Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cowboys and Aliens

was exactly what the title and the trailer promised. I was excited by both, so I enjoyed the movie quite a bit. If the sheer silliness of either one turned you off, you will probably hate the film.

The basic formula for this movie seems to have been simple: do every basic western cliche, then add aliens. So, we have the bad man whose love for a woman redeemed him, the man who owns a town, his useless son, the well-meaning but scared sheriff, the bookish doctor who grows a spine, the young boy who has to grow up, the gang with members both tough and goofy--you get the idea. Then we add the aliens, who are equal parts Aliens and Predators, but nowhere near as badass as either one. Stir with a little unrequited romance, season with kick-ass leads (Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and Olivia Wilde each do everything you could ask of them), toss in a mystery third force, sprinkle with tons of explosions and dead bodies flying right and left, and you have a film.

A pretty damn fun one, though as you can tell, not one that can handle (or requires) intellectual scrutiny.

As I said at the beginning, for most people it will be easy to tell if you'll enjoy Cowboys and Aliens. I did.

Friday, July 29, 2011

To reiterate about Dr. Efficient

Folks are still asking me three key questions about the Dr. Efficient columns, so even though I've answered them humorously before, I thought I would take a moment to answer them directly here.

Q: Is Dr. Efficient just a pseudonym of yours?

A. No. Dr. Efficient is the name under which my friend, Kyle, writes the columns.

Q. Does Kyle really write the columns?

A. Yes. I make a very light editing pass to bring his prose into conformance with my personal style guide (e.g., I like the serial comma), but that's it.

Q. Are women really sending in those questions, or are you just making them up?

A. Women really are sending me the questions. I have not made up a single one.

On a different note, because he performed it the other night and I loved it, here's Josh Ritter doing "Lillian, Egypt."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ask Dr. Efficient, the Love Guru:
Dr. Efficient Answers All, #6

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

All opinions are those of Dr. Efficient.

Dr. Efficient's sixth guest column finds him back in the gym, eating healthy, meditating, rescuing stray pets, and giving pro-self-love talks to middle schoolers around the country.

As usual, both questions he answers originated with U.S. women who chose to remain anonymous.

Is it okay that my dog watches me having sex, or could that cause lasting mental damage?

It's not clear whose mental health you're concerned about, so this question requires a four-part answer to cover all the parties involved:

1. Me. I don't give a shit. Unless you're ugly. If you're ugly, then I don't want to think about you having sex, and I feel sorry for your dog.

2. Your dog. For the sake of convenience, I'll henceforth refer to your dog as Olivia. As far as Olivia's concerned, watching your lover's pimply butt pumping up and down between your thighs is the most natural thing in the world. Like most of God's creatures, dogs hump in public. In Why Is Sex Fun?, UCLA physiologist Jared Diamond describes a dog's opinion of human sexual practices: "Here's the weirdest thing of all: [they] close the bedroom door and have sex in private, instead of doing it in front of their friends like any self-respecting dog!" You're part of Olivia's pack, and she wants to be there for all of your bodily functions.

3. You. Your mental health is already questionable. As a species, humans prefer privacy during sex. This preference spans cultures and so is presumably evolutionary in origin--though no one is quite sure why this preference evolved. The desire for sexual privacy may relate to the fact that human females show no visible signs of ovulation (a trait that is quite rare among primates), a quirk that leads humans to screw constantly whether it's the right time of the month to make babies or not. The desire for privacy may also relate to the amount of care required by human children, which caused human parents to evolve to be more-or-less monogamous, and turned sex into a tool to cement the pair bond between mates. Diamond writes in The Third Chimpanzee, "Not only have all signs of female ovulation vanished, but the act of sex itself takes place privately, to emphasize the distinction between sexual and nonsexual partners within the same close group." So in rejecting the human preference for privacy during sex you are, like a monk or a vegetarian, defying your evolutionary programming. No good is likely to come of this.

4. Your lover. For the sake of convenience, I'll henceforth refer to your lover as Dirk Studly. Unless you're of long acquaintance and you're confident that Dirk shares your peculiar predilections, you're being rude. Since sexual privacy is the norm, you should assume that Mr. Studly would prefer not to fuck with your dog watching his hairy man-ass jackhammering away. You could ask, "Do you mind if my dog watches us fuck?", but (a) Dirk will assume you're a total perv and (b) he'll probably say he doesn't mind even if he does because he doesn't want to jeopardize his chances of getting laid. So just stick Olivia in the bathroom and tell Dirk, "I'm going to lock the dog up so you don't have to worry about whether your pasty asscrack is winking at her while you thrust." If Dirk's really your soul mate, he'll tell you not to bother.
If a man's only sexual thought is to implant as many seedlings as possible, why are they so picky about their partners? Wouldn't any female do?
Picky relative to what? Compared to women, the only yardstick available, men are stunningly unpicky.

In 1978, Florida State University psychologists Russell Clark and Elaine Hatfield recruited male and female students as accomplices. The students were instructed to approach members of the opposite sex on campus and proposition them with the winning pick-up line, "I have been noticing you around campus. I find you to be very attractive. Would you go to bed with me tonight?"

