1. No gentleman of my acquaintance has ever expressed the slightest concern over the size of his penis. I haven't checked, but I have no particular reason to believe that I've self-selected for a fellowship of monster-dicked alpha-male supermen. Yes, the volume of e-mail spam relating to penile enhancement suggests that there's a target demographic for such products out there somewhere. But I'd guess that demographic is the bottom percentile for self-esteem, if not penis size.

2. Freud believed that "penis envy" was the reaction of a young girl at the age when she became aware that boys had a penis and she did not. Remember how I said that men don't understand women? On the other hand, the movie Annie Hall contains this exchange:
Annie Hall: And then she mentioned penis envy. Do you know about that?
Alvy Singer: Me? I'm, I'm one of the few males who suffers from that.
So apparently the answer to your question is, yes, men truly get penis envy, at least in Woody Allen movies.

3. I've been told by several women that they do care about penis size. If you don't, I'm sure that somewhere out there is a man with a micropenis that's right for you. Try contacting Woody Allen! Do not Google the word "micropenis"!
What foods should a man eat/or not eat to make his cum tasty?
I spend years reading the ancient philosophers. I master the Tantric arts. I study psychology, evolutionary biology, and the behavioral economics of mating behavior. But do I get called upon to shine a light into the dark corners of the human heart? Am I asked to explicate the complexities of mating behavior? No. Instead, it's all, "How can I make my boyfriend's spooge taste like he loves me?" Well, you can't, because he doesn't.

There are, however, some things he can do to alleviate the bitter taste of contempt in his baby-batter. Dairy products and beer are contraindicated. By the time they've passed through the human body and turned to boysauce, they've changed much the way they would if left out on a warm day. Conversely, fruits like pineapple or watermelon reportedly give your man's mangravy a sweeter tang.

But for a heavier, creamier jism, I'd suggest trying maple-glazed bacon. Everything's better with bacon. When life hands you bacon, make Baconnaise!
Why are men so clueless about what a woman needs in a relationship?
Men are simple, direct creatures. As such, they're at a complete loss in most dealings with women. If your man isn't giving you what you need, one of two reasons obtains:

1. You haven't been sufficiently explicit in telling him what you need. Men need clear instructions. Very, very clear instructions. If you tell your man, "I'm going to tell you about my lousy day at work. I want you to make supportive and encouraging noises. I don't want you to try to tell me how I could solve any of my problems. Yes, that's irrational, but that's how it's going to be," then you're probably going to get what you want. Otherwise, you're probably going to end up somewhat dissatisfied.

2. If your man seems to forget some of the algorithm along the way, you may not be making it worth his while. A man can follow almost any set of instructions that ends with him getting laid. "I'm going to tell you about my lousy day at work... and then I'm going to give you a blow job." Sounds more compelling, doesn't it? You certainly have my complete attention.

Dr. Efficient will return soon! To get him to answer your questions, email them to me or send them via the Contact page on my site.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

On the road again: Balticon, day 6

A very late work night led to an all too early awakening, but that seems to be rather common for me these days. The drive home was fortunately uneventful, for which I am always grateful. When I wasn't driving, I was able to catch up on email, so I didn't slow others at work too much.

The evening went to family time, unpacking, catching up on the work that had piled up, and so on--pretty much as usual.

Tomorrow, Dr. Efficient's debut advice column!

In the meantime, for no reason I can pinpoint, this old Randy Newman song has been rattling around in my head for some time, so now I'll stick it in yours, too.

Monday, May 30, 2011

On the road again: Balticon, day 5

Too much good food and too much residual energy from all the performing resulted in a very restless night, but I still managed to spend more of it in bed than I do on most nights.

First up in the morning was a panel on violence in SF and fantasy. I wasn't satisfied with how it went, but the audience seemed engaged, so perhaps I should be happy.

After saying goodbye to friends, a three-hour drive deposited me at the doorstep of the wonderful Inn at Little Washington, Chef and Owner Patrick O'Connell's amazing creation. The Inn leaches away tension and replaces it with relaxation, so I was very happy to arrive. Dinner was, as always, amazing.

In a brief late-evening check of personal email before I turned to work, I learned that Children No More had won the Fourth-Day Universe Best Military SF award. What Distant Deeps, the most recent RCN series novel of my friend, David Drake, won the Best Space Opera award. I was happy to learn of both. My congratulations to all the winners and nominees in all the categories. I do have to also thank my friend, Lynn, who took it upon herself to draw my book to the attention of a lot of students; I sincerely doubt CNM would have done as well without all her efforts.

Even on a day that contains several hours of break time, work awaits, so I now return to it.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

On the road again: Balticon, day 4

I managed to grab another decent night's rest. My exhaustion condition has consequently decreased from Defcon 5 Red to Defcon 4 Red--a marked improvement.

At 1:00 today, I debuted the Mr. Poor Choices stand-up/spoken word show. The house was quite full--best estimate is somewhere well north of 400 folks--and their energy was great. I won't know for sure until I see the recording, but I believe it was my best show yet--though, of course, I already have notes for myself. Still, for the first time I was not immediately depressed about the show as I walked off the stage.

I rushed from it to a panel that was supposed to be about good and evil in SF and fantasy. Instead, it ended up focusing on favorite heroes, primarily comic-book heroes, but I was wrung out enough from the show and I am enough of a comics fan that I was able to contribute reasonably and without getting unduly annoyed at the topic swerve.

From there we rushed to a quick lunch, and then I hit my 4:00 panel, which was 50 minutes of improv comedy. The moderator and all three of my fellow performers knew their stuff, so we had a good time keeping the small but packed room howling. My energy wasn't as good as it should have been, but I think I more or less held my own, and we all had a fun time. From the laughter, the audience did, too.

Dinner this evening was at a Baltimore favorite, Woodberry Kitchen. Every single thing we tried was delicious. If you live in this area and haven't eaten here, you are missing a great treat. I highly recommend it.

Tomorrow, I moderate a morning panel and then hit the road.


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