When young male researchers thus propositioned female students, not a single woman said yes. When young female researchers thus propositioned male students, 75% accepted! The authors write, "The men that said 'No' even gave apologies, i.e., 'I'm married' or 'I'm going with someone.' In contrast, the women's response to the intimate requests from males was 'You've got to be kidding,' or 'What is wrong with you? Leave me alone.'"

The researchers repeated the experiment four years later with similar results.

On the other hand, men aren't entirely unselective. When offered sex, one man in four said no. To understand why, we must turn from the cold science of evolutionary biology to the rather colder science of economics. Economics, you'll recall from your college days, is the study of how people reconcile infinite wants with finite resources. Men want a great many things--sex, but also food, shelter, violence, more sex in the future, etc. But men have limited time, money, and attention. Any man will turn down sex if the expected costs exceed the expected benefits. A man may be sufficiently tired or hungry that he'd rather spend his time eating or sleeping. He may consider the woman who's offering him sex to be so unattractive that fucking her would lower his social status and hurt his chances of fucking more attractive women in the future.

A man may also mistrust a woman's offer of casual sex on the grounds that sex is less casual for women than for men. For example, when surveyed about their preferences in long-term and temporary sex partners, men rate promiscuity and sexual experience as negatives in a long-term sex partner but positive in a temporary sex partner. Women, on the other hand, find promiscuity equally distasteful in candidates for short-term and long-term relationships. David Buss writes in The Evolution of Desire, "Women's desires in a short-term sex partner strongly resemble their desires in a husband.... Men's preferences, in marked contrast, shift abruptly with the mating context. The constancy of women's preferences in both scenarios is consistent with the theory that women see casual mates as potential husbands."

Men know this and understand that relationships initially advertised as being all sexual reward with no cost ("Would you go to bed with me tonight?") may in the end require non-trivial effort to extricate themselves from. It's important to understand up front the terms of the transaction. Hence the old joke that men don't really pay hookers for sex; they pay them to go away afterward.

As long as you keep sending in questions, Dr. Efficient will return soon! Email your queries to me or send them via the Contact page on my site.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Josh Ritter in a club

is even better than he was in a theater when I saw him almost a year and a half ago. Tonight was the last night of his current short tour, and he and the Royal City Band tore up the place. The show was amazing. His energy and smiles were infectious and had the house rocking. He was more animated and happier at the end than at the beginning, and he started like a man bursting to run.

The narrative in my head rarely ceases, but tonight during several songs it did. I was, as always, particularly touched by his statements on love and art in "Snow Is Gone." I've featured it before, but it bears repetition.

The line "I'm singing for the love of it; have mercy on the man who sings to be adored" reminded me yet again that as an artist I have to write because I love it, need to do it, and not for any other reason.

Ritter's love of performing was so clear and so compelling tonight that I wish I could have shared the show with every friend I have.

If he comes to your area, don't miss him.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A wonderful pen

As anyone who's ever stepped inside The U of Power knows, I'm a huge fan of Retro 51 pens. I probably own four dozen of them. They write smoothly, feel good in your hand, come in a huge variety of interesting designs and colors, and, crucially, don't leak when you carry them on planes.

Retro 51 recently released a new pen that is from packaging to the writing instrument itself one of their coolest offerings yet: the Masters of Mystery pen. It's not cheap--I think it's running almost sixty bucks at most online pen places, which makes it one of their very most expensive products--but if you're in the market for a magical pen, give it a look.

Yes, I've already bought mine. It's currently sitting next to the mouse on this system.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Captain America

was the obvious choice for an end-of-beach Saturday evening movie, so last night we checked it out. After two weeks of doing almost nothing, you don't want a serious film that aims to illuminate the human condition. No, you want action-packed fun.

Captain America delivered both the action and the fun. I very much liked it.

Director Joe Johnston wisely kept both the look and the story focused squarely on the original, 1940s, Nazi-fighting Cap, so we could always cheer unreservedly for the good guys and equally unreservedly boo the bad ones. The movie covered a great deal of ground in its two hours and five minutes, but at no point would anyone, even those completely unfamiliar with the source comic books (as several in our group were), be likely to get confused about what was happening. Each small action or relationship-building sequence stood well on its own, and the collection formed a coherent and fast-paced whole.

The lead actors all chewed just the right amount of scenery, with Chris Evans, as Captain America, to my surprise delivering the most nuanced performance.

Definitely stay all the way to the end of the credits on this one, because the sneak peek at Joss Whedon's summer 2012 blockbuster, The Avengers, is well worth watching.

I very much recommend Captain America to anyone who wants an action-packed good time.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Kyle's last vacation meal

Today, before he drove north for home, Kyle went with a few of us to lunch at a place of his choice, the local instantiation of the chain, The Flying Biscuit. We've always had good brunches there, so the food is worth the inevitable wait.

This is what he ate.

As always, click on the image to see a larger version.

If you're wondering what the white lumpy stuff on top of the log of food is, or if you can't identify the white stuff in the small bowl, you've never eaten at a down-home Southern restaurant.

If you do recognize it all, you know it's a pile of fatty, delicious goodness.


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